The following paper is published in the
(FL: Academic International Press) 1991, Vol. 4, Pp. 5-20.


H. B. Paksoy

The "formal" beginning of the "Basmachi" movement is usually
associated with the tsarist Imperial Decree of 25 June 1916,
which ordered the first non-voluntary recruitment of Central
Asians into the army during the First World War. The movement was
a reaction not only to conscription, but to the Russian conquest
itself and the policies employed by the tsarist state in that
region. Although it is primarily Russian sources and officialdom
who used the term "Basmachi" --and almost exclusively to
denigrate the movement-- to the Central Asians, it was an Action
for National Liberation, and so referred.

Central Asia had been occupied by the tsarist armies in a long
process that began with the conquest of Kazan in 1552. Its latest
manifestation was the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The
largest territories were taken in the second half of the 19th
century when the conquest of Tashkent took place in 1865 and the
Goktepe massacre of the Turkmen in 1881. Millions of Central
Asians were added to the empire's population (just under 20% of
the population by the 1897 Census. This is similar to the current
demographic profile, due to Stalinist liquidations during which
millions of Central Asians perished). It is likely that the
memory of the occupation and resentment of the occupiers'
repressive policies were fresh in the minds of the Central Asians
in 1916. The resentment was enhanced by earlier historical
memories -- the historical roots and traditions of the Central
Asians include numerous large empires of their own (though in
decline by the 16th century), some of which antedate the first
mention of the word Rus in the chronicles. Some of those empires
counted the Russians among their subjects.

Zeki Velidi Togan (1890-1970) was for over half a century a
professor of history (and shared similar objectives with his
contemporary colleagues Czech Thomas Masaryk and Ukrainian
Michael Hrushevsky). A Central Asian himself and a principal
leader of the Turkistan National Liberation Movement, Togan
described the sources of the movement as follows:

      "Basmachi is derived from "baskinji," meaning attacker,
      which was first applied to bands of brigands. During tsarist
      times, these bands existed when independence was lost and
      Russian domination began in Turkmenistan, Bashkurdistan and
      the Crimea. Bashkurts [in Russian language sources:
      "Bashkir"] called them "ayyar," by the Khorasan term. In
      Crimea and, borrowed from there, in Ukraine, "haydamak" was
      used. Among Bashkurts such heroes as Buranbay became famous;
      in Crimea, there was [a leader named] Halim; and in
      Samarkand, Namaz. These did not bother the local native
      population but sacked the Russians and the Russian flour-
      mills, distributing their booty to the population. In
      Ferghana, these elements were not extinct at the beginning
      of 1916.
      .... after the proliferation of cotton planting in Ferghana
      [imposed by the tsarist state at the expense of cereal
      cultivation] the economic conditions deteriorated further.
      This increased brigandage. Among earlier Basmachi, as was
      the case in Turkey, the spiritual leader of the Uzbek and
      Turkmen bands was Koroglu. Basmachi of Bukhara, Samarkand,
      Jizzakh and Turkmen gathered at nights to read KOROGLU and
      other dastans [ornate oral histories]. What has the external
      appearance of brigandage is actuality a reflection and
      representation of the thoughts and spirit of a wide segment
      of the populace. Akchuraoglu Yusuf Bey reminds us that
      during the independence movements of the Serbians, the
      "hoduk;" the "kleft;" and "palikarya" of the Greeks
      comprised half nationalist revolutionaries and half
      The majority and the most influential of the Basmachi groups
      founded after 1918 did not at all follow the Koroglu
      tradition, but were composed of serious village leadership
      and sometimes the educated. Despite that, all were labelled
      Basmachi. Consequently, in Turkistan, these groups were
      regarded as partisans; more especially representing the
      guerilla groups fighting against the colonial power.
      Nowadays, in the Uzbek and Kazakh press, one reads about
      Chinese, Algerian and Indian Basmachi [the references are to
      the respective anti-colonial movements]."

Before the 1916 Decree could be put into force by the Russians,
the Central Asian leadership proceeded to take steps to prevent
or delay its execution. In Samarkand, Khoja Behbudi; in Tashkent,
Munevver Kari; in Khiva, Pehlivan Niyaz; in Bukhara, Osman Khoca;
in Jizzakh, Kari Kamil; in Kokand, Abid Jan gathered around them
the prominent personae of their localities for the purpose. Those
leaders took on the historical title "Korbashi," meaning
"commander of defense troops," and set about preparing the
resistance. On 11 July 1916, the first mass protest meeting took
place in Tashkent. Russian police fired into the crowd. The
Russians arrested an additional group and summarily executing
another thirty-five. The Russian settlers, who had been brought
into Tashkent some thirty to forty years earlier, began looting,
apparently at the instigation of the Russian police. At this, the
Central Asian response stiffened. Protest meetings spread to
Marghilan, Andijan and Hojend; attacks on Russian officials took
place in Akkurgan, Akmesjid and Kanjagali. The population of the
Jizzakh and environs destroyed the railroad at several sites, and
began organizing a self defense group. The Russians responded by
indiscriminate attacks on the Central Asian populations. The
Turkistan National Liberation Movement had formally begun.

By the middle of August, the resistance spread to Ashkhabad and
Merv, under the leadership of Juneyd Khan; to Akmola and Turgay
under Abdulgaffar Bek; to Yedisu and Karakul under Shabdan
Batirogullari Muhiddin and Husameddin; to the Chu basin under
Ayuke oglu Kanaat Bek. Karakul was declared the center of an
independent Khanate, while Yedisu was the governmental center.
Their first targets were the Russian police headquarters, to
acquire weapons -- their only source of supply.

