The Socialist Union of Turkestan (SUT) is socialist federal state that exists in the area of the former Russian Turkestan, Emirate of Bukhara and Khanate of Khiva. since 1919. It borders on the north with Russian FSR, on the east with China (Xinjiang), on the south with Afghanistan (until 1930) and Iran, and on the west with the Caspian Sea.
Establishment of the SUT
In January of 1919 the Tashkent Soviet of Soldiers' and Workers' Deputies declared the independence of the territories and people of the Central Asian lands of the Russian Empire. It was followed by soviets and revolutionary committees in Central Asia and the establishment of the People’s Soviet Republics of Bukhara and Khorezm. By the end of February it had been also proclaimed or established a Turkestan Socialist Republic (Alma-Ata) and revolutionary committees (revkoms) of Ashkhabad, Syrdarya and Alash (Orenburg). The latter wrestling control of northern Turkestan against the Alash Autonomy and White armies.
The various revolutionary governments of Central Asia meet in March 1919 at Tashkent and elected a joint Soviet of Turkestan. This included the People’s Soviet Republics of Bukhara and Khorezm, Turkestan SR and revkoms of Syrdarya and Alash. The main agreements were the ratification of proclamations of the Soviet of Tashkent, formation and conscription of an Eastern Red Army and the recapture of the territories under White control, pursuit of Basmachi and securing of food and army supplies. It was also decreed the nationalization of industries, banks, communications, control of the railroad, and land reform. It elected a Turkestan Central Executive Committee (TurkVsIK), a Turkestani Council of People's Commissars (Turksovnarkom) and a Revolutionary Military Commission. In February of 1921 the Turkestan SFR and Alash revkom agree to merge and form the Kazakhstani Socialist Republic, with its capital in Alma-Ata.
During the Russian Civil War (1918-1920), part of the White Forces invaded east and north of Turkestan, and supported the Alash Autonomy and Basmachi revolt, but with the help of the Russian Red Army these were defeated. The last focus of resistance was the Basmachi Revolt, an uprising against Russian Imperial and Soviet rule, largely in the Transcaspian Region and Fergana Valley. A land reform and amnesty placated unrest and the Basmachi movement lost control of most populated areas and shrank overall. The pacification of the Transcaspian Region was possible only at the end of 1921, with the Ashkhabad revkom in firm control of the region.
The SUT is officially proclaimed in September of 1920 by the Soviet of Turkestan. Initially the Russian Bolsheviks resisted the idea of independence. Several special commissions sent by Moscow to re-establish control were either ignored, killed by the White Armies or sent back. However, the Civil War and military operations in the West limited the possibility of the use of force to regain former Russian Turkestan. Another important reason, and bargaining asset, was the supply of grain from Central Asia that the Soviet of Turkestan secured and supplied to the Russian Bolsheviks.
By the end of 1920 the Russian-Turkestan Treaty of Friendship recognized de facto independence, largely due to the presence of the Turkestan Red Cavalry and growing activism of Tartar nationalism and Pan-Turkism in the Russian FSR.
But this did not stop an ideological war between Moscow and Tashkent at the Comintern. Tensions grew with the III Congress of the Communist Party of Turkestan (TKP) in 1921, that attacked Great Russian chauvinism and social imperialism and proclaimed ideological independence from the Bolsheviks. It voted the party's commitment with Muslim National Communism and to promote socialist revolutions in the rest of Asia. Relations were also soured by the asylum of Tatar revolutionaries and politicians in Turkestan.
The reorganization of Turkestan
The former Russian Turkestan was a patch work of nationalities and linguistics communities of Central Asia. Largely an agriculture zone, with minor industrial development along the Central Asian Railway and Tashkent. It can be said that capitalist development was embryonic or non-existent. The old administrative system of Russian governorships and the protectorates of the Emirate of Bukhara and the Khanate of Khiva was diagnosed has inadequate and reactionary. One of the first task of the Soviet of Turkestan was to dissolve the old structure and encourage the cultural development of the diverse communities of Central Asia, or Turkestan has the new state was called. In 1920, the Soviet of Turkestan approved the Basic Principles for the organization of the future socialist state. Turkestan would be a federation of people’s socialist republics (PSR). The PSR are created according to the main linguistic groups or communities (national delimitation) and hydrological basins and gainful economic zones. The final limits of member republics were approved in 1922.
