Events that took place in Central Asia from 1918 to 1931 in the
wake of the Bolshevik Revolution–the fall of the White Army, the
defeat of nationalist and Muslim movements, and the establishment of
Soviet rule with the cruelty and violence peculiar to
“socialism”–caused the mass emigration of people of various cultural
traditions and national and political orientations.
The problems of Turkmen, Tajik, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz emigres, who
abandoned their native lands in the first period of Soviet dominance,
have never been subjected to any particular study; whereas, the
details of Russian emigration are well known. There is no thorough
research devoted solely to the political and social aspects of Central
In Soviet books about the history of the October Revolution and the
Civil War, Central Asian emigration is described as a foreign
influenced, counter-revolutionary action, directly connected with
world imperialism and obeying its commands. Highly hostile official
attitudes on the problem of emigration made impossible any objective
study of the reasons for emigrant dispersion, as well as determination
of the number, nationality and social composition of the emigres.
Western historians, on the other hand, have paid considerable
attention to the fortunes of Central Asian emigres in foreign
countries. Thus, A. Shalinsky (USA) defended a doctor of letters
dissertation in June 1979 at the anthropology department of Harvard
University. Aitchen Wu, O. Lattimore, Eden Naby and M. N. Shahrani
devoted their research papers to the history of Central Asian
emigration in the first third of the 20th century. Issues such as
revolution and Central Asian emigration, and its influence on the
history of neighboring countries, are under consideration in a number of
books by Afghan and Pakistani authors, including M. Ghubo, Kh.
Khalili and others.
Recognizing the positive contribution made by Western and non-Western
researchers in the study of Central Asian emigration, it is worth
mentioning, nevertheless, that it would have had greater impact if
these scholars could have consulted first hand the scientific
literature and documents in the Soviet archives.
The history of emigration is not an isolated phenomenon. It is an
integral part of the history of Central Asia, for both Soviet and
non-Soviet territory. That until now there is not any objective
research on the social and political history of Central Asian
emigration is accounted for by the strong “West-East” confrontation
that resulted in the isolated investigations mentioned above, all
subject to political and ideological pressure (especially in the
USSR). In such circumstances it was impossible to carry on any
scientific dialogue. Taking into consideration new political
realities, such as the disintegration of the USSR, the relaxation of
tension between West and East, and the collapse of communist theory,
Central Asian and Western scientists now have a unique opportunity to
carry on an equal dialogue aimed at the enrichment of historical
The study of the Central Asian emigration is important for several
reasons. Firstly, it will help to give a clear view of the
establishment of Soviet rule in the Muslim regions of the empire, and
to describe a contemporaneous resistance movement, called the Basmachi
Movement. Secondly, the Revolution of 1917, followed by mass
emigration, had a profound effect in neighboring Central Asian
countries: China, India, Afghanistan and Iran; and defined in many
respects their future course. The degree and the nature of this
influence is not yet completely understood. Thirdly, the history of
that period has much in common with the events that are taking place in
modern Central Asia now, for example, the disintegration of the USSR
and the difficult process of the founding of independent states from
its constituent parts.
The birth of the Soviet Empire and its disintegration 70 years later
were followed by identical political and social phenomena. These are
nationalist and Muslim movements, emigration, and pre-frontier
problems. Such problems intensify political instability and affect not
only the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS),
but also foreign countries. One more phenomenon that became obvious in
recent years is that political independence and confessional freedom
in former Soviet Central Asia rallied multi-national Muslim emigres
scattered all over the world. They are anxious to identify themselves
in religious and ethnic terms with their compatriots who are founding
their own states on the ruins of the USSR. A number of communities of
Central Asian emigres in Europe, America and Asia are intensifying
activities based on their ethnic identity.
How will these processes develop in the future? It is not easy to answer today.
This paper is devoted to the political and social history of Central
Asian emigration to Afghanistan from 1920-1931 (the so called “first
wave” of emigration). In it, for the first time, first-hand documents
and materials from the KGB (Committee of Government Security) archives
of Uzbekistan are used. Thus, for example, the investigatory evidence
from the case of the counter-revolutionary movement in Bukhara led by
Ibrahim Bek throws a new light on the life of emigres abroad. In
addition to these materials, the author referred also to documents
from the Communist Party, state and military archives of the USSR. The
author expresses his sincere gratitude to his German colleague, Dr.
R. Eisener, for being given the opportunity to study the materials
from the India Office Library and Records, and to Tajik Afghanist S.
Shokhumorov who made materials from the National Archives of
Afghanistan available. I would like to express my special gratitude to
Michael Weeks of the George Washington University, who has been
correcting my English and typing drafts of the manuscript.
REVOLUTION OR WAR?
The overthrow of tsarism and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in
October 1917 put an end to debates about whether the Central Asian
countries were predisposed or not to a socialist system. From that
moment, pragmatic revolutionaries, headed by Lenin and Trotsky
supposed the revolution to be a permanent, non-stop process of civil
wars inside Russia and foreign conflicts outside its frontiers.
In 1919 the Turkkommissiia was formed. It was the representative
authority of the Russian Communist Party in Central Asia. At one of
its meetings, held in Moscow on September 3, 1919, the Turkkommissiia
adopted a document defining the policy of the Soviet state in regard
to countries neighboring Turkestan. This document states, in part:
1. The policy in Turkestan and in the neighboring countries will face
two tasks of paramount importance. The first task is to render
assistance in waging revolutionary movements in the Asian countries
neighboring Turkestan. The second task is to exploit Turkestan
2. The revolutionary wars in India and Iran will be of great
significance for Soviet Russia, as they will create the blind alley
for Entente forces and will quicken the withdrawal of their troops
from Russian borders. They also rank highly in the process of
development of world revolution, as a main link in it. Turkestan, from
this point of view, would be turned into the fortress of the revolts
and revolutionary wars in the Eastern countries.
V.I. Lenin in the first years of the Soviet rule did not take the
problem of Central Asia too seriously. “It is ridiculous and even more
than ridiculous if you imagine that Turkestan is more important than
the center.” That is how he wired, with irritation, the chairman of
the Turkkommissiia in Tashkent.
Only in 1919 did the People’s Commissar on Military Activities, L.D.
Trotsky, concentrate the attention of the Bolshevik leaders on the
East, because of the great success of the Red Army in Siberia.
