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SUN IS ALSO FIRE

If the sky above did not collapse, and if the earth below did not give way, O Turkish people, who would be able to destroy your state and institutions?

As written in the Tigin Funerary Tablets, VII Century."


- "Alp Tekin, on your feet! Do not tarry, Alp Tekin!"

As he opened his eyes, Alp Tekin swiftly grasped his sword from underneath the pillow.

- "Is it the enemy, the Arabs?" he demanded.

- "No, a letter is arriving from the orda... perhaps..." said the karabash, as he hesitated, embarrassed by the anguish his excitement caused his Bey.

Alp Tekin tied a silk scarf around his forehead, tucking his singly braided hair to his belt, walked outside.

Sorrowful autumn. Scarlet leaves were spread around, covering the ground, making it appear as if splashed with blood. At a distance, some as yet unidentified horsemen were seen approaching the fortified position.

- "If from the Orda... who?" thought Alp Tekin. Then, his handsome face clouded with some disturbing thought, his heart sank: "Jibilga!" A longing look briefly lingered in the squinting eyes of the traditional Alpagut.

"No, - the yigit sighed deeply, - what would Jibilga be doing in Kitkan?" Pacing to-and-fro under the stronghold gate, he recalled the events that brought him to Kitkan...

During the spring of 739 A. D., Arslan Tarhan, the Hakan of Ferghana, attacked with his troops the domains of Talas Hakan Tugasiyen, destroying the land and scattering the army of the latter. The fighting between these Turk tribes did not produce a winner. Unfortunately, the severe loss of the Turks, as a result of internecine fighting, were benefitting the Arabs who were amassing troops at the foothills of Usrushana. Moreover, the Turk State, keeping its existence by the force of sword against the Chinese troops in Davon was weakened.

The Arabs, owning half the earth, had occupied the roads leading to Ferghana and were waiting for an easy opportunity. Three or four months after the Talas battle, the Khaliph's governor in Khorasan, Nasr bin Sayyar had entered Sogdia with a large body of troops. From there, he sent letters to the rulers of Shash and Ferghana, inviting them to accept Islam and Arab rule.

Upon receiving the letter of Sayyar, threatening them from head-to-toe, Arslan Tarhan called a Kurultay in his orda located along Enchi Oghuz.

Arslan Tarhan's younger brother, scholarly Alp Tekin was also present at the kurultay, who possessed the Sogdian courtly eloquence, and familiarity with Arabic and Chinese.

At the time of the Kengesh, the Apatarhan Sebuk Tekinbek looking at the quietly sitting Beks, mockingly stated: "We know the Arabs! We must fight!" Then, giving a manly salute to Arslan Tarhan sitting on his leopard skin covered throne, continued:

- "My Hakan! Ugushlarim. We heard that both the Afshin of Usrushana and the bahadir Tudun of Shash, are accepting the terms of the Khaliph. We are now alone. That dog Tugasiyen killed many of our brave young man. We have heavily pained our enemies, despite the suffering of our yigits, untended horses, and scarcity of our arrows in the quivers." Casting a glance at Alp Tekin, he swallowed, and continued: "'If it is not possible to chew the stone, it is necessary to kiss it,' said the forefathers. Think about it!"

Sebuk Tekinbek, having amassed untold amount of goods in the Talas battle, was now weary, longing for the comforts of his home. Alp Tekin knew his companion quite well. Sebuk Tekinbek could behave like the father of a nasty boil! Keeping that in mind, Alp Tekin did not immediately join the discussion, but patiently listened to the other beys. The aged and not entirely truthful beys, who have added flocks of sheep to their possessions after the Talas battle, pessimistically pontificated at length on the number and power of the Arabs, the weariness of the Turk Bori, the difficulty of success against the prevailing odds.

Sebuk Tekinbek arose, spoke of the tax exemption privileges extended to those inhabitants of Bukhara and Samarkand who joined the community of Muhammad, and the fact that the dehkan were not at all opposed to the state.

