Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
Research Paper, Fall 2011
Table of Contents
I.2 Background on Kazakhstan (as a nation)
I.2.1 Short Overview of history
I.2.2 Political history
I.2.2.1 Newly independent : need for legitimacy
I.2.2.2 Current politics : President-for-life
I.2.3 Foreign relations (esp. with Russia)
I.2.4 Cultural composition, tensions
I.2.4.1 Ethnic Kazakh (almost minority)
I.2.4.2 Migration of Slavic peoples in the 20th century
I.3.1 Sources Examined
I.3.1.1 Kazakhstan sites endorsed by the government
I.3.1.2 History textbooks of Kazakhstan
I.3.1.3 Western scholarship
I.3.1.4 Soviet scholarship
I.3.2 Selection of Themes
I.3.2.1 Need for governmental and national legitimacy
I.3.2.2 Need for cultural integration
I.3.2.3 Need to come to turns with recent history
II. Currents in Ancient to Pre-Modern History
II.1 The Nomadic Tradition : A Longer Historical Legacy
II.2 National Heroes
II.2.1 Adoption of Heroes
II.2.1.2 Genghis Khan
II.2.2 Kazakh Heroes
II.2.2.1 Janybek Khan and Kerei Khan
II.2.2.2 Kenesary Kasymov
II.3 Historical Significance
II.3.1 Reference to Foreign Historians : Chinese, Greek, etc
II.3.2 Kazakhstan Supremacy
II.4 Kazakhstan’s “Worldwide Significance” II.5 Cultural Heterogeneity
II.5.1 Kazakhstan Sources
II.5.2 Foreign Scholarship
II.6 Formation of national identity as Kazakhs
III. Coming to Terms with Modern History
III.1 Russian Colonization
III.1.1 “Tsarist” Colonization
III.1.2 Emphasis on Russo-Kazakh Relationship
III.2 Soviet Rule
III.2.1 The Beginning of Soviet Rule
III.2.1.1 February Revolution 1917
III.2.1.2 October Revolution
III.2.1.3 Alash Orda
III.2.1.4 Russian Civil War
III.2.2 Positive Evaluation
III.2.3 Negative Evalution and Criticism
III.2.4 “Great Patriotic War” as a Turning Point
This study examines the manner in which national history is written in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is affected by a long history of Russian and Soviet domination, a recently-established autocratic government, and a complex melange of various ethnic and cultural groups with conflicting interests. This study analyses how national history is used to address these issues.
History textbooks, government-issued statements, and other official accounts of Kazakhstani national history are analyzed and compared with examples of foreign scholarship to screen for biased depiction and underlying motives in historiography. In particular, this article focuses on elements that promote government legitimacy, intercultural unity, and a sense of national pride and patriotism.
The current Republic of Kazakhstan is ranked as the ninth largest country in the world. It is also the world’s largest land-locked country, and its population includes more than 131 different ethnic groups. Its vast territory, which abounds with natural resources and life, is mostly known for the Great Steppes, once the home of various nomadic tribes. Yet Kazakhstan’s history as an independent, democratic republic has been short: the Republic of Kazakhstan as it is now, only came into being in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Though the history of humankind’s activity on Kazakhstani territory goes back into prehistory, the history of Kazakhstan proper thus is yet not fully established.
Why is it important to learn more about Kazakhstan, which is for most people an obscure country in Central Asia? Kazakhstan lies at the crossroads of many borders and overlaps many different cultural spheres: it simultaneously lies between the Islamic world, the Far East, and the Slavic world, between capitalism and the remnants of Soviet communism. Though yet a young country, Kazakhstan is rapidly growing in economic and cultural importance. This paper will seek to make a detailed analysis of official accounts of the national history of Kazakhstan, compare it with external material, and dissect the various ends that national historiography is being used to achieve in Kazakhstan.
I.2 Background on Kazakhstan
I.2.1 Overview of History
The majority of accounts on the national history of Kazakhstan follow a general, common outline :
3. Invasion of the Huns
4. Medieval Turkic States
5. Mongol Invasion
6. The Kazakh Khanate
7. Russian Colonization
8. Alash Autonomy (1918-1920)
9. Soviet Rule (1920-1990)
10. Independence (1991-)
I.2.2 Political History
The modern political history of the Republic of Kazakhstan is brief, turbulent, and generally dominated by relations with its larger and more powerful neighbor, Russia.
I.2.2.1 Newly independent : the Need for Legitimacy
The current Republic of Kazakhstan is only a very recent creation, having only declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It was one of the many such newborn independent states created with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, as the successor of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. Due to its short-lived history, the current regime must provide an acceptable basis for its legitimacy as government.
I.2.2.2 Current politics: President-for-life
The current head of state of Kazakhstan is President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a man who has held the presidency since the very establishment of the Republic of Kazakhstan in 1991. In fact, even before independence from the Soviet Union, he was the First Secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party since 1989, a position from which he made the transition into the presidency. Though according to the Constitution of Kazakhstan, the president is elected by popular vote every seven years, Nazarbayev gained another 7-year term by a “landslide victory” (the press reported 90 % in his support) in an election that “fell short of international standards.” (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Currently, the Kazakhstan Constitution calls for an powerful executive branch with few checks on the power of the president. Kazakhstan politics has also been the focus of much controversy in the past few years as several prominent opposition leaders – as well as contenders for the presidency – were killed in a series of mysterious assassinations.
I.2.3 Foreign Relations
Foreign relations of Kazakhstan are centered around “economic and political security,” largely by maintaining an equilibrium. As a between Russia and the United States of America. As member of the United Nations (UN), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and many other alliances, Kazakhstan has favorable relations with most countries, especially its fellow Central Asian nations. Russia especially retains strong military and economic relations and cooperation with Kazakhstan, though occasionally conflict over relationships with the US and other sensitive issues have caused diplomatic bonds to fluctuate.
Kazakhstan’s willing surrender of nuclear facilities in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is said to have ensured a favorable image in the eyes of Western nations after the fall of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, Kazakhstan is to become the first predominantly Asian and Muslim nation to chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for 2010, though the honor is marred by persistent reports of human rights violations and allegations of pervasive corruption within the government.
I.2.4 Cultural Composition and Tension
Comprising over 130 ethnicities in total, Kazakhstan is by no means a homogenous nation. Ethnic Kazakhs constitute approximately 63 % of the population. Kazakhs are generally Asiatic and Mongoloid in feature and for the most part of their traditional culture; however, the language they speak is primarily a Turkic language, and the prevalent religious faith has traditionally been Islam since the eighth century AD and has had a deep influence on Kazakh culture and identity. Though traditionally nomadic herders, in the past century more and more ethnic Kazakhs have opted for sedentary or urban life, especially the younger generations, probably due to both Soviet settlement policies and ongoing industrialization.
Meanwhile, ethnic tensions are a constant underlying presence in Kazakhstan. Prolonged resettlement policies that date back from Russian Imperialist rule and lasted until the downfall of the USSR resulted in large-scale migration of Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian) populations to Kazakhstan. These Slavic immigrants were usually favored over ethnic Kazakhs in the Soviet hierarchy, as well as being better educated, more skilled, and wealthier. The mass starvation that resulted from the Soviet Virgin Lands campaign in the 1960s (which lowered the Kazakh population to less than 38 %, making it the only “titular minority” in Central Asia) combined with economic and social disparity as well as fostered general Kazakh resentment against the Slavs. Today, the Slavic population is mainly concentrated in urban centers in the northern parts of Kazakhstan. Besides the Slavs, other large ethnic minorities present in Kazakhstan include Jews, Germans, Uighurs, Tatars, and Koreans.