Revolutionary troops marched into the wide steppe of “Russian
Turkestan” after the collapse of Kolchak’s White Army. Trotsky looked
favorably on this as an advancement of the Revolution in the regions
southeast of Russia: “The international situation is developing so
that the way to Paris and London passes via the towns of Afghanistan,
Punjab, and Bengal.”
The task of revolutionizing the former Russian semi-colony–the
Bukharan emirate–was put on the agenda. Bukhara could open the way to
Afghanistan and India. The commander of Turkfront (the Red forces in
Turkestan), M.V. Frunze, was entrusted with the task and Trotsky gave
him “exclusively” wide supreme powers. Frunze was a model Bolshevik,
pragmatic and free of the romantic revolutionary illusions peculiar to
some leaders of the Comintern who still believed that revolution was a
broad political action with the participation of the multi-million
public masses. The failure of the “revolutionary movement” in Persia,
Azerbaijan, Turkestan and Khiva dashed all hope of mass, native
participation in the forthcoming “revolutionary war.” This Frunze
admitted: “Our attempts to form military forces on the basis of native
population are doomed to failure and I am sure that in the near future
we should not count on them.” The Revolutionary Army needed to be
“reinforced by revolutionary spirited Russians, mainly from the Central
Russian provinces” in order to capture Bukhara by storm. This is what
Later on, impressed by the lessons of the Khiva and Bukharan
“revolution”, Lenin and Trotsky would condemn the attempts at
artificial establishment of revolutionary situations. But in 1919-1920
it seemed as if the Bolsheviks made war against everyone. Planning
the military seizure of Bukhara, Frunze wrote to the Chief Commander
of Russian troops in June 1920. He suggested “that he transfer the
scene of military actions and battles into Afghan territory.” For that
purpose the Afghan Revolutionary “Party” was quickly formed in
Tashkent in case this plan should be implemented successfully. Deputy
Chairman of Turkkommissia V. V. Kuibyshev set the following tasks for
the Afghan Revolutionary Party: to eliminate the existing despotic
“system and to inaugurate a People’s Soviet Republic.” All this was
proposed under the guise of “friendly” relations between Lenin and Amir
Amanullah! Revolution in Central Asia and the way of its realization
were based on the unleashing of war in order to capture territory and
to ruin legitimate systems of government and their leaders.
In the forthcoming revolutionary action, Bukharans and Afghans were
supposed to be passive. Moreover, Frunze, three months before his
invasion, expected to have a long fight against the tribes inhabiting
FALL OF BUKHARA
The Bukharan Army, being small and badly trained, no matter how
persistently it fought, suffered great losses and could not resist the
Red Army attacks. The Reds took Bukhara by storm. On September 1,
1920, Emir Sayyid Alimkhan issued an order for evacuation, and,
evading confrontation with the Red Army, retreated to the east.
The first impulse of the overthrown regime was that of
self-protection. Having arrived in Dushanbe, the centre of eastern
Bukhara, Alimkhan made efforts to organize the population for a fight
against the revolutionary army forces. In this resistance movement he
counted greatly on assistance from abroad. On October 21, 1920, he
appealed to his “brother” king, George V of Great Britain. This appeal
was sent with the Bukharan delegation to the British Consul-General in
Kashgar (Chinese Turkestan). It was translated into English there and
then sent to Delhi.
I hope that in this hour of need Your Majesty will extend to me your
kindness and favour and send me from your High Government by way of
friendly assistance £100,000 English as a State Loan, also 20,000
rifles with ammunition and 30 guns with ammunition and 10 aeroplanes
with necessary equipment. These things may kindly be dispatched to me
quickly with my above mentioned officials, and this will make me
happy. As to sending me assistance from Your side, you know best how
to deal with and fight the Russians, but I shall be very grateful if
2000 armed soldiers can be sent to me quick via Quzatgin [Qarategin –
K.A]. This will strengthen the bonds of friendship and give expression
of our alliance.
This was an entreaty for assistance. It gave the British formal
grounds for invasion, but this did not happen. No assistance followed.
Britain of course was alarmed by the Red Army invasion of Bukhara.
The appearance of the Revolutionary Guards and troops in Darvoz and
the Pamir suggested the approach of the Bolshevik front to the edge of
the British Empire. This could strengthen the Bolshevik’s position in
that region and could contribute to the further realization of the
idea of world revolution in the East. But Britain abstained from
direct interference in the Bukharan problem. “The extinction of
Bokhara as an anti-Bolshevik unit passively friendly to the British . .
. (and) the strengthening of the pro-Russian party in Afghanistan”
caused the British to assume “that the Afghans would prefer an
understanding with Britain to one with Russia.” Willing to help
Bukhara, Britain could not do so because the way of assistance lay via
Afghanistan. That Britain, under the pressure of circumstances, could
not give military help to the insurrectional movement in Central Asia
does not mean that it did nothing to neutralize Bolshevik activity. Its
diplomacy, secret service, and powerful intelligence office waged a
latent, but intense and persistent, struggle to save its Empire.
The entreaty of Alimkhan for assistance caused some discussions in
Delhi and London. But soon, English officials, having noticed the
“oriental hyperbole” and “tone of naivety” of the letter, put it far
back on the archive shelf. Thus, Alimkhan failed in getting the extra
support and help from abroad.
At the end of February 1921, when the unit of the Red Army approached
Dushanbe, the former emir made an urgent decision to flee. He gave up
the last hope of getting British help when he learned of the
strengthening of the Soviet forces in the Pamir mountains. Moreover,
snowfalls blocked the way to India through the passes. Alimkhan had
nothing to do but to count on the hospitality of another “brother” —
the Afghan emir, Amanullah. On March 4, 1921, he and his suite crossed
the Afghan frontier in the Choubek passage (now the Moscow region of
Khatlon velayat of Tajikistan) to abandon the “blessed” Bukhara
forever. He was in exile in Kabul for the rest his life. Several times
Alimkhan appealed to the English Ambassador in Kabul for permission
to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca via India, but failed to receive a
New efforts to join the Bukharan Emirate to Soviet Russia had been
developing for more than five years. The local feudals and clergy
aroused national hatred, religious fanaticism and hostility against
Russian settlers. They organized armed bands or formations of mujaheds
(fighters for the faith) to wage a holy war (jihad) against the
Russians and their supporters. A very few revolutionary minded
activists from the local population were loyal to the Soviet
insurgency and cooperated with the Red Army. Those few were supported
by people who wished to avoid the aggravation, bloodshed, and battles
against the superior forces of the adversary.
But the majority of the population reacted in another way.
