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Making Ivan-Uzbek: War, Friendship of the Peoples, and the Creation of Soviet Uzbekistan, 1941-1945


This dissertation addresses the impact of World War II on Uzbek society and contends that the war era should be seen as seen as equally transformative to the tumultuous 1920s and 1930s for Soviet Central Asia. It argues that via the processes of military service, labor mobilization, and the evacuation of Soviet elites and common citizens that Uzbeks joined the broader “Soviet people” or sovetskii narod and overcame the prejudices of being “formerly backward” in Marxist ideology. The dissertation argues that the army was a flexible institution that both catered to national cultural (including Islamic ritual) and linguistic difference but also offered avenues for assimilation to become Ivan-Uzbeks, part of a Russian-speaking, pan-Soviet community of victors. Yet as the war wound down the reemergence of tradition and violence against women made clear the limits of this integration. The dissertation contends that the war shaped the contours of Central Asian society that endured through 1991 and created the basis for thinking of the “Soviet people” as a nation in the 1950s and 1960s.

The first chapter addresses the experience of soldiers in the Red Army, paying special attention to the army’s policies to support Central Asian men with agitation. The second chapter focuses on the laborers who faced high mortality in the mines and industrial sites of the Urals and Siberia. Deprived of cultural support, agitators, and segregated from Slavic workers, they offer a case study in how the Soviet war-time state could operate both as a nation and an empire at the same time. The next two chapters address the Uzbek homefront, the contributions of Uzbek women who stayed in the region, and changing gender roles. Via an “emancipation of necessity” Uzbek women continued the professional gains they made during collectivization and replaced men in mechanized agriculture and in leadership positions. I examine the wartime contributions of three noteworthy women to show how the state both respected cultural mores that prevented them from serving at the front, but also pressed them into new, public roles. The next chapter focuses the interaction between evacuated Russian and Uzbek writers. I argue that their cooperation facilitated the narrative of Friendship of the Peoples while also allowing the evacuees to assert their tutorial rights as elder brother and masters of socialist realism. The final chapter addresses the durability of the Ivan-Uzbek identity in the face of social breakdown and resurgent religious tradition after the war.

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