"Deceitful posture" thought Alp Tekin, driving the topic out of his mind "the lustre of gold is burning his heart. The Arabs knowingly say 'the coquetry of gold causes the mejusi to accept religion, it also grants tongue to the mute.' Perhaps Aka is more concerned about his throne. He who is concerned about the throne is not concerned with the affairs of the people. In order for him to rule, he only needs healthy people. It does not matter to him if the people are fire-worshippers or Muslims... Alas, in this kurultay, I fear they sold their own Turk religion and language. I wonder?"

-- "Sebuk Tekinbek" said he, with fiery eyes. "Is it not true that the bezirgan regularly visiting Tuput actually stop at your place!"

Arslan Tarhan appeared to be pained. The attention of the beys turned to Alp Tekin. Alp Tekin, though eagerly awaited by the beys, did not wish to continue with this harsh line. But, since a light of treachery was thus cast on the indicated actions of Sebuk Tekinbek, he was compelled to resume: -- "Look at these swallows... Beys, perhaps with difficulty, they make their nests, they rear their young which they brought to life, teach them to fly; to these birds, without {the power of} reason, what is the benefit of this hardship?"

- "So that the family of swallows does not become annihilated in this land!" - responded Alp Er Tunga, while casting a raised eyebrow at the aged beys.

- "Live Long!" - gratefully acknowledged Alp Tekin - "Our ancestors, much like these swallows, have reared us with the same hopes; what do you think? Did they not devote their generation to ours, so that our lineage would be perpetuated, the Turks would not become extinct in this realm? Now, would we not be stepping on the faces of our ancestors, losing them eternally, by accepting the religion of a newcomer and forgetting our language; if one of us did this, for fear of losing his fame, another grief-stricken over lost gold; is that not true, beys? Is there a more ugly deed in this blessed world? If there is, speak up, beys?"

- "Brothers, to the enemy!" - Alp Er Tunga shouted with abandon, jumping to his feet, unsheathed his sword, looking toward to the West.

- "To the enemy, to the enemy!" - echoed the other beys immediately.

However, Arslan Tarhan and Sebuk Tekinbek glanced at each other, winking meaningfully.

Afterwards, Arslan Tarhan sent Alp Tekin to the Kitkan fortified post...

While Alp Tekin was recalling these events in his mind, he was keeping an eye on the approaching horsemen: two riders, two pack camels. He surmised the identity of one of the riders from the way he was trundling on the saddle: it must be Bugrabek. Alp Tekin recognized the second rider as it burst through a cloud of dust. His {Alp Tekin's} face turned red as if reflecting the flames of a fire: Jibilga! Mounting his purebred horse, to greet them, he galloped towards the nearing young riders. In a short time, the clouds of dust kicked up by both sides merged.

- "So, what is the word from the orda?"

Bugrabek took the opportunity of coupling his mouth to the drinking vessel, containing crystal clear water of Kitkan, capable of soothing away exhaustion, began chewing a mouthful of bread. Jibilga was going in and out along with the servant girls, rather than sitting at the side of Bugrabek, whose legs were saddle bruised, whiling away time at the courtyard of the korugan. This yigit, who had accompanied Jibilga from the orda, was Sebuk Tekinbek's adopted son, representative of his family. Bugrabek had a lazy nature, ordering around his father's countless servants, not leaving the enclosure of the white tent. He was a man who did not care what happened around him, even if horses... would be taken away, he could not think of going after them, but protecting the insects. Alp Tekin would say "if it is not for the benefit of the insects, what use is the stubble of the field?" whenever his eye encountered Bugrabek.

-- "Health in the orda" -- said Bugrabek with a wheeze.

-- "What answer did they give to Nasr?"

Bugrabek cleared his throat, scratched his neck. Alp Tekin became impatient.

-- "Do you have a tongue?" After some more minutes of wheezing, croaking and clearing his throat, words began to fall out of Bugrabek's mouth like the crumbs of a torn piece of bread:

- "By the grace of God... it was deemed appropriate to send a white letter in response to Nasr's missive..."