Revolutionary war, waged by Bolsheviks in Turkestan and Bukhara,
caused mass emigration. Nomadic cattle-breeders, who roamed from place
to place, fled because they were afraid of military execution,
arrests, repressions and organized pillage. They drove the cattle away
and destroyed all stores. Some refugees went to the mountains, others
emigrated. But all refugees united under the Moslem tradition of
“mohajer”, meaning the followers of the prophet Muhammad who escape
from religious and confessional persecution.
The overwhelming majority of the emigres left Turkestan and Bukhara
when Soviet power was established there in 1920-1922. Later on, in
1925-1926, the Red Army together with the government of the Tajik
Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic waged two “urgent great campaigns
aimed at the elimination of basmachi.” The mujaheds and their
supporters suffered great losses.
One of the most promising heros of the Muslim resistance movement was
Ibrahim Bek, a Laqay from the Dushanbe area of Eastern Bukhara. He had
a local reputation as a horseman and champion at the popular game of
“buzkashi.” He was 26 years old when Alimkhan fled to Afghanistan
before the Soviet onslaught. Responding to the religious and feudal
leaders’ call for jihad against the infidels, Ibrahim Bek formed his
own band of Laqay tribesmen in 1921, thus launching his political and
military career. In spring 1926, the mujaheds of Eastern Bukhara and
their leader, Ibrahim Bek, made desperate but vain attempts to
withstand the greater forces. Ibrahim Bek describes his situation at
It was senseless to remain further on Soviet territory, as there were
not enough means, people, ammunition. I was in a tight corner. The
only way out was to cross the frontier and to flee to Afghanistan. I
did so with 50 armed djigits [fellows].
On the night of June 21, 1926, he crossed the border at the same place that Sayyid Alimkhan had crossed five years earlier.
Soon after Alimkhan, Ibrahim Bek with his mujadheds fled to
Afghanistan. In the first half of the 1920s, thousands of Central Asian
emigrants also rushed to Afghanistan settling along the northern
border from Badakhshan in the east to Herat in the west. Junayd Khan,
from the central Karakum, resided in Herat and ruled over all Turkmen
emigres in the Herat-Maimana area. Further to the east, the territory
of Andkhoy-Shibargan-Akhcha was inhabited by those coming from the
southern Karakum (Charjouy, Takhtabazar, Kerky, Kushka). They came
from the Ersari Turkmen tribe (Gunem, Qara-Bekeul and Ulug-Tepe
kinship groups) and also from the Saryk tribe (Terzeki kinship group).
Almost all of them and their leaders emigrated. Even in those
families and tribes which emigrated partially, the majority of bays
(rich cattle-breeders), and official clergy abandoned their native
In the first half of the 1920s, Kerkinskii okrug in the Turkmen
Republic was almost depopulated. In the period 1922-1925, 11,371
families abandoned this okrug (only 13 thousand families remained in
it). The fact is that it was easy to cross the frontier in the
20s-30s. It was absolutely open with Turkmen people living on both
sides. Not only families and tribes with flocks and herds would pass,
but even the army corps could cross without hindrance the long land
border between Zulfigar and Bosagha. Almost all the families of
astrakhan and other breeders left southern Karakum. But they continued
to graze the flocks in Soviet territory, as there were not enough
pastures in Afghanistan. The supply of fodder and forage stores could
last only three to four months in Afghanistan. The rest of the time
the cattle were sent to the pasturable areas on the Soviet side of the
frontier. Nevertheless, cattle breeding in Afghanistan became a more
profitable business than in Soviet Turkmenia. The difference was in
the prices and taxes, and the majority of Turkmen herders preferred to
stay in Afghanistan. Along with cattle-breeding, the famous Turkmen
carpet-weaving also moved to Afghanistan, because people were afraid
of repression, economic deterioration and ruin.
But the Turkmen people in Afghanistan did not hurry to adopt Afghan
citizenship. On the one hand the emigres feared they would lose
permission to pasture the herds in Soviet south Karakum while, on the
other hand, they hoped that the Soviets would fall and they would return
to their native land.
Meanwhile, Turkmen emigres evaded any discussion of Afghan citizenship
and paid bribes to persistent officials. Once in 1928, the
representatives of the Soviet government met two emigre bays in
Karakum. They asked the emigres about their citizenship. One of them
answered that he was a citizen of Russian Emperor Nicholas II, and the
other answered that he was a citizen of the Bukharan emir.
The small Afghan town of Andkhoy became the centee of Turkmen
emigration. In the middle of the 1920s, it grew to a large city. From
1917-1922 more than 30 thousand families moved there for permanent
residence. In general, at the beginning of 1926, Turkmen emigres from
Karakum and eastern Bukhara constituted 42,580 families (an average
family consisting of 5.3 members). They settled in northwestern
Afghanistan. That is 225,305 persons overall.
The chief authority among the Turkmen emigrants was Ishan Khalifa. He
belonged to the Sufi order of Islam known as Naqshbandiyya. Ishan
Khalifa was widely respected, not only among Turkmen but also among
Uzbek emigrants. The Turkmen emigres were well-armed. They had nearly
10 thousand rounds of ammunition in their hands. Skillful artisans
produced cartridges for various types of weapons, and even bolts for
As to the Uzbek emigres, they were fewer in number. They came from
half-nomadic Uzbek tribes, such as Laqay, Dourmen, Qatagan, Qongrat,
Qarluq, Taz, and Kazaq, and moved to Afghanistan in the first half of
the 1920s. For example, the population of Fakhrabadskii tuman (region)
in the beginning of 1920 was 35-36 thousand people, with Laqays the
greatest in number. (This tuman is several miles to the south of
Dushanbe.) According to the account of a Tajik government commission, 12
thousand Laqays fled to Afghanistan (that is 32-33% of the whole
population), and 10.5 thousand (28-29%) perished in the violent
inauguration of Soviet rule. In 1926 there were only 14,162 persons in
Fakhrabad (37-38% of the pre-revolutionary number). Among them were
13,285 Laqays, 887 Qarluqs and Tajiks.
