In Kazakh history, as in the history of other nations, it has been quite difficult to assess the role of particular figures on the basis of the eternal philosophical question: does the person create history, or do historical laws themselves put forward a personality. Of course, the socio-economic situation that has developed objectively in this or that epoch requires that someone take responsibility for decisions. And necessarily there is a person who plays the role of a ruler or reformer, leader or mastermind, or all at the same time.
But the whole complexity lies in the fact that objective historical conditions cannot put forward an objective person. The factor of subjectivity plays the main role here. After all, depending on what are the goals, character traits and the level of personal ambitions, it has either positive or negative influence on the course of history.
In this regard, the emergence of prominent Kazakh "Alash" figures is uniquely conditioned by objective circumstances of the late 19th - early 20th century. A situation that can only be characterized by a single phrase: the lower classes do not want to live in the old way; the tops cannot manage in a new way. The Russian empire was feverish; revolutions led to anarchic powerlessness, and under such conditions, individuals who at this point of the crisis, having shown remarkable willpower, would become the leaders of social and economic transformations.
This was the moment of truth. National liberation movements, led by national leaders, intensified throughout the territory of Russia. The first state formed on the ruins of the empire was the Ukrainian People's Republic (November 7, 1917), and then the Democratic Republic of Bashkortostan emerged (November 15, 1917). It was followed by the creation of independent republics such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, and others.
With this respect, the Kazakhs occupy a special place. After all, practically all the settled peoples of the Russian Empire already had their own representatives of the bourgeoisie (albeit a few), and they were the leaders of the national liberation movements. All the newly created republics were bourgeois-democratic, led by their influential bourgeoisie. And this is natural, because it is the capitalists who are more eager to preserve and multiply their wealth. And Russia's colonial policy did not allow them to fully develop their business. (Although, for example, Azerbaijan produced up to 5% of the industrial output of the entire Russian Empire before the revolution).
At the same time, in the vast expanses of the Kazakh steppe, there was practically no bourgeoisie, because there was no capitalism as such. The feudal and semi-feudal relations still dominated, and most of the Kazakhs continued to lead a nomadic life. Existing factories belonged mainly to Russian and foreign entrepreneurs.
At the time of impending socio-political and economic crises, the role of national leaders was assumed not by the feudal lords and the bourgeois, but by scholars, writers, and enlighteners (in short, by Kazakh intelligentsia). And they represented the interests not of any particular class, as occurred in all revolutions at all times, but of the people as a whole: wealthy and working class, nomads and urban residents. This is the most striking and unique fact. After all, usually in revolutionary events, the intelligentsia played the role of spiritual inspirers or passive observers, but in no way active participants in political battles.
In the Kazakh history, at the beginning of the 20th century, almost every creative figure considered it his direct duty and mission to actively participate in the formation of the Kazakh Republic. Not all of them were members of the "Alash" party, but all of them can be called adherents and champions of one national liberation idea, and in this sense, they were all Alash. After all, according to ancient Kazakh traditions, Alasha Khan, the ancestor of the Turks, was the founder of the first state of the ancient nomads of Eurasia. The cult of Alash Khan, the first steppe khan, was a national idea of nomadic tribes, which was especially evident during the formation of the Kazakh Khanate (15th-16th centuries). After hundreds of years, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Alash figures, the descendants of brave ancestors, without a sword in their hands, but possessing an unprecedented strength of spirit and self-sacrifice, united and realized the national idea by founding the Kazakh Republic.
It can be noted that this was the era of the Renaissance and Enlightenment in Kazakh history. Indeed, almost all the figures of Alash were creative people: writers, poets, scientists, and enlighteners. None of them pursued the narrow-minded goals of preserving and multiplying their own wealth or possessing unlimited. All of them were above all patriots of their land and people, and people with an active civil position.
Getting our lands back
It is the sincere conviction that they are entrusted with the great mission of creating the Kazakh Republic, and inspired the masses. Therefore, the popularity of the Alash figures among the public was enormous, and the influence on minds was quite strong. This produced some concerns amongst first the Provisional Government, and then the Bolsheviks.
