“You must have some more of these potatoes,” the scholar next to me urged, ladling out beshbarmak, a tasty mixture of meat, flat noodles and broth that is widely considered Kazakhstan’s national dish. “They’re from Narynkol, one of the centers of the revolt.”
It was lunchtime during a conference at the Valikhanov Institute of History in Almaty, an event convened to examine the Central Asian Revolt of 1916 – or, as the program had it, “The Kazakh National-Liberation movement of 1916.” During the morning session, I had been criticized by Rysbek Sarsenbai, editor of Kazakhstan’s Zhas Alash newspaper, for suggesting that looking through a national-liberation movement lens might not be the best way of understanding the violence of a century ago in Central Asia.
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Alexander Morrison is Professor of History at Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan. He is the author of Russian Rule in Samarkand 1868 - 1910. A Comparison with British India (Oxford, 2008) and is currently writing a history of the Russian conquest of Central Asia. Morrison’s web page can be found at: https://nu-kz.academia.edu/AlexanderMorrison The views expressed in this commentary are Morrison’s own and do not necessarily represent the position of Nazarbayev University.