The most respected persons among the Bukharan Uzbeks were Sayyidbek
Inak Kalon (Taghaybek), the uncle of Sayyid Alimkhan, and Abdulmumin
Ishan. They kept in touch with the former emir and Turkmen leader
Ishan Khalifa. The Uzbeks could form an armed band of several thousand
Tajik emigres, in contrast to Turkmen and Uzbeks, were very few in
number. For example, in Farkhorskii tuman of Kulob, five thousand
families migrated to Afghanistan, with 150 families being Tajik. This
was accounted for by the fact that Tajiks had a settled way of life
(all of them were farmers), but Uzbeks and Turkmen were nomadic and
semi-nomadic. The only Tajik property was the cultivated piece of
land, which was impossible to take along in emigrating. The Tajiks had
the third largest number of emigres after Turkmen and Uzbeks. In the
pre-frontier area of north Afghanistan (not bordering on Turkmen
tribal areas), in Rustak, Khanabad, and Imam Sahib, the breakdown of
emigre households was the following:
4.5 thousand Uzbek households
3.7 thousand Tajik households
1.3 thousand Kyrgyz households
0.5 thousand Turkmen households.
||Number of families
||Average number per family
||Number of Emigres
|Tajiks, Uzbeks and others (Turkmen, Kyrgyz, Arabs)
POPULATION IN CENTRAL ASIA
(given in thousands)
||2500 – 3000
||2030 – 2682
||550 – 800
||607 – 640
||14,579 – 15,329
||12,953 – 13,638
1Marco Buttino, “Study of the Economic Crises and Depopulation in Turkestan, 1917-1920,” Central Asian Survey Vol. IX (1990), No. 4, p. 69.
It is worth mentioning that in the establishment of Soviet rule in
Bukhara, Tajiks fled not only to Afghanistan, but also to the remote
mountainous regions of eastern Bukhara–Qarategin, and Darvoz–which
were inhabited only by Tajiks. The Soviets moved into this area in the
summer 1923 with a large scale military attack by the Red Army. Later
the exiles organized a revolt in Badakhshani Darvoz, a border
territory with Afghanistan. After the failure of this revolt, 250
Tajiks escaped abroad.
It is necessary to remember that the “nationality” of this or that
group of emigres is not always defined in the historical, original
source materials. It was evidently difficult to do so as the ethnic
map of Turkestan and Bukhara was very vague. Central Asia, a
multi-ethnic area, shared a common Islamic culture where two classical
written languages (Persian and to a lesser extent “Chaghatay Turk”)
were used to bypass the variety of the dialects in use among the
people. According to the information given by the revolutionary
committee of the government of the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist
Republic (TASSR), 44 thousand families, or 206,800 people (with the
average number of members in a family being 4.7 persons) abandoned
eastern Bukhara by the end of 1926. This constituted 25% of the
general population, and 33% of all families in Tajikistan. The
overwhelming majority of emigres were from Qurghonteppa, Kulob, and
Hissor velayats. Only one-half of the total population was left in
Qurghonteppa region. Forty-nine completely abandoned and deserted
kishlaks (villages) were found in Qurghonteppa by the governmental
commission. Fields, gardens, and melon fields were weed-grown, and
fallow, their beauty lost. Homes and other structures were destroyed and
ruined, “duvals” (fences made of clay) were leveled to the ground.
The Tajiks fled not only from the territory of Tajikistan, but also
abandoned the region of Surkhan-Darya in Uzbekistan. In the early 1920s,
40 thousand Tajiks and Uzbeks moved from Surkhan-Darya to
Afghanistan. Among these emigrants were also Kyrgyz, with 1300
families from Qarategin and Vakhsh valley, and over 1000 Kyrgyz people
from eastern Pamir passing over the border to Afghan Badakhshan and
Qataghan in the first half of the 1920s.
The statistical information in Table I was obtained mainly through
field research inquiry, carried out by government officials,
reconnaisance offices, and the political body of Turkestani front and
Chief Political Board (GPU – secret service). The information
indicates that the peak of the emigration wave was in 1926 (all
figures being approximate). The actual number of emigrants is probably
rather higher than noted. Small emigrant settlements were also
established in Kabul, Peshawar (India), Mashhad (Persia) and in some
other towns of Afghanistan, India and Iran.
Statistical research done by Soviets in Central Asia in 1922, 1924,
and 1926 concludes: “Depopulation as the result of emigration
characterizes the whole region. But the greatest emigration was from
Tajikistan’s pre-frontier territory.” Western scholars share this
According to Table II, the Bukharan emirate and Turkestan experienced
the largest depopulation (1 million or so). As we cited in Table I,
half of them emigrated mainly from pre-frontier territory of eastern
Bukhara. This information is confirmed by the Soviet statistics. The
total population of Tajikistan (Hisor, Qurghonteppa, Kulob, Gharm,
Istravshan, Panjakent, Badakhshan) constituted 1,374,685 people in
1917 according to the Central Statistic Board (CSU) of Central Asia.
But the census of population in 1926 within the same borders recorded
831,180 people. The population in Tajikistan from 1917-1926 declined
by 543,505 people. This number includes not only emigres but those
killed in battle, and those dying from starvation, sickness and
Why should Afghanistan serve as a shelter for those who fled the
Soviet advance? There are several answers: geographical location, open
frontier free of troops, and historical and ethnic identity; but the
strongest factor was religion. The fact is that after the fall of the
Turkish caliphate in 1918, Afghanistan, in accordance with Muslim
tradition, became for the refugees the heart of “Dar-ul-Islam.” That
is why it also gave shelter to 20 thousand Indian Muslim refugees (the
Hijrat movement). Therefore, Amanullah, as ruler of a “pure” Muslim
country, had to admit co-religionists from neighboring countries.
Britain was very much alarmed by the influence of the Russian
Revolution of 1917 on the nationalist movements in Asia. It wanted to
escape the Russian danger by conducting a “closed door” policy toward
Central Asia. Strict passport regulations at the borders prevented
anyone who dealt with the Bolsheviks from entering India. Officials on
the board of foreign and political affairs exercised control over all
roads and ways to India and registered each person crossing the
frontier. The British Minister in Kabul, F. Humphrys, wrote in April
Central Asian refugees can be divided into three classes:
a) Emissaries of anti-Bolshevik parties, anxious to lay their case before the world and Great Britain in particular;
b) Genuine refugees merely anxious to escape from the miseries of
their own country and with no political object in view. Some of these
being mindful of British generosity to Mensheviks in the past hope for
similar favours for themselves;
c) Bolshevik agents in disguise and possibly masquerading as a) or b).
Emigres represented all the classes of Bukhara and Turkestan. Among
them were the emir, officials, feudals, bays, merchants, clergy,
handcrafters, and the poor from villages and remote regions. Though
emigres themselves were far from the center of politics, emigration as a
phenomenon had a political essence. Central Asian emigration was a
protest against the violent breaking down of traditional and religious
standards and nations by the imposed system.
