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Title:Managing nature, constructing the state: the material foundation of Soviet Empire in Tajikistan, 1917-1937
Author(s):Reid, Patryk Michal
Director of Research:Koenker, Diane
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Koenker, Diane
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Ali, Tariq; Randolph, John; Steinberg, Mark
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Central Asia, Tajikistan
Commodity Chains
Economic History
Transportation History
Environmental History
Geographic History
International Development
Soviet Union
Abstract:This dissertation is a geographic and environmental history of Soviet state building that examines how the Tajikistan Soviet Socialist Republic was made. In the mid-1920s, the USSR created republics in Central Asia that endure today as nation states. Tajikistan, however, lay on land that is almost entirely mountainous, where there was no physical legacy of modern economy. To build socialism here, the regime needed to import capital, people, and animals along with plans and ideals. This, in turn, required the establishment of transportation and commodity chains. These material implications of political and cultural projects are routinely left out of histories of Soviet power. My work instead illuminates the material and economic operations that fueled and sometimes confounded socialism, and connects them to global patterns of economic growth. The dissertation draws on archival and library sources from Dushanbe, Moscow, and North America to make three major scholarly contributions. First, my focus on tangible context and the hows of region-making puts political, social, and economic factors into conversation where they converged on the physical connections of state building that were literally transnational. Doing so bridges usual separations of sectors and geographies that are characteristic in histories of the early USSR. It furthermore contests conventional portrayals of Central Asia as an indistinct yet enormous cotton colony by highlighting the built and environmental conditions that made Tajikistan's Soviet experience unique. Drawing on human geography and landscape studies, I show that the construction of the first railroads and highways in Tajikistan was a distinctive form of Soviet state-building and nation-making. Second, I comment on the nature of Stalinism. This eponymous period is known for the centralization of power and planning in Moscow and the violent promotion of a modern, industrial society. My study of the operations of material economy in commodity chains spanning the USSR shows that real economic life was under-planned, and characterized by decentralized authority. In Tajikistan, utopian visions of technological prowess were implemented mainly by horses, camels, and human hands, often challenged by the rugged physical environment. Third, I compare Stalin-era enterprises in Tajikistan to other instances of postcolonial economic growth. I find that insights from global patterns of infrastructure and commodity chain management can help ascribe concrete causes, effects, and chronologies to mobilizational projects across the USSR. I also argue that this unfamiliar case of "international development" offers opportunities for new understandings from beyond the Euro-American imperial world.
Issue Date:2016-07-12
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Patryk Reid
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-11-10
Date Deposited:2016-08

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