The present synthesis, by a renown specialist of the economic history of Central Asia during the Tsarist period—see my review of his major monograph on this question in Abstracta Iranica 14 (1991), notice 573; see also infra the review in 300—is one of the most durable works in general history that have been published in Central Asia during last years, even if its poor presentation, and its even more restricted diffusion will probably prevent it to reach an audience larger than that of Tajikistan’s main campuses, and subscribers of the Central Eurasian Reader. Well balanced and distributed in a pedagogical way into chapters of even dimensions, the book begins with an explanation of the causes, the modes and the immediate consequences of the establishment of Russian domination over Central Asia. (There is notably an interesting chapter on the problematic conquest by the Emirate of Bukhara, then already under Russia’s protectorate, of the Hisar Valley, on its annexation of the eastern provinces of Kulab, Baljuan and the lower Wakhsh Valley, and on the establishment of its domination over the Qarategin and Darwaz.) Then the author goes on with the main economic upheavals brought about by Russia’s colonialism: railway, cotton’s intensive culture and first industrial transformation; a modern banking system (with captivating paragraphs, although partially edited in previous works by the same author, on the role of ‘indigenous’ societies, of small-size credit companies, or still on the Russian society Stakheev’s specific initiatives in Bukhara). Logically enough, the following chapter deals at length with the impact of these transformations upon vernacular societies: the concomitant appearance of a ‘Muslim’ working class and of a ‘Muslim’ bourgeoisie in the modern acceptation of these words; the ‘popular’ uprisings of the 1880s-90s like that led by ‘Abd al-Wasi‘ in Baljuan or still the ‘Cholera Revolt’ in Russian Turkistan; the gradual overlapping of social and confessional cleavages, leading to the pogrom of the Shiite community of Iranian origin in Bukhara in January 1910; the armed revolt of the spring and summer 1916, that is seen here as a prelude to the civil war of the following years. This part is followed by a section of popularisation of works by Tajikistani researchers on the intellectual and political movements for reform and modernisation during the Tsarist period: the theological debates on modern medicine after the cholera epidemics of the late nineteenth century; the reformist work by Danish in and around the Mir-i ‘Arab Madrasa of Bukhara, and the diffusion of his thought among the Emirate’s student circles; the appearance and structuring of the ‘Jadid’ movement in Bukhara and Russian Turkistan at the turn of the twentieth century; the creation of a Persian and Turkic (often bilingual) press in Bukhara and in the remaining part of Central Asia (with a short study of the journal Bukhara-yi sharif); the appearance and diffusion, manuscript and printed, of new genres of vernacular didactical and satirical literatures as well as that of a new historiography, all breaking with the rules of the traditional court genres.
Contrary to a majority of work on the modern period that stop their narrative at the Bolshevik takeover, the author continues his own until the ethno-territorial division of Central Asia, and the creation of the first federative national republics in 1924. The spring 1917 is evocated through the activity of the (Russian-dominated) Soviets of Turkistan and of the different ‘indigenous’ political parties (with a special attention to the mutually concurrent Shura-yi islamiyya and Shura-yi ‘ulama); the rivalries between the Emir of Bukhara and Russia’s Provisional Government for the control over Badakhshan; last political violence in Bukhara as a result of the hesitations of Russian diplomacy between the Emir and his opponents the Young-Bukharans. The following chapter recounts the establishment of the soviets’ power as soon as in the summer 1917 in Tashkent, then in several places on nowadays Northern Tajikistan; the proclamation then the bloody repression by the Red army of the Autonomy of Turkistan, in Kokand and in the Fergana Valley; the installation of the Soviet power in Badakhshan. This part is followed by sections usually well represented in the textbooks of the Soviet period about the creation of the Turkistan SSR and about the consolidation of the Bolshevik domination in the north of present-day Tajikistan. These conservative sections are compensated by more innovative paragraphs on the causes and modes of the formation of an armed resistance against the Soviet power in Higher Mastchah and in Badakhshan. The book’s last chapters are devoted to Bolshevik assaults against Bukhara from February 1918 onwards, then to the history of the Popular Soviet Republic of Bukhara after its proclamation in September 1920: although this period is well represented in a now abundant historiographical literature, the author brings about useful pieces of information, in particular on the establishment of the Bolshevik control over the main cities of the Emirate’s central regions and in its oriental provinces. The history of the PSR of Bukhara is narrated through the successive reforms of Islamic justice, of the status of agricultural land and of the tax system, then through the impact of war communism upon the defeat of resistance movements in the former oriental provinces of the former Emirate, and upon the political marginalisation of Young-Bukharans. The final chapter is devoted, symbolically, to national problems and to the respective status of the Tajiks in the Soviet Republics of Bukhara and Turkistan: There the author endorses the victimist and anti-pan-Turkic vision that has been dominating in Dushanbe’s academic circles since the 1930s, with no interest in more recent studies published outside Tajikistan about the influence of inner factors (notably the inner division of the Tajik Communist Party, on the basis of pre-existing mutually hostile urban factions) in the ethno-territorial division of Central Asia from 1924 onward.
Of course in this work intended for the students of the Tajikistani faculties of history one must deplore the lack of a critical apparatus worth of this denomination: no primary source is quoted in the text, and the only mentioned references are very recent works, mostly polemic, by academy bosses pathetically hostile to everything Turkic. One also regrets the numerous anachronisms in the text, fed by the teleological representations of the Soviet period (for instance on the ‘popular’ revolts of the late nineteenth century) or by the recent history of Central Asian countries (see the now fashionable theme of the ‘independence movements’). Another kind of anachronism is common to Soviet and post-Soviet history writing: Works of national history like the present one cover geographical spaces that do not correspond with the administrative or political entities of the period under consideration. In spite of the pan-ethnic vision commonly developed in Dushanbe during the last twenty years, the narrative that is proposed here remain focused on the Emirate of Bukhara and ignores sometimes Tajik-peopled regions included after 1873 into Russian Turkistan (for instance the regions of Jizzakh and Samarqand). This projection toward the past of spaces inherited from a recent history constitutes a key characteristic of national historiography in the former USSR. It is a major obstacle to the appraisal of numerous factors linked with geography, as well as with the administrative and political logics of the time, for the history of entities the outlines of which have been often redefined during more than a century of colonial and Soviet history. These reservations notwithstanding, the present work has the immense advantage of trying to give back their place to autochthonous populations and elites in their recent economic, social and political history—a place that has been often neglected or underestimated in many historical studies on the colonial and revolutionary periods in Russian Central Asia.