The Afghan government arranged for the majority of emigrants to settle
in the pre-frontier territory. Emigrants could have their own piece
of land. The poor sold wood and charcoal. They paid the same taxes as
Afghan people did. But emigrants did not serve in the military, nor
did they have to educate their children at local schools. Neither were
they persecuted for violating new laws, issued by Amanullah Khan,
prohibiting polygamy and kalym (ransom for the bride). The Afghan
government tried to grant citizenship to the Bukharan people, but they
refused to adopt it. They did not support the reforms introduced by
the Kabul government, and, as well, they hoped to return to their
motherland, through an expected uprising of the emirate.
The Afghan ruling regime welcomed the refugees and rendered them moral
and financial support, but it refused to help them in their struggle
against the Soviets, as a matter of principle. The reformer, Amanullah
Khan, was not interested in an uprising of the conservative,
pro-English Bukharan emir’s regime. If the Muslim resistance movement
(basmachi) had been supported in Central Asia it could have spread to
the left bank of Amu Darya (Oxus) and could have had unpredictable and
unfavorable consequences for Afghanistan. On the other hand, military
assistance to the basmachi revolt could have broken relations with
Soviet Russia, and Afghanistan could have been deprived of financial
and military help.
The policy of non-interference in the events in Central Asia provoked
anger among the clergy and opposition to Amanullah Khan’s regime.
Afghan writer and scientist Kh. Khalili (1905-1978) observed:
The people thought that the Afghanistan government, being deceived by
the Soviet State, forgot its primary political and religious duty — to
defend brother Muslims in neighboring countries. Disregarding the
interests of the Islamic World, Afghanistan strengthened its relations
with the Soviet State. . . Counteraction against Russia was regarded
as a counteraction against the independence of Afghanistan.
The Afghan government believed that Russia was the only friend to the East, while London oppressors its only enemy.
Despite the official policy of Kabul, some Afghan volunteers, headed
by Muslim religious figures (e.g. Mavlavi Abulhai from Panjsher), were
sent to eastern Bukhara in spring 1922. Their task was to help the
Turkish general Enver Pasha in the armed revolt against the Soviets.
One hundred forty Afghan volunteers fought in Enver’s band, according
to the commander of Bukharan troops, N.E. Kakurin.
At the same time, the Afghan Minister of War, General Mohammad Nadir
Khan (the future king), was sent to the northern provinces to head the
army. He met there the former president of the Bukharan People’s
Soviet Republic, Usman Khojaev. He also kept in touch by
correspondence with Enver. Without official sanction, he sent weapons
and ammunition to the other bank of the river. After the defeat of
Enver, and an official warning from the Soviets, the Afghans returned
within their borders in summer 1922. Nadir Khan was denounced for his
cooperation with Enver, and was appointed as minister to Paris.
Mavlavi Abulhai was conferred the title of sheikh-ul-Islam by Enver.
When he returned to Afghanistan he was arrested and imprisoned in
Khanabad. This incident did not undermine the friendly relations
between Kabul and Moscow in the 1920s.
In general, nationalist and Muslim movements in Central Asia, along
with emigration, destabilized the situation in Afghanistan, and
intensified the conflict between Amanullah’s regime and the
opposition. The fortune of Bukharan and Turkestani refugees was
closely connected with the events in Afghanistan, while they lived
THE WAR IN EXILE
Afghan writer Khalili in his Ayor-e as Khuroson (Daring Fellow from
Khurasan) notes that Habibullah, future emir of Afghanistan, was a
Tajik from Kuhdoman (near Kabul). For hours he had listened to the
stories told by emigres about the invasion by the Red Army and the
fall of “Noble” Bukhara, and the cruel murder of peaceful Muslims, and
he wanted to help them. Khalili says that Habibullah, or Bachai
Saqqao (that is literally “the son of the water-carrier” in Tajik),
met with the exiled emir in Kabul in 1921 and told him, “on the day of
the jihad in Bukhara, call me.” This occurred very soon thereafter.
Clergy from the northern provinces of Afghanistan, which were
ethnically identical to Bukhara, began to form and organize bands.
Habibullah and Muslim cleric Abulhai went to the northern bank of the
Amu Darya and Enver’s army joined them there. The Turkish general
conferred honors on Habibullah for his courage and bravery.
Khalili probably imagined the participation of the future Afghan emir
in the Muslim movement in Central Asia, but his supposition is not
inconsistent with the historical situation in Afghanistan and Soviet
Central Asia at that period of time.
In autumn 1928 a rebellion was started by the Afghan Shinwari tribe in
the east, and the Tajik peasantry of Kuhistan and Kuhdoman in the
north almost simultaneously unleashed a revolt. The leader of the
peasant band was Habibullah. Amanullah’s government lost popular
support, and on January 4, 1929 resigned.
The rebels occupied Kabul and on January 19, Bachai Saqqao was
proclaimed emir of Afghanistan. The first thing Habibullah did when he
came to power was call for the fight to liberate Bukhara, and also
promised to bring a Muslim “sacred” object, the Sandal Gates, from
India to Kabul. The population of the northern provinces welcomed the
policy of the new emir.
Evidently the new emir enjoyed recognition and great prestige among
many people in the north — in Herat, Maimana, and Balkh. Alimkhan, who
had lived in exile for years in his Kabul residence, was very glad to
learn about the Amanullah’s overthrow and the elevation of his old
friend Bachai Saqqao. Ibrahim Bek (who emigrated to Kabul in 1926)
observed that Bachai Saqqao, as emir, met with Alimkhan and that they
had warm talks. Later on Ibrahim Bek himself met with the new emir. “I
had not been there for a long time. I only greeted him according to
As Khalili mentioned, it had been neither the first nor the last
encounter of the two heros of the Muslim movement in Central Asia.
They met had in Dushanbe in 1922 for the first time. Their destinies
had much in common. Both were illiterates, came from very ordinary
backgrounds, and had criminal pasts. They always headed the people’s
revolts because of their outstanding personal qualities, such as
strength of will, bravery and courage. Both enjoyed great support
among the populace and the clergy. The end of their careers was also
the same. One of them, having been a ruler, was executed. The other
preferred active struggle against the adversary rather than emigrant
idleness, but soon he was captured (or in another version,
surrendered) and was shot in an OGPU isolation ward in Tashkent.
