Monday, July 25, 2022

Suppression of Karakalpak Uprising in 1929 Opened Way to Stalinist Totalitarianism, Kazakh Historian Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 2 – Whenever something happens, historians are quick to consider more distant events in the past which prefigured it, often providing not only illumination on current events but offering assessments about the past which are both innovative and important as far as the future is concerned.

            Tashkent’s suppression of the Karakalpak protests now has prompted just such an outpouring of articles about the past. The most intriguing is by Kazakh historian Turganbek Allaniyazov who describes the suppression of a 1929 revolt in one part of Karakalpakstan, which was then part of Kazakhstan (

            His archivally based study provides fresh details on a little-known aspect of the history of that republic and the events of 1929-1931 in Kazakhstan and Central Asia more generally, and his conclusions contain not only a denunciation of what was done by the authorities then but a warning about what similar actions may mean now and in the future.

            “In 1929-1931, there were 397 risings, of which 25 involved arms, in which about 80,000 people” in Kazakhstan participated, Allaniyazov writes. “All ere suppressed by units of the Red Army, the OGPU, and communist detachments in the most severe way. Several thousand people were condemned to prison, and hundreds were shot.”

            The Takhtakupyrsk armed rising in Karakalpakstan, he continues, “was a kind of negative reaction of the peasantry to the policies carried out by the leadership of the country in 1928-1929. This was the policy of ‘the great transformation’ which marked the final transition of the country to the rails of anti-democratic development and the formation of totalitarianism.”

            Specifically, it represented “a policy of the unification of the multiplicity of forms of social, economic and cultural life” and was extremely far from the fundamental humanistic and democratic values which had been proclaimed by the October 1917 revolution.” And the suppression of such protests “cannot be seen as anything but a formidable warning.”

            Many who read Allaniyazov’s words will certainly see them as not being about the past but about the present, a justification of resistance then and now to those who want to homogenize through repression societies that are far more diverse than their rulers want. 

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