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Border Through the Heart of Turkic World

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Photo: The border in the heart of the Turkic world. Source: Collage The Gaze.
Photo: The border in the heart of the Turkic world. Source: Collage The Gaze.

The thesis of the "stability of the Russian border, its primordiality and naturalness" is an unfounded myth not only for the European borders of the Russian Federation. The Russian-Kazakh border, for example, is also completely artificial. This is understandable, because it was Russia that expanded by conquest and the movement of the Russian population eastward. 

Naturally, Kazakhstan, which became independent after the collapse of the USSR, may have questions about whether its borders correspond to historical ones. But this is not the main thing. The Russian-Kazakh border is evidence of other things. First, the voluntarism of Bolshevik Moscow. It parasitized on the national question and introduced "indigenization" and, at the same time, did not allow national movements to grow stronger and limited the territories of the "red" national entities it created. Secondly, Moscow's excellent understanding of the use of borders as a weapon. 

Kazakhs Divided by the Bolsheviks    

In the aftermath of the so-called Civil War, the Russian Bolshevik Communists came to the conclusion that if they wanted to preserve their empire, they would have to ease national oppression of non-Russians. That is why the Russian Bolsheviks had to agree to the creation of the Soviet Union, which consisted of supposedly equal republics. 

As part of Soviet Russia, the Bolsheviks agreed to create a number of autonomies. In this way, Russia imitated the national state-building of many nations and seized leadership from the national intelligentsia, partially making it its ally. For example, in 1920, the Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created in this way, with its capital in the city of Orenburg. 

In 1925, the communists simply excluded the Orenburg province from this autonomy, it became a simple Russian province, and the Kyrgyz ASSR was called the Kazakh ASSR. In 1932-1933, the Communists organized a genocidal famine to subdue the Kazakhs. 

The Kazakhs, most of whom were nomads and semi-nomads, were deprived of their way of life, the basis of their existence - cattle - and taken under control. As a result of the planned famine, up to a quarter of the Kazakhs died. In 1936, Moscow raised the status of the Kazakh autonomy to the level of a Union Republic within the USSR. 

In 1991, Kazakhstan became independent. However, it should be noted that such arbitrary borders during the creation of the autonomy and the exclusion of Orenburg and its province from it led to the fact that a significant part of the territories inhabited by Kazakhs, where they are autochthonous, remained part of the modern Russian Federation. 

Even now, after decades of assimilation and lack of education in the Kazakh language, more than 100,000 Kazakhs live in the Orenburg region of the Russian Federation. In Astrakhan, where there was such a 19th-century Kazakh state as the Bukei Horde, 150 thousand Kazakhs live. This story is somewhat similar to the way Russian communists took Taganrog from Ukraine and ignored the issues of Slobozhanshchyna and Starodbushchyna.

It is noteworthy that even before the start of Russia's full-scale military aggression against Ukraine, Kazakhstan was the object of claims from Russia. The thesis that Russia gave Kazakhstan "Russian lands" or even "created Kazakhstan" is heard regularly. And this is not done by some political marginals or journalists from minor publications. This is the voice of Dmitry Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation in 2008-2012, currently Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council...

"Kuvandyk Corridor" - Moscow's diabolical plan    

At the same time, the Russian-Kazakh border is artificial not only from the standpoint of historical justice. And not because it, like other borders of the republics and autonomies of the USSR, was formed as a result of the Bolsheviks' forced creation of territories that were supposed to imitate real national states. To prevent them from going off on their own like Finland, Poland, and the Baltic states. 

In addition, Russia's border with Kazakhstan was deliberately drawn very cunningly. There is a "Kuvandyk corridor" (sometimes called the "Orenburg corridor"). This is the name given to two districts of the Orenburg region, Kuvandyk and Gaisky, which separate Kazakhstan from Bashkortostan, an autonomous region within Russia. 

The Bashkorts, like the Kazakhs, are Turks and Muslims. Before the arrival of Russia, they lived side by side, their state formations and nomadic communities bordering each other. Russian domination changed the ethnic composition of the Southern Urals and the Trans-Urals. The empire massively resettled Russians and other peoples coming from the west. Nevertheless, a pan-Turkic massif was a reality in the early twentieth century. 

In 1917, the Bashkirs created an army, parliament, and government, and fought against the Bolsheviks. The White Guard movement, led by Admiral Kolchak, considered them separatists. But the Bolsheviks were ready to play the game of autonomy and statehood with anyone who could help them win. The Bashkortostan movement made a deal with the Bolsheviks. The Red Russians recognized the autonomy of Bashkortostan.

The further history of autonomy took place within the RSFSR and the Russian Federation. The "Kuvandyk corridor" is only about 50 kilometers wide. It emerged in 1925, when the Orenburg province was removed from the Kyrgyz ASSR. Kazakhstan, after its status was raised to the level of a union republic, was granted the right to secede from the USSR, a purely theoretical right, although legally enshrined in the Soviet constitution. 

Bashkortostan, which remained an autonomous region within Russia, did not have this right. In general, the USSR stated that a union republic should not have a border with the outside world. In today's realities, it is clear that the Kuvandyk Corridor was designed specifically to sever the territorial integrity of the Turkic peoples. 

Moreover, Bashkortostan is one of the six national republics of the Idel-Ural region that share common borders and constitute a single historical and geographical region of Russia. In addition to Bashkortostan, it includes Mordovia, Mari El, Tatarstan, Chuvashia, and Udmurtia. 

Now, in order to fight for independence and against Moscow's policy of assimilating the indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation, it is important to unite the efforts of activists from these regions. Acting separately in the regions that lie in the "heart" of Russia is doomed to failure. That is why there is coordination of efforts and the idea of creating a confederation of the Idel-Ural. 

But the problem of the absence of a cordon that would allow contact with the world raises the issue of the Kuvandyk corridor. Great Russian chauvinists do not hide their joy that the Corridor has become a "fuse against separatism." Conversely, a few years ago, activists of the Bashkir movement raised the issue of revising the affiliation of Kuvandyk and Gai before the head of Bashkortostan, Radiy Khabirov. Needless to say, in today's Russia, regional leaders are loyal to Moscow. The question remained unanswered. Although there is a fairly large Bashkir, Tatar and Kazakh population in the area.

***

"The Kuvandyk Corridor was specifically created as part of Moscow's plan to weaken national movements. However, Russia's aggression against Ukraine and Moscow's constant claims to Kazakhstan are creating a new reality. The "border of the Idel-Ural Confederation and the Republic of Kazakhstan" is becoming the nightmare of the Russian imperial chauvinist.

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