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Mustafa Shokai

ASTANA — The school No. 51 named after Mustafa Shokai in Astana, Kazakhstan recently hosted an important event on the topic “Mustafa is a great personality born for his people”. The meeting was organized on the occasion of the 132nd anniversary of the birth of Mustafa Shokai (1890-1941), a Kazakh social and political activist, publicist, ideologist of the struggle for freedom and independence of the Common Turkestan. The event was attended by a special guest — Abduvahap Kara, professor of the Mimar Sinan University (Turkiye) and author of the recently published book “Mustafa Shokai”. We are republishing an interview with the scholar, which he gave to the Astana Akshamy newspaper:

Q: Firstly, congratulations on the recently published book! Where did the idea come from?

A: The research work on Mustafa Shokai began in 1988, when I visited Radio Azattyk. In 1953, Kazakhs were among the founders of the radio. Some of them saw and knew Mustafa Shokai. Later, Hasen Oratai, Talgat Kokbulak, Alikhan Zhanaltai, who came from Turkiye, worked at the radio station and started to collect the first information about him.

When the Alashordin intelligentsia was acquitted, no one mentioned Mustafa Shokai in Kazakhstan, because they were afraid. In 1990 the Ana Tili newspaper published an article by Beibit Koishibaev “The unknown fate. A few words about Mustafa Shokai”.

In 1991 the newspaper "Kazak Adibiety" published an article by Anuar Alimzhanov “Mustafa Shokai, who is he?”. Even these articles could not change the opinion formed during the Soviet Union about Mustafa Shokai as a “traitor” — Mustafa Shokai had been banned since 1925 and in 1969 he was accused as a “traitor”. The main reason was the publication of the book “The Collapse of Greater Turkestan”, which was written by KGB officer Serik Shakibayev. In this book, Shokai was portrayed as a “traitor” who sold his country to the Nazis for the sake of position.

In order to create a new Kazakhstan, it is necessary to glorify such great persons like Mustafa Shokai, who made an invaluable contribution for the independence of the country. I think that a large monument should be erected in the capital of our country and one of the streets in the central part of the city should be named after him.

Q: It turns out that Shakibayev did not write his book on the basis of reliable data?

A: Shakibayev really wrote this work based on the documents, but errors in the data he used led him to create a false story. Most of the information were the protocols of interrogations in the KGB of members of the Turkestan Legion, who returned after the war. Most of the information is not true.

In this novel, you can find a lot of information that contradicts the truth. For example, at the beginning it is said that Mustafa Shokai, who wrote a letter to Rosenberg, was in prison for a year. However, Shokai had never been in prison. He stayed in Camp Compiegne near Paris for only about three weeks.

At the same time, Shokai was against the Legion project. Shakibayev writes that Shokai was arrested because he could not come to an agreement with the British. In fact, Shokai was arrested for being against the Soviet Union. Shakibayev claims that he undertook to organize legionnaires with all his heart and bore full responsibility for this matter. This opinion also contradicts reality, because Shokai was categorically against cooperation with the Nazis in the military sphere. So, there were a lot of historical inaccuracies in the book. Shokаi was slandered based on a fantasy novel. However, the influence of the book was so pernicious that the entire Soviet people recognized Shokai as a “traitor”.

In the first years of Kazakhstan's independence a dispute began on whether Mustafa was a “traitor” or not. After seeing such a situation, I came to the decision to undertake deep research on Mustafa Shokai. Later, when I returned to Turkiye, switched to scientific work and wrote a doctoral dissertation, the topic of the research work was about Mustafa Shokai. That's how my road to the world of Shokai began.

There are still many legacies left over from Mustafa in Turkiye, but they are in private hands. I think that if Kazakhstan appeals to these people, they would hand them over to the state.

In fact, there is no scientific data in Russian that unequivocally proves who Mustafa Shokai is. I studied Mustafa for 4-5 years in the archives of Germany and France. In the course of my research, I could not find any evidence that could directly point to Mustafa as a “traitor”. On the contrary, there are more than a hundred documents proving that Mustafa did not cooperate with the Nazis. This was proved not only by me, but also by other researchers. In order for the people to know Mustafa for real, it is not enough to have books written by scientists. In other words, it is necessary to consider the restoration of historical justice in relation to Mustafa with the help of artistic works since his name was blackened on the basis of an artistic work. Now the cooperation of the Turkic world is growing stronger. Its roots are also connected with Mustafa Shokai. It would be great to have the Mustafa Shokai Institute opened in Astana.

Q: Has Mustafa's death also remained a mystery?

A: Yes. There are two different versions of his death. Mustafa, as we have just mentioned, refused to cooperate with the Nazis, saying “I will not work with the Germans”, and died on the way home in 1941 in Berlin. Some say that he was poisoned by the Germans, while others say that he died of typhus. But Mustafa Shokai's wife and friends didn't believe it. Because none of the people who were with him at that time died of infectious diseases. Therefore, they consider that Shokai was poisoned.

