By 1911, most of Central Asia was part of either the Russian or Chinese Empire. The Chinese Empire was in a crisis, the colonial powers competing
for influence; Manchuria was partitioned in a Japanese (southern) and a Russian (northern) zone; Mongolia and Xinjiang were regarded Russian
zone, Tibet British zone. Similarly, Persia had been divided into a Russian, a neutral and a British Zone (Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907).
Afghanistan served s a buffer state. No matter in what colour the areas were shown on the map, the level of Russian penetration was low, that of
Chinese penetration lower (except for Manchuria, the site of ongoing Chinese settlement since 1860). Russian penetration was concentrated
around the railroad lines (Transib). |
The Chinese Revolution of 1911 resulted in the outer provinces slipping out of government control; Outer Mongolia and Tibet proclaimed independence (1911-1912).
World War I : residents of Siberia and Turkestan (Russian Central Asia) were drawn into the Russian army; the area's had to share the burdens of
a war economy. The Basmachi Revolt erupted in 1916, in response to the forced recruitment of Muslims into the Russian army. |
The Russian Revolution and Civil War were of a greater impact : Japanese forces occupied Russian East Asia up to Irkutsk (Far Eastern Republic).
The Japanese only gradually withdrew (mainland 1922, N. Sakhalin 1926). The establishment of the RSFSR and USSR brought with it a restructuring;
Soviet Central Asia was organized in the Turkestan SSR and the Kirghiz ASSR; another reorganization in 1925-1926 dissolved the Bukharan and
Khivan SSRs, established Kirghizstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in their present borders. |
The Basmachi Revolt, ongoing since 1916, fought the Communist authorities until suppressed in 1931.
Soviet Central Asia saw the improvement of infrastructure (further railroad construction), the construction of many schools and hospitals. Mosques, Koran schools, Buddhist temples were closed, Muslim ulama, Budhist monks, shamans persecuted, the livestock of pastoral nomads confiscated, the nomadic population forced to settle down. The USSR used Central Asia as site where to send political undesirables, such as Trotsky.
(Outer) Mongolia, in 1919-1921 battleground between Russian and Chinese forces, became a Soviet satellite state and from 1924 onward followed the pattern of Soviet policy - closure of Buddhist temples, persecution of Buddhist clergy, confiscation of livestock, attempt to forcibly settle down the pastoral population.
Tibet maintained independence under the Tibetan theocracy; a dispute between Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama caused the secession of Amdo (Qinghai). Xinjiang was controlled by Russian proteges; Manchuria by Chang Tso-Lin, which the Japanese ragarded their protege. In 1927 he was ousted by Chiang Kai Shek in the Northern Expedition; Nationalist China established control over Manchuria.
A coup in Persia in 1925 ended the Qajar Dynasty and established the Pahlavi Dynasty. Due to the development of the country's oil industry (since 1911), British influence was strong. Afghanistan in 1919 fought the Third Anglo-Afghan War with Britain. Amanullah Khan (1919-1929) attempted, following Ataturk's model, to modernize Afghanistan; in 1929 he was ousted.
Stalin's policies affected Soviet Asia drastically. The conversion from pastures to farmland (the settlement of the steppes of Northern Kazakhstan)
allowed the USSR to greatly expand her production of wheat. On the other hand, the persecution of persons suspected of being illoyal to Stalin
was intensified; Kazakhstan became the 'dumping ground' for a number of ethnic groups forcibly deported from their home elsewhere in the USSR.
In 1931 Japanese troops invaded Manchuria, establishing the state of Manchukuo (a Japanese satellite); in 1936 the Japanese established
another satellite state, Mengchiang, covering most of Inner Mongolia. The Second Sino-Japanese War erupted in 1937. Xinjiang (Islamic Republic
East Turkestan) declared independence in 1933 (Soviet satellite). In 1935, Persia was renamed Iran. |
Early in 1939, the USSR and Japan fought a brief war over the control of (Outer) Mongolia.
Only in the last days of the war was Manchuria battleground. The war affected Central Asia rather indirectly : Kazakhstan saw the arrival of
further large numbers of deportees. The rapid advance of the German army in 1941-1942 caused the Soviet administration to relocate entire
factories, machinery and workforce, by rail to Siberia or Central Asia, thus contributing to the industrialization and affecting the composition
of the population. |
Iran gained importance as a supply line for the USSR, and as the host of the Tehran Conference in 1943. Central Asian oil wells, Iranian as well as Soviet) were of vital importance for the Allied war effort; the German push toward Stalingrad and the Caucasus Mountains targeted such oilfields.