I.3.1 Sources Examined
The material examined for their discussion of Kazakhstan national history include a range of Kazakhstani sources, largely made available by the Internet. Among these are official websites endorsed by the Kazakhstan government, such as introductory accounts of history found on official websites of Kazakh embassies in the US, Britain, Israel, the official website of the current President of Kazakhstan and other government agencies and ministries. Nevertheless, the most important source examined were official history textbooks of Kazakhstan : one is an “Official Handbook for Students : Kazakhstan History”, published in 1998 and provided in full text (albeit with a few missing pages) by the “Informational and Educational Website of the City of Atyrau.” The original document is provided in Russian and was translated with the aid of Google Translate (translate.google.com). Another pedagogical source used was a very detailed account of Kazakhstan history provided by a website specifically devoted to teaching national history to young students, a project maintained by the S. Begalin State Children’s Library (www.tarih.spring.kz). Original text is available in both Kazakh and Russian; the material used in this paper is the Russian version, also loosely translated into English. These were supplemented by material found on miscellaneous Kazakhstani educational websites (mostly designed for exam preparation) on the World Wide Web.
Meanwhile, these official and non-official accounts of national history were compared with English-language sources such as Western scholarship of Central Asian and Soviet history. Among the material were also included more easily accessible sources for general information concerning Kazakhstan, that is, sources from which the majority of the international public would most likely get any information or knowledge of Kazakhstan. Articles from “Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia” and the online edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and are included among those referenced for this purpose. Western scholarship included a variety of examinations and studies on the Soviet Union published from both the Cold War era as well as more recent (and less anti-Soviet) works from the 21st century, including atlases and commentaries on economics and politics. Another interesting material that was used as cross-reference were publications released by the former Soviet Union, such as the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1979 or an official English translation of the two-volume A Short History of the USSR. Though often heavily influenced by pro-Soviet propaganda, they helped illuminate where Soviet influences remained within the Kazakh historical narratives ?or how they deviated from each other.
I.3.2 Selection of Themes
Legitimacy of government sovereignty, internal unity, and a drive towards a better future are three things that every stable, healthy nation requires. A young, newly-independent and unstable country such as the Republic of Kazakhstan lacks and thus desperately needs precisely those things. As a new government regime with a new constitution, it lacks the tradition of legitimacy that prevents older nations from being overthrown, and thus need to prove that the current regime, the current nation-state has legitimate authority to govern the people. As a country with over a hundred different ethnic groups and a history of ethnic feuds, Kazakhstan also needs cultural unity and a single unified sense of national identity for its people as the citizens of Kazakhstan. Finally, as a former member of the Soviet Union and a former colony of the Russian Empire, it has suffered centuries of oppression and abusive history, a history that could very well inspire shame rather than national pride and identity. The government of Kazakhstan, as this paper seeks to demonstrate, makes great efforts to reach these goals by writing an official version of national history that could emphasize and evoke legitimacy, internal ethnic and cultural unification, and a sense of hope for the future.
II. Currents inj Ancient to Pre-Modern History
II.1 The Nomadic Tradition : an Extended Legacy
The earliest sections of historical accounts of Kazakhstan attempt to establish a cultural connection, a legacy that stretches from the dawn of human history to present-day Kazakhstan – mainly through the traditional nomadic way of life. The textbook version of the history of Kazakhstan begins with a chapter on the Stone Age (Paleolithic), which is devoted to elaborating upon the central role of the territory of Kazakhstan as “part of the zone of the formation and growth of ancient man.” The next chapter introduces the Andronovo culture of the Bronze Age (2000 BC), where much effort to connect the traditionally “nomadic” Kazakh identity with the legacy of the Bronze Age inhabitants are plainly visible. “Almost the entire territory of Kazakhstan had developed pastoral farming with the predominance of the first.” According to the Kazakhstan History Handbook for Students, “the tribes of the Bronze Age formed the initial cultural basis upon which developed the culture of the early nomads.” The emphasis in the direction of nomadism continues : “in animal husbandry, the composition of the herds gradually changed in an adaptation to the nomadic way.” Other “transitions to the nomadic” mentioned include light-framed, deconstructable houses that are described to have been the “precursors of yurts (portable houses traditionally used by Central Asian nomads).” Emphasis of Kazakhstan’s nomadic legacy is continued in descriptions of the ancient Scythians, or the Saka, “nomadic tribes who inhabited the steppes” and were “labeled as ‘those with fast horses,'” an emphasis that is strengthened by glowing portrayals of Saka military and cultural prowess.
“in an era of the Saka, the ranching economy finally comes into being. Saka society was not homogenous.[…] The Sak military tribal aristocracy placed a significant role in society. In particular, the nomads of the Great Steppe were formed in the era of the Saks, distinguishing them from the other peoples of the Eastern world.[…] Each man was a free Sakas and a full man.”
In the Usun and Kangly states (200-0 BC) that succeeded the Saka, “nomadic herding was combined with farming,” with extensive breeding of horses. The Huns, too were infamous throughout the history of the Medieval Western world for their ruthless conquests on horseback and the efficiency that the nomadic lifestyle had trained in them. This tradition continues down into the succession of Medieval states in the territory of Kazakhstan, all of which were established by nomadic proto-Turkic tribes. The “bulk of the [Western Turkic Khaganate] population consisted of freemen-pastoralists.” The Mongols who conquered the region and beyond and succeeded in the creation of a vast empire were also nomadic tribes, and the fact that such nomadic tribes were extremely successful in world conquest and dominion are emphasized over and over in textbook descriptions of Kazakhstan ancient and medieval history, even up to the Kazakh Khanate of the fifteenth century and the Kazakh uprisings and rebellions against forced settlement of nomadic Kazakhs in the nineteenth century. Overall throughout Kazakhstani history is visible an attempt to interconnect the different eras and different tribal states and governments with a common element in their heritage – the nomadic lifestyle – and use it as means to legitimize the succession of states and inheritance of traditions, transcending both time and ethnicity.
II.2 Heroes in Kazakhstan History
II.2.1 Adopted Heroes
Kazakhstani history also adopted many influential historical figures as part of their own cultural legacy. By incorporating such figures, Kazakhstan can also foster not only a heightened sense of national pride but also a sense of supremacy that comes having shaped the culture and history of rest of the world.
Zarathustra, the founder of the Zoroastrian religion, is vaguely described as having been a native of the steppes of Kazakhstan. (A claim that has not yet been historically verified.) Zoroatrianism is then described as “the oldest religions of the world with a belief in one God, the most ancient of world religions of revelation, as received by a prophet of God,” and to have “greatly influenced Judaism, Buddism, Christianity, Islam, and was the dominant religion of the great civilizations of Antiquity and the Middle Ages.” By assimilating Zarathustra as a part of Kazakhstani history, Kazakhstan attempts to redefine the widespread influence of his religion and philosophy as part of Kazakhstan’s influence over the ancient world.
Throughout the Andean region, similar geographic settings and environments often helped create similar patterns of integration and cultural development, and the entire area would eventually share a common cultural history.
II.2.1.2 Genghis Khan
Kazakhstan was invaded and conquered by the Mongols in the thirteenth century. However, Kazakhstan historical accounts show an intriguing mix of contradictory emotions towards the Mongolian conquest. On one hand, the Mongols are described as ruthless invaders, handing out “cruel punishments” and wreaking “destruction, devastation, and untold disasters” upon the land. Resistance to the Mongols is accordingly described as “heroic” and “courageous.” Ironically, on the other hand, Genghis Khan and the military campaigns of the Mongols under him are described as heroic feats that ultimately brought about the “unification of all the nomads of Central Asia and their unification into a single empire.” While the “extermination of peoples, the destruction of oases, of cultures and values” are condemned, the exodus of “people from Kazakhstan” that resulted from that same persecution is depicted positively, as a further expansion of the Kazakhstani sphere of influence to faraway lands such as India, Iraq, and Egypt. For example, “not only soldiers, but also poets, scientists, and religious figures” flocked to India as “the victims of Genghis Khan” with the result that “in the thirteenth century, Delhi was one of the most important centers of cultural life in India and the entire East.” The founder of the ruling dynasty in the Delhi Sultanate is given as a Kipchak, whose descendents would have a “marked influence on the development of India, defending it from Mongol subjugation.” Much coverage is given to the personal history of Genghis Khan; a brief anecdote is given, concerning his acknowledgement by a tribal magician that “Almighty God has commanded that your vocation is to be Genghis Khan, King of Kings, and Emperor of Sovereigns.” Genghis Khan, too, has been adopted as a national hero of Kazakhstan – in fact, his image was featured on a commemorative coin issued by the National Bank of Kazakhstan in a series for “Great Military Leaders.”
