The History of a National Catastrophe by Rahim Masov

Posted: October 18, 2011 in Geography, History, International, Journalism, Language, Politics, Region, Tajikistan
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Editor’s NotePrefaceTajiks Within the ASSRTThe Condition of the Tajiks in the PSRB, National-Administrative DivisionsInfringement Upon the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of the ASSRT.




A number of issues in the history of Tajikistan demand careful scrutiny. The most compelling of these issues, however, belong to the early phases of Soviet rule in Central Asia. One such issue is the outcome of the national-administrative divisions of Central Asia, especially the treatment that the Tajiks received at the hand of their Soviet compatriots. Admittedly, this is a somewhat obscure issue, but one that merits attention-one that illustrates a disturbing aspect of Soviet history.

An involved issue, an understanding of the national-administrative divisions requires an intimate knowledge of the 1917 Revolution, the establishment of Soviet rule in Central Asia, and the extent of the authority of the Soviets and the Communist Party during the life time of V. I. Lenin and thereafter. It also requires documentation of glaring “mistakes” that, in the long run, complicated the Tajiks’ achievement of a national government at that time. Our understanding of this latter issue is contingent upon other factors like an understanding of Pan-Turkism, the retrogressive and anti-nationalistic movement that incurred great losses on the Tajiks and, of course, the availability of documents that prove the point. The fact that this movement continues to frustrate the Tajiks’ aspiration for self-government-it is an issue at the present-makes the need for dealing with it more imperative.

The democratization process in the republics has introduced some changes in academic thinking. For instance, sciences, like history, are rapidly distancing themselves from ideology and historians and publicists alike express conflicting opinions regarding V. I. Lenin’s interpretation of the October Revolution. The outcome of the latter debate, of course, is a question for history to answer; but there are some facts about the dynamics of the time that are undeniable. For example, the economic situation supports the supposition that Russia itself was not prepared for a socialist revolution let alone the emirates and khanates of Central Asia. In fact, socialism’s failure is in no place more evident than in the underdeveloped country of Tajikistan. Here we observe first hand not only the lack of effectiveness of socialism as a system, but ample documentary evidence as proof.

Neither can we credit the statements of those who argue that the Revolution brought about a dictatorship and that it was responsible for the death of many. Revolution and bloodshed go hand in hand. History does not record any revolution, or even conflict, that has satisfactorily met the demands of all the social classes. Even today, during the era of reconstruction, or quiet revolution, affairs are not proceeding without bloodshed. Those who aspire to achieve democratic change, social humanism, and social equality with ease merely delude themselves. In fact, confrontation and bloodshed are created by forces in society that oppose revolutionary change because, by necessity, those forces pursue their own interests. Indeed, the same forces are present in our society today and will continue to exist so long as we remain unfamiliar with democracy and with the rule of law as these institutions are understood by the progressive nations of the world. Ratification of just and democratic laws, like the ones being considered at the present, is the answer.

The October Revolution and the Soviet government impacted the lives of the Tajiks in a most profound way. Indeed, these were historical events that will remain as major milestones in the shaping of subsequent Tajik history as will be the violation of the directives regarding the nationality question, a violation that deprived the Tajiks of their inherent rights at a very crucial moment in their national existence. In other words, the contributions of the people of Tajikistan to the creation and development of Soviet power were not recognized properly. Consequently, the importance of the Tajiks as a people was not appreciated by the higher echelon of Soviet rule.

The implementation of the national-administrative divisions and the establishment of Soviet and autonomous republics in Central Asia were major events in the history of the Soviet Union. The measure, in addition to satisfying a need, was a correct act historically, especially if it had been carried out judiciously. This required recognition of the fact that in the past, among the Central Asians, only the Tajiks enjoyed a long tradition of rulership. Before the October Revolution and, even for some time thereafter, the rest of the peoples of the region belonged to the heavily populated Turkistan governorship of Imperial Russia, the Khanate of Khiva and the Emirate of Bukhara.

It is becoming increasingly evident that in the process of the implementation of the national-administrative divisions, and the creation of the union republics, autonomous republics, and autonomous regions, many mistakes were made. For instance, historically established boundaries were ignored and cities and large areas were allowed to choose their own affiliation. In time, the consequences of those decisions surfaced and plagued the economy and the educational systems of those regions.

The historical development of the Tajik nation under Soviet rule can be divided into four periods. The first period (1917-1924) includes the October Revolution, the formation of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Turkistan (ASSRT), the People’s Republic of Bukhara (PRB), and the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). This is known as the era before the national-administrative divisions of Central Asia. The second period (1924-1929) includes the formation of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan, along with its backward economy, within the Uzbekistan Soviet Socialist Republic (UzSSR). The third period (1929-1990) begins with the creation of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan (Tajikistan SSR). The fourth period begins in 1990 and continues to the present.

Until 1924, there were two types of soviet socialist governments in Central Asia: autonomous republics like the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Turkistan, which was part of the Russian Federation and People’s Republics like the People’s Republic of Bukhara and the People’s Republic of Khwarazm. These latter, as independent countries, enjoyed diplomatic relations with Russia. During the incorporation of these governmental organizations, their pre-revolutionary boundaries were retained, even though those boundaries did not correspond with the ethnic identity of the peoples that populated them. That was because the major peoples of the region-Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzes, Turkmens, and Karakalpaks-had lived under successive, dictatorial rule and had established khanates to govern themselves.


The History of a National Catastrophe by  Rahim Masov

Edited and Translated
Iraj Bashiri

The University of Minnesota
Department of Slavic and Central Asian Languages and Literatures

© Iraj Bashiri, 1996



Editor’s Note


Tajiks Within the ASSRT

The Condition of the Tajiks in the PSRB

National-Administrative Divisions

Infringement Upon the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of the ASSRT.




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