About a quarter of a century has passed since the presentation of young people in December 1986, in Alma-Ata.
About a quarter of a century has passed since the event of young people in December 1986, in Alma-Ata and other cities of Kazakhstan against the dictates of the Centre. However, up until now, the December phenomenon, once excited the whole world, did not received an objective evaluation.
The real organizers and leaders still remained in shadow. The motive of participants is still unknown, particularly, the representatives of other nationalities.
The question about the quantity of victims and repressed ones among the participants and representatives of Kazakh intelligentsia, who underwent persecutions in 1986–1989, remained open.
Up until now, this significant historical event has not received widespread publicity and recognition, not only in the post-Soviet space, but also at worldwide level.
Today, both objective and subjective reasons, like small period of time from the date of the event and the destruction of the basic documents (Plan of operation «Metel-86», quick reports about the people involved in the performances, etc.), make difficult to approach the truth.
Youth actions in December 1986 were caused by the general crisis of the system, to deepen during the restructuring. «Second warming» with its democratic slogans and publicity policies awakened consciousness of the people, their proactive stance. People believed in the existence of democracy and attempt to force them to live under totalitarianism, faced with opposition, as expressed in the form of open protest.
The motive to this event in Alma-Ata was the 5th Plenum CPC, held in 16th December, 1986. The first Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan D. Kunayev was removed from his position at this Plenum. G. Kolbin was appointed on his position. All members of the Central Committee of CPC voted to his candidacy.
N. Nazarbayev, recalling this moment, later wrote that at that time «syndrome barracks psychology was triumphed» .
At 7.00–8.00 am of 17th December 1986, the youth (approximately 200–300 people) went to square of Brezhnev with slogan: «Stop dictation!», «Perestroika is going on, where is the democracy?», «Every nation has own leader!», «Lenin and the party together!», «None of the nation — none of the privileges!» and so on.
Participants required D.Kunayev to answer the following question: «Why leader is not Kazakh or someone from Kazakhstan?», «Which country also has leader of other nationality?», «Why D. Kunayev was removed?», «First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Republic shall be elected or appointed?»
At 11.30 am, participants left the square and then returned to it at 13.30 pm with up to 5 thousand people.
From 15.00 to 17.00 pm, party leaders of the republics tried to stop youth, calling them to leave the area. However, they could not find the right words and their actions were in vain. The researcher of this event N. Dzhagfarov believes that party workers demonstrated their helplessness, inability to work among the masses and ability to persuade. Relying on Kazakh mentality, obedience elders and chiefs, officials addressing to the youth could not have a dialogue, but only repeated «go away, do not disgrace us» . Participants threw snowballs and ice chunks to the speakers.
At 18.00 pm began the first step to disperse young demonstrators with truncheons with shields.
At 22.00 pm, the second step was followed by use of fire trucks at 20–25 degrees below zero.
From 23.30 and till 24.00 was held the third step with application of engineer shovels, guard dogs by cadets of Almaty highest boundary school.
In the morning of 18th December, youth again went to square and their number was even higher compare to previous day. One more slogan was added to the former slogans: «Remove Kolbin!» With nightfall punishment was carried out more cruelly, than in the first day.
Among the participants were people from villages, the representatives of Kazakh nationality, who came to study. Moreover, among them there were other nationalities, Russian, Tatar, Ukrainian, Chechen, Uzbeks, Uyghur, Kyrgyz, Bashkir, Armenian and Turkmen.
Average age of participants was 25, girls had dominant part.
Amount of participants of December event, according to American Helsinki group, was:
- Alma-Ata — 8–10 thousand people;
- Kazakhstan — 15–30 thousand people.
Among the organizers of the event 12 students studied at Alma-Ata Art and Theatre Institute:
1. Kurmangazy Aitmyrzayev;
3. Usypkhan Seitembekov;
4. Amanbay Kanetov;
5. Ertay Kobespayev and others.
At the first day many youth participated due to solidarity, some of them due to curiosity, others by accident. There were cases when some people were forced to take a part.
In the second day, many of them participated deliberately and their amount was higher. It proved their courage and heroism.
Military forces from 8 different cities of Soviet Union (Frunze, Tashkent, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, Ufa, Sverdlovsk, Tbilisi, Kara-Kemer and Alma-Ata region) were allocated to repress the rebellions.
