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Russian Turkestan (Russian: Ру́сский Туркеста́н), also known as Turkestansky Krai (Туркеста́нский край), was a subdivision (Krai or Governorate General) of Imperial Russia, comprising the oasis region to the South of the Kazakh steppes, but not the Protectorates of Bukhara and Khiva.
Although Russia had been pushing south into the Steppes from Orenburg since the early 18th century, the beginning of the conquest of Turkestan is normally dated to 1865, when the city of Tashkent fell to a force under General Cherniaev . Cherniaev had exceeded his orders (he only had 3,000 men under his command at the time) but St. Petersburg recognised the annexation in any case. This was swiftly followed by the conquest of Khodjend, Djizak and Ura-Tyube, culminating in the annexation of Samarkand and the surrounding region on the River Zeravshan from the Emirate of Bukhara in 1868. In 1867 Turkestan was made a separate Governorate General, under its first Governor-General, Konstantin Petrovich Von Kaufman. It consisted initially of three Oblasts (Provinces): Syr-Darya, Semirechye and the Zeravshan Okrug (Military Region). To these were added in 1873 the Amu-Darya Otdel , annexed from the Khanate of Khiva, and in 1876 the Ferghana Oblast, formed from the remaining rump of the Kokand Khanate after an uprising in 1875. In 1894 the Transcaspian Region, which was conquered in 1881-1885 by Generals Skobelev and Annenkov, was added to the Governorate General. The administration of the region had an almost purely military character throughout. Von Kaufman died in 1882, and a committee under Confidential Counsellor N.K. Girs toured the Krai and drew up proposals for reform, which were implemented after 1886. In 1888 the new Transcaspian Railway , begun at Uzun-Ada on the shores of the Caspian in 1877, reached Samarkand. Nevertheless Turkestan remained an isolated colonial outpost, with an administration that preserved many distinctive features from the previous Islamic regimes, including Qadis' courts and a 'native' administration that devolved much power to local 'Aksakals ' (Elders or Headmen). It was quite unlike European Russia. In 1908 Count K.K. Pahlen led another reforming Commission to Turkestan which produced a monumental report detailing problems with administrative corruption and inefficiency in 1909-1910. In 1897 the Railway reached Tashkent, and finally in 1906 a direct rail link with European Russia was opened across the steppe from Orenburg to Tashkent. This led to much larger numbers of Slavic settlers flowing into Turkestan than had hitherto been the case, and their settlement was overseen by a specially created Migration Department in St. Petersburg (Переселенческое Управление). This caused considerable discontent amongst the local population, Kirghiz, Kazakhs and Sarts, as these settlers took scarce land and water resources away from them. In 1916 discontent boiled over in the Central Asian Revolt, sparked by a decree conscripting the natives into Labour battalions (they had previously been exempt from military service). Thousands of settlers were killed, and this was matched by Russian reprisals, particularly against the nomadic population. Order had not really been restored by the time the February Revolution took place in 1917. This would usher in a still bloodier chapter in Turkestan's history, as the Bolsheviks of the Tashkent Soviet (made up entirely of Russian soldiers and railway workers, with no Muslim members) launched an attack on the autonomous Jadid government in Kokand early in 1918, which left 14,000 dead. Resistance to the Bolsheviks by the local population (dismissed as 'Basmachi' or 'Banditry' by Soviet Historians) continued well into the 1920s.
After the Russian Revolution, a Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union was created, which in 1924 was split into the Kazakh SSR (Kazakhstan), Turkmen SSR (Turkmenistan) and Uzbek SSR (Uzbekistan). The Tajik SSR (Tajikistan) was formed out of part of the Uzbek SSR in 1928, and a few years later the Kirghiz SSR (Kyrgyzstan) was separated from Kazakhstan. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these republics gained their independence.
- Eugene Schuyler "Turkistan" (London) 1876 2 Vols.
- G.N. Curzon "Russia in Central Asia" (London) 1889
- Ген. М.А. Терентьев "История Завоевания Средней Азии" (С.Пб.) 1903 3 Vols.
- В.В. Бартольд "История Культурной Жизни Туркестана" (Москва) 1927
- Count K.K. Pahlen "Mission to Turkestan" (Oxford) 1964
- Seymour Becker "Russia's Protectorates in Central Asia, Bukhara and Khiva 1865-1924" (Cambridge, Mass.) 1968
- Adeeb Khalid "The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform. Jadidism in Central Asia" (Berkeley) 1997
- T.K. Beisembiev "The Life of Alimqul" (London) 2003
- Daniel Brower "Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire" (London) 2003
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