We always see our history filtered through the 19th century

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Berlin · 2020  Uwe Topper topper

We always see our history filtered through the 19th century

This claim should be analysed closely:

WE - that is us who are born after, are separated from the Renaissance or Napoleon by many generations, having no real experience of those events. We - the educated of the 21st century, academics as well as workers, yes, the reading workers: who see history through perspectives of Marx and Engels.
ALWAYS means: it is absolute, it is all pre-recorded.

SEE - that means: understand, pass on, judge, use and believe.

OUR - that is our own, which does not exclude the view of the history of other peoples, because that belongs to us as well.

HISTORY - does not mean what happened, but what is reported about it, more precisely: Historiography.

FILTERED the process of exclusion, a selection process, all preliminary assessments.

19TH CENTURY means the period from 1815 to 1914, i.e. the hundred years before the First World War.

Standards were set in the 19th century that are still valid today. Not only for 'us'- but yes, that above all!

For example: Someone wants to know what Zoroaster (Zarathustra) taught in Persia thousands of years ago. He looks it up in books (or with Google or Wiki) and gets the knowledge- that was developed in the 19th century on this subject. There can be nothing else on the Internet than in these books, because on the Internet there is no new research into ancient history; the existing knowledge is re-bundled and re-gurgitated.

If our great-grandfathers'knowledge of Zoroaster has been perfected in our century, it has been on the same basis, with no serious criticism of the defaults nor any fresh start. Any student attests to this: Even if today we can speak Persian better than those scholars. But going back to the knowledge of the Parsis in Bombay does not bring any improvement, because these are also based- apart from their folklore- on the re-searched results of the Europeans.

The pattern can be verified at this point, in the dispute of the Parsis in India: A peaceful people tears itself apart in bloody battles because their calendar has been tampered with by historiography.
(see Uwe Topper: Invented History 1999, pp. 119-122).

As can be imagined, the followers of Zarathustra in Iran as a coherent community did not adopt Islam, resisting vigorously and fleeing in droves after defeat, as their chronicles report. Some communities have survived to this day (at least until 1961 when I was there), in remote areas such as Yasd and Kermanshah, but overall conversion and expulsion has been successful. The Parsis of Bombay are the largest exile community of expelled Zoroastrians, and their traditions can shed further light on what happened at the time.

Their chronicles or epics, such as the Kissa-e-Sendschan, were only written after 1600, in part maybe based on older oral traditions. Nevertheless, no chronological certainty can be obtained from this, because here too there's a leap over centuries, when neither priests nor kings are named.

Parsian refugees continued to count from the accession of their last king, Yäsdegird (III), because no one after him ascended the peacock throne, and wrote about the year 600 when the Portuguese founded the port of Bombahia (= the good bay, Bombay) soon after 1500 and contacted the Parsis. On the Portuguese timeline, 900 years had passed since the rise of Islam and the associated expulsion of the Parsis from Iran, according to their church history. Around 1600, a learned Parsi wrote the Kissa-e-Sendschan, the chronicle of the Parsi in India, and- to do justice to this new knowledge of the superior Portuguese settlers- added the missing in history 300 years between their expulsion from Iran and the defense against Mahmud of Ghazni. The three centuries remained without information (the invention of legendary figures was probably not the concern of that chronicler), but distorted the overall picture to integrate it with European historiography.

The problem of dating the flight from the Parsi is evident in all reference works. On the one hand, in the succinct summaries of the encyclopedias, the Islamic armies advance against the Persian fire-worshipers in the 7th century. On the other hand, the mass exodus of the Parsis did not take place until the 10th century (e.g. in the Brockhaus in 1972). This is probably due to the fact that the first sentence is based on Islamic sources and the second on Parsi sources. Here the displacement of the two time scales against each other becomes apparent.

