Central Asia: Aspects of Transition

By Tom Everett-Heath | Go to book overview

8

SOVIET DEVELOPMENT IN CENTRAL ASIA

The classic colonial syndrome?

Alex Stringer

The region defined since independence as Central Asia 1 comprises Kazakhstan and the four former Soviet republics of Middle Asia (Srednyaya Azia). Owing to geography, ethnicity and the demands of economic development, the region is notably diverse. Historically, the biggest division has been between the civilisations of the Steppe lands to the north, and the oases in the south. Other fault-lines - linguistic, ethnic and social - divide the peoples of Central Asia. Moreover, policies pursued during the Soviet period caused further divisions, whilst simultaneously providing an element of uniformity.

Uzbekistan is the most influential of the republics. The capital, Tashkent, was the seat of colonial government in the Tsarist period. It was also the scene of some of the most dramatic political events in the region’s early Soviet history: the establishment of Soviet power in Tashkent, and the disbanding of the short-lived Kokand government. Dominated by the cotton monoculture, Uzbekistan has been ravaged by its environmental consequences, and towards the end of the Soviet period the republic was at the heart of the great cotton scandal of the 1980s - the so-called ‘Uzbek affair’. In addition, Uzbekistan has produced some of the most significant figures in Soviet Central Asian history: Khojaev, Mukhitdinov and Rashidov. It remains the pivotal Central Asian state.

Academic writing in English on Soviet Central Asia has been limited both chronologically and geographically by fluctuating levels of international interest. From the 1930s until the 1980s, ostensibly peaceful Sovietisation, albeit behind closed doors, led to a decline in Western interest. Difficulties in physical access and in obtaining reliable source material limited research, with the result that, for many years, the region was poorly served by Western scholars. 2 The onset of glasnost, and growing evidence of serious internal problems in the Soviet Union, however, rekindled Western interest during the 1980s, especially as Central Asia was expected to be the most likely seat of resistance to Soviet power, and with the drama of the Soviet collapse and the emergence of five new states onto the world stage, Central Asia has attracted a new audience.

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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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