Representatives and followers of Alash were able to defend the borders of the Kazakh ASSR, and later of the Kazakh SSR, precisely in the limits that we have now. A vast territory with well-known large reserves of natural resources, already inhabited by Russian and Ukrainian settlers, was torn apart, and the study of historical documents shows how hard the Alash figures collected the Kazakh lands disparate as a result of the administrative and territorial policy of tsarist colonialism. After all, as part of the Russian Empire, Kazakhstan as a collective administrative-economic and political unit did not exist. In the Asian part of the empire, there were nine regions: the Urals, Turgai, Akmola, Semipalatinsk, Semirechenskaya, Syr-Darya, Trans-Caspian, Samarkand, and Fergana. There were also two generals-governorships: Steppe and Turkestan. It was almost impossible to collect the Kazakh Republic from all these regions and provinces as an integral ethnic territory, considering that even then half the population was Russian, and the Siberian Bureau of the Bolshevik Party actively resisted the reunification of the original Kazakh lands. Large disputes arose around Akmola and Semipalatinsk regions, Pavlodar, Kustanai, Kokchetav uyezds, etc.
All these serious territorial contradictions demanded a lot of courage and selflessness from representatives of the Kazakh intelligentsia to defend the interests of the indigenous population. Having disagreements on many issues of the national-state system, they were unanimous in the territorial issue, and this unshakable unity became the main catalyst for the formation of an independent republic. After all, as is known, Lenin initially was against this. However, it was him who convened a special meeting of the Council of People's Deputies in 1920 to resolve the Kazakh territorial issue. Having listened to all sides, he gave the order not to divide disputable steppe areas in the west and east and completely transfer these lands to the newly created Kazakh Autonomous Republic. And in the same year, Lenin signed the Decree on the formation of the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, according to which all disputed territories became part of the Kazakh autonomy. But the territorial disputes did not end there. Repeatedly, the Siberian Committee has made serious efforts to divert disputed lands. The Kazakh intelligentsia defended every inch of the Kazakh territory, entering into open confrontation with the Bolshevik authorities. This persistent struggle ended with the signing of the resolution on the borders of the Kazakh Republic on January 26, 1922, and in November 1924, as a result of the national-territorial demarcation, the territories of the Semirechye and Syrdarya regions were also annexed to the Kazakh ASSR. Representatives of the Kazakh intelligentsia including Alikhan Bokeikhanov, Akhmet Baitursynov, M.Dulatov, A.Beremzhanov, M.Shokay, J.Akpayev, M.Tynyshpayev, A.Ermekov, S.Khodzhanov, T.Ryskulov, S.Mendeshev, S.M. Seifullin, S. Asfendiyarov, S. Sadvokasov, N. Nurmakov and others - we owe our vast territory, the ninth largest in the world, which today is our main advantage in global competition.
The drivers of the nation
As such a large, very rich in resources and opportunities territory was recaptured without weapons, army and finance? How, without having serious levers of pressure and sufficient representation in the central government in Moscow, the Kazakhs managed to defend virtually all-territorial interests? Why did Lenin completely accept the side of representatives of the Kazakh intelligentsia and did not agree to a compromise solution of the territorial dispute?
Of course, there was a whole range of reasons for that. Firstly, the Kazakh delegation reasonably proved that those were originally Kazakh lands. Secondly, the Soviet government was still in a difficult political situation and could not allow for greater ethnic strife. However, if we remember that with many other peoples the Bolsheviks did not particularly stand on ceremony and fairly freely defined the borders of the autonomous republics, the above-mentioned reasons can hardly be called the main ones.
