Edited and Translated
The University of Minnesota
© Iraj Bashiri, 1996
Department of Slavic and Central Asian Languages and Literatures
The University of Minnesota
© Iraj Bashiri, 1996
Although the plans on which the new national relations were established during the socialist era were essentially sound, they were adversely affected by the negative processes prevalent in our society at the various stages of its development. For this reason, it is necessary to analyze the socialist era today and identify the causes of the negative impact on nationality relations. This would assist us in understanding the sources and modes of development, recognize our past mistakes, and evaluate our gains and losses. Until we understand the dynamics of our past actions, it will be impossible to understand our current position.
The Tajiks, the founders of the Samanid superpower of the 9th and 10th centuries, were denied self-government for the next nine centuries. They were included as "people" in various power structures. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, we find them partially incorporated in the general governorship of Russian Turkistan and, partly, in the Emirate of Bukhara. Still another part was incorporated in the kingdom of Afghanistan. The fragmentation of the Tajik people (as was the case with the other peoples of Central Asia) threatened their very historical identity.
In this context, the 1924 national-administrative divisions of Central Asia along ethnic and nationality lines were of world-wide historical significance. The very idea of allocating rulership on the basis of ethnic and national identity was a progressive idea. But today, as we evaluate the development of those progressive ideas, we have to confess that they met with deviations, disinformation, and sabotage-they were diverted from their original track. Indeed, the careless and hasty national-administrative divisions threw the Tajiks to the farthest corners of the Kuhistan region of Central Asia and deprived them of their historical and cultural centers.
The decisions that affected Tajikistan, from the early days of the Soviet government, both in Turkistan and in the People's Soviet Republic of Bukhara, under the guise of Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism were guided by a chauvinistic attitude. Local and party leaders openly supported Pan-Islamist and Pan-Turkist moves against the Tajiks. A group of national-divisionists even promoted the idea of a unified "Turkish" people in Turkistan and demanded the creation of a "Turkish" government and a "Turkish" Communist Party. As a result, many of the documents of the time are "silent" about the existence of the Tajiks, even though numerically the Tajiks were the second largest ethnic group in Central Asia.
The Pan-Turkists were especially critical of the Tajik language which they considered to be out-moded, dead, and a relic of the court systems of the past. They implied that the Tajiks should distance themselves from their past and become Uzbeks. The roots of this discriminatory policy against the Tajiks and the Tajiki language and culture rested deep in the higher organs of the Soviet government.
Of course, the original national principle outlined by Lenin required the achievement of autonomy through a free, public, and knowledgeable self-determination process, i.e., through voting. But this principle was ignored entirely when it came to the division of the land and the peoples of Central Asia. In addition, the commission threatened some communists with dismissal from the Party if they failed to cooperate in getting their planned allocations through. In short, this process placed the right to decide the fate of the peoples of the region in the hands of a group of ten.
The meetings of the national-administrative divisions led by the Pan-Turkist elements were centered entirely on the creation of an autonomous Tajikistan. Only at the very end it was revealed that the strategy had changed to the creation of an autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Thus, in 1924, the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan was established, even though, before 1924, the progressive representatives of the Tajik people had proved, without a doubt, that from the point of view of population and territorial unity Tajikistan deserved to be an independent Soviet republic.
The inclusion, for five years, of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan incurred great losses to the economic and cultural progress of the Tajik nation. The Soviet Union as a whole generously aided Tajikistan as one of its backward regions, but little or none of that aid reached the Tajiks. Infringing upon the rights of the Tajiks-now an appendix to Uzbekistan-the Uzbeks used the Central funds as they saw fit for their own purposes. In other words, rather than spending the money for the purpose that the Center had allocated it, i.e., Tajikistan, it was used by Uzbekistan to develop its own backward regions.
