New sides of the history of famine in Kazakhstan
The famine in Kazakhstan in 1932–1933 is not only a topic historical, but also ideological, and also, if you like, military-political. The Holodomor theory, which has been rapidly developing in Ukraine since perestroika and especially actively during the years of independence, has made a significant contribution to the transformation of Ukraine into a state hostile to us.
In Kazakhstan, too, since perestroika times, a theory that is completely similar in meaning has been developing, which I often call “kazholodomor” for a short designation. Its essence is that the Bolsheviks set out to destroy the nomadic Kazakhs, for which they forced them to switch to settled life, took away all the cattle, which caused mass starvation. This concept was developed at the direction of the former President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and it has the support of the current President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
In May 2021, a collection of documents was published in Kazakhstan: “Asharshylyk. Hunger. Documentary chronicle. 1928-1934". The publication was prepared on behalf of Tokayev, and its presentation took place on May 28, 2021 in the Senate of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, in the presence of Senate Chairman Maulen Ashimbaev, who even cut the blue ribbon binding the volumes. Official level, in a word.
Monument to the victims of famine in Almaty. In the background, people hold portraits of Alashorda residents.
This collection became an interesting moment in the debate around the “Kazholodomor”.
Firstly, it came out as a kind of response to my book “The Kazakh genocide that never happened”, which was published at the very beginning of 2021. In it, I defeated the theory of "Kazholodomor" in all key points, and documented and calculations. The most important point was that I managed to show that the only party interested in mortal hunger was the baystvo - large owners of cattle, land, pastures, as well as ordinary Kazakhs, who worked for them almost like slaves, for food, from whom shortly before collectivization, their herds were confiscated.
Baystvo turned out to be a cunning, resourceful and cruel opponent of Soviet power. With the help of their numerous agents in the grassroots bodies of Soviet power and party organizations, they organized the economic ruin of many areas, mass migrations, which became the cause of all disasters and hunger, from which people reached cannibalism and entire villages died out. The bai were clearly trying to starve out the "Red Kazakhs", who rejected their age-old domination for the sake of collective farms and state farms. The bastard paid for it; apparently, in 1933-1934 it was mostly destroyed by the Chekists.
The book caused something like hysteria, Kazakh nationalists even tried to ban its distribution in Kazakhstan, though without much success.
Secondly, the answer in the form of a collection of documents turned out to be weak, and in fact this publication was no longer used and mentioned in the press immediately after the presentation. Moreover, even getting it for study was not so easy.
It took some sort of reconnaissance operation to get this collection. Therefore, it is being analyzed now, two years after its release.
Thirdly, the collection itself, upon closer examination, turned out to be a work of very low quality.
On the one hand, the very principle of its compilation is definitely unscientific - a biased selection of documents, with an emphasis on grain procurements, migrations, famine and similar phenomena. The simultaneous construction of a wide network of collective farms, large state farms, machine and tractor stations, and the mechanization of Kazakh agriculture are very rarely mentioned in this collection. The picture of events is sharply distorted.
On the other hand, the compilers of the collection did their job carelessly. The publication was presented as a publication of rare and previously inaccessible documents from Kazakhstani archives, while in reality, for example, the third volume of the collection turned out to be about half composed of documents already published earlier in collections published in Russia.
But still, under all these circumstances, some interesting documents were published there. They bring some new features to the study of famine in Kazakhstan.
The Minority of the Starving and the Mosaic Character of the Hunger
Although the compilers of the collection did not burn with the desire to publish documents characterizing the general state of affairs in Kazakhstan, nevertheless, one such document was nevertheless made public.
This is a memorandum of the chairman of the CEC of the KASSR, Uzakbay Kulumbetov, in February 1933, sent to the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR (until 1936, the Kazak ASSR was part of the RSFSR). It characterized the situation of nomads, that is, households who left their places of residence due to food difficulties, but also provided information on the number of starving people. Kulumbetov determined the number of nomads at 100 households (about 300 people), and besides this, the same number were starving locally and in need of urgent help (Vol. III, p. 431). In another place of the same note, the number of migrants was determined at 131,1 thousand households, and measures for the employment of migrants covered 169,8 thousand households or 509,4 thousand people. At the beginning of 1933, measures for food aid covered 169,6 thousand farms or 488,1 thousand people.
One of the most common photographs of those times, just nomads
Apparently, in order to assess the general situation in Kazakhstan, these figures need to be added up, since the nomads and the starving in the document are getting divorced; For example:
Thus, due to food shortages, 509 thousand people migrated and another 488 thousand people went hungry on the ground, a total of 997 thousand people or 339,4 thousand households. About 1 million round number.
