Personal Experiences of Nationality and Power in Soviet Kazakhstan, 1917-1953
Blackwood, Maria Aleksandra
MetadataShow full item record
CitationBlackwood, Maria Aleksandra. 2018. Personal Experiences of Nationality and Power in Soviet Kazakhstan, 1917-1953. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the first generation of Kazakhs who joined the Communist Party and entered Soviet Kazakhstan’s political elite. Because conditions in the Kazakh steppe were so far removed from the Marxist revolutionary program, the backgrounds, motivations, and career trajectories of these early Party activists are essential to comprehending the interrelated processes of nation-building, modernization, and Sovietization in Central Asia, and in the Soviet Union more broadly. I argue that their mediation between Party ideology and local realities was crucial to determining the contours of Soviet Kazakhstan and its institutions, and that their stories demonstrate both the reach and the limits of the Soviet transformative project as a process that was contentious and participatory, both empowering and repressive. In this dissertation, I outline the importance of pre-revolutionary ideas and relationships as they were translated into new, Soviet conditions, arguing that personal ties predating 1917 were often more important than ideology. Analyzing their personal and professional trajectories, I contend that, despite the colonial and imperial dimensions of Soviet rule, local Bolsheviks were not just intermediaries in a Soviet “civilizing mission,” but actively shaped Soviet Kazakhstan both figuratively and literally, establishing its borders and pushing for policies that aligned with their vision of the Kazakh nation.
This dissertation is fundamentally about individuals interacting with and exercising power in the context of a regime that was characterized by multifaceted contradictions. The first two chapters lay out the landscape—human and geographic—that determined the contours of Soviet Kazakhstan. Chapters Three and Four examine the nature of power as it functioned within that landscape. Chapters Five and Six examine these factors in the context of specific individuals and their experiences of and with the Soviet regime in Kazakhstan. The establishment of Soviet power in Central Asia was a messy process, rife with unintended consequences. This dissertation argues for the utility of examining individual lives, separately and in aggregate, as a window onto social and political realties in the Soviet Union. Looking at individuals reveals the contradictions inherent to the Soviet system, and examining individual trajectories illuminates Soviet politics and society in all its complexity.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41121237
- FAS Theses and Dissertations