Episode 29-The Kokand Autonomy

In November 1917, the Muslim modernizers of Turkestan came together to create the Kokand Autonomy. But how can people with no governing experience govern a region racked by ethnic violence and famine while their neighbors, the Tashkent Soviet, are planning an all out assault?

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The Russian Revolution and the Khivan Khanate

Introduction

What is a Khanate to do when his Russian supporters are overthrown by a revolution and he must now rely on a traitorous warlord to retain his throne? Read our article to learn about the Khivan Khanate during the Russian Revolution.

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Introduction

Last week we talked about the Russian Revolution and Central Asia, but we limited it to the urban areas of Turkestan and the Bukharan Emirate. Today, we’ll be discussing how Russia’s other protectorate, the Khiva Khanate, responded to the fall of the Tsars.

Khiva Under Russian Rule 1880-1916

As we discussed in our episode on Russian colonialism, Khiva was one of the two protectorates created by Tsarist Russia as it colonized Central Asia. It was smaller than Bukhara and not as wealthy or important to Russian officials, meaning the Khan could exercise great independence on how his territory was ruled, as long as he understood his protectorate was granted to him via Russian power. Khiva had been ruled by Muhammad Rahim until his death in 1910, when his son Isfendiyar took over. Isfendiyar passed minor reforms between 1910 and 1917 including support for a state budget, tax reform, and placing all government servants on a salary. He even supported the building of a reform madrasa and encourage the spread of the new-method schools championed by the Jadids. However, many of the reforms never became law and may have been lip service to keep the Russians at bay. Isfendiyar’s true focus was on his troublesome subjects the Turkmen.

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The Basmachi

Introduction

Famed but often misunderstood guerilla fighters, the Basmachi were an Islamic resistance force that targeted both the Bolsheviks and modernizing Islamic forces of Central Asia. This article provides a basic overview of their creation, organizational hierarchy, and talks about some of their most famous leaders.

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We’ve spent considerable time exploring how the Russian Revolution affected Central Asia from several different perspectives. So far, we’ve talked about the Russian Settlers, the Alash Orda, the Jadids, and the Bukharan and Khivan Emirs. You may be thinking, that’s plenty of peoples and we’re ready to move onto 1918, but we have one more perspective to add and that’s the Basmachi, a guerrilla movement that reinvented itself numerous times during the 1920s and clashed with the Soviets from 1918 to the 1930s.

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The Russian Revolution and Central Asia-1917

Introduction

Did you ever wonder how the Russian Revolution affected Central Asia? This episode discusses how the various political factions in Central Asia-the Jadids, Alash Orda, the Ulama, and the Russian Settlers-responded to the fall of the Tsar and the rise of the Bolsheviks.

Listen to our podcast episode or read the post below

When we last discussed Central Asia, they were in the midst of the 1916 Revolt, which is now seen as the harbinger of the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil Wars. Today we’ll discuss how the Russian Revolution affected Central Asia.

Russian Revolution in Russia

February Revolution

1917 is an odd year for Russia, because it’s a period were militarily-things were beginning to look up, but socially and politically, things were at their lowest. Even though Russia had seen its greatest military victory in 1916 (one that cost them an estimated 3 million killed, wounded, or taken prisoner) and it was correcting its production issues, it was still facing a massive supply crisis because of an overstrained and broken transport system. This meant shortages of food, fuel, and basic household goods, rapid inflation, and corruption within the government and its military suppliers. Most fatal of all was the complete lack of trust everyone had in the Russian government. Governmental officials were either unacceptably incompetent or German spies and traitors. Even the staunchly monarchist General Aleksei Brusilov admitted that “Russia could not win the war with its present system of government.” (Figes) Everyone agreed that Russia was on the brink of a great catastrophe, but no one could have predicted it would have been at the hands of women tired of queuing for bread.

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The Russian Revolution and the Alash Orda-1917

Introduction

The Russian Revolution provided the Kazakh intellectuals an opportunity to create their own government and redistribute land that had been taken from them by Russian settlers. But what sort of government can you create when you and your fellow indigenous intellectuals can’t agree on the best way to rule and the Russian Civil War is at your doorstep?

