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Nomads and Soviet Rule: Central Asia under Lenin and Stalin

Nomads and Soviet Rule: Central Asia under Lenin and Stalin
Alun Thomas

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The nomads of Central Asia were already well accustomed to life under the power of a distant capital when the Bolsheviks fomented revolution on the streets of Petrograd. Yet after the fall of the Tsar, the nature, ambition and potency of that power would change dramatically, ultimately resulting in the near eradication of Central Asian nomadism.

Based on extensive primary source work in Almaty, Bishkek and Moscow, Nomads and Soviet Rule charts the development of this volatile and brutal relationship and challenges the often repeated view that events followed a linear path of gradually escalating violence. Rather than the sedentarisation campaign being an inevitability born of deep-rooted Marxist hatred of the nomadic lifestyle, Thomas demonstrates the Soviet state's treatment of nomads to be far more complex and pragmatic. He shows how Soviet policy was informed by both an anti-colonial spirit and an imperialist impulse, by nationalism as well as communism, and above all by a lethal self-confidence in the Communist Party's ability to transform the lives of nomads and harness the agricultural potential of their landscape. This is the first book to look closely at the period between the revolution and the collectivisation drive, and offers fresh insight into a little-known aspect of early Soviet history. In doing so, the book offers a path to refining conceptions of the broader history and dynamics of the Soviet project in this key period.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One: Introduction Chapter Two: Perceptions of Nomadism Chapter Three: The Politics of Land Use Chapter Four: Territory and Jurisdiction Chapter Five: Taxing Nomads Chapter Six: Social Policies in the Nomadic Aul (Community) Chapter Seven: Sedentarisation Chapter Eight: Conclusion

Author Info

Alun Thomas is Lecturer in Modern History at Staffordshire University. He received his PhD from the University of Sheffield and has written in peer-reviewed journals and delivered papers internationally on the complex relationship between the nomadic communities of Central Asia and the nascent Soviet state.


`Alun Thomas' excellent book makes a major contribution to the ongoing debates about the Soviet Union as a particular type of empire and about conceptual frameworks that scholars should use to make sense of the scale of human losses resulting from Soviet policies. By focusing on what these policies meant for the peoples of the Central Asian steppe not as Kazakhs, but as nomads, and not as Russians, but farmers, the book tells a new story, which has been largely neglected by scholars. It sheds new light on the complexity of the Communist state's actions in a specific region of the former Russian empire, where the Bolsheviks faced a whole range of ideological and practical problems for the addressing of which they proved to be poorly equipped.'
Vera Tolz-Zilitinkevic, Sir William Mather Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Manchester, `Focusing on the 1920s in Soviet Central Asia, Alun Thomas' insightful work provides an innovative account of the policy and debates that preceded the forced settlement of Kazakh and Kyrgyz nomads during collectivisation. He approaches with finesse the nuances of the governance of nomadic societies, as well as the conflicts that erupted between various actors because of their competing political agendas. Thomas' work is a most welcome addition to the literature on both the Soviet social engineering of nomadism and, more broadly, Soviet nationalities policy.'
Isabelle Ohayon, Assistant Research Professor, Centre for Russian, Caucasian and Central European Studies (CERCEC), Paris

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: Library of Modern Russian History

ISBN: 9781788311557
Publication Date: 29 Jun 2018
Number of Pages: 272
Height: 216
Width: 138
Illustrations: 2 maps

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