II.2.2 Kazakh Heroes
II.2.2.1 Janybek Khan and Kerei Khan
The co-founders of the Kazakh Khanate were two princes, Janybek and Kerei. Their establishment of the Khanate is described as a heroic rescue of the people from an inept regime. According to the Handbook, in the second half of the fifteenth century, Abul Khair Khanate “fell into decay,” and the failure of Abul Khair Khan to :
“… rally society, and the failure of the Mongol ruler to protect the population from the Oirats forced the bulk of the population of these states to seek power that was able to consolidate all the tribes an clans and create a stable ethno-territorial organization. Therefore Janybek and Kerei became mouthpieces for the consolidation of all segments of society.”
Though technically a rebellion, the subsequent actions of the two Khans is legitimized by the “tradition of inheritance of power in the steppe.” Moreover, the two founders were supposedly recognized by the Khan of Moghulistan, to whom they had sought asylum, as having the “bulwark to protect the western borders¡¦[visible] in their faces.” When he died in 1462, the power of Janybek and Kerei were consequently strengthened, leading to the establishment of the Kazakh Khanate around 1465. Janybek and Kerei’s subsequent expansion of power in Central Asia is described to have been the definative point in the consolidation of the Kazakh and the foundation for subsequent Kazakh nation-states.
II.2.2.2 Kenesary Kasymov
Kenesary Kasymov was the leader of an anti-Russian revolt in 1835-1845. In national history textbooks, he is described as the very embodiment of the “national liberation struggle of the Kazakh people.” He is described as being a strict disciplinarian and a wise statesman, having created “a well-organized war militia, a streamlined tax system, the intelligence service, and system of centralized power and the restoration of traditional Kazakh courts of law.” His liberation movements are said to have been characterized with “dedication, consistency, and consolidation.”
Interestingly, the rebellion of Kenesary Kasymov was the subject of much Soviet intervention in historical writing. In the early days of the Soviet Union, Kenesary was depicted as a great leader of the proletariat, the peasants and the oppressed against the tsarist Russian regime and hailed as the “great legendary fighter for national liberation.” However, from 1940 afterwards, when the USSR began to pursue a campaign for “mutual cooperation” between Kazakhstan and Russia, Kenesary was depicted in a wholly different manner. He became the “leader of a reactionary struggle for the restoration of feudalism, leading the people astray from the inevitable progress resulting from association from Russia.” Now, with the independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the image of Kenesary Khan as a venerable leader for national liberation and autonomy has been evidently restored in official historiography.
II.3 Historical Significance of Kazakhstan
II.3.1 Tendency to Emphasize Ancient Foreign Chronicles
An interesting characteristic of many Kazakhstani accounts of history was that they made many references to foreign historians’ writings on Kazakhstan, perhaps as a means to emphasize its “international” historical significance. This tendency is especially strong for ancient and medieval history rather than for modern history – perhaps a reflection of the fact that writing and historical writing developed much earlier in other lands and centers of human civilization such as China, Persia, or Greece.
The Persian Avesta and other “ancient Persian texts” such as the one commissioned by “the Iranian King Darius I” mention the Saka people and the names of their tribes, as well as other characteristics: they “made haoma drink, lived in Balkash and were keepers of the Golden Griffin and encamped in the Altai and East Kazakhstan.” Other sources of information about the “ancient inhabitants of Kazakhstan can be found in ancient sources of writings by ancient Greek and Roman chroniclers.” “Above all, in the History of Herodotus, the ‘father of history’, written in the 5th century BC, the fourth book (out of a series of nine volumes) is about the tribes of Eurasia, including Kazakhstan. Also, information on the history of Kazakhstan are found in the works of Polybius, Pliny, Ptolemy, Strobona, and other Greek and Latin sources.” Biblical references to the Saka and their efforts at resisting the conquests of the Persian Empire are also mentioned in the Handbook History of Kazakhstan. Other references to foreign sources included a note about the philosopher Anacharsis, who was a “friend of the Athenian ruler Solon” and to whom was “devoted a special section in Diogenes Laertius on the life and teachings of famous philosophers.”
For the history of the Saka, historical writings of ancient Persia and Greece were referenced more often; for the Usun and Kangly that came after, Handbook History of Kazakhstan relies more on ancient Chinese accounts, such as reports by Chinese ambassadors to the region or the 1st century historian Siam Quan.
II.3.2 Kazakhstan’s Supremacy
“The Saka were worthy rivals of powerful countries such as the Achaemenid Persian state, Assyria, etc. Passages about the Saka are contained in the Bible. There is information about a certain “Queen Zarina of the Saks, who successfully fought the Medes for supremacy over Parthia.””
The tribal states of Usun and Kangly were the “ethnic successors of the Saks” since the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. The Usuns “played an important role in the economic and political development of the region”. Since the 2nd century BC,the Great Silk Road had formed as a regular trade and diplomatic artery connecting China with Central and Western Asia and Europe. The strength and power of the Usun can be seen in the fact that the princesses of ancient China and the Xiongnu often became wives of the Usun Gunmo (emperor) and vice versa.
In succession, the Gokturk state that followed “was part of a system of relations with major countries of the time, such as Iran and Byzantium. China was a vassal of the Khaganate.” A few centuries later, the cities of the Western Turkic Khaganate developed along the Silk Road and are described to have grown to “rival the size of the medieval cities of Central Asia.”
II.4 Kazakhstan’s “Worldwide Significance”
Ancient history in Kazakhstan¡¯s steppes is introduced with the commentary that “The Saka of ancient Kazakhstan played an important roles in world politics of the time; they were active participants in historical events.” For example, in the famous Persian campaigns led by Cyrus, “the Saks participated in the war against the Median King Croesus.” Warriors of the Saka were included among the “mighty guard” of Darius I. In Greek history, they had also left their imprints: the Saka fought “on the side of the Persians” in the famed Battles of Marathon and Thermopylae, where the “Saks were at the center of Persian military construction.”
“the culture of the Saks reached a high degree of development. The main component of Sakan art was the ‘animal style,’ which developed in the 7th and 6th centuries BC and spread among the various tribes of Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and South Eastern Europe. Many elements of the material culture of the Saks became the property of modern nations. From the Saks were borrowed the long pants and short coat, which later became trousers and the jacket, thus forming the basis of modern men and women¡¯s clothing.”
Of the many khaganates and khanates that decorated the medieval history of Kazakhstan, especial attention is given to the achievements of the Kipchak Khanate (6th C-1219) in the establishment of world civilization. Handbook History of Kazakhstan states that the “Kipchaks played an important role in the development of countries such as India, Egypt, China, Byzantium, Georgia, Bulgaria, and Khorezm in the Middle Ages. The Kipchaks became a distinct component of the ethnogenesis of the Kazakhs, Nogai and Crimean, Siberian, Volga Tatars, Bashkir, Karakalpaks, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Balkar, Kumyks, Turkmen and other Turkic peoples. They were part of the Turkish, Hungarian, Georgian, Bulgarian, Russian, Ukrainian, Mongolian, Chinese, Indian and Arab nations.”
