Nomads and the state in Soviet Kazakhstan

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Abstract

After the military conquest of the Kazakh Steppe in 1920, Russian and Kazakh Bolsheviks implemented policies of hard decolonization (1921–1922): tens of thousands of Slavic settlers were expropriated and land was distributed to nomads. During the period of 1923–1927, soft decolonization prevailed: Kazakhstan was created as an ethnonational administrative region and agricultural immigration was prohibited. Kazakhs were given priority in access to land and water and they were included in the state and party administrations. No sedentarization plans were drafted. With the Soviet economic policy turn of 1928, Kazakhstan became the object of plans for expansion of grain cultivation (to this end, peasant colonization from Russia was made legal again) and of industrialization. Moscow lunched an offensive in order both to subjugate and to incorporate Kazakh society: Kazakh pastoral elites and former Tsarist administrators were expropriated and deported; and young Kazakh men were drafted into the Red Army for the first time. In 1929, plans for the total sedentarization of Kazakh nomadic pastoralists were suddenly proclaimed, then rapidly became of secondary concern as they were merged with the total collectivization drive. Policies toward nomadic pastoralists were dependent and auxiliary to grain production policies from 1928 to early 1930. Then, from late 1930 to 1932, Kazakh livestock was requisitioned in order to feed Moscow, Leningrad, and the army, as the Soviet peasants had slaughtered their animals during collectivization. Procurements turned an ongoing starvation crisis into a calamitous famine that killed one-third of the Kazakhs. When no livestock were left, procurements were discontinued in Kazakhstan. Private ownership of animals and pastoral nomadic ways were explicitly allowed again. Kazakh mobile pastoralism had been transformed: pastoral routes were shortened; pastoralists were a smaller share of the population; and their work was organized within state and collective farms. The famine turned the Kazakhs into a minority in Kazakhstan and forced them into Soviet state institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford research encyclopedia of Asian history
EditorsDavid LUDDEN
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780190277727
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

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Keywords

  • Central Asia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kazakhs
  • nomadism
  • pastoralism
  • Soviet Union
  • communism
  • colonization
  • famine
  • sedentarization

Cite this

PIANCIOLA, N. (2019). Nomads and the state in Soviet Kazakhstan. In D. LUDDEN (Ed.), Oxford research encyclopedia of Asian history Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.013.314