Turkestan


Turkestan
   A Russian colony in Central Asia during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Russian colonial administration in Turkestan became necessary following the conquest of Tashkent in 1865. The colony lasted until the collapse of the Russian imperial regime in 1917. Turkestan’s colonial apparatus was set up through the 1865 Steppe Commission, led by Minister of War Dimitry Miliutin. The commission decided to govern Turkestan with an eye toward allowing the peoples of the region to maintain many of their traditional governmental practices. It advocated a gradual integration into the Russian Empire. It was also decided, however, that Turkestan would be governed by military rule under a governor-general. The commission’s findings were formalized in 1867 by Alexander II.
   Turkestan’s territory consisted of most of the oasis lands of the present-day countries of southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, minus the protectorates of Khiva and Bukhara. Much of this territory was gained through military operations from the 1860s until the 1880s. Throughout most of its history, Turkestan was a unique colony of the Russian Empire that maintained many traditional religious and cultural practices, as well as a degree of political and juridical autonomy at the local level. Despite some opinions to the contrary, it was decided that Islam should be both allowed and even encouraged within the territory. The administration even decided that individuals wishing to make the hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage, be granted the right to do so.
   Konstantin von Kaufman ruled the colony as governor-general from 1867 until his retirement in 1881. He encouraged ethnographic research on the peoples of the region. Kaufman saw Turkestan as a uniquely multiethnic and multireligious colony, which he hoped could be gradually integrated into a uniform whole. In 1886, a reform statute for the colony was approved, based on the findings of Fedor Girs. He found that the colony needed to strengthen the “civic spirit” of the people by furthering the integration of Russia’s civilian administrative and legal system in Turkestan.
   The Transcaspian Railway completed a line to Tashkent from Orenburg and was opened for business in 1906. This allowed for the increased migration of Slavic peoples into Turkestan, which caused growing discontent among the local populations. Scarce water and land resources were a major source of dispute between the Turkic peoples and the new Slavic settlers. A major revolt in Turkestan called the Basmachi revolt began in 1916 and lasted well into the 1920s.
   See also <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Brower, Daniel. Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire. London: Routledge Courzon, 2003;
    Khalid, Adeeb. The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform: Jadidism in Central Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998;
    Schuyler, Eugene. Turkistan. New York: F. A. Praeger, 1966.
   SCOTT C. BAILEY

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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