Russian officialdom declared martial law in Turkistan (and the
Caucasus as well), and announced a lower quota of laborers to be
drafted under the 25 June decree. The new Russian statements did
not change the conditions. Russian Generals Kuropotkin and
Kalbovo armed the Russian settlers in Central Asia to act as
additional military units to reinforce their existing and well
armed regular forces. Even prisoners of war, who were being held
in Russian POW camps in Central Asia, were recruited by the
Russian generals as mercenaries with regular pay. Generals Ivanov
and Rynov moved all their forces against Jizzakh. Fully equipped
Russian regiments under General Madridov attacked the civilians
of Khiva region, and according to eyewitnesses, massacred even
babies in the cradle. Those who were not killed were stripped of
their all possessions as retribution. After the Bolshevik
revolution, it was discovered that during that short period
"General Madridov had pilfered and stashed Turkmen silver jewelry
in excess of 17 puds." More Russian settlers were brought in to
occupy confiscated Central Asian land and homes. Contemporary
reports estimated that between 25 June 1916 and October of 1917,
some one and one half million Central Asians were killed by the
Russian forces and settlers, with the Russian casualties
numbering around three thousand. At least half of the Central
Asian livestock was destroyed and an inestimable amount of
personal property was looted by the Russian military forces and

The Turkistan Extraordinary Conference of December 1917 announced
the formation of Autonomous Turkistan, with Kokand as its
Capital. Bashkurdistan had declared territorial autonomy in
January of 1918; the Tatars also took matters into hand in
forming their autonomous region. Also in spring 1918, the
Azerbaijan Republic and others came into being in the empire's
former colonies. It seemed as if the Russian yoke was ended and
freedom reigned. However, with the onset of the Bolshevik
revolution, local soviets were established, again by the Russian
settlers, some of whom were railroad workers. These were often
headed by professional revolutionaries arriving from Moscow.
Generous promises were made to the Central Asians, including
indemnities for all property expropriated earlier. It proved to
be a time-buying ploy. As Togan demonstrated, the soviets had no
intention of allowing the much-touted "self-rule" in Central
Asia, despite the rhetoric. This became clear when the Bolshevik
forces burned Kokand on March 1918, and again massacred the
population. The struggle not only had to continue, but also
became harsher. After a final series of conferences with Lenin,
Stalin and the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, Togan
realized that the aims of the Bolsheviks were not different than
those of their predecessors. Organizing a secret committee, Togan
set about forming the basis of the united resistance, the
leadership of which moved south to Samarkand and environs. A new,
large-scale, coordinated stage of organizing the Turkistan
National Liberation Movement commenced.

The struggle was to continue, under various methods, well into
the 1930s, despite Stalin's measures and liquidations. During
that period, perhaps another several million Central Asians
perished in the artificially created famine, as documented in
Ukrainian case. Only the relaxation of repressive measures by
Moscow at the onset of the Second World War precipitated a hiatus
in the movement. Moscow was once again in need of Central Asians,
this time as troops to fight in yet another war. It should be
noted that, almost half a million of those Central Asians thus
incorporated into the Red Army defected to the Germans, solely to
fight the Russians.


The Turkistan National Liberation Movement was shaped directly by
the attempt of the Bolsheviks to reconquer Turkistan. It must
also be seen, however, as a culmination of a long process of
Russian intrusion into Central Asia as reflected in the "Eastern
Question" and what Kipling dubbed the "Great Game in Asia." 

The long standing "Eastern Question" entailed attempts by
European powers and the Russian Empire to control, or prevent
another Power from controlling, the lands of the Ottoman Empire.
The "Great Game," on the other hand, was played in two adjacent
arenas -- in Turkistan- Afghanistan arena, as Russian armies
moved south and the British tried to keep them north of
Afghanistan; and in Iran (also regarded as an approach to India)
with an Anglo-Russian competition for economic concessions and
political influence. The Eastern Question and the Great Game can
not be separated from each other, nor from Russian policy vis a
vis Europe. The confluence of Russia's European policies and its
Asian expansion led to conflict in Asia with England, which was
then protecting her "Jewel in the Crown" -- India. This
competition, in turn, directly involved the Anglo-Russian
dimension of the "Eastern Question" because England regarded the
tsars' ambitions with respect to the Turkish Straits (Dardanelles
and the Bosphorus) as well as Russian expansion in the Caucasus
(partly at the expense of the Ottomans) as threatening to India.
Russian control of the Straits would lead to Russian naval
presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and, thus, at Suez -- one
gateway to India (England had similarly regarded Napoleon's
invasion of Egypt as a threat to India). Expansion in the
Caucasus both weakened the Ottomans as an obstacle to Russian
expansion toward the Mediterranean, and seemed to some in England
as a step toward an overland invasion of India via Iran. Thus in
at least some respects, the Eastern Question might be considered
a part of the Great Game.

It was in the Caucasus that the Eastern Question and the Great
Game were linked directly. Although the major action of the Game
took place in the Turkistan-Afghanistan arena -- paving the way
for the Turkistan National Liberation Movement -- it seems to
have begun with Russian conquests in Caucasia. The first Russo-
Iranian war (1806-13) ending with the Treaty of Gulistan (1813),
the second, ending with Treaty of Turkmanchai (1828), and the
Russo-Ottoman war of 1828 ending in the Treaty of Adrianople
(1829) all resulted in Russian expansion south of the Caucasus
mountains and thus closer to India. Perhaps more worrying for the
British in 1828 were the provisions of the Turkmanchai peace --
Russian goods imported into Iran would be exempt from internal
tariffs; Russian subjects would not be subject to Iranian law;
only Russia could maintain a fleet on the Caspian. The latter
potentially enabled Russian forces to land on the southeast
Caspian shore, closer to Herat (Afghanistan), a potential
stepping-stone to an invasion of India, or so the English feared.

