The Samarkand Cotton Mill that Very Nearly Was

Photo by Sultonbek Ikromov on Unsplash
Photo by Sultonbek Ikromov on Unsplash

This paper offers a rebuttal to the long-standing narrative about a prohibition on the development of cotton mills in Tsarist Central Asia. Instead, the paper reconstructs the real story of a Bukharan Jew (Abramov) who strenuously attempted to establish a mill close to Samarkand – until the 1917 revolution put an end to these hopes. Using archival documents from St. Petersburg and Tashkent, this paper identifies three obstacles faced by Abramov: first, the complexity of land and water rights in Tsarist colonial settings; second, antisemitism among colonial officers at all levels; and third, scepticism and opposition among the local Muslim population. The story that emerges is a valuable case-study for the history of capitalism and industrialisation in Tsarist Turkestan, while its later historiography reveals a chain of misunderstandings and ideological manipulations that deserve re-evaluation. 

Dr. Beatrice Penati is Lecturer in Russian and Eurasian History at Liverpool University.  She is a historian of Central Asia under Imperial Russian and Soviet rule, and specializes in the history of economic policy, taxation, agriculture and environment in the region.  A leading scholar of economic relations between Central Asia and Moscow, Dr. Penati is the author of The Hunt for Red Orient: A Soviet Industrial Trest Between Moscow and Bukhara, 1922-1929 (Pittsburgh University Press, 2016), and has published in KritikaCentral Asian SurveyAb ImperioModern Asian Studies, and elsewhere.

You don't need to register for this lecture.

Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16, VL Leiden

Leiden University