Russian rule brought important changes in Central Asia, but many elements of the traditional way of life scarcely changed. In the part of what is now Tajikistan that was incorporated into the Guberniya of Turkestan, many ordinary inhabitants had limited contact with Russian officials or settlers before 1917. Rural administration there resembled the system that governed peasants in the European part of the Russian Empire after the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Local administration in villages continued to follow long-established tradition, and prior to 1917 few Russians lived in the area of present-day Tajikistan. Russian authorities also left education in the region substantially the same between the 1870s and 1917.
An important event of the 1870s was Russia's initial expansion of cotton cultivation in the region, including the areas of the Fergana Valley and the Bukhoro Khanate that later became part of Tajikistan. The pattern of switching land from grain cultivation to cotton cultivation, which intensified during the Soviet period, was established at this time. The first cotton-processing plant was established in eastern Bukhoro during World War I.
Some elements of opposition to Russian hegemony appeared in the late nineteenth century. By 1900 a novel educational approach was being offered by reformers known as Jadidists (jadid is the Arabic word for "new.") The Jadidists, who received support from Tajiks, Tatars, and Uzbeks, were modernizers and nationalists who viewed Central Asia as a whole. Their position was that the religious and cultural greatness of Islamic civilization had been degraded in the Central Asia of their day. The Tatars and Central Asians who shared these views established Jadidist schools in several cities in the Guberniya of Turkestan. Although the Jadidists were not necessarily anti-Russian, tsarist officials in Turkestan found their kind of education even more threatening than traditional Islamic teaching. By World War I, several cities in present-day Tajikistan had underground Jadidist organizations.
Between 1869 and 1913, uprisings against the amir of Bukhoro erupted under local rulers in the eastern part of the khanate. The uprisings of 1910 and 1913 required Russian troops to restore order. A peasant revolt also occurred in eastern Bukhoro in 1886. The failed Russian revolution of 1905 resonated very little among the indigenous populations of Central Asia. In the Duma (legislature) that was established in St. Petersburg as a consequence of the events of 1905, the indigenous inhabitants of Turkestan were allotted only six representatives. Subsequent to the second Duma in 1907, Central Asians were denied all representation.
By 1916 discontent with the effects of Russian rule had grown substantially. Central Asians complained especially of discriminatory taxation and price gouging by Russian merchants. A flashpoint was Russia's revocation that year of Central Asians' traditional exemption from military service. In July 1916, the first violent reaction to the impending draft occurred when demonstrators attacked Russian soldiers in Khujand, in what would later be northern Tajikistan. Although clashes continued in various parts of Central Asia through the end of the year, Russian troops quickly brought the Khujand region back under control. The following year, the Russian Revolution ended tsarist rule in Central Asia.
In the early 1920s, the establishment of Soviet rule in Central Asia led to the creation of a new entity called Tajikistan as a republic within the Soviet Union. In contrast to the tsarist period, when most inhabitants of the future Tajikistan felt only limited Russian influence, the Soviet era saw a central authority exert itself in a way that was ideologically and culturally alien to the republic's inhabitants. The Tajik way of life experienced much change, even though social homogenization was never achieved.
Creation of Tajikistan
After establishing communist rule throughout formerly tsarist Central Asia in 1924, the Soviet government redrew internal political borders, eliminating the major units into which the region had been divided. The Soviet rationale was that this reorganization fulfilled local inhabitants' nationalist aspirations and would undercut support for the Basmachis. However, the new boundaries still left national groups fragmented, and nationalist aspirations in Central Asia did not prove as threatening as depicted in communist propaganda.
One of the new states created in Central Asia in 1924 was Uzbekistan, which had the status of a Soviet socialist republic. Tajikistan was created as an autonomous Soviet socialist republic within Uzbekistan. The new autonomous republic included what had been eastern Bukhoro and had a population of about 740,000, out of a total population of nearly 5 million in Uzbekistan as a whole. Its capital was established in Dushanbe, which had been a village of 3,000 in 1920. In 1929 Tajikistan was detached from Uzbekistan and given full status as a Soviet socialist republic. At that time, the territory that is now northern Tajikistan was added to the new republic. Even with the additional territory, Tajikistan remained the smallest Central Asian republic.
With the creation of a republic defined in national terms came the creation of institutions that, at least in form, were likewise national. The first Tajik-language newspaper in Soviet Tajikistan began publication in 1926. New educational institutions also began operation about the same time. The first state schools, available to both children and adults and designed to provide a basic education, opened in 1926. The central government also trained a small number of Tajiks for public office, either by putting them through courses offered by government departments or by sending them to schools in Uzbekistan.
