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Basmachi Revolt
Part of World War I and the Russian Civil War
Date 1916 - 1931
Location Central Asia
Result Soviet victory
Belligerents
Russia Russian Empire
Russia Russian Provisional Government
  • Russia Russian Republic

 Russian SFSR
Flag of Khiva 1920-1923.svg Khorezm SSR
Flag of the Bukharan People's Soviet Republic.svg Bukharan People's Soviet Republic
 Soviet Union (from December 30, 1922[1])
Libya Basmachi rebels
Commanders
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Mikhail Frunze Libya Enver Pasha

The Basmachi movement (Russian: Басмачество, Basmachestvo) or Basmachi Revolt was a Muslim and largely Turkic uprising against Russian Empire and Soviet Russia rule in Central Asia.

The movement started in 1916 during World War I as an anti-tsarist and anti-Russian revolt and it developed into a long-time civil war against the Soviets.

Soviet sources portrayed it as a movement of the Islamic fundamentalism, together with common thugs and rabble-rousers as well as Islamic radicals. The rebels who started the revolt were called Basmachi, or 'Bandits', a deliberately pejorative term. The term was applied by the Soviets to their Muslim opponents active in Central Asia between the Russian revolution and the 1930s. [2] Other historians would argue that many ordinary peasants and nomads who opposed the cultural imperialism of Russia, and, perhaps, more importantly objected to Soviet harsh policies and requisitioning of food and livestock, were an important component of the rebel base, also taking into account that Soviet authorities continued the colonization politics of the tsarist regime. However, Muslim traditionalism and Pan-Turanism were two important components of the movement and common bandits were also present.

Contents

Against the Russian Empire, 1916

The rebellion started in the summer of 1916, when the Russian Empire government ended its exemption of Muslims from military service; under these circumstances, Central Asians rose in a general revolt against Russian rule. The confiscation of grazing land by the Tsarist authorities already had created animosity among the indigenous population. The revolt resulted in a series of clashes and in brutal massacres committed by both sides.

The first phase of the Basmachi Revolt, 1918-1920

Sayeed Alim Khan (1880-1944), the last Emir of Bukhara. Picture taken by Prokudin-Gorski in 1911.

After the October Revolution, some local leaders, like Faizullah Khojaev, allied with the Soviet Russia and assisted the Red Army in the capture of Bukhara and Khiva; other leaders, like the former Emir of Bukhara, Mohammed Alim Khan, joined the Basmachi movement against the Soviets with two of his generals raising a militia of over 30.000 men. By the summer of 1920, the Basmachi gained popular backing in a sizeable part of the Fergana Valley, a traditional bastion of conservative Islam. The Basmachi had soon spread and multiplied across most of Turkestan. Much of Turkestan at the time was, ironically, not actually under Soviet Russia against which the Basmachi were rebelling, but under other regimes (Khorezm SSR and Bukharan People's Soviet Republic), albeit regimes that were allied with Soviet Russia. The Red Army forces included Tatars and Central Asians, who enabled the invading force to appear at least partly indigenous. It has to be noticed that, unlike the anti-Bolshevik White Army, the Basmachi were not considered as allies by the Western Powers and did not receive any outside help. The Entente saw the Basmachi as potential enemies due to the Pan-Turkist or Pan-Islamist ideologies of some of their leaders. However, some Basmachi groups received support from British and Turkish intelligence services and in order to contrast this outside help, special military detachments of the Red Army were masqueraded as Basmachi forces and successfully intercepted these supplies. By the early 1920s, the Basmachi Revolt had become so widespread that the Soviet government realized they risked losing their Turkestani territory. However, infighting among the Basmachi meanwhile made them weaker compared to the Soviet political establishment (who, by comparison, had a common purpose and single vision, in addition to greater military power). Lenin's government made conciliations to national sentiment in order to quell the Turkestanis' objections to being politically a part of the Soviet Union (conciliatory measures included grants of food, tax relief, the promise of land reform, the reversal of anti-Islamic policies launched during the Civil War and the promise of an end to agricultural controls). Altogether these measures diminished the appeal of the Basmachi movement and enabled the Red Army to overpower the Basmachi led by the former Emir of Bukhara.

