THE ALTERNATE HISTORY: “THE LAND BELOW GOD: A TAJIK TIMLINE” (2)
Part I – Prelude (continued)
The Slow Rot (Early 1989)
January 10 – Following his monumental rise to the Oblast Committee of the regional Communist Party branch in the autonomous Gorno-Badakhshan Oblast only two years earlier, First Secretary Soibnazar Beknazarov announces plans for the expansion/construction of a RSFSR-controlled military base in the small town of Vhrang on the Tajik-Afghan border. The move is prompted by the expansion of government aid and subsidies to the remarkably poor region.
January 14 – The General Secretary for the Tajik Communist Party (KPT), Kakhar Makhkamov, met with the Soviet Colonel Aleksandr Shishlyannikov (speaking as a Moscow intermediary) during extended talks to expand the Soviet military presence in the Tajik SSR and bolster a defensive line along the Panj River. The talks came during a period of heightened Muhjihadeen activity along the river tributary, as well as increased casualties during the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
January 19 – Makhkamov and the Kremlin reach an agreement on the level of military build up within the Republic, the estimated 25,000 to 45,000 more soldiers requested by the Tajik leader needed to defend the USSR against Afghan reprisals and terrorist attacks being granted by government in Moscow.
January 23 – Following the Armenian Earthquake only one month prior, an earthquake measuring as a magnitude of six on the Richter scale (seven by the Soviet scale) rocked several small villages only 30km south-west of the nation’s capital in Dushanbe. Official reports from Tass place the initial death toll as high as one thousand, with the small village of Sharora being reportedly buried under several meters of clay released during the landslides caused by the quake.
January 29 – Following an extensive and expensive clean-up operation of the more severely struck regions, official government reports place the earthquake death toll at around 300 (later amended to a grand total of 274). All documents relating to the number of homes destroyed or people displaced are not revealed for another year.
February 10 – An internal (intermittent) report issued by the Soviet Government to the Tajik Communist Party place the number of dead “drafted responders” (labourers forced by the Tajik local government to support the clean-up efforts in earthquake devastated towns) is placed at around thirty.
February 11 – In the Tajik Supreme Soviet (the highest ‘national’ authority in the Tajik SSR), the little known reformist People’s Deputy Rastin Yermakov, a first generation descendant of Russian immigrants to the region, drunkly raised to his feet during a meeting of the Supreme Council to advance a notion of independence from the Soviet Union. Whilst he was forced to promptly resign his position shortly after the display as well as ridiculed in the official Tajik government newspaper Kūpruk, his display was lauded and admired in a number of non-government newspapers, especially those in the reformist underground.
February 14 – The independent underground newspaper Tuf Kardan releases the poem “My Brother in Nahrain” by poet and social critic Bozor Sobir to popular (albeit unorthodox) appeal. Using the pseudonym “Fayzulla Khodzhay”, the poet published his work as a rallying cry against perceived Soviet aggression against the Tajik’s “brothers” in Afghanistan.
Your singing restores life of her essence,
Still the song is coming from your bleeding throat,
You are in me, until the end of times, until the end of times,
until the end of times…
Another popular Tajik-Afghan poem from the time, “To the Nation that Gave Birth to Ahmad Zohir”
February 16 – Following the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan the previous day, the Chairman of the Tajik Supreme Soviet, Gaibnasar Pallayev, begins drafting plans for the defence of the Panj River against Islamic militants from the nation to their south. Along with several other members of the Communist Tajik nomenklatura and high ranking Soviet military men (all together forming the “Select Committee for Tajik Defense”), they began to plan for the eventual building of a defensive waterway structure that would allow to constant surveillance of the Tajik-Afghan border.
February 20 – Gennady Ubaydulloyev, a Communist with reformist ideals and a candidacy in the upcoming Soviet wide legislative election for a Tajik seat visits earthquake devastated regions in Tajikistan on the eve of a SSR-wide campaign to widespread popular support. Despite public dissatisfaction with the Communist party in the Kremlin, Ubaydulloyev (who is half-Tajik) gave the people renewed hope in Tajikistan for greater future representation in the Soviet government.
