Initially a historian of the establishment of the Soviet power in Central Asia (see supra review No. 290), R. Abdulhaev has authored since the late 1990s a number of articles and monographs, in both Tajik Persian and Russian languages, on the history of migrations within the Tajik SSR and independent Tajikistan: see notably his Halli mas’alahoi firoriion va aloqai on bo muhojiroti dokhilii jumhuriiavi [The Solution of the Refugee Problems and Its Relation with the Republic’s Inner Migrations], Dushanbe: Donish, 2001; Ta‘rikhi muhojirat dar Tojikiston (1924-2000) [A History of Migration within Tajikistan (1924-2000)], Dushanbe: Irfon, 3 vols., 2003-2005-2008; see also, with H. Dustov, “Muhojiroti dokhilijumhuriiavi dar solhoi ba‘di jangi (1945-1950) [Inner Republican Migrations in Post-War Years (1945-50)],” Sotsializm: nazariia va amaliia 2006/4.
In the present volume, reusing and revising the three-volume work published under the same title in 2003-8, R. Abdulhaev proposes an overview of the four main periods of the history of these migrations: in 1924-41, from the return of refugees from Afghanistan, after the end of the early Soviet civil war, to the launching of WWII; in 1946-60 with a peak in the early 1950s, in connection with the development of cotton monoculture; from 1961 to the end of the Soviet period, in connection with lowland districts in the northern (Zafarabad) and central parts (Yawan, Ab-i Kiyik) of the country; and since 1992 in connection with the population movements directly caused by the Tajikistani civil war.
An explicit apologist of the Soviet rule in Central Asia, R. Abdulhaev provides global retrospective explanations and justifications for all the displacements evoked in the course of his book. Characteristically, some slogans of present-day Tajikistani administration, like the settlement and assimilation of nomadic Uzbek populations in the south of the country, are mentioned as necessities of the 1920s-30s. Another common theme linking modern-day Tajikistani historiography, viz. the danger of acculturation of the Tajik peasantry by successive waves of migrants from the Fergana Valley in the 1920-40s, is evoked at length as a major motivation for intensifying the desertification of the Persian-speaking higher Wakhsh River Valley and for the population by Tajik peasants of this river’s lower basin, the Tajik SSR’s geographical backbone. If extremely interesting from the viewpoint of the demographic strategies developed by the Communist Party and state in the Tajik SSR in the 1920s-30s and in the 1950s-70s, unfortunately this position remains poorly documented by the author.
The necessities of development are systematically placed at the frontline of the reasons invoked, as well as the deliberate character of every migration wave from the country’s highlands to its cotton-planted lowlands ― except for the summer 1949 deportation of the population of Hayit, in the centre of the Upper Qarategin Valley, to the Hisar and Wakhsh lowland districts. However, the mass character of these population movements is underlined at length throughout the book, especially concerning the waves of the 1946-50 period for the Upper Qarategin Valley, and of the late 1950s – early 1960s for the Upper Zerafshan Valley, with partial or complete moving of the population of some eighteen thousand highland rural communities towards the republic’s southern and northern lowlands. Such is also the case of the innumerable difficulties related in the state and party documentation (most notably the hardships and humanitarian catastrophes linked with the poorly-planned installation of full highlander villages in steppe territories completely deprived of water resources). Characteristic too is the author’s concern about the deportation towards the Warzab Valley near Dushanbe of the population of the Yaghnob area in the Upper Zerafshan Valley ― an area which is symbolically considered since the end of the Soviet period as a conservatory of ‘Tajik’ (or, at least, ‘Aryan’) culture and identity.
The complex motivations of the central Soviet state and of its Tajik satellite are never genuinely nor completely assessed ― like the clear will to depopulate the important market town of Hayit, a stronghold of resistance against the Red Army in the 1920s, still nowadays a half-dead place gradually repopulated by returnees from the Wakhsh area. More deplorably, the policy implemented in the Tajik SSR is even less compared with contemporary practices and transformations in other regions of the USSR (most notably in Dagestan, North Caucasus: see our reviews of the publications by Moshe Gammer and by Enver Kisriev in the present issue of the Central Eurasian Reader), which would have permitted the author to reconstruct a great part of the political logic at works at the scale of the whole Soviet Union. A Soviet-educated historian and, as such, a professional commentator of the resolutions of the congresses of the Communist Party, R. Abdulhaev largely elaborates, for instance, on the decisions adopted by the First Congress of the Soviets of the Tajik ASSR for the distribution of land to landless peasants as well as to returnees from Afghanistan, however the concrete implementations and consequences of such a measure are not exposed. In spite of these numerous reservations, and of the absence of a critical apparatus worthy of the name (no map, not statistical chart, no list of primary sources ― which, as usually in the Soviet positivist historical tradition, are not described nor criticised ―, no bibliography enrich this thick, indigestible volume), the perusal of the present book remains to be advised to all those interested in the global geography and history of Soviet Central Asia, and in the demographic transformations that largely explain the social and political evolutions of the last decades in Tajikistan.