Monday, November 28, 2016
More on Soviet Kurds
The other day I gave a lecture on Kurds in the USSR to my History of the Middle East class. Tomorrow we will return to the subject. The Kurds in the Caucasus and Central Asia during the Soviet era make an interesting case study in Soviet nationalities policies. Soviet polices ranged from favorable ones such as creating a "Red Kurdistan" territory in Azerbaijan and various Kurdish language institutions to negative ones such as the mass deportations from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in 1937 and from Georgia in 1944 to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.The swing from granting Kurds in the Caucasus the benefits of korenizatsiia to deporting a substantial number of them to Kazakhstan and Central Asia as special settlers is typical of the range of Soviet policies towards many smaller nationalities in the USSR during the reign of Stalin. But, their position as a diaspora of a large concentrated population in the Middle East makes the interaction of Soviet internal and external policies towards the Kurds particularly interesting. Even more so than Soviet policy towards Jews the overall pattern of the Soviet position towards the Kurds as a whole was ambiguous, fragmented, and contradictory over time. At the same time Kurds deported from Azerbaijan and Georgia suffered horrible material conditions and strict legal restrictions as special settlers in Kazakhstan and Central Asia the Soviet government helped the short lived Kurdish Mahabad Republic in Iran and granted sanctuary to Mustafa Barzani and 500 of his armed followers. Ultimately, however, the USSR never played a major role after the collapse of the Mahabad Republic in supporting any of the Kurdish nationalist movements including the Marxist-Leninist PKK fighting against Turkey, a member of NATO. Instead the PKK's major state sponsor was Syria.