February 25 – Ubaydulloyev receives a crowd of over 10,000 whilst speaking in the city of Garm. Speaking from the city’s small football stadium (that would usually only hold a maximum of 2,500 people), the Tajik candidate caled for the people to rally behind Soviet-wide, Gorbachev-led market and social reforms of Perestroika and Glasnost. As a result of tight police standards in the Tajik SSR compared to many other Republics in the union, over one hundred people deemed to have committed “violent and socially unacceptable behaviour” during the speech are arrested shortly after leaving the stadium.
February 27 – The Tajik branch of the national Pravda newspaper publishes official government results of the 1989 Soviet Census. In Tajikistan, the national adult literacy rates had grown significantly from just a decade before, jumping up almost five percent to a total of 98.2%. Language was also front-and-centre in the SSR, with 31% of the Republic’s 62% Tajik population having reported to speak the Russian language “fluently”, down from a its height of 38% fifteen years prior.
March 5 – Remaining unreported at the time, several Pamiri labourers in the rural village of Hahnkar within the Gorno-Badakhshan Oblast begin a silent two day protest against the Communist Government. Chaining themselves to a wooden pole at the centre of the several houses that composed of the town, they claimed they were fighting against the unjust Tajik majority ruling from Dushanbe before local law enforcement came and seized them.
Meanwhile, in a confidential meeting between the Communist Party candidates for the Tajik SSR in the legislative elections, a near unanimous vote saw the candidate for the Rasht Valley region, the young Ravshan Shadmanov, become the leader of the group for the upcoming elections and the “face” of their electoral campaign.
March 11 – Despite calls from the Tajik Supreme Soviet against the decision, thousands of roubles used to subsidize the SSR are pulled by the Kremlin in order to enhance defensive measures in the nation, especially with the calls of several Soviet-Tajik military generals to do so in the wake of the secret talks within the Select Committee for Tajik Defence. Five radical members of the Tajik Soviet were forced from the room during a meeting regarding the budget cuts after they called for the embargo of several areas of the SSR’s production (primarily cotton) from the rest of the Union.
A meeting of Communist Party leaders in the Tajik SSR, circa 1990
March 13 – During a live speech session in Qurghonteppa to the south the Republic’s capital, Gennady Ubaydulloyev is physically assaulted as a group of communist youths throw bricks and stones against him and his constituency. The event ultimately spiralled out of control as more supporters of either the Communist or the reformers clashed in the streets, several by-standers having to be taken to the hospital after being caught in the crossfire. After several minutes of fighting, law enforcement arrived and broke up the melee, having to tow Ubaydulloyev himself away after he became entangled in the brawl.
March 16 – Despite the legislation not being formally implemented until several days following the passage of legislation, hundreds of members of the Tajik “new rich” and the national nomenklatura line up to lease state-owned farms in the fertile regions of the Republic. A conservative member of the SSR’s Supreme Soviet, Goudarz Kakharov, became the first in the Republic to receive the lifetime-long lease in Tajikistan after being granted the rights to a 20 hectare (0.20 km² or 50 acres) cotton farm.
March 19 – The Select Committee for Tajik Defence draws up their final suggested plans for the defensive line along the Tajik-Afghan border, posting them to the Kremlin and the heads of the Soviet military. The main proposals raised in the document advanced the idea of a ‘native continent’; several purely Tajik division of Soviet military manning the defensive lines along the Panj River. Further proposals advanced by the committee called for the introduction of further military bases and air fields in Tajikistan, as well as increased subsidies towards industrial growth in the region at the expense of government aide towards the lucrative but outdated cotton and cereal cultivation that dominated the SSR.
