The History of a National Catastrophe

Rahim Masov

Edited and Translated
Iraj Bashiri

The University of Minnesota
Department of Slavic and Central Asian Languages and Literatures

© Iraj Bashiri, 1996

The Condition of the Tajiks in the People's Soviet Republic of Bukhara

The configuration of the Tajik nation and its governance, like those of some other peoples, required that they be placed across two republics. During the short existence of the ASSRT, as we have seen, the desired formation was not achieved. But could the problem be resolved by placing them in the People's Soviet Republic of Bukhara (PSRB), especially when some scholars claim that the PSRB was a national Tajik government? The answer is no. In fact, there is no truth in the statement that the PSRB was a Tajik government.

After the establishment of the PSRB and the initiation of the national-administrative divisions in Bukhara, too, the rights of the Tajiks, the largest population group, were infringed upon. Some scholars claim that Eastern Bukhara was an autonomous administrative unit formed of a single people (Tajiks); they claim that it had local (Tajik) administrative officials, 1 and that it was autonomous within the Soviet Republic of Bukhara. Nothing can be farther from the truth. There is not a shred of evidence supporting these claims. No documents exist that distinguish Eastern Bukhara as an autonomous part of the PSRB. If these scholars are considering the activities of the Extraordinary All-Bukhara Dictatorial Commission in Eastern Bukhara, they should know that that Commission dealt with two separate and different issues: one was neutralizing the activities of the mujahidin who fought against the Red Army and the other was the normalization of the political climate in Eastern Bukhara. Besides, the establishment of the Extraordinary Dictatorial Commission was not a feature of Eastern Bukhara alone. Similar commissions were sent to all the regions of the country where their history was complex and where the political and the military needs of the region required their presence. The Extraordinary Dictatorial Commissions were assigned by the influential organs-the Central Committee of the Union, the Soviet of People's Supervision, and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union-as temporary governmental units. They served for about two years and did not resolve even a single political or economic problem. Neither did they deal with the nationality questions in a satisfactory manner. In fact, that might be the factor that hastened their dissolution.

According to the decree of the 4th Assembly of all-Bukhara Soviets (11-17 October, 1923), certain degrees of autonomy and administrative rights were granted to areas inhabited by Turkmens. The decree reads as follows, "In order to bring the Turkmen people closer to the government and grant them the ways and means to organize themselves, after hearing the statements of the inhabitants, the 4th Assembly decrees that:

  1. Turkmen-inhabited regions like Charju and Utala-Tiran should be separated and given to the Central Executive Committee of Turkmenistan, a body elected by the Turkmens themselves;
  2. The Central Executive Committee should be directed to prepare a constitution outlining the special rights of the Central Executive Committee of Turkmenistan." 2
A similar decree was accepted for the Kyrgyzes and the Kazakhs. It stated, "Having heard the statements about the Kyrgyz-Kazakh situation, the 4th Assembly decrees that:
  1. A Kyrgyz-Kazakh revolutionary committee should be formed to administer the affairs of the Kyrgyz-Kazakhs of Bukhara, Nurata, and Charju. The committee, located in Utala-Tiran, should pave the way for a peoples' government and an executive committee;
  2. To bring the interests of the Central government even closer to the Kyrgyz-Kazakh people and for the protection of their political and economic rights by the Central Executive Committee, a Kyrgyz-Kazakh section should be opened in the Central Executive Committee. The assignment of the tasks and responsibilities for the body should be undertaken by the Central Committee;
  3. The representatives of the Kyrgyz-Kazakhs should be admitted to the Education Board for National Minorities and necessary steps should be taken for the reorganization of the cultural affairs of the Kyrgyz-Kazakh. For the resolution of the judicial questions among the Kyrgyz-Kazakh peoples, judicial organs, consisting of a director and two members, must be established. The Kyrgyz-Kazakh Executive Committee must be granted the right to sanction elections. The number of such organs is to be determined by the Executive Committee." 3
In relation to Eastern Bukhara, the inhabitants of which are Tajik, the 4th Assembly of the PSRB stated the following, "The government's policy of bridging the gap between the inhabitants of the region and the government must be followed and establishment of official organs close to the people must be considered." 4 There is no mention in the minutes of granting Eastern Bukhara either a degree of local autonomy or national recognition.

