Ideological and methodological concepts in Soviet historiography of pre-revolutionary history of Kazakhs (1920s – 1940s)

In this article we consider the problems of forming and transforming of the theoretical and ideological approaches in the Soviet historiography regarding history of traditional Kazakh society. The Authors highlight that in 1920s in the science of history there was a certain pluralism of the scientific opinions. It is related to the fact that Soviet government, having neither necessary power nor qualified specialists to erase the prerevolutionary historical concepts had to accept the situation in science when the methodology of the «old scientific school» was used at the same time as theoretical layouts and concept conditions of Bolsheviks. In the historiography of this period, very vital and necessary questions were raised and the made conclusions were far from Marxism. When studying the social history of Kazakhs the «old school» representatives took into account the fact that the nomad society was homogeneous, with no class differences. Special attention is paid to the fact that as the Soviet state was being built the Bolsheviks aspired to change the «appearance» of the historical science. In 1930s — 1940s it becomes more politicized and the study of social history of Kazakh society has a class approach concept as a theoretical and methodological set. In accordance with this, the traditional Kazakh society starts being considered through a prism of the fight between antagonistic forces — the exploiters and the exploited. In this article it is concluded that one by one the problems of the social history of Kazakhs become inessential as in the science of history we can see a common aspiration of the scientists to concentrate on studying the Soviet society building history.

The key moment in the analysis of the history of the theoretical and methodological concepts and approaches in historiography is the understanding the interdependence of the society and science conditions. All the fluctuational and quality ideological changes of the society at that moment are usually extrapolated into the social consciousness and of course into the science. That is why it is quite normal that the flow of Soviet science and commonwealth development held their ground, generally together.

Objectively, during the Soviet time the government influenced all the spheres of the society's life. However, the approval of the socialistic ideology as a sole mindset base did not happen that fast.

The ideas of this article can be used when writing special and generalizing works both historiography and historical on the history of social relations in Kazakh society. The contents of the article may be interesting for the lecturers and students of Universities, education institutions, working on study of social relations of Kazakh society problems.

1920s and early 1930s were critical in Soviet historiography. Having neither political force, nor qualified specialists to fight pre-revolutionary historical concepts, Bolsheviks had to accept the situation when the science could use both «old school» (the positions of which were quite strong at the moment) and theoretical layouts and concept ideas of Soviet government in terms of materialistic understanding the history. Moreover, evolutionism was conceived by Bolsheviks; it was elaborated by class struggle and the end point — communism.

That is why we can witness at the moment the pluralism of scientific opinions. This big variety of opinions was provided by the fact that in Kazakhstan of 1920s truly revolutionary changes were happening: The political-legislational, materialistic, spiritual base of the culture changed, the social appearance of Kazakh society and economic basics of its development transformed, they were subjugated to the social-economic orthodox idea of building communism. Those complicated political and economic processes had complex, sometimes even contradictory feedback from the society that found its reflection in the literature of that time.

One of the peculiarities of the historiography of that time is that in it, very vital, necessary questions were raised, and the made conclusions were far from Marxism. Soviet government was quite loyal to this kind of publications partly because at first, they were created by highly qualified specialists, who used materials from fieldwork and broad statistic data. At second, not having professionals able to give that proletarian pushback to the «bourgeois objectivism» it had to tolerate some pluralism and material provision independent from the political environment in scientific works. When laying out their aims, scientists often took thesis into account: «To go objective and methodological path, analyzing the reality with no regard to what conclusions this path may lead and what practical consequences could be created» [1; 3].

The 1920s were times of scientific and cultural experiments, when the followers of the «national» culture and science were still opponents, not bourgeois representatives and enemies of «proletarian» ideology adepts. We can confirm the fact that during this period there was a scientific pluralism by arguings between the scientists which lead to the discussion about Asian production method.

When studying the social and political history of the Kazakh society, the most researchers judged from the postulate that the generic leaders — biys, foremans, aksakals represented the top of the generic community and played a major role in the functioning of the nomad community. Taking into account the fact that this representative group didn't just exist, but held their positions among simple nomads during the first decades of Soviet government.