On the Oghuz Turk state “it is known that in 965 the Oghuz dzhabgu (head of state) in alliance with the Kievan prince Svyatoslav defeated the Khazars. In 985 the Oghuz in alliance with the Russian princes defeated the Volga Bulgaria. In 1041 Oghuz captured Khorezm.” “it is known that in the pre-Mongol period the Kypchaki, headed by Khan Atracom, played an important role in the military organization of the Georgian kingdom of David IV and his successors. Kipchak Shams al-Din was the founder of the Ildigiz Ildigizidov in Azerbaijan. In the difficult times of the Byzantine Empire at the beginning of the 6th century, when its very existence was threatened by the Seljuk Turks from the east and the Pechenegs from the north, the Kypchaki, ahead of the pope and Western European chivalry, entered into an alliance with the emperor Alexis, provided him with invaluable assistance, defeating the Pechenegs. Many Kypchaki intermarried with the families of the Byzantine aristocracy, they held a high position, for example, the Kipchak commander Alpamish among others. The Kipchaki formed ruling dynasties for many states in Central Asia. Particularly notable was their role in Khorezm, which united much of Central Asia, the whole of Afghanistan, almost all of Iran, and part of sourthern Kazakhstan. The founder of the dynasty of Khorezmshahs was Kipchaki Qutbal-Din Muhammad.”
II.5 Cultural Heterogeneity
II.5.1 Kazakhstan Sources
Kazakhstani sources often emphasize the different cultural and ethnic presences in Kazakhstan by emphasizing the different ethnicities that lived and occupied the land in each era. For example, it is often mentioned that the first human inhabitants of the steppes were Caucasian, in contrast to the second wave of inhabitants, who were Turkic. Anthropological details are given in the plenty: “in the anthropological perspective, the Andronovo people were Caucasians – broad-faced, large eyes, a sharply protruding nose with developed intercilium. Linguistically, they belonged to the Indo-Iranian group.” Mention of “Ayran” tribes belonging to the Indo-European family are repeated often.
The Saka, the reader is informed, were “tribes of a common culture that had evolved in the steppes of the Yellow River to the Danube; they were a single mass, related by language, and had the ethno-cultural cast of an array of tribes and tribal entities.”
Even in the dawn of Kazakh history, the presence of different ethnicities and cultures and the harmony and intermingling between them is emphasized. The presence of such disparate peoples is presented as a powerful asset rather than a dissolving factor, and the author of the textbooks shows great effort to show that the process of synthesis is the great diving force of Kazakhstan, for instance by demonstrating that the Sakan civilization was a synthesis of the different elements of all the early centers of civilization.
“The Age of the Saks shows that the Great Steppes of Central Asia was an independent center of civilization between the Danube and China. This center of civilization was a synthesis of the particularities of the different versions of civilizations. It emerged in region watered by the great rivers of Central Asia, just as any civilization in the Nile Valley, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Indus, or the Yellow River. It was also located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, just as any other center of civilization in the continental crossroads of Greece, Asia Minor, the Eastern Mediterranean, or Northern Mesopotamia. Since the very beginning, this center of civilization has had a unique mobility of ethno-cultural elements, but at the same time, it has retained a constant?the ability to adapt to other elements.”
For a large part of the latter half of the second millennium, the history of Kazakhstan consists mainly of the continual rise and fall of various Turkic tribal states. Although the Turkic tribes of Central Asia were not a single, unified ethnic group but rather a conglomeration of different tribal ethnicities centered on different regions, Kazakhstani history opts to view them the same way – as Turkic tribes that once held supremacy over the territory of Kazakhstan. The list of Turkic states covered in history textbooks from the fourth century to the tenth century follow: the Gokturk state (552-603), the Western Turkic Khaganate (603-704), the Turkic Khanate (704-756), the Karluk Khanate (756-940) the Karakhanid Empire (942-1210), as well as the state of the Oghuz Turks and the Kimek and Kipchak Khanates that coexisted with them. Although each state was populated and/or dominated by different tribes, they are all incorporated into the historical legacy of Kazakhstan.
II.5.2 Foreign Scholarship
Kazakhstani sources on national history exhibit great pride in the “diversity” of ethnicities present in Kazakhstan today, portraying the population as a harmonious mixture of people from all sorts of different tribes and traditions, happily accepting and co-existing with each other. To keep up with this pleasant image of cultural diversity sans problem, however, certain points in Kazakhstan’s history are evidently glossed over. On the other hand, historical scholarship by foreign writers and researchers, the ethnic tensions (that are expected to exist in any such diverse country) are often the subject of intense scrutiny. In fact, non-Kazakhstani sources reveal that at least for the modern era, ethnic tensions, especially those between the native ethnic Kazakhs and the Slavic immigrants, have loomed large over the course of Kazakhstani history.
With the beginnings of intensive colonization by the Russian Empire in the twentieth century, the first modern facilities and industries were established “under the impact of Russian capital, spurred by foreign investment and drive” in hitherto agriculture-and pastoralism-centered Kazakhstan. Industrial workers appeared in substantial numbers in the latter years of the nineteenth century. Yet, few of them were Kazakhs; almost all modern institutions were operated by Europeans (“e.g. Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Jews”). This process of modernization was accompanied by extensive immigration (strongly encouraged by the Russian government) from Eastern Europe and the disintegration of traditional Kazakh systems and societies in the face of colonial policies. As a result, “by 1914, the number of Russian and Ukrainian settlers in the Kazakh lands reached more than one million,” while the original Kazakh populations “diminished by 9% in the nine years between 1902 and 1913.”
Ethnic tensions between the Kazakhs and the European Slavic settlers continued through the first half of the twentieth century. When Kazakh nationalists who demanded independence and autonomy from Russia emerged around the advent of World War One, the feud between the nationalist Alash Orda party and other political factions took on an “ethnic character, pitting Kazakhs and Kirgiz against Slavic settlers, both Whites and Bolsheviks.” In some way, the submission of the nationalists to Soviet power in the 1920s is partially blamed on the enormous expenditure from combating the European Slavic forces against both the Reds and the Whites. Because the Kazakh nationalists considered all Slavic forces their enemies, the Alash Orda government eventually was “weakened by struggles with the Whites and faced with the growing strength of the Reds” and were inevitably “compelled to recognize Soviet power.” Meanwhile, of the Kazakhs that did not flee to neighboring China or Afghanistan to escape the bloody conflict, about one million died of starvation during the famine of 1921-1922 […] having lost their cattle to Slavic settlers, White forces, and Red commissars.”
According to Major Soviet Nationalities, the implementation of the Five-Year Plans while under the Soviet regime furthered these already-rooted ethnic tensions. The “loss of autonomy, forcible and sometimes bloody settlement of Kazakh nomads in the land through collectivization, and massive influx of European settlers […] ultimately made the Kazakhs a minority in their own republic.” Any politicians or social leaders outspoken enough to oppose this process were “purged by Moscow for ‘bourgeois nationalism.'” In the purges of 1937-1938, over 18 prominent Kazakh politicians in the Soviet hierarchy were executed. These same tensions only worsened again during and after World War Two, when massive numbers of Russians, Jews, Germans, Chechens, etc. were evacuated or forcibly exiled to Kazakhstan. Though for the first time ever, a Kazakh, Z. Shayakhemetov, was appointed as the first secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party, he was soon replaced by a Russian (who was hugely unpopular) after Kazakh resistance to a “large influx of foreigners, this time within the framework of the “virgin lands” campaign,” ultimately aimed at cultivating and developing the immense steppes of the Steppes of the North. As a result of the “virgin lands” campaign and other major developmental projects, by the time that Major Soviet Nationalities was written, ¡°whole areas in northern Kazakhstan [were] inhabited mainly by Slavs.
