When the nomads went to war
The uprising of 1916 in Semirech’e
in The Central Asian Revolt of 1916
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This chapter seeks to understand why the death toll of the uprising, in both the settler and native societies, was highest in Semirech’e. It was the intersection of ethnic mobilization and the fear of destruction in the hands of the “enemy” group that gave rise to the mass nature of violence. Both parties to the conflict were driven in their actions by what they saw as a threat to their livelihoods and indeed their lives. Although the threat posed by groups and individuals was often exaggerated, perceptions of the threat were real. That this threat was embodied by the aggregate group – rather than certain individuals – was the chief reason behind the indiscriminate targeting of the non-combatant, civilian population by both rebels and colonists.

The Central Asian Revolt of 1916

A collapsing empire in the age of war and revolution

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