These provisions and the presence of the Russian ambassador in
Tehran made the British fear a Russian-backed Iranian move
against Herat thus linking the Iranian arena to the Turkistan-
Afghanistan arena. The Iranian attack on Herat came in 1837 and
provoked British intervention, which led in turn to the First
Afghan War. The latter resulted in the destruction of the entire
British force. In 1841, the British imposed on Iran a treaty
almost identical to Turkmanchai. Thus proceeded the competition
for political position in the "Iranian arena," a struggle which
would shift into a fight for economic concessions in the last
quarter of the century.

The Russians were further spurred to expansion in Asia after
their humiliating defeat in the Crimean War (1853-56). That war
constituted a European victory over Russian pretensions in the
eastern Mediterranean, including the tsar's claims for privileged
access to the Holy Land as "protector" of the Orthodox in Ottoman
domains (a position first taken by Catherine the Great in the
Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarja [1774]). The humiliation led the
Russians to look for easier victories in Central Asia. The
fragmented Central Asian states, mere remnants of former empires,
proved more vulnerable targets than European rivals. Russian
expansion against them began in 1864 and continued for 20 years.
Military rule was imposed, Christian missionary activity strove
to shape education, literature and publishing. Russian peasants
were settled there, a strategically important railroad leading to
the Far East was begun (entailing many Russian workers who would
be fertile ground for socialist agitation, and some 200,000
Chinese laborers who were later armed by the Bolsheviks against
all National Liberation Movements opposing the Bolsheviks), and
natural resources were extracted. Cotton cultivation was imposed
to compensate for the loss of the U.S. cotton supply in the
1860s. Russia's growing textile industry acquired an alternative
source of cotton; Central Asia lost its food crops and, in the
20th century, would also lose the Aral Sea and their clean
environment due to pesticide poisoning. 

The Russians did not, of course, abandon their ambitions on the
Ottoman frontier, and defeats there again had repercussions in
Central Asia. Russian gains in the Russo-Turkish war of 1875-77
alarmed Europe, but especially Britain, who feared disruption of
her lines of communication with India. The resulting Congress of
Berlin (1878), hosted by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck,
offering himself as "an honest broker," deprived Russia of the
fruits of her victories and awarded the island of Cyprus to the
British, assuring British dominance in the eastern Mediterranean.
Though this arrangement by Bismarck and British Prime Minister
Disraeli soothed British nerves, it angered the Russians. To the
Russians, expansion in Central Asia promised more certain returns
on Russian "investments," and seriously damaged German-Russian
relations thereby paving the way for the Franco-Russian alliance
of the 1890s. 

In the 1890s, the British and Russians negotiated the Russian-
Afghan border, established Afghanistan as an official "buffer"
under English influence in 1907 and thereby called a halt to the
Great Game, at least for the time being. Perhaps Britain had been
pushed to her limit and Russia knew that in a direct military
conflict, victory could not be assured. Certainly both Powers
feared the rise of Germany, not only in Europe and in the
scramble for African colonies, but because Germany was entering
the "Great Game." German interests envisioned a railroad from
Berlin to Beijing, through the length of the Ottoman Empire. Due
to the actual political and military conditions on the ground,
the project was scaled down, and the railroad turned south
towards Baghdad -- still within the Ottoman Empire. Germany would
affect the Turkistan National Liberation Movement a few years
later, albeit indirectly.

The Great Game also had a Far Eastern component manifested in its
advances against China and a series of unequal treaties signed
with Chinese rulers after 1858.

Thus the Turkistan National Liberation Movement constituted an
initiative on the Great Game's "gameboard" not by the "formal"
players, but by the former "pawns," who now sought to retake
control of their homeland and destiny. As indicated by Togan, an
indigenous leader of the Movement, the impetus and organization
were internal. Leaders were local men, they were responding to
decades of abuse in Turkistan by the Russian conquerors. Before
long, however, the Movement would also be affected by leaders
from the outside who had their own experiences with European
leaders in the Eastern Question and the Great Game, and their own
political agendas, which they sought to impose on Turkistan. The
most prominent of these was Enver Pasha, Ottoman general and son-
in-law to the Ottoman ruling family.


Before the First World War, one of the primary hotbeds of free-
thinkers in the Ottoman Empire was Salonica, where the majority
of "radical" publications were also located. It was there that
the young officer Enver was introduced to both the national
liberation movements of Eastern Europeans, and Turkism
(nationalism of the Turks). Enver also apparently joined the
Ittihat ve Terakki (Union and Progress) secret organization
there, one of whose primary aims was to force the Sultan of the
Empire to return to Constitutional Monarchy. It was also the
headquarters of the Ottoman army units that marched into Istanbul
under the self-proclaimed title of "Action Army" to suppress the
recidivist Islamic movement of 1909, known as the 31 March
incident. Staged by the madrasa (roughly, theological-scholastic
school) students and their supporters, the 31 March incident
involved massacres of secular troops by the scholasticists, who
demanded the abolition of everything not in conformity with
Shari'a (canonical law). Among the officers of the "Action Army"
which suppressed that outbreak were Enver, Mustafa Kemal
(Ataturk), and Omer Seyfettin. Enver rose through the ranks
rather rapidly. He served in Germany as military attache (1909-
1911), later married a daughter of the Ottoman Sultan and became
a "Son-in-law" to the Sublime Porte, the Ottoman Court. After the
deposition of Abdulhamid II (ruled 1876-1909), Enver became the
"first among equals" (along with Jemal and Talat) of the Union
and Progress Party triumvirate ruling the Ottoman Empire.

