Kazakhstan in World War II

Mobilization and Ethnicity in the Soviet Empire

Roberto J. Carmack

In July 1941, the Soviet Union was in mortal danger. Imperiled by the Nazi invasion and facing catastrophic losses, Stalin called on the Soviet people to “subordinate everything to the needs of the front.” Kazakhstan answered that call. Stalin had long sought to restructure Kazakh life to modernize the local population—but total mobilization during the war required new tactics and produced unique results. Kazakhstan in World War II analyzes these processes and their impact on the Kazakhs and the Soviet Union as a whole. The first English-language study of a non-Russian Soviet republic during World War II, the book explores how the war altered official policies toward the region’s ethnic groups—and accelerated Central Asia’s integration into Soviet institutions.

World War II is widely recognized as a watershed for Russia and the Soviet Union—not only did the conflict legitimize prewar institutions and ideologies, it also provided a medium for integrating some groups and excluding others. Kazakhstan in World War II explains how these processes played out in the ethnically diverse and socially “backward” Kazakh republic. Roberto J. Carmack marshals a wealth of archival materials, official media sources, and personal memoirs to produce an in-depth examination of wartime ethnic policies in the Red Army, Soviet propaganda for non-Russian groups, economic strategies in the Central Asian periphery, and administrative practices toward deported groups. Bringing Kazakhstan’s previously neglected role in World War II to the fore, Carmack’s work fills an important gap in the region’s history and sheds new light on our understanding of Soviet identities.

Kazakhstan in World War II is a thoroughly researched and broadly conceptualized study that contributes significantly to our understanding of Kazakhstan and the USSR during World War II. By an examination of archival materials in Kazakhstan and Moscow, of memoirs, and of the periodical press, Carmack reveals the prejudice and suffering endured by Kazakhs and by other non-Russian nationalities among deportees, evacuees, and conscripts of the Labor Army. The author highlights exceptionally well a fluid and oft-contested relationship among local, republican, and national leaders exacerbated by shortages of human and material resources. Carmack makes a compelling case for a complex and uneven integration during the war and in the period immediately thereafter of Kazakhstan’s bureaucracy, economy, and people into the larger Soviet Union.”

—Larry E. Holmes, author of Stalin’s World War II Evacuations: Triumph and Troubles in Kirov

“World War II was the moment when the diverse peoples of the Soviet Union were tested under fire and forged into a mobilized force that defeated fascism. With Roberto J. Carmack’s vivid study of Kazakhstan in wartime, we have a deep analysis of how this vast and multiethnic country was politically integrated into a relatively cohesive community. Although Russians enjoyed more privileges than Kazakhs, languishing at the bottom of the Soviet hierarchy of nationalities were the exiled peoples—Volga Germans and North Caucasians—who were considered treacherous and rebellious. Condescension and discrimination between Kazakhs and Slavs hindered an easy passage into “Friendship of the Peoples,” and yet over time many Kazakhs identified with the Soviet project and celebrated the victory over the invaders as a triumph they shared with other Soviet peoples. Persuasively argued, this book breaks new ground in our understanding of the complexities and contradictions of Soviet imperial history.”

—Ronald Grigor Suny, William H. Sewell Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History and Political Science, University of Michigan

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About the Author

Roberto J. Carmack is an independent historian living in the Washington, DC, area and a member of the US Army Reserves.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series