«We need to look into the past in order to understand the present and foresee the future»
N.A.Nazarbayev

Bashkir and Kazakh national movement in 1917-1920

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Bashkir and Kazakh national movement in 1917-1920

1917 is one of the key moments in history of Russia, countries of the former Soviet Union and world history as well. The February Revolution that took place that year attracted many clerisy representatives to participate in socio-political events. Prominent representatives of Turkic people, including Bashkir scientists 

Akhmet-Zaki Validov and Kazakh public figure Alikhan Bukeikhan played an active role in those events. These outstanding individuals headed the national movement at the turning point of history. Akhmet-Zaki Validov and Alikhan Bukeikhan met in 1912 for the first time after publication Validi’s book ‘Istoriya tyurkov i tatar’ (History of the Turks and the Tatars). A.Bukeikhan and orientalist V.V.Bartold advised him to be engaged in science, to be away from politics before the revolution. However, it happened so that Validi and Bukeikhan had to be in the thick of historical events. Their last meeting was in 1918 in Ufa during the discussion of issues related to the establishment of Federation of Southern-Eastern Muslims. The struggle between proponents of territorial federation and national cultural autonomy started at I all-Russian Muslim Congress, held in May 1917. A number of national delegations, including the Bashkirs advocated for territorial autonomy. A.-Z.Validi, who took part in that Congress advocated for Turkestan autonomy beyond the idea of the Bashkir autonomy. In his opinion, it was possible to establish territorial autonomy only in the regions with predominant Turkic population as ‘Malaya Bashkiriya’, Turkestan and Kazakhstan. Thus, he supported the idea of federal structure of Russia, self-determination of the Turkic people coinciding with the resolution of the congress. 

 During I all-Russian Muslim Congress, the Bashkir delegation that consisted of 58 people formed ‘Bashkir regional bureau’, which presented a project for the implementation of the Bashkir territorial autonomy within ‘Malaya Bashkiriya’. Later, the publication of ‘Bashkort’ newspaper started. 

 A.-Z.Validi spoke with report on governance and land issues at I all-Bashkir Congress. The congress program on land issues stated: ‘All land in Bashkirs’ possession constitute the heritage of the Bashkir people and cannot be disposed in private property’. Approaches of I All-Bashkir Congress to solution of the land issues have similar moments with Alash-Orda program, published on 21 November 1917 in ‘Kazakh’ newspaper: ‘The use of the land must be realized so that the land must be used by village and district and not by individual families. Sale of land is prohibited, all large forests and rivers belong to the state and managed by District Council’. However, Alash-Orda postponed the final solution of the land issue until the national Constituent Assembly. This issue had been raised repeatedly. So, the first paragraph of legislative decree by Alash-Orda dated by 11-24 June 1918 abolished the institution of private land ownership. 

 I All-Bashkir Congress adopted a resolution, which stated: ‘Control system that ensures the interests and rights of Russian Muslims is a democratic republic on the national-territorial-federative principles’. It also established Bashkir Central Shuro (Council), a governing body that consisted of 7 people. 

 The resolution that Kazakh people welcomed the idea of democratic Republic, leaving the open issue on the national-territorial federation, in federal-democratic Republic with constituent assembly was adopted at the I All-Kazakh Congress (Orenburg, 21-26 July 1917). Decisions, policy documents of the national movement were covered in the newspaper ‘Kazak’. 

Memorandum report of Alash-Orda government to the Council of Ministers of autonomous Siberia dated by 26 July 1918 stated that the formation of the Kazakh territorial-national autonomy was connected to collapse of the Provisional Government, after which there could be anarchy with the absence of any authority. The Congress did not want to concede ‘opportunities for the development of Bolshevism in the steppe’. 

However, the Prosivional government was disposed in October, the power in Russia was seized by Bolsheviks. In these circumstances, Bashkir Central Shuro issued Farman No.1 on 11 November 1917, which contained the analysis of the situation. One of the authors of the document was A.Z.Validi. ‘We are not the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks; we are only Bashkirs. What side should we support? No one. We are on our side. We have nothing to do in these controversial issues. We should preserve our personal and property safety. Two million population of the Bashkirs cannot be a toy in such negligible political amusements. It has its own needs, its policy and own point of view’. Four days later, on 15 November, Farman No.2 was issued; it declared territorial autonomy of Bashkortostan within Orenburg, Perm, Ufa and Samara provinces. 

 The second All-Kazakh Congress was held from 5 to 13 December 1917 in Orenburg, where A.Z.Validi was a representative of the Bashkirs. He welcomed the Congress and urged Kazakh people to unity together with representatives of Muslim military Shura, ensign Bashirov, newspaper editor of ‘Yany bakyt’ F.Karimov, delegates of Orenburg military range T.Sedelnikov and A.Bogdanov. 

