Kazakh autonomism in 1918: competition of projects and dynamics of alliances

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: Institute of Russian History, RAS
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameRossiiskaia istoriia
EditionIssue 3


AcknowledgmentThis article is a translation of: Д.А. Аманжолова. Казахский автономизм в 1918 году: конкуренция проектов и динамика альянсов // Rossiiskaia Istoria. 2021. № 1. P. 63-78. DOI: 10.31857/S086956870013445-0
Publication date27.06.2021
Number of characters58896
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In the Russian Empire, the transition from traditional to modern society took place at different rates, had regional and ethnosocial specifics. Nation-building, as it is understood today, was not on the agenda of the tsarist and Provisional governments. But the formation of sufficiently significant educated and politically active strata in the regions has actualized federalist sentiments in the context of the disintegration of the state1. At the same time, in 1917, the all-Russian administrative-territorial format became the basis for the development of regional ethnopolitical projects. They remained within the boundaries of the former empire's space, which was historically and geographically stable, perceived in the long term as reliable, familiar and habitable (subject to its democratization). This spatial integrity also affected the interaction of regional leaders and structures.2

1. In 1905-1907. the post-revolutionary structure outside the Russian Empire was seen only by radical Polish nationalists and some of the revolutionaries (Historical course "New imperial history of Northern Eurasia." Ch. 10. XX century: empire in the era of mass society. Part 1. The collapse of the regime of the Russian national empire // Ab Imperio. 2016. No. 1. P. 362–363).

2. Their federalist sentiments during the revolution were reactive and improvisational. (Krasovickaya T.YU. Etnicheskie elity o formah federativnogo ustrojstva Rossii (1917–1929) // Mir Bol'shogo Altaya. 2017. № 3. S. 142).
2 The active growth of intercultural contacts of the Kazakh Steppe at the beginning of the XX century. encouraged the comprehension of the essence of "Kazakhness" by the educated part of society. Already in 1913, the name of the national newspaper appeared as a self-determination “Kazakh”, and the development of a political project, starting with an interest in all-Russian and even international cultural, linguistic and religious solidarity, went in the direction of local ethnocentricity. Kazakh democrats, in comparison with other Central Asian national activists, were the most integrated into all-Russian politics, had already gained organizational and socio-cultural experience in the parties of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Cadets, Social Democrats, as well as in large public structures such as Zemgor.
3 The deepening national crisis stimulated their initiative, and the leader of the movement A.N. Bukeikhanov realized the futility of maintaining loyalty to the program and practice of the People's Freedom Party, of which he became a member of the Central Committee in the context of the collapse of the country. His decision in July 1917 to create the national party "Alash" was unanimously supported by his comrades-in-arms. Hardly had he organized it as a full-fledged instrument of the struggle for power, when spoke in favor of "regional territorial-national autonomy" as part of the future Russian Democratic Federation3, which also responded to the sentiments on the outskirts. Despite the absence of the party program, already in the summer in the Steppe Territory, Kazakh committees were functioning, which became both party structures and local self-government bodies. As the latter they entered into coalitions with other local authorities - both created on their own initiative in the spring and then by the Provisional Government. 3. Delo (Semipalatinsk). 1917. № 61. 18 avgusta; Alash-Orda. Sbornik dokumentov. Kzyl-Orda, 1929. S. 34–35, 38, 39–40.
4 Autonomism turned out to be the highest point of evolution and the most radical demand of Kazakh democrats at the beginning of the 20th century. The leaders of "Alash" considered the federation the optimal form of relations between the center and national-territorial entities, combining the benefits of state unity and centralized power with balanced independence of the outskirts. The choice of the autonomist model was based on taking into account the state of society: a fairly deep integration of the region into the Russian political and economic system, the historically established relationship of Kazakhstan with other regions of the country, a high probability of losing even minimal independence in the event of the declaration of independence. At the same time, the project assumed participation in the nationwide reorganization of Russia.
5 The Kazakh autonomists had to quickly respond to the rapidly developing competition between the leading military-political forces, which relied on their own preferences and ideas about the country's future. The dynamics of the development of autonomist preferences and their specific models differed depending on the nature and speed of political processes in the regions, the level of organization and influence of ethnopolitical activists, the strength and strength of ties between the main participants in the struggle for power. The embodiment of these models fell on the extreme 1918. The almost unlimited faith of the Kazakh leaders in autonomy through the All-Russian Constituent Assembly, with the help of which they were going to obtain statehood and power as the only legitimate representatives of their people, was reinforced by the traditions of the ethnosocial hierarchy. Already in September 1919, when the Bolsheviks began to create Soviet autonomy, a member of the Kyrgyz Military Revolutionary Committee (KirVRK) Lukashev (Vadim) wrote to the Central Committee of the RCP (b): “And if now the Kyrgyz masses are shouting about autonomy, absolutely not knowing, what autonomy is and not knowing what it carries with it, but expecting something better, better than what it was and what it is now, she nevertheless as one person exclaims “autonomy-autonomy” [I am convinced that they are shouting about “ autonomy "only" Tunganchins ", not the mass ... - approx. Auth.], this does not mean that this mass is for Soviet power, and even more so for communism ... While this “autonomist” adventure was suggested to her by a bunch of rich khan bandits, whom we were “forced” to temporarily pat on the head, by all means attracting them to themselves “to help”, as an element that has “enormous” [there is no “huge” influence of them! And they receive it - “through us”! - approx. author] influence on the dark people, influence based on the pitiful remnants of the former despotic greatness.4" 4. RGASPI, f. 17, op. 86, d. 129, l. 112. Until 1925, Kazakhs were called Kyrgyz (Kyrgyz-Kaysaks, Cossack-Kyrgyz).

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