Furthermore, as a result of the same divisions, the most ancient centers of the Tajiks, the cities of Samarqand, Bukhara, and Khujand were made integral parts of Uzbekistan. The national-administrative divisions, in other words, increased the civilizational status of Uzbekistan at the expense of the economic and cultural well-being of Tajikistan.
In 1929, as a result of the expressed demands of the people of Ferghana, the north was included among the territories allocated to the Tajiks. This addition then allowed the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan to become the Independent Republic of Tajikistan.
We believe that this long delay in the creation of the independent Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan was not called for. We further believe that those who promoted the chauvinistic "Great Uzbek" attitude and those who purposefully misinterpreted Lenin's words on the subject of the creation of the nationalities were responsible for this.
Pan-Turkism, with its coercive activities to assimilate the ethnic groups, especially the Tajiks, into a Turkic nation continued even during the time that the Tajiks had their own independent state.
After the establishment of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan within Uzbekistan SSR, the Tajiks were forced to identify themselves as Uzbeks in their passports. Hundreds of letters complaining about socialist and communist members' infringements on the rights of the people and about injustices concerning the choice of national identity remained dormant in the archives. Social injustice and national disinformation are inseparable. The best example of this is the era of stagnation which, in Uzbekistan, is referred to as the "Sharaf Rashidovich Era." It was at this particular time that the activities of the Pan-Turkists were revived and the process of the Uzbekization of the Tajiks reached new heights.
The 1980's efforts, which originally were devised to revive Pan-Turkism, failed to justify the activities of the Pan-Turkists. There were, of course, some progressive strands in their efforts but, in general, these efforts served more to condemn Pan-Turkism than to either revive it or justify it. A number of authors are trying independently to incorporate the realities of our time-instruction of national history, creation of new national groups, bringing together peoples who share the same language-into a Pan-Turkist and Pan-Islamist ideal and use that as the basis for the unification of the peoples of the region.
Until recently, especially during the stagnation period, our nation, including Tajikistan, was reported to have experienced a series of victories in the areas of national and international relations. Of course, it is undeniable that the Tajik people, which was pulled out of feudalism and placed on the road to socialist progress, has achieved a high degree of victory. But research and thorough scientific analysis and investigations during this era of reconstruction have taught us to look at the processes of disinformation and our other shortcomings from a different perspective. During the years prior to the Second World War many important and substantial economic changes took place in Tajikistan. The Russians and the other brother nations' peoples contributed to the connection of the capital of the newly formed republic-Dushanbe-to the trunk line of the Soviet railroads. And the foundation for textile factories and other modern plants were put in place. In reality, the Vakhsh irrigation system became the cause of friendship of our people as, together, we changed the dead Vakhsh lands into the blooming fields they are today. But, in spite of the rapid progress of the nation as a whole in economic and cultural developments, in 1940, Tajikistan was treated as a source of raw materials by the western and central parts of the country. And even though, after World War II Tajikistan became an agro-industrial zone, the distance between it and the nation was in no way reduced; in fact, there was an increase. National statistics dealing with population, population increase, provision of medical facilities, pre-school educational establishments, and other factors place Tajikistan, if not at the very bottom of the list of the republics, definitely at the second to the last position.
The lack of uniformity in the field of economics and the lack of homogeneity in the structure of other fields are all in evidence because the formation of the peoples administration had been completed before the war. Tajikistan made great contributions to the independence of the Soviet Union in cotton production. At the same time, making the raising of cotton the mainstay of agriculture and succumbing to the dictates of monoculture instead of diversified use of land resulted in overuse and the subsequent deterioration of the fields. Rather than developing the economy as a complex system, to gain extra labor points, they developed it along the most simple line. Today, more than 90% of the products resulting from cotton are produced outside the republic. This has been and will continue to be a great loss to the republic.
The republic's socio-economic growth rate is low and is likely to reach even lower. The reason for this decline, which is now visible in all aspects of society, is the republic's demography compared to the general demography of the nation as a whole, in Tajikistan, the number of city dwellers is the least: 35% while that of the villagers is the most: 65% (this number for the country as a whole is 38%).