Enver's German connection was significant with respect to the
Turkistan National Liberation Movement for two reasons. First,
Enver's stay in the German Empire brought him into direct contact
with the products of Institutes of Oriental studies, and the
Orientalist professors themselves, especially with the proponents
of "Pan-Turanianism," also called "Pan-Turanism" or "Pan-
Turkism." In fact, some of those scholars were also his official
sponsors and hosts. To that end, the German authorities urged the
Ottoman leadership to adopt "Pan-Turanian" policies and
subsequently, those of the separate Pan-Islamic Movement. Second,
Germany would facilitate Enver's visit to Moscow.

"Pan-Turanianism" or "Pan-Turkism," was formulated and initiated
in Europe -- not in Central Asia -- about the time of the Russian
occupation of Tashkent in 1865. The formulation was the
brainchild of the Hungarian Orientalist and traveller Arminius
Vambery, Professor of Oriental languages. The premise of this
notion was that since the overwhelming majority of the Central
Asians spoke (and still speak) dialects of Turkish, share the
same historical origins and history, "they could form a political
entity stretching from the Altai Mountains in Eastern Asia to the
Bosphorus," where the capital of the Ottoman Empire was located.
This pseudo-doctrine was then attributed to the Turks themselves,
and the Russians and Europeans claimed it was a revival of
Chinghiz Khan's conquests, a threat not only to Russia, but the
whole of Western civilization. It seemed to justify any action
against Central Asia, a new "crusade" in the name of self-

In fact, the doctrine was not embraced in Central Asia. As it is
now known, Vambery was in the service of the British government,
at a time when Britain was embroiled in the Great Game. The fear
of a resurgent Central Asia was echoed in Leon Cahun's history of
the Turks and Mongols the year of the Franco-Russian treaty of
1894 and repeated by the Russians in popular and scholarly
publications. It was not until the first decade of the 20th
century that the notion was received as a "solution" by small
groups of emigres from Central Asia, living in European capitals,
who were working to remove the Russian colonialism. Nonetheless,
it was a successful public relations ploy for its originators in
their dealings with the Western public, and accusations of "Pan-
Turkism" can still be heard. It should not be confused with
Turks' national consciousness, their desire for cultural revival
and political independence based on historical precedent. The
latter, "Turkism," is nationalism, not any different than
English, Irish or French varieties; or the type expressed by the
other nationalities of the Ottoman Empire.

Thus the Germans' attempt to persuade the Ottoman leadership to
embrace this policy before and during World War I reflects
Germany's desire to make political use of such a weapon against
its enemies, the Russians, by appealing to their Turkish
populations. To undermine British control in Central Asia,
another doctrine was revived -- Pan-Islam. The Pan-Islamic
Movement was an anti-colonial political movement of the late 19th
century, and must be distinguished from the "orthodox" Islamic
unity of all believers, the umma. Jamal Ad-Din al-Afghani (1839-
1897) established the movement in its political form, striving to
achieve the political unity of Muslims to fight against
colonialism and the colonial powers. It was popular among Indian
Muslims and in north Africa.  However, the movement also served
the colonial powers well. Painted as a reverse-Crusade -- without
necessarily using the terminology, but through graphic allusions
-- the Colonial powers could mobilize both Western public opinion
and secret international alliances to fight the "emerging
threat." The Germans, after the death of al-Afghani, sought to
make that threat as real as possible for the British in India.

By the outbreak of the First World War, the Germans were
utilizing both the "Pan-Turanian" and the "Pan-Islamic" rhetoric
towards their own ends, from opposite theaters. When the
Bolshevik Revolution took place, the Germans -- already hard
pressed by the Allies -- facilitated (and, according to sources
apparently instigated) Enver's and his colleagues' visit to
Moscow, the second aspect of German influence on Enver. When
Enver finally arrived in Moscow, he proposed to his Bolshevik
hosts an Islamic Army in Central Asia to "liberate India." Such a
military operation, of course, would have tied down substantial
number of Allied troops in India, away from the Western theaters.
Before his clandestine departure from Istanbul, Enver had
dispatched a number of Ottoman officers to Central Asia -- in his
own thinking, to lay the groundwork of a national liberation
movement there. At that time, his former classmates and
colleagues were making preparations for the Turkish War of
Liberation in Asia Minor. 

Enver departed from Istanbul shortly before the occupation of the
Ottoman capital by the joint British, French and Italian forces
in November 1918, after the Armistice. Only the end of the war
opened the Straits to the Allied Fleets. Enver arrived in Berlin
early in 1919; he would eventually make his way to Moscow After
two tries, arriving 16 August 1920.


Before Enver, "...first Halil and Jemal Pashas arrived in Moscow
[May 1920] with the aim of undertaking propaganda on behalf of
'Islamic Revolutionary Society' [now known to have been
headquartered in Berlin]," writes Togan. Togan had already formed
the Secret Society (certainly by 1919, perhaps several years
earlier) as a basis for the Turkistan National Liberation
Movement whose aim was the establishment of an independent
Turkistan -- the movement was unconnected to any other. The
membership of this Society was drawn both from the public and
private figures, included much of the leadership from Kazakh,
Uzbek, Bashkurt unions. These had been formed in 1918 when
Central Asian regions declared autonomy or independence in the
wake of the Bolshevik revolution. These regions were subsequently
attacked by the Bolsheviks. When the northern regions fell to the
Red Army in 1919, the leaders of the Bashkurt, Kazakh and some
Tatar autonomy movements moved south and gathered in Samarkand,
Tashkent and environs. 

By spring 1919 Togan was in Moscow and heading the secret Society
for the liberation of Central Asia. By spring 1920, Togan had
openly broken with the Moscow Bolsheviks and moved to Central
Asia to assume control of the movement. He, like some other
resistance leaders, went in disguise to the Comintern-sponsored
Baku Congress of the Toilers of the East (September 1920), where
Russian control over the Revolution in Asia was reasserted. Enver
spoke at the Congress, but went on an arms-buying trip to Germany
the next month. He returned to Russia only in 1921. 

