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History, Soviet Period

urban industries, Islam Karimov, Toshkent, Amu Darya, RSFSR

The Russian Empire collapsed in the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the Bolsheviks (militant socialists) seized power in Russia. During the Russian Civil War (1918-1921), the Bolsheviks sought to reclaim the territories of the former Russian Empire. They established, by force, a new set of political entities in Central Asia that were ruled by local Bolshevik soviets, or councils. In 1918 the Bolsheviks made much of the southern part of Central Asia, including part of present-day Uzbekistan, into the Turkistan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) within the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR). Other areas of present-day Uzbekistan were still under the administration of Khiva and Bukhoro, whose traditional leaders were overthrown in 1920. These latter territories became the Khorezmian Peopleís Soviet Republic and the Bukharan Peopleís Soviet Republic, which still maintained nominal independence. In 1924 the borders of political units in Central Asia were changed, and the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) was formed from territories of the Turkistan ASSR, the Bukharan Peopleís Soviet Republic, and the Khorezmian Peopleís Soviet Republic. The same year the Uzbek SSR became one of the republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which had been created in 1922. Bolshevik rule was opposed by a Central Asian guerrilla movement known as the basmachi starting in 1918. Although the basmachi were largely put down by 1923, they reappeared in some areas of Uzbekistan during the collectivization of agriculture at the end of the 1920s.

The Uzbek SSR included the Tajik ASSR until 1929, when the Tajik ASSR was upgraded to the status of an SSR. At this point, the Tajik SSR received some additional territory that had belonged to the Uzbek SSR since 1924. In 1930 the Uzbek capital was changed from Samarqand to Toshkent. In 1936 the Uzbek SSR was enlarged with the addition of the Karakalpak ASSR (present-day Qoraqalpogh Autonomous Republic), taken from the Kazakh SSR. Territory was transferred several times between the Kazakh SSR and the Uzbek SSR after World War II (1939-1945). The present-day borders of the Central Asian states are a result of the territorial units that the Soviets circumscribed during this period.

The Soviets imposed many changes in the Uzbek SSR. In 1928 land was forcibly collectivized into state farms. Another land-related development, one with a catastrophic impact, was the drive initiated in the early 1960s to substantially increase cotton yields in the republic. The drive led to overzealous irrigation withdrawals from the Amu Darya and the subsequent ecological disaster in the Aral Sea basin.

During World War II many industries were relocated to the Uzbek SSR from more vulnerable locations in western regions of the USSR. They were accompanied by large numbers of Russians and members of other nationalities who were evacuated from areas near the front. Because so many Uzbek men were fighting in World War II, women and even children began to take a more prominent role in the economy. Some local women even began to work in urban industries, although the Uzbek population remained overwhelmingly rural. Also during the war the Soviet authorities relocated entire ethnic groups from other parts of the USSR to the Uzbek SSR and elsewhere in Central Asia. Stalin suspected these groups of being in collaboration with the Axis powers against the USSR.

Uzbek society was altered in major ways during the Soviet period. Islam, the traditional religion of the region, became a focal point in the 1920s for the antireligious drives of Communist zealots. Most mosques were closed, and religious schools became antireligious museums. Uzbeks who were deemed nationalist, often practicing Muslims, were targeted for imprisonment and in many cases execution during Soviet leader Joseph Stalinís Great Purge of the 1930s, which extended throughout all levels of Soviet society. Another development was the virtual elimination of illiteracy, even in rural areas. Only a small percentage of the population was literate before 1917; this percentage increased to nearly 100 percent under the Soviets.

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was the only legal party in Uzbekistan until 1990. The first secretary, or head, of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan (the republicís branch of the CPSU) was consistently an Uzbek. However, over much of Soviet history, Uzbeks were underrepresented in the higher levels of the republic Communist Party organs. Uzbeks were even more underrepresented in the central organs of the levels of the party in Moscow.

Political corruption was rampant in the USSR, including in the Uzbek SSR. This was especially true during the time when Sharaf Rashidov was head of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan, from 1959 to 1983. Following Rashidovís death in 1983, the CPSUís national campaign to clean up corruption widely publicized the misdeeds of the Uzbek SSRís political officials in the preceding period. These officials were accused of a scam that involved inflating cotton production figures for the republic and diverting payments from the Soviet Unionís central government for recorded, but nonexistent, cotton. Islam Karimov, the former leader of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan and head of that partyís reincarnation, the Peopleís Democratic Party (PDP), became president of the Uzbek SSR in 1990.



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