The second phase of the Basmachi Revolt, 1921-1923

In November 1921, General İsmail Enver, former Turkish war minister, arrived in the region with the task to conciliate the warring parties but instead of doing so, he joined the Basmachi leaders and rose against his former supporters, the Soviets, under the slogans of pan-Turkism and pan-lslamism with the aim of creating a single Islamic state in the region. He managed to transform the Basmachi militiamen into a professional army of 16000 men; by early 1922, a considerable part of the Bukhara People's Soviet Republic was under Basmachi control.

Again the Soviet authorities adopted a double strategy to crush the rebellion: political and economic reconciliation with the creation of a voluntary militia composed by indigent Muslim peasants called the Red Sticks and the engagement of regular Muslim soldiers to fight the Basmachi. This Soviets strategy was successful once again and when, in May 1922, Enver Pasha rejected a peace offer and issued an ultimatum demanding that all Red Army troops be withdrawn from Turkestan within fifteen days, Moscow was well prepared for a confrontation. In June 1922, Soviet units led by General Kakurin, defeated the Basmachi forces in the Battle of Kafrun where Enver Pasha suffered his first major defeat. The Red Army began to drive the rebels eastwards and took back most of the towns and villages captured by the Basmachi. Enver himself was killed in a failed last-ditch cavalry charge on August 4, 1922, near Baldzhuan in Turkestan (present-day Tajikistan).

Another Basmachi commander, Selim Pasha, continued the struggle but finally fled to Afghanistan in 1923.

Other Basmachi retreated to the Ferghana Valley (1923-1924) and were directed by Sher Muhammad Bek (Kurshermat). British intelligence reported (according to [3]) Sher Mohammed had forces of 5,000-6,000 men. In addition several thousand Basmachi gradually turned into pure bandits who terrorized countryside (same British report).

Intermittent Basmachi operations and defeat of the revolt, 1923-1931

Mikhail Frunze, the Bolshevik leader who crushed the revolt

After losing their best commanders and many men, the Basmachi movement was destroyed as a political and military force and the few rebels remained decided to hide on the mountains and to start a guerrilla warfare that consisted in terrorist acts, hostage taking, sabotage, blackmail and brutal raids. This kind of warfare and the conciliatory measures of the Soviet Government caused them the loss of the support of the local population who began to see the Basmachi as purely criminal elements. The Basmachi revolt had died out in most parts of Central Asia by 1926. However, skirmishes and occasional fighting along the border with Afghanistan continued until the early 1930s. Two of the prominent Basmachi commanders at this time were Faizal Maksum and Ibrahim Beg, who operated out of Afghanistan and conducted a number of raids into the Soviet republic of Tajikistan in 1929. After the Soviets captured and executed Ibrahim Beg in 1931 the movement largely died out.[4][5] In the area of present-day Kyrgyzstan, the last seats of the Basmachi were destroyed in 1934.

Aftermath

Flag of Uzbek SSR

The indigenous leaders started to cooperate with Soviet authorities and large numbers of Central Asians joined the Communist Party, many of them gaining high positions in the government of the Uzbek SSR, a republic established in 1924 that included present-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. During the Soviet period, Islam became a focal point for the antireligious drives of Communist authorities. The government closed most mosques, and religious schools became anti-religion museums. Uzbeks who remained practicing Muslims were deemed nationalist and often targeted for imprisonment or execution. Other developments that took place under the Soviet rule included the sovietization and industrialization. With time a higher standard of living was attained and illiteracy virtually eliminated, even in rural areas. Only a small percentage of the population was literate before 1917; this percentage increased to nearly 100 percent under the Soviets.

The Red Army took 1,441 casualties during its operations against the Basmachi, of which 516 were killed in action or died from wounds.[6]

"Red Westerns" about Basmachi Revolt

The rebellion was a popular subject for Red Westerns, and featured as a central part of the plot of the films White Sun of the Desert, The Seventh Bullet and The Bodyguard.