As the state were building, in accordance with the general line of the Bolsheviks party not only social and economic but also political and ideological situation were changing. According to this the «appearance» of the history science changes, it becomes more politicized and approves the class approach when studying the historical processes both of past and present as a theoretical and methodological position. Gradually the government starts to control all the spheres of Soviet society life. Enlightener approaches are distinctive to a number of scientists, who marched in the lockstep of the pre-revolutionary enlightener scientists of XVIII — XIX cc. and wanted to extrapolate the Soviet reality started to face more and more resistance from the government. For example, in 1927 the chairperson of the SACN* M.M. Tsvibak reporting on a Committee meeting said «We need a class; materialistic approach to the culture history, any other approach is intolerable. We need a supervision of Soviets over scientific institutions, it is an acknowledged fact, even science Academy – the higher scientific institution of the Union admits this. The case is that Soviet scientific and cultural building SACN barriers the tendencies of the old Turkestan local historians, who were breed under the conditions of the Turkestani work of 1917. They try to reverse the progress; they work in an old way, the Turkestan way» [2; 95]. As the result, by the middle of 1930s the final change of the discourse happens: rejection of the old enlightener approach and accepting the class approach, building the historical process up in the context of the Bolsheviks' ideas and stopping the discussions.

From the middle 30s a new stage of the Kazakhstan's history science development began. The Republic had an objective of institutionalizing the science, preparing new members of the national intellectuals' community, who would inject communistic ideals into people's minds by theoretical proving. Establishing Kazakhstan base of the USSR science academy creation in 1932 became a significant point (KazFAN USSR from 1938)[1] [2].

The representatives of different fields of humanitarian sciences were at work on development of social and political Kazakh history's problems, who built their works based on wide historical and juridical and ethnographic data with different contents. Firs generalizing researches appear. They uncover problems of historical development of nomadic tribes, who populated Kazakhstan's territory until the moment of final settlement of the Soviet rule. At this point an approach to studying the Soviet period hadn't been formed yet. The scientific escapism (conscious leave to the pre-Soviet history period research) is indicative for the researchers.

That is exactly why in 1940s in the Republics agenda there was a question raised about creating such a textbook on the history of Kazakhstan, which would reflect the patterns of the historical process, which lead to building a socialistic society.

It is related to the fact that in the second part of 1930s a political campaign against «Pokrovskiy school» begins. Comments against USSR school history and new history textbooks, told off in a resolution of the NCU of the USSR and CC of the All-Union Communistic Party dated May 16th 1934 caused it. Also the criticism towards those textbooks by I.V. Stalin, A. Zhdanov, S. Kirov caused it too [3]. In particular, the principles of exposition of the most important events, textbooks' structure schematics and the absence of the chronological sequence in interpretation of society development were criticized. The reviewers considered that the lacking points were «spread of the erroneous historical points of view amongst some our historians, which are peculiar to co-called «Pokrovskiy's school of history». To overcome those «harmful positions» the central party bodies took an objective of «the fundamental improvement and readjustments» of already published history textbooks. In new editions authors were recommended to pay extra attention to a number of problems which at that moment yet hadn't received the correct Marxist-Leninist clarification but at the same time, having «the most important value for our commonwealth, our party and education of the rising genera- tions» [3; 21].

Among prioritized themes for the USSR history textbook were traversing the history of the people who entered the USSR; colonization role of the Russian Tsarism in relation with the concept «Tsarism is imprisoning the people», conditions and origins of the national liberation movements of the conquered people by Russian Tsarism, which during this struggle pass the way of the political maturation. Without this «The October revolution, as a revolution that liberated those nations from the nationalistic oppression is still unmotivated just like creating the USSR» [3; 22, 23].

By 1937 46 varieties of the school textbooks were presented to the Governmental commission on competition selection of the best textbook. Jury of the commission highlighted in its resolution: «Spitting-ups of anti-historical, non-Marxist positions can be seen from the textbook authors when describing the USSR of the pre-Soviet period. Authors do not see... how the Ukraine was faced with a dilemma of either being consumed by Pan Poland and Sultan Turkey or going under the supervision of the Russian rule. They do not see that the second perspective was the lesser evil» [4; 2]. According to the opinion of the jury authors were also mistaken when interpreting peasant's rebellion before 20th century. Its main idea was that consciousness and organization of the masses were exaggerated which in terms of Marxist approach couldn't be without a leading role of the labour class and Bolshevik parties to appear consolidated against landowners and capitalists. The commission considered that the idea of the people should be highlighted as a mass which is only able to unorganized and spontaneous movements in the textbooks [4; 2]. This idea was fastened in a «brief course» of history of the All-Soviet Communistic Party (b), which established main treatments of the historical events and processes.

