The Basmachi Movement. a History

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Breve historia del Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (Per)

Basmachi Movement. A HistoryFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

TheBasmachi movement(Russian:,Basmachestvo) orBasmachi Revoltwas an uprising againstRussian ImperialandSovietrule by the Muslim, largelyTurkicpeoples ofCentral Asia.

The movement's roots lay in the 1916 violence that erupted over conscription of Muslims by the Russian Empire for service inWorld War I.[9]In the months following theOctober 1917 Revolution, renewed violence developed into a major uprising centered in theFerghana Valley, soon spreading across all of SovietTurkestan. Guerrilla and conventional warfare lasted for years in various regions, and the violence was both anti-Soviet and anti-Russian.

After majorRed Armycampaigns and concessions regarding economic andIslamicpractices in the mid-1920s, the military fortunes and popular support of the Basmachi declined.[10]Although resistance flared up again in response tocollectivization,[11]theSovietizationof Central Asia proceeded apace and the struggle ended.


1Summary 2Character of the movement 3Economic and historical background 4Origins of the conflict 5The Kokand autonomy and the start of hostilities 6First phase of the revolt in the Ferghana Valley 7The Basmachi in Khiva and Bukhara 8Enver Pasha and the height of the Basmachi movement 9The defeat of the movement 10Intermittent Basmachi operations after the Soviet victory 11Aftermath 12In popular culture 13References 14Further readingSummaryThe pattern for resistance to Russian rule was set by the ethnic violence of the 1916 uprising. After theBolsheviksseized power in 1917 and the Russian Civil War began, Turkestani Muslim political movements attempted to cooperate with the BolshevikTashkentSoviet, forming theKokandAutonomous Government in theFerghana Valley. The Bolsheviks launched an assault on Kokand and carried out a general massacre, sparking an uprising that seized control of Ferghana and much of Turkestan. Basmachi movements also experienced success inKhivaandBokharawhen the Bolsheviks overthrew the Muslim regimes there.

The fortunes of the decentralized movement fluctuated throughout the early 1920s, based on whether the Soviets were offering religious and economic concessions or were provoking the populace with harsh policies. A former Turkish generalEnver Pashajoined the Basmachi and led the movement at its height. He was killed in battle, however, and extensive campaigns by veteran Red Army units dealt the Basmachi many defeats. A round of more serious religious concessions started to win over the war-weary population and the Basmachi movement eventually withered away.

Character of the movementThe Basmachi movement was anational liberation movement[12]that sought to end foreign rule over the Central Asian territories then known as Turkestan, and also the protectorates of Khiva and Bokhara. "Basmach" is a Turkic word which refers to a bandit or marauder, such as the bands of thieves that preyed on caravans in the region.[13]The term Basmachi was often used in Soviet sources because of its pejorative meaning.[14]The Soviets portrayed the movement as being composed of brigands motivated byIslamic fundamentalism, waging acounterrevolutionarywar with the support of British agents.[15]In reality, the Basmachi were a diverse and multi-faceted that received negligible foreign aid. The Basmachi were not viewed favorably byWestern Powers, who saw the Basmachi as potential enemies due to thePan-TurkistorPan-Islamistideologies of some of their leaders. However, some Basmachi groups received support from British and Turkish intelligence services and in order to cut off this outside help, special military detachments of the Red Army masqueraded as Basmachi forces and successfully intercepted supplies.

Although many fighters were motivated by calls forjihad,[16]the Basmachi drew support from many ideological camps and major sectors of the population. At some point or another the Basmachi attracted the support ofJadidreformers, pan-Turkic ideologues and leftist Turkestani nationalists.[17]Peasants and nomads, long opposed to Russian colonial rule, reacted with hostility to anti-Islamic policies and Soviet requisitioning of food and livestock. The fact that Bolshevism in Turkestan was dominated by Russian colonists in Tashkent[18]made Tsarist and Soviet rule appear identical. The ranks of the Basmachi were filled with those left jobless by poor economic conditions, and those who felt that they were opposing an attack on their way of life.[19]The first Basmachi fighters were bandits, as their name suggests, and they reverted to brigandage as the movement fizzled later on.[20]Although the Basmachi were relatively united at certain points, the movement suffered from atomization overall. Rivalry between various leaders and more serious ethnic disputes betweenKyrgyzandUzbeksorTurkmenposed major problems to the movement.

