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Mobilities, Boundaries, and Travelling Ideas

Philipp Schröder
Manja Stephan-Emmrich

Part 1. Crossing Boundaries: Mobilities Then and Now

1. Emigration Within, Across, and Beyond Central Asia in the Early Soviet Period from a Perspective of Translocality

Kamoludin Abdullaev

Texte intégral

1Any consideration of the movement or migration of people triggers a number of fundamental questions: who migrated and how did they migrate, where from, where to, and why? How many migrated? What impact does mass exodus have on the environment, demography, and, most importantly, the socio-political life of society? What are the effects on the people who are left behind, on those who are living at the migrants' destination, and beyond? Despite the importance of these questions, however, Soviet historiographers avoided them. In the Soviet Union, historians were tasked with constructing an image of the new territorial-cultural region called ‘Soviet Central Asia’, which was quite separate from the neighboring regions that were known as ‘Muslim’, ‘Turkic’, ‘Iranian’, etc. This artificial construct was aided by an impenetrable political border erected along the Amu Darya River and across the Turkmen steppe, and by the establishment of a scientific framework with its associated institutes and set of academic concepts. The study of outmigration from Soviet Central Asia was less a subject of scholarly investigation than a form of political history in which those who migrated from the USSR were identified as opponents of the Soviet regime — counter-revolutionaries whose influence needed to be eradicated (Zevelev 1981).

2Since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the paradigm of ‘class struggle’ has been replaced by one of ethnic determinism. Newly independent Central Asian nations realized that most of the political borders drawn during the Anglo-Russian delimitation in the late nineteenth century and the national delimitation of Central Asia in 1924–1936 were an artificial construct and were not ethnologically grounded. After the fall of the ‘iron curtain’ this realization brought with it a romantic interest in ‘compatriots abroad’ in all Central Asian states, which set in motion an independent state-building process from the ruins of the Soviet empire. All presidents of independent Central Asian states were declared leaders of ‘co-ethnics (Kazakhs, Tajiks, Kyrgyz) of the world’, but this unity was short-lived and very soon an ethnic-and state-based nationalism emerged. As a result, there are only a few scholars in Central Asia today who are writing a history of the region as a whole. Rather, official historiographies focus on ‘national histories’, i.e. on separate ‘nationalities’ with distinct ethnogenesis, cultures, languages and territory (see Jacquesson in Chapter Six).

3Despite the predominance of national histories, theories of transnationalism have started to emerge, inspired by the realization that the study of Central Asia must transcend national borders and challenge existing concepts of nationhood. Those who study the region have started to consider this issue more carefully and to undertake diaspora studies (Abdullaev 2009; Mendikulova 1997). Similarly, by taking a transnational approach as a starting point for further exploration, this chapter attempts to overcome the limitations of long-established approaches to the study of Central Asian emigration dating back to the early Soviet period. Transnational research is defined here as comparative research between populations of two or more countries.

4The study of emigration within, across, and beyond Central Asia is spatially expansive. It covers the history shared by Central Asia and the neighboring areas of Afghanistan, Western China, and part of Iranian Khorasan. This common past connects Central Asia with the destinations of its outmigrants, which include Afghanistan, China, Iran, and India. Later, in the years between the First and Second World Wars, many exiled Central Asians also took refuge in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Germany, and other states, including the Americas and the Far East (Balci 2009). The arrival of Central Asians during the 1920s and 1930s had an important impact on the history of those countries.

5The study of the migration of almost one million Central Asians, exiles of Bolshevism, has generally focussed on general political trends, the movement of peoples and on the elites who led these outmigrations. These leaders include charismatic tribal insurgents (or Basmachis) such as Ibrahimbek Loqay (Fraser 1987a-b; Abdullaev 2009); the toppled emir of Bukhara Alim Khan and his entourage; the leaders of secular Turkestani nationalists; and the pan-Turkic general Enver Pasha (Yamauchi 1991; Andican 2007; Abdullaev 2009). Those who didn't belong to the political elite either remained marginalized or were disadvantaged and therefore invisible. This contribution tries to fill these gaps.

6Another way to explore translocal connections in the region is to consider the significance of religion. The exodus of Central Asians during the first and second decades of the twentieth century can be viewed as a characteristically Muslim form of travel known as hijra. For exiled Central Asians, religion served as an important source of support to cope with the ostracism they experienced in their host country, as well as a means to depart from the strictly local, in territorial and cultural terms, and embrace more extraterritorial and translocal world views and imaginations.

Fig. 1.1 Group of Basmachis of Eastern Bukhara in the mid-1920s. State Archive of Film and Photograph Documents of the Republic of Tajikistan. Public domain

Fig. 1.2 Ibrahimbek Laqai, arrested in 1931. State Archive of Film and Photograph Documents of the Republic of Tajikistan. Public domain

Mapping Central Asia

7Living at the crossroads of East-West and North-South trading routes, Central Asian peoples moved freely within their tribal and ethno-cultural areas for centuries. After the Anglo-Russian delimitation, however, boundaries became barriers to such movements. In the nineteenth century, the area turned into a sphere of rivalry between three empires: Russia, Britain and, to a much lesser extent, China. This political contest, often referred to as the ‘Great Game’, pitted against each other three powers that, at first glance, had dissimilar interests.

8The British, who were primarily concerned with India, arrived in Central Asia indirectly through their control of Afghanistan. Their sphere of influence, however, was limited to the plains north of the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan, both because of a political and diplomatic backlash from Russia, and fierce Afghan resistance. The three bloody Anglo-Afghan wars dampened Britain’s colonial zeal. These circumstances were fateful for the peoples of Movarounnahr (first and foremost for Tajiks and Uzbeks), who were involuntarily absorbed into the Russian orbit.

9Russians invaded Central Asia in the nineteenth century. After defeating the Kazakhs, incorporating the steppe and occupying Tashkent, the Russians moved south, where they occupied the right bank of the Amu Darya. The Emir of Bukhara became a Russian vassal in 1869. Russia also conquered the Central Asian states of Khiva and Kokand (Khuqand) and incorporated them into Turkistan General-Gubernatorial, with the capital at Tashkent.

  • 1 The Amu Darya, from its upper stream in the Pamir Mountains to its confluence with the Vakhsh Rive (...)