Togan recorded his meetings during 1920 with Enver's colleagues:
      "We spoke with Halil and Jemal during June 1920. Jemal Pasha
      explained his ideas and urged us to work with him. On 20
      August, Jemal Pasha arrived in Tashkent. His aim was to
      secure the environs of Punjab and to establish an Islamic
      state there. He was going to prepare in Afghanistan. With
      15-20 Ottoman-Turkish officers [he brought with him in his
      retinue], he left for Afghanistan. Jemal told the Bolsheviks
      that he could use the Basmachi for a campaign to overthrow
      the British regime in India. But the Bolsheviks did not
      believe him in the least. We knew all this and the real
      intentions of the Russians through our friends working
      within the Communist Central Committees of Moscow and
      Tashkent. The Russians thought that Jemal Pasha was actually
      preparing an organization to control Turkistan... and wanted
      to keep him between the Indian and Afghanistan borders as a
      last resort for their own policies." 

On 25 January 1921, Central Committee of the Turkistan National
Unity sent a letter to Jemal Pasha, then at Kabul, via a courier:
      "...we ask that your Middle East policies be drawn so as not
      to sacrifice the future of this old Turkistan to plans in
      preparation for the deliverance of the Islamic world....
      Turkistan cannot subsume its future to the as yet unknown
      outcome of forthcoming struggle between capitalism and

Togan continued: 
      "The 'Society' [of the Turkistan National Unity] steadily
      worked towards its goals, despite the paucity of politically
      experienced personnel among its ranks. Active elements of
      the 'Muslim' communists were channeled into the activities
      of the Society. In all of the provinces, members of the
      Society entered into the Soviet Congresses, Communist Party
      meetings. Everywhere, the police (militsia) organizations
      and administrative organs were under the influence of the
      Society. The labor organizations of Bukhara, Tashkent,
      Samarkand and Kokand were under the influence of the members
      of the 'Socialist Tudeh' branch of the Society. This was a
      monumental success and promise for the future of the
      Turkistanis, who were relatively inexperienced in such
      matters. Although the individuals working within the
      government and [communist] party machinery of Khiva,
      Tashkent and Orenburg were not members of the Society, they
      were completely cooperating... Such success of the Secret
      Organization could not have been dreamed, for example,
      during 1917."

Even before the arrival of Enver in Turkistan (September 1921),
Islam still exerted some political force among an increasingly
small portion of the populace. By then, Islam had declined from
its earlier intellectual vitality, had become conservative and
closely associated with powerful individuals, as if a personal
cult. The Emir (ruler) of Bukhara was one such personality. Togan
      "...[prior to the establishment of the 'Society' in
      Turkistan] there were three types of Basmachi: 'Emirists,'
      'somewhat Emirists,' and Anti-Emirists.' The political
      spectrum of the Basmachi did not end there. Jemal Pasha
      wished to manage the problems of Turkistan and the Basmachi
      from Kabul. Enver Pasha, on the other hand was conducting
      pro-Bolshevik 'Union of Islam' (as noted, instigated by
      Berlin) propaganda from Moscow. This had some effect."

The 'Society' had to eliminate the Emir, his brand of
personalized religion and his supporters if they were to succeed
in establishing any kind of unified mechanism to oppose the
Bolsheviks. That did not prove to be easy. Togan observes: 
      Until the establishment of the Society, and while the
      Emirate of Bukhara was still in existence, the Educated
      Turkistanis were not in contact with the Basmachi.
      Basmachi units were largely based on the Kadimist Ulama
      [the scholasticists, not unlike those who staged the
      uprising in Istanbul during 1909] and the elements of
      the fanatics... During the 1917 Representative Council
      elections, the educated were on List Number Four. The
      ulama, opposing the educated, thus labelled them
      'Dorduncu' [Fourth] and engaged in violent 'anti-
      Dorduncu' propaganda. As a result, the majority of the
      younger generation did not trust the Dorduncu during
      1918-1919, particularly since the educated were also
      siding with the soviets. As the hopes of the educated
      were dashed by the Bolsheviks during 1920, they joined
      the ranks of the Society. The abolition of the Bukhara
      Emirate eliminated the reasons preventing the youth
      from any action. Collectively, these developments
      diminished the influence of the ulama on the Basmachi.
      The Society established contacts without any hesitation
      with the Basmachi in Samarkand, Khiva and Ferghana. The
      objective was to shape the movement into a real
      national movement infused with spirit, coupled with
      modern organization, to form military units under the
      command of progressive and educated individuals. To
      this end, educated advisors and some instructor
      officers were sent to them. The Emir of Bukhara
      regarded the Bolsheviks as 'Russia' until his last days
      and attempted to remain 'loyal.' The Emir had disarmed
      Osipov's military unit in Shehrisebz, where it had
      sought protection within his domains.

The Baku Congress of the Toilers of the East also had its effect
on the Turkistan National Liberation Movement, increasing their
resolve to fight the Bolsheviks. The Central Asians had a chance
to see how Bolsheviks came prepared to the Congress, including
resolutions to be made by the gathering. The Bolshevik "security"
had effectively prevented the genuine Central Asian delegates
from even making speeches. In other words, the outcome of the
Congress appeared to have been pre-determined. While the
"Society" was undertaking regular if secret political and
military preparations for a free and independent Turkistan,
"Enver Pasha arrived in Bukhara and sent word that he wished to
speak with me" continues Togan.
      "On 2 October [1921] I met him, and upon his request,
      provided him with the details of the circumstances,
      especially the status of the Society. Enver Pasha's
      arrival in Bukhara, especially his plans were a totally
      unexpected development for us. A few months ago this
      person was engaged in propaganda through the pamphlets
      of 'Union of Islam,' in connection with Jemal Pasha
      advocating cooperation with the Bolsheviks against
      imperialism. Now [he indicated that] he was not only
      taking a position against the Bolsheviks, but
      actually... planned to attack them." 