A most astonishing thing about these meetings, all of which dealt with the affairs of the peoples of Bukhara, is that they never mentioned the Tajiks, as if the Tajiks did not exist. Further evidence of this exclusion is revealed by the minutes of the Dictatorial Commission on Eastern Bukhara; they are all written in the Uzbeki language. Here too, as was the case in the PSRB, a policy of excluding the Tajiks and their rights was in effect.

In a way, Turkistan and the Emirate of Bukhara played a complementary role for the Turks. The former was the breeding ground for a nationalist movement, Pan-Turkism, inspired by Tatar nationalist elements, the Young Turks, and the bourgeois elements gravitating towards a Turkish identity. The latter, before the establishment of the Republic of Bukhara, had Pan-Islamism as the center of its governmental ideology. Being of Sunni faith, the Central Asian intellectuals and the religious personages of Turkistan and Bukhara followed the learned men of Istanbul and Kazan. After traveling in these places, either as visitors or as students, they returned to Turkistan with the most radical brands of Pan-Turkism. Among those intellectuals there were also many Tajiks who, due to their religious allegiance, preferred Turkey over Iran; even though, from a linguistic and cultural standpoint as well as from the standpoint of their ancient heritage they should have gravitated towards Iran. But, as was explained above, no matter which sect of Islam they belonged to, their activities were detrimental to the interests of Tajik national unity. Tatar and Turkish missionaries had entered Central Asia and remained there as teachers and educators from the time of the Russian annexation of the region. During the Revolution and the Civil War, military consultants and Soviet and Party employees, sympathetic to the cause of the Pan-Turkists, made a concerted effort to create conflicts among the Russians, other Slavic peoples, Tajiks, Iranians, and the Indo-European kin folks in general. At the same time, there were differences between the Pan-Islamists and the Pan-Turkists. For its center of gravity, the former gravitated to Afghanistan and the Arab world while the latter gravitated to Turkey. In addition, the Pan-Islamists' principal objective was promotion of belief in Islam (Sunni sect), while the Pan-Turkists had promoted ethnicity (union of all Turks). Both groups had developed deep roots in Central Asia, at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, especially among Muslim intellectuals. In fact, a money-lending bourgeoisie had come into existence among whom some Tajiks were regarded very highly.

After the establishment of the PSRB, the majority (if not all) of the members of the administration, the revolutionary committee, and other Soviet bodies were chosen from among the Uzbeks; even the majority of the Tajiks chosen, according to the available documents, were Uzbek-Tajiks. Those who did not change their affiliation were denied positions in the government. 5

Until October 29, 1920, there were only three Tajiks in key administrative positions in the PSRB. Of these, two were in the Revolutionary Tribunal and one (Abbas Aliev) was the Superintendent of Education. 6 Only those Tajiks who registered themselves as Uzbeks were allowed to serve in leadership positions. For example, neither the Party Secretary of Bukhara Communist Party, Ahmadbek Mevlanbekov, 7 nor the Director of the Bukhara Economics Soviet, Abduqadir Muhiddinov was Tajik. 8

The majority of scholars accept that there was discrimination both in the PSSRT and in the PSRB. They also accept that the deciding factor was not job performance but nationality. Regionalism, which at the time had assumed an Uzbek chauvinistic form in Bukhara, Khwarazm, and other places, was the chief stumbling block in the way of recruiting and developing Marxist cadres in these republics! 9

It is for this reason that, in the resolution of the 12th Session of the Communist Party (b) of Russia (April 1923), it was stated, "In certain multi-national republics, defensive regionalism has changed to offensive regionalism; in these republics, the chauvinism of the powerful ethnic groups is pitched against the vulnerability of the weak. For example, the chauvinism of the Georgians (in Georgia) against the Armenians; the Ossetians against the Abkhazians; the Azerbaijanis (in Azerbaijan) against the Armenians; and the Uzbeks (in Bukhara and Khwarazm) against the Turkmens and the Kyrgyzes (and the Tajiks, as well-R.M.). ... The transformation of these survivals into varieties of powerful local chauvinism with the intent to oppress the smaller communities, had forced the Party to alert its cadres to rise against them." 10

The calculated and perennial claim of the Soviet and Party leaders that, like in Turkistan, the original people of Bukhara were the Uzbeks, Turkmens, and Kyrgyzes was so effective that J. V. Stalin in his speech to the 12th Assembly of the Communist Party (b) of the Union enumerated only those three peoples-excluding the Tajiks-as the original peoples of the region. He did not even mention the Tajiks. 11 On the other hand, in 1924, when the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan was established, Stalin made it known, for the first time, that he was acquainted with the history of the Tajiks. He congratulated the Tajiks for establishing their own republic at the gate of India. Many years later, after the Second World War, in a conversation with Babajan Ghafurov, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Tajikistan, Stalin recalled that, in 1924, the Tajiks themselves had been against the establishment of a Soviet Socialist Republic of their own. He attributed the shortcoming to Abdullah Rahimbaev. 12 The reason for this will be explained further below.