10Strictly-marked borders that divided two states and were drawn along indisputable lines were a constant preoccupation for colonial European powers in the nineteenth century. The major mapmakers were Russia and Great Britain. London sought to restrain the Russian advancement toward Britain’s Indian frontiers. The ‘Afghan buffer’ and its northern edge, the Amu Darya’s1 course from Lake Victoria (Zor Kul) in the Eastern Pamirs, served as a natural line of defense between the empires. At that particular time, the Amu Darya, a clear demarcation, was more useful than mountain ranges to decide who controlled what. From a ‘scientific’ or historical point of view, mountain ranges were more appropriate boundaries, but the Europeans found these were difficult to map accurately. Many Britons of the ‘scientific frontier’ school saw the Hindu Kush as the natural defensive boundary of India, though British authorities disagreed (see Dacosta 1891). Had the British divided the territories along the Hindu Kush, the region of Eurasia would perhaps look completely different.

11Negotiations for the division of the Russian and British spheres of influence concluded with the Russian-British Agreement of January 1873 and the consequent Demarcation of 1895. According to these agreements, Russia could not claim any territories south of the Amu Darya. Clarity of demarcation took precedence over any local concerns. As a result, the new frontiers were artificial and not grounded in the ethnological realities of the region.

12Through this process of drawing borders, Central Asia was alienated from its own cultural, historical, and economic traditions to serve the interests of distant powers playing a ‘Great Game’. Local rulers, emirs of Afghanistan and Bukhara, not to mention the peoples of the region, played only a passive role. The interests of Bukhara were ‘promoted’ by Moscow, while London provided support for Kabul. In search of new territories, the Afghan feudal lords turned their gaze to their northern neighbors — the khanates of Southern Turkestan, parts of which were under the nominal rule of the Bukharan Amir. In the 1850s and 1860s, Afghans, with the active support of the British, conquered the bordering khanates of Balkh, Shibirgan, and Herat. In 1883, the independent Pamir governorates of Rushan, Shughnan and Wakhan, situated along both coasts of the Amu River, became part of Afghanistan with the help of the British. The Russian government strongly objected, pointing out that the transfer violated the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1873. Following drawn-out diplomatic negotiations, military expeditions and skirmishes, the khanates of Rushan, Shugnan, and Wakhan located on the right bank of the river were definitively transferred to Russia (and then to Bukhara). In other words, Britain and Russia drew up the Afghan-Bukhara borders along the Amu Darya according to the 1873 agreement.

  • 2 Today in Termez, the Soviet-built Friendship Bridge crosses the river to connect Uzbekistan to Kha (...)

13The Amu Darya became the dividing line between Russia proper and Afghanistan and no bridges were built across it. Up until the early twentieth century, the river served as the main artery of the region. Steamship lines were only developed in the lower stream between Termez and Chardjui.2 The Afghan conquest of South Turkestan and their enslavement of local populations led to an economic crisis. The cities on the left (Afghan) bank of the Amu Darya gradually became deserted. After Afghans settled in Tashkurgan, which once had twelve thousand inhabitants, only about seven thousand remained. The rest fled to Bukhara.

14As far as Chinese border policy in Central Asia is concerned, the Chinese never intended to rule this region directly, unlike the Russians, who regarded Central Asia as Russia’s trophy. The Chinese maintained a clear distinction between tributary areas and China proper. Chinese control over its northwestern frontiers was established by the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), which gradually extended Chinese influence westward into the area of what is now the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region, also known by its historical name, Eastern (or Chinese) Turkistan. China at the end of the nineteenth century was too weak to compete as an equal rival with Russia and England in Central Asia. Until the end of the nineteenth century, the border between China and the territory of today’s Tajikistan and Afghanistan was not clearly delineated. The Russian and British foreign ministers did not draw the line eastward to meet the Chinese boundary in mountainous Wakhan, which borders not only China, but also the northwestern outermost tip of British India. The sides finally decided that their frontiers should not converge, providing Afghans with access to China. Wakhan formed a narrow wedge (a panhandle, fifteen kilometers wide in certain areas) separating Russian territories in Pamir from the northwestern borders of India (Hunza, Chitral, and Gilgit). As one of the senior British diplomats noticed, the Afghan Wakhan became ‘the long, attenuated arm of Afghanistan reaching out to touch China with the tips of its fingers’ (Habberton 1937:67). On the outermost eastern tip of the Wakhan corridor lie the Little Pamirs — an uninhabited alpine region — where the Hindu Kush, Pamirs, Karakoram, and Himalayas, as well as three empires, those of Britain, Russia, and China, met. Today the Wakhan corridor is an Afghan territory sparsely inhabited by traditional Tajik and Kyrgyz pastoralists that separates Tajikistan’s southern border from Pakistan’s north.

15The borders established in the late nineteenth century are still maintained, although the states themselves have changed. The various Russian-British demarcations in 1895 created a Russian-Afghan frontier with a total length of 2,330 kilometers. With the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1924–1929, this boundary was transformed into the Afghan-Turkmen (802 km), the Afghan-Uzbek (140 km) and the Afghan-Tajik (1,334 km) borders. The Peking Treaty of 1860, which demarcated a line between the Russian Pamirs and Chinese Xinjiang, created the Russian-Chinese border. With the fall of the Soviet Union, this line was recognized as the legal boundary between China and Tajikistan (430 km).

16By the end of nineteenth century the region was relatively peaceful, at least until the early years of the twentieth century, when the escalation of British-German and Russian-German disagreements led to increasingly tolerant relations between London and Moscow. The British-Russian agreement of 1907 was the second step on the way to completing the separation of spheres of influence. It laid the foundations for the creation of a military-political bloc between Russia, France, and Great Britain — the Entente.

17While the compromise among the empires proved to be satisfactory in terms of preserving international security, the outcome for the local peoples who inhabited the territories was more problematic. First of all, the compromise was designed to maintain the stability of the three colonial empires established by China, Russia, and Britain. Each part of Central Asia was expected to develop peacefully within its own imperial sphere. Naturally, none of the leaders who struck these agreements considered the possibility that changes might bring about the demise of their respective empires, and all were opposed to any developments that would allow independence and the creation of national ethnic states in Central Asia.

  • 3 However, some Afghans remained in Tajikistan, contributing to its development. One of them was Nis (...)

18Until the ‘Bukharan revolution’ in September 1920, which resulted in the establishment of Soviet power in the region, the Afghans and Bukharans maintained close relationships. Until the arrival of the Bolsheviks in late 1920 Afghan subjects — merchants, laborers, and others — lived in Bukhara and Turkestan. Afghan labour migration to ‘Russian’ Central Asia at the beginning of the twentieth century was linked to the revival there of trade and economic growth as a result of Russian capital flow into Turkestan and Bukhara. However, the Soviet invasion and military strife forced these Afghans to return to Afghanistan.3 The central government of the Soviet Union established a firm monopoly on foreign affairs and no Central Asians were allowed to have contact with their Afghan brethren.

