Saturday, June 28, 2014

Can Kyrgyz history from 1863 to 1991 be studied within the greater context of global imperialism and colonialism?

I think there is definitely room to write a comparative history of colonialism and post-colonialism in Central Asia and West Africa. Or more specifically Kyrgyzstan and Ghana. I don't think that anybody disputes that Kyrgyzstan was colonized by Tsarist Russia from 1863 to 1917 and Ghana by the British from 1874 to 1957. It is the Soviet period from 1917 to 1991 in which the status of Kyrgyzstan is disputed. I would argue that it was a semi-colony during this time operating under a form of indirect rule (korenizatsiia) imposed by Moscow. It wasn't politically or economically independent, but it is quite obvious that unlike in the Gold Coast and other parts of colonial Africa that there was a net flow of  resources from the center in Moscow to Kyrgyzstan in the periphery. That is rather than serving as a source for the net extraction of resources, Kyrgyzstan benefited from the transfer of resources from other parts of the USSR to build physical infrastructure, factories, hospitals, schools, and other structures associated with "modernity."  I believe that such a structural relationship can still fit into a larger comparative history of imperialism and colonialism even though the economic basis of the USSR differed greatly from the British and French empires in Africa. However, I welcome any comments arguing that Soviet rule over Central Asia was so completely different from European colonial rule over Africa that it is not possible to integrate the two into the same thematic history.

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