Opinions of these two men range from pure admiration to severe
Let us look back to the time when Bachai Saqqao came to power and
granted all the Central Aisan emigrants carte blanche. From then on,
they were free to move within the country as they liked. One emigre
leader, Fuzail Maqsum (a Tajik from Qarategin) moved with five or six
of his men from Kabul north to Badakhshan. From there, with a small
band of emigres, he crossed into Soviet territory and tried to
undermine Soviet power. Later on he was defeated by the Red Army.
Maqsum returned with nine men to Afghan Badakhshan and then to Mazar-i
Sharif to join Sayyid Hussein (Minister of War in Bachai Saqqao’s
Maqsum shared the impressions of his raid in the following way: “I
wanted to do my duty, but the people of Qarategin acted against me and
I had nothing to do but to escape.”
The Turkmen leader, Junayd Khan, was also active. In June 1928 he
broke down the opposition of the Iranian frontier troops and crossed
the Soviet-Iranian boarder. He wanted to go to Afghanistan via Iran.
Evading confrontation with the Persian and the Afghan armies, Junayd
moved to Herat province. Very soon Junayd decided to support Bachai
Saqqao and wrote a letter to this effect to Alimkhan.
The situation in Afghanistan became uncontrollable. Foreign consulates
and missions were leaving Kabul. Ibrahim Bek also wanted to leave the
Afghan capital. The former Afghan ambassador to Moscow, Ghulam Nabi
Khan, at the head of an armed group of several hundred Turkmen and
Hazaras, crossed the frontier and fought with Saqqao supporters.
Bachai Saqqao suggested Ibrahim Bek go north with his followers and
organize armed formations from among the emigres to render military
assistance to Sayyid Hussein. On the instructions of the new emir,
Ibrahim Bek with his 50 Laqays started for the north right away. At
the beginning of May 1929, Ghulam Nabi Khan attacked Mazar-i Sharif
and occupied it.
Mazar-i Sharif and Herat played a major role in Amanullah’s regime.
Weapons, planes, and other help were sent via these towns from the
USSR. That was why Ghulam Nabi Khan, with the help of the Soviets,
attacked Mazar-i Sharif. The position of Habibullah Bachai Saqqao in
the north became insecure, and grew worse. Sayyid Hussein insisted on
intensifying military activities to defend Bachai Saqqao’s government.
He discussed this with Ibrahim Bek. Following tradition and the
Shari’a laws (prohibiting the murder of any Moslem without special
permission for it, or “fatwa”), Ibrahim Bek convened a council of
elders with the participation of Turkmen, Qongrat, and Dourmen
emigres. The tribes decided to back Habibullah. An organized, armed
formation of 400 Turkmen, 400 Uzbek Qongrats, and 100 Uzbek Laqays was
at the disposal of Sayyid Hussein.
In Ibrahim Bek’s words, at that time in Afghanistan absolute confusion
reigned everywhere. Soon Ghulam Nabi Khan left Mazar-i Sharif and
crossed over to Termez (USSR). Khalili believes that Amanullah asked
him to do so, not wanting Russian interference in Afghan problems.
(Nabi Khan’s army came back to Afghanistan after the overthrow of
Bachai Saqqao in December 1929.)
Did emigres fight to defend the new emir? Ibrahim Bek recalls the
defense of Dehdadi fortress against a Hazara armed group. After a six
hour battle, the Hazaras retreated.
There is another question: Did Ibrahim Bek plan to take advantage of
the anarchy in Afghanistan and invade Soviet territory as F. Maqsum
had done? Later on Ibrahim Bek himself confessed to the Soviet
interrogator: “(When Habibullah was in power) I had a strong desire to
fight against you.” What prevented Ibrahim Bek from doing so? The
fact is that the Mojaheds, in addition to their service to the
Bukharan Emir, protected the peaceful emigres, their villages,
families, and homes. The Mojaheds could not abandon them in a strange
country to fend for themselves.
By the autumn of 1929 the situation in the northern province of
Qataghan (now Qunduz) was confused beyond all limits. Ibrahim Bek
recalls that it was difficult to say who governed the province, though
officially it was ruled by Bachai Saqqao. One kishlak would attack
another in a quick raid, settling accounts with it.
The failure of centralized power led to the disintegration of
Afghanistan. A strong ring of absolutism (called “internal
imperialism” by L. Dupree) had held many tribes and other communities
in one nation-state, and suddenly this ring broke. It resulted in
total anarchy, and Afghanistan faced national calamity. The northern
population gave warm support to the new regime. This aroused anger and
provoked nationalist sentiments among the southern Afghan population.
Foreign policy, as conducted by Bachai Saqqao, was a failure. The
British minister had left Kabul in February 1929, the first bad omen
for Bachai Saqqao. His adversaries used this fact to their advantage.
Nadir Khan arrived in India from France. On March 22, while meeting (a
jirgah) with the representatives of the southern and eastern tribes,
he questioned the legality of Bachai Saqqao’s government. Nadir Khan
and Shah Wali Khan, supported by the tribes, attacked the Saqqoists.
On October 13, Bachai Saqqao and his followers tried to escape from
the Afghan capital under the blows of the army of another brother,
Shah Mahmud Khan. On October 15, Nadir Khan entered the capital. On
November 2, 1929, Habibullah, the only Tajik to become the Afghan
emir, was executed. Ibrahim Bek learned this news when he was in
Aliabad kishlak where the Laqay emigres had settled. The new Afghan
government laid down an ultimatum to the Laqays–to give up their
weapons and to surrender two followers of Bachai Saqqao who had been
given shelter in the emigres’ camp. Ibrahim refused to do this.
The first half of 1930 passed in confrontations. In June 1930, a
sudden and sensational event took place which is not mentioned in any
available Soviet sources: the Red Army invaded northern Afghanistan.
Meeting no Afghan resistance, they made punitive raids on two villages
where emigrants had settled–Aliabad and Aq Teppa. Ibrahim Bek and the
Laqays deliberately avoided conflict with the Reds. Having destroyed
the half-deserted kishlaks, the Red troops went back to Soviet
territory in a day. After this withdrawal, Ibrahim Bek received a
letter. In it Alimkhan, on behalf of the new Emir of Afghanistan,
Nadir Khan, called him to Kabul. If Ibrahim Bek refused to come to the
new emir, Alimkhan assured him he would break off all relations with
him. Ibrahim wrote in reply:
You ordered me to wage a struggle against the Soviet power for seven
years. But I was fighting by my own forces and money. You have been
promising me all kinds of help, but, unfortunately, I did not receive
any. This resulted in defeat. Can I expect any help from Alimkhan? No,
I would not go to Kabul. If padishah allows me to stay with my people
in Afghanistan, I shall lead a peaceful way of life and run a farm.