Economic and historical backgroundRussian Turkestan was ruled from Tashkent as aKraior Governor-Generalship. To the east of Tashkent, theFerghana Valleywas an ethnically diverse, densely populated region that was divided between settled farmers (often calledSarts) and nomads (mostly Kyrgyz). Under Russian rule, it was converted to a major cotton-growing region.[21]The resulting economic development brought some small-scale industry to the region, but the native shop workers were worse off than their Russian counterparts, and the new wealth from cotton was spread very unevenly. On the whole, living standards did not improve, and many farmers became indebted.[22]Cotton price fixing during the First World War made matters worse, and a large, landless rural proletariat soon developed. Muslim clergy decried the gambling and alcoholism that became commonplace, and crime rose considerably.[23]Many criminals organized into bands, forming the basis for the early Basmachi movement when it began in the Ferghana Valley.[24]Origins of the conflictMajor violence in Russian Turkestan broke out in 1916, when the Tsarist government ended its exemption of Muslims from military service. The result was a general revolt, centered in modern-dayKazakhstanandUzbekistan, which was only put down by martial law. Tensions between Central Asians (especially Kazakhs) and Russian settlers led to large-scale massacres on both sides. Thousands died, and hundreds of thousands more fled, often into neighboringRepublic of China.[25]The 1916 rebellion was the first anti-Russian incident on a mass scale in Central Asia, and it set the stage for native resistance after the fall ofTsar Nicholas IIin the following year.[26]The Kokand autonomy and the start of hostilitiesIn the aftermath of theFebruary Revolution, Muslim political forces began to organize. Members of the All-Russian Muslim council formed theShura-i Islam (Islamic Council), a Jadidist body that sought a federated, democratic state with autonomy for Muslims.[27]More conservative religious scholars formed the Ulema Jemyeti (Board of Learned Men), more concerned with safeguarding Islamic institutions andSharia law. Together, these Muslim nationalists formed a coalition, but it fell apart after the October Revolution, when the Jadids lent their support to the Bolsheviks who had seized power. TheTashkent Soviet of Soldiers' and Workers' Deputies, an organization dominated by Russian railway workers and colonial proletarians, rejected Muslim participation in government. Stung by this apparent reaffirmation of colonial rule, the Shura-i Islam reunited with Ulema Jemyeti to form the Kokand Autonomous Government. This was to be the nucleus of an autonomous[28]state in Turkestan, governed by Sharia law.[29]The Tashkent Soviet initially recognized the authority of Kokand, but restricted its jurisdiction to the Muslim old section of Tashkent, and demanded the final say in regional affairs. After violent riots in Tashkent, relations broke down, and despite the leftist leanings of many of its members, Kokand aligned itself with theWhites.[30]Politically and militarily weak, the Muslim government began looking around for protection. To this end, a band of armed robbers led by Irgash Bay were amnestied and recruited to defend Kokand.[31]This force, however, was unable to resist an attack on Kokand by the forces of the Tashkent Soviet. Red Army soldiers andArmenianDashnaksthoroughly pillaged Kokand, carrying out what was described as a "pogrom,"[32]in which as many as 14,000 people died.[33]This massacre, along with the execution of many Ferghana peasants who were suspected of hoarding cotton and food, incensed the Muslim population. Irgash Bay took up arms against the Soviets, declaring himself "Supreme Leader of the Islamic Army", and the Basmachi rebellion started in earnest.[34]Meanwhile, Soviet troops temporarily deposed Emir Sayeed Alim Khan of Bokhara in favor of the leftist Young Bokharans faction led by Faizullah Khojaev. Russian troops were repulsed by the populace after a period of looting, and the Emir retained his throne for the moment.[35]In the Khanate of Khiva, Basmachi leader Junaid Khan overthrew the Russian puppet and suppressed the modernizing movement of the leftist Young Khivans.[36]First phase of the revolt in the Ferghana ValleyIrgash's claims to leadership of an army of the faithful won recognition by the clergy of the Ferghana Valley, and he soon controlled a sizable fighting force. Widespreadnationalizationcampaigns carried out from Tashkent had caused economic collapse, and the Ferghana Valley faced famine in absence of grain imports. All these factors drove people to join the Basmachi. The Tashkent Soviet was unable to contain the insurgency, and the end of 1918 decentralized bands of fighters, totaling roughly 20,000, controlled Ferghana and the countryside surrounding Tashkent. Irgash faced rival commanders such as Madamin Bay, who was supported by more moderate Muslim factions, but he secured formal, nominal leadership of the movement at a council in March 1919.[33]With Tashkent in a vulnerable military position, the Bolsheviks left Russian settlers to organize their own defense. This often involved brutal reprisals for Basmachi attacks by Soviet forces and Russian farmers both.[34]The harsh policies ofWar Communism, however, caused the peasants army to sour on the Tashkent Soviet. In May 1919, Madamin Bay formed an alliance with the settlers, entailing a non-aggression pact and a coalition army. The new allies made plans for establishing a joint Russian-Muslim state, with power sharing arrangements and cultural rights for both groups.[37]

