Individual short paperAcentury ago, in summer 1916, a vicious rebellion exploded among the CentralAsians- Tajiks, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Turkmen and Kyrgyz- which became known onpages of history as “Revolt of 1916”. Even though the uprising started as a resistance to the conscriptionedict of the Tsarist system, it had a considerable prehistory going back to19th century. Since Andijon uprising, in 1898, the indigenous population ofRussian Central Asia endured the discriminatory rule of the Tsarist system andstarted to express growing dissatisfaction against the corrupt bureaucraticregime that converted arable lands into cotton monoculture and moreover, openlyand repeatedly stole their lands via expropriation. Historian, Daniel Brower describes the 1916revolt as “a judgment on the empire’s half-century of colonial rule”. (Smele, 2016) When Russian Stavkaauthorized by Nicholas II on June 25th, 1916 sent an order about the forcedmobilization into labor battalions in European front lines to serve in RussianArmy, a crisis arose leading to one of the horrific uprisings in Central Asianhistory. Due to the shortage inmanpower in European frontline, the Tsarist system required 390,000 men agedbetween 19 and 43 to be sent for war works who had to be of non- Russianorigin, in other words, the native people of Central Asia.
Panic and confusionarose among the Central Asian population because of the rumors that men wouldbe sent to fight in front. Within just a few days the vast region of Farghanavalley was in protest and revolt, and one of the first manifestations againstthe call-up was in Khujand, the northern part of Tajikistan, on July 4th, 1916.A crowd of natives gathered near the police office and requested to stop theconscription of men, however, the situation took another turn and demonstratorsstarted to attack the Russian soldiers with everything they could find eitherbe stones or guns. As a result, the guards began shooting into the crowd andtwo natives were killed and others were injured.
In the course of weeks, theprotest grew expanding to Kokand, Andijan, Dzijak and Semirechye. Already bythe July 17th of 1916, the entire area of Turkestangovernor-generalship was declared to be under the martial law. During thisviolent uprising, Russian settlers were killed, their wives were raped andtheir houses were burned. Eventually, the revolt was dealt mercilessly usingextreme methods by imperial authorities under Governor-General Kuropatkin.Kuropatkin demanded the killing of rebels and confiscation of their goods.
According to Soviet figures, “50 percent of local population horses, 55 percentof their camels, 39 percent of their cattle and 58 percent of their sheep andgoats were killed or confiscated.” (Smele,2016)Moreover, across the region of Central Asia 88, 000 rebels were killed incontrast to death of 3000 Russian settlers. Even after three years afteruprising when Geologist, P.S.
Nazarov saw the village of Samsonovka on the roadof Tokmak, he describes the utter distraction of area: “…Kyrgyz villagescompletely ruined and razed literally to the ground”. (Smele, 2016) Despite the killing ofthousands of rebels, other thousands of people died trying to escape to neighboringXinjiang, China. The revolt of 1916 remained in the memory ofpeople as ghastly mass deaths with horrific scenes which became later asensitive topic to discuss. It was forgotten on the pages of the history, as itbecame dangerous to discuss the Revolt in 1920s-30s till the end of Stalin’srule (1922-1952). For example, when young Kazakh writer Mukhtar Auezov,published his short novel “Qily Zaman” (Time of Ordeal) , where he depicted theviolence of Russian governance in 1916 revolt, he was arrested because of theanti-Soviet views in his novel.
To this modern day, the revolt has not beengiven much attention, but as Edward Sokol said: “the Revolt of 1916 was boththe prelude to the Revolution in Russia proper and the catalytic agent whichhastened the alignment of forces in Russian Central Asia”. (Smele, 2016) Thus, the revolt of1916 can be considered as the outbreak of the “Russian” Civil War.