March 22 – After resigning from his post as Chairman of the Union Committee of the collective farm in Dangara one year prior, the small time native Tajik poltician Imomali Rakhmonov announced his intention before the Communist Party to run in the upcoming caucus-election to decide who would take up the empty seat in the Tajik Supreme Council (the lower organ to the Republic’s Supreme Soviet) left by Rastin Yermakov. Aged only 41, he had an intelligence unmatched by most in the SSR’s government, but held fragile loyalties that swung between Communism and Nationalism, something noted during his time as the Chairman of the Union Committee.
March 24 – Following the publishing of “My Brother in Nahrain” in Tuf Kardan only a month prior, Bozor Sobir once again managed to published one of his works, this time his short story “The Land Below God” which he ensured would print in a number of the ‘underground newspapers’ that circulated during his time. Detailing the brutalising life sustained by the Central Asian people underneath the Soviet Union (or ‘God’ as it’s referred to in the story) and calls upon Tajik readers to turn away from the USSR and towards an independent future, all whilst imploring them to never forget their cultural past. As a result of mass publication, the short story became a instant sensation amongst the quiet reformists and nationalists.
March 27 – In the 1989 Soviet legislative election in the Tajik SSR, the Communist Party (as they had done everywhere else in the USSR during the election) won an overwhelming majority in the newly formed pan-Soviet Union Congress of People’s Deputies against far less mobilized independent candidates. With 50 seats in the Tajik SSR reserved for the Communists, they won a further thrity-two through the democratic process, with nine of the seventeen ‘representative seats’ going to the party, with another twenty-three being won from the pool of seats allocated to go towards the ‘Soviet of Nationalities’ (where there was an equal number of deputies for each of the fifteen Union Republics and Autonomous Regions; thirty-two for each republic and five for the autonomous oblasts). Gennady Ubaydulloyev was one of these winning Communist candidates, having won his district with a close 51.3% margin.
The independents on the other hand received their first seats in Soviet history as the people of the Tajik SSR democratically voted for their leaders for the first time in history. Despite only attaining 21.5% of the votes Republic-wide, the still managed to win a total of 22 seats, the now independent People’s Deputies winning eight of the seventeen ballots for the ‘representative seats’ with fourteen going towards a position in the ‘Soviet of Nationalities’. Interestingly, all four representatives coming from Pamiri majority regions of the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Oblast were independent nationalists.
The results of the 1989 legislative election in the Tajik SSR
March 28 – In a shocking display of rising ethnic tensions between the eastern Pamiri and western Tajik peoples, a murder was carried out during the dusk in the city of Vanj by a Pamiri man against his Tajik victim. As a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, the offender used a bayonet he had been granted following his discharge from the military to stab the victim 27 times before leaving him on the streets to be discovered later that night. Following his arrest and prosecution (in which he received 30 years hard labour), he claimed he had carried out the murder as a “show for independence” against the Tajik government in the wake of the Communist’s recent victory.
April 3 – Following the publication of the brutal murder of a Tajik in a number of the underground pro-independence and pro-Tajik newspapers in cities such as Karvograd, Dashtishur and Wakhio only days after the event occured, short-lived, yet fierce and deadlu ethnic violence flared up in the Tajik SSR. Over the ensuring hours and days, citizens of non-Tajik ethnicity were attacked as ethnic tensions flared across the country, the majority of those brutalised being Pamiris (with a number of Uzbeks also facing a number of extreme, unprovoked attacks).
April 10 – In the wake of increasingly violent and unsolvable attacks, murders and other crimes targeting non-Tajik minorities, Kakhar Makhkamov agreed to a plan raised in the Tajik Supreme Soviet to further bolster the security of the state by implementing more lenient policies regarding law enforcement. From the normal police to the KBG, all government bodies that “executed the will of the people’s laws” would be granted special rights in regards to questioning suspects and the search and seizure of property.
April 13 – After publishing Bozor Sobir “The Land Bellow God” in one of their more recent editions, the illegal underground newspaper Noranҷ is shut down by the KBG working in tandem with local Tajik law enforcement after the location of their Ayni-based operation was leaked to the latter law orginisation.