Constructing Central Asia

  • 4 Inner Asia consists of vast territories situated between the heartland of China and Russia stretch (...)

19Translocality focuses on ‘place’ as the setting for movement. There has never been a fixed understanding of Central Asia as a place. Western and Russian explorers introduced the term ‘Central Asia’ to political and geographical terminology in the mid-nineteenth century. According to Yuri Bregel, in cultural and historical terms, Central Asia is the western, Turko-Iranian part of the Inner Asian4 heartland, the indigenous population of which consisted of various Iranian peoples. The majority of this population has been Turkified, while the growing Turkic population has, to various degrees, assimilated into the region’s indigenous Iranian culture. In geographical terms, Central Asia stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Altai Mountains (Russia) and Turfan oasis (China) in the east, and from the limits of the Kazakh steppes and Southern Siberia in the north to the Hindu-Kush range (Afghanistan) in the south (Bregel 1995:viii).

20During the Cold War, Central Asia was mostly associated with the five Soviet Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. In more recent studies of the region, some experts have also included Eastern Iran, Northern Afghanistan, and the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous province of China as parts of Central Asia.

21Historical narratives often refer to Central Asia as Turkistan (i.e., ‘Land of Turks’). This is something of a misnomer, considering the local population spoke mostly Iranian languages in medieval times. In the ninth and tenth centuries, Arab writers applied the term Turkistan only to the area north-east of the Syr Darya (modern-day Kazakhstan). Afterwards, however, the number and influence of Turkic tribes in the region increased. They formed powerful ruling dynasties, most notably the empire established by Tamerlane in the fifteenth century.

22In the nineteenth century, the British and Russians adopted the expression Turkistan (or ‘Turkestan’) as a geographic term to indicate their assets in Central Asia. This was further subdivided into ‘Western’ or ‘Russian’ Turkistan (which is post-Soviet Central Asia), ‘Southern’ or ‘Afghan’ Turkistan (northern Afghanistan) and ‘Eastern’ or ‘Chinese’ Turkistan (the southern part of Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region of China).

23In recent times, a new term, ‘Greater Central Asia’, has been introduced to identify the region under study. This is more a policy-oriented rather than a geographic term and was proposed by American scholars (Canfield 1992). At its core is the idea of the US-led creation of a new region that integrates post-Soviet Central Asia with South Asia via Afghanistan. The ‘Greater Central Asia Partnership for Afghanistan and its Neighbors’ project, run by the Central Asia Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program, proposes the transformation of Afghanistan and the entire region into a zone of protected sovereignties that share practical market economies, secular and open systems of governance with respect to civil rights, and positive relations with the US (Starr 2005). However, most Central Asian and, especially, Russian politicians and the expert community at large were sceptical about the Greater Central Asia project, pointing out to the differences in cultural identity and lack of cooperation between the Central Asians and the people of South Asia in the past.

24The Cold-War definition of Central Asia as five Muslim-populated Soviet Republics east of the Caspian Sea is no longer valid due to the end of the Soviet order. Prior to the imposed Soviet borders, the people of ‘Central Asia’ had significant freedom of movement within and across the various Emirates and Khanates that made up the political units of the region. In the post-Soviet period, the region has been defined as five post-Soviet ‘stans’ plus northeastern Iran, northern Afghanistan, the northernmost part of trans-Pamirian Indo-Pakistan and the northwestern part of China. This definition is almost identical to the one Russian and British authorities introduced more than one hundred years ago. It is the right moment to bring it back to the international vocabulary.

The end of a ‘stateless’ Central Asia

  • 5 For example, the uprising in Ferghana led by Madali, or Ishani Dukchi in 1898.
  • 6 The Westphalian system of sovereign states was established in 1648 as part of the Peace of Westpha (...)
  • 7 India Office Library (IOL)/P&S/11/142.

25Colonization put an end to the stateless ‘free ride’ in Central Asia in the nineteenth century. Urban and oasis dwellers mostly accepted the establishment of the Russian administration, while rural, tribal segments of Central Asian society showed fierce resistance.5 One might argue that rural resistance was Islamic in nature: it was local jihad by tribes for whom Islam has always been intertwined with tribal networks. Others argue that these tribal elements would have resisted any form of government — native or foreign. Both arguments — culturalist and constructivist — are valid. The establishment of effective state control in the vast Central Asian territories was a prerequisite for the new European-dominated world order, which required the formation of nation states with clearly-defined and rigid borders in order to protect national sovereignty and reinforce national symbols and values. In the early twentieth century this Westphalian6 legal and political framework for modern inter-state relations did not apply to Muslim-populated territories, as colonizers did not see a ‘basis on which principles of national self-determination can [be] buil[t]’7 in those territories. For the first time in history, Central Asian Muslims were subject to the jurisdiction of non-Muslims, who imposed a secular vision that contradicted a Muslim sense of being in the world. This governance undermined the customary way of life, erecting political borders and putting restrictions on migration.

26At the same time, the establishment of Russian rule in the region launched the consolidation of disparate tribal, local, and ethnic identities into larger identity groups that later formed the backbone of modern nation states. Most Central Asians became citizens of the Russian Empire. Because they were non-Slavs and non-Christians, the Tsarist government discriminated against them by labelling them as unorthodox (inorodets). They shared this status with other minority peoples in the Russian Empire, such as the Kalmyks (the indigenous peoples of Siberia), Jews, and other non-Slavic peoples. This status limited their access to educational institutions, military or state service, and places of residence. However, the Tsarist regime attempted to win over the tribal and patrimonial leaders or local aristocracy by granting them special privileges. This gradual incorporation of ungoverned tribes into proto-national units played an important role in nation-building in Central Asia.

27Dividing Central Asia into three spheres was an afterthought of colonial expansion and it just happened to succeed. Because these areas were primarily buffer zones, there was no direct collision between Great Britain, Russia, and China in Central Asia during their two centuries of rivalry. In other words, the participants of the Great Game in Central Asia played peacefully and according to the rules they established by themselves and for themselves. Conflicts rarely amounted to anything more than short-term military expeditions.

