Another Soviet Genocide – Kazakhstan, 1932-1933 — Coming Back To Haunt Moscow – OpEd


Today, the government and people of Kazakhstan commemorate the terror famine Stalin unleashed against the Kazakhs in 1932-33, an action that killed more than 1.5 million members of that nation and qualifies as a genocide because it transformed the ethnic mix of that republic, allowing ethnic Russians to be the dominant group until the 1980s.

Many across the former Soviet space and elsewhere are familiar with Stalin’s terror famine in Ukraine, a famine that also rose to the level of genocide and helped to power the recovery of Ukrainian independence and the integration of the Ukrainian nation; but far fewer know about its analogue in Kazakhstan and about the role of that tragedy for Kazakhs now.

But given the increasing protests in Kazakhstan and the appearance of ever more anti-Russian groups within the Kazakh population (, the long-ago and half-forgotten genocide of the Kazakh people is attracting ever more attention among their modern counterparts; and it is incumbent on those beyond its borders to understand the continuing impact of this genocide too.

Saken Baikenov, a Kazakh blogger, begins his commentary on this event by quoting Russian analyst Dmitry Verkhoturov who has written that the terror famine “had an enormous influence on Kazakhs.” Indeed, “after this terrible year, the Kazakhs became another people, a MINORITY in Kazakhstan.” And that change continues to cast a shadow on the country today.

Indeed, Verkhoturov continues, “its remnant are a monument to all who died in the years of the Great Destruction. Too much was lost, too many people died who were not able to make their contribution.” All succeeding generations of Kazakhs have thus suffered as a result (

“The hunger in Kazakhstan in 1932-1933 was part of the all-union hunger arising as a result of the official policy of ‘the destruction of the kulaks as a class,’ collectivization, the incrase by the central powers of collections of good, and also the confiscation of livestock from the Kazakhs” – more than 90 percent of flocks were taken away or destroyed.

Population losses were almost as bad: 49 percent of the Kazakhs died or were killed and more than a quarter million more fled abroad to China or Afghanistan. (These are the so-called “oralmany,” many of whose descendants have returned to Kazakhstan in the last decade with their stories about this.)

The Kazakhs resisted both the drive to destroy their nomadic way of life and the plan to confine them to collective or state farms. More than 80,000 Kazakhs were involved in 372 risings during the anti-nomadic efforts and others fought the collectivization effort as best they could.

All this is the focus of exhibits, conferences and meetings in Kazakhstan this day and this week. But there is one new note that may matter even more in terms of the future of Kazakh national identity. As Baikenov points out, Moscow’s policies in the early 1930s were directed against all the Turkic peoples of the USSR/

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

2 thoughts on “Another Soviet Genocide – Kazakhstan, 1932-1933 — Coming Back To Haunt Moscow – OpEd

  • June 1, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    Stalin was building an empire of a new type. Like in all such projects, homogenization of the population is an aim and a byproduct of empire building. Peasants had to become proletarians and together with the workers useful cogs of Stalin’s state machine. Having become, as he avowed, a “Russian of Georgian origin”, Stalin was eager to use Russianism (Putin’s “Russkii mir”), together with his version of “socialism” as the spiritual glue to bind the masses together. Who could not be morphed into Stalin’s cog had to be destroyed. Stalin’s genocides targeted their victims as national groups and were meant primarily to destroy the Kazakhs, like the Ukrainians as national entities, whose quest for independence threatened the integrity of the empire. Starvation was a convenient weapon for mass destruction of a large segment of the population, and the transforming the survivors into soulless cogs.

  • January 7, 2018 at 11:37 am

    thanks for a good review.


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