1917 - Mustafa Chokaev on October in Turkestan

[Translator's note: Mustafa Chokaev (Chokay-ogly) (1890-1941) was born into an aristocratic family near Kyzyl-orda, now in Kazakhstan. He was educated at the Tashkent gimnazium, before studying law at St Petersburg University, where he was a first-class student. From 1913 to 1917 worked as secretary to the Moslem faction at the 4th State Duma. After February 1917 he was one of the founders of the Shura-i-Islamiya (Moslem Council) party. His political and journalistic work was directed towards self-government for Turkestan (the name then used to describe much of Central Asia). After the Bolsheviks took power, he was involved in anti-Bolshevik politics in Ufa in 1918 and in Georgia in 1919. He emigrated in 1920, and lived in Turkey, France and Germany. He died in unexplained circumstances in Berlin. This excerpt from a memoir of the events of 1917 was written in 1936. It is particularly interesting in that it gives an account of the development of the national movement, from demanding greater autonomy and equal rights within a federal Russia to demanding full independence. - FK]

To conclude these excerpts from my memoirs of 1917, I would like to touch briefly on the question of the elections to the Constituent Assembly. The Turkestanis, like everybody else, had high hopes in the Constituent Assembly. It seemed to us all that our national demands, since they did not go beyond the bounds of state autonomy, would receive full satisfaction at the Constituent Assembly. It was known in advance that the form of administration in Russia would be a federal republic. And it went without saying that Turkestan would be one of the equal parts of the federation. We spoke of this in all our public speeches. Our delegates to the First All-Russia Moslem Congress in Moscow spoke of this. A great deal would depend on the conduct of the members of the Constituent Assembly elected from Turkestan. The electoral law granted us 33 seats. The Russian population of Turkestan was numerically strong enough to get its representative elected only in Semirech'e oblast'. In all the other five electoral districts of Turkestan the Russians could not even hope to get one seat. This was why Russian public organisations expressed a desire to unite all Turkestan into one electoral district for Russians, hoping in that way to get 3 or 4 of their representatives. We opposed this and were successful. But we did not want to leave the Russians without representation. With this in mind we conducted negotiations with delegates from the peasants and with the CC of the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries, which at that time was supporting us on nearly all questions. We promised to give one place to the peasants of Syr-Dar'ya oblast', one place to a member of the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries in Fergana (Vadim Chaykin). One Russian - a Semirech'e Cossack got in in Edy-Su (Semirech'e). This meant that in total we proposed to let the Russians have three seats. The Jews of Bukhara approached us with the request to be granted one seat. After discussions with their representatives on the political platform of the Turkestani fraction in the future Constituent Assembly, it was decided to set aside one seat in Samarkand oblast' to a representative of the Jews - Gertzfel'd. (He was subsequently a member of the Turkestan Autonomous Government and was killed by the Bolsheviks.) The preparation for the elections was intensive. Everywhere there were two lists of candidates for the native Turkestanis - one list stood under the banner of Ulema Jamieti, and the other list was the National Centre. The elections were carried out successfully in only two oblast's - Edy-Su and Fergana. In Fergana 10 of the deputies' mandates were won by the National Centre (Ubaydulla, Shakh-Islam, Khidayat-bek Yurguli, myself and Vadim Chaykin were elected) Nasyr Khan-tyurya, elected on the second list, was in agreement with us on everything and, as we know, later joined the Kokand government. In Edy-Su the National Centre list was victorious. One Cossack was elected from among the Russians... I was on the list of candidates in thress oblast's - Syr-Dar'ya, Fergana and Samarkand. The Samarkand oblast' list was headed by Makhmud-Khodzha Bekhbudi.

We were fated not to sit in the Constituent Assembly. When it convened, already under the Soviet government on 5 January 1918 we, the Turkestanis, did not attend and decided to remain in Turkestan...

At its only session the Constituent Assembly passed a law declaring Russia to be a federative republic, and early on the morning of 6 January it was dispersed by the Bolsheviks.

Thus the Constituent Assembly, on which the hopes of all the peoples of Russia had been pinned, perished. It perished, we must assume, for ever. And with it, all our "federative dreams" passed on into eternity. We set out on the road of struggle for complete national liberation, for a free independent Turkestan, for the creation of a single Turkish State of Turkestan.

Long live free, independent Turkestan!

[Source: Mustafa Chokaev, Otryvki iz vospominaniy o 1917 g., Rossiyskaya akademiya nauk, Tokyo-Moscow, 2001, pp. 40 - 41.]