From 1921 to 1927, during the New Economic Policy (NEP--see Glossary) Soviet agricultural policy promoted the expansion of cotton cultivation in Central Asia. By the end of the NEP, the extent of cotton cultivation had increased dramatically, but yield did not match prerevolutionary levels. At the same time, the cultivation of rice, a staple food of the region, declined considerably.
Post World War II
The post-World War II era saw the expansion of irrigated agriculture, the further development of industry, and a rise in the level of education in Tajikistan. Like the rest of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan felt the effects of the party and government reorganization projects of Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev (in office 1953-64). Especially in 1957 and 1958, Tajikistan's population and economy were manipulated as part of Khrushchev's overly ambitious Virgin Lands project, a campaign to forcibly increase the extent of arable land in the Soviet Union. Under Khrushchev and his successor, Leonid I. Brezhnev (in office 1964-82), Tajikistan's borders were periodically redrawn as districts and provinces were recombined, abolished, and restored, while small amounts of territory were acquired from or ceded to neighboring republics.
During the Soviet period, the only Tajikistani politician to become important outside his region was Bobojon Ghafurov (1908-77), a Tajik who became prominent as the Stalinist first secretary of the Communist Party of Tajikistan in the late 1940s. After Stalin's death in 1953, Ghafurov, a historian by training, established himself as a prominent Asia scholar and magazine editor, injecting notes of Tajik nationalism into some of his historical writings.
The fate of Ghafurov's successors illustrates important trends in the politics of Soviet Central Asia in the second half of the twentieth century. The next first secretary, Tursunbai Uljabayev (in office 1956-61), was ousted amid accusations that he had falsified reports to exaggerate the success of cotton production in the republic (charges also leveled in the 1980s against Uzbekistan's leadership); apparently the central government also objected to Uljabayev's preferential appointments of his cronies from Leninobod Province to party positions (see Russification and Resistance, ch. 5). Uljabaev's replacement as first secretary, Jabbor Rasulov, was a veteran of the prestigious agricultural bureaucracy of the republic. Like first secretaries in the other Central Asian republics, Rasulov benefited from Brezhnev's policy of "stability of cadres" and remained in office until Brezhnev's death in 1982.
Rasulov's successor, Rahmon Nabiyev, was a man of the Brezhnevite political school, who, like his predecessor, had spent much of his career in the agricultural bureaucracy. Nabiyev held office until ousted in 1985 as Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev (in office 1985-91) swept out the republic's old-guard party leaders. Nabiyev's 1991 installation as president of independent Tajikistan, by means of an old-guard coup and a rigged election, exacerbated the political tensions in the republic and was an important step toward the civil war that broke out in 1992.
All the post-Stalin party first secretaries came from Leninobod, in keeping with a broader phenomenon of Tajikistani politics from the postwar period to the collapse of the Soviet Union--the linkage between regional cliques, especially from Leninobod Province, and political power. Although certain cliques from Leninobod were dominant, they allowed allies from other provinces a lesser share of power. As the conflict in the early1990s showed, supporters of opposing camps could be found in all the country's provinces.
The forces of fragmentation in the Soviet Union eventually affected Tajikistan, whose government strongly supported continued unity. Bowing to Tajik nationalism, Tajikistan's Supreme Soviet adopted a declaration of sovereignty in August 1990, but in March 1991, the people of Tajikistan voted overwhelmingly for preservation of the union in a national referendum. That August the Moscow coup against the Gorbachev government brought mass demonstrations by opposition groups in Dushanbe, forcing the resignation of President Kahar Mahkamov. Nabiyev assumed the position of acting president. The following month, the Supreme Soviet proclaimed Tajikistan an independent state, following the examples of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. In November, Nabiyev was elected president of the new republic, and in December, representatives of Tajikistan signed the agreement forming the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS--see Glossary) to succeed the Soviet Union.
Antigovernment demonstrations began in Dushanbe in March 1992. In April 1992, tensions mounted as progovernment groups opposing reform staged counterdemonstrations. By May, small armed clashes had occurred, causing Nabiyev to break off negotiations with the reformist demonstrators and go into hiding. After eight antigovernment demonstrators were killed in Dushanbe, the commander of the Russian garrison brokered a compromise agreement creating a coalition government in which one-third of the cabinet positions would go to members of the opposition. The collapse of that government heralded the outbreak of a civil war that plagued Tajikistan for the next four years
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