Institute of History of the State

Republik of Kazakhstan, Astana sity, Mangilik El street, 8, 14 entrance


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Dr. Zhuldyzbek Abylkhozhin,

Major research fellow of Ch. Ualikhanov

Institute of History and Ethnology,

Almaty (Kazakhstan)



In the second half of the twenties, the Soviet republic, having recovered from economic and political collapse, begins to drop back from the ideology of the NEP, converting its policy into the strict vector of development set by October.

During this period, appealing to the ‘working class self-consciousness’ and to the lumpen-pauper psychology of the masses, the regime began to carry out regulatory actions, which led to destructive, chaotic processes in the mechanism of functioning and reproduction of the traditional structure, in organization of its socio-cultural and institutional priorities, in the established order of ecosystem principles of society organization, that is, generally speaking, in the life-support system of ethnos.

The most characteristic, in this respect, is the campaign conducted to confi scate livestock from large-scale farming.

The idea of expropriation of wealthy and large cattle farms derived from the very nature of the state with its primacy of class interests. Therefore, since the beginning of the establishment of new government in Kazakhstan, the motives of class struggle were constantly born in minds of the conductors of ‘proletarian’ policy.

In spring 1919 Lenin, when answering to the question of Kazakhstan delegates in VIII Congress of the Communist Party on, ‘how can the economic power of the rich be undermined’, said: ‘Obviously, sooner or later you will have to raise the issue of redistribution of cattle.’

The question on the confi scation of livestock from the rich was also raised in the III regional conference of Kazakhstan in 1923. However, the accomplished strategy of the NEP, aimed at fi nding a way out of economic and political crisis, resulted from the implementation of ‘war communism’ utopia, held back the ‘expropriatriate’ attempts of communist radicals. They had to choose between the possible economic chaos and ideological dogma. The system, still reeling from crisis, was forced to withhold its ‘class onslaught’.

By the end of the 20s the idea of expropriation of large cattle farms once again is recognized as relevant and resulted in the adoption of the decree on confi scation of semi-feudal rich people (August 27, 1928). In accordance with the decree over 700 households were subjected to expropriation, out of which 144, 745 head of cattle were confi scated. About 113,000 head of cattle were immediately redistributed between kolkhozes (29,000 or 26 per cent) and agricultural laborers (85,000 or 74 per cent). In the reports of offi cial bodies it was informed optimistically that the specifi c gravity of middle-class peasants rose to 76 per cent, whereas of the poor class fell to 18 per cent. Thereby they made it clear that the effect of the campaign has proved to be correct and on time and due to the obtained livestock received on the basis of the decree, farm laborers and the poor have changed their social status, thus becoming members of the middle class. (It should be noted that in Kazakh historiography this process is denoted as ‘oserednyachivanie’).

Meanwhile, the analysis of the published data shows that the confi scated and

equally’ redistributed livestock was not always enough to solve the problem of economic security of poorer households. Thus, for example, in Karkaralinsk district the confi scated livestock was given to 198 no livestock households, 1374 households with livestock from 1 to 5 head and to 27 households, possessing 6–7 units of cattle. In order to empower all of these households, 12, 139 head of cattle were required. Meanwhile, they were given only 7065 head of cattle, i.e. the defi cit was estimated in more than 5000. The similar situation took place in other districts. It’s no accident that T.Ryskulov, speaking at the third session of the Central Executive Committee of 13th Convocation, noted, ‘According to the instruction, the poor households are given 5–6 head of cattle...The poor households sell part of the transferred livestock to meet their current needs, such as paying their debts, paying taxes, etc. The remaining 2–3 head is not considered as livestock’.

The statistics here can mean only one thing: a signifi cant portion of households was allocated with a very small number of cattle. Meanwhile, as it was already noted, in the specifi c conditions of pastoral farming the communal cooperation played a role of a warrant of the needed product and the reproduction of means into production. Therefore, even when endowed with cattle, the individual worker had to integrate into the community. However, for such an integration, among other things, it was necessary to have a certain minimum of production (of cattle), because without it wouldn’t be able to perform its function of implementation within the community principle of cooperation. Hence, it is clear that by getting only a few head of livestock, these farms couldn’t be integrated into the community on more or less equal conditions and therefore, they gave up the hope to improve their social status (soon the livestock received by confi scation was sold or cut).

Even though they were listed as middle class, in fact, they remained dependent elements of structure, but had been already exploited on another level. But these channels, despite being minimal, were signifi cantly narrowed, because with the liquidation of wealthy households the possibilities for the poor to enter into hiring-renting relations with them was blocked. That’s why they were forced to move to villages and to the countryside where they became employees, or to the cities in which they replenished the paupers and lumpens niche.

Thus, the correlation bravura and reports were not refl ecting the reality and turned not into the consolidation of the middle class and the growth of wealth, but vice versa, resulted in disorganization of the economy, the growing pauperization of poor population of auls and the breakdown of the most important elements of reproductive relations, which led to the destruction of all the traditional structure.

The state showed the complete misunderstanding of the specifi cs of pre-capitalist structures in the course of the campaigning (in fact, they coincided in time) on confi scating cattle from large-scale farming and another reform on redistribution of grassland and arable lands (1926–1927).

Having a strong belief in their capacity of resolving social contradictions, armed with Marxist theory, the Bolsheviks decided to cut the knot in Kazakh village per saltum. Giving this action a wide-ranging nature, they marked it pompously as an agrarian revolution.

Speaking at the VI All-Kazakh Party Conference (1926), F.Goloschekin, the secretary of the Kazakh District Committee of the Communist Party, said, ‘What is a redistribution of grasslands? It is a small October!’ The propagandist literature also supported the idea. It was written in one of the publications that, ‘the redistribution of arable and grassland destroys the remnants of patriarchal clan, ruins the tribal community as something economically established’.