28By the beginning of the twentieth century, the vast strategic buffer zone between the empires encompassing Manchuria, Mongolia, Xinjiang, Afghanistan, and Central Asia was formed. Russian Central Asia (Turkestan, Bukhara, Semirechie, Khiva, Turkmenia) proved too rich in human and natural resources for the Tsarist colonial regime to develop fully. Moscow was unable to transform the culture of large populations with their own historically established identities. As a result, the incorporation of Central Asia into the Russian Empire was weak, both politically and economically. Russian cultural influence in Central Asia was not as pronounced as it was in the Caucasus, where close cultural ties between the colony-and parent-state had begun to take shape by the nineteenth century. In Central Asia, Russians limited themselves mainly to the establishment of structural means of control in the region, such as building railways and other infrastructure projects. Only a small group of the local elite (mainly Kazakhs, Russia’s closest neighbors) adopted the Russian culture. Major urban centres remained divided into two unrelated parts: Russian-dominated centres and native ‘old cities’.

29These artificial boundaries served colonial powers by preventing ethnic and religious unity and the mobilization of peoples with common interests. Some argue that the main Muslim response to colonialism in Central Asia was a military one: a call to clash with the enemy, the West (see for example Alimova 2000:167, Ziyoev 1998). Others argue that there was an internal crisis in Islamic society that was only exacerbated by the encounter with colonial Europe (see Ayni 1987, Fitrat 1988). The colonization of Muslim states was not therefore a treacherous Christian incursion, but a rational response by the emerging empires to weakening neighbors and former adversaries. According to this view, the main reasons for colonization were situation-and network-dependent; they did not stem from ideology or deep-seated animosity between religions.

  • 8 In the aftermath of World War One the British did not believe that Bolshevism as a political doctr (...)

30However, this is not to say that the concept of a ‘clash of civilizations’ (Huntington 2000) is not applicable to interrelationships between the empires in Central Asia. The Russians and British invaded these territories with a Eurocentric project of ‘modernization’. According to this simplistic model, the southern borders of Central Asia were considered the frontier between a capitalist Russia, as the eastern stronghold of the Christian West, against a feudal Muslim world. This confrontation had its roots in the West’s historical memory of the nomads of Central Asia as aggressive ‘barbarians’ bent on the destruction of urban civilization and the image of the ‘fanatic Muslim’ as an enemy.8 The imagined threat of what was later called ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ was created and fanned by the empires that took part in the Great Game. In light of this ‘clash of civilizations’, Russia appeared to be the defender of the West from the ‘wild’ East, even though in other contexts Russia itself was often condemned as a bulwark of ‘eastern’ autocracy and despotism.

31The inhabitants of the region paid the price for peace between the empires. Imperial policies resulted in the fragmentation of historic, political, national, and social relationships that accelerated the decline of Central Asia. Thus, at the end of the nineteenth century, the region became politically and economically dependent on the West, and the seeds were planted for future conflicts, social shocks, and population movements that would create complex socio-spatial dynamics to transcend these externally imposed boundaries.

Central Asia’s first international migration

32The Russian revolution, the invasion of the Red Army in 1917–1920, and the collapse of the state, followed by a violent conflict and political pressures, triggered various movements of the Central Asian population that were undertaken for a variety of motivations, over a range of distances, and over different periods. These movements created complex interactions between the social and spatial flows of people and things that deeply changed the environment and society in this part of the world.

  • 9 Alexander Vasilyevich Kolchak (1874–1920), a commander in the Imperial Russian Navy, established a (...)
  • 10 Basmachis: Muslim guerrillas who fought against Soviet power in Central Asia during the early Sovi (...)
  • 11 Laqai is an Uzbek-language ethnic group in Tajikistan. Laqais are descendants of semi-nomadic Turk (...)

33Central Asia saw two waves of emigration during the two decades following the Russian Revolution of 1917. The first phase of flight started with the establishment of Bolshevik rule in Tashkent in November 1917 and continued with the downfall of the nationalist Kokand government in February 1918, the defeat of Kolchak’s9 White Armies in Siberia, and, finally, the fall of Bukhara in 1920. For Bukharans, the day the Emir Said Alim Khan ran away from Bukhara is remembered as a separation day (ruzi firoq) that was preceded by what is described as ‘a small end of the world’ (qiemati asghar) (Baljuvoni 1994:61). This first wave of emigration ended with the arguable elimination of Basmachism10 in Tajikistan in mid-1926 when Ibrahimbek Chakobai Ughli, Tajikistan’s Basmachi leader in 1921–1932, crossed the Soviet-Afghan border. He was a descendant of the Uzbek Laqai tribe, a son of the tribal chief in the Ishon Khoja family.11

  • 12 Archive of the Communist Party of Tajikistan (ACPT), fond.1, opis.1, delo.63, list. 39.
  • 13 This did not mean that Tajiks supported the strife against the Uzbeks and Turkmens. The unity of t (...)

34The first outflow of Central Asian Muslims was caused directly by the Red Army invasion of the Bukharan Emirate and mainly affected the population of frontier regions, mostly nomadic and semi-nomadic Uzbek and Turkmen tribes. Together with the Emir of Bukhara, they escaped the military advancement of the Bolshevik forces. The Tajiks composed the third largest number of émigrés after the Turkmen and Uzbeks. According to the Red Army investigations, Tajiks were the dominant ethnic group in Eastern Bukhara (today: central and southern Tajikistan and southeastern Uzbekistan), composing 60 percent of the whole population, while the Uzbeks accounted for 30 percent. The national composition of Eastern Bukharan Basmachi groups, however, shows the reverse: Uzbeks made up 60 percent and Tajiks 30 percent.12 Similarly, there were a greater number of Uzbeks in exile. It seems this was due to differences in social and political status between the two population groups. The Uzbek minority occupied a high social position and historically the Uzbeks had used their power to politically dominate the less militarized Tajik majority. As a result the Tajiks were more likely to look favorably on the new power that had dismantled the existing Uzbek tribal-feudal supremacy.13 Besides, Tajiks led a settled way of life (they were peasants and urban dwellers), while many of Eastern Bukhara’s Uzbeks and Turkmen were nomadic and semi-nomadic stockbreeders. Tajik peasants owned only the land that they cultivated and this could not be taken along when emigrating, but livestock was relatively easy to move from one place to another.

  • 14 The average number of people in a family is calculated as 4.7 persons.
  • 15 Tsentralnyi Gosudarstennyi arkhiv Uzbekistana (TsGA Uz), f. 8–17, op. 3, d. 19, l. 105–08.

