Kazakh Nationalism

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The Kazakhs desire for self-determination has had a long history. The feelings of nationalism began with tribal identity and continued into modern times due to invasions and colonization. The indigenous people of Kazakhstan were subject to many invasions by foreign governments.

Kazakhstan is in southern Asia on the borders of China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. The early Kazakhs were nomads who moved their livestock to new fields as needed throughout the vast steppe of short grasses and semi-desert. Each tribe was rather large with 100 auls, which were groups of related families. Each household had their own herd, which typically included sheep, goats and horses. The tribes traveled large distances from around 250 kilometers to 1,000 kilometers a year depending on area where they lived. The Mongols heavily influenced the Kazakh people beginning with the invasion by Genghis Khan (also called Chingis Khan) in 1218 A.D. With the formation of the Kazakh Khanate, the Mongol culture took precedence with changes in laws and language. Genghis also introduced Islam and Islamic law, however the tribes maintained their early religious practices. Society became divided into social classes with a majority of the population being in the lower class. Genghis had divided Kazakhstan among his sons, but as the years passed, the khans became rivals, and the Khanate was broken up into three Hordes. For the first time, the Kazakh tribes lost their autonomy and ability to move their herds freely.

The Kazakhs saw the Russians as a source of help in their struggle to keep their land in their first contact with the Russians was in the late 1500s. However, since the Russian Tsar required that the Kazakhs and Russians maintain common enemies, the Kazakhs rejected Russian help. By the 18th century, Russia acquired the Kazakh lands to aid their Siberian fur trade. The Kazakhs wanted protection from invaders and the economic advantages of the empire, but they ended up with a Russian military and administrative system controlling the newly acquired land.

The Russians attempted to control the nomadic activities of the Kazakhs with little success, and their desire for autonomy once again led to unrest with the first revolt in 1775. Catherine the Great, Tsar of Russia, called for more Russian control to maintain order through a court system and laws. The Muslim clergy were called upon to civilize the Kazakhs through the creation of mosques and religious schools. Islam had the opposite effect of what Catherine had expected—it became a source of nationalism. [] The limits on travel meant there was not enough food for the animals, the Kazakhs’ herds were dying, and the Kazakh way of life was in danger since they were only familiar with raising animals. Farming was virtually unknown at this point, but some of the poorest Kazakhs began farming as a last resort.

In the 1820s, the Russians drew up legislation to divide the area into districts. The Russian statesman, Michael Speransky, encouraged the Kazakhs to farm. The Russians provided incentives, such as free land, seed and equipment. To further encourage farming, migration was restricted and allowed only with the permission of legal authorities. The reform was unsuccessful at increasing farming and increased civil disobedience through illegal migration. The Kazakhs resisted any attempt by outsiders to change their way of life and nationalism grew. The Russians reacted with even tighter restrictions on Kazakh life, including religious activities.

By World War I, Kazakhstan had 3 million European immigrants. The Russian government awarded large land plots to Russian citizens who wished to farm. The Russian government had the right to seize any land it wished. The land seizures were supposed to have the approval of Kazakh authorities and provide the Kazakhs with full compensation for the seized land, but this never happened. The Russians defeated the Kazakh revolt in 1905, which had been organized by the religious elite. [] The treatment of the Kazakhs by the Russians during World War I further inflamed the nationalists, and the Kazakhs welcomed the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, which was lead by Vladimir Lenin. [] They believed Lenin’s promises of autonomy, but as the Bolshevik Revolution came to an end and Josef Stalin rose to power, the Kazakh dream of an autonomous state ended.

The new laws of the Soviet Republic made life more difficult for the Kazakhs. Forced collectivization was foreign to the Kazakhs who were used to living by their own means. By the mid-1930s, most Kazakhs had no livestock, and their traditional way of living was gone. The Soviets introduced mass education to improve literacy and to create dutiful citizens, and they abolished all religions. The Red Army quickly suppressed nationalist uprisings in the Soviet Union but particularly in Kazakhstan since the leaders of the nationalist movement were still active. After Stalin’s death, subsequent Russian leaders attempted to modernize Kazakhstan with industry, mining and oil refinery.

