Making Uzbekistan: Nation, Empire, and Revolution in the Early USSR

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Honorable mention, Joseph Rothschild Prize in Nationalism and Ethnic Studies (Association for the Study of Nationalities)

In Making Uzbekistan, Adeeb Khalid chronicles the tumultuous history of Central Asia in the age of the Russian revolution. Traumatic upheavals—war, economic collapse, famine—transformed local society and brought new groups to positions of power and authority in Central Asia, just as the new revolutionary state began to create new institutions that redefined the nature of power in the region. This was also a time of hope and ambition in which local actors seized upon the opportunity presented by the revolution to reshape their society. As the intertwined passions of nation and revolution reconfigured the imaginations of Central Asia's intellectuals, the region was remade into national republics, of which Uzbekistan was of central importance.

Making use of archival sources from Uzbekistan and Russia as well as the Uzbek- and Tajik-language press and belles lettres of the period, Khalid provides the first coherent account of the political history of the 1920s in Uzbekistan. He explores the complex interaction between Uzbek intellectuals, local Bolsheviks, and Moscow to sketch out the flux of the situation in early-Soviet Central Asia. His focus on the Uzbek intelligentsia allows him to recast our understanding of Soviet nationalities policies. Uzbekistan, he argues, was not a creation of Soviet policies, but a project of the Muslim intelligentsia that emerged in the Soviet context through the interstices of the complex politics of the period. The energies unleashed by the revolution also made possible the golden age of modern culture, as authors experimented with new literary forms and the modern Uzbek language took shape. Making Uzbekistan introduces key texts from this period and argues that what the decade witnessed was nothing short of a cultural revolution.

Table of Contents:

1. Intelligentsia and Reform in Tsarist Central Asia
2. The Moment of Opportunity
3. Nationalizing the Revolution
4. The Muslim Republic of Bukhara
5. The Long Road to Soviet Power
6. A Revolution of the Mind
7. Islam between Reform and Revolution
8. The Making of Uzbekistan
9. Tajik as a Residual Category
10. The Ideological Front
11. The Assault
12. Toward a Soviet Order

Bibliography of Primary Sources



Making Uzbekistan is an important and original work. Adeeb Khalid's account of the formative years of the Uzbek republic fills a major gap in the scholarship on Soviet and Central Asian history. The author highlights the continuities in people, ideas, and policies across the 1917 revolutionary divide, tracing the roots of Soviet-era transformations back to the jadid reformers of the tsarist empire. In addition to its chronological breadth, Making Uzbekistan is thematically wide-ranging, examining topics from national identity and political purges to film and literature. This book is uniquely valuable and will set the agenda for further study of Soviet Central Asian history.”—Adrienne Edgar, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of Tribal Nation: The Making of Soviet Turkmenistan

“Adeeb Khalid's Making Uzbekistan is a tour de force. In it, he traces how modern Central Asia came to be imagined in national terms. Khalid examines how Turkestan, a colony of the Russian empire, became under Soviet rule several republics formed on national lines. It is a story of unintended consequences. Khalid insists on the role of the local intelligentsia in producing the culture and political structures of this region. Much scholarship has examined how Soviet republics emerged in the frames established in the Stalinist 1930s. Khalid examines the preceding two decades, when fateful choices were made and paths taken—and others closed. The story is a tragedy, in the classic sense of the term. The Bolshevik state and the Uzbek intelligentsias both pursued cultural reform and revolution. Their visions overlapped at crucial moments, but their projects remained different. His account culminates in the slaughter of the Uzbek intelligentsia who had helped make these republics, at the hands of the regime that made this project possible.

This book is profoundly learned and yet at the same time is eminently clear. It tells a story both of political struggle and cultural reform. He bases his authoritative account on archives and research in Tashkent, Samarqand, Moscow, London and Paris, in writings and material in the Turkic (Uzbek) and Persianate (Tajik) languages of Central Asia and Russian, as well as modern scholarship in all these languages, plus modern Turkish, French, German and English. He tells it as both a story of Soviet history as well as a story of global anti-imperialism. (Readers of Erez Manela's The Wilsonian Moment will learn of a different moment and a different model for a wide swath of the colonial world in the 1920s.)

"This is a tragic but important history. It deserves a wide readership among scholars of Soviet history, Central Asia, and in the global twentieth century.”—Peter Holquist, University of Pennsylvania, author of Making War, Forging Revolution: Russia's Continuum of Crisis, 1914-1921


Cornell University Press
Ithaca and London
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