References and further reading

  1. ^ Treaty of Creation of the USSR
  2. ^ http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e309?_hi=5&_pos=5#match
  3. ^ Yılmaz Şuhnaz, "An Ottoman Warrior Abroad: Enver Paşa as an Expatriate." Middle Eastern Studies 35, no. 4 (1999), pp. 47-30
  4. ^ Ritter, William S (1990). "Revolt in the Mountains: Fuzail Maksum and the Occupation of Garm, Spring 1929". Journal of Contemporary History 25: 547. doi:10.1177/002200949002500408.  
  5. ^ Ritter, William S (1985). "The Final Phase in the Liquidation of Anti-Soviet Resistance in Tadzhikistan: Ibrahim Bek and the Basmachi, 1924-31". Soviet Studies 37 (4).  
  6. ^ Krivosheev, Grigori (Ed.), Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century, p.43, London: Greenhill Books, 1997. ISBN 1-85367-280-7.
  • Х. Турсунов: Восстание 1916 Года в Средней Азии и Казахстане. Таshkent (1962)
  • Б.В. Лунин: Басмачество Tashkent (1984)
  • Яков Нальский: В горах Восточной Бухары. (Повесть по воспоминаниям сотрудников КГБ) Dushanbe (1984)
  • Hasan B. Paksoy, "BASMACHI": Turkish National Liberation Movement 1916-1930s, Modern Encyclopedia of Religions in Russia and the Soviet Union (FL: Academic International Press) 1991, Vol. 4, pp. 5-20.
  • Alexander Marshall: "Turkfront: Frunze and the Development of Soviet Counter-insurgency in Central Asia" in Tom Everett-Heath (Ed.) "Central Asia. Aspects of Transition", RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2003; ISBN 0-7007-0956-8 (cloth) ISBN 0-7007-0957-6 (pbk.)
  • Fazal-ur-Rahim Khan Marwat: The Basmachi movement in Soviet Central Asia: A study in political development., Peshawar, Emjay Books International (1985)
  • Marco Buttino: "Ethnicité et politique dans la guerre civile: à propos du 'basmačestvo' au Fergana", Cahiers du monde russe et sovietique, Vol. 38, No. 1-2, (1997)
  • Marie Broxup: The Basmachi. Central Asian Survey, Vol. 2 (1983), No. 1, pp. 57-81.
  • Mustafa Chokay: "The Basmachi Movement in Turkestan", The Asiatic Review Vol.XXIV (1928)
  • Sir Olaf Caroe: Soviet Empire: The Turks of Central Asia and Stalinism 2nd ed., London, Macmillan (1967) ISBN 0-312-74795-0
  • Glenda Fraser: "Basmachi (parts I and II)", Central Asian Survey, Vol. 6 (1987), No. 1, pp. 1-73, and No.2, pp. 7-42.
  • Baymirza Hayit: Basmatschi. Nationaler Kampf Turkestans in den Jahren 1917 bis 1934. Köln, Dreisam-Verlag (1993)
  • M. Holdsworth: "Soviet Central Asia, 1917-1940", Soviet Studies, Vol. 3 (1952), No. 3, pp. 258-277.
  • Martha B. Olcott: "The Basmachi or Freemen's Revolt in Turkestan 1918-24", Soviet Studies, Vol. 33 (1981), No. 3, pp. 352-369.

External links

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Basmachi Revolt
Part of World War I and the Russian Civil War
Date 1916 - 1931
Location Central Asia
Result Soviet victory
Belligerents
Russian Empire
 Russian SFSR
Khorezm SSR
Bukharan People's Soviet Republic
Basmachi rebels
Commanders
Mikhail Frunze Enver Pasha

The Basmachi Revolt (Russian: Восстание басмачей), or Basmachestvo (Басмачество), was a Muslim and largely Turkic uprising against Russian Empire and Soviet Russia rule in Central Asia.

The movement started in 1916 during World War I as an anti-tsarist and anti-Russian revolt and it developed into a long-time civil war against the Soviets.

Contents

The Basmachi Movement

Soviet sources portray it as a movement of Islamic traditionalists, together with common thugs and rabble-rousers as well as Islamic radicals. The rebels who started the revolt were called Basmachi, or 'Bandits', a deliberately pejorative term. Other historians would argue that many ordinary peasants and nomads who opposed the cultural imperialism of Russia, and perhaps more importantly objected to Soviet harsh policies and requisitioning of food and livestock, were an important component of the rebel base, also taking into account that Soviet authorities continued the colonization politics of the tsarist regime. However, Muslim traditionalism and Pan-Turanism were two important components of the movement and common bandits were also present.

