Now that we have a little bit of time between us and the Janaozen events, I’m hoping to prepare a little more in depth post. This is hopefully going to also be the start to a more regular course of writing from myself. Writing is work and deserving of criticism, so I accept and hope for constructive criticism. I’m sure that a non-Kazakh who ostensibly is preparing to be a Kazakh historian is always going to be having issues of motivation and trust with informants and readers alike.
I’m curious if any of Registan’s readers is from the Aktau/Janaozen area. Your input on the events and the real shape of the town is valued here. Let me say that I’m typing “Janaozen” out of laziness more than anything else – if one wants to make a case for Zhangauzen [Жаңаөзен] or some other transliteration, I’m all ears. I’m also curious as to the history and import of the name. Is it “New River?” My slightly-educated guess is for “Fresh River,” as in, there’s a river there that provided (still provides?) drinkable water, something pretty valuable on the Mangyshlaq plateau and the Caspian shore. Wikipedia states that it means new river, but I assumed that was merely a translation of the Russian, which would not necessarily clear up whether it’s a new river, a fresh river, or something else. Plus there’s the fact that the city was Новый Узень during the Soviet Union and is claimed to have been founded in the 1960s without mention of any previous settlements.
In the upcoming post, the etymology of the town’s name is unlikely to come up, so I’m not planning on digging any deeper than this 5 minute search around the Russ-net. Instead I’ll be trying to find a little context and parse out the continuities and incontinuities that lie between December 1986 (Jeltoqsan riots) and December 2011. I’ll do my best to include copies or links to primary sources that are informing the post.