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History, Soviet Period

Semipalatinsk, Nursultan, Semey, Crimean Tatars, Leonid Brezhnev

Alash Orda leaders initially sided against the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War (1918-1921). Some Kazakh leaders appealed to the anti-Bolshevik forces known as the Whites for weapons to help fight the Bolshevik forces. The leader of the Whites, Admiral Alexander Kolchak, refused the request and ordered the suppression of Alash Orda. The Kazakh nationalists then sought compromise with the Bolsheviks and received assurances from them that Kazakh autonomy would be maintained. In 1920 an area roughly corresponding to present-day Kazakhstan (borders were later redrawn) was designated an autonomous socialist republic. The Kazakh national elite, composed mostly of Alash Orda leaders, participated in local government. In the early 1920s the Kazakh population suffered a devastating famine in which 1 million to 3 million people died from starvation.

In December 1922 the Bolsheviks founded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Kazakhstan was incorporated into the USSR as the Kirgiz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR). It kept that name until 1925, when it was renamed the Kazakh ASSR. In 1929 the southeastern city of Almaty was designated the capital of the republic. In 1936 the Kazakh ASSR was upgraded to the status of a constituent republic, or Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), of the Soviet Union. In 1937 the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, a branch of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), was established.

In 1928 the Soviet authorities removed all Kazakh leaders from the local government. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin then instituted a rigorous program to collectivize agriculture, in which the state confiscated and combined all arable land into large collective and state farms. Kazakh culture and way of life were virtually destroyed as a result of the Soviet program to forcibly settle Kazakhs on these farms. Kazakh nomads slaughtered their livestock rather than turn it over to the Soviet authorities. More than 1 million Kazakhs died as a result of starvation, and many more fled to China to escape the forced settlement. In the late 1930s, during Stalinís purges of Soviet society, the Kazakh national elite was brutally and systematically eliminated. During World War II (1939-1945), Stalin ordered large-scale deportations of ethnic groups he deemed untrustworthy to the more remote regions of Central Asia. Many of those deported were sent to the Kazakh SSR, including Germans from the Volga River area of Russia, Crimean Tatars from the Crimean Peninsula (in present-day Ukraine), and Koreans from the Soviet Far East.

In the 1950s Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev launched the Virgin Lands program, a scheme to bring extensive tracts of land in southwestern Siberia and the northern part of the Kazakh SSR under cultivation. The program was supervised in the Kazakh republic by Khrushchevís protege, Leonid Brezhnev, who in the 1960s succeeded Khrushchev as Soviet leader. Although the program was flawed, it succeeded in rapidly transforming the northern grassy plains of the Kazakh republic into an agricultural area specializing in wheat and other grains. Also during the 1950s the Soviet authorities established a space center called the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the east central part of the Kazakh republic. In addition, the Soviets created nuclear testing sites near Semipalatinsk (now Semey) in the east and huge industrial sites in the north and east. A new wave of Slavic immigrants flooded into the Kazakh republic to provide a skilled labor force for the new industries. Russians surpassed Kazakhs as the republicís largest ethnic group, a demographic trend that held until the 1980s.

In 1986 the Soviet authorities in Moscow installed a Russian official, Gennady Kolbin, as first secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. Thousands of Kazakhs rioted in Almaty to protest the ouster of Dinmukhamed Kunayev, a Kazakh official who had held the post since the 1960s. The Soviet leadership had replaced Kunayev in an attempt to eliminate the corruption associated with his government. Exactly how many people died in the riot is still unclear.

Kolbin was a supporter of the extensive political and economic reforms that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had begun to implement in the mid-1980s. In 1989 Kolbin was transferred to Moscow, and Soviet authorities appointed Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, a prominent Kazakh official, in his place. In March 1990 the Supreme Soviet (legislature of the Soviet Union) elected Nazarbayev to the newly established post of president of the Kazakh republic. Nazarbayev ran unopposed in the republicís first democratic presidential elections, held in December 1991, and won 95 percent of the vote. Kazakhstan declared its independence later that month, shortly before the USSR broke apart.



Article key phrases:

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