The Constitution abolishes all national and religious privileges and restrictions. All citizens and persons within Turkestan have a common federal citizenship. Citizenship is granted to all persons of Turkic, Arabic or Persian origin that settle in Turkestan or seek asylum. The main languages are Uzbek, Tajik, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Turkmen. Across the federation these languages have the same official status. The Russian language is recognized has a medium of inter republic communication. However, Uzbek already a prestigious literary language is used as a de facto language across Turkestan. In 1928 Esperanto was added on a trial basis and has a replacement of Russian. Languages such has Karakalpak, Tatar, German, Bukhori and Pamir have certain rights and protection in the zones they are spoken.
Establishing an internal revolutionary order
The War against the White Armies and Cossacks made it easy to deport or imprison reactionary and conservative members of the former Emirate and Khanate, including Russian official and bureaucrats that resisted the revolution. The first forced labour camps were established in 1920. Afterwards those charged with being oldthinkers, traditionalism, bourgeois nationalism, enemies of the people, Kemalism and Turanism are sent to labor camps. Common prisoners, bandits (Balmachi rebels) and those charged with social parasitism are sent to prison colonies.
The Land and Water Reform established a mixed system of private, collective and state property. The colonization of new lands is in charge and promoted by state farms. In already established lands, individual and collective farms are recognized. The distribution of water resources and maintenance and upgrade of irrigation works is in charge of district and local land and water boards. The agricultural waqfs were expropriated and distributed among the peasants.
The practices of polygamy, bride-price, forced marriage, child marriage and child labour were outlawed. Despite calls to unveil women it was decided to promote their education, political rights and legal equality. The effects of forcing women work in cotton fields of collective or state farms and increase of literacy, and later rapid industrialization and incorporation of women to the workforce proved in time a better social mechanism for unveiling and equality. The final breakthrough came in 1935 when a new Military Conscription Law made it for women obligatory in times of war, it was all ready optional in peace times.
In terms of jurisdiction, two legal systems co-existed: people’s courts and Islamic courts. The Islamic courts have only limited powers and are under supervision of the people’s courts. The Law for the Harmonization of Justice of 1931 put most of civil cases and suits, in hands of the people’s court. Islamic courts still hear and judge on cases of marriage, heritage, succession, property rights between persons, settlement of disputes, religious affairs, notarial acts and issue legal certificates. Non-agricultural waqfs are overseen and administered by the Central Waqf Council and Republican Waqft Boards.
The governing KPT, the intelligentsia and most political personal had great ambitions in a rapid industrialization, improvement of agriculture, health improvements of Turkestan. However, there as a lack of scientist, engineers and technicians. So in the first decade an extensive use was given to the cultural, scientific and educational sections of the Russian-Turkestan Treaty of Friendship. Many students were sent to Russia to learn and be trained. Also were recruited Russian scientist, engineers and technicians to work or teach in Turkestan. This favored a flow of the intelligentsia of Turkic origin,with many settling permanently, like the Tatars and Crimean Tatars. In Kazakhstan, it was implemented an official policy of colonization, along the use of intense propaganda and highly favourable terms, for Russian settlers.
Revolution abroad and International relations
The Turkestani revolutionaries exported and helped armed revolutionary groups in Afghanistan and Iran. The Volunteer Revolutionary Corps (VRC) was created as part of the revolutionary effort and aid to the said countries. The goal of establishing an Afghan Democratic Republic, or a Persian People's Republic failed. VRC veterans, however, were deployed has an internal militia to defend the revolution and crush internal rebellions.
Turkestan stayed aloof from the creation of the Federation of Socialist Republics in 1923. They were several reason, the most important one was a critique of the colonialism of Russian FSR, the development of an industrial Turkestan and economic independent from Russia, and to develop a region called by some politicians and theorists has the lands of people without history.