Methodological party-based paradigms and the politic order of the rule deeply influenced the thematics of the historical works. Histories of the peoples of USSR took a special place in them, which positively influenced the condition and exploration degree of the most historical lacunas and lead to appearance of different works of Soviet scientists on social and political and ethnic history, including Kazakhs [5, 6].

In the late 1930s and 1940s first scientific and reference publications appear on Kazakhstan in which the above mentioned party-based paradigms received content embodiment [7-13]. In them, Kazakhstan was pictured as a former colony of the Russian Empire, which managed to «free itself from the enslavers under leading of Lenin-Stalin party» [7; 6].

In 1933 The Anthropology, Archeology and Ethnography Institute of the AS USSR was created, which directed the scientists' efforts to studying the ethnographic and archeological legacy of the multi-national Soviet State. The workforce capacity of the leading national institution of Kazakhstan was reinforced in the years of the Great Patriotic War at the expense of evacuated scientists from the central regions of the Union into the territory of the Republic. These scientists addressed the topic of the national history of the Republic, in which the problems of the national liberation struggle of the Kazakh people played a great role in 18—19th centuries found a reflection in the first academic publications on the history of Kazakhstan. In them representatives of the exploiter class became national heroes — khans, biys, stem leaders.

However, in the late 1940s the Stalin concept becomes dominating on the national problem. In the article «How does socialistic democracy understand the national problem», written in 1904 in the beginning of the great man at the helm of the country, everything important was highlighted by the author himself. The quotation marks regarding the formula of «freewill joining Russia» were put also by I.V. Stalin. Much later in the 1940s this work will be used when creating textbook on USSR history with no quotation marks and highlighting as an acknowledged axiom, which does not need any evidence.

According to this theoretical layout, which was based in a statement of Stalin regarding the «national problem», the movement of Georgian nobility against «joining of Georgia to Russia» was defined by I.V. Stalin as a feudal and monarchic «nationalism». Let's bring the words of the author to a state: «After «the joining of Georgia to Russia» the Georgian nobility felt how unprofitable it was to lose old privilege sand powers which it had during Georgian tsars' rule and considering that «just citizenship» was insulting their dignity, wished the «liberation of Georgia» (hereinafter highlighter by the author. — I.S.). By this it wanted to put Georgian tsars and the nobility into the lead of «Georgia» and forward by this the destiny of the Georgian people to them! This was feudal and monarchic «nationalism» [9; 32].

Stalin's statement about Georgian «nationalism» was transferred to the history of liberation movements of all peoples of outskirts of Russian Empire. That is why it is quite normal that this methodological postulate defined the liberation movement of Kazakhs, led by the representatives of Kazakh feudal top — «the nobility» as reactionary and following narrow-minded clan interests.

A peculiarity of this period is the approval of the class approach, which was to explain all the events of the historical past. Scientists reject the polemics, which doubts five-part formation scheme. A new change took place in theorizing in estimating the imperial period of Russia. The colonial past and the peoples entering the Russian Empire became being considered as «the lesser evil». In addition, by «entering» they usually mean free-will joining the Empire.

Some authors who did not accord to these cliclws were «disclosed» and were accused in cosmopolitism and nationalism. Others to achieve the government's agreement had to reconsider their scientific positions, filling them with canonical sets from the works of Marxism-Leninism classics. Despite this, during the considered period, some fundamental works were created which can be called etalon in working out the main problems of Kazakhstan's history even nowadays.

This situation in the science led to series of disclosure articles addressed the scientists whose works were interpreted «incorrectly» and «from the nationalistic positions» by the liberation speeches of Kazakhs. The ideological war against «nationalists» affected Soviet specialists on this topic like E.B. Bekmakhanov, M.P. Vyatkin in the first place. Exactly at this time, the tone of the works dedicated to the generic leaders starts to change negatively. Moreover, this topic gradually starts to pale into insignificance not mainly because of its importance, but more because scientists were likely to join the number of those who are dangerous for the official regime.

From that point, some themes in the science started being taboo and others, instead, took a fresh breath and became trendy. Therefore, in Kazakhstan and in the whole Soviet Union besides military topics the researchers began to refer to labour of the Soviet people in a difficult post-war time, utilizing virgin soils, and the unity of the working class and peasantry more often. In general, the history of the Soviet state took an important place in the historiography of those years.

One more «devotion» of the historians was related to studying the history of the CPSU: the works of the party leaders, conference materials, Party documents etc. We can assume that from this point the history of the Soviet Union begins to be written under the slogan of «from conference to conference»[3]. The leading historians in their articles pointer directly that: «History is a party science, and scientists... shouldn't study the history for the sake of the history. History is. a science of the past that helps us create a modern party policy» [10; 70].

