Russian Turkestan

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Russian Turkestan
Русский Туркестан
Governorate-General of Russian Empire




Location of Turkestan
Provinces of Russian Turkestan in 1900
Capital Tashkent
 •  Established July 11, 1867
 •  Disestablished April 30, 1918
 •  (1897) 1,707,003 km2 (659,078 sq mi)
 •  (1897) 5,280,983 
Density 3.1 /km2  (8 /sq mi)
Political subdivisions Oblasts: 5 (since 1899)

Russian Turkestan (Russian: Русский Туркестан, Russkiy Turkestan) was the western part of Turkestan within the Russian Empire (administered as a Krai or Governor-Generalship), comprising the oasis region to the south of the Kazakh steppes, but not the protectorates of the Emirate of Bukhara and the Khanate of Khiva.


The Defence of the Samarkand Citadel in 1868
Map of the Syr-Darya Oblast in 1872


Although Russia had been pushing south into the steppes from Astrakhan and Orenburg since the failed Khivan expedition of Peter the Great in 1717, the beginning of the Russian colonial conquest of Turkestan is normally dated to 1865. That year the Russian forces took the city of Tashkent[1] under the leadership of General Mikhail Chernyayev expanding the territories of Turkestan Oblast (part of Orenburg Governorate-General). Chernyayev had exceeded his orders (he only had 3,000 men under his command at the time) but Saint Petersburg recognized the annexation in any case. This was swiftly followed by the conquest of Khodzhent, Dzhizak and Ura-Tyube, culminating in the annexation of Samarkand and the surrounding region on the Zeravshan River from the Emirate of Bukhara in 1868 forming the Zeravsh Special Okrug of Turkestan.


In 1867 Turkestan was made a separate Governor-Generalship, under its first Governor-General, Konstantin Petrovich Von Kaufman. Its capital was Tashkent and it consisted initially of three oblasts (provinces): Syr Darya, Semirechye Oblast and the Zeravshan Okrug (later Samarkand Oblast). To these were added in 1873 the Amu Darya Division (Russian: отдел, otdel), annexed from the Khanate of Khiva, and in 1876 the Fergana Oblast, formed from the remaining rump of the Kokand Khanate that was dissolved after an uprising in 1875. In 1894 the Transcaspian Region, which had been conquered in 1881–1885 by Generals Mikhail Skobelev and Mikhail Annenkov, was added to the Governor-Generalship.


The administration of the region had an almost purely military character throughout. Von Kaufman died in 1882, and a committee under Fedor Karlovich Giers (or Girs, brother of the Russian Foreign Minister Nikolay Karlovich Giers) toured the Krai and drew up proposals for reform, which were implemented after 1886. In 1888 the new Trans-Caspian railway, begun at Uzun-Ada on the shores of the Caspian Sea in 1877, reached Samarkand. Nevertheless, Turkestan remained an isolated colonial outpost, with an administration that preserved many distinctive features from the previous Islamic regimes, including Qadis' courts and a 'native' administration that devolved much power to local 'Aksakals' (Elders or Headmen). It was quite unlike European Russia. In 1908 Count Konstantin Konstantinovich Pahlen led another reform commission to Turkestan, which produced in 1909–1910 a monumental report documenting administrative corruption and inefficiency. The Jadid educational reform movement which originated among Tatars spread among Muslims of Central Asia under Russian rule.


In 1897 the railway reached Tashkent, and finally in 1906 a direct rail link with European Russia was opened across the steppe from Orenburg to Tashkent. This led to much larger numbers of ethnic Russian settlers flowing into Turkestan than had hitherto been the case, and their settlement was overseen by a specially created Migration Department in Saint Petersburg (Переселенческое Управление). This caused considerable discontent amongst the local population as these settlers took scarce land and water resources away from them. In 1916 discontent boiled over in the Basmachi Revolt, sparked by a decree conscripting the natives into labour battalions (they had previously been exempt from military service). Thousands of settlers were killed, and this was matched by Russian reprisals, particularly against the nomadic population. Order had not really been restored by the time the February Revolution took place in 1917. This would usher in a still bloodier chapter in Turkestan's history, as the Bolsheviks of the Tashkent Soviet (made up entirely of Russian soldiers and railway workers, with no Muslim members) launched an attack on the autonomous Jadid government in Kokand early in 1918, which left 14,000 dead. Resistance to the Bolsheviks by the local population (dismissed as 'Basmachi' or 'Banditry' by Soviet historians) continued well into the beginning of the 1930s.

Governors of Turkestan

Turkestan had 21 Governor-generals.[2]

The borders of the Russian imperial territories of Kiva, Bukhara and Kokand in the time period of 1902–1903.

Administrative Division

Turkestan was divided into five oblasts.

Soviet rule

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, a Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkestan ASSR) prior to the creation of the Soviet Union was created in Soviet Central Asia (excluding modern-day Kazakhstan), which in 1924 was split into the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmenistan) and Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (Uzbekistan). The Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic (Tajikistan) was formed out of part of the Uzbek SSR in 1929, and in 1936 the Kyrgyz SSR (Kyrgyzstan) was separated from Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these republics gained their independence.

See also


  1. Daniel Brower (November 12, 2012). Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire. Routledge. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-135-14501-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Didar Kassymova, Zhanat Kundakbayeva and Ustina MarkusHistorical Dictionary of Kazakhstan, p. 228, at Google Books
  • Eugene Schuyler Turkistan (London) 1876 2 Vols.
  • G.N. Curzon Russia in Central Asia (London) 1889
  • Ген. М.А. Терентьев История Завоевания Средней Азии (С.Пб.) 1903 3 Vols.
  • В.В. Бартольд История Культурной Жизни Туркестана (Москва) 1927
  • Count K.K. Pahlen Mission to Turkestan (Oxford) 1964
  • Seymour Becker Russia's Protectorates in Central Asia, Bukhara and Khiva 1865–1924 (Cambridge, Mass.) 1968
  • Adeeb Khalid The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform. Jadidism in Central Asia (Berkeley) 1997
  • T.K. Beisembiev The Life of Alimqul (London) 2003
  • Daniel Brower Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire (London) 2003
  • Hisao Komatsu, The Andijan Uprising Reconsidered a: Symbiosis and Conflict in Muslim Societies: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, ed. by Tsugitaka Sato, Londres, 2004.
  • Aftandil Erkinov. Praying For and Against the Tsar: Prayers and Sermons in Russian-Dominated Khiva and Tsarist Turkestan.Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 2004 (=ANOR 16), 112 p.
  • Aftandil S.Erkinov. The Andijan Uprising of 1898 and its leader Dukchi-ishan described by contemporary Poets.'' TIAS Central Eurasian Research Series No.3. Tokyo, 2009, 118 p.