The Legacy of
Professor Edward A. Allworth

 

 

I was in deep thought on how to begin writing about Professor Allworth’s legacy. After reviewing some of the interviews during his travels to Central Asia, I stumbled upon one interesting statement he made in Uzbekistan: “My noble goal is to promote the culture of Central Asia in my country. I am your Ambassador to America.” [20] And indeed, Professor Allworth proved he was an Ambassador-at-large

for Central Asia as well as the broader Turkic-speaking world. His scholarly works alone stand as a testament to his legacy of promoting the importance of the Central Asian region among academics, policy makers, and the general public. Many of his scholarly works are considered classics and essential reading for any student of Central Asian studies.

 

Beyond his scholarly works, Professor Edward A. Allworth and his wife, Janet F. Allworth, donated nearly 3,500 volumes of books and research materials accumulated over nearly 40 years to the New York Public Library in September 1993. The Professor explained the two main objectives of his donation: “First, to focus greater attention upon the increasing importance of the rich heritage and cultural relations of late 20th-century Central Asia; and to make North American scholars, economists, government officials, journalists, and the like, more aware of this importance, and also of the central role played by

the indigenous languages in today’s research and communication. Second, we wish to enrich the Library’s holdings pertinent to the field of Central Asian research, especially to complement its collection concerning the modern period of Central Asia, and to ensure that the materials are easily accessible to researchers." [21] The archives named “The Professor Edward A. Allworth Central Asian and Soviet Studies Collection” contain approximately 1,500 books written between 1950 and 1980 in Central Asian languages and dialects. “The materials in Central Asian languages and dialects constitute a highly unusual collection, almost certainly unavailable outside the former Soviet Union.” [22] 

 

It is important to mention the unwavering support of Professor Allworth’s beloved wife Janet, who took on the roles of his personal assistant, proofreader, travel companion, and critic. Professor Shahrbanou Tadjbaksh, one of Professor Allworth’s Ph.D. students, wrote the following about his wife in 2016: “Professor Allworth had the privilege of angelic support in the form of his wife, Janet, who passed away two years ago. She was a kind and gentle woman who accompanied him everywhere, who knew the details of all students, the state of advancement of their dissertations and their personal lives, and who helped her husband produce the indices for the many books he wrote.” [23] No wonder many prominent Central Asian émigrés in letters to Professor Allworth inquired about her with affection and always addressed her as Jannat Hanim, “Mrs. Heaven” in Uzbek. 

 

Another important donation by Professor Allworth was his Central Asian coins and banknotes to the American Numismatic Society. I knew Professor Allworth was an avid collector of coins and paper money, especially from the Central Asian region, but was surprised at the scope and depth of his collection. Between 2000 and 2001, Professor Allworth, a Life Fellow at the American Numismatic Society, donated his entire collection, which was described as follows:

 

“The most colorful and novel of our large gifts was the Central Asian Collection of Professor Edward Allworth of Columbia University, with 1,033 items in all. The core of the gift is 466 bills and notes from the Caucasian and Central Asian territories of the Russian Empire and the U.S.S.R., as well as from Russia and the other post-Soviet successor states. The most interesting are the notes of the various entities of the Russian Revolutionary period, from 1917 to about 1924. These notes, often printed locally in emergency conditions, on silk or on paper of various kinds, using hand-made block printing, are valuable evidence for politics, society, and culture during a murky period of twentieth-century history. The gift also includes 550 coins of Central Asia from ancient times to the present, with sixteenth-century Shaybanid material of special interest.” [24]

 

It is clearly evident that the legacy Professor Allworth left behind in his collections is beyond comparison. However, the most important accomplishment that Professor Allworth should be remembered for was the numerous students he trained in Central Asian studies. “He mentored dozens of accomplished researchers and scholars from around the world and introduced the rich culture and history of the region to countless more”. [25] One such student he mentored was Timur Kocaoglu, now a professor of International Relations at James Madison College at Michigan State University. [26] Professor Allworth played an important role in securing funding for Timur Kocaoglu to pursue his Ph.D. at Columbia University. In fact, Professor Kocaoglu is the first Central Asian (Uzbek) to receive a Ph.D. in Central Asian studies in the United States. 

In his acceptance speech for an award presented by the International Turkic Academy for his outstanding contributions to the Turkic world (March 28, 2016), Professor Edward Allworth said: “If I deserve this high honor, it's because I feel that my product in my efforts is mainly the production of our many good students, I don’t have any other product than that. I feel like the many good students that came out of our efforts at the university was well worth it and I hope that I can look forward to seeing them again and again. I see some of them sitting here now. Thank you for this honor”. (Video of award ceremony, his speech starts at 55:44) Many of the students he mentored pursued careers in academia and journalism, such as Ahmet Kanlidere (Turkey), Orhan Soylemez (Turkey), Shahrbanou Tadjbaksh (France), Dolkun Kamberi (USA), Erika Dailey (USA), Caroline Sawyer (USA), Martha Merrill (USA), Anna Procyk (USA), Peter Sinnott (USA), Bruce Pannier (USA), and countless others.  

 

Any award given to Professor Allworth was always received with humility and grace, and I believe the last one given after his passing in 2016 would not have been any different. In memory of the legacy of Professor Allworth, the Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS), posthumously awarded Professor Allworth the CESS Lifetime Service to the Field Award. In 2018, with the generous support of the Harriman Institute, Columbia University, the award was renamed the “Edward Allworth Lifetime Service to the Profession Award.”

 

Only two months after Professor Allworth died in October 2016, Shavkat Mirziyoyev became President of Uzbekistan, embarking on a path of reforms. Professor Allworth would have eagerly followed the developments towards true reforms in Uzbekistan under the new administration. As the “Central Asian ambassador to America,” Professor Allworth will be keenly remembered especially for promoting Uzbek culture and history. It is my hope that one day a street in Uzbekistan will be named for Professor Allworth, perhaps near the United States Embassy in Tashkent, as a symbolic gesture of strengthening Uzbek-American relations and a tribute to his honor. I would like to end my memorial to Professor Edward Alfred Allworth with a final quote from Mir Ali Shir Navai, [27] the first Central Asian literary person the scholar wrote about in a 1957 academic article.

“Since the best of men must pass

Through Death’s portal,

Happy is he who makes his

Name immortal.” [28]