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Mass migration of the population as a consequence of collectivization and famine in Kazakhstan

Mass migration of the population as a consequence of collectivization and famine in Kazakhstan - e-history.kz
The widespread movement of migration of Kazakh population in many regions of the Republic was a form of mass protest and resistance of peasants to collectivization and escape from hunger.

The widespread movement of migration of Kazakh population in many regions of the Republic was a form of mass protest and resistance of peasants to collectivization andescape from hunger. Since the beginning of collectivization and confiscation the migration began not only to other regions inside, but also abroad (China, Iran, Afghanistan). About 400 thousand households had migrated from Kazakhstan, i.e. not less than 75% of available nomadic and semi-nomadic households by the end of 1920s. Data on the nature and extent of mass migration of population as a result of collectivization and famine recorded in a number of documents now deposited in the Special State Archive of the National Security Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Archive of the President.

The scale of migration of local population was so impressive that the authorities were seriously thinking about taking some measures. Therefore, it was no accident that by the Stalin’s orders the OGPU (The State Political Directorate) operational reports were sent to the members of Politburo.

Reports of the OGPU frontier detachment had recorded protests of the masses. In a memorandum report “On the migrations of the Kazakh farms in China”, compiled on January 1, 1930, states that “directives about migrations of the population in China, as prior to the confiscation of rich farms, and in connection with the confiscation, came from the Kazakh nationalists who regarded this measure as a method of fencing cattle farms from ruin, which, in their opinion, had brought to the steppe the politics of the Soviet authority. <...> Presence of the migration of groups of population and of individuals was due to the panic that swept across population under the influence of provocative rumors and fear of being subjected to confiscation and expulsion...”.

As reported in the document for the entire 1929 within the limits of China migrated bai’s farms – 123, middle peasants – 128, poor peasants – 165. Altogether – 416. Souls with bai’s farms – 739, middle peasants – 474, the poor – 132, altogether – 1845. Stolen cattle with bai’s farms – 11 607, middle peasants – 6969, poor peasants – 1132, altogether – 19 708.

Border Guards arrested during the year altogether 250 farms with 17 577 heads of cattle, or 26.4% relative to the total number of attempted to migrate.

From the materials of the border troops, the activity and counter-revolutionary propaganda of the village bourgeoisie and Muslim clergy, which had attracted the middle and poor population named as the causes of mass migrations of the Kazakh population, bais and wealthy part of population. It was reported that to this migration also contributed foreign counter-revolutionary and Chinese authorities, who promised economic benefits to the migrated in the form of tax exemption.

Number of facts were fixed when bais and mullahs openly opposed to the creation of any non-governmental organizations (agricultural cooperatives, women's organizations, etc.), agitating the poor and women not to join these organizations, and youth to evade conscription into the Red Army. There are several cases where the number of young people for fear of conscription into the army, fled to China.

The document contains “counter-revolutionary statements” among the population:

«…In the USSR communists did not allow to live. Take away all to the ground, then put in prison and starve to death. In the Semipalatinsk all prisons and big buildings filled with detainees who are not fed and consequently die 15-30 people ... All honest Communists who speak out against iniquity, immediately grasp, and accuse of the right deviation and shoot» (Report of the 50th Border Guard);

«... Is the Soviet government remained forever ..., it is impossible to live like this ... Is this life? You wait every hour that they will come and take away the cattle»;

«Life has become so difficult. The Soviet authorities began to plunder all of us, bais, we should go abroad in China» (Mullah Musekenov Tazhi);

«Grain procurements, confiscation - robbery of the people ... We are very sorry that could not previously know about the conduct of such campaigns by the Soviet authorities, if we knew beforehand we could sell our livestock and migrate to China, for now, life has become impossible ... We are robbed and oppressed by the Soviet authorities»;

«The Soviet government wants to completely destroy the population ... grain procurements, self-taxation, loans and other campaigns do not allow peacefully live...the migration abroad is the only escape from the Soviet Government» (wealthy Mukhanov);

Sh. Suleimenov over the years conducts systematic counter-revolutionary propaganda: «One of the worst aspects of the Soviet authority - it is a persecution of religion. Now no one taught religion, therefore religion in 5-10 years will be exhausted»;

Aytkozha Otarbayev leads a mass agitation against the Latinization of alphabet, which is picked up by the mullahs and bais and they link this issue with the inevitable weakening of religion, and make a conclusion that they need to organize migration of Kazakhs in China, where the foundations of Islam steadfast» [1, p. 17, 18]. Here we should mention an important fact that the transfer of the Kazakh alphabet in 1928 from Arabic to Latin, which the native population regarded as a departure from the national traditions and culture and as serious damage to the development of language, was one of the reasons for dissatisfaction of Kazakhs and their forced migration beyond Kazakhstan.

The armed uprisings of peasants were also accompanied by the migration. The survived participants of the armed resistance fled abroad from the persecution.  

In this vein, peasants from the districts of Mangistauski, Zhilokosinski, Uilski, Tabynsk were forced to leave Kazakhstan and migrate to the territory of Turkmenistan and Karakalpakstan, and some – in Iran and Afghanistan.

The population migrated abroad for entire villages. In China found themselves a significant part of the rebellious villages of Balkhash, Chokparski, Iliski, Enbekshikazakhski, Bien-Aksuiski, Sarkandski, Jarkentski districts of Alma-Ata Province. 

The archival documents contain information about the clashes between the runaways and border guards that took place at the intersection of frontier. In collisions and skirmishes the losses were inevitable from both sides, people crossing the border from the one side, and the border guards from the other.

