Amid the commemorations of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the EU and the Republic of Kazakhstan, a cartography exhibition opened in the European Parliament, showcasing the continuity of the Kazakh statehood from the 16th century onwards.
The exhibition includes historical maps created by Dutch, French, English and German cartographers from the 16th to the 19th century. These were collected and encompassed in an atlas by Professor Mukhit-Ardager Sydyknazarov, a Kazakh scholar and Director of the Institute of Modern Political Studies at the Lev Gumilev Eurasia National University in Astana.
Thanks to the rapid development of western cartography [in the 15th century], we have a documentary testimony of the Europeans’ contacts and their awareness of the people beyond this continent.H.E. Margulan Baimukhan, Head of the Mission of Kazakhstan to the EU
“Sources attest that the sovereign Kazakh State was formed in 1465. Around the same time, thanks to the rapid development of western cartography, we have a documentary testimony of the Europeans’ contacts and their awareness of the people beyond this continent. This knowledge included, and that is reflected by maps, Central Asia and the Kazakhs. From the 16th century, they appear under this name on the maps drawn by European travellers. You can see them here today”, Ambassador Margulan Baimukhan opened the exhibition on 12 April.
The maps contain over 40 early names of the Kazakh state in European languages, including, among others, Cassackia, Cassaki Orda, Cassaky, Kassakhi, Kassaki, Independent (direct translation of “Kazakh” from Turkic) Tatars, some with graphic details representing images of the nation and its neighbours at the time.
Sydyknazarov has studied over 1,500 maps over a period of 15 years, visiting libraries, archives, cartographic centres and museums in Europe and the United States. 130 of these were encompassed in an atlas “Uninterrupted History of Nationhood in Kazakhstan. The Kazakh State on European and American Maps of the 16-19th Centuries.”The book is available in Kazakh, English and Russian and provides detailed data on the maps’ authors, years of publication, size, where it is stored, as well as authors’ inscriptions on the maps for scientists, researchers and students.
“In publications of the leading cartographic houses of the Netherlands, Belgium, England, France, Italy, Germany, Austria and the United States, the Kazakh state is regularly present on the political maps and in other atlases in the 16th to the 19th centuries, which, in our view, reflects the continuous nature of the Kazakh nationhood in this particular period”, Sydyknazarov explained.
The atlas was published in Brussels in 2021. The location was chosen partly because of the city’s status as the capital of the European Union, but also because many of the famous cartographers, including Mercator and Ortelius, lived and worked in Belgium.
“It is very important to get the knowledge and to learn from each other, to see from historical perspective how Europeans perceived Central Asia and Kazakhstan in different historical periods. Every country is full of history and culture, learning about them helps us build a better policy for the citizens of today”, Karsten Lucke, Member of the European Parliament, said at the opening ceremony.
The exhibition is open until 14 April and is being held under the patronage of MEP Andris Ameriks, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN), who is also a member of the Delegation to the EU-Kazakhstan, EU-Kyrgyzstan, EU-Uzbekistan and EU-Tajikistan Parliamentary Cooperation Committees and for relations with Turkmenistan and Mongolia (DCAS).