Imperial Statistical Research in the Kazakh Steppes (Late 19th-early 20th Centuries)

Defining Nomadic Communes and their Borders

in Oriente Moderno
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The notion of a ‘commune’ has become a part of evolutionistic view on social development over the course of 19th-20th cc. and heavily influenced various fields of Social Sciences and Humanities. The Russian statisticians have also accepted the category of a commune while they were investigating the Russian peasants’ household budgets. This theoretical pattern was also applied to Kazakh land tenure during the carrying out the Russian colonial project on searching land ‘surpluses’ for Russian settlers in the Kazakh steppes. In particular, it was used in the statistical research “Materials on Kirgiz land tenure collected and developed by the expedition for research of the Steppe area” under Fedor Shcherbina’s leadership (1896-1903).

In fact, the statisticians could not identify the commune borders among the nomads as those borders were very conditional. As a result, the surveyors turned from investigating commune to their creation. Soon the maps on Kazakh land tenure were made and ‘communes’ were established on the juridical base. After finishing that statistical research those invented communes served for colonial authorities as the ground for ceasing land in favor of the Russian peasants.

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Volkova T. Ibid., Moskva, 1982.

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