- "What are you saying?" - bellowed Alp Tekin - "You... Swine! Are you speaking the truth?"

He grabbed Bugrabek by the throat and shook him mightily. Bugrabek collapsed as if he were deflated. Alp Tekin, standing over the drained face of this adopted bey:

- "Speak" he said.

- "Beys held a kengesh... later... a messenger was sent to Nasr... Nasr's regent will be arriving in Ferghana tomorrow...

- "Satkinlar! Alp Er Tunga, Alp Turan? Did they not oppose?"

- "Alp Er Tunga and Alp Turan were beheaded..."

- "My God! What fate?"

In the wrathful eyes of Alp Tekin, Bugrabek appeared as the personification of scandalously corrupt Arslan Tarhan and Seb^Ák Tekinbek. Preparing to separate body from head, he unsheathed his sword. Bugrabek, with bloodshot eyes betraying fear, placed his head on Alp Tekin's feet. Just as he aimed his sword at the hairy neck of the adopted bey, like a predatory bird:

- "Alp Tekin, don't!" - screamed Jibilga, as she ran in...

- "Offer a sacrifice to Umay, for the sake of Jibilga" - groused Alp Tekin, as he sheathed his sword.

Bugrabek did not brave standing up, he crawled away.

- "Alp Tekin..." - Jibilga's wavering voice and the hesitant look in her almond-shaped eyes became evident to Alp Tekin.

- "Alp Tekin, as you know, reportedly Nasr has amassed plenty of troops... 'I am going to annihilate the Turks,' he is said to have stated..."

- "Jibilga, what are you saying?"

- "It is said that Nasr is not going to collect kharaj or jizye from us, only if we were to accept his religion. Alp Tekin, I expect this condition will unite the Turks!"

- "For God's sake go away, go away Jibilga!"

Alp Tekin was compellingly drawn to the banks of Kitkan river, began splashing water onto his face. "Ey!" - he roared, towards the wide open spaces - "where are you now, the glorious batirs of the Turks, those of you who at one time held sway from Chochon to Rum; from Altay to Boipin, where are you?"

Shadows were settling in from the East. The night quietly embraced the Kitkan korugan with its helmeted guards visible at the turrets on high walls. When darkness became total, the scarlet tongues of flames leaping from the oven fireboxes remained visible. Eternally defiant of night, yet again rearing their heads, because light is born to the arms of darkness!..

- "If we were to learn Arabic, speaking in this beautiful language, will would be communicating with half of the world. It indeed is the language of Bagdad, Damascus, used by the alp poets of the world!"

- "You are forgetting the most powerful poetry in the world, lullabies recited by our mothers as they stood over our cradles, Jibilga!.."

The flames in the hearth were casting a pale light upon Alp Tekin and Jibilga, lying on the wooden platform, then causing a naked sword on the floor to glisten before dissipating into the dark corners of the house. Suddenly Jibilga reached over the bare sword and touched the wrist of Alp Tekin with her long fingers. Alp Tekin's flesh tingled, his body stiffened.

- "Alp Tekin, do you recall our talks at the apple orchard?"

- "Could those times be ever forgotten?"

... Ah, those sweet memories, recalling the delightful times of days past! Enjoying the exquisite melodies emanating from the chankavuy played by Jibilga which would accompany drinking kimiz, then, knowingly winking at each other, begin courting.

Alp Tekin would silently visit his Toga's apple orchard, sit and wait for Jibilga in the quiet corner. Their greeting the dawn together was ostensibly unknown by anybody in Seb^Ák Tekinbek's household, accepting the gifts of Tuput origin from Alp Tekin and turning a blind eye to Jibilga's early morning outings, which supposedly went totally unnoticed.

When the moon reached overhead, as Alp Tekin's patience ebbed from waiting, Jibilga would appear from the direction of the water canal.