So, no way back. Refusing to obey Alimkhan and Nadir Khan, Ibrahim Bek
put himself and his followers at risk. They became illegal. The
Afghan government was not inclined to forgive some emigrants their
sympathy for the Saqqoists. Military forces were sent to the northern
provinces to punish them. These were not government troops but armed
Pushtun tribesmen. Ibrahim Bek learned that:
Nadir Khan would not compensate them (the Pushtuns) for the dead and
wounded in battle. But for those few who would remain alive, pillage
was allowed. They could dispose of property and all emigrants’ things.
They could take whatever they liked to. This armed group was not
supplied with provisions. They plundered and captured everything.
That’s why the village population was on my side, they supported me,
and I attacked the Afghan raiders successfully.
In 1930-1931, an Afghan mullah, Miyeshoh-Khairhoh from Imam-Sahib, in
his letter to Nadir Khan gave the same evaluation of this Afghan
Pushtun band acting in the north. It is interesting to note that
though the author of the letter hated Ibrahim Bek (“damned be the
father of this great swine”), nevertheless, he denounced the pillage
and plunder done by the Pushtuns.
The people’s life was endangered. Wazir, Masoud, and Jadran (Pushtuns
tribes) did not do any shooting, they only plundered. . . They
attacked in raids the whole Qatagan, half of Badakhshan and robbed
thousands of rupees, but yet, they were not satisfied. They rushed
into dwellings of ordinary people, ruined their houses, plundered
things and property. They lost shame and forgot about God. They roamed
from kishlak to kishlak destroying them. People were afraid of death
and abandoned their lands.
At the end of this letter the author addresses Nadir Khan:
For God’s sake, ask someone from the Wazir or other tribes if they did
any good? What did they do except damage and harm? Tell them to stop
damaging. Is not God’s mercy and Padishah’s generosity enough for
them? Shame on them. Let there be peace between Uzbeks and others.
This extract helps to clarify the real impulse behind Ibrahim Bek’s
behavior. There are various interpretations of it in the available
literature. For example, it is asserted that he was moved by personal
ambition. It is said that he wanted to take advantage of the difficult
situation in Afghanistan, and to found an “Uzbek-Tajik” state in the
northern part of the country which gave him a shelter. He longed to rule
over this imagined country. One of the former Soviet intelligence
officers called Ibrahim Bek a “Napoleon from Laqay.” Some books claim
that Ibrahim Bek, like other basmachi leaders, was a puppet in the hands
of hidden, shadowy forces (the British, Alimkhan, Afghan
reactionaries and others).
It would seem that the truth lies elsewhere. Ibrahim Bek had never
been a politician. The Bukharan emigres in Afghanistan protected
everything that was dear to their hearts and what was endangered —
their families, backgrounds, and tribes.
So the Laqay war in northern Afghanistan continued. In autumn 1930,
defense minister Shah Mahmud Khan crossed over the pass and attacked
the emigrants. Here Ibrahim Bek applied his customary experience and
tactics gained in the fight against the Soviet Army in Bukhara. He
evaded large scale confrontations. His actions consisted for the most
part of quick raids where surprise was used to effect. The raids were
carried out by extremely mobile horsemen, who as soon as the attack
had been made, escaped. For example, in Hazarbagh, a group of 200
horsemen attacked 500 Afghans with two pieces of ordinance and machine
guns. After a short battle, the Afghans retreated leaving all their
weapons. Afghan Uzbeks and Tajiks, because of ethnic identity, helped
the emigres in their struggle against the Pushtuns. They formed 25
groups out of 2500 men. Local populations supplied them with
provision. The Qatagan Uzbek tribe rendered the most essential
assistance to the emigres. Ibrahim Bek guessed that “they hated
Afghans because 60 years ago they violently subdued the Uzbeks.”
New emigrant bands joined the military action. In Afghan Badakhshan,
the son of a former ruler of Darvoz, Ghulom Hassan, formed a band. His
goal was to unite Afghan and Soviet Darvoz. (Before the
Russian-British demarkation of 1895, Darvoz was one undivided region.)
In March 1931, the Afghan Darvoz people seized power. On May 5, a
band of 58 men crossed over to the Soviet side and in a number of
raids attacked the Soviets. Some local men joined this band, and the
total number of guerrillas grew to 80. This band was later crushed by
the Red Army.
In Qatagan, the battle of the Laqays against a more numerous adversary
continued. The losses of the emigres came to 70 men, while the loss
among the Afghans amounted to 2-2.5 thousand men.
At the same time, other leaders such as Kuganbek, Mulla Kholdor, and
Mulla Jura Dahan, moved in the direction of Rustak. They occupied
Yangi Qala and Julcha, beseiged the Rustak garrison in the fortress,
and gained access to weapons. Local Uzbeks and Tajiks joined Ibrahim
Bek in Banghi village. The joint band consisted of 1500 horsemen. A
force of Mangal Pushtun tribes was attacked and crushed. The Afghans
withdrew. Ibrahim’s band, pursuing them, rushed into Khanabad from
different directions. Ibrahim Bek recalled with pleasure that, “the
turmoil was enormous.”
In February 1931, the war was winding down. Shah Mahmud Khan sent a
large group of soldiers to fight against the emigres concentrated in
Aktyube. Ibrahim Bek was severely ill at the time. He sent his young
leader Utanbek with a force of Qongrats and Dourmens to engage Shah
Mahmud’s troops. They occupied positions not far from the Afghans and
started shooting. During the engagement, the emigrants’ families were
able to escape to the mountains.
At the end of February Ibrahim Bek received a letter from Ishan
Khalifa, the leader of the Turkmen emigres and the main authority
among all Central Asian emigres, stating that it had become too
difficult to remain in Afghanistan and they would rather go to Iran.
Recalled Ibrahim Bek:
I replied to him that wherever we go, we would have to give up our
ammunition, and the best direction for us was the Soviet side. There is
our native land, we should return weapons to the Soviet power. The
Turkmen emigres rejected this proposal.
