In the Name of Victory: Turning the Hungry Steppe into New Land in Zafarabad, Tajikistan (1959-1979)
Speaker: Christine Bichsel
Date: 17 May 2011, 4 PM
Venue: University of Central Asia, 138 Toktogul Street, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic Conference Room.
(The views presented in this lecture are those of the presenter and not necessarily those of the University of Central Asia or any of its staff)
This lecture discusses the historical creation of “new land” (tselina) through irrigation development during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras in Soviet Central Asia, specifically the so-called Hungry Steppe (Golodnaia step’) or vast plain south-west of the Syr Darya River shared by Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Attempts to turn the Hungry Steppe into arable land date back to Tsarist colonial rule, but large-scale irrigation development was only realised during the Khrushchev era, when the Hungry Steppe became agricultural land and was settled with new towns and villages. “New land” comprises the majority of irrigated areas in Central Asia and continues to play a vital role in people’s livelihoods and states’ political economy. At the centre of this lecture is the story of Zafarabad, Tajikistan, a site of “new land” in the Hungry Steppe. Based on archival and library research recently conducted in Tajikistan, the lecture stresses the importance of better understanding the post-Stalin Soviet period in Central Asia, as a point of reference for re-territorialisation processes and land reform, and subjective interpretations of post-socialist transformation.
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Christine Bichsel holds a PhD degree in Geography from the University of Berne, Switzerland (2006). Her PhD thesis on international peace-building in Central Asia between 1999 and 2006, with a focus on the Ferghana Valley, resulted in the publication Conflict Transformation in Central Asia: Irrigation Disputes in the Ferghana Valley (Routledge, 2009). Dr. Bichsel has been a visiting researcher in the Department of Geography, National University of Singapore; a postdoctoral researcher in the framework of the University Research Priority Program “Asia and Europe” in Zürich; and a consultant for Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit on peace-building in Kyrgyzstan and basic education in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. She is currently a senior researcher in the Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Switzerland, and her current research on the concept of territory in Soviet Central Asia is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (2010-2012).
The presentation will be conducted in English. Russian translation will be provided upon prior request.