The Central Asian revolt of 1916, known as
Urkun in Kyrgyzstan, was an
anti-Russian uprising by Muslim inhabitants of Russian Turkestan. Its
direct cause was the conscription of formerly exempt Muslims into
military service on the Eastern Front of World War I. Underlying
issues also included tensions between different ethnic groups under
Russian rule. The revolt led to the exodus of thousands of Kyrgyz
Kazakhs into China, while the suppression of the revolt by the
Russian army led to thousands of deaths. However, the Russian state
was not able to restore complete order until the outbreak of the
2 The Revolt
2.1 Institution of Conscription
2.3 Ottoman involvement
4 External links
By 1916, the
Governor-Generalship of the Steppes had
accumulated many social, land and inter-ethnic contradictions caused
by the resettlement of Russian settlers, which began in the second
half of the 19th century, after the
Emancipation reform of 1861
Emancipation reform of 1861 which
abolished serfdom. A wave of resettlement was introduced by a number
of land and legislative reforms.
On June 2, 1886 and March 25, 1891, several acts were adopted which
were "Regulations on the management of the
Turkestan Krai" and
"Regulations on the management of Akmola, Semipalatinsk, Semirechye,
Ural and Turgai regions" that allowed most of the lands of these
regions to be transferred to the ownership of the Russian Empire. Each
family from the local population were allowed to own a plot of land of
15 acres for a perpetual use.
From 1906 to 1912, as a result of Stolypin reform's in Kazakhstan and
the rest Central Asia, up to 500,000 peasant households were
transported from central regions of Russia, which divided about 17
tithes of developed lands.
Institution of Conscription
After Emperor Nicholas II adopted on the "requisition of foreigners"
at the age of 19 to 43 years inclusive, for rear work in the
front-line areas of the First World War. The discontent of people
fueled the unfair distribution of land, as well as the calls of Muslim
leaders for a holy war against the Russian gaoura.
Shortly before the rebellion,
Tsar Nicholas II
Tsar Nicholas II adopted a draft of
conscripting Central Asian men from the age of 19 to 43 into labor
battalions for the service on the Eastern Front during World War I.
The cause of the uprising was also due to the transfer of lands by the
Tsarist Government to Russian settlers, Cossack's, and poor settlers.
Political and religious extremism played a role too.
The revolt began on July 4, 1916 in Khujand, present-day Tajikistan.
However, not all 10 million people living in
Turkestan were willing to
participate. Such as the Tekeans in the Transcaspian region, who were
allowing themselves to be conscripted. On July 17, 1916, a martial law
was declared over
Turkestan Military District. The insurrection began
spontaneously, but it was unorganized without a single leadership;
nevertheless, the rebellion took a long time to suppress.[citation
Russian liberals like
Aleksandr Kerensky and some Russian historians
were the first to bring international attention to these events.
Arnold Toynbee alleges 500,000 Central Asian Turks perished under the
Russian Empire though he admits this is speculative.  Rudolph
Encyclopedia Britannica states 10,000 perished within
the revolt. Kryrgz sources put the death toll between 100,000 and
270,000. Russian sources put the figure at 3,000.
According to modern Russian historians, the Ottoman special services,
closely cooperating with religious and political leaders from the
local population, took part in arranging the uprising.[citation
During the Soviet Union, leaders of the rebellion such as Amangeldy
Imanov and Alibi Jangildin were seen as revolutionary heroes against
the Tsarist regime, by having many streets and settlements in
Kazakhstan named after them.
Urkun was not covered by Soviet textbooks, and monographs on the
subject were removed from Soviet printing houses. As the Soviet Union
was disintegrating in 1991, interest in
Urkun grew. Some survivors
have begun to label the events a "massacre" or "genocide." In
August 2016, a public commission in
Kyrgyzstan concluded that the 1916
mass crackdown was labelled as "genocide."
Photo gallery of human and animal remains from
Urkun incident at Bedel
Pass, from RFE/RL
Semirechye on Fire. A Story of Rebellion - Documentary on the 1916
Noack, Christian: Muslimischer Nationalismus im Russischen Reich.
Nationsbildung und Nationalbewegung bei Tataren und Baschkiren 1861 -
1917, Stuttgart 2000.
Pierce, Richard A.: Russian
Central Asia 1867 - 1917. A Study in
Colonial Rule, Berkeley 1960.
Zürcher, Erik J.: Arming the State. Military Conscription in the
Middle East and Central Asia, 1775-1925, London 1999.
^ Abraham, Richard: Alexander Kerensky. The first love of the
Revolution, London 1987. p.108.
Statistics of Russian Democide
Russian Democide row 30
^ Irina Pushkareva 1984
^ Bruce Pannier (2 August 2006). "Kyrgyzstan: Victims Of 1916 'Urkun'
Tragedy Commemorated". RFE/RL. Retrieved 2006-08-02.
Kyrgyzstan Renames Soviet-Era
October Revolution Day, Lengthens
Holiday". RFE/RL. 2 November 2017. Retrieved