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Saturday, September 20, 2003

Bollettino

When is a genocide not a genocide? When it doesn't fit in with anti-communist history, that 's when. In the Wash Post there is a jokey little article about the continuing presence of Lenin -- Lenin the evil -- in the former Soviet Union. The focus is on the controversy over taking Lenin's statue down in Kyrgyzstan. The article ends with this carefree paragraph:

"Ibraimov said he always intended to put the statue back up elsewhere in deference to Lenin's role in freeing Kyrgyzstan from the last Russian czar, who oversaw a 1916 crackdown here that killed 120,000 Kyrgyz, roughly one-sixth of the population. "He saved us from dying off," Ibraimov said. "Our attitude toward Lenin is unique."

Quite a crackdown there, for a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church. Frankly, we'd never hear of Czar Nicholas doing this. But surely, with all the concentration on Lenin's complicity in the construction of the Gulag -- a complicity that is almost always retrospective, since the crime isn't so much in what happened under Lenin as what happened after Lenin that we can see would have happened under Lenin if he'd lived -- surely some footnote should include these 120,000. A splash, a drop in the bucket, of course, nothing to worry about. Still, where did this number come from?

We looked around the Internet, and found an account, wierdly enough, at a tourist agency site. Here are some of the salient grafs.

"In the summer of 1916, the Russian Empire ordered a call up of non-Russians in the colonies that comprised the Russian empire to help feed it's desperate war effort in Europe. The Imperial Decree of 26th June 1916 was transmitted to Pishpek via Tashkent. It was quite specific, the locals were not to be drafted as combatants, but for support actities such as food production and road building � thus freeing the soldiers on these duties for combat. The wording of the decree was unfortunate in that it apparently referred to �requisition� rather than �conscription� � implying that the dractees were considered as �objects� rather than as people."

...

"There were attempts by the local Khans to prevent or delay the implementation of the decree. Accoding to some sources, the first uprising was in Khojent on July 4th 1916 and the movement spread to other parts of Turkestan. On July 11th a mass protest took place in Tashken and the police fired shots into the crowd. The Russians arrested an additional group and summarily executing thirty-five people. The Russian settlers, who had been brought into Tashkent some thirty to forty years earlier, began looting, apparently at the instigation of the Russian police."

...

"A Cossack army led by General Aninekov was sent from Vernoe (Almaty), and others from Ferghana and Tashkent and other regions of the far flung empire, to crush the rebellion. Even prisoners of war, who were being held in Russian POW camps in Central Asia, were recruited by the Russian generals as mercenaries with regular pay. The vigilantes and the army were given free reign and a the result was a serious of massive reprisals � slaughtering flocks, burning down Kyrgyz villages, killing men women and children, (and according to eyewitnesses, massacred even babies in the cradle) and hundreds of people were arrested. It is said that the trials in Pishpek were so disorganized that the authorities lost track of the people that had been executed..More Russian settlers were brought in to occupy confiscated Central Asian land and homes. Contemporary reports estimated that between 25 June 1916 and October of 1917, some one and one half million Central Asians were killed by the Russian forces and settlers, with the Russian casualties numbering around three thousand. Out of an estimated total population of 768,000 Kyrgyz, some 120,000 were killed in the fighting and the aftermath � according to one source, over 41% of the Kyrgyz population from the North of the country were killed. � and another 120,000 fled across the border to China, (referred to as �The Great Escape�) many dying en route in the snows, of hunger, or as the victims of bandits. There is a mountain pass called Ashu Surk � �the Pass of Bones� � which got it�s name from the number that died here in their attempted flight. The Aaly Tokombaev Museum in Bishkek has an exhibition dedicated to the exodus of many Kyrgyz to China in 1916 following the uprising. At least half of the Central Asian livestock was destroyed."

This is the lost liberal Russia lamented by Nabokov. This is the state of play ante Lenin. Hmm. Wonder if Annie Applebaum's recent history of the Gulag even mentions this, uh, regretable attempt on the part of a revanchiste backwards people to hinder the wonders of Western Civilization.

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