2022 is finally over! I don’t know about you, but I am bidding it a fond farewell. That being said, this year was a pretty productive year in terms of the podcast. We’re only two years old, but I’m really proud of the episodes I’ve produced and the events I was able to cover this year. As I dove deep into Russian and Central Asian history, I realized how ambitious this season was and there are definitely things I would have done differently but overall I’m proud of what I made and what I learned.
This seems ridiculous considering I’m supposed to be an amateur historian, but I learned that the Russian Civil War was really really really big and that can make it a little unwieldy to cover on an audio only platform, especially since a lot of the places involved are unknown by a lot of people. The complication grows when you’re focusing on one area or concept of the war (like Central Asia) but events outside that area affect how the war progresses in the region of interest. I really ran into this issue when trying to discuss the Alash Orda because their story intertwines so much with Admiral Kolchak and the Siberian and Transcaspian Campaigns, but, obviously, I don’t want to detour to entire new regions with their own important cast of characters and events. The plus side is that I’ll eventually return to Siberia and Transcaspia at a later date and, by the time I’m done researching each individual theater of war, I can just smooshed all my episodes together and make one big season about the Russian Civil War, haha.
Another thing I learned is how many peoples were involved and/or affected by the Russian Civil War. In Central Asia alone there are the Russian settlers, the Russian Bolsheviks and the indigenous Bolsheviks, the Basmachi, the Jadids, the Alash Orda, the ulama, the Emir and their retinue, and then the regular peoples like the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, Uzbek, Azeri, Tatar, Kipchaks, Bashkirs, etc. It’s important to ensure that a general history touches on each of these peoples but the historian isn also limited by their own language skills, access to resources, and time. I’ll admit that my coverage is Uzbek and Kazakh heavy because of Adeeb Khalid’s amazing work on the Jadids and Gulnar Kendirbaeva’s work on the Alash Orda. Since my language skills consist of bad English and the Russian alphabet, I’m forced to rely on English language resources. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing when trying to learn about a conflict, but I’d like to rethink how I approach conflicts amongst peoples who don’t speak English because one of my goals with this podcast is centering the people involved and that becomes more effective when you can read their journals and letters yourself instead of relying on someone’s translation of those letters/journals. The other flip side of this conversation is setting a realistic scope and sticking to that scope with the knowledge that you can always come back if you discuss a new resource.
Finally, I learned a lot about episode density. Ideally, you want an episode that’s between 20-30 minutes otherwise people will tune out or stop an episode and never return, etc. However, if you cram back a 30 minute episode with a lot of information, you still risk the listener tuning out or getting lost and having to repeat certain parts of the episode multiple times and then getting frustrated. The whole point of the podcast is to help people learn about a topic and if they’re frustrated or getting lost then they’re not learning. There were several episodes that I thought would be a single episode, but had to be broken into multiple parts because it was just too much for one half hour. But the other risk is that your episodes are too copy or don’t have enough episode to justify listening to or there isn’t enough context for the listener to understand what’s going on. I’ll be playing with different episode lengths and formats in 2023 as I try to find that sweet spot between a useful, informative episode and a dense, unhelpful episode.
Favorite Episodes of 2022
Here are some of my favorite episodes I produced in 2022:
Episode 38 – Turar Risqulov: A Kazakh Revolutionary Leader
Turar Risqulov: an intellectual, leader of the Musburo, and a powerful Kazakh member of the Soviet Union. He was betrayed by the very ideology he supported, and executed along with others like him because their nationalistic legacy threatened an insecure Stalin. Learn about how he tried to save Turkestan during a Russian Civil War, his showdown with Bolshevik General Mikhail Frunze, and what ultimately led to his downfall.
Episode 40 – Russian Civil War: Central Power POWs, Indian Revolutionaries, and British Agents, Oh My!
Learn about the fate of Central POWs in Turkestan, what Indian Revolutionaries were doing in Tashkent, and how the British attempted to continue their Great Game adventures during the Russian Civil War.
Special Episode: Dublin Lockout 1913
I published this episode in honor of International Worker’s Day. Learn how Jim Larkin, James Connolly, and the ITGWU fight for Irish Worker rights in 1913, leading one of the world’s most famous strikes, and changing Irish and Union history.
Episode 41 – the Russian Civil War: Enter Mikhail Frunze and the Fall of the Last Emirs
General Mikhail Frunze has arrived in Turkestan and identified the Musburo and the two Emirs of Khiva and Bukhara as threats to Communism. But can he win a war with the Emirs when facing an insurgency and famine?
Episode 42 – The Russian Civil War: Frunze vs the Basmachi 1920-1921
After disbanding the Musburo and overthrowing the Emirs of Khiva and Bukhara, Frunze has one more enemy to eliminate before communism can take hold in Central Asia: the Basmachi. Learn how Frunze created an counter-insurgency strategy against the Basmachi while dealing with mountain warfare, a ragtag army, and a region wracked with famine and sectarian violence.
Episode 43 – the Russian Civil War: Enver Pasha and the Basmachi
What happens when a former Ottoman Pasha, sentenced to death in absentia finds himself in Central Asia? If you’re Enver Pasha, you first align with the Bolsheviks before jumping ship and joining the Basmachi. Learn how Enver led the Basmachi until his death in a small village in eastern Bukhara.
Episode 44 – The Russian Civil War: Abdurauf Fitrat
Learn about Abdurauf Fitrat, a giant in Central Asian literature and a statesman who played a key role in creating the modern state of Uzbekistan and its language.
Episode 45 – The Russian Civil War: Abdulla Qodiry and Cho’lpon
Cho’lpon and Abdulla Qodiriy are giants within Uzbek literature. They were also Jadids, Muslim reformers who lived in Central Asia in the 1900s and witness how the Russian Revolution and Civil War affected Turkestan, Bukhara, and Khiva. Learn how they shaped Uzbek cultural and literary identity and how they were vilified and murdered by the Soviets.
My Love for Central Asian Literature Part 1 – Abdurauf Fitrat, Abdulla Qodiry, and Cho’lpon
Not a podcast episode, but a blog post I’m really proud of. While working on this podcast, I did a deep dive into Central Asian literature that has been translated into English. This is the first post in what will become a series, focusing on the literary works of Abdurauf Fitrat, Abdulla Qodiry, and Chol’pon