During those heady days the sounds of the Enchi Oghuz would be audible at the distance, until dawn... Ah, what would they not discuss! Their intense discussions would inevitably turn to the appreciation of the prominent Turks of the past, they would end the night without sleep. "The land of Turks were in a single religion at the time of Bumin Han and contemporaries, now some worship fire, others became Manichean or Buddhist. What calamity that it turned out so!" would say Jibilga. "What are you getting at?" "It is necessary for the Turks to belong in one religion for their future unity." "Did that thought originate from your father?" "What do you think? He is not called the Tonyukuk of Arslan Tarhan, by the Beys for nothing." "Which language of the Tengri are we speaking in Jibilga? Our ancestors did not leave us the pyramids of the Pharaohs, they only bequeathed us their language. If we were to forget this language, would they not be dried like a river absorbed into the sands? No, it is best to be seeking refuge in fire - worshipping the Tengri is the best path. Actually, the mother of this realm - is the sun and fire! Worshiping the sun!" "The sun! Ha-ha-ha!" Jibilga's hearty laughter reverberated in the orchard, causing {....} to come out in a hurry, her hair reflecting the moon's glow. "If I were the sun, I would not simply radiate, but I would have destroyed the enemies of the people and bestow upon them life sustaining warmth!"


At times, while Jibilga played the changavuy, the melodies seemingly melded with the silky light of the moon and draped like a soft mist over the apple blossoms...

- "Alp Tekin, did you fall asleep?"

Alp Tekin rubbed his eyes like a child about to fall into sweet slumber.

- "Alp Tekin, listen, I have a few words for you."

Alp Tekin quiveringly shook his head and looked.

- "Suppose I accept the new religion... What would happen?"

- "I do not have mercy upon those who betray their own religion!"

Jibilga suddenly grasped the sword from its blade and placed the hilt in Alp Tekin's hand:

- "In that case, strike!"

- "Jibilga!" - cried out Alp Tekin, jumping to his feet.

- "It has been three years since my father recited the creed, all of us, even Bugrabek..."

- "Jibilga!" - to Jibilga, the frightening scream emanating from the throat of the yigit resembled the moanings of a men who has been hit by a dirk in the chest.

Alp Tekin drew his knife and began slashing his own face... Jibilga's pearl-like tears were discernible in the reflecting light.


"Brothers!" - upon noticing the face of Alp Tekin, the troops looked at each other as if to ask "Is Arslan Tarhan dead?" - "Hear me! I rebelled against my own brother! You should know that he was once a worshipper of fire. Now he has made his religion, language, subservient to throne. Mind you, this is religion, language; living in the bosoms, the tongues of each of us, our homeland! The flowing Enchi Oghuz, plentiful apple orchards and pastures are our homeland, but when we consider it closely, there is another, altogether mighty homeland, inseparable from our selves; that is, our language. Can any man who ruthlessly discards this precious inheritance, homeland, still be a lord in his own home? Tell me, people!"

- "Certainly not! Certainly not!" roared the troops.

- "Correct! Tomorrow the regent of Nasr is arriving in Ferghana. Are there quarters for him in Ferghana? Tell me Turks!"

- "There is! But it is in the dark earth!" shouted the troops.

- "Good! Starting today, Orda of this homeland is Kitkan! The Hakan of the people is me; I am Alp Tekinbek! I issue a mobilization order to all Turks. We are going to defend the korugan with all our might. No mercy to those who sell or buy this homeland!"

Although Apatarhan Sebuk Tekinbek's troops were reinforced by the ghazis arriving from Samarkand, and together they had laid siege to Kitkan korugan for twenty days, they had been unable to conquer it. The Apatarhan was most unhappy. He was incessantly ordering new attacks, but an unknown number, according to some rumors one thousand, or said some informants, one hundred T^Árk troops defending the thick walls were keeping at bay a force of five thousand. Those in the fortification had stockpiled naphtha from the Chimyan mountain, which they were burning in bowls and pouring onto those who came close to the walls, thereby keeping them away.

