Chicherin on the delimitation of Turkestan: native Bolsheviks versus Soviet foreign policy. Seven letters from the Russian archives on razmezhevanie




This is a short commentary on seven letters written by Chicherin, the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR between 1923 and 1930, and a prominent Bolshevik figure. These letters were written to Stalin, Zinov’ev, Kamenev, Trotskiy, Molotov, Rudzutak, Politburo members and members of the Collegium of Peoples Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. They are found in Rossiiskii tsentr khraneniia i izucheniia dokumentov noveishei istorii (RTsKhIDNI) (Russian Center for Preservation and Study of Records of Con-temporary History—Formerly the Central Party Archive), fond 17, opis 86, dela 24, l. 13–20. There is no indication that they were published before, especially those concerning the discussions on National Territorial Delimitation policy. Itis hoped that these will shed light on the standing of early Soviet foreign policy on the issue of delimitation and the positions of native Turkestani Bolsheviks. Among scholarly circles it has generally been thought that razmezhevanie had been carried out centrally by the Politburo against the resistance of Native Bolsheviks in Turkestan.

However, these letters seem to suggest that further research might be needed to find out the exact positions of both Russian Bolshevik leaders and National Communists of Turkestan. Before summarising the main arguments in Chicherin’s letters, it is important to remember two things: The first one is the fact that these letters were written at a time when Basmachi resistance to the Bolshevik regime was still quite popular and strong. The second point is that the nationalist Turkestani leaders in exile were quite confused about the good and evil of delimitation at least until the end of the 1920s