Horror, horror! But don't rush to wring your hands after the "Kazakh famines". In 1930, there were 1 thousand households in Kazakhstan, and the population in Kazakhstan in 351 was 1932 million people, including 5,8 million Kazakhs. From a comparison of these figures, it follows that the famine affected about 3,7% of the population of the KASSR. This is decent, but not at all the picture that the “Kazakh famine workers” are trying to paint for us, that as if famine was everywhere.
According to my impressions from my own work with documents, the economic crisis and famine were of an extremely uneven, mosaic nature. Of the 122 districts of the KASSR, there were areas that were badly damaged, devastated, as they wrote in the documents; there were areas affected by famine, and there were areas that were almost not affected. Even within the same district, the situation could differ sharply from collective farm to collective farm. Therefore, someone was dying of hunger, while the majority of the population of Kazakhstan did not experience serious difficulties with food. And in general, the calculations of the grain-forage balance, which I made in my book, showed that Kazakhstan was always with bread.
A scientific study of the history of famine and migrations in Kazakhstan requires a continuous enumeration of the surviving documents and the compilation of a kind of famine map. That is, you need to take an administrative map of that time, preferably with the designation of individual villages and settlements, and note exactly where cases of famine were recorded, where the migration came from and where exactly the migrants ended up. This is a rather laborious work, but I believe that it is absolutely necessary if we are to understand the causes of this unique economic crisis.
Mechanics of Hunger
Another interesting side of some of the published documents is that the names of those directly responsible for the famine began to emerge.
For example, in the Turgai district of the Aktobe region. It was a devastated area, with mass deaths from starvation. At the end of 1932, the head of the secret political department of the OGPU, G. A. Molchanov, sent a telegram to the secretary of the Kazkraykom of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks for supplies, S. T. Golyudov, about the situation in Turgay (vol. III, p. 48). In the region, 4 people died of starvation as a result of massive excesses during collectivization: all the cattle in the village were collected, some were sent for harvesting, and the rest was declared socialized. False activists in almost all auls appropriated food aid, seed grain, money, livestock. Who was to blame? Bureau secretary of the district committee of the party Burabaev, chairman of the district executive committee Sugurov and head of the district department of justice Suleimenov, whom it was decided to remove from work, expel from the party and put on trial.
Now some Kazakh nationalists are trying to give the famine a national flavor, as if the Russian Bolsheviks were starving the Kazakhs. But the document is the opposite.
The Kazakhs were starved by the Kazakhs, and the Russian Chekists intervened, albeit too late. Then the difference between Kazakhs and Russians was much stronger than now. But, as we can see, the Russian Chekists were not indifferent to the fact that the Kazakhs were dying of hunger.
By the way, in Turgay there was also a mosaic character of famine. On September 1, 1932, Nishanbayev, authorized by the Kazkraikom of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks, wrote to the Kazkraikom and the Council of People's Commissars of the KASSR that there were 5 households in the region, with 298 people. Food resources average 21 kg and head of livestock per person. At the same time, six auls can survive the winter with their resources, five auls are already starving, and six more auls are facing the threat of starvation. Under the threat of death, 56 people who eat gophers and sold all their property literally walk around naked (vol. III, p. 8).
How could this happen? I have always been interested in the mechanics of the economic crisis.
In the documents, here and there, traces of large-scale and sophisticated work to undermine the collective farms slip through. For example, livestock procurement was assigned in excess of its availability. Ayaguz district: there were 46 thousand heads, the plan for harvesting - 65 thousand heads. Aral region: there were 4 heads, harvesting - 500 thousand heads. Chingistavsky district: there were 30 thousand heads, a plan for procurement of 8 thousand heads, and so on (vol. III, p. 40).
The same is true for bakeries. For example, the district executive committee of the Kzyl-Tuu district of the Karagadin region reported that 9 hectares were sown, while in reality no more than a quarter of this area was sown. Or, according to the secret political department of the OGPU, only 469 centners of grain were collected on the Sary-Kul collective farm in the Aryk district, and the delivery plan was 350 centners, since the authorized representative of the district executive committee, the chairman of the collective farm and the chairman of the village council appropriated 800 poods of seeds, but reported on fulfillment of the sowing plan (vol. III, p. 80).
The same secret political department of the OGPU reported in July 1932 that the bai elite of the strong Kazakh clans, through their agents, was seizing the lower and regional Soviet apparatus, the boards of collective farms and carrying out the ruin of weak and hostile clans. However, such a struggle was waged not only against hostile clans.
The OGPU noted the formation of bai unions of various kinds against Soviet and party activists from the poor (vol. III, p. 286). For example, at st. Aynak (this is already the West Siberian Territory) in February 1932, the corpse of a Kazakh who died from exhaustion was picked up. There were documents on the corpse - a membership card of the CPSU (b) in the name of Smagul Suleimenov (vol. III, p. 110).