In a special report of the Deputy Plenipotentiary Representative of the OGPU in Kazakhstan Alshansky compiled by December 22, 1930, reported ongoing internal and external migrations of Kazakh population as of November 24, 1930. The paper noted that the migration in China were most widespread from the border areas of Alma-Ata and Semipalatinsk districts. The outside migration mostly indicated from the Syr-Darya district in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Migrations inside Kazakhstan took place in Gurievsk, Ural, Petropavl and Karkaralinsk districts. In the report main reasons for this phenomenon is observed as follows: “bais’ desire to evade the tax burden and grain procurements, migrate to areas with high collectivization level and less pressure from the Soviet apparatus of these areas, thereby masking the face of their class”. Authorities everywhere proceeded from the principle of the class. In the same vein further stated: “taking away with them the poor and middle class, bais agitates them that they would find “better place of residence”, “better authorities” in the sense of reducing the tax and other obligations”. In special report another reason for migration also named: in the Guriev district and in the part of Ural region facts of mass migration outside the district for reasons of lack of provisions and feeds was observed. The document brings forward the numbers of scale of migration: so, “according to incomplete data as of November 15, from the Ural district in other districts had migrated up to 10 000 households, including up to 60% of the middle peasant and poor peasant households. Particularly affected with migration Kara-Tyubinski, Talovski, Dbishenski [so in the document – Zh. K.] and Chelkar districts. From Petropavl district kulaks and bais migrates mostly in Tashkent, Alma-Ata and Syr-Darya district, in part - to Ukraine and part of them runs to manufactures, collective farms and other enterprises. In Karaspansk district of Syr-Darya county for the month of October fled in an unknown direction 400 bai-kulak’s households. In Tokraussk district of Karkarala county migrated 20 kibitka (tents), preparing for migration 100. From Aktuba district [Aktobe – Zh. K.] of Guriev county due to the lack of provisions and feeds had migrated 500 households that have a goal to sneak in Turkmenistan”.

In special report also stated that in most cases migration abroad occur “under the guise of armed bands, both local and foreign origin and the explicit support of the runaways by the Chinese authorities”. Thus, the document reveals often direct assistance to the moving Kazakhs by the Kazakhs, who migrated to China before and already Chinese subjects – in the form of sending of armed forces from outside for escort. The following facts of such support are presented.

Tustukbaev’s village of Zaisan region of the former Semipalatinsk county migrated to China under the protection of 12 Chinese Kazakhs, who arrived from China and were armed with 3-line rifles. During the crossing 388 heads of cattle were captured.

  With the help of armed 40 Chinese Kazakhs in an outpost number 3 of the former Semipalatinsk county bais Topayev, Choganov, Maukubayev and Amobaev together with families and 510 heads of cattle migrated in China.

  In an attempt of escape to China have been detained 25 familieswith livestock in the area of Tohti of the same county. The organizers of this migration were bais of Tohtinski district, who had secret meetingpreviously, and bai Uskombayev were sent to Chinafor negotiations. As a consequence, the Chinese government gave 15 armed men, who were expecting them on the border near the area “Ari-Birik”.

  According to KGB agents, from the October district of the former Alma-Ata county is going to flee to China Azhibekov Beksultan, who's brother Muka Azhibekov (Chinese ruler of the parish) is going to send the armed Chinese Kazakhs.

  In the same place bai of Sarbelskvillage Rahatov Srabil illegally traveled to China, where he negotiated with the Chinese ruler of the parish Muka Azhibekov about the migration into China of 7 bais’ families. Azhibekov had sent armed Chinese Kazakhs in order to assist them in crossing the border.

  The report of OGPU stated that during the border crossing a series of clashes between the border guard from the one side and with runaways and the accompanying them “gangs” from the other side took place. In collisions casualties were on both sides, for example, in the Taldy-Kurgan district of the former Alma-Ata county border guards crashed a “gang” that accompanied 25 moving on people. In a firefight 17 bandits were killed, the remaining 8 had gone abroad. 11 members of the “bais’ families” were captured.

At the time of mass migration in border areas, as well as across the country the Soviet government continued to use widespread repressions in the form of so-called “extracting kulak-bai and anti-Soviet elements”. In the same abovementioned document as of November 10, 1930, reported that 1103 people were arrested from the Malay-Sariyski, Bien-Aksuiski, Enbekshi-Kazakhski, Baribaevski, Sarkand, Andrew, October, Karkarinski, Ural districts, including: bais – 1301, mullahs – 18, the middle peasants – 51, poor people – 3. In parallel with the extracting of “anti-Soviet elements” “seizure and expulsion of unauthorized arrivals from Siberia” were conducted, for example, in Sarkand district – 28, Andrew – 16, October districts – 21 people. The paper notes that at the time of repression Siberians, from the latter bread bought up from local population in amount of 100 to 300 pounds were confiscated and hidden. Cases of “confiscated elements” referred to the triples of the OGPU for further consideration.

The document pointed out the weakness of the local organizations of villages, the lack of “consolidating work” among the poor. The report also stated that “bais continue stubborn resistance to the current economic and political campaigns, and almost all of them set to flee to China”.

Fleeing from collectivization and famine, the masses along with the Kazakh peasants, Russian, Ukrainian peasants also were leaving Kazakhstan.

Hence, if as a consequence of famine in 1930s of XX century in Kazakhstan some 2 million (40%) of the indigenous population were perished, about one million Kazakhs fleeing from the Bolshevik collectivization and famine that followed it, breaking through the border with fighting left abroad. Returned back to their homeland only half of them.

Data was given from the Institute of State History, Committee of Science of The Ministry of Education and Sciense 


Zhanna Urkinbayevna Kydyralina – First deputy director of the Institute of State History, 

Doctor of Historical Sciences