The water-wells began to dry-up with the choking of Kitkan korugan by Sebuk Tekinbek. Food and drink was rationed and the women and children who came to the korugan from surrounding kishlaks began suffering. The use of naphta against the attacks had to be carefully husbanded. The days of Kitkan korugan appeared numbered when catapults from Usrushana and reinforcements from Arslan Tarhan's orda arrived to aid the attackers. All of the possessions of the korugan was defended by some one hundred troops, who were rendered weak from malnourishment and lack of water.


In deep thought, Alp Tekin approached the distant guard room of the korugan. Humidity greeted him upon opening the small, squeaking door. As the door opened Jibilga rose, looking at the entering figure, and faced away. At the corner, with beard and hair unkept like weeds, Bugrabek was eating noisily with full cheeks. Noticing Alp Tekin, he pressed his forehead to the ground and rose.

For a moment, both the yigit and the girl were silent. Alp Tekin lowered his head:

- "Jibilga," he started, "give up that path! Do not turn your face away from homeland!"

- "I am but a servant of God..."

- "Jibilga, but your father accepted that religion to preserve his own wealth...

- "You are speaking in vain! My father wishes to unite his subjects who are adherents of Zoroastrianism, Manicheanism, Buddhism in one religion and language!

Alp Tekin shook his head, Jibilga looked at him a moment and noticed the bandaging on his arm:

- "What happened to your arm?" she asked.

- "An enemy sword touched it."

- "Alp Tekin!" Jibilga suddenly kneeled, put her head on yigit's foot, began crying. "They will kill you! The entire population is aware that your brother is afraid of you! If they were to kill you, your brother will have his day. Could not a knowledgeable yigit like you perceive that? If you were to go to them, they would look after you. And then..."

- "I would ascend to my brother's throne?" Alp Tekin's voice was weighty - "No, I shall not climb to the throne treading on the faces of my ancestors."

- "According to the defenders, korugan has a day remaining, it is not late. Come, I can teach you the creed..."

- "I do not wish to reach Tengri shame-faced, as one who has sold his religion and language!"

- "Ah my undesired path, my heart rends seeing the wound of your marrow. When you undertake the fight, it is your stubbornness that gnaws at me and not the rats of this damp dungeon. Still, you do not speak of the future of our love?"

- "My heart is heavy, because you are correct Jibilga! I am going to the orda of Tengri but is my woman coming as a detached stranger to that heavenly dwelling? My heart and bosom is torn saying this. This eternal separation will take place before we are united in this world, Jibilga."

Alp Tekin's voice strained, reached down to stroke Jibilga's hair:

- "Jibilga... Go, my love..."

- "Alp Tekin, recite the creed... Recite the creed..."

Alp Tekin pulled his legs from Jibilga's embrace, left.

After dark enemy catapults breached the korugan walls in one-two places. But the enemy could not gain inside access. Alp Tekin's troops were heaving bowls full of burning naphta to keep them away. It was clear that the remaining life of the korugan was not long.


- "Jibilga, I have half a day left in this life..."

- "There still is time to recite the Creed..."

Alp Tekin sent for the Diviner.

- "Diviner, you know my love towards my woman. I do not wish her to meet the Tengri with a blackened face."

The Diviner knew of the circumstances. He stated to Alp Tekin:

- "Fire is the most fresh, greatest cure for ailing souls, a sanctifying halo. Those who are bathed in fire will reach the abode of Tengri purified of the past deeds, possessing cleansed spirits..."

Alp Tekin was shaken.

- "How horrifying your words are, Diviner. You..."

- "Yes, fire, sacred fire will cleanse your woman from her past deeds by separating the body from purified soul and send it to Tengri. The fire, flames..."

- "Jibilga!" terrified, dreading, sorrowful voice of Alp Tekin, as if not his own, reverberated along the inner walls of the korugan. Jibilga motioned in the negative "No, no." Tears streaming from his eyes, Alp Tekin took refuge behind the water-well.

In the middle of the korugan, preparations began to build a fire. Dry logs were cut at the height of a human, placed upright in the middle of the wood pile.