April 16 – In response to the raised laws, several moderate members of the SSR’s Supreme Soviet and Supreme Council banded together to fight back. In a special committee meeting in which all members of the Tajik government were seated, fifteen men of the overarching government council proclaimed themselves to be ‘Representatives of the People’, furiously debating and filibustering the move as a means to destroy Perestroika and Glasnost. Following one particular incident in which one ‘representative’ slammed his fist down on the table so hard as to break it, the entire group of moderates were removed, effectively ending the debate.
April 17 – Only a week after being raised in the Supreme Soviet, the Tajik legislature passed the new security law during as ethnic tensions grew more and more intemperate by the day, several Tajiks in the Gorno-Badakhshan Oblast being killed in reprisal attacks in cities such as the capital Khorugh, as well as Kudara and Vir, going as far east as the city of Shaymak which saw one Tajik speaker lynched during the night. With one signature, First Secretary Kakhar Makhkamov placed his seal of approval on the new laws.
April 26 – After a week of relative peace in the wake of cooling internal ethnic conflict and the passage of new security laws, several smugglers from Afghanistan were captured attempting to swim north across the Panj River border. Apparently attempting to smuggle opium into the nation to sell or barter in one of the thousands of underground Tajik markets, the event sent shock waves through the high ranking members of the Communist Party. Due to the lack of border security, with the recommendations given by the Select Committee for Tajik Defence still being debated and muled over by the top brass in the Kremlin, the Supreme Soviet began to pressure their overarching Soviet government to grant them more power regarding the placement of troops within the Tajik border, as well as the building of military fortifications and bases.
April 30 – After defeating his opponents in the first round of inter-party voting, Imomali Rakhmonov moves on to the second round of voting in the election for a seat on the Supreme Council. With the support of the party behind him, he was going to be placing himself off against the independent Pamiri candidate, Tursun Bahksharov.
A young Rakhmonov during his years as Chairman of the Union Committee
May 3 – Emergency funding promised by the Uzbek, Turkmen and Kyrgz SSR’s in response to the January earthquake finally begins to arrive in short, small monetary packages. Originally promised by the the SSR’s First Secretaries on a swift delivery of the medical and monetary aide for February, the failing economy forced them to stay their hands. As a result, the slow flow of the aid provided by the Tajiks neighbours and Union allies could not see its way into the nation in time for the major clean-up, and only supported them during the building of “temporary” shelters for the homeless.
May 6 – Following a short period of calm after the introduction of the new security laws, ethnic tensions began to once again simmer after the mysterious death of a high profile, land-leasing Tajik in the “Pamiri capital” of Khorugh. Short, yet violent reprisals begun to flare up again in Dushanbe which would ultimately continue, intermediately, throughout the rest of the year.
May 11 – Prompted by yet another Tajik death at the hands of ethnic violence and the growth of “home rule” in several other SSR’s across the Soviet Union, primarily those in Central Asia, Kakhar Makhkamov moved quickly within the Supreme Soviet to pass legislation that would ensure that Tajik majority would not flare up in another violent display that would bring the eyes of the Kremlin down on his administration. Together with chairman of the Council of Ministers (head of the Supreme Council) Isatullo Khayoyev, he ensured the swift passage of legislation that would make the Tajik language official within the Republic.
May 17 – After the quick adoption of Tajik as the official language within Tajikistan, the Kremlin responded with authorisation to do so, further responding to the first a number of the recommendations raised by the Select Committee for Tajik Defence, agreeing that further defensive structures were needed along the Panj River, and asked a Tajik delegation to be sent to Moscow to ensure that official talks could begin to get under way.