Meanwhile, from the outset of the reform, the weaknesses of it have been already detected. Apparently, in the course of reforming, the fact that the redistribution of lands didn’t eliminate the unfolding contradictions was ignored. Obtaining land without its economic recovery didn’t give anything in return, including the mitigation of the separation processes (although the post-reform statistical summaries, built on formal grounds, tried to deny it).

To accomplish such an opportunity, among other things, it was necessary to have the secondary production resources, in this case, the working cattle, agricultural tools, seeds, etc. In the meantime, the poor peasants and part of the middle class peasants (in fact, they were the main recipients of redistributed lands) were experiencing an acute shortage of it.

It is clear now that under these circumstances many poor households, having received an access to land, but not having any practical means of exercising this right, were forced to abandon it in favor of rich owners. There were also many obstacles in the redistribution of grassland. Its ideas have already been stuck in the institutional ‘backwater’ of the traditional structure.

According to the reform, the redistribution of hay had to be carried out ‘by the number of consumers’. Meanwhile, the conservative and traditional foundations cultivated another criterion of ‘justice’ in the society, which was associated with the number of cattle.

Even in pre-revolutionary materials about Kazakh lands (expeditions of Scherbina and Rumyancev) it was noted that, ‘the most common or frequently repeated cause of this or that redistribution of hay between nomads is the number of cattle’ and, ‘the unit of repartition farms is the household itself, but those who have more cattle receive more mowing.’ When mowing and dividing the hay the role of the unit is performed by the mower, but in these cases also, those who have more cattle are given more hay than the poor, and that‘ Russian land is rented by communes, and the payment for the rent is distributed proportionally to the livestock between Kyrgyzs (Kazakhs).’ According to the described source of institution, the extended family of the certain poor man, having received benefi ts during the redistribution of hay, could also experience the severity of ‘moral terror’, socially sanctioned via the appeal to ‘the laws of their ancestors’.

If the confl ict went on, not only had it been limited by obstruction, but turned into the non-admission of the disobedient to the channels of the communal system of paternalism, i.e. social security (which came out during the redistribution of parts of the produced products in favor of its disadvantaged members and was skillfully adapted for the exploitation). In such a situation not every poor man ventured to lay up claim to the rich’s mowing. Therefore, the order which was profi table for the rich was restored quickly (of course, illegally).

Thus, the possibility of the developments in an undesirable direction was maintained not because of the weak political activity of working masses and the misunderstanding of their class interests (as it was wrongly stated in Soviet historiography).

The reasons of it bore much more prosaic nature: the paternalistic links, veiling the domination-subordination relations in a traditional society, gave the poor even more guarantees for the receiving of minimum wage than if when they used the redistributed hay of the rich. In the latter case, this possibility often remained problematic, since the possession of cattle with insuffi cient supply and the absence of other material conditions still didn’t solve the problem.

However, all of these moments are like partial derivatives of the main restraining factor, related to the specifi cs of traditional organization of production. The supply of necessary product and the reproduction of means of production in traditional economy could only be achieved within the community through cooperation of labor, the principle of subsidiarity, the optimum production technology, etc. The laborer, who had limited amount of means of production, could not provide more or less acceptable functioning of his household outside the community organization.

In this sense, the community served as a guarantee of the existence of a household individual. Being aware of this dependence, the latter could not make any economic decisions outside the community, i.e. in this respect the primacy was always given to corporate interests. But these interests were in fact usurped by the community authorities, who monopolized organizational and productive functions in the society. Therefore, the member of the community, who didn’t treat the rich with reverence, ventured to oppose himself to communal consensus. And that, fi guratively speaking, meant to ruin the position they had. Again it should be repeated that only through a community its member was able to provide himself with a minimum wage.

Thus, during the implementation of the reform, the pragmatic minds of peasants faced with a dilemma. They could either refuse grasslands of the rich, i.e. stick to the conformist model of social behavior in exchange for a minimal, but guaranteed existence, provided by a controlled mechanism of redistribution or to enter the confl ict situation. The second case of the breakdown in traditional mass consciousness hid uncertainty (risk is an alien feature for peasant psychology). As might be assumed from the sources, the poor considered that hay was necessary, but could its redistribution give if not profi table, but at least an equivalent alternative access to resources, i.e. whether it will guarantee the cost of living under the conditions of insuffi cient supply of cattle and other material factors.

There can be a lot of evidences. However, we should limit ourselves to the competent evidence of Sultanbekov, the People’s Commissar of Agriculture of the Republic, who noted in his report, ‘…There were cases this year when a poor man, having no means of production, was forced to return the land to the rich, only getting thank you and hoping they would feed him or give him anything’.

Goloschekin was also puzzled and didn’t expect that the forecasts would diverge so much from the actual course of the reform. ‘We haven’t still grasped everything…For example, Chormanov, Akpaev have 10,000 head of cattle. We took away their lands, and I thought what they would do next? They seem not to be concerned about it.

There’s defi nitely something wrong with it. It is good that we took away their lands, but obviously, not everybody was able to understand that there was another solution for the rich. We should fi nd this solution and take it away.’

Having identifi ed another failure to reform the traditional structure through the implementation of large-scale non-economic, purely redistributive shares (the market with its economic motivation fulfi lls it, as the experience of many agrarian societies has shown), the state radicalizes its ‘agrarian revolution’, shifting from ‘restriction and repression policy of the exploited classes to their complete liquidation’, and then voluntarism campaign on sedentarization (transfer of nomads and semi-nomads to settled forms of agriculture) and forced collectivization. There will be more destructive invasions of Stalin’s totalitarian regime in the traditional structure and life-support system of ethnos, which will turn out as a tragedy for Kazakh people.

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