When Soviet citizens began to demand political and economic reforms in the 1980s, Kazakhs saw an opportunity to voice their demands as well. [] In December 1986, young Kazakhs in Alma-Ata, the capitol at the time, demonstrated to protest the communist system. Soviet troops suppressed the demonstration, but as the Soviet Union became more disintegrated, demonstrations continued leading to the request for self-rule. The Kazakhs desire for autonomy was finally realized when they declared independence from the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) in October 1990, and a year later the country’s first president was elected. This was the culmination of several centuries of fighting for autonomy.

1. In the passage, “indigenous” means (vocabulary)

a. Natural
b. Native*
c. Farmer
d. Immigrant

2. In passage, the land known as Kazakhstan is described as “steppe and semi-desert.” From this description, what is the best use of the land? (vocabulary)

a. Farming
b. Grazing*
c. Industry
d. Mining

3. In passage, the highlighted sentence could be simplified to (sentence simplification)

a. With the formation of the Kazakh Khanate, the Mongol culture prevailed with changes in laws and language.
b. The Kazakh Khanate adopted Mongol culture with changes through laws and language.*
c. The Mongol culture became the main culture for the Kazakh Khanate.
d. When the Kazakh Khanate was formed, the laws and language became the same as the Mongol culture.

4. Why did the Kazakhs first reject assistance from the Russians? (fact)

a. The Kazakhs had friends who were Russian enemies.*
b. The assistance was too costly.
c. The Kazakhs didn’t like the Russians.
d. The Russians were Kazakh enemies.

5. From the passage, it appears that the Russians had been interested in owning the Kazakh land for a long time. Why did the Russians acquire the Kazakh land in the 18th century? (fact)

a. They required more land to graze their animals.
b. They need more farmland to feed their growing population.*
c. They wanted an easier fur trade route to Siberia.
d. They wanted to invade India for spices.

6. In the passage, which of the following can be inferred by the Russian control of nomadic activity? (inference)

a. They wanted money in the form of taxes from the Kazakhs.
b. They were trying to prevent political and societal unrest in Kazakhstan.*
c. They wanted a safe trade route between Moscow and Siberia.
d. They wanted the Kazakhs become farmers to feed the growing Russian population.

7. What effect did the introduction of Islam have on Kazakh society? (fact)

a. It created a more moral society.
b. It made society more educated.
c. It encouraged farming.
d. It bred nationalism.*

8. In passage, “it” refers to (reference)

a. Catherine
b. Islam*
c. Nationalism
d. Land

9. In passage, all of the following were used as incentives for farming, EXCEPT (negative fact)

a. Land
b. Money*
c. Seed
d. Farming equipment

10. In passage, why does the author mention that the Kazakhs welcomed the Bolshevik Revolution? (rhetorical prose)

a. To show that the Kazakhs desired a change in government
b. To contrast the Bolshevik Revolution promise of autonomy with the Russian government’s strict control over their society*
c. To show that there were groups sympathetic to the Kazakhs wish for autonomy
d. To show that the Russian government was bad for the Kazakhs

11. Which of the following best summarizes the passage? (summary)

a. Kazakh land was very desirable to many foreigners because of its fertile soil.
b. The Kazakhs had a long history of resisting conquerors from the time of Genghis Khan to the modern day.*
c. The Kazakhs were nomadic people and not farmers.
d. The Russians created strict laws to control the Kazakhs and prevented them from gaining self-rule.

12. Look at the squares [] where the following sentence could be added to the passage.

The poor economic conditions in Kazakhstan increased nationalism among the youth.
Where would the sentence best fit? (insert text)
Click on the square [] to add the sentence to the passage.

Answer: When Soviet citizens began to demand political and economic reforms in the 1980s, Kazakhs saw an opportunity to voice their demands as well. [] In December 1986, young Kazakhs in Alma-Ata, the capitol at the time, demonstrated to protest the communist system. Soviet troops suppressed the demonstration, but as the Soviet Union became more disintegrated, demonstrations continued leading to the request for self-rule. The Kazakhs desire for autonomy was finally realized when they declared independence from the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) in October 1990, and a year later the country’s first president was elected. This was the culmination of several centuries of fighting for autonomy.

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