Parsis themselves were the first to notice this contradiction. They had gained respect and influence in India in the 18th century under the political protection of the English as a 'European race', so confidently making contact with their remaining in Iran fellow-believers, surviving centuries of cruel oppression. They asked for priests' instruction in the right doctrine. Twice, it is reported, in 1721 and 1736, mobeds (teachers) came to India from Iran.
Something unexpected was revealed: the dates of the two groups, Iranian and Indian Zoroastrians, did not agree: The festivals fell on different days. The difference is said to have been a month, but what that actually means is unclear. (For comparison: any difference using the Julian and Gregorian calendars means two weeks difference currently).

This dispute was fundamental and irreconcilable. The Indian Parsis would have had to completely rewrite all dates of the earlier period from the Sasanian kings, whose era had probably been carefully continued. Two groups now formed among the Indian Parsis, the Shahinshahis (Royal) and the Kadimis (Old Believers): some adopting the new form of the calendar from the emissaries from Iran, others insisting on their old method of dating they had brought into India. Bloody battles raged between the two parties for decades until a compromise was reached in the town of Broach in 1783 simply sweeping the chronological difference under the carpet. Since then, both 'sects' exist side by side. Mixed marriages hardly ever occur- but neither does fighting.

The Encyclopedia Britannica (1911), under the heading Parses, says of the two sects: “They differ in not a single point of belief; the dispute is limited to the argument about the correct chronological date for calculating the era of Yäsdegird, the last king of the Sassanid dynasty.”
What is striking is that such a peaceful people shed blood over this problem for almost two generations. Something fundamental must be at stake here that surpasses all reason: Identity founded on believed-in historiography.

Further examples of the adoption of foreign calendars can be amassed, the case in China being particularly striking, for which I refer to Uwe Topper's book (Die Große Aktion 1998). It is firmly believed in China today that chronology produced by the Jesuits from the end of the 16th century, is Chinese.

The dependence on European scholarship can also be seen in specific areas. If Islamic scholars want to strengthen an argument in particular, they quote from the Encyclopedia of Islam, preferably the original German edition. The Nahda (reawakening of Islam since the end of the 19th century) preferred to rely on the works of German and French theologians, mostly Christians and Jews, because their editions of Islamic works are still exemplary today and form the basis of all further research.

This applies to other religious groups, such as the Brahmins in India, although not to the same extent. The holy writings were collated in exemplary manner by their conquerors, and still serve as a standard for both Indians and Europeans.

There are ethnic groups almost cut off from their past through political pressure- such as Tibetans, Yazidis, Berbers- now re-discovering their identity thanks to the scientific work of European ethnologists: This is gratifying for them.
For us, however, it means that what we might learn about the almost lost minorities comes from our own treasury, which is limited. Not only in terms of the amount and variety of knowledge alone, but also in terms of perspective: Limited by the religious and cultural prejudices prevailing in the 'enlightened' 19th century, our view of history is - our own as well of other peoples– is de-limited and filtered.

This is expressed in the heading claim: We always see history filtered in the 19th century.

What does this mean for us today?

The newly emerging or reawakening peoples define themselves through their supposed history. Some examples explain what is happening.

The Kurdish nation-building draws on the glorious past of individual Kurdish dynasties and tribes, creating its written language taking value concepts from history, the history that others wrote, above all those European geographers and ethnologists of the 19th century.
This is shown even more clearly by the newly found state ideology of Tajikistan, a country, presenting itself as "Aryan" since 2006. At that time, the President, Emomalii Rahmon, proclaimed the official “Year of Aryanism”, and since then the swastika has also become a frequently used state symbol. The equation "Tajiks = Aryans" is based on the theories of several Tajik historians, regarding the Persian-speaking Tajiks as the "primeval people" of Central Asia, and denouncing all Turkic peoples immigrating from the Mongolian area (mainly Uzbeks, but also Turkomens, Kirgiz, Kazakhs, etc) would have snatched most of their actual historical home from them.

Rahmon took up these ideas in his work "The Tajiks as Mirrored in History: From the Aryans to the Samanids" (London, 2000; German 2011) and ultimately made them the foundation of his state ideology. Here, in addition to the historical reserve, which has only grown on the well-fertilised soil of European universities for 150 years, there is another powerful factor: The racial form of Aryanism.