Before the war, during the building of the socialist state, while the national cadres were being trained for manning the factories and plants, in Tajikistan, the local cadres were being trained for construction, roads, light industry, and food processing. Workers for such essential fields, as heavy industry were invited into the republic from the other republics. This affected the professionalism and the expertise of the Tajik workers in a very negative way.
In the administration of Tajikistan, the rate of the skill of the local workers and the white-collar workers, i.e., Uzbeks and Tajiks, corresponded to the rate of the population. In 1987, in the administration of Tajikistan, the number of workers and white-collar workers was 856.30 thousand. But if we were to analyze this number according to fields, the situation would be very different. The workers from among the original inhabitants would occupy about half of the industrial jobs (until 1977) or about 48.1%; but in glassware production 65.2%, in food production 63.3%; in light industry 51.1%. In fields that are technologically oriented and fields which require exact skills, the rates are much lower than the republic average: in chemical industry the Uzbeks and Tajiks constitute 20.2%; in machine building and metallurgy 28.1%; and in mining 38.9%.
In the process of the building of the socialist state, the Tajiks suffered enormously in terms of losing their intellectuals and being distanced from their rich heritage. This is not to mention the Tajik brain drain that satisfies Uzbek needs. The public repressions that occurred during the late 1920's and early 1930's virtually eliminated the Tajik gene-pools that had come into existence as a result of efforts during the years before and immediately after the Revolution. The years of the great changes and serious deformations affected not only the social and economic aspects, but the very soul of the republic. All mosques were closed. Those who closed them did not even consider that some of those mosques were relics of the past. Many mosques were summarily destroyed.
While this expansive assault on the religion was taking its toll, in order to change the Uzbeks' and the Tajiks' Arabic script in which the Qur'an is written into Latin, they denounced it as an indicator of worship of God. Individuals who owned books in the Arabic script were put in prison or otherwise punished. Thousands, even tens of thousands of manuscripts and lithographs on literature, science, philosophy, law, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and technological works in general were destroyed, depriving present and future generations of their benefit. The learned men, carriers of the heritage of their people, were singled out as "Arabists" and placed in concentration camps. Due to their advanced age, they never left those camps. Those acts liquidated the spiritual base on which the Tajiks today could draw to sustain their culture. Those who had even the slightest potential of transferring the past heritage to the new generations were physically eliminated.
During the years of public repression (latter part of the 1930's), where infringing upon the rights and privileges of individuals was the rule, many of the scientific workers of Tajikistan were singled out as "bourgeois nationalists" and were eliminated for "gravitating towards nationalism." Their crime on the national scene was that they had exposed Pan-Turkist policies and had intended to restore the rights of the Tajiks to their ancient heritage.
Often in relation to the ancient heritage of this or that people there were some excesses. The causes of that were often either "seeking supremacy and pride" or carrying the banner of the so-called pseudo-internationalism. In either case, the outcome was clear: robbing people of their national treasures, pride, and rights. The efforts of some representatives in "presenting their nation as older and culturally richer" at the expense of their neighbors have now become a common phenomenon. At times, during the celebrations honoring Ibn-i Sina, Biruni, Khwarazmi, Nizami, Farabi, and others heated discussions took place among the Central Asians. D. Kunaev, Sh. Rashidov, and their "scientific consultants" tried to turn these celebrations into nationality conflicts among the peoples of the region.