The tensions of ethnic conflict were at its height in the 1950s for most of the latter half of the twentieth century. Kzakshstan was “unique among the Soviet republics in that the Kazaks, the “titular nationality, were neither a majority nor a plurality in their own homeland. In 1970s, ethnic Kazakhs consistuted a meager 32 % of the total population, while Russians made up more than 42 %. But together with other related Slavic groups such as the Ukrainians (7.5 %) or the Belorussians (1.56 %) the European and Slav” ethnic grouping formed a majority. Naturally, ethnic tensions did not ease, because while the non-Kazakhs were generally urban dwellers, educated, and members of the highly esteemed industrial labor force, most ethnic Kazakhst remained largely in the agricultural sectors and persisted to live in the less developed, rural steppes. Extreme polarization of society even led to visible patterns in human geography :
“As a consequence of settlement by Russians as well as of modernization and urbanization, the country comprises three ethnically and economically distinct areas: (A) the traditionally Kazakh south and west, (B) the predominantly Slav-settled and modernized northeast, and (C) the industrial and administrative towns and cities, where Europeans are a great majority and traditional Kazakh culture is little in evidence.”
However, in recent decades (especially after the independence from the Soviet regime), a sharp rise in the Kazakh population and education has pulled up the social status and living standards of the Kazakhs considerably, lessening ethnic conflicts. However, political surveys still show that deep-rooted divisions still exist between the ethnic Kazakhs and the Slav settlers.
II.6 Formation of the Kazakh National Identity
II.6.1 Kazakhstan Sources
An entire chapter of Handbook Kazakhstan History is devoted to the “formation of the Kazakh nation.” The main objective of the history given in this chapter is to establish a historical foundation to generate an “ethno-cultural” identity for the new Republic of Kazakhstan (rather than, for example, an identity for ethnic Kazakhs alone).
According to the chapter on the “Historical Background of the Kazakh people,” the culture of the Kazakh nation was formed on a double basis, the Indo-Iranian tradition of the ancient inhabitants and the Turkic influence of the later people. The Saka tribal alliance is said to have retained “Indo-European unity and kept it in its ethnic and cultural development,” leading the way for the emergence of the “formation of cultural and historical unity in the succession of tribes and tribal alliances in Kazakhstan.” Afterwards came a “new stage in ethnogenetic development, a switch to the proto-Turkic ethno-cultural and linguistic community.”
Thus, the “origins of the ¡°ethnogenetic processes that determined the formation of the Kazakh nationality” can be dated back to ancient times, though the building of national identity is depicted as being still an ongoing process. Handbook writes that though national identity was “initially connected with the indigenous (Indo-Iranian) population, an increasingly important role was being played by ethnic processes in the vast expanses of Central Asia.” Put in other words, “the ethnic basis of the Kazakh nation was the numerous tribes¡¦ and others who lived in Kazakhstan at different times.”
Remarkably, even brutal foreign invasions such as the Mongol Invasion are re-interpreted as part of the process of the “addition of ethnic components” as the Mongol tribes and clans themselves gradually came to “assimilate into the dominant Turkic environment.” By the end of the fourteenth century, the Turkic identity is depicted as being solidified enough to give birth to stable states and governments. As the textbook puts it, Kazakhstani identity now has only one more hurdle to go over to achieve a single unified national identity – the overcoming of the “final interaction between the, two big races, Caucasoids and Orientals,” or the Slavic immigrants from Eastern Europe and the original Asiatic and Turkic inhabitants of Central Asia.
The Medieval period of Kazakhstan was very important in the formation of the Turkic identity of the area. Handbook History of Kazakhstan writes that “in the 1st millennium, there was a change in ethnic composition in the Eurasian region, as it became increasingly dominated by Turkic-speaking tribes” until the term “Turk” became solidified to mean “a union of tribes formed in the Altai.” Handbook writes that the 6th century was the time that “the Turkic empires started to alternate the convergence of common Turkic cultural components and the formation of their autonomy.” The first of such ‘Turkic states’ was the Gokturk Khaganate (552-603 AD). The subsequent list of nomadic Turkic khaganates and khanates ensues as evidence of the continuing process of nationality consolidation. As the final step in establishing the Kazakh national identity, the Kazakh Khanate is naturally depicted as an era of great historical importance :
“The emergence of the Kazakh Khanate was a logical outcome of ethno-political processes, the integration of all the land in the region in a single political structure and the unification of all Kazakh tribes and the completion of a ‘long process of adding nationalities.’ This is described as a manifestation of ‘the desire of the ethno-social community to create its own socio-territorial government organizations.'”
Two features are given of the Kazakh national identity- the tribal organization (alternatively called juz, zhuz, horde, or orda) and the significance of the ‘ethnonym’ Kazakh. A characteristic of the Kazakh nation is given as the formation of juzes (or zhuz) as political entities. A juz is vaguely described to be a ‘tribal association belonging to the population inhabiting Kazakhstan territory.’ The formation of juz occurred “much before the 15th and 16th centuries” by means of the “long process of adding nationalities.” The formation of the juzes as independent and “self-developmental” political entities is depicted as a wholly natural consequence “due to climatic conditions in Kazakhstan and the nomadic lifestyle of its population” and affected by different states and the structure of the Mongol government, thus a holistic legacy of the Kazakh people, encompassing all the heritage of their common histories and lifestyles.
The meaning behind the name “Kazakh” is also given much significance. “Kazakh” is apparently a proto-Turkic word that prominent Kazakh historians have “agreed” means “free man, wanderer, adventurer” thus signifying that the Kazakh people are “free, free, independent people.” The supposed origin is that the followers of the first Khans of the Kazakh Khanate were called Uzbek-Kazakhs and eventually became the “ethnonym” for the people subject to the Khanate. With its reference to history and freedom, the name Kazakh seems to be intended as a point of national pride.
II.6.2 Foreign Scholarship
“The Kazakhs emerged in the fifteenth century, a mixture of Turkic tribes who had appeared there in the 8th century and the Mongols settled in Central Asia in the thirteenth century. […] They were organized into tribal-feudal ordas (hordes). Around 1456, a number of these tribes broke off from the declining Golden Horde to form three distinctive ordas – Great, Middle and Little – and occupy the territory of present day Kazakhstan. These groups fought among themselves and with other Asian peoples.”
The Handbook of Major Soviet Nationalities, a comprehensive book on the history, government, and society of states under the Soviet regime as seen in the 1970s, introduces the emergence of the Kazakhs in a brief, single paragraph. In sharp contrast to the grandiosely detailed explanations provided by the history textbooks about the legitimacy of the Kazakhs’ “ethno-genesis” by “addition of nationalities”, this source simply describes the Kazakhs as a motley ‘mixture’ of tribes with no connotations of deliberateness or elaborate planning. Rather, the impression that a reader would get from reading this paragraph alone would very likely be that of badly organized, belligerent social groups prone to conflict and internal strife.
III. Coming to Terms with Modern History
III.1 Russian Colonization
III.1.1 “Tsarist” Colonization
Much of the modern history of Kazakhstan is dominated by Russian colonization. The territory of Kazakhstan was then divided loosely into three Hordes (Orda, Juz, Zhuz). The Great, Middle and Little Hordes were one by one run over by the imperialist policies of Russia. Many chapters of Kazakh history are devoted to the struggle against Russian power and subsequent colonization of Kazakh land. On an interesting point, Russian forces or Russian policies that antagonized the Kazakhs are nearly always referred to as ‘Tsarist’ or ‘imperialist’ rather than simply as ‘Russian.’
III.1.2 Historical Linkage between Kazakhstan & Russia
Meanwhile, efforts to make a historical linkage between Kazakhstan and Russia itself are also visible.
