Saturday, September 10, 2022

Basmachis of Central Asia Fought against Soviet Power until at Least 1944, New Research Shows

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 12 – Soviet historians and many Russian ones who have followed routinely suggest that the Basmachi movement in Central Asia was the work of outsiders rather than a response to Soviet atrocities, that it was a marginal phenomenon, and that it ended at about the same time as the Russian Civil War, Nikolay Syromyatnikov says.

            But the Russian historian says that none of these widespread views is true. In almost all cases, the Basmachis emerged not as a result of outside religious leaders or agents of British intelligence from Afghanistan but in response to the behavior of Soviet officials (

            Moreover, Syromyatnikov continues, while the movement never was tightly organized, at its height, it included so many thousand fighters that the informal leadership worked out a system of five ranks so as to allow for better coordination and command, ranks that the Soviets ignored but invoked as the names of the fighters.

            However, the worst example of Soviet misrepresentation of the Basmachi movement was its suggestion that the basmachis stopped fighting at just about the same time as anti-Bolshevik resistance ended in 1920-1921. In fact, it lasted well into the 1940s and did not end earlier than 1944.

            According to the history of a single border guard unit, the historian says, “between 1931 and 1940, Soviet border guards destroyed more than 40 basmachi bands and liquidated or took prisoner more than a thousand of their participants.” During World War II, such groups resumed at the urging of German agents, and the last basmachis were wiped out only in 1944.


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