35Nonetheless, after the establishment of Soviet rule in Bukhara, during first wave of emigration, some Tajiks did flee, not only to Afghanistan but also to the remote Tajik-populated mountainous regions of Qarategin (Gharm), and Darvoz. The Soviets moved into these areas in the summer of 1923 with a large-scale military attack by the Red Army. In total according to the information given by the government of the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (TASSR), 44,000 families, or 206,800 people14 had abandoned Eastern Bukhara by the end of 1926. This constituted 25 percent of the general population, and 33 percent of all families in Tajikistan. The overwhelming majority of émigrés were Uzbeks and Tajiks from Qurghonteppa, Kulob, and Hisor provinces (veloyats). Only half of the total population was left in the Qurghonteppa region. Forty-nine villages (qyshloqs) that had been completely abandoned were found in Qurghonteppa veloyat by the governmental commission. Fields, gardens, and melon fields were overgrown. Homes and other structures were destroyed and ruined; duvals (fences made of clay) were levelled to the ground (Abdullaev 1995:20). The Tajiks did not only flee the territory of Tajikistan, they also abandoned the region of Surkhan-Darya in Uzbekistan. In the early 1920s, 40,000 Tajiks and Uzbeks moved from Surkhan-Darya to Afghanistan. These included Kyrgyz emigrants, with 1,300 families from Qarategin and the Vakhsh valley, and over 1,000 Kyrgyz people from eastern Pamir passing over the border to Afghan Badakhshan and Qataghan in the first half of the 1920s (Abdullaev 1995; 20).15

  • 16 The Russians of Xinjiang lived mainly in Ili, and partly in Kashgar, Kucheng, Tarbagatai and Altai (...)

36The flight of almost 20,000 Russian Cossacks and about 50,000 Russian peasant colonists from Semirechie (today’s southeastern Kazakhstan and northern Kyrgyzstan) to Xinjiang in 1920 was not directly connected to jihad and the exodus of Muslims; it was also a political phenomenon caused by the victorious Bolshevik advance and defeat of the White Russians.16

37The second wave of outmigration began immediately after the first during the second part of the 1920s. It reached its peak between 1929 and 1932, during far-reaching economic, social, political, and cultural changes that included collectivization, cruel anti-Islamic policies, ‘cultural revolution’, and forcible female emancipation aimed at the demolition of traditional society in Central Asia. A new wave of refugees fled from the restrictions, severe enforcement practices, and suppression of dissent that characterized Soviet rule. During the second phase of migration, people of different origins from all parts of the region, including the neighboring mountainous Bukharan territories, moved abroad. These migrants were known as muhajeers that is, those who performed hijrat, or escaped in order to protect, to preserve, and to further develop their religious identity.

  • 17 Tsentralnyi Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Tadzhikistana (TsGA Tadj), f. 21, op. 7, d. 2, l. 66.

38In the first half of the 1920s, hundreds of thousands of Central Asian emigrants rushed to Afghanistan settling along the northern border from Badakhshan in the east to Herat in the west. In fact, modern Central Asia experienced its first refugee crisis during the second decade of the twentieth century. At the end of this crisis in 1932, there were roughly one million Central Asian refugees, mostly in northern Afghanistan and Western China but also in India, Iran, and Turkey. One in four inhabitants of Tajikistan in 1925, for example, became a refugee (Abdullaev 2009). The actual number of emigrants is probably rather higher than noted. Small emigrant settlements were also established in Kabul, Peshawar (India), Mashhad (Persia) and in some other towns of Afghanistan, India and Iran. Statistical research done by the Soviets in Central Asia in 1922, 1924, and 1926 concludes: ‘Depopulation as the result of emigration characterizes the whole region. But the greatest emigration was from Tajikistan’s pre-frontier territory’.17

39Mass migration was not the only response to the Russian Revolution. Why did the majority of Central Asians choose not to migrate? A negative approach to the Soviet past that portrays Russian rule as despotic is widespread in Western, as well as modern Central-Asian historiography, but this interpretation cannot adequately describe the raw force of the Revolution of 1917; therefore, it cannot explain how Soviet power survived this early period. Was it only because of the weakness of Basmachism, which derived from fragmentation, mismanagement, and its limited social base of resistance? Or did the reason lie in the failure of the West, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan to aid Basmachis? In fact, several aspects helped the Bolsheviks to strengthen their position in the region and weaken the fierce Basmachi resistance, particularly:

  1. In the ‘Reds versus Whites’ Russian dispute that was at the core of the revolution and the civil war, most Central Asians took the part of the former, as they promised land, freedom, and peace for all people irrespective of nation and religion.
  2. By the end of the 1920s, the Soviets had established themselves as the only real, effective — if unjust — government. Emirs, Khans, and the Russian provisional government had failed and discredited themselves in the eyes of the majority of the population. Long-lasting civil strife and disorder was responsible for a tradition of political resignation and submission among Central Asians.
  3. The Bolsheviks defined themselves as anti-imperialistic and not exclusively pro-Russian, and neighboring Eastern countries regarded them as allies in their struggle for independence. The Bolsheviks reestablished Russian rule in Central Asia in part because Turkey and Afghanistan saw them as a bulwark against Western imperialism. Neither Afghan Emir Amanullah, nor the first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, provided significant support to the Basmachis. The international isolation of the anti-Soviet resistance strengthened the position of the new authorities among Central Asians.

40These factors contributed to greater calm in the region and weakened outmigration from Central Asia.

41The story of these ‘exiles of Bolshevism’ ended in the middle of the 1930s, by which time the USSR had consolidated its power in the region and established secure, closed borders with Afghanistan and other southern neighbors. The decline of the muhajeer and mujahed (jihad fighter) in the second half of the 1930s coincided with the transformation of Central Asian politics. In Afghanistan, the influence of the universal (supranational) religiosity of the non-governmental ulama and of traditional Islamic forces on the one side, and of the idealistic secularist reformism of Amanullah-like leaders on the other, had waned, clearing the way for more stable modus vivendi between the state and tribal or local powers.

42In Soviet Central Asia the national delimitation of 1924, the growth in economic development, the successes of mass secular education, state provision of health care, and the emancipation of women had also changed the situation. This inevitably involved the separation of religion from the political sphere and the separation of the Qur’an-based muhajeer and mujahed concepts from the emerging Central Asian realpolitik, which resulted in an era of relative stability, in which the Muslim community moved in the direction of political quietism and submission to political authority (despite the latter’s non-Islamic practices). The creation of centralized ‘stans’ in Central Asia and the stabilization of Afghanistan in the beginning of the 1930s was accompanied by a gradual rise of nationalism, the emergence of official state-sponsored religious institutions, and the co-option of the religious class into state structures.

43These years of ‘muted Islamic politics’ (Brown 2000:111) were followed by the reanimation of the ‘Islamic factor’ in identity formation, which began with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, putting an end to a period of relative stability and leading to another phase of politically-defined mass international migration in Central and Southern Asia.