The tsarist armies had earlier laid down arms and let the
European conflict be acted out among the remaining participants.
The Bolsheviks were in a position, after reorganizing and
regrouping, to shift forces from the western front into
Turkistan. On 11 August 1919, the Turkistan Front was formally
established by the Bolsheviks, with a minimum of 106,000 regular
troops and several generals. By September 1920, Bolsheviks
consolidated their First, Fourth, Fifth armies with the Special
Turkistan Army. Despite all that military force, Bolsheviks were
unable to break the resolve of the Korbashi and the population of
Central Asia. Special projects were needed to effect the results
desired by the Bolsheviks. The "Pan" movement propaganda was the
preferred solution.

Togan suggested that Enver should cross over to Afghanistan and
continue his personal struggle from there, leaving the Society to
continue with its own planned actions. Instead, Enver chose to
take his headquarters to Eastern Bukhara to convene a congress of
the Basmachi there. Vehement but polite objections from the
Society's Central Committee did not affect Enver's decision.
Togan wrote: 
      "That day I learned that this person [Enver] was a
      great idealist, who had not squared himself with events
      in life, and he had not equipped himself with the
      geography and the statistics of Turkistan even from the
      Russian and the European publications. Undoubtedly, he
      had decided on his actions during the twenty three days
      he was resident in Bukhara." 

Apparently Togan was justified in his advice to Enver, for, the
latter was detained by the Emirist forces upon arrival in Eastern
Bukhara. Only after Enver had proclaimed himself "Commander of
the Islamic Forces and Bukhara, Son-in-Law of the Caliph" etc.
and began issuing edicts under those titles he was released from
virtual prison. It was ironic that Enver, who had once fought
against the Scholasticist Recidivists demanding Shari'a in
Istanbul, should collaborate with a similar group, using
religious epithets more than a dozen years later and more than a
thousand miles away. 

The Society decided to stay aloof, and attempted to cope with
this fait accompli as best as it could. The Society was receiving
the details of Enver's actions through its well ordered
intelligence network. The Emirists began taking openly hostile
actions against the known members and units of the Society, and
even endeavored to enter into separate armistice negotiations
with the Bolsheviks. The Society decided to take drastic action,
even considered persuading Enver to cross over to Afghanistan by
any means. Before action could be taken, Enver, the former Deputy
Commander in Chief of the Armies of the Ottoman Empire, was
killed in battle with the Russians. He headed a platoon-sized
force, sword in hand, and was assaulting a machine-gun position.

After Enver's demise, the split caused by the Emirist ulama was
not quick to heal. The Society of Turkistan National Unity
continued the armed struggle against the Bolsheviks and began
gaining the upper hand. Meanwhile, the Paris Peace Conference
ignored Turkistan, her native population and its defenders.
Unlike the independent Azerbaijan Republic (1918-1920)
Delegation, which was received, if only briefly, at the Paris
Peace Conference, the representatives sent to Paris by the
Turkistani leadership never received formal recognition.  The
Turkistan National Movement not only did not receive any outside
help, but was continually harassed via India and Persia. Even
when the aid to the anti-Bolshevik Wrangel Armies through Crimea
(via Istanbul) was being carried out, or Allied and US troops
landed in Arkhangelsk to attack the Bolsheviks (1919), the
Turkistanis were not even considered as allies. The old "Pan-
Turk" and "Pan-Islamic" bogeymen were invoked against them.
Perhaps they were still too close to India. 


When the Central Committee of the Society of Turkistan National
Unity realized that the end of armed struggle portion of their
movement was drawing to a close, they took several actions. The
first was to smuggle out capable and knowledgeable
representatives of their movement, so that they could make the
movement known to the world at large. A second action was to
continue the political side of the movement, to attempt to save
the organization and its members within the Soviet apparatus.
Initially, they succeeded in doing both. 

Several dozen participants in the armed struggle were smuggled
out. Even if those individuals were to stay behind, they could
not have been of any help to the Society. They, unlike those who
did occupy government and party positions under the Bolsheviks,
would have been continually and relentlessly hunted down by
Moscow and its security apparatus, thus becoming a liability to
the Society. Those who emigrated would serve the cause well
outside, mostly from various European capitals. After the Second
World War, the US finally decided to take action. Through the
American Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia
(based in New York), the Coordinating Center for the Anti-
Bolshevik Struggle (Munich) was funded. Even then, the US
policymakers and functionaries appeared not to have fully
appreciated the Turkistan National Liberation Movement, its
implications, goals, methods and organization. The US organizers
continually insisted that all the representatives of those
nationalities living in the USSR should gather within the
Coordinating Center for the Bolshevik Struggle. While the Russian
members of that Committee were held to be in charge by the US
side, the Turkistani representatives were required to work under
the Russians. To the Turkistani representatives, like those of
other nationalities, that was unthinkable. But the US organizers
either did not understand the issues on the ground, or were not
well briefed, despite the well-intentioned efforts of individuals
in regular contact with the emigres. The Committee did not prove
to be very effectual for obvious reasons. The Moscow based
counter-propaganda organizations did not encounter too many
difficulties in splitting the Committee, rendering it useless for
political purposes.

