An indigenous resistance movement proved the last barrier to
assimilation of Central Asia into the Soviet Union. In the 1920s,
more than 20,000 people fought Soviet rule in Central Asia. The
Russians applied a derogatory term, Basmachi (which originally
meant brigand), to the groups. Although the resistance did not
apply that term to itself, it nonetheless entered common usage.
The several Basmachi groups had conflicting agendas and seldom
coordinated their actions. After arising in the Fergana Valley,
the movement became a rallying ground for opponents of Russian
or Bolshevik rule from all parts of the region. Peasant unrest
already existed in the area because of wartime hardships and the
demands of the amir and the soviets. The Red Army's harsh treatment
of local inhabitants in 1921 drove more people into the resistance
camp. However, the Basmachi movement became more divided and more
conservative as it gained numerically. It achieved some unity
under the leadership of Enver Pasha, a Turkish adventurer with
ambitions to lead the new secular government of Turkey, but Enver
was killed in battle in early 1922.
Except for remote pockets of resistance, guerrilla fighting
in Tajikistan ended by 1925. The defeat of the Basmachis caused
as many as 200,000 people, including noncombatants, to flee eastern
Bukhoro in the first half of the 1920s. A few thousand subsequently
returned over the next several years.
The communists used a combination of military force and conciliation
to defeat the Basmachis. The military approach ultimately favored
the communist side, which was much better armed. The Red Army
forces included Tatars and Central Asians, who enabled the invading
force to appear at least partly indigenous. Conciliatory measures
(grants of food, tax relief, the promise of land reform, the reversal
of anti-Islamic policies launched during the Civil War, and the
promise of an end to agricultural controls) prompted some Basmachis
to reconcile themselves to the new order.
Data as of March 1996