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REVOLUTION AND CIVIL WAR IN WESTERN TURKESTAN 1917-1922

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1994
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YURI BREGEL
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Geography
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Abu Said Mirza 1451–1469
Stacked Wooden Logs

Description

On February 27 (by the Julian calendar, as was used in Russia before 1918; March 11 by the Gregorian calendar) of 1917, as a result of the revolution in St. Petersburg, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated and the Provisional Government came to power in Russia. At first this government left in place the old administration in Turkestan, but in April it replaced it with its own Turkestan Executive Committee. At the same time, following the pattern of European Russia, Soviets (“councils”) of Workers’ and Soldiers’ (but not Peasants’) Deputies were organized in the major cities of Turkestan.
They included representatives of only the non-native population; the native population lacked the political organization to represent its interests adequately. In the 1910s revolutionary propaganda was very strong among the Russian soldiers and railway workers in Central Asia, and they were the chief force behind the revolutionary events that ensued. The Tashkent Soviet played the central role in these events.
It was dominated by the Bolsheviks, who were able to win over the Russian military forces stationed in Central Asia. The situation became explosive in the fall of 1917, with a deepening economic crisis, severe food shortages, and growing unrest in various parts of Central Asia. On September 12-16 (Julian; 25-29 Gregorian) the Tashkent Soviet organized an uprising, which was suppressed by the forces of the Provisional Government. But after the Bolshevik revolution won in St. Petersburg on October 25/November 7, a new uprising in Tashkent was successful, and on November 1/14 the Tashkent Soviet seized power. The same month the Third Regional Congress of Soviets in Tashkent formed the new government, the Turkestan Council of Peoples’ Commissars (Turksovnarkom),
whose chairman was F. Kolovos.

After the flat refusal of the Soviet authorities in Tashkent to co-opt the Central Asian Muslims into the new govt the National Central Council (a Muslim organization that had been formed in May 1917) convened a conference in Kokand at the end of November 1917, where it proclaimed the creation of the Government of Autonomous Turkestan. The government in Kokand lacked financial and military resources and failed in its attempts to gain recognition and support in other parts of Central Asia. The Turksovnarkom was unable to suppress the “Kokand Autonomy” as long as Turkestan was cut off from European Russia by the White forces south of Orenburg (see below). When the Orenburg front of the Whites was pierced in January 1918, Red troops from this front arrived in Tashkent. In January 1918 Kolesov proclaimed that the Kokand government was “counterrevolutionary,” and at the end of February Soviet troops captured the old city of Kokand after a four-day siege; the city was sacked and destroyed, and more than 10,000 of its inhabitants were massacred. This was accompanied by the confiscation of food from the population of the area, resulting in famine. The Muslim population of the Ferghana region soon responded by beginning guerrilla fighting, which became known as the Basmachi movement, against the Soviet authorities. In Ferghana the Basmachi's established contacts with the “Peasant Army” of the Russian settlers of Semirech’e, who also fought the Bolsheviks; together, they captured the eastern part of Ferghana in the fall of 1919.

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