Central Asia: Aspects of Transition

By Tom Everett-Heath | Go to book overview

7

THE USE OF HISTORY

The Soviet historiography of Khan Kenesary Kasimov

Henri Fruchet

On 26 December 1950, Pravda, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, contained an article entitled ‘For a Marxist-Leninist Examination of the Problems of the History of Kazakhstan’, 1 in which the rebellion led by Khan Kenesary Kasimov from 1837 to 1847 was described as a ‘reactionary feudal movement’. 2 Such a re-evaluation represented a fundamental shift for the Party, as this revolt, and the many others which shook Central Asia and the Caucasus under Tsarist rule, had previously been regarded as ‘progressive acts of national liberation’. 3

The radical nature of this re-evaluation raises several important questions. What factors could have prompted the Party to abandon views that it had held since before 1917? What was so important about the Kenesary Revolt that it warranted a large article in Pravda? What does this re-evaluation reveal of the use of history by the Communist Party to further its goals and needs?

To answer these questions, the transformation of the historiography of Khan Kenesary Kasimov’s revolt must be addressed. Originally, a ‘progressive act of national liberation’, the revolt mutated into a ‘reactionary feudal movement’, with Kenesary himself undergoing a metamorphosis from a ‘hero of the people’ into an ‘oppressor of the Kazakh people and representative of the feudal class’. 4 The re-evaluation, officially endorsed by the Party in 1950, must be understood as a response by the Party to what it perceived to be a lack of loyalty on the part of Central Asian historians to Soviet ideology, and their attachment to both ‘bourgeois-nationalist’ and ‘cosmopolitan ideas’. The question of both loyalty to, and faith in, the Marxist-Leninist laws of history (zakonomernost), especially the idea of the inevitable triumph of communism (and thus the Soviet Union), became considerably more important as the new bipolar geo-political reality of the Cold War emerged. Moscow’s position at the head of one of those poles determined the way in which the Party hoped that history would be read.

Any attempt to understand the re-evaluation endorsed by the Party in 1950 must begin in 1934, with the posthumous purge of the father figure of early

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Central Asia: Aspects of Transition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Turkfront 5
  • 2 - The Kokand Autonomy, 1917-18 30
  • Notes 44
  • 3 - Ethno-Territorial Claims in the Ferghana Valley During the Process of National Delimitation, 1924-7 45
  • 4 - Land and Water ‘reform’ in the 1920s 57
  • 5 - Nation Building in Turkey and Uzbekistan 80
  • 6 - Nation Building and Identity in the Kyrgyz Republic 106
  • 7 - The Use of History 132
  • 8 - Soviet Development in Central Asia 146
  • 9 - Environmental Issues in Central Asia 167
  • 11 - The Uzbek Mahalla 205
  • Notes 217
  • 12 - ‘Fundamentalism’ in Central Asia 219
  • Notes 240
  • 13 - Water 244
  • Bibliography 264
  • Index 283
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