HYPERLINK "" \l "cite_note-38" [38]Disputes over the Islamic orientation of the Basmachi led to the break-up of the alliance, however, and both Madamin and the settlers suffered defeats at the hands of the MuslimVolga TatarRed Brigade.[39]The inhabitants of the Ferghana Valley were exhausted after the punishing winter of 1919-20, and the Madamin Bay defected to the Soviet side in March.[40]Meanwhile, famine relief reached the region under the more liberalNew Economic Policy, while land reform and amnesty placated Ferghana residents. As a result, the Basmachi movement lost control of most populated areas and shrank overall.

The pacification of Ferghana did not last long. During the summer of 1920 the Soviets felt secure enough to requisition food and mobilize Muslim conscripts. The result was a renewed uprising and new Basmachi groups proliferated, fueled by religious slogans.[41]Renewed conflict would see the Basmachi movement spread across Turkestan.

The Basmachi in Khiva and BukharaIn January 1920, the Red Army captured Khiva and set up a Young Khivan provisional government. Junaid Khan fled into the desert with his followers, and the Basmachi movement in the Khworezm region was born.[42]Before the end of the year, the Soviets deposed the Young Khivans government, and the Muslim nationalists fled to join Junaid, strengthening his forces considerably.[43]In August of that year, the Emir of Bokhara was finally deposed. From exile inAfghanistan, the Emir directed the Bokhara Basmachi movement, supported by the angry populace and clergy. Fighters operating on behalf of the Emir were under the command of Ibrahim Bay, a tribal leader.[44]Basmachi forces operated with success in both Khiva and Bokhara for an extended period. The insurgency also began spreading to Kazakhstan, as well as theTajikand Turkmen lands.[45]Enver Pasha and the height of the Basmachi movementIn November 1921, Generalsmail Enver, former Turkish war minister, arrived in Bokhara in order to assist the Soviet war effort. Instead of doing so, he defected and became the single most important Basmachi leader, centralizing and revitalizing the movement.[44]Enver Pasha intended to create a pan-Turkic confederation encompassing all of Central Asia, as well asAnatoliaand Chinese lands.[44]His call for jihad attracted much support, and he managed to transform the Basmachi guerillas into a formidable army of 16,000 men. By early 1922, a considerable part of theBukharan People's Soviet Republic, including Samarkand and Dushanbe, was under Basmachi control. Meanwhile,DunganMuslim Magaza Masanchi formed the Dungan Cavalry Regiment to fight for the Soviets against the Basmachi.[46]The defeat of the movementNow fearing the total loss of Turkestan, the Soviet authorities once again adopted a double strategy to crush the rebellion: political reconciliation and cultural concessions along with overwhelming military power. Religious concessions reinstated Sharia law, whileKoranschools andwaqflands were restored.[47]Moscow sought to indigenize the fight with the creation of a volunteer militia composed of Muslim peasants, called the Red Sticks, and it is estimated that 15-25 percent of Soviet troops in this region were Muslim.[7]The Soviets primarily relied on thousands of regular Red Army troops, veterans of the Civil War, now bolstered byair support. The strategy of concessions with airstrikes was successful, and when in May 1922 Enver Pasha rejected a peace offer and issued an ultimatum demanding that all Red Army troops be withdrawn from Turkestan within fifteen days, Moscow was well prepared for a confrontation. In June 1922 Soviet units led by General Kakurin defeated the Basmachi forces in the Battle of Kafrun. The Red Army began to drive the rebels eastwards, retaking considerable territory. Enver himself was killed in a failed last-ditch cavalry charge on August 4, 1922, near Baldzhuan in present-dayTajikistan). His successor, Selim Pasha, continued the struggle but finally fled to Afghanistan in 1923.

A Basmachi presence remained in the Ferghana Valley until 1924, and fighters there were led by Kurshirmat, who had renewed the revolt in 1920. British intelligence reported[48]that Kurshirmat possessed forces of 5,000-6,000 men. After years of war,...