If the amount of rebellions in Alma-Ata was 10 thousand people, according to American Helsinki group, then the amount of those who «repressed» was 40 thousand people, 11 thousands were representatives of security body, 6 thousands soldiers of Alma-Ata Garrison, 16 thousands combatants, 6 thousands soldiers from other regions of Soviet Union and 600 staff of KGB .
Accurate number of victims of December event has not yet been determined. At the first time names of 4 persons including victims (Kairat Ryskylbekov, Yerbol Spatayev, Sabir Mahamedzhanova and Lyazzat Assanova) were known.
M. Kozybayev gives other details:
- Died — approximately 168 people (155 participants, 13 — those who repressed);
- Wounded — 1722 participants and 772 representative of security body;
- Overall amount of detained 8.5 thousand people;
- Those who were examined in prosecutor’s office — 5324 people, KGB — 850 people;
- Those who subjected administrative courts — 900 people;
- Expelled from universities — 309 people;
- Removed from Komsomol — 758 people;
- Removed from CPSS — 53 people;
- Dismissed — 103 people from 1,5 to 15 years;
- Sentenced to highest level of punishment — 2 persons, later it was changed for 20 years jail .
Repression lasted whole winter and had «anti-Kazakh» character. Young people were beaten up in the entrance of their houses, in student accommodations and were sent to police offices. During this demonstration photos and video records had been made which then were used for recognize the identities of participants.
Demonstration took place not only in Alma-Ata, but also in other cities like Arkalyk, Karaganda, Chimkent, Pavlodar, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Dzhambul, Taldy-Kurgan, Tselinograd and Kokchetav. People from North Kazakhstan part also participated in this December event. The exact number of participants is still unknown as many of them officially did not received approval due to absence of documents.
Among North Kazakhstan citizens who were officially recognized as participants of December 1986 event: Botash Kazhimov (refused to participate in suppression of revolt in Alma-Ata, being the employee of internal troops), Nurzhan Kaliaskarov (the student of the 1st course of Almaty Architectural and Construction Institute, the participant of performance on Brezhnev Square in Alma-Ata), Lyazzat Saparova (the student of the 5th course of the Karaganda Polytechnic Institute, the participant of performances in Karaganda).
Only Lyazzat Saparova’s fate was more or less safe, except for moral damage and «three» on scientific communism. Botash Kazhimov was discharged from military service, expelled from Institute. For a long time he could not find a permanent job. Nurzhan Kaliaskarov during suppression of revolt was cruelly beaten by law enforcement officers. For a long time he was ill and later in 1994 died from internal injury. Fortunately he had son Nursultan — the successor of his surname.
Unfortunately, these names are unknown for our many fellow countrymen.
Those who alive and already died are still have not been gained deserved recognition, moral and material compensation for the broken destinies and the broken dreams. The only dream that they managed to bring into reality during the time of troubles is independence of Kazakhstan. At the first time performance of youth were treated as «revolt», «illegal actions», «hooligan tricks» and «manifestation of terry manifestation». Later they received neutral name -«event»
M. Shakhanov who made a speech at congress of People’s Deputies in 1989 with the offer on revision of an assessment of performances of youth in December, 1986 as «manifestations of nationalism» was the first who submitted a problem for discussion of the general public.
After that the commission of the Supreme Council of KazSSR led by M. Shakhanov was created. Having analyzed a huge document file, the commission in January, 1990 came to a conclusion that performances of youth were national in a form, but was not nationalist according to the contents.
On September 24, 1991 the Presidium of the Supreme Council of KazSSR accepted the first official document «The resolution «About Conclusions and the Conclusions of the Commission on a Final Assessment of the Circumstances Connected with Events in Alma-Ata on December 17–18, 1986 «in which it was said that performances of youth were not nationalist and at an initial stage had no illegal character.
On December 12, 1991 the decree of the President of Kazakhstan «About rehabilitation of the citizens made responsible for participation in events on December 17–18, 1986» of which the vast majority of participants were found not guilty was issued.
Today historians suggest considering that performance of youth in Alma-Ata was the peaceful demonstration which developed into the spontaneous mass revolt which had democratic, national liberation character.