We recall, for instance, that during the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of Abu Ali Ibn-i Sina, the distinguished son of the Tajik people, many efforts were made to cast doubt as to his Tajik identity. The discussions became so heated that it was expressly suggested that the attribute "distinguished son of the Tajik people" be replaced with "Central Asian scientist." And it so happened that the Tajiks accepted the statement of R. N. Nishanov, on the eve of the 19th Party Conference to the reporter from Izvestia about the current misconceptions: "If we speak about respect to our brothers in our multi-national country, then why did we consider Ibn-i Sina one of our own, while we know that, in reality he is a Tajik sage. We consider him ours, because he belongs to our brothers; in that case, does he not belong to us" 1
Unfortunately, this policy of casting doubt about our nation's identity still continues. The best evidence of this is the identification of greats like Samarqandi, Bukharai, Termezi, and others, who rather than being identified by their nationality are being identified by the territory in which they were born. The identity thus created, of course, must be subjected to the fluctuations in the governmental and administrative dynamics of the intervening eras.
A process is thus on the way that promotes the concept that under the rules of internationalism, the learned men of Central Asia, rather than to a particular people, belong to all the peoples of the region.
If, at the present, it is not possible to solve the problems related to national territories, a time must be set at which all the people who live outside their recognized territory can gather, enhance their languages, enjoy their traditions, and participate in the organs of their government. It is recommended that the experience of the formation of the national and cultural festivals at the local centers, where there are concentrations of extra-territorial populations, be continued.
In Tajikistan, all the necessary conditions for a successful development of the languages and cultures of the Uzbeks, Kyrgyzes, Turkmens, and other nationalities living in the republic have been provided and will continue to be provided. To this end, a great deal of effort is being expended on the formation of national territories and local and village soviets in places where such populations are in a majority.
We hope that the administrators of Uzbekistan will follow a similar policy vis-à-vis the over 900,000 (according to Uzbekistan's own perennially incorrect statistics) descendants of Samarqandi and Bukhari citizens whose children had been registered as Uzbek by force. It is high time that those who were registered Uzbek by force be informed about the historical background of their changed ethnicity. They should be allowed to present their documents and choose their desired affiliation without being persecuted by the census officials.
By being sensitive to the needs of the local people and by casting a hard look at the national interests, we can prevent local conflicts among them and solidify their bonds of friendship.
To sum up: We believe that when the ideal expressed in class struggle was put into practice, it resulted in the death of millions of living souls. Put differently, often under the guise of "justice," genocide was committed on a grand scale. We first encounter this kind of treatment when we analyze the civil war in the region. The merciless system of hostage taking during the era of the Red Terror, at the time of the establishment of Soviet rule in Central Asia, resulted in the massacre of the local population which was conveniently singled out as Basmachi. The Red Army summarily killed the inhabitants of whatever village in which the opposition forces stayed. This kind of barbaric policy brings into focus not only the relationship between the local inhabitants and the Soviet government but also between the people and their local representatives. Even today, this attitude is a major factor in the disturbances across ethnic boundaries. The difference is that today, in order to liquidate local resistance, the government is likely to use military force. We have witnessed examples of this in Alma-Ata, Dushanbe, Baku, Yerevan, Vilnius, and Rega. It is for this very reason that it makes sense to form local or national armies in some republics, even though such forces are likely to aggravate rather than calm the situation.
But by far the most dangerous reason for the initiation of conflicts among the peoples is the national-administrative divisions imposed by the Center, divisions that included losses for almost all the peoples of the USSR. The peoples' problem began with Moscow's demarcation lines which opted for a political solution rather than persist in a search for meaningful boundaries.
It is significant to mention that the adverse aspects of the relations between the Center and the independent republics affected the autonomous republics as well. Unfortunately, the fear of the conservative politicians of the Bolshevik Party (mostly killed during the years of the great terror of the 1930's). About the emergence of "little chauvinism" against the local people but at the national level was realized.
There are many examples: the conflicts among the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabagh, Georgians and the Abkhasians in Abkhazistan, and the Georgians and Ossetians in southern Ossettia. As we know, these petty conflicts turned into bloody wars among the contending peoples. The bloodshed continues in Trans-Caucasia and hundreds are killed. The roots of these calamities are buried in the obstinacy of the Center which, at the time of the demarcation of the boundaries and the installation of the governmental structure for these areas ignored the historical, national, religious, and cultural dynamics of the regions and their peoples. For instance, Nagorno-Karabagh was given to Armenia in 1920; it was taken away in 1923 and returned to Azerbaijan. While making these decisions, the people of Nagorno-Karabagh were not consulted. It was during those years that, planned or otherwise, the seeds of conflict between the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis were sown.
