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Uzbekistan - Under the Czars

Following an offensive by the Russians in the 1860s the khanate of Kokand was dissolved and designated the Turkistan Province under a Russian governor-general, and Bukhara and Khiva received the status of protectorate, becoming vassal states with a curtailed territory. By 1876 the entire territory comprising present-day Uzbekistan either had fallen under direct Russian rule or had become a protectorate of Russia. The treaties establishing the protectorates over Bukhoro and Khiva gave Russia control of the foreign relations of these states and gave Russian merchants important concessions in foreign trade; the khanates retained control of their own internal affairs. Tashkent and Quqon fell directly under a Russian governor general.

During the first few decades of Russian rule, the daily life of the Central Asians did not change greatly. The Russians substantially increased cotton production, but otherwise they interfered little with the indigenous people. Some Russian settlements were built next to the established cities of Tashkent and Samarqand, but the Russians did not mix with the indigenous populations. The era of Russian rule did produce important social and economic changes for some Uzbeks as a new middle class developed and some peasants were affected by the increased emphasis on cotton cultivation.

The Russian colonisation had multiple implications for the peoples of Central Asia, both positive and negative. On the one hand, Tsarist Russia assisted modernisation of industrial and agricultural production in its new provinces, and promoted modern economic relations, urban development and familiarisation with the achievements of European culture. But on the whole this beneficial influence could not make up for disastrous changes to native civilisation and lifestyles.

Having lost their independence, the Uzbeks were deprived of the right to choose political path for development, and to express their will. Unrecoverable damage was done to the millennium-old Central Asian civilisation and culture. The Tsarist government put the military command of Turkistan in charge of all administrative affairs. The pyramid of power in the region ascended to the governor-general who was head of the military and civil administrations. The principal economic goal of the colonial policy was to turn the region into a raw material base to supply the Russian industry.

Cotton production was of strategic importance to the empire, and the colonial administration made every effort to promote this crop. As a result, from 1889 to 1911 cotton sown areas in Turkistan increased by seven times. Turkistan played a major role in releasing Russia from dependence on cotton import, and by 1915 the proportion of Uzbek cotton on the Russian market was boosted to almost 70%. In parallel with that, areas under cereals and fodder crops shrank dramatically, resulting in the dangerously high food dependence of the region.

The local industrial structure was dominated by facilities for pre-transport treatment of cotton wool. Whereas in 1873 there was a single cotton plant, in 1916 there were 350 such enterprises. At the same time production of coal, oil, ozokerite and non-ferrous metals began to develop in the area. Colonial goals totally determined the initiatives to build railways, which were laid with a view to strengthening defence, continuing territorial expansion and deploying troops in revolting areas.

The migration policy pursued by the government was an important political and economic tool to expand Russian presence in the area and build a reliable social structure to support the Tsarist regime. The majority of newcomers to the region were peasants from Russian countryside. The Tsarist administration of Turkistan paid close attention to fundamental reform of local education system. Russian-Uzbek schools were opened in large numbers to provide educated local workforce.

There also existed the so-called "new methodology schools" founded by the Jadids in the beginning of the 20th century, which combined the achievements of eastern and European teaching and offered both religious and secular training. The Uzbek culture continued to develop despite suppression by the Tsarist regime. This period witnessed the flourishing of such talents as Mukimi, Zavki, Furkat, Behbudi, Hodja Muin, and other writers. Traditional Uzbek and classical music, crafts and applied art also progressed.

The spiritual life in Central Asia was enriched with the introduction of previously unknown cultural phenomena such as public libraries, museums, newspapers, telegraph, photography, cinema, printing, etc., and the beginning of professional Uzbek theatre and circus. Important advances were made in local science. A number of prominent Russian scientists worked in Turkistan, among them V.V. Bartold, V.L. Vyatkin, I.M. Mushketov, V.A. Obruchev, V.F. Oshanin, P.P. Semenov-Tyanshansky, A.P. Fedchenko, and others.

In the 1890s, several revolts, which were put down easily, led to increased Russian vigilance in the region. The methods and forms of colonial rule and the policy of imperial unification caused increasing popular discontent. It broke out in mass disturbances and revolts the 1875 uprising led by Dervish-khan in Andijan and Margilan, the 1892 "Choleraic Revolt" in Tashkent, the 1898 uprising of Dukchi-ishan in the Fergana valley, and the most violent insurrection in 1916, which was provoked by the tsars decree on forced recruiting of Uzbeks for rear service on the fronts of World War I.

The Russians increasingly intruded in the internal affairs of the khanates. The only avenue for Uzbek resistance to Russian rule became the Pan-Turkish movement, also known as Jadidism, which had arisen in the 1860s among intellectuals who sought to preserve indigenous Islamic Central Asian culture from Russian encroachment. By 1900 Jadidism had developed into the region's first major movement of political resistance. Until the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the modern, secular ideas of Jadidism faced resistance from both the Russians and the Uzbek khans, who had differing reasons to fear the movement.

After 1900 the khanates continued to enjoy a certain degree of autonomy in their internal affairs. However, they ultimately were subservient to the Russian governor general in Tashkent, who ruled the region in the name of Tsar Nicholas II. The Russian Empire exercised direct control over large tracts of territory in Central Asia, allowing the khanates to rule a large portion of their ancient lands for themselves. In this period, large numbers of Russians, attracted by the climate and the available land, immigrated into Central Asia. After 1900, increased contact with Russian civilization began to have an impact on the lives of Central Asians in the larger population centers where the Russians settled.

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, conditions began to change as new Russian railroads brought greater numbers of Russians into the area. By the turn of the twentieth century, the Russian Empire was in complete control of Central Asia. The territory of Uzbekistan was divided into three political groupings: the khanates of Bukhoro and Khiva and the Guberniya (Governorate General) of Turkestan, the last of which was under direct control of the Ministry of War of Russia. The final decade of the twentieth century found the three regions united under the independent and sovereign Republic of Uzbekistan. The intervening decades were a period of revolution, oppression, massive disruptions, and colonial rule.

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Page last modified: 14-03-2013 16:54:33 ZULU