Neither Rupture Nor Continuity? Uncertain portrayal of Soviet history in Post-Soviet Kazakhstani Historiography
(al-Farabi Kazakh National University)
This paper through analysis of secondary source literature, interviews conducted from scholars and university professors, chapters of widely used history textbooks, history curricula explores how do the Soviet period has been mediated in post-soviet professional historical literature in Kazakhstan. By looking at individual intellectuals/historians and their works the purpose is to show the role of human agency in the creation, and articulation of nation. By looking at individual intellectuals/historians and their works the purpose is to show the role of human agency in the creation, and articulation of nation. In Kazakhstan, a unique situation has developed: while the Soviet period entered into the official history in the "Soviet version", academic content and research projects are focused on the pursuit of assessment of Soviet period as interruption of the way to independence. They do it implicitly: exhibiting hypertrophic interest to the pre-imperial past, and marginalizing the Soviet period. At the same time, the choice of topics is driven not by research interests, but mostly by the "long way to independence" concept. To confirm it, historians study the Turkic period of history, the history of the Kazakh Khanate as the first state of the Kazakhs, Kazakh people national liberation wars of the Russian Empire period, an increasing interest to the role of Alash intelligentsia in building Kazakhs national consciousness. So there is gap between institutional assessment of Soviet period and real attitudes of historians toward the soviet legacy. The author argues that the ambiguity of the discourse about the Soviet period in professional historical literature is not due to the politics of history, but to the position of historians. While the state serves as a deterrent of the penetration of nationalist discourse into the historical narrative, historians through their attitude to the Soviet period implicitly express their disagreement with the official policy of the authorities to build a civic-based sense of identity. The analysis of the academic discourse on soviet period clearly demonstrates inconsistencies and discrepancies between declared policies in creating all Kazakhstani state identity and situation on the ground. Thus the assessment of Soviet period along with the language and toponymy become one of the most sensitive factors of nation-building process in Kazakhstan.
Writing and Re-Writing the History of Soviet Kazakhstan