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Accepted Paper:

Industrialization of Kazakhstan's Agriculture in the 1930S: Plans, Crops and Experiments  
Natalia Ryzhova (Palacky University in Olomouc)


The monocultural specialisation of Central Asia in cotton (and irrigation) was already inherent in the first Soviet zoning plans (rayonirovanye), partly due to the previous colonisation of the region. In turn, Kazakhstan "received" its agrarian specialisation - monoculture wheat production - with the programme for developing "virgin lands" ("Tselina"). However, economic and political discussions about alternative models of industrial agricultural organisation/zoning in Soviet Central Asia have remained outside the scope of scholarly interest. At the same time, in the 1930s, numerous experiments with industrial crops such as soya beans, kenaf, sunflower, and flax, to mention but a few, were carried out in Almaty, Bishkek, Aktobe and even in Karlag. Plant breeders, including those repressed and exiled to Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, wrote scientific papers discussing alternatives to intra-republican zoning and organised and conducted crop trials on rainfed, reclaimed and irrigated plots. Finally, forcibly resettled ethnic groups were (not)involved in the mass production of particular crops (for example, Koreans cultivated staple for them rice but were not included in the production of another essential crop, soybeans).

Without understanding these processes, the modernisation and Sovietisation of Central Asian agriculture remain incomplete. Moreover, it is not well understood how the industrialised agriculture system laid down in the 1930s continues to influence current agrarian changes, local farming decisions and even the mentality of farmers.

In my paper, using archival data from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russian archives, I will examine attempts at soybean introduction in the region, the debates over the possibility of its industrial cultivation, and the long-term (almost a century) persistence of the agro-botanical soybean knowledge production system.

Panel T40GEO
Modernization and sovietization by monocultural production in past and present Central Asia
  Session 1 Friday 7 June, 2024, -