Scales of violence: the 1916 Central Asian Uprising in the context of wars and revolutions (1914-1923)


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This chapter places the 1916 Central Asian uprising in the context of the longer "continuum of violence" that included World War I, the 1917 revolutions, and the "wars after the war" that took place during a period of competitive state-building. With the possible exception of the violence committed by the tsarist army in Ajaria one year earlier, the 1916 uprising and its bloody repression entailed the first systematic mass killing of civilians in the tsarist empire during the war. According to the contemporary official estimates, the Kazakh and Kyrgyz population of Semirech'e fell from approximately 937,000 in 1916 to 670,000 in 1917. Many fled to China, but the exterminiation targeting Kyrgyz and Kazakh men, women and children claimed a number of victims that most probably reached the tens of thousands. The uprising and the ensuring massacres constituted the first episodes in a series of interlocking armed conflicts in Central Asia, which lasted until 1923. The 1916 events, therefore, can and should be considered the first act of the civil war in Central Asia and the Kazakh steppe.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Central Asian Revolt of 1916: Rethinking the History of a Collapsing Empire in the Age of War and Revolution
EditorsAlexander Morrison, Cloé Drieu, Aminat Chokobaeva
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781526129444
ISBN (Print)9781526129420
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Research for this chapter was conducted in the framework of the project "Imperial Borderlands and Transnational Illegal Markets" Opium Trade and Migrations between Russia, Inner Asia and Northeast China (1881-1937)", funded by the Hong Kong Research Grant Council (project code LU13600817). I would like to thank Aminat Chokobeava, Cloé Drieu, Antonio Ferrara, Tatiana Kotiukova, Alexander Morrison and an anonymous reviewer for their useful comments and suggestions.


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