The sun was setting behind the mountains.

Jibilga arrived at the pile fearlessly. Then Bugrabek was brought, by collar and trouser-cuff from the dungeon. He screamed, grappling at the ankles of the guards, as two-three guards dragged him towards the pile.

Bugrabek spotted Alp Tekin, in awe, crawled towards him.

- "My Bey, I am no longer a Muslim. I gave up that strange religion, I gave it up!" Crying, he grasped Alp Tekin's legs.

- "Take this away!" Said Alp Tekin, holding himself back.

Jibilga was placed onto the pile and tied.

- "Ey misled woman!" continued Diviner "For the last time I am asking: leave the strange religion, that exploiting essence lodged in your heart and mind; expel that God of Ahram from your tongue..."

Suddenly a deep silence fell on the korugan. Even the bitterly neighing horses quieted.

The setting sun cast an unprecedented scarlet hue on Jibilga, bathing her in heavenly beams. Standing as if chiseled out of red stone with ruby eyes, she resembled the standing statue of Umay.

- "Alp Tekin" suddenly the statue spoke "Recite the Creed, become the leader to this homeland..."

- "Ey Tengri!" screamed Alp Tekin "Why are you using my forebears' language, applauding your god in that tongue? Who can chase two preys at the same time, who was born from two mothers? Mother tongue, motherland is in this heart; could there be two hearts? Tell me Jibilga!"

Naphtha-soaked timbers roared with fire...


- "Brothers!" said Alp Tekin, addressing his loyal troops "The enemy is about to enter the korugan. We are one hundred, they, ten thousand. These raiders are aiming not at our possessions or our lives, but Tengri, and the language in our hearts and our homeland. We are about to engage in one last battle for our homeland. If we die, we shall do so showing the people that the homeland is dearer than one's own life! We are the children of the sun, we shall each die by becoming a sun!"

Alp Tekin ordered the naphtha to be brought forward. Mounting his horse, he had himself sturdily tied to the saddle. Unsheathing his sword:

- "Pour naphta on me!" he said.

Understanding Alp Tekin's intention, the troops froze for a moment,. Then, one, two, three... five... ten... one hundred of them joined him. Naphta was poured over one hundred fighters.


During the last attack of the enemy, the korugan gates were flung open, and from inside issued... bellowing riders aflame. Ah-hey; the mounts, the riders themselves and even the drawn swords, powerfully grasped, were... on fire! The horses were running with supernatural speed. The enemy was aghast. From the gates of the korugan, the riders aflame kept issuing until the one hundredth, all together charging the enemy. The horrified enemy army broke like a sheep herd facing danger, began deserting piecemeal.

At that time, Kitkan river burst through its poorly constructed temporary dam, reuniting with its previous channel, overwhelmed those ghazis who attempted to seek refuge from the riding flames in its bed.

As the tents came into contact with the riding flames, the headquarters of the enemy caught fire. Camels went mad, foaming at the mouth, without harnesses, began trampling the besieging troops who had also gone mad.

The ten thousand strong army of besieging adventurists began running away disgracefully. Gallant men who had sacrificed themselves to the sun so that the homeland could live on, kept giving chase, burned and rode, burned and rode, burned and rode...


AFTERWORD

To those familiar with history, the present Soviet "restructuring" and "openness" are perhaps reminiscent of earlier "thaws." Furthermore, it is unlikely that filling a few "blank pages," will suffice to elucidate the missing portions of the true Central Asian history. But, works such as SUN IS ALSO FIRE - if they are allowed to appear - may be deemed an appropriate precursor to true historical text writing.

Reprinted with permission from
Central Asian Monuments H.B. Paksoy, editor
ISBN: 975-428-033-9
Library of Congress Card Catalog: DS329.4 .C46 1992
173 Pp. (paperback)

ISIS Press
1992

Isis Press
Semsibey Sokak 10
81210 Beylerbeyi Istanbul
Turkey
Phone: +90 + 216 321 38 51
FAX: +90 + 216 321 86 66


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