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Ethnographic Essay of the Japanese Turkologist Okubo Koji as a Historical Source about the Life of the Turkic-Tatar Community in Harbin



The article tells about the ethnographic essay “On the Life of the Turkic People in Harbin”, written and published in 1924 in the Japanese magazine “Tōyō” (東洋) by the Japanese Turkologist Okubo Koji (大 久保 幸 次), who later became the founder of Islamic and Turkic academic research in Japan. This essay is considered to be among the first essays in Japanese Turkology regarding the Turkic peoples of Russia. It provides valuable information about various aspects of the lifestyle of the Turkic-Tatar emigrant community in Harbin during the period from the beginning of the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway until 1924. It illustrates Okubo as a mediator in the Tatar-Japanese (Turkic-Japanese) relations in the prewar period and allows us to draw conclusions about Okubo’s views on the Turkic-Tatar people and their national movements. The essay consists of seven parts: 1) Turkic-Tatars as a nation, 2) the gradual advancement of the Turkic peoples to the East and their appearance in Manchuria, 3) national organs of the Turkic-Tatar community, 4) racial stereotypes, 5) Turkic language, 6) religion of Turkic-Tatars, 7) daily life of the Turkic-Tatar community in Harbin. This essay highlights the important, yet underestimated and little-known role of Okubo in supporting Turkic-Tatar emigrants in the Far East. It is alleged that this essay prepared the Japanese reader to accept the Turkic-Tatar people as a possible political ally in the future.