This turn in the historical research resulted in appearance of the quotations of Marxist-Leninist classics' works in the works of scientists. For approval of the quotation method: its use became a sort of «party man- date» — a permission given to scientists to publish their researches.

Common tendencies in the development of the Soviet science were distinctive to Kazakhstan. Studying the history of the Soviet society that «under the leadership of the Communistic party achieved great success in building socialism» etc. always were supported by party bodies and created new ideological clid^s.

Gradually the problems of the social history of the traditional institutes of the simple law etc. became insignificant comparing to the common devotion on studying the history of building the Soviet society, Soviet people's achievements, the role of the communist party in building the Soviet society eventual history and others. These problems became the objects of studies of the majority of the dissertation works, monographies, and publications.

According to the above mentioned it is difficult to talk about evolution in historiography processes in the Soviet period of 1920s — 1940s. It is partly correct, when problem is related to professional tricks and methods, customary rules of work with sources etc. However, when it comes to the theoretical and methodological or ideological contents of the historiography it shows revolutional metamorphoses during all the time of its existence. Those «changes» can be spotted especially regarding to the institute of the Biys.

At the same time despite a definitely one-legged methodological approach, the works of the Soviet scientists truly deserve attention of the modern humanitarian society. We are talking about the same side of the legacy as shows huge historical material, which even nowadays actively circulates in a scientific turnover as a big number of source- and historiography facts and evidences of the objectiveness of the author's position. Frequent quotation of the Works of the Soviet researchers is a bright evidence of all above mentioned.

These materials after a sting infiltration of the ideological selection, despite huge amounts of works of the Marxist-Leninists in them did not lose their scientific significance even nowadays. Soviet authors' works allow us to look at the obvious, as we thought events through the x-ray of the modern «theoretical concept x- ray» and get back to them, as they keep cognitive and an actually applied character.



  1. Poslavskii, Iu.I., & Cherdantsev, G.N. (Eds.). (1922). Sredneaziatskii ekonomicheskii raion. Ocherki po ekonomike Srednei Azii [Central Asiatic economic district. Essays on the economy of Middle Asia]. Tashkent: TES [in Russian].
  2. Tsentralnyi hosudarstvennyi arkhiv Respubliki Uzbekistan [Central record office of Republic of Uzbekistan]. (CGA RUz.). Р-394. — Op. 1. — D. 208. — L. 95 [in Russian].
  3. K izucheniiu istorii [To the study of history]. (1937). Moscow: Partizdat TsK VKP(b) [in Russian].
  4. Pravda (1937) [True]. (Avhust 22, No. 231). [in Russian].
  5. Ivanov, P.P. (1935). Ocherk istorii karakalpakov [Essay of history of kara-kalpaks]. Materialy po istorii karakalpakov – Materials on the history of Karakalpaks, Vol. VII, 8–89. Moscow; Leningrad: AN SSSR [in Russian].
  6. Kratkii kurs istorii SSSR [Short course of history of the USSR]. (1937). Moscow: Uchpedhiz [in Russian].
  7. Kazakhskaia Sovetskaia Sotsialisticheskaia Respublika [Kazakh Soviet Socialistic Republic]. (1938). Alma-Ata: Partizdat TsK KP(b)K [in Russian].
  8. Kazakhskaia Sovetskaia Sotsialisticheskaia Respublika [Kazakh Soviet Socialistic Republic]. (1939). Alma-Ata: Kazhosizdat [in Russian].
  9. Stalin, I.V. (1946). Sochineniia [Compositions]. (Vol. 1-4; Vol. 1). Moscow: Hospolitizdat [in Russian].
  10. Nechkina, M., Polyakov, Y., & Cherepnin, L. (1961). Nekotorye voprosy istorii sovetskoi istoricheskoi nauki [Some questions of history of soviet historical science]. Kommunist – Communist, 9, 58–70 [in Russian].
  11. 20 let Kazakhstana [20 of Kazakhstan]. (1940). Alma-Ata: Hoskinoizdat-Kazfotoizdat [in Russian].
  12. Vazhnik, Ya. (Eds.) (1940). 20 let Kazakhskoi SSR [20 of Kazakh SSR]. Alma-Ata: Kazhospolitizdat [in Russian].
  13. Kazakhskaia SSR [Kazakh SSR]. (1941). Moscow: Hospolitizdat [in Russian].
Year: 2018
City: Karaganda
Category: History