The overall purpose of the project is to mobilize academic groups and communities in the countries of Central Asia in order to promote critical, evidence-based study and production of new knowledge about the 1916 Uprising in Central Asia, as well as to build a shared academic foundation for exchanging and disseminating knowledge about ethnically and politically sensitive topics.
The rebellion against Russian Imperial regime that took place in Central Asia in 1916 was a complex event, and has come to be called Urkun in Kyrgyz. In this context Urkun means “exodus”, which refers to both, the event itself and its tragic aftermath. The studies and national histories of Central Asian countries treat this rebellion differently.
The academic study of the Uprising of 1916 in Central Asia has a difficult history. The main reason is that this even happened only one year before the Great October Revolution and establishment of the Soviet regime. The study of the Uprising of 1916 from the very beginning has been dependent on ideologies about Soviet power.
In 1986 in Soviet Kyrgyzstan, during Perestroika , national activists attempted to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Uprising and discuss and rethink publicly key aspects of this rebellion. However, they were not allowed to organize public events.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of new states in Central Asia, the situation around the Rebellion was also controversial. On one hand, the first movement of the democrats in Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz Demokratialyk Kyimyl) actively initiated the critical study of the Rebellion and publication of its results. On the other hand, the newly born states of Central Asia were careful to control such initiatives for study and analysis of Kyrgyzstani history from the very beginning of independence.
American University of Central Asia and the Aigine CRC together with other partners conducted an international academic conference “Rethinking the 1916 Uprising in Central Asia” in May 2016. The conference pursued the goal of creating an open scientific platform for discussion of the Central Asian Uprising of 1916 in broad historical and interdisciplinary contexts, and also sought to identify and discuss new archival and field materials. Historians, anthropologists and representatives of other social and human sciences from Central Asia, Russia, Japan, France, China, USA, Poland and Australia participated in the event.
The interpretation of the Uprising of 1916 in history textbooks for schools and universities of Central Asian countries is still connected with the ideology formed in the Soviet period. From the point of view of the organizers, this conference has become the largest specialized meeting of scientists since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here, for the first time, experts met to try to move away from ideological stereotypes and bring new perspectives, as well as to introduce new materials and approaches into scientific circulation. The event was attended by historians, anthropologists and representatives of other social and human sciences from Central Asia, Russia, Japan, France, China, USA, Poland and Australia.
The conference “Rethinking the 1916 Uprising in Central Asia” made it clear that it was necessary to further research on this topic. The conference opened the potential for new discoveries and interpretations that could change or strengthen the study of the 1916 Uprising in Central Asia and the connection of this movement with other events before and after, including the policy of Russian imperial rule, the role of local leaders, intellectuals, nomads and farmers, and a later resistance to Soviet power.
Key problems of the present nation-centered scholarship is that it is under control of the national bureaucracy, and it prevents the important synergies and inspiration that come from academic exchange. The Russian Empire and Central Asian relations will be better studied through closer cooperation with scholars from abroad, and those who work in other regions but on similar problems.
The project has three goals.
A first goal is mobilization of academic groups and communities in the countries of Central Asia so as to promote critical study and production of new knowledge about the 1916 Uprising in Central Asia.
A second goal is building shared academic platforms that will facilitate exchanging knowledge and materials about the 1916 Uprising in Central Asia and other ethnically and politically sensitive topics such as interethnic conflicts, deportations to Central Asia around WWII, etc.
A third goal is production and dissemination of new knowledge about the 1916 Uprising in Central Asia.