Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1916 Turkic basmachi
Subjectbasmachi rebel
Culture: Central Asian Turkic
Setting: Basmachi Revolt, Russian Turkestan 1916-1931

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Fromkin 2009 p478
"During the years of post-revolutionary chaos, new indigenous regimes proclaimed their existence throughout the region; and Moscow treated them as challenges to be overcome.  At the end of 1917 Moslems in Central Asia set up a regime in Khokand, seat of what had once been a khanate in the western Fergana valley, in opposition to the Tashkent Soviet (which was composed of Russian settlers and did not include a single Moslem among its members).  Lacking money and arms Khokand looked for allies but found none.  Stalin curtly dismissed its claims to function as a regime.  On 18 February 1918 the Red Army captured and sacked Khokand, destroying most of the city and massacring its inhabitants.  From its ruins, however, arose a loosely organized movement of marauding guerrilla bands called Basmachis who plagued the Russians for years afterward."

* Crews 2006 p362
"With the support of Germany and the Ottoman state, elites ... utilized the war to promote their Pan-Islamic and Pan-Turkic causes, but the conditions of wartime Russia dimmed their appeals for the empire's Muslims. ... [T]he populations of the steppe and Turkestan still enjoyed the exemption from conscription that had been granted, in most cases, at the time of conquest, and was preserved by Russian bureaucrats suspicious of their usefulness on the battlefield.
    "This changed in 1916.  Desperate for labor, the government attempted to call up nearly a half million men from the steppe and Turkestan to serve in work units behind front lines.  Local populations responded with various forms of protest, ranging from avoidance to rebellion.  The government lost control of vast swathes of territory as resistance spread from the towns to the steppe.  Rebels attacked Russian settlers and officials.  Tsarist forces distributed arms to Slavic colonists, and officially sponsored punitive expeditions killed and uprooted tens of thousands of men, women, and children.  Historians have pointed to this violence as the culmination of decades of conflict over land and other resources.  They have also seen it as a reflection of deep ethnic tensions below the surface of imperial society."

* Glazebrook 1992 p261-262
"Enver [Pasha]'s master plan was to become ruler of Turkey by attaining power over a Pan-Turkic empire based in Samarcand which would control Asia Minor as one of its provinces.  To this end he joined the Basmachi, the guerilla-patriot force united (for the moment) in their opposition to Moscow and the Bolsheviks.  His bid for power prospered.  Calling himself emir of Turkestan -- son-in-law to the Caliph as well as claiming to be the reincarnation of Tamerlane -- commander-in-chief of the armies of Bokhara and Khiva -- for a year he united all the dissident forces in Central Asia and won every battle.  But the Basmachi, like the half-brigand Khlepht 'patriots' who had all but destroyed the Greek bid for independence from the Turkish empire a century earlier, could not be held together: by the August of 1922 his army had dwindled to a handful.
    "The existence of the Basmachi encouraged the ambitious Enver into action, but the factionalism of the Basmachi -- that centrifugal force inevitably at work within an alliance of 'freedom fighters' with their differing objectives -- sabotaged his plan."

* Lapidus 1988 p797-798
"While jadid intelligensia tried to penetrate the regime from within, rural bandit-like resistance took hold in the countryside.  Embittered former Khokand military units, landowners, merchants, village and clan notables, tribal chiefs, Sufis, unemployed tenant farmers, and workers were behind the so-called Basmachi or rural bandit resistance in the name of the Shari'a, the prophet Muhammad, and the Muslim obligation of jihad.  By 1920 the numerous independent and uncooperative Basmachi groups were driven by the Russians into the most remote rural areas.  Basmachi resistance, however, was not crushed.  The introduction of anti-Muslim religious policies spurred renewed resistance.  In 1921 and 1922 Enver Pasha, the former Ottoman minister of war, attempted to unify the movement.  Evner, however, was killed in August 1922 and the opportunity was lost.  In the meantime Russians realized that military measures would not suffice to suppress the Basmachis and decided to make political concessions.  Waqf lands were restored, madrasas were reopened, and Shari'a courts were allowed to sit.  Requisitions of cotton and other crops were suspended.  Weakened by their own internal divisions, subverted by Soviet concessions, and overwhelmed by Russian military power, the Basmachis were crushed.  Sporadic resistance flared up again in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but by 1924 Turkestan was effectively in Soviet control."

* Kalter/Pavaloi eds. 1997 p344 (Reinhard Eisener, "From the Russian conquest to the declaration of sovereignty" p339-345)
"By 1924 the top leadership in Moscow and its representatives in Tashkent, the 'Central Asian Bureau', had finally come to the conclusion that the territorial division of Central Asia had to be rearranged.  The reasoning was partly based on the ideology of the 'nationalities policy' -- before the establishment of a unitary state, countries had to pass through the stage of nationhood -- and on practical considerations to strengthen the command structure.  The Muslim leadership was sometimes heavily split and there was a tendency to pursue an independent political course.  In addition, the implementation of the modernisation of Central Asia was often hampered by militant resistance fighters, the so-called basmachi, who wanted to preserve the traditional order.  These conflicts continued into the 1930s."


* Richardson 2006 online > Costume > Postin
"The Karakalpak man’s postın is a heavy and bulky sheepskin overcoat, worn with the skin facing outwards and the fleece facing inwards. The outer sheepskin facing of the coat is dyed a light yellow colour and the outer edges – consisting of the collar and front panels and the coat bottom and the cuffs - are decorated with narrow strips of black or brown astrakhan pelt. These strips are bordered on the outside face of the coat with a band of striped, usually red, cloth which is often made of silk. A large triangular amulet, made from the same striped cloth and known as a jawırınsha decorates the back of the coat, just below the collar. The long woollen fleece is often exposed along the front and bottom edges of the coat and around the collar and cuffs. Obviously the inner fleece means that the coat requires no lining. 
    "[...] The Karakalpak postın has always been an expensive piece of clothing and in the past only wealthy people or village leaders could afford one. Indeed there is a traditional saying: "A holiday is only a holiday for a man who has a horse, A festival is only a festival for a man who has a postın."   Their value is indicated from the fact that less well-off men were sometimes handed down a second hand postın by a wealthy friend or relative.
    "Amuletic Properties  All Karakalpak postıns carry a large triangular amulet on the back just below the collar, made from the same striped silk cloth used for the decoration of the outer edges. This is similar in shape to the amulet known as a duwashıq used on the front of the roll-up shiy screen door of the yurt. However when worn on the back of an item of clothing, it is known as a jawırınsha. ... [T]he amulet was known as a duwashıq and that it acted as a talisman to protect the wearer against the "evil eye" - the ancient and widespread folk belief that people can be harmed from the envious and malevolent stares of unfriendly people. The origins of such beliefs lie in the depths of antiquity and clearly pre-date the conversion of the Qipchaq nomads to Islam during the era of the Golden Horde. 
    "In this respect the postın is a unique item of male Karakalpak clothing - amulets were, and still are, widely used to protect women of child bearing age, babies and children (especially boys), livestock and the yurt. However they are hardly ever worn by men, with the one exception of the postın coat."