The second goal, saving the political organization and its
membership within the Soviet state, was also accomplished in the
short run. The Turkistan SSR was founded with Tashkent as its
capital. The Society members were still in charge of the critical
offices, or at least had influence over them. The Turkistan SSR,
however, was never intended by Moscow to be a permanent division.
During 1924, the Turkistan SSR was subdivided into Kazakh, Uzbek,
Turkmen Republics. Later subdivisions created the Tajik and the
Kirghiz SSRs, carved out of Uzbek and Kazakh SSRs respectively.
Even then, the membership of the Society was not eradicated until
the full force of Stalinist purges, the Great Terror, had reached
Central Asia. Coming after collectivization and the famine caused
by the mandatory shift to cotton cultivation, this crushing of
the old leadership, which was also the educated elite in society,
was the consummate attack on Central Asia, its leaders, and
through their deaths, on indigenous culture and historical
memory. That was the punishment meted out to Central Asians by
Moscow, for wishing to decide their own fates apart from the


No comprehensive history of the Turkistan National Liberation
Movement exists. There are, however, a number of works dealing
with various aspects of the era. Two volumes by Z. V. Togan are
among the most important: TURKILI TURKISTAN [TURKISTAN AND ITS
RECENT HISTORY] (Istanbul, 1981) 2nd Latin alphabet Edition;
idem, HATIRALAR [MEMOIRES] (Istanbul, 1969). These works were
originally written during the 1920s, while Togan was heavily
involved in organizing the Turkistan National Liberation Movement
efforts in Central Asia. Portions of Togan's volumes pertinent to
the topic at hand have been extracted and translated into
English. See H. B. Paksoy "Basmachi Movement From Within:
Memoires of Z. V. Togan," in NATIONALITIES PAPERS, 1993
(forthcoming) --from which the quotations in the text are taken.
The late Togan's personal library contains additional notes and
unpublished accounts by several significant Korbashi -- such as
Hemrah Kul Bek and Mamur Bek-- from which he quotes in his
volumes. Those papers are as yet unavailable to researchers. 
      Togan's reference to the KOROGLU dastan (ornate oral
history) is not a passing one. Koroglu is an identifiable
historical person who had led a significant socio-political
movement. As far as it is documented, the account of Koroglu can
be dated at least to the 16th century. The Turkmen, Azeris (both
in the USSR and in the present Islamic Republic of Iran) and the
Turks of the current Turkish Republic -- all of whom share common
ethnic and cultural origins with the rest of the Central Asians -
- are well acquainted with KOROGLU. Various fragments of this
dastan have been published at least two dozen times since 1930s
at various locations. Until recently, the Soviet authorities
exerted extraordinary efforts to keep KOROGLU out of print within
the USSR domains. However, the Central Asians re-discovered this
important work and began issuing it despite official attacks upon
it, both in Central Asian dialects and in Russian. Currently the
Central Asian scholars are hard at work in the Academies of
Sciences of the Kirghiz, Uzbek and Kazakh SSR, documenting the
effects of this dastan on the history of Central Asia. A list of
already published volumes, almost exclusively in the Central
Asian dialects, would be too lengthy to include here. For a
discussion of the dastan genre, see the entry in MERSSU. Further,
(Hartford, CT: Association for the Advancement of Central Asian
Research Monograph Series, 1989); idem, "Central Asia's New
Dastans" in CENTRAL ASIAN SURVEY, Vol.6., N.1., 1987; idem,
"Chora Batir: A Tatar Admonition to Future Generations" STUDIES
      Ali Bademci compiled and edited the written and oral
memoires of a score of Korbashi, then living in the Turkish
Republic, and published under the title TURKISTAN MILLI ISTIKLAL
TURKISTAN AND ENVER PASHA] (Istanbul, 1975). A quantity of those
individual memoires upon which Bademci draws, as he notes, were
serialized in periodicals. This volume contains valuable
documentation attesting to the comprehensive organization the
Basmachi constructed. There are oral reports indicating further
memoires are being compiled and edited with a view of publication
by others. A partial list of the earlier compiled memoires
include: Abdullah Recep Baysun, TURKISTAN MILLI HAREKETLERI
(Istanbul, 1943); Mustafa Cokayoglu, 1917 HATIRA PARCALARI
(Paris-Berlin, 1937) Husamettin Erturk, IKI DEVRIN PERDE ARKASI
(Istanbul, 1969); A. Inan, "1916 Yilindaki Ayaklanma" TURK
MILLI PAROLASI (Istanbul, 1973); A. Oktay, "Turkistan Milli
Muhtariyet Hukumeti" DERGI Sayi 19, 1964); Ibrahim Yarkin "Muhtar
Turkistan ve Alas Orda Hukumetleri ile Basmacilik Hareketleri
Hakkinda" TURK KULTURU Sayi 23, 1964; idem, "Turkistanda 1916
Isyani Hakkinda Bazi Bilgiler" TURK KULTURU Sayi 68, 1968.
Bademci's volume contains a more detailed listing, including
unpublished manuscripts and tape-recorded oral histories of the
participants and major events. An English translation of this
work would be instructive. Togan's works append full texts of the
primary programs of the Turkistan National Unity organization,
portions of which may be found in English in H. B. Paksoy,
"Basmachi Movement From Within: Memoires of Z. V. Togan."
Baymirza Hayit's ESIR TURKLER, Sekip Engineri (Tr.) (Ankara,
1966); idem, TURKISTAN IM XX JAHRHUNDERT (Darmstad, 1956) provide
much detail on the Bolshevik countermeasures against the
Turkistan National Liberation Movement, along with copies of
official orders.
      The Soviet organs have issued quite a few books on the
"Basmachi," from their own particular perspective. Marie Broxup
compiled a bibliography containing 205 entries, the majority of
which are such works. See "The Basmachi" CENTRAL ASIAN SURVEY
Vol.2, N.1., 1983. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan induced a