Fig. 1.3 A group of Soviet activists in Hisor (Tajikistan) in the mid-1920s. State Archive of Film and Photograph Documents of the Republic of Tajikistan. Public domain

Religious identity formation that transcends boundaries

44When studying Central Asian emigration, the question of why the majority of exiles moved to economically underdeveloped Afghanistan is key. There are several answers: its geographic location, an open frontier free of troops, and shared historical and ethnic identities. The strongest pull, however, was a shared religion.

45Most of the exiled Central Asians were Muslims. Their exodus fits within categories of Muslim travel. These movements include the Hajj pilgrimage (hajj), travel for learning and other purposes (rihla), visits to shrines (ziyara), and emigration (hijra). These were not just physical actions, but involved spiritual practices as well. Qur’anic hijra (which means ‘to abandon’, ‘to break linkages with someone’, or ‘to migrate’ in Arabic) began with the migration of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD. Later, hijra, the obligation to migrate from lands where the practice of Islam is constrained to those lands where, in principle, no such constraints exist, became one of the fundamental precepts of Muslim doctrine.

  • 18 This information was recorded in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in February 1991 during my interview with B (...)

46When the Bolsheviks captured Bukhara during the 1920s, Muslim preachers advised Central Asians, ‘the hijra is a holy obligation now’ (‘Hijrat fard va vojib ast’).18 Muslims accept that if the political environment is not conducive to the exercise and propagation of Islam, then one must declare his country an enemy territory (dar ul-harb) and wage a holy war (jihad) against it until it is restored as an Islamic state (dar ul-Islam). If not, one should migrate (perform hijra) and leave the country altogether (Masud 1990:29).

47Ideally hijra is the transition of the mind from a state of dishonesty to one of purity (see Emil Nasritdinov in Chapter Ten). The crucial impetus behind hijra is to maintain one's religious and cultural identity; pragmatic motivations must be secondary to this desire. Ideally, the exiles or muhajeers should migrate to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In the first half of the twentieth century, the religious elite of Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Afghanistan often found shelter near Muslim shrines in these holy cities (See Balci 2009). Doctrine and practice do not always precisely coincide, and the exercise and significance of the Islamic faith in any given historical setting cannot readily be predicted from first principles of dogma or belief (Masud 1990:18). Dale Eickelman proposes the idea of flexible Islam, arguing that ‘the motives for action in general, as for (Muslim) travel in particular, are inevitably mixed — a combination of holy reason and social, economic, and political concern’ (Eickelman and Piscatori 1990:5). In this context, hijra is a ‘normal’ migratory process and social action operating in an Islamically-determined cultural context.

48Most Central Asian migrants fled to Afghanistan. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918–1923, many considered independent Afghanistan to be the only legitimate Islamic state in the region. In the 1920s the country served as a place of refuge for the Muslims of Central Asia, as well as for some 20,000 co-religionists from British India, who constituted the Hijrat movement (Minault 1982). The poor Afghan country could not offer muhajeers any economic benefits, only the restoration (real or false) of a spiritual balance violated by external oppression.

  • 19 In fact, this utopia has pre-Islamic roots. It is worth mentioning the imagined country, ‘Chambuli (...)

49In other words, it was a religiously imagined ‘journey of the mind’ across geographical and political lines, an escape from reality, a reflection of the deeply cherished popular utopia of dar-ul Islam,19 the imagined ‘golden village’, an ideal home for Muslims. In exile, between muhajeers and ansars (hosts, in this case the Afghan Muslims) a new bond of unity (mu’akhat) was established.

50This universal, supranational religious identity that transcends political borders has survived in spite of colonial divides and the introduction of the secular concepts of the nation state and nationalism. Relatedly, it is worth mentioning that doctrinally hijra is at odds with a secular understanding of emigration and diaspora formation, as it rejects the concept of the nationalism of a particular ethnic group, and that of the homeland as a territory where the group resides and to which it is culturally bound. Ideally, hijra would encourage Muslims to separate from those who rejected migration from dar ul-harb. Religious doctrine would unite muhajeers with a new state on a supranational, i.e., religious, basis. Meanwhile (secular) diasporas cherish the memory of the state of origin. Diasporas never completely abandon the idea of returning to a historical homeland. In contrast to muhajeeri groups, diasporas are inclined to identify themselves more with the abandoned mother country than with a new host state.

51While in exile, the muhajeers faced many difficulties, including differences in language, culture, race, and nationality that inevitably existed inside the Islamic community or umma. They had to accept the fact that every state, including an Islamic state, cannot be absolutely protected from wars, revolutions, rebellions, and other violent conflicts.

52In spite of this, Central Asian muhajeers and exiled mujaheeds saw their religion as a source of agency and emancipation, as it helped them to find a safe haven in Afghanistan and facilitated common ground with local Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and other Afghan groups. Muslim faith and piety, as symbolic capital, strengthened muhajeers’ social status and self-confidence. Local Afghans treated them simultaneously as exiled co-religionists and as foreign people, known as ‘beyond the river’ (poridarya). Belonging to the imagined Muslim brotherhood (umma), that rejects political, geographical, and ethno-national borders as well as to a temporal, Uzbek-Tajik (Bukharan or Ferghanan) community ensured material wellbeing, cultural continuity, and emotional balance among refugees and émigrés. In this light, the region under study emerges as a place where new forms of identity are formed, which do not fit the customary understanding of nationality and ethnicity.

53Members of Central Asian diasporas and irredentists constitute a very large part of the Afghan population today. The appearance of half a million Central Asians during the 1920s and 1930s had an important impact on the history of Afghanistan. In spite of their ethnic multiplicity, these ‘minorities’ have always been to a certain extent aware of their group identity as different from the Pashtun majority of Afghanistan and related to abandoned compatriots ‘beyond the river’. This connectedness is emerging with increasing intensity. Islamic and ethnic solidarity in Central Asia, where frontiers are not ethnographically grounded, has been a significant cause of political destabilization, weakening centralized power and loosening international control on both sides of the Amu Darya. It has always been a crucial prerequisite for Central Asian insurgency that Afghanistan is available as a potential place of escape, since it is loosely controlled by central government and populated by fellow Muslims of similar ethnicity. Such a situation existed in the USSR in the early 1920s, in Afghanistan at the end of that decade and the beginning of the 1930s, and in the recent past: in the beginning of the 1990s, government authority collapsed once again and civil wars began in Tajikistan and Afghanistan simultaneously. The frontier between these two countries again became a maelstrom of regional instability, with the arrival of a great number of migrants seeking a chimerical ‘state of purity’.