Against the Russian Empire, 1916

The rebellion started in the summer of 1916, when the Russian Empire government ended its exemption of Muslims from military service; under these circumstances, Central Asians rose in a general revolt against Russian rule. The confiscation of grazing land by the Tsarist authorities already had created animosity among the indigenous population. The revolt resulted in a series of clashes and in brutal massacres committed by both sides.

The first phase of the Basmachi Revolt, 1918-1920

(1880-1944), the last Emir of Bukhara. Picture taken by Prokudin-Gorski in 1911.]]

After the October Revolution, some local leaders, like Faizullah Khojaev, allied with the Soviet Russia and assisted the Red Army in the capture of Bukhara and Khiva; other leaders, like the former Emir of Bukhara, Mohammed Alim Khan, joined the Basmachi movement against the Soviets with two of his generals raising a militia of over 30.000 men. By the summer of 1920, the Basmachi gained popular backing in a sizeable part of the Fergana Valley, a traditional bastion of conservative Islam. The Basmachi had soon spread and multiplied across most of Turkestan. Much of Turkestan at the time was, ironically, not actually under Soviet Russia against which the Basmachi were rebelling, but under other regimes (Khorezm SSR and Bukharan People's Soviet Republic), albeit regimes that were allied with Soviet Russia. The Red Army forces included Tatars and Central Asians, who enabled the invading force to appear at least partly indigenous. It has to be noticed that, unlike the anti-Bolshevik White Army, the Basmachi were not considered as allies by the Western Powers and did not receive any outside help. The Entente saw the Basmachi as potential enemies due to the Pan-Turkist or Pan-Islamist ideologies of some of their leaders. However, some Basmachi groups received support from British and Turkish intelligence services and in order to contrast this outside help, special military detachments of the Red Army were masqueraded as Basmachi forces and successfully intercepted these supplies. By the early 1920s, the Basmachi Revolt had become so widespread that the Soviet government realized they risked losing their Turkestani territory. However, infighting among the Basmachi meanwhile made them weaker compared to the Soviet political establishment (who, by comparison, had a common purpose and single vision, in addition to greater military power). Lenin's government made conciliations to national sentiment in order to quell the Turkestanis' objections to being politically a part of the Soviet Union (conciliatory measures included grants of food, tax relief, the promise of land reform, the reversal of anti-Islamic policies launched during the Civil War and the promise of an end to agricultural controls). Altogether these measures diminished the appeal of the Basmachi movement and enabled the Red Army to overpower the Basmachi led by the former Emir of Bukhara.

The second phase of the Basmachi Revolt, 1921-1923

]] In November 1921, General İsmail Enver, former Turkish war minister, arrived in the region with the task to conciliate the warring parties but instead of doing so, he joined the Basmachi leaders and rose against his former supporters, the Soviets, under the slogans of pan-Turkism and pan-lslamism with the aim of creating a single Islamic state in the region. He managed to transform the Basmachi militiamen into a professional army of 16000 men; by early 1922, a considerable part of the Bukhara People's Soviet Republic was under Basmachi control.

Again the Soviet authorities adopted a double strategy to crush the rebellion: political and economic reconciliation with the creation of a voluntary militia composed by indigent Muslim peasants called the Red Sticks and the engagement of regular Muslim soldiers to fight the Basmachi. This Soviets strategy was successful once again and when, in May 1922, Enver Pasha rejected a peace offer and issued an ultimatum demanding that all Red Army troops be withdrawn from Turkestan within fifteen days, Moscow was well prepared for a confrontation. In June 1922, Soviet units led by General Kakurin, defeated the Basmachi forces in the Battle of Kafrun where Enver Pasha suffered his first major defeat. The Red Army began to drive the rebels eastwards and took back most of the towns and villages captured by the Basmachi. Enver himself was killed in a failed last-ditch cavalry charge on August 4, 1922, near Baldzhuan in Turkestan (present-day Tajikistan).

Another Basmachi commander, Selim Pasha, continued the struggle but finally fled to Afghanistan in 1923.

Other Basmachi retreated to the Ferghana Valley (1923-1924) and were directed by Sher Muhammad Bek (Kurshermat). British intelligence reported (according to [1]) Sher Mohammed had forces of 5,000-6,000 men. In addition several thousand Basmachi gradually turned into pure bandits who terrorized countryside (same British report).

