History, Russian Conquest
Russian monarchy, Khiva, Russian control, Russian Civil War, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
By the mid-1800s the Russian Empire, which sought to expand its frontier into Central Asia, had gained control of the Kazakh lands in the northern part of the region. In the 1860s Russia began a systematic military conquest of the remainder of Central Asia. By 1876 the Russians had subjugated the entire region, except for the bulk of Turkmen territory. Russian military outposts were by then established in the north near Khiva and along the Caspian Sea coast. In 1877 Russian forces began a military campaign against the Turkmens. The Turkmens, particularly the Tekke tribe, proved to be a formidable force, putting forth the greatest resistance the Russians had encountered in their military advance into Central Asia. The Tekke in Gokdepe, near Ashgabat, soundly defeated Russian forces in 1879. However, in 1881 Gokdepe finally fell to the Russians, with the loss of about 150,000 Turkmen lives. Russia’s successful conquest of this Turkmen stronghold brought an end to any effective resistance among the Turkmen people. Russian control over all of Central Asia was completed in 1884 with the annexation of Merv. In 1887 and 1895 Russia and Britain (which was contending with Russia for control in Central Asia) signed border-delimitation agreements that fixed Russia’s southern frontier, thereby formalizing Russia’s annexation of its vast new territory in Central Asia.
In the first years after the Russian conquest, Central Asian nomads dispossessed of their traditional grazing lands waged sporadic revolts against Russian rule. In June 1916, during World War I, the Russian government issued a decree drafting the Central Asian peoples for noncombatant duties, igniting a revolt that spread throughout the entire region. Among the Turkmens, the Yomud tribe was especially fierce in its refusal to submit to the draft. The subjugation of the Yomud, accomplished by the end of the year, required heavily armed Russian troops.
The Russian monarchy was overthrown in the Russian Revolution of 1917, and Bolsheviks (Communists) seized power in Russia. The Turkmens resisted Bolshevik domination, fighting against Bolshevik forces during the Russian Civil War (1918-1921). In April 1918, following Bolshevik military gains in southern Central Asia, the Bolsheviks proclaimed the Turkistan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR), which included the bulk of Turkmen territory and other parts of southern Central Asia. In July Turkmens led by Junayd Khan reversed the Bolshevik gain in Turkmen territory with the aid of British forces. An independent Turkmen administration was set up in Ashgabat with the protection of a British garrison. The war-weary British subsequently withdrew, however, and by 1920 Bolshevik forces had regained control. The bulk of Turkmen territory was reincorporated into the Turkistan ASSR. The Bolsheviks also conquered the emirate of Bukhoro and the khanate of Khiva, which included the eastern and northern portions of present-day Turkmenistan; these two states were designated People’s Soviet Republics (Khiva was renamed Khorezm, as it had been known prior to the 16th century). Many Turkmens continued to fight against Bolshevik rule as guerrillas in the basmachi movement, Central Asian resistance that was widespread among the Muslim peoples of Central Asia until the early 1920s. In 1922 the Bolsheviks founded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and in 1924 Turkmen territory was designated the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR). The Turkmen SSR included portions of the Khorezmian and Bukharan People’s Soviet Republics, which were abolished as political entities.
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