“The Jungarian-Kazakh war and the imminent threat of bankruptcy prompted the Kazakh rulers to make an alliance with Russia. The roots of the Kazakh-Russian relations have a long history. They have intensified with the accession of Russia, and the Kazakh, and Astrakhan khanates […] the Russian state was interested in relations with Kazakhstan due to the safety of traditional routes that ran through the Kazakh Khanate in Central Asia. In turn, the Kazakh Khanate was looking forward to having Russia as an ally in the fight against the Central Asian khanates and the Jungars. Establishing contact played an important role in diplomatic ties. In 1573 a Russian envoy was sent to the Kazakh steppe headed by Tretiak Chebukovym, but it did not make it to Kazakhstan, as it had been slaughtered by the Siberian Tatars.”
For a long time, depictions of Kazakhstani history were tightly controlled by the Soviet regime. The various points of Kazakhstani history that the Soviet regime was interested in controlling included Kazakhstan’s historical relation to Russia proper and the USSR. Over time, the stance espoused by the Soviet Union has ‘fluctuated,’ resulting in different trends in historiography in Kazakhstan according to the dictates of Soviet historical theory. In particular, Major Soviet Nationalities gives a detailed account of the shifts in attitude towards Russian colonization of the Kazakhs, providing insight into how Soviet doctrine may influence historical writing and research in Kazakhstan even to this day.
In the early years of the Soviet regime, Russian colonization of Kazakhstan was depicted as being ‘typical’ of the relationship between the oppressed victims versus the imperialist colonist. The annexation was described to be utter and ruthless conquest by the Russians that reduced the Kazakhs to slavery and drudgery and inspired deep hatred towards Russia. Any mention of the fact that Abulhair Khan, the last ruler of the Little Horde, personally requested Russian assistance as an alternative to conquest by the Jungars was completely omitted. The Kazakhs were said to have suffered from the ‘double yoke’ of Kazakh feudal rulers and the economic exploitation from imperial Russia, and in revenge sought to kill any and all Russians they could whenever an uprising occurred. Anti-Russian riots and protests were at first described as being progressive efforts for independence and recognition. In all, the imperial Russia depicted in Kazakhstani history was a force of evil to be overcome and destroyed.
However, around the 1940s, the entire scheme changed to what could be summarized as “mutual cooperation between Kazakhstan and Russia.” The Kazakhs were described to have acquiesced to Russian intervention with “willing acceptance” after the wise decision of Abulhair Khan to become part of Russia. Abulhair Khan, too, is portrayed as a benevolent and farsighted leader who fulfilled the will of his people to incorporate themselves with Russia. The hatred that the Kazakhs were previously maintained to have held was corrected as being directed at the tsarist forces, not Russian in general. In fact, Kazakhstani history during this period tries plainly to make the point that the “Kazakh and the Russian people had always been friendly and fought together against the evils of tsarism.” Similarly, a shift in emphasis from the pains of the colonial yoke to the economic and social benefits could be seen : the Kazakhs supposedly welcomed the “progressive economic development and positive influence of the Russian intelligentsia as a result of incorporation into Russia.” The Soviet regime was apparently desperate to propagate the view of “mutual cooperation between Kazakhstan and Russia” : a prominent Kazakh historian was once purged for failing to “reveal the deeply progressive significance of the annexation of Kazakhstan to Russia” in his research.
III.2 Soviet Rule
III.2.1 The Beginning of the Soviet Regime
III.2.1.1 February Revolution 1917
The February Revolution of 1917 (Feb. 27) marked the end of absolutist monarchy in the Russian Empire. The tsar was ousted and replaced by a new regime by a balance between the “Dual Powers,” namely the liberal Provisional Government and the communist Petrograd Soviet.
Kazakhstan textbooks describe this event as a “bourgeois-democratic revolution” and the presence of “meetings and gatherings in support of the revolution in Kazakhstan.” The principle reason behind this support of the revolution is said to be the revival of “hopes of solving the main issues – the restoration of all that was seized by colonization, and the establishment of an independent national unit.” In general, the February Revolution is viewed with much approval for the ‘liberal-democratic’ Provisional Government. In particular, its following of regional representative councils in their respective ethnic or religious groups (Kazakhs, Cossacks, Muslim Tatars) in Kazakhstan appears to be treated highly. However, from the start, the February Revolution is firmly denoted to have been a revolution of the bourgeois and the intelligentsia – a top-down revolution rather than a movement from all levels of society. The text describes the Provisional Government’s good intentions favorably, especially for the “tentative steps” taken for the abolition of discrimination by religion or ethnicity within the Russian Empire. But for the most part, the Provisional Government’s lack of sufficient action and its subsequent failure to address the problems of Imperial policy, especially needs specific to Kazakhstan – the issue of confiscated Kazakh territory, Kazakh autonomy, resettlement policies, and continued participation in World War II – is said to have triggered a “deepening of the revolutionary process.”
With the February Revolution, however, movements for an autonomous Kazakh state were put into gear. In the following July, the first All-Kazakh Congress convened, where a National Kazakh Party, the Alash Horde, was created. According to the Kazakh texts, the Alash Party proclaimed autonomy and democratic values and appreciated the “importance of creating forces to protect the people … on the basis of democratic and humane principles.” The emergence of the National Alash Party is depicted as a thoughtful, ‘constructive’ effort on the part of the “scientific and creative intelligentsia” in support of the well-being of the masses. In contrast, its opponent party, the Kazakh Socialist Party (Hush-zhuz), is described unfavorably as a “political union of the petty-bourgeois” that came to side with the Bolsheviks and impeded the creation of the Alash Autonomic State. The relevant passage ends with the later execution of Socialist Party leaders and the dissolution of the party in 1919’s civil war.
III.2.1.2 October Revolution
In October 1917, a second revolution led by the Bolsheviks in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) led to disposal of the Provisional Government and the sole establishment of the Soviet as the ruling power in Russia. However, the legitimacy of the October revolution “was not universally recognized outside of Petrograd” and led to a bloody civil war.
Kazakh sources that deal with the October Revolution first point to a “polarization of politics” where “the urban poor, the working masses, the soldiers” rallied with the Bolshevik Party. This “shift in political sentiment of the masses to the left in Kazakhstan” is said to have been caused by the failure of the Provisional Government to “take tangible steps to address the needs of workers.” The ultimate loss of Provisional authority was precipitated by the “suppression of the working people by force.” (Here is visible for the first time a distinctly Soviet-style emphasis of the working masses.) With the October Revolution in Petrograd, Soviet forces then also spread to Kazakhstan.
The process that followed of consolidating Soviet rule in Kazakhstan is described extensively in Kazakh history texts. They paint an “uneven and unequal” mosaic of varying degrees of submission to the Soviets according to the “socio-economic development of the region or the alignment of political forces.” Interestingly, the resistance against Soviet power is dealt with greater detail than “relatively peaceful” submission, as being “protracted and bloody” and pointing out that in most parts of Kazakhstan Soviet power was installed forcibly by armed force.
III.2.1.3 Alash Autonomy (1918-1920)
Largely as a reaction to the events of October 1917, the second All-Kazakh Congress convened in Kazakhstan. There, the decision was made to establish an autonomous Kazakh state. The new autonomic state was to be called “Alash” after a legendary Kazakh figure.
Kazakhstani texts describe the issues discussed at the All-Kazakh Congress to be those especially central to the life of the common Kazakh people – regional autonomy, education, the food supply, religious authorities, etc. Reports on the “hungry, scattered and disordered” state of the local people were delivered, and the people were rallied to “fight for unity.” The justification and rationale for the establishment of an autonomous Kazakh state were given :
“… [we must keep] in mind that in late October, the interim government collapsed and the Russian Republic has lost power, and the absence of any authority in this country may lead us to experience civil war and anarchy. Anarchy is growing every day, wave after wave sweeping cities and villages across the state. The only way out of this predicament is by the organization of a firm power which the entire population of the Kazakh lands would recognize.”