Listen to our episode above or read our blog post version of our episode below:

It’s 1917 and Central Asia is adjusting to a Tsarless reality. To briefly recap, because a lot has already happened and it’s about to get even more complicated:

  • Russian settlers created the Tashkent Soviet in the city, Tashkent. It is purely Russian managed and was created in response to indigenous organizing.
  • Various indigenous peoples such as the Jadids, the Ulama, and even the Alash Orda spent all year organizing different organs of government, ending 1917 with the Kokand Autonomy. This is an independent state created in Kokand, a city that neighbors Tashkent, in response to the Tashkent Soviet.
  • The Bukharan Emir kicked out his Jadids and relied on conservative elements in his society to strengthen his hold on power before Russia returns.
  • The Khiva Khanate is dependent on a warlord that is planning a coup.

Up to this point, we’ve focused on an Uzbek/Tajik Jadid perspective. Today we’ll be switching focus to the Kazakh and Kyrgyz intellectuals in the Steppe and the creation of the Alash Orda government and the Autonomous Alash state.

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Book Review: Lost Enlightenment by S. Frederick Starr and Polymaths of Islam by James Pickett

Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane by S. Frederick Starr, published by Princeton University Press, 2013

Polymaths of Islam: Power and Networks of Knowledge in Central Asia by James Pickett, published by Cornell University Press, 2020

I enjoyed both books and would highly recommend them to anyone interested in how knowledge was developed and preserved in Central Asia. I did not plan to read these books together, but I think reading them back-to-back is beneficial as these books compliment each other so well.

Lost Enlightenment studies Central Asia’s Enlightenment from about 800 to 1200, with a particular focus on Abu Ali al-Husayn Ibn Sina and Abu Rayhan al-Biruni. The book is written in an easy to engage with prose. There is a lot of information, so re-reads are recommended, but I was never lost or felt overwhelmed. Overall, I found this book to be very eye-opening in terms to the depth of intellectual thought and development according in Central Asia from 800-1200 and I was introduced to several historical figures I either only heard about in passing or had never heard about. The pacing and structure of the book suffers from the vast scope of Starr’s narrative and while he tries to shape the book’s narrative around key events and key figures such as Ferdowsi, Ibn Sina, etc. there were parts of the book that felt disjointed or there were some chapters I would have liked to have seen broken into smaller chapters.

Polymaths of Islam studies the knowledge networks crafted specifically by the ulama of Central Asia. Pickett limits his exploration to the long 19th century, roughly from the collapse of Nadir Shah’s empire in 1747 to the rise of the Bolsheviks in the 1920s. This book is not as easy to engage with as Starr’s book, because Pickett has the daunting task of introducing multiple concepts and arguments at once and in an academic manner, but I would say that his book picks up in chapter three where he really begins talking about the formation of intelligence networks. The first two chapters are important for his overall argument, but if you’re not interested in terminology or academic argument building then you can skim them. Where Starr tripped because he was doing too much at once, Pickett benefits from his limited scope and simultaneously provided a, intimate and complicated portrayal of the ulama (challenging many assumptions) while also having the skill to take a step back and discuss the systematic developments that supported and hindered the ulama.

This review continues on our Patreon.

Episode 25-The Russian Revolution and Central Asia

Did you ever wonder how the Russian Revolution affected Central Asia? This episode discusses how the various political factions in Central Asia-the Jadids, Alash Orda, the Ulama, and the Russian Settlers-responded to the fall of the Tsar and the rise of the Bolsheviks.

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History in 5ish Minutes 5 Tactics the Russians Used during the Central Asian Revolt of 1916

Today we take a deep dive into the tactics the Russians used to suppress the Central Asian Revolt of 1916, discussing the Urkun Exodus, the mass reallocation of Steppe lands, and Kuropatkin’s decision to use an scorch earth strategy.

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History in 5ish Minutes: 5 Tactics the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz Peoples Used during the Central Asian Revolt of 1916

During this episode we revisit the Central Asian Revolt of 1916, this time focusing on the tactics used by the indigenous rebels, particularly the Kazakh and Kyrgyz peoples in the Steppe. We’ll discuss their use of hit and run tactics, the advantages the Steppe provided, and their targeted assaults on major infrastructure.

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Episode 23-Interview with Dr. Adeeb Khalid

This is a very special episode as we discuss the Jadids with renowned scholar, Dr. Adeeb Khalid. The Jadids were an Islamic modernizing movement within Central Asia that would later find common cause with Bolsheviks and create modern day Uzbekistan. We’ll be discussing who the Jadids were, their doctrinal development, and how they fit within our narrative of the Russian and Central Asian Civil Wars.

