This project is a collaboration with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, one of the European centres for research on the comparative archaeology, linguistics and ethnology of the Eurasian Steppe. Many aspects of the Hungarian part of the project are relevant to the overall investigation: historical semantics, the analysis of oral myths and traditions, the question of the value of archeological material to research concerning identity and the issue of the use of ethnic history in modern identity politics. The Hungarian project team brings together some of the leadings scholars in the field. The strong tradition of historical research on ethnicity and on the relations between "barbarians" and the Roman and Post-Roman world underlies the Austrian contribution the project. Austria has also long been witness to criticism of the appropriation of history for nationalistic or other ideological motives.
For a long time, research on steppe peoples took the role of ethnicity for granted; beneath a fast-changing surface of shifting appearances, it usually assumed continuity of broad ethnic groupings such as the Turks, Mongols or Hungarians. This understanding also lent itself to national uses of the past, in part up to the present day. More recently, new approaches to ethnicity have gradually spread in the field, often creating new debates.
The present project proposes to look at the first millennium from a comparative perspective. Taking Huns, Avars, Bulgarians and Hungarians as a point of departure, the enquiry will extent to the steppe peoples of the period farther East in order to learn more about the role and limitations of ethnic distinctions in the world of the steppe, and for outside observers. The analysis depart from the presupposition that groups are not per se ›ethnic‹, but that ethnicity is a principle of ordering the social world that becomes relevant through communication and acts of identification and that may be of varied relevance to different actors.
There is a tendency to associate the nomadic cultures of Eurasia primarily with the so-called horse people of the steppe; thus, the far numerous nomadic pastoralists are rather neglected as a historical phenomenon.
In my part of the project I provide a survey of nomadic pastoralism in Eurasia, focusing on two aspects: a methodological aspect that analyses the partially ideological interpretation of pastoral nomadism in scholarly discourse and a historical aspect that examines the mutual influence of nomadic with sedentary cultures.
Following the general survey, I pursue these questions in detail for the Anatolian record. Anatolia is not only situated at the western edge of Eurasia, its rich history is characterized by a dynamic interplay between sedentary and nomadic cultures that endured for many centuries and ended in the foundation of the Ottoman Empire – by the descendants of a nomadic society. Therefore, I examine reception and historiography of the nomadic heritage in Turkey as the final aspect in my project.
Walter Pohl, Ethnicity and Empire in the Western Eurasian Steppes, in: Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity. Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppe, ca. 250–750, ed. Nicola di Cosmo/Michael Maas (Cambridge 2018) 189-205.
Walter Pohl, Huns, Avars, Hungarians – comparative perspectives based on written evidence, in: Complexity of Interaction along the Eurasian Steppe Zone in the First Millennium CE, ed. Jan Bemmann/Michael Schmauder (Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology 7, Bonn 2015) 693-702.
Celine Wawruschka, Genetic History and Identity: The Case of Turkey, Medieval Worlds 4 (2016) 123–161.
Walter Pohl, "Huns and Avars", paper presented at the conference Empires to Remember (Vienna, 26.11.2015)
Celine Wawruschka, "Migration und Staatenbildung: Historiographie und Eigenrezeption im Wandel am Beispiel der Türkei", paper presented at the workshop "Migrationes Gentium" - "Völkerwanderungen" als historiographischer Topos von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart (Vienna, 29.11. 2015)
Celine Wawruschka, "Genetic History and National Identity: The Case of Turkey", presentation in the course of the lecture series "Genomics, Identity, and Society" (Freiburg, 19.01. 2016)
Celine Wawruschka, “Konflikte zwischen sesshaften und nomadischen Bevölkerungen am Fallbeispiel Anatoliens: eine diachrone Analyse”, presentation at the conference „Byzanz und das Abendland V“, Eötvös-József-Collegium Budapest (23.11. 2016).
Institut für Mittelalterforschung, ÖAW
Project Leader: Walter Pohl
Employee: Celine Wawruschka
Project Number: I 2001-G21
Duration: 01.02.2015 - 31.12.2018