Even as one emphasises the word Aryan comes from those Persian countries where it flourishes again, it must be emphasised that purely through European research, above all those creators of the supposedly reconstructed Indo-European Original language (Bopp, Grimm and others) that have been taken up by the Tajiks.

In German, "race" (spelled like that) was a foreign word for a long time. It was the term used by some of the French in their revolution (1789) to the denunciation of the 'Germanic' royal house by the Gallic (Celtic) people. It was brought to a scientific peak by the English to distinguish them from their subjugated colonial peoples, and today it has become part of movements wanting to break away from the Arabic religion, which is felt to be foreign.

In this Tajik Aryan movement, a linguistic term has being raised to a political formula, calling for differentiation from the 'foreign peoples' in the area, Mongolians and Turks, and at the same time conjuring a relationship with the Slavs, i.e. here with the Russians, celebrated as liberators from the Tatar yoke and becoming role models because of their secular attitude. The arguments put forward- important for our consideration- all brought from the kitchens of the European academies, where initially they had no political function, but enjoyed respect under the protection of state science and were raised worldwide as the basis for civilised people.

After the introduction of this official academic-European view, it will no longer be possible to determine to what extent the Tajiks traditionally understood themselves as Aryans (in Sanskrit: 'nobles', in ancient Persia an ethnic group so their country is called Iran), what exactly they imagined by this term, how prevalent the swastika symbol was in their folk art and the 'spiritual world' associated with it.

What is particularly striking about this development is usage of historical dates and time concepts that uncritically imported from Europe and unquestioned within their own traditions, these being fundamentally a-chronistic. This results in such strange blossoms as the Berber counting of the years, only appearing about twenty years ago and showing its advantage: going further back more than 900 years than Christian counting.

This is precisely the sad aftermath among the Berbers of North Africa, whose cultural movement has awakened in the last two decades: the use of the Sheshonq era. We are now writing (2012 AD) in Berber the year 2962 since the accession of the Egyptian pharaoh Sheshonk. This peculiar way of counting emerged in the 1990s. Someone believed that the real Julian calendar, which has been used unchanged in North Africa since Roman times, with its corresponding traditional Gregorian New Year celebration date January 14th, must also have a suitable year, and there one has it— supposedly in the 1960s in the Berber academy of Paris, (according to the French Wikipedia encyclopedia) — taken the pharaoh Sheshonq of the 22nd dynasty of Egypt, flourishing in 950 BC. (according to European chronology), ascended the throne and allegedly of Libyan- thus Berber- origin. The Amazigh cultural movements usually start the year on January 13, for ultimate time fixed in Algerian Kabylia in the 19th century, although today this no longer corresponds to the correct Julian calendar being used everyday in Morocco.

Sheshonk is a fairly well-known Egyptian king: He is called Sisak in the Bible (also Sesonchis), came from Bubastis and is considered an evil one, granting asylum to Jeroboam, fleeing Solomon (1 Kings 11:40). Later Rehoboam attacked Jerusalem in the 5th year of his reign and robbing palace and temple treasures (1 Kings 14:25 & 26), as depicted on the south wall of the Temple of Karnak.

As Egyptian chronology is adjusted in the course of time - it becomes younger by and by - it will one day be easy to see when the Berbers adopted their date. Around 1885 (Meyers Lexicon) Sisak's accession to the throne took place eleven years earlier, in 961 BC. Paris is with 950 BC bit old fashioned: Modern chronologies usually have a younger date.

As we see, the determination of any exact starting year is based on the thoughtless adoption of the European-style academic year count. Even if the inventor of the new Berber era heard from his grandmother the name of a mythical king "Asheshuneg" (or something like that), which is doubtful, there was certainly no date for it, and certainly not this one, because Berbers do not have their own traditional calendar, and information about history, if it comes from their own tradition, is vaguely given in centuries. Here memory does not go back more than three to four hundred years.

Using this European fixed academic calendar now at the same time as their genuine traditional Julian calendar is no longer any search for identity but an actual falsification.

March 2020 - transl. by Nick Weech

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