Deterioration of the Kazakh-Russian relations turned out to be a negative consequence of «December, 1986». According to scientific of London University Sh. Akiner, December events became a watershed in the Kazakh-Russian relations: «The feeling of office, rejection and treachery became the initial point of revaluation of friendship» . In addition, Sh. Akiner considers that rigid political submission of Kazakhstan to the Center became result of December demonstration.
However, at the same time, it should be noted that after December, 1986 the Kazakh people felt themselves united. It promoted further growth of consciousness of the Kazakh people that was an important step on the way to a sovereignty and independence of the state.
For the first time the management of KazSSR after December events of youth paid attention to a distress of the Kazakh language in the republic. Interest in national history, customs and traditions of the Kazakh people began to grow in Kazakhstan.
Defining value of December 1986 performances, the President of Kazakhstan N.Nazarbayev called them «the first sprout of new democratic consciousness» .
One of the researchers of history of December events K. Tabeev compared its participants with Decembrists on December 14, 1825 as, in his opinion, «Decembrists» of 1986 woke the people of Baltic, the Caucasus, Central Asia, like Decembrists of 1825.
The Kazakhstan writer A. Kekilbayev called December performances of 1986 the first in a series of the national performances which showed effect of «dominoes» and predetermined the further course of political processes.
He suggested split them on three levels:
— First, as the events which had intra national value, so they promoted awakening of national consciousness;
— Secondly, as events of all-union value as they gave an impetus to make sovereign of federal republics;
— Thirdly, as the phenomenon of the world importance as they indirectly promoted the beginning of disintegration of world system of socialism .
Today society has to rise from recognition of December revolt of 1986 as tragic to its assessment as heroic and patriotic. In spite of the fact that revolt is not unambiguous as actions of participants were not ideal, and participation of many young people not absolutely conscious, it does not belittle its value.
December, 1986 laid the foundation to spiritual revival of the Kazakh people.
Public recognition of December performances of youth as first step on the way to independence of Kazakhstan, received reflection in symbolical opening of a monument «Tauelsizdik tan» («Dawn of Freedom») on September 18, 2006, on the eve of 20th anniversaries, in Almaty city on crossing of Zheltoksan Avenue and K. Satpayev Street (the author of a monument — the architect T. Suleymenov). The President of Kazakhstan N. Nazarbayev, participating in the opening ceremony of a monument, I called December revolt «an independence harbinger».
Learning historical lessons, today for us it is important to recognize that political stability in society is reached only on condition of equality and mutual respect of all nationalities and that depends on a civic stand and a choice of each of us not only its destiny, but also destiny of the Homeland.
Public recognition of December performances of youth as first step on the way to independence of Kazakhstan, received reflection in symbolical opening of a monument «Tuyelsizdik tany» (Freedom dawn) on September 18, 2006, on the eve of 20 anniversaries, in the city of Almaty on crossing of Zheltoksan Avenue and K. Satpayev Street (the author of a monument — the architect T. Suleymenov). The President of Kazakhstan N. A. Nazarbayev, participating in the opening ceremony of a monument, I called December revolt «an independence harbinger». Learning historical lessons, today for us it is important to recognize that political stability in society is reached only on condition of equality and mutual respect of all nationalities and that depends on a civic stand and a choice of each of us not only its destiny, but also destiny of the Homeland.
(NKSU named after M.Kozybayev)
1. N. Nazarbayev, Without right and left, Young Guard, 1991. Page 179.
2. N. Dzhagfarov, Namestnik of the Kremlin//Thought. 2006. No. 9. Page 78.
3. M. Kozybayev Dekabr 1986: facts and reflection / Kazakhstan at the turn of the century: reflections and searches. In 2 books, Book 1. Almaty, 2000, Page 238–239.
4. M. Kozybayev, December1986: facts and reflection / Kazakhstan at the turn of the century: reflections and searches. In 2 books, Book 1. Almaty, 2000, Page 247–250.
5. Sh. Akiner, Formation of the Kazakh consciousness. From a tribe to the national state. Almaty, 1998, Page 88.
6. N. Nazarbayev On the 21st century threshold. Almaty, 1996. Page 37.
7. A. Kekilbayev Severe test the day before changes / Novels, stories, stories, dramas, articles. In 6 volumes, volume 6, Almaty, 2001. Page 209 — 211.