To Establish a Proper Kyrgyz Centre: National and Territorial Delimitation and the Capitals of Kazakhstan
This article considers the interconnection between national and territorial delimitation in the Central Asian region in the 1920s and the relocation of the Kazakh ASSR’s capital from Orenburg to Kzyl-Orda and then to Alma-Ata. Referring to documents, the author demonstrates how the Kazakh ethnopolitical elite used the new opportunities that emerged in this regard to ensure the national character of the Soviet autonomous region in the way that seemed the most appropriate to them. Orenburg, which became its capital upon the establishment of the Kazakh ASSR in 1920, did not look suitable; besides, the autonomous authorities had to take into account the presence of the independent authorities and management of Orenburg Province, whose representatives also experienced discomfort due to the city’s dual status. When interacting with the centre, represented by the Politburo and the Central Committee of the CPSU(b), the national leaders of Kazakhstan put forward various options for internal reorganisation and the accumulation of all possible resources in their hands. The so-called “Europeans”, i. e. Moscow envoys who led the autonomous region’s party organisation, were not only to mediate between the centre and the local elite but also establish a balance between the competing factions within it. The author also focuses on the rivalry between Kazakh politicians and the authorities of the Turkestan ASSR and the struggle for the inclusion of Tashkent and nearby Turkestan territories inhabited by Kazakhs into the Kazakh ASSR. This exposed intra-elite contradictions caused by the regional and ethno-social factors of nation-building and competition for financial, economic, administrative, and organisational resources. The article demonstrates that complex natural and climatic conditions, the nomadic nature of Kazakh society and its negligible degree of urbanisation, and a lack of proper infrastructure played a special role in the geography of Kazakhstan’s capital in the 1920s. In the context of accelerated modernisation, the government sought to combine the policy of national self-determination with ensuring the manageability and stability of a culturally complex region and strengthening interregional economic connections. The “migrations” of the Kazakh capital were also connected with the need to create an example of successful interaction between Moscow and national elites, as well as form an ethno-cultural centre that met symbolic requirements.
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