Dr. Khalid is Professor of Asian Studies and History as well as director of Middle Eastern Studies at Carleton College. He is an expert in his field and published numerous works on Central Asia including Making Uzbekistan: Nation, Revolution, and Empire in the Early USSR and the Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform: Jadidism in Central Asia. He has a new book coming out this May, Central Asia: a New History from the Imperial Conquests to the Present which you can preorder at your favorite bookstore.

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History in 5ish Minutes: 5 Facts about the Tsarist Administration in Central Asia 1890-1916

5 facts about the Tsarist Administration in Central Asia 1890-1916

In this episode, we briefly discuss the Tsarist Administration in Central Asia, focusing on how the Russian administration created two societies one of the incoming Russian Settlers and one for the indigenous peoples. We also discuss the two biggest problems facing the Russian administration: land and the demand for political participation.

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References

Knowledge and the Ends of Empire: Kazak Intermediaries and Russian Rule on the Steppe, 1731-1917 by Ian W. Campbell Published by Cornell University Press, 2017

Russia and Central Asia: Coexistence, Conquest, Coexistence by Shoshana Keller Published by University of Toronto Press, 2019

Russia’s Protectorates in Central Asia: Bukhara and Khiva, 1865-1924 by Seymour Becker, Published by RoutledgeCurzon, 2004

Russian Colonial Society in Tashkent 1865-1923 by Jeff Sahadeo

Making Uzbekistan: Nation, Empire, and Revolution in the Early USSR by Adeeb Khalid

“James Pickett, “Polymaths of Islam: Power and Networks of Knowledge in Central Asia” (Cornell UP, 2020) New Books in Central Asia Studies podcast, https://open.spotify.com/episode/6dMiIYmGolImL4gW9CpKwJ?si=LdcDCbJZSCOuIEebBWHlmA

Episode 22-the Central Asian Revolt of 1916

In this episode we discussed the Central Asian Revolt of 1916. Sparked by decades old administrative issues, the Russian settler’s “redistribution” of land and resources, and the Tsarist’s decision to conscription indigenous peoples (who up until that point that had been exemption of conscription), the revolution overtook most of Turkestan and lasted into 1917. In this episode we focus specifically on the actions that took part in Jizzakh (where the revolt began) and the Kazakh and Kyrgyz Steppes (where it morphed into a fight for existence).

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History in 5ish Minutes: the 1898 Andijan Uprising

History in 5 Minutes: the 1898 Andijan Uprising

In this episode, we discuss 5 facts abou the 1898 Andijan Uprising, discussing Madali Ishan’s revolt against Russian colonialism in Central Asia and stoking paranoid Islamophobia.

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Episode 21-Russian Colonialism in Central Asia 1860-1890

During this episode we will briefly discuss Russian colonialism in Central Asia from 1860-1890, focusing on the how and why. We’ll discuss the subsuming of Steppe Lands, the abolishment of the Kokand Khanate, the subjugation of the Bukharan and Khivan khanates, and the attacks on the Turkmen people of the Ferghana Valley.

Transcript

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Episode 20-Interview with James Nagle

Today we have a very special episode where we spoke to James Nagle about what life was like for an average IRA recruit and a British soldier. If you enjoyed our big picture overview but want to dive deeper into what life was like for an IRA recruit on the run, a civilian having to please both the IRA and the British, or a Black and Tan riding a convoy worried about an ambush, this is the interview for you!

James is the host of the Irish Nation Lives, a history document on YouTube about the Irish War of Independence. Be sure to check his videos out and follow James on Twitter!

The Importance of Land

I have recently finished R. F. Foster’s book Modern Ireland 1600-1972 and it got me thinking about land distribution during and after conflict.

In Ireland, Cromwell targeted the land once owned by those who rebelled. This happened to be the elite of Irish society and he redistributed the larger tracts to his followers and Anglo-Irish as well as small tracts of land to Catholics who swore fealty to the crown. The Protestant population was always a minority within Ireland, but because of the land they owned and the favor they received from England, they were able to build a Protestant Ascendancy whereas the Catholics remained poor farmers or out migrated.

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