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An Encounter Between Z.V. Togan and S. Freud

By H. B. Paksoy, International Bulletin of Political Psychology, Vol.4 no.24, 19 June 1998

Zeki Velidi Togan (1890-1970), a Bashkurt Turk and professor of history for over half a century, studied and taught in institutions of higher learning on three continents. His first book, Turk ve Tatar Tarihi (Turk and Tatar History), was published in Kazan in 1911. In 1913, Togan was asked by the Archeology and Ethnography Society of Kazan University to undertake a research trip to Turkistan. Togan, after successful completion of that endeavor, was sponsored by the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences and the International Central Asia Research for a more extensive expedition. Portions of Togan's findings began to be published in scholarly journals prior to the First World War. His professional output approaches four hundred individual items in at least five languages.

Togan became a leader of the Turkistan National Liberation Movement--called the Basmachi Movement by the Russians--in Central Asia from 1916 to the 1930s. This is but one example of how--like the Ukrainian scholar Mikhail Hrushevsky (1866-1934) and the Czech Thomas Masaryk (1850-1937), Togan was not only a scholar devoted to writing about the history of his nation, but also worked to secure its intellectual, cultural, civil, and political independence.

A Poem of My Mother's and Freud

My mother knew how to write, and while teaching her students prayers, she would write. But, she would not write letters. However, when my father was angry with me during 1908, when I was in Kazan, she did send me one or two letters. There were also poems she wrote to my father. These were kept scattered in my father's books.

Every now and then, property ownership issues would cause a fuss. For example, mother was very sensitive concerning the animals she had brought into the marriage from her father's house--what we called "turkun." When one of those animals was sold, without securing her complete acquiescence, she took offence with my father. Then, my father wished to marry a second woman, or, it is said, at least threatened to do so. Consequently, my mother wrote the following poem:

You said there is no other sweetheart to love You had not loved anyone else, have you changed? You are the one who had tasted my ruby red lips, And the one who broke my seal Are you a stranger, what is the meaning of this jest?

Possibly, the last two lines were quoted from another poet, but my mother had used them very fittingly. With its completely clear meaning, this poem had remained in my memory. However, until I grew-up, I had not paid attention to its reference to the sexual relations between husband and wife.

In general, whether or not there were sexual relations between our mother and father would not even enter the minds or imagination of us children. Our parents would have us read the religious instructions regulating sexual relations. Sometimes our parents would have some of the cows mated in our presence, or we would observe the birthing sheep that had been brought into the warmth of the household during the winter. To us, these were normal and natural affairs.

Thus, we had memorized our mother's poem only because it is a beautiful piece. There were times when my sister Sare and I recited this and similar ones. But, according to the Viennese philosopher Dr. Freud, there's more to it than this.

While I was studying in Vienna during 1935, I had rented a room on Berggasse No. 9 to be near the History of Art Seminar of Prof. Strezegovski. I knew that there was an institute on the floor below me, but I was not aware that this was Freud's Psychoanalysis Institute. One day, the landlady said "The residents below you are complaining of your very hard steps at night. Could you wear slippers?" I agreed but kept forgetting, and the request was repeated. One evening, the landlady said "The Professor is asking for you." This person introduced himself as Professor Freud and said there were sensitive instruments in his institute, and because of that, repeatedly requested that I wear slippers in my room if possible.

I had never seen Freud before. However, a Syrian Armenian student, said to be working under this Freud, had given me books by him. I had read some of them but had not liked his philosophy at all. I responded to Freud with "I am a person who had arrived from the vastness of Central Asia. I wonder if I could have my feet comply with this stipulation." Freud invited me to his room. There, I told Freud that his writings pertaining to a girl of six to seven years of age lusting after her father was inapplicable to the Bashkurts and Kazakhs. Then I translated my mother's poem. I stated that I had grasped the sexual allusion of "breaking my seal" in this poem only after reading Dr. Freud's pamphlets.

I conversed with him several more times after that. Earlier I had analyzed the Arab traveller Ibn Fadlan's writings on the old Oghuz. I knew that their understanding of sexual relations was entirely different from other Muslims and the Arabs and had compared those writings to Herodotus' records pertaining to sexual relations among Scythians. During our second conversation, I relayed all this to Dr. Freud. I even said to him "With your conversion of psychoanalysis into your 'philosophy,' which is an important and interesting branch of knowledge, you are providing material to the 'perverts' who unabashedly write about watching their naked sisters through keyholes."

He was not at all angered by my words. He wished very much to continue our talks, but as I had moved from Austria to Germany, there were no further opportunities.