recent interest in the Turkistan National Liberation Movement and
produced additional entries to the bibliography. For preliminary
updates, see H. B. Paksoy in the NATIONALITIES PAPERS. See L.
RUSSIAN NATIONALITIES (Chapel Hill, 1969) for an overview of
"history re-writing" in the Soviet Union, to eradicate the memory
of the Turkistan National Liberation Movement. A. Park's
BOLSHEVISM IN TURKESTAN 1917-1927 (Columbia, 1957) makes use of
large number of Soviet sources on some perspectives of the
      Much has been written on the Eastern Question, from various
aspects: H. Seton-Watson THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE 1801-1917 (Oxford,
1967), and for the continuation, R. Pipes FORMATION OF THE SOVIET
UNION (Harvard, 1957). They complement each other and may be
consulted to acquire a basic outline. The politicians of all
involved nations (except the Ottomans, who were much more the
target than a player) in the Great Game and the Eastern Question
drew upon the knowledge of the most able Orientalists of their
times. Russians imported very capable German scholars to initiate
such efforts in St. Petersburg. See R. N. Frye "Oriental Studies
in Russia" in RUSSIA AND ASIA, Wayne Vucinich (Ed.) (Stanford,
      For the Russians, 1945 was the beginning of the redoubling
of their efforts in this field. Currently, the Soviet Institutes
and Academies of Sciences are continuing their work at breakneck
speed on Oriental Studies. The efforts of the Russians are
documented, even in English. For example, see ASIA IN SOVIET
STUDIES (Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences, 1969); FIFTY YEARS OF
ORIENTAL STUDIES (Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences, 1967). Not
only had the Russians not forgotten, but, they are keenly aware
that they could not afford to, and that their future is tied to
the "East." German interest in Central Asian affairs continued
well into the Second World War, as the advance units of the
Wehrmacht reached Caucasus. See for example Reiner Olzscha and
      The "Great Game in Asia" has been studied by E. Ingram: THE
BEGINNINGS OF THE GREAT GAME IN ASIA 1828-1834 (Oxford, 1979);
1797-1800 (Oxford, 1981); idem, IN DEFENSE OF BRITISH INDIA:
GREAT BRITAIN IN THE MIDDLE EAST 1775-1842 (London, 1984).  
      Many Western and Russian authors wrote of "Pan Turanism,"
ostensibly a movement by Turks to establish hegemony over the
world, or at least Eurasia, after its originator Arminius
Vambery, in his TRAVELS IN CENTRAL ASIA (London, 1865). See his
SKETCHES OF CENTRAL ASIA (London, 1868). See also C. W. Hostler,
TURKISM AND THE SOVIETS (London, 1957), and the works cited by
him. For documentation on Vambery's being in the pay of the
British Government, see M. Kemal Oke "Professor Arminius Vambery
and Anglo-Ottoman Relations 1889-1907" BULLETIN OF THE TURKISH
STUDIES ASSOCIATION Vol. 9, No. 2., 1985, containing references
to documents available in the Public Records Office-London. Among
the "scare literature" perpetuating the "threat" of the doctrine
OF THE MONGOLS, written c. 1240 A. D., however, notes, quoting
Chingis: "Tangri (God) opened the gate and handed us the reins,"
indicating that Chingis regarded only himself ruling by divine
MONGOLS] (A. Temir, Trans.) (Ankara, 1948). 
      Another well-known representative sample is A MANUAL ON THE
Intelligence Department: Oxford, November 1918), a work that was
based on Vambery's TURKENVOLK (Leipzig, 1885). It was compiled by
Sir Denison Ross, as Sir Denison later personally informed Togan.
On this work, see Togan's comments in TURKILI. Earlier, writing
under the pseudonym "Tekin Alp," Moiz Cohen wrote TURAN
(Istanbul, 1914) had added fuel to the fire, when it appeared in
German under the title TURKISMUS UND PANTURKISMUS (Weimar, 1915).
It was secretly translated into English by the British Admiralty,
and heightened the "Pan-Turanian phobia." That English
translation THE TURKISH AND PAN-TURKISH IDEAL (London: Admiralty
War Staff, Intelligence Division, 1917) was originally classified
"secret," for use only within H.M. government, and is still
rather difficult to see a copy of it even in the 1980s. See also
(London, 1981). Landau's book is primarily concerned with the
emigre aspects of "pan-Turkism." 
      Many studies have been made of the so-called language
reforms in the USSR. Among others, see especially Z. V. Togan,
(Oxford, 1954). 
      A biography of Enver was written by Sevket Sureyya Aydemir
1972). Enver left an autobiography. It was utilized by Aydemir.
There is a German translation of Enver's autobiography, located
in the Sterling Library of the Yale University -- also noted by
Glen Swanson "Enver Pasha: The Formative Years" MIDDLE EASTERN
STUDIES, Vol.16, N.3., October 1980. Azade-Ayse Rorlich provides
a further view of Enver in her "Fellow Travelers: Enver Pasha and
the Bolshevik Government 1918-1920" in the JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL
SOCIETY FOR ASIAN AFFAIRS, Vol. XIII (Old Series Vol 69), Part
III, October 1982. Close colleagues and classmates of Enver from
the Ottoman Military academy left memoires in which Enver is
featured prominently. Among those, Marshal Fevzi Cakmak, General
Kazim Karabekir, Ismet Inonu and Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) are
notable. Approximately half of those were written at the height
of Enver's success and powers.
      About the Recidivist Movement of 31 March 1909, Sina Aksin's
31 MART OLAYI (Ankara, 1970) is a good compilation from primary
OF 1908 (Beirut, 1965) by Ernest E. Ramsaur, Jr. contains an
extensive bibliography as well as an overview of the indicated
period, and the "Young Ottomans." On Jamal Ad-Din al-Afghani,
see, inter alia, H. A. R. Gibb, MODERN TRENDS IN ISLAM (Chicago,
1947). A comprehensive "Pan-Islam" bibliography would prove to be
a long-term undertaking in itself. See Nikki Keddie, SAYYID JAMAL
Angeles, 1972). 
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