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Uzbekistan - The Stalinist Period

The formation of the USSR in December 1922 was accompanied by unification of the socialist state system. As a result of ethnic demarcation in Central Asia, five new republics were created in 1924, including the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. Contrary to all the propaganda on the voluntary choice made by the Uzbek people, the nation never received sovereign rights and in fact was forced into the humble position of another Soviet dependency.

The Soviet era was characterised by both positive and negative developments in Uzbek economy and society. The ill-designed Soviet reform policy led to a disastrous campaign for forced collectivisation, which was meant to crown the 1917 plan to nationalise industry and agriculture totally. During the campaign over 60,000 Uzbek peasants were subjected to repressions.

In 1929 the Tajik and Uzbek Soviet socialist republics were separated. As Uzbek communist party chief, Khojayev enforced the policies of the Soviet government during the collectivization of agriculture in the late 1920s and early 1930s and, at the same time, tried to increase the participation of Uzbeks in the government and the party. Soviet leader Joseph V. Stalin suspected the motives of all reformist national leaders in the non-Russian republics of the Soviet Union. By the late 1930s, Khojayev and the entire group that came into high positions in the Uzbek Republic had been arrested and executed during the Stalinist purges.

Following the purge of the nationalists, the government and party ranks in Uzbekistan were filled with people loyal to the Moscow government. Economic policy emphasized the supply of cotton to the rest of the Soviet Union, to the exclusion of diversified agriculture. During World War II, many industrial plants from European Russia were evacuated to Uzbekistan and other parts of Central Asia. With the factories came a new wave of Russian and other European workers. Because native Uzbeks were mostly occupied in the country's agricultural regions, the urban concentration of immigrants increasingly Russified Tashkent and other large cities. During the war years, in addition to the Russians who moved to Uzbekistan, other nationalities such as Crimean Tatars, Chechens, and Koreans were exiled to the republic because Moscow saw them as subversive elements in European Russia.

Collectivisation decimated the rural economy; production of livestock, cereals and other items countrywide dropped so drastically that famine struck several vast areas, including Uzbekistan. Agriculture gradually revived over the next decades, when the input supply and technical capacity of government-run farms were strengthened. Nevertheless, the kolkhoz (collective farm) system of land use and command management remained insuperable impediments to better performance.

The situation was as difficult in industry. In the course of "socialist industrialisation" proclaimed in 1925, palpable progress was made in the effort to convert Uzbekistan from a purely agrarian society into an agrarian-industrial one. Towards 1940, 1,445 industrial enterprises were launched in the country. However, much like the Tsarist government, the Soviets encouraged the development of industries that were able to provide the central regions of the USSR with raw materials. As a result, Uzbekistan essentially remained a supply base with little value-added capacity.

The Soviet impact on cultural life in Uzbekistan was ambiguous. The major achievements of the Soviet period included raising the educational level of the population, creating an extensive network of colleges and universities, and making impressive advances in science, the arts and literature. But this overall progress was darkened by political purges by the totalitarian regime, which took a heavy toll on the intellectual potential of Uzbek society.

The Soviet-German war of 1941-1945 was a dramatic ordeal for the Uzbek people and the whole of the Soviet Union, which became the central land front in World War II. During these years, a total of 1,433,230 people from Uzbekistan went away to fight (over 40% of the country’s workforce). Political persecution of educated people and clergy in Uzbekistan continued into the 1940-1950s. On the whole, from 1937 to 1953 nearly 100,000 people were victimised for political reasons, and 13,000 of them were shot.

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Page last modified: 14-03-2013 16:54:32 ZULU