Abstract: The life and military carrier of a Kazakh aristocrat and intellectual Chokan Valikhanov (1835–1865) intersected with an emerging discourse of what to do with the capacity of the East to reform itself as well as with the desirability of European involvement in the development of Muslim societies. Apart from a traveller-as-a-spy-in-native-disguise, his journeys to Eastern Turkestan were a means to the discovery of larger truths than the collection of merely political information. He was one of the rare examples of a Western traveller who consciously identified with Eastern peoples he encountered. In awakening his nomadic people, Valikhanov sought to lift their intellectual and economic level through education and their introduction to Russian and European cultures.

Keywords: Central Asian intellectual elites, Chokan Valikhanov, orientalism.

The amount of contemporary academic research devoted to the importance and fate of Central Asian intellectual elites during and after the Russian conquest of Muslim Central Asia remains to this day quite modest,1 confined to the fields of colonial history, military administration and anthropology, geopolitical and cultural studies. Although there has been a significant change over the last decades in studies on national elites and their role in the political, administrative and social transformations during the Tsarist and Soviet periods,2 there is still a necessity for a consolidated monograph on the subject.