The USSR annexed Tannu Tuva (which broke away from (Outer) Mongolia in the 1920es) in 1944.
The USSR reannexed Southern Sakhalin in 1945; the Communists won the Chinese Civil War and restored control over Manchuria,
Xinjiang and, by the way of an invasion, of Tibet in 1950. Iran and Afghanistan maintained their independence. |
Soviet Central and Northern Asia : construction of BAM (railroad line north of Transib), development of mining cities in Siberia, rocket launching site at Baikonur, nuclear testing site at Semipalatinsk. Ambitious project to produce cottons on plantations in Uzbekistan, caused the Aral Sea disaster (shrinking of the sea and rise of salinity of the water).
Chinese Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet : persecution of clergy, closure of mosques and temples, collectivization of livestock caused Tibetan rebellion of 1959, exodus of tenthousands of Kazakhs to USSR in 1962. Influx of large numbers of Han Chinese settlers. China developed oil industry in Xinjiang, nuclear testing site at Lop Nor.
Iran : PM Mossadegh attempted to regulate the British-owned oil industry and when his efforts were resisted, nationalized it. British diplomacy managed to orchestrate an international boycott of Iranian oil; British and U.S. agents orchestrated mass demonstrations in Iran which resulted in the ousture of Mossadegh (1953), an incident at the root of the diplomatic climate in Iranian-Western relations. Iran in 1960 joined OPEC.
Mongolia joined United Nations in 1961.
Dinmukhamed Kunayev first Kazakh to become First Secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party (1964); surrounded himself with Kazakhs.
Ethnic Russian Communists began to lose hold of administration of Central Asia. The expansion of grain and cotton production in
Soviet Central Asia slowed; Aral Sea shrank drastically. Mining in Siberia caused environmental damage; European style houses
built in Western Siberia, on permafrost soil, slowly disappeared in the ground (heat caused permafrost under house to melt). |
Chinese outlying provinces affected by Cultural Revolution 1966-1967. In 1968-1969 Chinese and Soviet forces shot at each other across the border. When China entered on a policvy liberalizing her control of the market, her outlying provinces were less affected than the core provinces; Manchuria remained under military administration. Influx of Han Chinese into outlying provinces continued; ethnic minorities enjoyed a (limited) cultural autonomy, while political administration and the economy were controlled by Han Chinese.
Shah of Iran darling of western tabloid press; wanted to push Iran into modernity, failed to address needs of the poor, suppressed dissent (SAVAK secret police).
Afghanistan 1964 constitutional monarchy, 1973 republic.
First Oil Crisis 1973-1981; Iran saw drastic increase of state revenues. USSR should have seen the same, mismanaged oil industry. |
Communist doctrine became less important for administrations in the USSR, Mongolia and China. Consequences of decades of Communist policies - environmental damage, the unsuitability of European style housing to the climate of northern Asia were registered and some steps were undertaken with the goal of reversing them.
USSR disintegrated at the end of 1991, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan became fully independent states.
PR China : Chinese space industry centered in Xinjiang. China constructed railroad connecting Lhasa and Beijing, a major technological accomplishment. Tibet, Xinjiang continue under only cultural autonomy; in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia Han Chinese heavily outnumber Manchurian, Mongol population. Dalai Lama (Tibetan leader in exile) awarded Nobel Peace Prize 1989.
Afghanistan : Soviet invasion 1979; Afghan resistance clandestinely financed and armed by the U.S. ("the Soviet Vietnam"). Soviet withdrawal 1989.
Iran : Islamic Revolution 1979; establishment of theocratically guided democracy. Confrontation with the U.S. (Hostage crisis 1980-1984); Gulf War 1980-1988.
Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan underwent transition to market economy and, at least
on the surface, democracy. China continued her transition to a market economy; the Communist Party continues to hold on to power.
Economic conditions improved in both countries. |
Afghanistan : pro-Soviet regime ousted in 1992; 1996-2001 Taliban rule. Taliban religious zelots, closed schools for girls, destroyed Buddha relief at Bamyan, hosted terrorist camps. In 2001 international coalition invaded, ousted Taliban; since, civil war. Afghanistan the world's largest opium producer.