May 20 – Large graffiti detailing the deaths of “Communist soldiers”, as well as the resurrection of the early-20th century anti-revolutionary and anti-Bolshevik Basmachi movement, is found plastered across several buildings in downtime Dushanbe. Coming in the wake of several other days in which anti-Communist and pro-Islamic graffiti began to sprout up around the large cities, “hooligans” in the reform movement were beginning to be chased down by authorities with the backing of the Supreme Soviet in an effort to both deter the acts of graffiti and prosecute members of aforementioned movement.
May 21 – After the call for delegates from the Tajik SSR to meet in Moscow to discuss the proposed changes to defence in the nation, primarily along the Panj River border, the Supreme Soviet of the Republic sent their delegation team to meet with the Soviet military leaders in the Kremlin to broker a deal in regards to the proposed changes.
May 28 – After two months of preparation and recounts, the pan-Soviet Chamber of People’s Deputies opens on live television across the USSR. From Estonia to Turkmenistan, men and women of the Soviet Union take days of school and work to see for the first time their elected officials in government, the Tajik people watching as the plethora of Communists and Independents they sent to Moscow took to their seats in history.
The moderate Communist Tajik delegation during their time in the Chamber, Gennady Ubaydulloyev seated in the center
June 2 – After months of speculation, the people of the city of Obigarm and its surrounding villages met to decide whether or not Imomali Rakhmonov would take Rastin Yermakov’s empty seat on the Supreme Council. With a overwhelming majority in favour (87.4% in fact), Rakhmonov had played his constituents fears over his Pamiri opponent so well that he successfully rose to a position of government in his nation to the support of thousands of Communists who came out to elect him into office.
June 9 – After months of preparation and production, First Secretary Soibnazar Beknazarov of the Gorno-Badakhshan Oblast oversaw the beginning of the building of the Russian-controlled Vhrang Military Base, with ten thousand makeshift tents being produced and brought into the town as a temporary residence of the relocating soldiers. Phase two of the building operation (the construction of concrete buildings, gates and other defensive architecture) was not scheduled to begin until around mid-year 1990.
June 14 – After months of remaining silent in the wake of the KGB/police raid on the Noranҷ newspaper headquarters, Bozor Sobir appears in public to speak to an audience for the first time. Reading out of a number of his works, he primarily read the first chapter of his most recent short story in an effort to stir opposition to the Communist Government.
June 19 – After the arrival of the Tajik delegation for Moscow, the government in the Kremlin and the military leaders who were in the process of reviewing the Tajik Defence recommendations returned the second document in regards to the actions they put forward. Primarily focusing on the increased military subsidization of the local Soviet-Tajik military, they rejected the notation reminding the Supreme Soviet in Dushanbe of the failing economic conditions across the entire USSR that left budgeting Moscow ever more tight.
June 23 – Following the publishing of the 1989 census coupled with all available economic documents, the Supreme Soviet and Supreme Council of Tajikistan handed around confidential records regarding the recent stagnation of the internal economy. With inflation rising ever father as the months wore on, the power of the Soviet Rouble had waned by mid-1989, the Tajik SSR itself sitting on a GDP overall of a little under 1,500 roubles, by far the weakest of all the Soviet Republics.
June 29 – In response to internal publication of the economic documents, the Communist Party begun a series of meetings and reviews of the recent failure and utter stagnation of the internal Tajik economy. With no end to the downfall in sight, several prominent young politicians, Imomali Rakhmonov among them, brought forward the option of expanding the land-lease system heralded by the recent “success” of expansion in the Republics of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. After intensive debate in which conservatives, fearful of the fact that land-lease expansion would threaten their own private inititives, refused to budge on the current system in the nation, First Secretary Makhkamov promised to look further into the suggestion in an attempt to bide his time with more debate whilst not antagonising the powerful right-wing of the party.
As the year moved past the half-way mark, with no end to the downfall of the world around them in sight, the Tajiks begun to fear for the future more so than any other nation that lay under the Soviet regime; the fires of violence, brutality and division only began to simmer across the horizon as the sun finally began to rise to a new age.
By Michael Buchanan
Sep 26, 2014