Translocality and the emergence of multidirectional networks

54Islamist ideologies that have recently shaken the entire world were not created in a vacuum. The appearance of hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees in the Central Asian region in the 1920s created a loss of confidence and sense of frustration with both the West and with weak, corrupt indigenous governments. At the same time, it gave a strong impetus to an Islamic reawakening. Central Asian mujaheds and muhajeers served as a symbol of sacredness, and of submission to Muslim ideals, which became associated with the Afghan resistance against the Soviet invaders. During the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s, forums for mujaheed groups were created and books and magazines were published by the Afghan jihadi parties in Pakistan that presented their resistance to the Soviets as a continuation of the Basmachi course (see Moruvat 1983). Later, the second Chechen war (1999–2009) was interpreted as part of the jihad that started in Central Asia in the 1920s by ideologues who championed anti-Russian resistance.

55In the 1980s, some Central Asian muhajeer communities took an active part in the fight against the Soviet army. For example, Azad Bek, one of the leaders of the Islamic Union of the Northern Provinces of Afghanistan, was a great grandson of Nasriddin, the last Khan of the Khanate of Kokand (who ruled from 1875–1876). Azad Bek did succeed in enlisting the support of some Uzbek, Tajik, and even Turkmen field commanders, notably Uzbek muhajeers from Soviet Central Asia, such Khaluddin of Kunduz and Ait Murad from Barqa (Baghlan province). According to the Indian scholar K. Warikoo, this grouping of Afghan mujaheds was backed by the Pakistani government and aimed to ‘[bring] together all the Turks of Afghanistan and then to liberate Soviet Turkestan’ (Roy 80). Warikoo stressed that it was not a mere coincidence that Pakistan’s aggressive policy in Afghanistan and Central Asia at that time was pursued by Mirza Aslam Bek, the former Chief of Pakistan’s army, who was a descendant of a Central Asian muhajeer and was also related to Azad Bek (Warikoo 1995, Andican 2007).

56These kinds of speculations portray Central Asia and Afghanistan as a dangerous hotspot, permanently fomenting the ‘Islamic threat’ and representing a danger to ‘infidels’. There is no doubt that today Central Asia’s Islamism emerged partly within a tradition rooted in the 1920s. However, it would be a mistake to equate Basmachis and modern mujaheds, or jihadis. The Central Asian resistance movement against the Bolsheviks was unique. More recent mujaheds, as byproducts of the Cold War, were mostly clients of outside forces (Pakistan, Iran, Russia, the US, etc.). Basmachism was one of the last purely Muslim movements with few influences from outside the Muslim community.

Translocality and transformations of the physical and natural environment in Central Asia

57The translocality perspective elaborated in this volume helps us to understand the role of mobility in connecting and transforming places, as well as in circulating practices, skills, and competencies across the region (see in particular Henryk Alff in Chapter Five).

58Immigrants of Central Asian origin were able to make notable contributions to the development of the economies, cultures, and environments of their host countries. The exiled Bukharan elite, mostly the Jadids, supported King Amanulla Khan in his efforts to modernize Afghanistan. Some of them, including the Ferghanan qurbashi (commander) Shermuhammad (Kurshermat) even defended Amanulla from the attacks of insurgents in 1928–1929. The exiled Basmachis of Bukharan origin under the leadership of Ibrahimbek, however, supported the opposite side, that of the new Amir of Afghanistan, Habibulla Bacha-i Saqqao. More traditional Persian-speaking (Tajik) Bukharans chose Afghanistan, while Turkestani Turks (mostly Uzbeks) opted for Turkey as their host country. The second generation of exiled Bukharans had ensured Afghanistan’s cultural progress in the 1960s having founded the practice of journalism, modern pedagogy, and the study of the history of Persian literature in Afghanistan (Abdullaev 2009:451–70). In Turkey, the Turkestani émigrés took an active part in the foundation of Ankara University, especially its agricultural department.

59Many Central Asians with extensive Russian contacts, especially those from the second wave of emigration of 1926–1934, were more educated than the local Afghans and Xinjiangies, and took a more modern approach to life. These migrants fostered the cultivation of corn and beets, introduced silk-making, enlarged the herds of the famous Hisor lambs, and developed carpet weaving in Afghanistan (Abdullaev 2009:451–70, 510–12). Soon after the Soviets began cotton production in Southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the young Afghani Abdul Aziz Londoni, realizing that Qataghan had similar natural conditions to the best cotton producers in Central Asia, bought up lands populated by émigrés in the Qunduz area and later established a company called Spin Zar (White Gold, in Pashto) giving a big boost to cotton production in Afghanistan (Shalinsky 1993:27–29). These emigrant activities changed the societal, economic, cultural, and natural environment of Afghanistan. At the same time, the development of Northern Afghanistan eased the introduction of Central Asians to life in exile and transformed their mentality towards modernization within the framework of a Muslim state, and towards becoming Afghan citizens, thus widening the gap between them and their former compatriots from the Soviet part of Central Asia.

60The international migration of the early Soviet period contributed to important changes in demography, ethnic composition and, subsequently, the political landscape of the entire region of Central and Southern Asia. The majority of those who escaped from Central Asia were Uzbek semi-nomads from the pre-frontier zone of Tajikistan, and Uzbeks from other provinces of Soviet Central Asia who emigrated during the 1920s and the first half of the 1930s. In Afghanistan, they joined the local Uzbeks (in particular the Qataghani tribe), who were subjugated by Pashtuns during the 1860s. Together, Afghan Uzbeks formed the third-largest ethnic community and one of the strongest political and military forces during the Soviet-Afghan war and the Taliban period.

61Simultaneously, on the other side of the border, in the Tajik south, the flight of semi-nomadic Uzbeks, whose tribal chiefs, before the arrival of Red Russians in the 1920s, used to control and even to oppress local Tajik sedentary peasants, allowed the movement of land-hungry Tajiks from Hisor and other internal provinces to this area. Not surprisingly, they were sympathetic to Soviet rule, as they saw the Soviets as liberators and and viewed their arrival as an opportunity for economic gain. The liquidation of Basmachism by the mid-1930s put an end to the Uzbek control of Tajik-populated Eastern Bukhara and allowed for the irrigation of the Vakhsh Valley and the cultivation of a much-needed thin fibre (grey) cotton to secure the strategically vital ‘cotton independence’ of the Soviet Union.

