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Soviet and national Kyrgyzstan : local agency and state-building in Central Asia (1918-1940) Almazbekova, Zhanara

Abstract

After the 1917 Revolution, the new Soviet state was trying to accommodate local nationalisms by creating opportunities for limited self-determination for non-Russian people in what would eventually become the multinational Soviet Union. The predominantly Muslim Central Asia presented a particular problem, not only due to cultural and religious contrasts, but also because the Russian Imperial rule there had most closely resembled classical colonialism. This research aims to examine the process of Soviet-style nation-building in the specific case of Kyrgyz people, a nomadic nation that by the late 1930s developed institutions of modern state, a territory with defined borders, and the system of education with its own, national written language. I will analyze the role played in this process by Soviet officials in Moscow and by a group of indigenous intellectuals. By scrutinizing complex negotiations between these key actors, my work will address two main questions: what was the specific impact of local agency and indigenous activism on the Soviet state-building project? And just how did these Kyrgyz and Moscow-based players convey their concerns and expertise in creating the "national" Kyrgyz boundaries and the alphabet? The study relies on a variety of primary sources, ranging from diaries to journal periodicals. Recent scholarly literature on Soviet nation-building in Central Asia includes investigations that focused on Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Studies of the comparable but socially specific case of Kyrgyzstan are conspicuous by their absence. Thus, my research builds on and adds to the existing body of Central Asia-focused scholarship by presenting the birth story of the Kyrgyz nation.

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