 III All-Bashkir (Constituent) Congress chaired by A.-Z.Validi was held from 8 to 20 December 1917 in Orenburg, representatives of the Kazakh S.Kadybayev and M.Chokayev were there as observers. The Congress unanimously adopted autonomy of Bashkortostan declared by the Bashkir Central Shuro. It considered the issues of borders, internal governance of autonomous Bashkortostan. The constituent and legislative body of Bashkortostan – pre-Parliament (Kese kurultai) was elected; A.-Z.Validi became one of the member. The government was established from the members of Pre-Parliament. An attorney Yu.Bikbov was elected as the Chairman of the Bashkir Government by A.-Z.Validi’s recommendation. A.-Z.Validi became the head of the Military and Internal Affairs and in Central Shuro as well. 

 The first months after October 1917, the Bashkir National Movement tried to adhere neutrality policy. However, after the occupation of Orenburg by the Red Guards on 4 February 1918, A.-Z.Validi, along with other members of the Bashkir Government was unreasonably subjected to two-month arrest by Soviet authorities of Orenburg province. During the attack of Belokazaks to Orenburg at night from 3 to 4 April 1918, arrested leaders of the Bashkir movement were set free. This arrest determined the political orientation of the members of the Bashkir government. After release from the prison, A.Z.Validi participated in restitution of the Bashkir Government, formation of the Bashkir Armed Forces, held negotiations with the command of the Czechoslovak corps, Komuch heads, Siberian Provisional Government with the aim of preserving the autonomy of Bashkortostan. The Bashkir Government established contacts with Komuch, who acknowledged the government and the armed forces of the Bashkirs and promised the autonomy of Bashkortostan after liquidation of the Bolshevism. 

 Alash-Orda and the Bashkir Government actively and successfully engaged in formation of own armed forces, police and government. At certain moments, centers of both national movements were in Orenburg. They held negotiations on emerging issues nad organized meetings with their representatives. The governments of Alash-Orda and Bashkortostan cooperated with representatives of other regions, including Turkestan, Azerbaijan and Siberia. The telegram of A.Bukeikhan dated by 24 June 1918, sent to Kazakh nomads, zhuzes, hordes, regions stated that Alash-Orda proceeded to execution of their duties according to the decree of II All-Kazakh congress; it was in the alliance with Siberian and Bashkir autonomies and it was suggested to organize a local council of Alash-Orda. Another telegram reported that the agreement with the governments of Siberia and Bashkortostan was concluded. On 14 July 1918, Akhmet Baitursynov arrived in Chelyabinsk as a representative of Alash-Orda under the government of Bashkortostan. 

 In September 1918, State meeting was held in Ufa, which was attended by the representatives of All-Russian constituent assembly, provisional Siberian government, Cossack troops, national movements of Bashkortostan, Kazakhstan, Turkestan and various parties. Decisions of the meeting were focused on the establishment of Central Anti-Bolshevist Government. Ufa Directory was formed for the government. 

 On 18 November 1918, Ufa Directory was overthrown, military dictatorship of admiral Kolchak was established. New ‘Supreme ruler of Russia’, as Kolchak called himself, reacted negatively to the idea of Bashkir and Kazakh autonomies at that period. The Bashkir government being between two fires in 1918, decided to take the side of the Soviet power after negotiations. The transition was agreed with the Kazakhs. A.Z.Validi informed A.Bukeikhan and A.Baitursun in advance. After negotiations, Alash-Orda defected to the side of the Soviet power. 

 Hereafter, many leaders of Bashkir and Kazakh national movements were repressed. Persecution, which began in 1920, was halted temporarily. However, they came under repression again. 

 Thus, Bashkir and Kazakh national movements that emerged after the February revolution in 1917 tried to maintain close cooperation in the relevant period. Leader of the Bashkir national movement Akhmet-Zaki Validi and the head of Alash-Orda government Alikhan Bukeikhan, who knew each other since pre-revolutionary time, were at the center of these historical events. They and other leaders of the national movements met several times to discuss and solve many emerging issues. 

A.G.Salikhov (RF, Bashkortostan, Ufa) Institute of History, Language and Literature, USC RAS 


 Used materials: 

 1. Togan Zeki Velidi, Hatıralar: Türkistan ve Diğer Müslüman Doğu Türklerin Milli Varlık ve Kültür Mücadeleri. Ankara, 1999. 

2. Аlash-Оrda. Collection of documents/ by N.Martynenko. Аlma-Аta. 1992. 192 p. 

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4. Кulsharipov М.М. Z. Validov and formation of Bashkir Autonomous Soviet Republic (1917–1920). Ufa, 1992, 160 p. 

5. Salikhov A.G Scientific and socio-political activity of Akhmetzaki Validov in 1908-1920, Ufa, 2003. 24 p.

 6. Salihov Ahat, A.Z. Velidi’nin Rusya’daki Toplumsal ve Siyasi Faaliyetleri// İslam Öncesinden Çaşdaş Türk Dünyasına. Prof. Dr. Gülçin Çandarlıoğlu’na Armağan. İstanbul, 2015. S. 517-526. 

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8. The national state structure of Bashkortostan (1917-1925). Documents and materials 4 volumes/Аuthor B.Kh.Yuldashbayev. V.2. Ufa, 2002. 680 p. 

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10. The national state structure of Bashkortostan (1917-1925). Documents and materials 4 volumes/Аuthor B.Kh.Yuldashbayev. Т.3. Ufa, 2002. 624 p.