Publication: Beben on Ismailism in Badakhshan


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Our readers may remember about a paper by Dr Daniel Beben which we discussed in our History Reading Circle in Fall 2015. This paper has now been published as a chapter as:

“Islamisation on the Iranian Periphery: Nasir-i Khusraw and Ismailism in Badakhshan”

in: Islamisation: Comparative Perspectives from History, ed. Andrew Peacock (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017).

The paper can be accessed from Dr Beben’s page here.



Job: Teaching Assistant position open!


Nazarbayev University invites qualified candidates to apply for a Teaching Assistantship position (full-time) in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS). The SHSS Teaching Assistant will assist with various courses offered within the Department of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies at SHSS.

Responsibilities will vary according to the appointment and may include:

  • Grading assignments and exams and recording grades for History of Kazakhstan
  • Holding tutorials and in-class activities under supervision of the instructor
  • Proctoring exams
  • Providing academic assistance to students during office hours
  • Other duties as assigned by the Department Chair

For the necessary qualifications, deadline, documents to submit, please refer to the official announcement on the NU website:


New publication: Wojnowski’s book is out!


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near abroad

It is a great honour for the HPRS department to announce the publication of Dr Zbigniew Wojnowski‘s monograph book:

The Near Abroad:

Socialist Eastern Europe and Soviet Patriotism in Ukraine, 1956-1985

with Toronto University Press (click on the cover image to purchase).


From the Soviet perspective, Eastern Europe was the near abroad – more accessible than the capitalist West, yet also unambiguously foreign. Observing their western neighbours, citizens of the USSR developed new ideas about the role of states, borders, and national identities in the Soviet empire.

In The Near Abroad, Zbigniew Wojnowski traces how Soviet Ukrainian identities developed in dialogue and confrontation with the USSR’s neighbours in Eastern Europe. The author aptly challenges the dominant chronologies of late Soviet history by arguing that patriotism framed heated debates about the future of the Soviet state even amongst the rising tide of cynicism and disengagement from public life. Wojnowski’s insightful analysis illuminates the mental geographies that continue to shape relations and conflicts between Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe to this very day. Unlike most other histories of Ukraine, The Near Abroad does not reduce Ukrainian nationalism to anti-Soviet views and behaviours.

Advance praise for The Near Abroad:

The Near Abroad is a brave book that makes bold claims. Marshalling and triangulating a wide range of sources, Zbigniew Wojnowski provides an informed and honest analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of those sources and how he works with them. The Near Abroad will be useful to those students, scholars, and members of the public alike, who want to understand the forces that forged today’s Ukraine, its relations with its neighbours, and its relationship with the West.

Tracy McDonald, Associate Professor of History, McMaster University

“In The Near Abroad, Zbigniew Wojnowski traces today’s crisis in Ukraine to late Soviet policies and politics, including an original use of the now familiar term ‘near abroad’ and the mobilization of World War II-era political labels like fascism. His conscious insistence not to treat Soviet Ukraine within the paradigm of Soviet nationality policies is a testament to the author’s originality.”

Mark von Hagen, Professor of History, Arizona State University

News: the Night of the HoKscars is coming!


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The History of Kazakhstan instructors have decided to reward students for their efforts in the digital storytelling assignments this semester. In pairs, students have produced short DST documentaries to answer essay-like questions on aspects of the History of Kazakhstan on the basis of primary sources. Some of them are quite brilliant and most deserve praise.

There are 402 students

…and only three awards available:

who will the winners be?

The winners of the three awards (best script, best technical quality/creativity, best overall) will be announced at the

Night of the HoKscars

in the Blue Hall on Thursday 4 May from 6pm.

Members of the NU community are invited to cheer our students and watch the award-winning documentaries!
The nominees are:

[1s Issa & Smagulov]
[2s Taktarbekova & Tolesheva]
[3s Abeldinova & Ryskulova]
[4s Bolatova & Narembekova]
[4s Mushkina & Zhakisheva]
[4s Rakhimzhanova, Kazi & Akhmetov]
[4s Sayakov & Turlybek]
[6s Sydzykova & Tatkeyeva]
[11s Yerbol & Yerzhigit]
[12s Nurlankul & Seisekin]
[16s Karatayev & Karimova]
[16s Yerbolova & Zhanaliyev]
[17s Yskakov & Tugekbayev]
[14s Abduvali, Zhandarbekova & Zhapparov]

News: HPRS at the NU Innovative Learning Showcase Day


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The History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies department was well-represented at this year’s NU Innovative Learning Showcase Day (formerly: Instructional Technology Showcase) on April 19.

Siegfried Van Duffel (Philosophy) presented on “Textual analysis with conceptual mapping” – a pedagogical tool he has virtually introduced at NU (see here).

Daniel Beben and Beatrice Penati (History) explained why and with what results Digital Storytelling has been introduced as a form of assessment for History of Kazakhstan. They also played some of the clips produced by our students.

The Showcase Day ended with the conferral of the traditional certificates of appreciation. Unfortunately Dr Beben and Dr Van Duffel were teaching, so no photo opp for them 😦


Penati gets her unavoidable certificate from the Provost.


News: congratulations to our TA, Nurlan Kabdylkhak


A summery view of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The HPRS department and in particular the History of Kazakhstan team of instructors are proud to be able to congratulate our Teaching Assistant, Nurlan Kabdylkhak (Tussupov), who has been admitted to study towards a PhD in History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

According to the latest US News ranking UNC Chapel Hill is among top 11 Grad History Schools in the US.