62Summing up, the large-scale Muslim migration processes from Bukhara, Russia and the USSR in the early Soviet period had a crucial impact on the reconfiguration of Muslim society and culture in what we know as ‘modern South Asia’ and ‘the Middle East’. The migration of the ‘exiles of Bolshevism’ was caused by the invasion of the Red Army and subsequent military conflict and it brought suffering and deprivation to the region. However, from a translocal research perspective, this migration emerges as a complex phenomenon that challenges the state-based static vision of history that is commonly accepted in Central Asia, which relates identity to a distinct, unique, and fixed culture, ethnicity and territory. This migration provided major actors with more social power and more options, and enhanced their ability to realize various life schemes and societal goals; it did not leave them as helpless refugees and defeated insurgents. People, ideas, symbols, and skills were able to transgress conservative political, ‘civilizational’, national, regional, technical, and other boundaries.



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1 The Amu Darya, from its upper stream in the Pamir Mountains to its confluence with the Vakhsh River, is called the Panj River.

2 Today in Termez, the Soviet-built Friendship Bridge crosses the river to connect Uzbekistan to Khairatan in Afghanistan.

3 However, some Afghans remained in Tajikistan, contributing to its development. One of them was Nisar Muhammedov, a Peshavar-born Pashtun-Yusufzay, who was People’s Commissar (minister) of Education of the Tajik Soviet Republic from 1926–1930 and professor of the Central Asian State University in Tashkent in the 1930s. He was arrested on 8 October 1937 and died (or was killed) during interrogation on 22 October 1937. One of the streets of Dushanbe bears his name.

4 Inner Asia consists of vast territories situated between the heartland of China and Russia stretching from Manchuria in the east to Mongolia, to the Ural mountains, to the Tibetan plateau, to Xinjiang, and finally to Central Asia including northern Afghanistan and Eastern Iran. Inner Asia was originally populated by non-Russians and non-Chinese.

5 For example, the uprising in Ferghana led by Madali, or Ishani Dukchi in 1898.

6 The Westphalian system of sovereign states was established in 1648 as part of the Peace of Westphalia.

7 India Office Library (IOL)/P&S/11/142.

8 In the aftermath of World War One the British did not believe that Bolshevism as a political doctrine could be installed in the region. ‘A more serious danger lies in the possibility of a general Muslim uprising against Bolshevik excesses, and the attempt to create a series of independent Muslim States out of the ruins’, stated the British officials in Delhi in a memorandum to the Paris World Conference held in 1919. Finally, in 1918 the British decided to leave the region of Central Asia under Russian/Bolshevik control. See The British Library, India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR: L/P&S/ll/142.

9 Alexander Vasilyevich Kolchak (1874–1920), a commander in the Imperial Russian Navy, established an anti-communist government in Siberia during the Russian Civil War. He was recognized as the ‘Supreme Ruler’ by the other leaders of the White movement. Kolchak was captured and executed by the Bolsheviks in 1920.

10 Basmachis: Muslim guerrillas who fought against Soviet power in Central Asia during the early Soviet period.

11 Laqai is an Uzbek-language ethnic group in Tajikistan. Laqais are descendants of semi-nomadic Turkified Mongols from the Kazakh steppes who migrated to Bukhara in the 16th century. The Laqai population fell drastically after the Bukharan Revolution of 1920, as most Laqais sided with the Basmachi and fought Soviet rule under the command of lbrahimbek. Consequently, many Laqais were killed or exiled to Afghanistan. In 1924, about 25,000 Laqais were registered in Tajikistan, mostly in Hisor and Baljuvon (Kulob). In the 1990s, the Laqais enjoyed a cultural revival and created a cultural center in Tajikistan. The 2000 census recorded 51,000 Laqais in Tajikistan.

12 Archive of the Communist Party of Tajikistan (ACPT), fond.1, opis.1, delo.63, list. 39.

13 This did not mean that Tajiks supported the strife against the Uzbeks and Turkmens. The unity of the peoples of Central Asia was strengthened by their affinity to Sunni Islam, to the Hanafi School of law and to traditions of long-lasting and peaceful coexistence, all of which deterred national rivalry. In general, Tajiks often served as ideological leaders of the resistance. The majority of Bukharan clergy were Tajiks and many of them migrated to Afghanistan. In an interview conducted in Dushanbe on 24 August 2006, Bashir Baghlani told me that among these Tajik clergymen was Ishani Bulbul (Dovud) Kulobi, the mulla-imam (confessor) of Ibraghimbek. Ishani Dovud died in the 1970s in Afghan Badakhshan.

14 The average number of people in a family is calculated as 4.7 persons.

15 Tsentralnyi Gosudarstennyi arkhiv Uzbekistana (TsGA Uz), f. 8–17, op. 3, d. 19, l. 105–08.

16 The Russians of Xinjiang lived mainly in Ili, and partly in Kashgar, Kucheng, Tarbagatai and Altai regions. The Kazakhs, the Kyrgyz, the Dungans, the Uzbeks, the Tatars and other former Russian citizens, in addition to Russians themselves, migrated to China (Abdullaev, 2009).

17 Tsentralnyi Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Tadzhikistana (TsGA Tadj), f. 21, op. 7, d. 2, l. 66.

18 This information was recorded in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in February 1991 during my interview with Bashir Baghlani. His father Kasir, being the head of the one of the first Soviet collective farms (kolkhoz) in Kulob, migrated to Afghanistan in 1929. Bashir Baglani was born in 1931 and in the 1980s headed the Ministry of Justice of Afghanistan. He returned to Dushanbe in 1989, after the Soviets withdrew their troops from Afghanistan, and later migrated to Germany.

19 In fact, this utopia has pre-Islamic roots. It is worth mentioning the imagined country, ‘Chambuli Maston’, taken from the Tajik-Turkic epic ‘Gur Ughli’, which gave shelter to the weak and defeated and provided them with justice and happiness. In Soviet times a Tajik popular poet, Mirsaid Mirshakar (1912–1993), created a powerful image of the Soviet state as a ‘Qyshloqi Tilloi’, that is, a ‘Golden Village’.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1.1 Group of Basmachis of Eastern Bukhara in the mid-1920s. State Archive of Film and Photograph Documents of the Republic of Tajikistan. Public domain
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Légende Fig. 1.2 Ibrahimbek Laqai, arrested in 1931. State Archive of Film and Photograph Documents of the Republic of Tajikistan. Public domain
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Légende Fig. 1.3 A group of Soviet activists in Hisor (Tajikistan) in the mid-1920s. State Archive of Film and Photograph Documents of the Republic of Tajikistan. Public domain
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Independent historian, affiliated with the Russian-Tajik Slavonic University (Tajikistan). He has taught at the Tajik State University, Ohio State University, Yale University and others. His research topics cover national and Muslim movements and migration in Central Asia, as well as contemporary developments and historical topics related to Tajikistan and Central Asia.


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