Togan, Ahmed Zeki Validov

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(18901970), prominent Bashkir nationalist activist during the early Soviet period and well-known scholar of Turkic historical studies.

Born in a Bashkir village in Ufa province and educated at Kazan University, Ahmed Zeki Validi (Russianized as Validov) had begun a promising career as an Orientalist scholar before the revolution. In May 1917 Validov participated in the All Russian Muslim Congress in Moscow, where he advocated federal reorganization of the Russian state and criticized plans of some Tatar politicians for extraterritorial autonomy in a unitary state. By the end of the year, Validov had emerged as primary leader of a small Bashkir nationalist movement that promulgated (in December 1917) an autonomous Bashkir republic based in Orenburg. Arrested by Soviet forces in February 1918, Validov escaped in April and joined the emerging anti-Bolshevik movement as full-scale civil war broke out that summer. Attempts to organize the Bashkir republic and separate Bashkir military forces under White auspices flagged, particularly after Admiral Kolchak took charge of the White movement. In February 1919 Validov and most of his colleagues defected to the Soviet side in return for the promise of complete Bashkir autonomy. However, sixteen months of increasingly frustrating collaboration with Soviet power ended in June 1920 when Validov departed to join the Basmachis in Central Asia, hoping to link the Bashkir search for autonomy to a larger movement for Turkic independence from Russian colonial rule. These hopes were dashed with Basmachi defeat.

After leaving Turkestan in 1923, Validov taught at Istanbul University in Turkey (19251932), where he adopted the surname Togan. He went on to earn a doctorate at the University of Vienna (19321935) and taught at Bonn and Göttingen Universities (19351939). Togan returned to Istanbul University in 1939 and remained there until his death in 1970. Togan's scholarly output was prodigious, with over four hundred publications, largely in Turkish and German, on the history of the Turkic peoples from antiquity to the twentieth century, including his own remarkable memoirs (Hatiralar ). During these years of exile, Validov and Validovism (validovshchina ) lived on in the Soviet lexicon as the epitome of reactionary Bashkir nationalism, and accusations of connection with Validov proved fatal for hundreds if not thousands of Bashkirs and other Muslims in Russia. Since the early 1990s Togan's name has been rehabilitated in his homeland, where he is now recognized as the father of today's Republic of Bashkortostan.

See also: bashkortistan and the bashkirs


Paksoy, H. B. (1995). "Basmachi Movement from Within: Account of Zeki Velidi Togan." Nationalities Papers 23:373399.

Schafer, Daniel E. (2001). "Local Politics and the Birth of the Republic of Bashkortostan, 19191920." In A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Making in the Era of Lenin and Stalin, ed. Ronald Grigor Suny and Terry Martin. New York: Oxford University Press.

Daniel E. Schafer