I had a strong desire to go back to Soviet territory by that time, but
before that I had to do away with the Afghans who followed hard on my
Little by little emigrant families moved to the Choubek passage. Armed
groups protected their way. The Soviets were warned that the emigres
were approaching their frontier and wanted to cross over it and pass
into Soviet territory. The frontier guards set their terms. Emigres
could pass to the Soviet side if they gave up all ammunition and
returned it to the Red Army. Some guns were returned. On the morning
of March 30, 1931, the families of the emigres tried to cross to the
Soviet bank of the river. The Afghans were firing on them from their
side of the river. Many women and children drowned. More than five
thousand people managed to get to Soviet territory (one thousand
families), but the number of those who tried was twice as great. The
frontier troops and OGPU interned the refugees and sent them along
The remnant bands left on the Afghan side, after various
confrontations, also crossed the frontier to the Soviet side. Fleeing
before the Afghans in that April, they crossed at the same Choubek
passage as the emigrant families two weeks prior–the same route that
the former emir, Alimkhan, had used ten years earlier to flee the
Soviets. It was also at this same passage that the band of Ibrahim Bek
crossed the border, exchanging fire with Soviet frontier guards.
After a short battle the frontier guard retreated. Soon after, there
appeared three planes with red stars. After carrying out several raids
on Ibrahim’s fighters, they disappeared. Ten emigres were killed. The
majority that got across the border were Laqays by origin. They
belonged to the kinship groups of Ishankhoja (Ibrahim Bek’s branch),
Badrakli, Turtul, and Bayram. Tajiks from Ghazimalik (near Dushanbe)
and Afghan Tajiks, who had been supporters of Bachai Saqqao, also
crossed the frontier. Later on, armed Uzbeks, Qongrats, Qatagans and
Tajiks did so as well.
The Soviet leadership determined to interpret Ibrahim Bek’s escape
from Afghanistan with his band as a British and reactionary Afghan
trick, aimed at the organization of revolt against Soviet authority in
Tajikistan. A modern Tajik scholar, M. Irkaev, expresses the official
point of view:
British imperialists worked out the plan and prompted Nadir Khan to
pretend that the Afghan government had pursued the basmachi bands on
Afghan territory for the world public opinon to believe. The Communist
Party and government of the Republic discovered these intentions of
the basmachi in time. They issued an order for the Red Army to isolate
basmachi families from the bands and to convey them to Shahrinau.
The “premeditated, worked out Soviet plan” consisted of the quick
evacuation of the emigre families and the mobilization of the people to
fight against the armed bands. The Soviet goal was to defeat and to
discredit the basmachi movement, and put an end to it. Ibrahim Bek was
called a “British agent” and a campaign was waged against him. This
served as an excuse for extreme, violent measures aimed at strengthening
the ruling, repressive regime in the country. Of course, the Soviets
were not interested in a peaceful end of the battle against the
basmachi and foreign counter-revolution. The return of weapons was
ignored, and Ibrahim Bek’s note was not considered.
The official statement runs that Ibrahim Bek was captured by local
guards and OGPU in June 23, 1931. The next day, he and his followers
were sent to Tashkent to the special department of Central Asian
Military Okrug (OO SAVO).
In connection with the prosecution of Ibrahim Bek, the so-called
judicial investigation was carried on while the fabrication of the
official version continued. He was charged with Article 58 of the
Criminal Code of the Uzbek SSR (that is, “armed rebellion and invasion
with counter-revolutionary purpose of the Soviet territory”), with
Article 59 (“counter-revolutionary contacts with foreign states”), and
article 60 (“rendering assistance to world bourgeoisie”). The
identical articles under numbers 58-2, 58-4, were included in the
Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Millions of Soviet citizens,
charged under these articles, were tried and unjustly convicted in the
At the end of the investigation, Ibrahim Bek “pleaded quietly” and
regretted the “crimes done.” In the course of the investigation, at
its end, and in the verdict, there were some allegations which were
not confirmed by evidence. For example, Ibrahim Bek and other basmachi
leaders were accused of dealing with Britain. That was an unproven
and groundless accusation, which speaks to the falsification of
judicial investigation materials by the Soviet Justice Body. The
investigation was concluded on April 13, 1932. His fifteen companions
in arms and relatives were shot on August 10, and Ibrahim himself was
executed on August 31, 1932.
This is how one, but unfortunately not the last, episode of Central Asian emigration ended.
Of what is the emigration of the Moslem population from Bukhara and Turkestan an example?
In the first instance, it was a political phenomenon. Emigration was
an active protest against revolutionary war, waged by the Bolsheviks
in Central Asia. Their goal was to annex the former colony of Tsarist
Russia. The territorial location of Turkestan and Bukhara made them an
attractive acquisition for Soviet Russia. Turkestan occupied an
important position from a military, strategic and political point of
view. The Bolsheviks planned for it to serve as “a fortress of
revolutionary wars in the East.” Revolutionary war, nevertheless, faced
the resistance of mujaheds in Central Asia, with the greatest
resistance coming from Bukhara.
The Red Cavalry attack on the feudal East was stopped near the banks
of the Amu Darya and the foothills of the Hindu Kush. The fire of
revolutionary war faded and went out. It did not spread into the
neighboring countries–Afghanistan, India, China, or Iran.
Afghanistan admitted many Central Asian emigres because of the factor
of ethnic and religious identity. Ammanullah Khan feared the Central
Asian mujaheds since they supported conservatism and spoke favorably
of the pan-Islamic movement, which opposed his regime. At least
indirectly they brought about the downfall of Ammanullah the reformer.
The history of Central Asian emigration is an integral part of the
general history of Central Asia. It confirms once more that there is
mutual attraction among Muslim peoples residing on both sides of the
southern frontiers of the former USSR.
Certainly, nationalist and confessional issues had not yet dominated
regional political interests and geopolitical forces. But, these
issues were emerging with varying intensity. Islam and ethnic identity
constitute unifying factors, especially in Central Asia where
frontiers are artificial and not grounded ethnographically. These
factors had enhanced impact in a situation of political
destabilization and weakening centralized power on both sides of the
Amu River. Such a situation existed in the USSR in the early 1920s and
in Afghanistan at the end of that decade and the beginning of the
In the beginning of the 1990s, government authority collapsed and
civil wars struck Tajikistan and Afghanistan simultaneously. The
frontier between these two countries again became a maelstrom of
regional instability producing a greatly increased movement of
Central Asia Monitor, No.4, No.5, (1994) 28-32 and 16-27. by Kamol Abdullaev