The SUT, however, considered the military help of the Red Army in the Civil War important and established a defense pact with the Russian FSR and later the FSR to guarantee at least some degree of autonomy. However, it has kept links in the spirit of proletarian internationalism with the FSR and signed a series of treaties and alliances. This would be later formalized in the International Community of Socialist States.
Organization of the SUT
The federal constitution approved in 1921, by Soviet of Turkestan, established the organization of the SUT. According to Article 1 Turkestan is a ‘’revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat, the peasantry and the intelligentsia’’. The constitutions allows private ownership of land and productive assets. All men and women are equal before the law and have full political rights, over 18 years of age can vote and are legally adults. The Constitution grants voting rights to non-proletarians (although relatives of the deposed emir and khan, former emirate and khanate officials, and large landowners cannot vote). Until 1928, indirect election to all assemblies was the norm, a constitutional reform replaced it with direct elections at all levels.
The public powers are:
- the supreme organ of power is the Supreme Assembly (or Supreme Majlis) of the SUT. It is composed of the Federal Council (15 deputies for each people’s socialist republic) and the People's Assembly (one deputy for each 150.000 inhabitants). Each chamber is elected directly by the people every five years. The Supreme Assembly is the supreme legislative and constituent body of the SUT. It elects every five years the Federal Executive Committee (TurkFsIK), the Turkestani Council of People's Commissars (Turksovnarkom), the Council of People’s Courts and the Federal Prosecutor.
- the executive power resides in the Federal Executive Committee, that is the collective head of state. It is integrated by a Chairman and one vice chairmen for each member republic. The Turksovnarkom carries out all the executive and administrative functions. The Federal Executive Committee and the Turksovnarkom are responsible before the Supreme Assembly.
- the judiciary is in charge of the Council of People’s Courts. Criminal, administrative, military and civil law is administered by the People’s Supreme Court, People’s Republican Courts and People’s District Courts and the Federal Prosecutor. Sharia and religious law is administered by the General and Provincial Assemblies of Quadis, and Muslim People’s Courts. The People’s Courts system oversees all rulings of Islamic courts in the cases of Sharia and customary law. A Supreme Council of the Sharia existed until the 1930s has an advisory body to the People’s Supreme and District Courts.
Executive and administrative powers and attributions are distinguish between:
- the federal affairs such has defense, foreign relations, foreign commerce, communications, major public works such has irrigation, and postal and telegraph services.
- federal and republic affairs such has economic planning, supplies, finances and banking, labor, agriculture and animal husbandry, industries and energy, and
- republic affairs such has interior (police and public order), public health, public education, social welfare, justice and housing.
The main legal political party is the Communist Party of Turkestan (TKP/КПТ/KPT). Established in 1919 by Bolshevik and Turkestani revolutionaries at the Congress of Revolutionary Organizations of Peoples of the East. The IV Congress of the TKP, declared Muslim National Communism as the ideology and guide for political action and approve the thesis of the proletarian nations of Central Asia and the Political Union of Turkic communities. A mayor influence was the exiled Tatar revolutionary Sultan Galiev, and Turkestani politicians and theorists Turar Ryskulov and Akhmet Baytursinuli and the visit of Azerbaijani revolutionary and politician Nariman Narimanov.
It has dominant role in the Turkesani Peasant Union, Turkestani Workers Council, Youth Organization and Union of Women.
The Jadids (Muslims working towards social and cultural reforms such as improved education) continued their work on educational reform, publishing activities (nashirs) and bookstores (kutubkhanas). They are allowed to establish cultural and educational associations.
In the 1950s, the climate of increased openness, less censorship and greater freedom of information, prompted various local and regional Jadids to form People's Political Associations and participate in elections and political process. More radical groups formed Demokratiya, with an agenda of democratization and an end of Communist hegemony.
The SUT is officially a secular state that recognizes the historical, social and cultural importance of Islam. The majority of Turkestani are Sunni Muslims. The Hanafi school is the predominant jurisprudence (fiqh). The official policy is of co-operation with the Jadids and similar associations in the building and establishment of a socialist society.
