Kazaks and Kyrgyz from Stolypin to Stalin: Colonization, Decolonization and Extermination (1906-1934)

Monday, April 17, 2006
1219 International Affairs Building

Niccolo Pianciola (Postdoctoral Fellow, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University)

Tsarist and Soviet colonization, Soviet «decolonization» and state consolidation are three intermingled processes that are crucial to understand the history of the nomadic regions of modern Central Asia. The paper will encompass a period of uneven expansion (1906-1916), sudden collapse (1917-1920), and reconstruction and consolidation (1921-34) of the Tsarist-Soviet state in the area which corresponds to present-day Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The focus is on Slavic agricultural settlement in a region inhabited by Kazakh and Kyrgyz pastoralists, and on the relations of peasant and pastoral communities between them and with the state. The paper examines peasant immigration before World War I and the conflicts that arose with the nomads over land use. After the great Central Asian rebellion of 1916, which became a land war between pastoralists and Slavic peasants, it deals with the conflicts during the civil war. In 1921-22, Bolsheviks pacified the region by means of a land reform, when «decolonizing» measures were taken. In 1928, a new period of crisis began. It involved collectivization, forced sedentarization of the nomads, and a famine that killed more than one third of the Kazakh population in 1931-33. Collectivization and sedentarization will be analyzed through the interplay of «administrative-utopian» projects, Soviet nationalities policies and state consolidation in the Soviet periphery.

Niccolò Pianciola received his doctorate in History from the Scuola Europea di Studi Avanzati in Naples (Italy) in 2005, and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. His most recent academic publication, entitled "Famine in the Steppe. The Collectivization of Agriculture and the Kazak Herdsmen, 1928-1934", appeared in Cahiers du monde russe in 2004.