As for Abkhazia, its status as a governmental unit was diminished by the Center. This, of course, affected Abkhazia's independence adversely. In the beginning a Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia was formed and, along with the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia formed a federation. But later its independent Soviet status was replaced with autonomous.
The Ossetians were divided between two autonomous structures. In addition, even the autonomous parts were unequal (a Soviet Socialist Republic in Russia and an autonomous unit in Georgia). Efforts to elevate their government resulted in bloodshed, to the dissolution of the autonomy of Ossetia by the parliament of Georgia and, finally, to armed conflict between the Ossetians and the Georgians.
But the clearest example of this type of imposition of territorial demarcation by the Center is evidenced in Central Asia. If in the Caucasus the governments were being assigned to separate peoples (no matter how limited), in Central Asia the policy of "divide and conquer" was brought into full play.
By 1924, the national-administrative divisions of Central Asia were already completed, without public approval. Even the officials of the Central Committee of the Communist party (Bolshevik) were selected from among those sympathetic to the cause of the Pan-Turkists. The Pan-Turkist ideas passed easily from theory to practice. This discriminatory process was used against the Tajiks whose very identity was questioned by the Pan-Turkists. When the Pan-Turkists realized that they could not "silence" the oldest nation of Central Asia, they decided to give the Tajiks the most useless lands in the mountainous region, depriving them of their centers of economy, culture, and history. It is especially noteworthy that to implement the directives the Center openly condoned the falsification of the 1920 and 1926 censuses. This fact is proven by comparing the census taken in Tajikistan in 1897 and again in 1920. 2
The level of discrimination against the Tajiki language by the Uzbek chauvinists reached a stage where, in the 1920's and 1930's, they fined those who spoke in Tajiki. Thousands of Tajiks were forced, by governmental direction, to enter Uzbek for their ethnic affiliation in their passports. All the public institutions of higher learning and cultural centers of the Tajiks were closed. Without a doubt, these are some of the factors that create hostility between the Tajiks and the Uzbeks.
For the time of the demarcation of the boundaries of the republics, the policy of "divide and conquer" was applied to all the peoples of the region. The whole world was disturbed by the meaningless war between the Uzbeks and the Kyrgyzes on the question of Osh in Kyrgyzstan. If the assignment of authority to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan had followed a sober policy, such calamities would not have resulted. Archival sources reveal in full that the territorial divisions of Central Asia were made controversial on purpose so that the region remains a hotbed of conflict and that its republics cannot provide security for their people without recourse to the Center. For decades, all the lands of Central Asia (including Kazakhstan) were closely supervised. Even today the region is pregnant with more inter-ethnic conflicts.
At the present, the following courses for resolving the crisis show themselves: 1) drastic change in the composition of the Union; 2) creation of a confederation; and 3) establishment of a dictatorship.
A more dangerous thing for democracy is a coming together of the Russian-speaking people of many republics and the defeated communist leaders. We have already discussed the struggle of the Russians in the context of the language law. I believe that this situation resulted from a number of misconceptions by the Russians. They consider themselves above the native people, they find learning the native languages beneath themselves, and they refuse to distance themselves from the Russian culture by adopting new ways. Instead, they want the people of the republics to adopt Russian ways and live according to the dictates of the Russian culture.
In conclusion, it should be stated that regardless of the turn that our republic might take, we must learn the historic truth about ourselves. All empires that are founded on repression fall, sooner or later.
A new era will dawn in the history of the people of Tajikistan when, on September 9, 1991, after the announcement of independence by the Supreme Soviet of Tajikistan, the republic of Tajikistan is inaugurated. History will tell what the future will bring.
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