Reformists ulama are encouraged to organize and co-opted the Islamic institutions (madrasa, waqf, Islamic law courts and mosque). The majority belong to the Red Mullah Association or the Fuqaha Jamiyati (Society of Jurists), or are trained in the Reformed Hawzas, that provide most of the members of the local religious boards and Islamic courts.
In 1930 the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Turkestan (SAMT) was created as the official governing body for Islamic activities. It is responsible for training clergy, publishing spiritual materials, co-ordinate the activities of local religious boards and conduct the reform of religious affairs. It assists the local boards in the management and upkeep of all mosques and architectural monuments of Islam.
The use of sharia was allowed in civil cases, until the 1930s when it was limited to marriage, heritage, religious affairs, settlement of disputes and certain cases of private or personal property. Criminal cases and suits between state and individuals are in hands of the People’s Courts since their establishment in 1919.
Until 1922 the SUT was integrated by the People’s Soviet Republics of Bukhara and Khorezm, the Kazakhstani Socialist Republic and the revkoms of Syrdarya, and Ashkabad. The SUT is integrated, since 1922, by the following People’s Socialist Republics (PSR):
|Member PSR||Republic capital||Area (Km2)||Population||Languages|
|PSR of Fergana||Qo‘qon (Kokand)||124,200||Uzbek, Tajik, Kygyz, Bukhori and Russian|
|PSR of Kazakhstan||Almaty (Alma-Ata)||2,724,900||Kazakh, Uzbek and Russian (also Tatar, German and Ukrainian)|
|PSR of Xorazm (Khorezm or Chorezm)||Khiva||203,000||Uzbek, Turkmen, Karakalpak, Kazakh and Russian (also Tatar)|
|PSR of Kyrgyzstan||Bishkek||118,600||Kygyz, Uzbek and Russian|
|PSR of Syrdaryastan||Qyzlorda||344,600||Kazakh, Uzbek and Russian (also Tatar)|
|PSR of Tajikistan||Dushambe||117,700||Tajik, Uzbek, Bukhori and Russian|
|PSR of Turkmenistan||Ashgabtat||451,400||Turkmen, Uzbek and Russian|
|PSR of Uzbekistan (former Bukhara)||Samarkand||263,600||Uzbek, Karakalpak, Bukhori, Turkmen and Russian (also Tatar)|
|Federal Viloyat||Tashkent||335||Uzbek, Tajik and Russian|
Each member republic has an elected People’s Majlis, a three member Republican Executive Committee and a Republican Council of People's Commissars.
The internal administration of the republics follows a three level structure. At the first level are the viloyats (provinces), with a designated governor has its political chief. The viloyats are subdivided in districts (tumans or kazas) with a supervisor has its political head. The district has as component units, and organized hierarchically according to their administrative powers; Cities (shahars), villages (auls) urban and rural settlements (kishlaks), and rural zones. At each level its inhabitants elected a Council, that designates an Administrative Board.
Karakalpak, Bukhori, Pamir, Russian, Tatar, German and Arabic speaking cities, urban settlement, kishlaks and rural zones have administrative and cultural autonomy. They can use their languages in schools, local administration and the courts, and bilingual signs can be put on public buildings and schools.
Turkestan, as part of Central_Asia, is mainly an agricultural economy. It has a highly agrarian society, with 60% of the population living in rural areas and agriculture accounting for over 45% of of total number of employed. Agricultural land is mostly desert and mountain pastures. Arable land suitable for crop production is around 20% of total agricultural land. As a result, pasture-based livestock production is more prominent in Turkestan. By far the two most significant crops are cotton and wheat. Cotton production strongly relies on irrigation. Aside from these two primary crops, Turkestan produces a wide variety of products which include sorghum, barley, corn, flax, grapes, potatoes, rice, sugar beets, sunflowers, tobacco, apricots, pears, plums, apples, cherries, pomegranates, melons, dates, figs, sesame, pistachios, and nuts.
