Settler colonialism and the Soviet Union (1916-1933) : Kazakhs and Kyrgyz between Decolonization and state violence


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The paper focuses on the Central Asian region inhabited by nomadic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, along with Russian and Ukrainian agricultural settlers from the great anti-colonial revolt in 1916 to the Stalinist “revolution from above” in the early 1930s. Mass violence was caused first by the settlers (40% of the total population in 1914) in the last months of the Tsarist regime, and then by the Stalinist state, which was expanding its grip on its far off peripheries. The result was a famine that killed more than one third of the Kazakh population (1.4 million people) in 1931-33. Between those two episodes, however, in the early 1920s the Soviet state had implemented decisive anti-colonization measures, evicting tens of thousands of settlers from the lands they had grabbed from Central Asian pastoralists. The relation between Kazakh and Kyrgyz nomads, Slavic peasants and the state in Central Asia is a favourable context for examining the link between colonial and totalitarian state-organized violence, and settlers’ exterminatory actions. To this relates the question of the colonial character of the early Soviet state in Central Asia, a region that had become the centre for Bolshevik support of anticolonial movements in Asia in the 1920s, and where Moscow successfully coopted large numbers of Central Asians in local administrative bodies. At the same time, crucial Stalinist policies in the 1930s were carried out by local state and communist party structures which still preserved a clear ‘colonial’ character.


ConferenceColonial and Settler Studies Network Conference : Colonial Formations: Connections and Collisions
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