“Unanimously” agreed for, the Alash Autonomy was formed with a “provisional people’s council” called the Alash Horde. These leaders overthrew the Soviets in several strategic cities, and established contact with both the leaders of the Soviet (Lenin and Stalin) and the Provisional Government. The Alash Horde made to decision to make an “alliance with the [Provisional Government] to combat the Soviets, upon which was decreed that all Soviet authority in Alash territory is “declared null and void.” On the whole, the treatment of the Alash Autonomy is sympathetic and largely one of pride, as a symbol of self-determination and resistance against Soviet domination.
III.2.1.4 The Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War between the Bolshevik Soviet (Reds) and the forces of the former Provisional Government and other anti-Bolsheviks (Whites) lasted for two years from 1918 to 1920. In regard to Kazakhstan, this war marks the consolidation of Soviet power in the area and the first step towards Kazakhstan’s induction into the USSR as the Autonomous Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic.
It is extremely interesting to note the not-so-subtle shift in terminology that occurs between the chapter discussing the Civil War and the chapter on the Alash Horde that directly precedes it. In the preceding sections, it was the Alash Horde and the Provisional Government that was treated with sympathy; from the Civil War and henceforth, there is a sudden, drastic switchover to the Soviet side. The change in attitude begins with vocabulary : the “opponents of Soviet power” are described as staging “revolts” and as “rebels.” Interestingly, the Whites are also dubbed “counter-revolutionaries” – the revolution (a word with positive connotations) here referring to the Bolshevik Revolution against the Russian tsarist regime. Besides the weighted terminology, the entire narrative on the war is noticeably composed from an overwhelmingly Soviet-centered viewpoint. It basically consists of enumerations of the Red Army’s defense and “liberation” of Kazakhstan from the anti-Bolshevik forces. Some strategic points in the war on current Kazakhstani territory are named as being important in “blocking the promotion” of Whites: “The Aktobe Front played an important role in the civil war … stopping an offensive [by the Whites] to penetrate Central Asia and southern Kazakhstan,” “the defense of the area went down in history as the Cherkassy defense …” Another detail that is interestingly mentioned in the text praises the Red Army specifically for assisting the popular masses by providing provisions to “several thousand people.” Basically, the passage depicts the Soviet campaign as a benign force of justice that sought to help the suffering people of Central Asia by freeing them from the clutches of the Whites.
Particular emphasis is placed on the importance of the Kazakhs’ involvement in the civil war on the side of the Soviets. The text points out that with the introduction of the national (Soviet) military, special units of Kazakhs and other Central Asian nationalities were established. A line appears to promote Kazakh solidarity with the rest of Soviet constituent peoples : “In the civil war, the workers of Kazakhstan participated together with Hungarians, Czechs, Germans, Poles, and other nations.” Meanwhile, it is mentioned that Kazakhstan during the civil war saw a surge in “guerilla movement and popular uprisings.” Such mentioned populist movements – which are in accord with Soviet sentiment – are naturally against the Whites, such as the “proactive guerillas ‘the Red Mountain Eagles’ in Tarbagatai and Altai.” Such treatment ultimately paints Kazakhstan and its people as active, voluntary and fully-conscious participants of the Soviet struggle against its enemies – providing ideological groundwork and legitimizing the incorporation of the Kazakhs into the USSR that followed soon afterwards.
The Russian Civil War and the Soviet victory heralded many changes that would come to take place for Kazakhstan and other Central Asian nations. In general, the 1998 textbook portrays these changes to be positive implementations of organization and the establishment of a new order – “on the eve of the Civil War were eliminated earlier authorities and created new ones.” With the establishment of Soviet power, major changes in the economic system took place immediately, namely the collection and requisition of food rations and (mandatory) labor under the label of ‘war communism.’ The 1998 Kazakhstani textbook describes these new measures to be the “taking of ‘surplus’ products” and the implementation of “normalized, centralized supply” of food as well as mandatory labor service. The terminology used here seems to imply to a degree that the communistic policy of systemized distribution by institutional authorities is an improvement over whatever existing economic systems there were before.
Meanwhile in the political sphere, the newly victorious Soviets took over control. The Revolutionary Committee of Kazakhstan (Kazrevkom) and the Council of Peoples’ Commissars (CPC, in Russian Sovnarkom), which was the highest governmental authority under the Soviet system, were established. The Alash Autonomy was dissolved and the Alash Horde party eliminated by decree. In due expected course, Kazakhstan adopted a decree orchestrated by Lenin for the “Formation of the Kirghiz (then the Russian name for the Kazakhs) Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.” It is specifically stated that in the first congress of the Soviets of Kazakhstan, the creation of the new SSR was purportedly “enshrined with a declaration of the rights of workers in Kazakhstan.” It is worth noting that the narratives of this section tend to gloss over all details concerning the exchange of power in Kazakhstan, especially the incorporation of the Kazakh state and territory into the Soviet Union. Any political struggles or dissent against joining the USSR are not mentioned at all, nor are any details that the incorporation into the USSR was an involuntary matter. On the contrary, the text selectively chooses details that portray the Soviet seize of power as having been fully warranted, justified and eagerly supported by the Kazakhs. However, the truth was far from it. Yuri Bregel, in his Historical Atlas of Central Asia, shows that while before the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks had indeed retained the idea of guaranteeing the “right of separation up to and including secession for all nations within the Russian Empire,” this attitude had changed “towards the idea of a federation of autonomous republics under one central government” by the end of the Civil War. In essence, the Kazakh nation had no choice whatsoever over becoming a part of the Soviet Union, nor over any other important governmental choice for seventy years thereafter. While the newly established Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic was independent and autonomous according to its founding constitution, its “independence … was pure fiction.” Bregel writes that :
“In reality, [the Central Asian Soviet republics] were under strict control from Moscow, this control being exercised through the centralized apparatus of the Communist party of the Soviet Union; it decided all matters of policy and especially the appointments to key positions … the first party secretary was, as a rule, a representative of the “titular nationality” of this republic, but the second secretary was always a Russian sent from Moscow, who would ensure the compliance of the local party and government with the decisions of the center. The local authorities usually had more leeway in matters of culture, but insofar as they followed the general ideological guidelines established by the Central Executive Committee of the Communist party of the Soviet Union.”
III.2.2 Positive Evaluations
Quite a large part of the historical narrative that describes Kazakhstan under the Soviet system provides positive commentary. These complimentary narratives are most evident when the Soviet Union introduced new reforms in Kazakhstan¡¯s economy and society that helped attain Kazakhstan’s accelerated modernization. Among the Soviet-era topics that enjoy the best historical evaluation in Kazakhstani textbooks is the New Economic Policy (NEP), reforms that were introduced in 1921 by Lenin as an emergency measure to “prevent the Russian economy from collapsing,” according to modern Western scholarship. This decree deviated from orthodox communism by allowing smaller businesses and enterprises to operate for private profit, and by allowing the agricultural sector to keep surplus produce that could be sold privately in the market. In essence, it was a limited form of commercialism that Lenin nevertheless insisted was of a ‘different kind’ from the reviled Western capitalists. Regardless, the NEP had the positive effect of reviving the severely crippled Soviet economy (that had been further destroyed by War Communism). Kazakhstani accounts, too, refer to this revival, and comment positively on the relative recovery of the economy, the effective ‘water and land reform’ that redistributed land to individual farmers, and the marked increase in agricultural production. This increase in prosperity, coupled with Soviet policies of aggressive industrialization, helped transition Kazakhstan from a largely nomadic agricultural society to a slowly modernizing one.
Other positively viewed legacies of the Soviet Regime were developments in the social sector. Soviet policies drastically increased the level of education for most people in Kazakhstan, and almost eradicated illiteracy. Soviet-sponsored research created a written and systematized version of vernacular dialects for many Central Asian languages, and fostered better communication opportunities by implementing the Cyrillic alphabet as the common script of the USSR. Widespread education of Russian, which was the culturally and administratively dominant language of the Soviet Union, also opened greater opportunities for young and educated Kazakhs to climb upper ladders of society and power. Soviet developments also led to a blooming of native Kazakh literature, culture, history and scientific knowledge based around official institutes established by the Soviet administration. Though the researchers and scholars of these institutes were almost always subject to censure by the Soviet government, it nevertheless elevated Kazakhstan’s level of education, technological expertise, and cultural development.