Intermittent Basmachi operations and defeat of the revolt, 1923-1931

, the Bolshevik leader who crushed the revolt]] After losing their best commanders and many men, the Basmachi movement was destroyed as a political and military force and the few rebels remained decided to hide on the mountains and to start a guerrilla warfare that consisted in terrorist acts, hostage taking, sabotage, blackmail and brutal raids. This kind of warfare and the conciliatory measures of the Soviet Government caused them the loss of the support of the local population who began to see the Basmachi as purely criminal elements. The Basmachi revolt had largely died out by 1926; however, skirmishes and occasional fighting continued until 1931 when the Soviets captured the Basmachi leader Ibrahim Beg. In the area of present-day Kyrgyzstan, the last seats of the Basmachi were destroyed in 1934.

Aftermath

]] The indigenous leaders started to cooperate with Soviet authorities and large numbers of Central Asians joined the Communist Party, many of them gaining high positions in the government of the Uzbek SSR, a republic established in 1924 that included present-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. During the Soviet period, Islam became a focal point for the antireligious drives of Communist authorities. The government closed most mosques, and religious schools became anti-religion museums. Uzbeks who remained practicing Muslims were deemed nationalist and often targeted for imprisonment or execution. Other developments that took place under the Soviet rule included the emancipation of women and industrialization. With time a higher standard of living was attained and illiteracy virtually eliminated, even in rural areas. Only a small percentage of the population was literate before 1917; this percentage increased to nearly 100 percent under the Soviets.

The Red Army took 1,441 casualties during its operations against the Basmachi, of which 516 were killed in action or died from wounds.[2]

"Red Westerns" about Basmachi Revolt

The rebellion was a popular subject for Red Westerns, and featured as a central part of the plot of the films White Sun of the Desert, The Seventh Bullet and The Bodyguard.

References and further reading

  1. Yılmaz Şuhnaz, "An Ottoman Warrior Abroad: Enver Paşa as an Expatriate." Middle Eastern Studies 35, no. 4 (1999), pp. 47-30
  2. Krivosheev, Grigori (Ed.), Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century, p.43, London: Greenhill Books, 1997. ISBN 1-85367-280-7.
  • Х. Турсунов: Восстание 1916 Года в Средней Азии и Казахстане. Таshkent (1962)
  • Б.В. Лунин: Басмачество Tashkent (1984)
  • Яков Нальский: В горах Восточной Бухары. (Повесть по воспоминаниям сотрудников КГБ) Dushanbe (1984)
  • Alexander Marshall: "Turkfront: Frunze and the Development of Soviet Counter-insurgency in Central Asia" in Tom Everett-Heath (Ed.) "Central Asia. Aspects of Transition", RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2003; ISBN 0-7007-0956-8 (cloth) ISBN 0-7007-0957-6 (pbk.)
  • Fazal-ur-Rahim Khan Marwat: The Basmachi movement in Soviet Central Asia: A study in political development., Peshawar, Emjay Books International (1985)
  • Marco Buttino: "Ethnicité et politique dans la guerre civile: à propos du 'basmačestvo' au Fergana", Cahiers du monde russe et sovietique, Vol. 38, No. 1-2, (1997)
  • Marie Broxup: The Basmachi. Central Asian Survey, Vol. 2 (1983), No. 1, pp. 57-81.
  • Mustafa Chokay: "The Basmachi Movement in Turkestan", The Asiatic Review Vol.XXIV (1928)
  • Sir Olaf Caroe: Soviet Empire: The Turks of Central Asia and Stalinism 2nd ed., London, Macmillan (1967) ISBN 0-312-74795-0
  • Glenda Fraser: "Basmachi (parts I and II)", Central Asian Survey, Vol. 6 (1987), No. 1, pp. 1-73, and No.2, pp. 7-42.
  • Baymirza Hayit: Basmatschi. Nationaler Kampf Turkestans in den Jahren 1917 bis 1934. Köln, Dreisam-Verlag (1993)
  • M. Holdsworth: "Soviet Central Asia, 1917-1940", Soviet Studies, Vol. 3 (1952), No. 3, pp. 258-277.
  • Martha B. Olcott: "The Basmachi or Freemen's Revolt in Turkestan 1918-24", Soviet Studies, Vol. 33 (1981), No. 3, pp. 352-369.

External links


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