Agricultural property and management is a mixed system that distinguishes private (household plots and dehkan farms), collective communities (peasant associations, collective farms, and co-operatives), communal villages, and state (State farms, mainly dedicated to industrial crops like cotton, wheat and fruits and colonization of new lands) property. Each republics’ People's Commissariat for Agriculture and Food co-ordinate and detail production plans and improvements by decree, usually after the semestral meeting of the Central Commission of Agriculture and Food. The State Agro-industrial Committee of each republic is in charge of state farms and agro-industry.
The so called People's Construction Project or People’s Great Irrigation Works, because they drew mainly on local resources, are the Great Fergana Canal (270 km long), the Karakum Canal (1375 km long). There are plans for an artificial lake in the Kara Kum desert.
The main industries are metallurgy, textiles, chemicals, machine building, and food processing. Initially the main industrial centers are located near the railways. The Plans for the National Economy created industrial complexes near the republic capitals, urban centers in the main river basins and Fergana Valley. The latter, the main agro-industrial and textile center of Turkestan.
As in all socialist economies the means of production and services are nationalized. This ranges from small workshops, work co-operatives or unions and state-owned companies. The first two are owned and operated by private individuals or co-operatives, and last ones are owned by Federal government, a republic or local administrations. State-owned companies are mainly in mining, energy, heavy, medium and light industrial complexes, petrochemicals, heavy and medium agro-industrial, shipping, transport, communications, and arms productions. Banking and financial sector is operated by the Turkestani State Bank and its republican branches, the National Bank for Foreign Trade and the People’s Savings Bank.
The Central Economic Planning Commission is in charge of economic activity together with the People's Commissariat in charge of industry, transport and communications.
Transport and Communications
The Central Economic Planning Commission released plans for the construction of Turkestani-Asian Highway Network has the main transport hub for Turkestan. In a first phase it should provide link between the capitals of the members republics and the ports of the Caspian Sea and the Russian cities of Astrakhan and Omsk.
The main railway systems are Trans-Aral (or Tashkent Railway), Trans-Caspian (or Central Asian Railway) and Turkestan–Siberian.
The main ports in the Caspian Sea are Türkmenbaşy, Atyrau and Aqtaui. Several scheduled ferry services (including train ferries) are operated. Air transport (airplanes and airships) are operated by TurkAvia. Since the 1950s FSR’s Aeroflot and TurkAvia operate in Türkmenbaşy, Atyrau and Aqtaui a fleet of ekranoplanes to transport cargo and ferry passengers between Russian FSR, Transcaucasia and Turkestan.
Radio broadcasting is the main medium of propaganda and education. The Turkestani Federal Committee for Radio Broadcasting (TurkRadio) menages radio broadcasting in the republics and Central Asia Radio. It also operates a shortwave station, Radio of the Central Asian People. It broadcasts in Arabic, Azerbaijani, Crimean Tatar, English, Kurdish, Persian (Dari), Pashto, Russian, Tajik, Tatar, Bashkir, Turkish, Urdu and Uyghur.
The main newspapers are Taraqqi (Progress, official newspaper of the TKP), Turkistan wilayatining gazeti (TWG, national newspaper). Hurriyat (Liberty, Jadids newspaper in Uzbek) and Ulugh Turkistan (Great Turkestan, in Tatar).
Education and culture
Th primary and secondary education is compulsory for all children under 18 years of age. All new schools must be co-educational, if they have the resources. This only happens in major cities. The medium of instruction is done in one of the official languages of the SUT (Uzbek, Tajik, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Turkmen) and one common inter republic language (Russian or Esperanto). Karakalpak, Bukhori and Pamir are used in the minorities schools.
In the 1920s the Uniform Turkic Alphabet was introduced to replace the varieties of the Arabic script in use for the Turkic languages of Turkestan, and Azerbaijani (Baku Agreement). This change was made in order to increase literacy. Latinization was also enforced in the Tajik and Bukhori languages
Arabic, Persian (Farsi) and Chagatai are taught and researched in the Institute of Ancient and Classical Languages of Central Asia of the Turkestani Academy of Sciences and are also taught in Jadid’s New Secondary Schools and madrasas.