III.2.3 Negative Evaluations and Criticism
Though much of the 1998 Kazakhstani textbook includes Soviet-promoting material, there are still significant pockets in which the Soviet authorities or the inappropriate decisions made by them are criticized and exposed. Placed side by side with Soviet publications that discuss the same events, the disparity between the accounts is very clear indeed.
Criticism of the Soviet governance first comes up in the post-Civil War years. The warfare had left Kazakhstan razed and devastated, its industries and agricultural sector all in shambles. The Kazakhstani textbook explains that even amid this impoverished state of affairs, the policy of war communism remained staunchly in place, to the detriment of the people. “Party and government authorities acted by force in order to gather as much bread, meat, and agricultural raw materials. The people in the villages began to express discontent¡¦[that] translated into public demonstrations …” It is upon the basis of this public discontent and the need for “new forms of management” that the text places the economic reforms of the New Economic Policy in 1921.
The mild criticism of the Soviet Party pointed out above becomes much clearer in context when compared with official publications by the Soviet government. The entry for the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic in The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, published in 1979, provides a detailed overview of Kazakh history from an unashamedly biased viewpoint. While much of the textbook historical narrative about the civil war resembles a watered-down version of the Soviet encyclopedia entry, the period of transition between the war economy and the introduction of the New Economic Policy is pictured in drastically different ways. Rather than to admit failure or corruption by the Soviet authorities in any way, the Soviet encyclopedia entry omits any mention of post-war discontent and glosses over the gap with a sweeping narrative of Soviet goodwill. The Soviets are described as righteous enactors of social justice against the “tsarist government and kulak colonizers.” Rather than as a necessary remedy for a failing and increasingly corrupt wartime system, the economic reforms in the 1920s are depicted as favors bestowed on the “toiling masses” by the benevolent communist government :
“The civil war undermined the economy of Kazakhstan¡¦which was in any case poorly developed […] The Communist Party and Soviet power did a great deal of work toward the rehabilitation of the economy. In 1921 the surplus-appropriation system was replaced by the tax in kind; the nomadic and semi-nomadic population was exempted from taxes on meat. As a result of the land and water reform of 1921-22 ,[…] land that had been seized from the toiling Kazakh and Kirghiz masses by the tsarist government and kulak colonizers was returned to them. With the fraternal aid of the RSFSR, the Ukraine, and Turkestan, the consequences of the drought and famine of 1921 were overcome. A system of land tenure was established for the nomadic and seminomadic population through the decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR (April 1924).”
A Soviet policy that was most heavily and unabashedly criticized in any and all examples of Kazakhstani historiography was the forced collectivization of agriculture. Ideally in these kolkhozes (kolkhoz: a contracted form of kollektivnoe hozyaistvo, collective farm) all the participants were to have joint ownership over all non-land assets, and were to be remunerated in proportion to their labor input. In reality, collectivization met much resistance from peasants, because they were required to give up their private land, assets, and produce for minimal prices. Regardless, according to unilateral decisions made by central Soviet government in the late 1920, all agriculture within the USSR was to be forcibly converted from small-scale, individual farms to massive, state-organized or state-owned collective farms. Though collectivization had been an ongoing in Russia since the October Revolution, Stalin’s policy of aggressive forced collectivization was a totally different matter, especially for the Central Asian Soviet republics, where a large majority of the population was composed of nomadic herders. Enormous levels of resistance on the parts of the nomadic peasants incurred confiscation and decimation of livestock, leading to widespread famine, migration and death.
III.2.4 “Great Patriotic War” as a Turning Point
The Kazakh attitude towards the Soviet system as depicted in Kazakhstani historiography, reaches a decisive turning point with the advent of World War II. Though entering the war as a constituent of the USSR entailed much loss in material and lives, the wartime experiences would be crucial in the development of national identity and national pride. The historical narratives that handle the wartime period have the common characteristic of being written from a very pro-Soviet stance yet commingling a fierce sense of pride in Kazakhstan itself. Yet increasingly, a noticeable increase in national pride and confidence can be detected towards the end of the WWII era. Although Kazakhstan had suffered substantial loss and damage during the war, historical evaluation in the Kazakhstan textbooks places greater value on the fact that the war ultimately granted Kazakhstan greater political and economic autonomy and much increased development in heavy industries.
However, one key point of note is the terminology used for the war. In the Soviet sources, World War II as pertaining to the Soviet Union is dubbed the “Great Patriotic War,” with patria being presumably the Soviet Union within this context. Together with such Soviet-oriented nomenclature, historical narratives recounting the war incorporate loaded, biased vocabulary against their opponents and a sudden tendency to emphasize details that reflect a common identity as members of the Soviet Union : “The Soviet people disrupted the plans of the fascist strategists from the first day by making brave resistance to blitzkrieg warfare.” Meanwhile, the efforts and achievements of Kazakhstan are highlighted in great detail, from actual combat to the Kazakhs’ role in the “evacuee enterprise,” where Kazakhstan not only provided refuge to millions of refugees from other regions of the Soviet Union but was also responsible for the sustenance of industries and factories that had been allocated from elsewhere. Kazakhstan’s role in supplying the USSR with necessary heavy metal ore, politics, and agricultural products. The zeal with which these measures were taken into action can be seen in glowing commendations for ‘labor heroism.’ Agricultural producers who had grown record-breaking yields of rice, sugar-beets, or sheep are called ‘heroes of labor’ within the text, and their efforts called ‘true heroism.’
In this paper, elements of Kazakhstani historiography have been extensively examined and analyzed for the presence of historical bias and politically motivated nuances in two parts. The first covered the history of the territory of modern-day Kazakhstan from antiquity up to the eighteenth century; the latter discussed in greater detail the events of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when Kazakhstan was annexed by Imperial Russia and controlled by the USSR. In the first part, conscious efforts on the part of Kazakhstan to demonstrate a continuum of several historical legacies that spanned millennia, namely that of nomadism, cultural heterogeneity and diversity, and heroism. Other significant factors that merited interest included the promotion of a single national identity and the emphasis placed on Kazakhstan’s historical contributions in relation to the rest of the ancient world. The second chapter focused specifically on how Kazakhstan historiography deals with present issues such as cultual tension and lack of governmental legitimacy by coming to terms with the legacies of Kazakhstan’s turbulent modern history. Analysis revealed fluctuating and inconsistent attitudes to Russian and especially Soviet legacies that entailed both benefits and harm.
Though Kazakhstan is a country with abundant resources, large landmass and great potential for the future, it is still a very obscure country for many people who are not familiar with Central Asia. As a result, Western and other foreign sources of information and reference material are often difficult to find, extremely outdated, or simply lacking. As a result, a fully objective analysis was impossible without a proper standard against which the national historiography could be compared. Though sources in Russian and Kazakh naturally were much more plentiful, there were yet various limitations due to unfamiliarity with the subject language and the high possibility of inaccurate results with the online translation engines.
However, in any case, the national historiography of Kazakhstan is a fascinating example of how history can be and is often manipulated or written differently to achieve certain ends and agendas. Elements such as national identity, nomadic lifestyle, cultural heterogeneity perhaps may not be what they are depicted as being in the current official version?perhaps with the passing of time, Kazakhstani history may be presented in a wholly different light, with different agendas and different objectives, just as the Soviet models of history fell in and out of favor. Unhappily, Kazakhstan is not yet a country of transparent politics, and experience has demonstrated that history and the truth is all the more vulnerable to manipulation in such circumstances.
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