So, the economic destruction, as can be judged, was carried out as follows.
Firstly, the Bai agents in the regional bodies made highly inflated reports on the presence of livestock and crops. Based on these data, procurement plans were drawn up that exceeded the capabilities of the regions.
Secondly, these plans were carried out in the most zealous manner, up to the taking of the last cattle and grain, often by threats, beatings, arrests, and torture. This was supplemented by the theft and concealment of grain in collective farms; that is, the collective farm harvest was stolen, and for delivery to the grain procurement, all the grain was taken away from the collective farmers.
Thirdly, when the population was left without a livelihood, Bai agents, including those with party cards, organized migrations. At the same time, part of the population rushed on the spot to certain death from starvation. People also fled from hunger themselves; many died along the way.
Bay agents also used corpses for agitation. For example, when people dying of hunger went from the Zhanaarkinsky district of the Karaganda region to neighboring areas (the famine was very strong; 3 people died in the area, unburied bodies lay, in some villages they ate the corpses of those who died of smallpox) and died on the road, in November and December In 612, one could see the following picture: corpses were stuck in the snow with their arms outstretched, in the pose of a speaker, and in their hand was a note: “The result of collectivization” (vol. III, p. 1932). There is nothing to even comment on.
Finally, fourthly, the systematic plunder of food aid. In the Chingistav region, the OGPU uncovered a group of beys, participants in the uprising in 1931, who plundered food aid and robbed collective farms. It included: the chairman of the Sarzhal village council Duisembaev, Kupozhanov, Abylgazin and Kozylganov. They had connections with the secretary of the district committee Nurmagambetov, the chairman of the control commission Smakov, the people's judge Isabekov and the prosecutor Medeubaev. Thanks to their intervention, most of the gang remained at large (vol. III, p. 497).
The materials of the OGPU show that the theft of food aid was of a large-scale nature. As of July 1932, 391,3 thousand poods of food aid were released to Kazakhstan, while 86 thousand poods (21%) were plundered. In the already mentioned Zhanaarka region, where more than a thousand people died of starvation and cannibalism from May 1931 to January 1932, a group of senior officials headed by the chairman of the district executive committee Anbrakhmanov stole more than 10 thousand pounds of food aid. The OGPU intervened in this, opened a case and arrested 78 leading workers of the district and pseudo-activists (vol. III, p. 267).
I wonder who Anbrakhmanov and his accomplices are considered in Kazakhstan? Innocent victims of political repression?
The situation began to improve only after the OGPU undertook to purge the collective farms, local and district authorities. In just ten days of November 1932, 374 people were arrested in Kazakhstan, including 201 for theft, 101 for sabotage, 29 for hiding grain, 7 for disinformation about the progress of sowing and grain procurement. Also, 111 grassroots and district workers were expelled from the party (vol. III, p. 395).
Purges sometimes led to interesting consequences. In several grain-growing regions, after the cleansing of the collective farms, many collective farms suddenly found bread to fulfill the grain procurement plan.
The conclusion that the famine was organized precisely by the Kazakh bai, I made back in my book, based on a rather scarce documentary material. Rather, it was a guess. But now there are documents that support and prove this conclusion, and in a very clear way. The mechanics of how this was done is clarified. But it is better to do the analysis in its entirety. I think that if you thoroughly go through the archives, collect and systematize the preserved information, then the picture will be very impressive.
Much more dangerous
In conclusion, a little about the political side of the matter.
Kazholodomor and its supporters are not a harmless phenomenon at all. The zealous “Kazakh Holodomorists”, in essence, are the defenders and supporters of the beys, those Kazakhs who ruined and killed other Kazakhs with excruciating hunger. In this sense, they are no different from the same Bandera, who called themselves Ukrainian nationalists, but at the same time they killed mainly Ukrainians. This can be said about Bandera himself, and about his current followers, led by Zelensky, who will soon beat Bandera’s “achievements” in terms of the extermination of Ukrainians, and in terms of the ruin of Ukraine, he has already surpassed him many times over. The current defenders of the bays will no doubt fall for their methods.
But if the Bandera people never really hid their intentions, then the baystvo used a large arsenal of cunning, lies, deceit, trying to hide their real goals until the last moment. Accordingly, in today's Kazakhstan, the construction of a pronounced neo-Bay society is also masked by thick lies.
“Kazholodomor” is also part of this camouflage, and there were so many lies in this topic that it was far from easy to expose it. In this regard, "KazGolodomor" is a much more dangerous political and ideological phenomenon.
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