It is obvious that the division among the leaders of Bukhara creating a "Right," "Left," and "Center," situation-affected the resolution of the political and economic problems of the republic. V. V. Kuybishev 13 was the first to draw attention to this personalization of the internal conflicts in the Communist Party of Bukhara, divisions that led to espionage and counter-espionage. With regard to this issue, G. K. Orjanikidzi, 14 addressing the Assembly of the Communist Activists of Bukhara, in 1922, said, "We must do all we can to stop the government of Faizullah 15 from being consolidated. We must not only eliminate the anti-revolutionary forces that surround him but deprive him of the use of his relatives in administration as well. Until this time Faizullah's criteria for employment had been blood relationship and friendship. This situation must come to an end and conscientious individuals, irrespective of affiliation to groups to the left or to Abdulqadir Muhiddinov must be employed. I realize, of course, that this is not an easy problem to solve." 16

After the establishment of the Republic of Bukhara, the representatives of the three Pan-Turkist groups assumed the key leadership positions. In the judicial branch, the section dealing with the national rights of the people of Bukhara was relegated to the Turkish Prisoners of War and others who had entered Central Asia without a permit. The Party and Soviet branches were led by people who had been sent from the ASSRT (representing the Uzbeks, Tatars, and Bashkirds of Turkistan) and by individuals who were very heavily influenced by the promoters of Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism in the region.

Most of the famous intellectuals of the Tajiks' recent history (some refer to them as the jadids), especially those who had studied in Istanbul, along with their learning, imported new, Pan-Turkist notions to Central Asia. They held discussions during which they announced that Central Asia was Turkistan, i.e., Central Asia was the homeland of the Turks, intimating that the Tajiks did not belong there. Among them were some Tajik intellectuals who kept their identity a secret. They did not even try to support the cause of the Tajiks in the newly-formed republics of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Turkistan and the People's Soviet Republic of Bukhara. That is why when the conditions were favorable and the Uzbeks, Turkmens, Kyrgyzes, Europeans, even the Jews of Bukhara had found their own ethnic identity, the Tajiks were denied recognition. The names of the Tajiks were not entered in any of these official documents.

The Pan-Turkists occupied all the key positions in the Party and in the Soviet organs of power. Sharing the same religion and speaking the same language allowed them to integrate themselves into the Turkish-speaking population. In almost all the newly-established schools of the Republic of Bukhara, including in areas where the principle inhabitants were Tajik, classes were taught by Turkish teachers. Turkish became the medium of instruction; Tajik children were forced to study in a language they did not know. They were not allowed to use Tajiki even outside the classroom, during their free time. Additionally, they were forced to register themselves as Uzbeks. Families that refused to register themselves as prescribed were forced out of their birthplace. In Bukhara, Samarqand, Khujand, and other cities, Tajik children were taught Turkish songs. In the national military, soldiers took their orders in Turkish. It is this rush to Turkicization that is translated into Uzbekization in subsequent years. Tajik students had to memorize the war anthem in Turkish:

This poem illustrates the type of ideas that the Pan-Turkists promoted in the schools of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Turkistan and in the People's Soviet Republic of Bukhara.

The Tajiks' lack of concern, especially their cosmopolitanism, cost them dearly. They were deprived of the use of their language, of achieving an independent republic, and of their historical and cultural centers. The matter does not end there either. The national-administrative divisions placed the ancient Tajik cities in the People's Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan, where a policy of forced Uzbekization-under threat of exile for nonconformity-forced them to change their identity into Uzbeks. The Uzbeks used every excuse to close Tajik schools. And, the Tajiks were not appointed to leadership positions simply because of their ethnic affiliation.

The threat of the formation of a major unified Turkish front in Central Asia (against the Center and Russia) and a relative weakening of the economic relations that bound the Central Asian republics to the Soviet Union dictated the need for the implementation of a new policy in Central Asia. That policy is known as the national-administrative divisions policy.

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