There was a subjective factor. This is precisely the influence of the individual, and in this case of personalities, on the course of historical development. As you know, Lenin was not in favour of the intelligentsia and somehow called it "lousy," adding that it is not the brain of the nation. And what was his surprise when it was the Kazakh intelligentsia, which had no army or organized proletariat behind their backs, led a desperate struggle for the integrity of ethnic territory in an effort to form the basis for the ethnopolitical, cultural and economic cohesion of the nation. The Kazakh intelligentsia was not only the brain of the nation, but also its heart, the centre of its spiritual impulse, and a voluntary victim. And Lenin could not help assessing this. The people whose intelligentsia selflessly and voluntarily sacrifices themselves in the name of the idea of a national ascent has the right to greatness.
Despite the fact that for many decades the independence of the Kazakh Republic, as well as of other republics of the Union, was formal, the very fact of having legal independence played a huge role in 1991 when Kazakhstan became independent. The creation of the Kazakh SSR was undoubtedly the achievement of the Kazakh intelligentsia, the followers of "Alash", who, without sympathy for Soviet power, nevertheless recognized it and served it for its people. They skillfully used the opportunity provided by the revolution, without pursuing short-term interests, but implementing a far-reaching strategy. And in this sense, they can be called the founding fathers of the Kazakh Republic. Neither khanates nor states, but a single, integral nation, which, largely thanks to their self-sacrifice, has preserved self-esteem and national dignity in the most difficult trials.
But, despite serious successes in the territorial-state plan, they failed to fully defend the economic interests of the Kazakh Republic. The Alash figures undoubtedly adhered to the right-wing views, the essence of which was the need for an objective analysis of socio-economic conditions and a consistent, step-by-step solution of existing problems. First of all, this concerned the transfer of nomadic Kazakhs to a settled way of life. Repeatedly the Alash kept in mind the disastrous consequences for the Kazakh population of the measures taken by the Soviet leadership in the 1930s. Their position was based on taking into account specific natural and climatic conditions, established economic relations, and traditional way of life and culture of Kazakhs. However, supporters of Stalinist collectivization, accusing the Alash of national deviation, established norms for keeping livestock in 6-7 heads in personal property, which led to a mass extinction of the Kazakh population.
The Alash figure actively opposed the ongoing industrialization in the form in which it was carried out in Kazakhstan, that is, the creation of a raw material base for the industrial development of the Russian centre. Their arguments were based on economic calculations and justified facts of the existence of all conditions for the development of the processing industry and the production of goods in the republic itself. They prophetically raised the problem of the "raw curse," which today is perhaps even more relevant than a hundred years ago. And now, as then, this issue remains unresolved.
The Alash put paramount importance on national interests. Therefore, considering such a serious factor as the inertia of the socio-economic development of the people, they insisted on a gradual transition from a nomadic way of life to a settled one. In order to take into account the concerns of people, time and appropriate conditions were required. It was necessary to offer people alternative activities, including through the creation of new jobs. To do this, you must first build factories and farms; you have to change people themselves, and noticing the advantages of sedentary life, will change the traditional way of life. Propaganda and ideological work should play an important role.
The question of the inertial development of the people is also relevant today when the transition from the socialist mode of production to capitalism has been realized. The majority of Kazakhstanis, even twenty years after this transition, remain paternalistic, especially in the provinces. They rely entirely on the state and sincerely believe that it will take care of them. This is an objective fact of the inertia of thinking. Only a small percentage of active people can quickly rearrange and radically change. Therefore, the state should not relieve itself of responsibility for the social welfare of the population (while creating conditions for the development of entrepreneurship in the country). And even more so, you cannot blame people for not wanting to or do not know how to work.
Incidentally, similar reproaches were directed against the Alash figures, when they defended the Kazakh population from an early and forced a transition to a settled way of life and collectivization. Ignoring the objective factors led to massive losses, the consequences of which would affect our people for a very long time. This huge tragedy in the history of the Kazakhs became the forerunner of yet another tragedy, no less significant in its significance and consequences: the physical destruction of vivid members of the Kazakh intelligentsia. But to destroy a person physically does not mean to exterminate his spirit. And the Alash figures were exceptionally creative, spiritually sublime; the energy of their spirit was indestructible.