The Educational system is organized in three levels. divided in primary school (6 years) and secondary schools (Technical, Vocational or General). The New Schools of the Jadids exist has public institutions administered by a waqf. However, they must comply with state inspection and use a core curricula that is similar with the one used by public schools. All illiterate adult people, including residents of small towns and villages, must enrolled in special literacy schools. Religious madrasas are either administered by Jadids or SAMT.
The main institutions of higher education are the Workers University of Central Asia, the State Medical University, and the Ibn Sina Federal University (former Central Asian State University), the former with academic campus and facilities in the capitals of the member republics. There were also created various Technical or Agricultural Institutes and Teachers' Colleges, the most prestigious being the Turkestan People's Polytechnic Institute and the State Pedagogical Institute.
Scientific research and development is done by the Turkestani Academy of Sciences and its network of scientific research institutes from across the Turkestan as well as auxiliary scientific and social units like libraries, publishers and hospitals.
The Communist University of the Toilers of the East (KUTV), of the Comintern, had a branch Tashkent. It mainly serves has training center for local party cadres and foreign students.
Consolidating or building a Turkestani culture
The Jadids goals of acquiring new knowledge and modernism, started a movement of cultural renewal that reached outside their circles. Besides the Jadids other groups started to be moved by this influence. The foundation of Republican Associations of Proletarian Writers and Cultural Houses were some examples of the late 1920s. Archaeological, linguist, historical and folklore studies were in vogue. Besides the revival of Uzbek and Tajik (Farsi) literature, also came out a generation of Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Turkmen writers.
The Golden Age of Uzbekfilm, Kazakhfilm and Tajikfilm produced films such as ‘’Tales of Scheherazade’’, ‘The Seven Seas of a Sailor’’, ‘’Temür, God’s Conqueror’’, ‘’Seeing the stars from a Garden’’, ‘’Life of Wise Man’’, ‘’A library between two rivers’’, ‘’Days of the Revolution’’, ‘’The Reds and Bandits’’, ‘’A village teacher’’ and ‘’Hordes of the Steppe’’ and its sequels. These films facilitated the creation of a common cultural community.
In the late 1930s, however, the definition of what was this Irano-Turkic culture came in question. Was it Islamic or Secular?. Declaring has public holidays the Day of the Revolution, New Years Day, International Women's Day, International Labor Day, Navroz (Turkic New Year), Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan) and Eid al-Adha were typical comprises between secularism and Islam. The revival of Chagatai has a literary language and its use in mass media (radio and printed media) was another means of creating a common Irano-Turkic culture.
Some groups started anti-religious propaganda, in some cases with official sanction. However, public violence, riots, destruction of property and fatwas condemning Militant Atheist Leagues prompted swift State action. Most of the anti-religious groups were disciplined and their radius of action reduced or controlled. Authorities also gave assurance and enacted legislation protecting religious freedom and importance of Islam in society.
The KPT stayed out this debate mainly concentrating its effort in nation-building and economical development. However, there were factions, the so-called uniqueness or internationalism sectors, that identified themselves in the cultural debate.
Armed Forces and public security
The People's Commissariat for National Defense is the nominal commander of all armed forces, in whom executive authority over the military is vested. In this capacity, the People's Commissar exercises day-to-day operational authority over the armed forces.
The People's Armed Forces (Turkestan Red Army) is organized in the following branches:
- Land Forces
- Mobile Land Forces (also called the Red Cavalry)
- Naval Force
- Air and Air Defense Forces
- Border Guard Forces
Military service is obligatory for men and optional for women (obligatory in times of war since 1935) of ages 18 to 40, who must serve a conscription term (12 months in the army, 24 in the navy and air forces) and after that can enroll for a ten year service.
At all levels of the(Turkestan Red Army a political commissar is the supervisory political officer responsible for the political education (ideology) and organization, and committed to the civilian control of the military.
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs is in charge of internal order. The People’s Militia, a regular, public police force (including traffic police, firefighting, border guards and archives) is under its command. So is the Directorate of State Security, Turkestan’s secret police. The People's Armed Police, staffed by RVC veterans, is the paramilitary gendarmerie.
1The Gregorian calendar is the civil calendar, since its adoption in 1919. The Islamic calendar is used for religious purposes.