Nurlan has received a 5-year funding from the local Department of History. Furthermore, Department also nominated Nurlan along other 6 applicants for a university-wide funding. As a result, he received a Graduate School’s Doctoral Merit Assistantship that will replace the Department funding for his first year at UNC.

This is a great achievement and we cannot but be happy for Nurlan, although he will be very much missed!


News: History majors & minors achievements




A view of the new CEU campus in Budapest


It is a great pleasure for the HPRS department and the History programme to announce the achievements of our students.

Galiya Khassenkhanova, who will graduate with a History major in May, has been admitted with a full scholarship to the MA in Comparative History at the Central European University (Budapest, Hungary).

Inkar Aitkuzhina, a History minor from PSIR, will be studying from next year toward a Masters degree at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at National University of Singapore with a full scholarship.

History Reading Circle: Penati on Central Asian Water


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From Turkestanskii Al’bom (on


The next meeting of the History Reading Circle will take place on Monday 24 April at 4pm, room TBD.

We will be discussing a paper by Beatrice Penati, titled:

“A field upstream is better than a mirab brother”:

Searching for Power on Central Asian Water

All those interested in participating may contact Dr Daniel Beben.

Seminar: Yue Shi on Semirechie between empires


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vernyi uezd

Karakol gorge, early 20th c.


Some of you may remember our earlier post about Yue Shi, the PhD student from Georgetown our Department has sponsored in view of his research in the Almaty Central State Archive of the Kazakhstan Republic (TsGARKaz).

Yue Shi will be back to Astana and he will present on his research results. Please join his talk on:

The Seven Rivers: Economy, Ethnicity and Empire in the Central Asian Frontier of the Qing and the Russian Empire, 1860s-1910s.

Thursday 20 April 2017

from 4pm

room 8.322B


Semirech’e, a region which centers on the city Vernyi (today Almaty), lies between the Steppe provinces and Turkestan in the period of late Imperial Russia (1860s-1910s). To the east, it adjoins the Yili Valley, the administrative and military center of Qing’s northwestern frontier. The local history of this geographically and strategically significant region offers an access to observe the dynamics among imperial frontier finance, ethnic policies and cross-border trade in the Central Asian frontier of the Russian Empire. The rich collection of documents in the Central State Archive of the Republic of Kazakhstan lays the foundation of this research project. The presentation will demonstrate how archival sources contribute to a better understanding of the relation between the Russian Empire and its Central Asian frontier. 




Yue Shi is a fourth-year Ph.D candidate from Georgetown University (U.S.). He studied for his BA (2011) in Urdu Language and Literature at Peking University, and MA (2013) in History at Georgetown University. He is interested in the comparison of the Qing and Russian rule in Central Asia. In the academic year 2016-2017, under the sponsorship of Nazarbayev University, he conducts research trips to archives and libraries in Kazakhstan for the dissertation topic “The Seven Rivers: Economy, Ethnicity and Empire in the Central Asian Frontier of the Qing and the Russian Empire, 1860s-1910s.


Seminar: Totaro on oil production in Kazakhstan


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oil industry

The History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies Department is pleased to invite you on

Tuesday 18 April 2017

from 1pm

room 8.105

to a research talk by Maurizio G. Totaro, visiting PhD student at NU/SHSS, on the topic:

“Producing Oil Regions in Kazakhstan: An Historical Overview”


Since independence, the story goes, oil and gas have shaped Kazakhstani political institutions and economic pattern, and conditioned the social expectations of the country’s population. Concomitantly, “petro-state”, “oil curse”, and “Dutch disease” have become the theoretical catch-words to identify what the country is, or is pathologically affected by. Often accompanied by sensationalist tones and normative intents, such theoretical paradigms tend to uncritically reduce the country to oil, and oil to money. Moreover, they rarely take time to explore the historical trajectories of the country’s oil producing regions, rather focusing on the central echelons of state power.

With this talk I would like to take a step back in time, and suggest another route to explore the multiple relations that have come to shape the Kazakhstani oil complex. Focusing on the oil producing regions of Atyrau and Mangystau, I will overview how oil has become, since the end of the 19th century, part of these regions’ socio-material, imaginative, and political landscapes, following a non-linear historical trajectory. Giving particular attention to the Soviet era, I will explore how the two regions became oil regions in popular imaginations and discourses, and through political interventions. The first part will concentrate on the oilfields around the Emba river from the late Imperial years to WWII, whilst the second part will summarize the geographical shift that occurred with the development of Mangystau’s oilfields in the 1960s; the differential incorporation of this region into the Soviet economy, and the role that the region had in exemplifying the heights  of late Soviet modernity and its contradictions. Finally, in the conclusions, I consider how Soviet legacies and contemporary conjunctures concurred in shaping the restructuring of the oil complex in the two regions, and beyond, during the 1990s.

The speaker:

Maurizio G. Totaro is Marie Curie PhD Fellow at the Department of Conflict and Development Studies, University of Ghent. He holds a BA from the University of Bologna and an MSc from SOAS, University of London. His current dissertation, provisionally titled “Viscous Matter: Oil, Territory, and Subjectivity in Mangystau, Kazakhstan”, centres on the imaginaries, practices, perceptions and experiences of oil extraction in the region. Mr Totaro is visiting PhD students at Nazarbayev University, SHSS.