Friday, October 27, 2017

New Kyrgyzstan Memorial Day Focuses Central Asian Revolt Against Tsarism and Suffering under the Soviets

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 27 – Yesterday, Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev issues a decree uniting in a single Day of History and Memory three separate holidays that Kyrgyz have marked in recent years, the 1916 revolt against the Russian Empire, the anniversary of the October Revolution, and a day recalling victims of Soviet political repressions.

            Because the first and last of these are so explicitly Kyrgyz nationalist and anti-Russian in their implications, Moscow politicians are outraged and have already called for ending some of the preferential arrangements Kyrgyz gastarbeiters had received in recent years (

            But what is especially important about this new holiday, which will be marked each year on November 7-8, is the focus Atambayev gave to the 1916 revolt, an event little known by many outside of Central Asia but one that historians in that region insist was the precursor to the downfall of the tsarist empire a year later (

            In his decree, he says “the striving of the people to freedom and independence was the basic moving force of the events of 1916” when tsarist officials sought to draft Central Asians for work in support units, an effort that was violently opposed by the population (

                “The harsh suppression of the uprising by tsarist punitive units, numerous cashes of bloody reprisals over peaceful residents and their forced flight abroad pushed the people of Kyrgyzstan to the brink of survival,” the Kyrgyz president continues.  The tsarist repression was stopped “thanks to the interference of progressive forces in Russia,” including Duma deputy Aleksandr Kerensky, the future head of the provisional government.

            Last year, “having marked the centenary of the national-liberation uprising, the people of Kyrgyzstan fulfilled their holy duty to the memory of their ancestors,” Atambayev suggests. Now, with this single memorial day, they will do so every year from now on. At the same time, they will remember “the colossal losses” the Kyrgyz people suffered from Soviet repression as well as the heroic resistance of the Kyrgyz nation.

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