Q: Have we managed to give an accurate assessment of Mustafa from a historical point of view?

A: Yes. Who gave a fair assessment to Mustafa? Historians like us did it. We appreciated that Mustafa Shokai is clean, he is the last node in the history of the Alash Horde, an outstanding personality who raised the dream and legacy of Alash from autonomy to independence. But, from a political point of view, a fair assessment has not been given, because so far Mustafa Shokai has not been properly promoted in his homeland. Even today, there are people among us who recognize Shokai as a “traitor." Our political scientists and sociologists should pay special attention to this point. For example, there is a park named after him in Paris, where his statue stands. There is no monument to Shokai in the capital of his native country. An insignificant street named after him is located on the outskirts of the city. Now we are saying that we will build a new Kazakhstan. To create a new Kazakhstan, it is necessary to glorify such great person as Mustafa Shokai, who made an invaluable contribution to the independence of the country. The Gymnasium School No. 51 in Astana has been named after Mustafa Shokai, within the walls of which a museum has been opened. Mustafa does not need a memorial, it is needed for us, for posterity, so that his name is absorbed into the memory of the living. If we want to consolidate our independence, we must perpetuate in the hearts of the people those who shed their blood and gave their lives for this independence. When Kazakhstan gained independence, there were many articles in the newspapers of Western countries where they wrote: Kazakhstan's independence will not be long. Firstly, the number of Kazakhs in the country was small, less than 50 percent. Secondly, this people lacked the experience of an independent state. Thirdly, the Kazakhs are a nomadic, pastoral people who did not even know the smell of such a sacred concept as independence. If they are fed and clothed, they will continue to live under the shackles of the Soviet Union. Weren't Alikhan Bokeikhanov and Mustafa Shokai at the origins of our struggle for independence? Mustafa Shokai struggled for independence in Europe from 1921 to 1941. He did not go to Europe in search of fun and bread, he went there to find a way to save his people from the shackles of the Soviet Union. The Kazakh people realized Mustafa's dream with incredible efforts, almost 50 years later. Now many people, when asked how you achieved independence, mention the December events of 1986. If we limit ourselves to December, the history of the struggle for independence will be torn from its roots. It's time to take this fact into account.

Q: There is a point of view that separates Mustafa from the Alashordins.

A: Readers should not think that I put Mustafa above the leader of the Alash Horde (Orda), Alikhan Bokeikhan. There is no big or small work for the sake of the Motherland. However, each person plays an important role in each epoch. For example, Alikhan Bokeikhan is the founder of the idea of Kazakh statehood, and Mustafa is the person who contributed to its implementation.

There are points on which I disagree with the Kazakh researchers of Alash Orda. They consider Turkestan autonomy separately from the Alash Orda. In my opinion, both of them are the idea of the Alashordins. Mustafa Shokai did not go to Tashkent on his own to create the Turkestan autonomy. He was sent there by Alikhan because more than a million Kazakhs lived there, and Mustafa was sent to protect their interests. So Alikhan Bokeikhan was the initiator of the creation of Turkestan autonomy.

Secondly, Mustafa glorified the creation of the Turkestan Union. This was also the idea of the Alashordins. Domestic historians believe that Alikhan was against Turkestan, it should be noted that this is true, before the October Revolution, Alikhan had such thoughts. He thought that if we unite with the Uzbeks, it would look like the "blind" and the "lame" united. Therefore, he believed that it was necessary to cooperate with the Siberian government in the north. But the Siberian authorities did not accept Alikhan. At that time, Uzbeks supported educated citizens. Looking at this, Alikhan changed his mind. Why don't Russian historians write about that openly? Because such data has not preserved here. In fact, such statements are clearly written in the writings of Zaki Vali. So the idea of creating the Turkestan Union is not only the idea of Mustafa Shokai, but of all Alashordins. Mustafa is a person who made this idea famous all over the world.

Q: What legacy is left of Mustafa abroad?

A: There is still a legacy left over from Mustafa in Turkiye, but it is in private hands. I think if Kazakhstan appeals to these people, they would agree to transfer it to the state. For example, when the [Second World] war broke out, Abduvahap Oktay, who worked with Shokai in Berlin, took documents related to Mustafa to Turkiye. After the death of Abduvahap Oktay, his wife handed over these documents to the Uzbek society "Turkestan". Currently, this archive is held by the founder of the said society, Turkish deputy Akhat Andijan. He was asked several times, and he promised that he would “return the documents to his homeland.” Now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan should actively deal with the issue of returning these documents to Kazakhstan.

Mustafa Shokai's passport is in the hands of a well-known linguist Timur Kozhaogly, an Uzbek by nationality, who is the son of Osman Kozhai, who worked side by side with Shokai in the Turkestan National Committee. He also said that he will not give this heritage to a private person, he will not sell it for money, but he is ready to transfer it to the Mustafa Shokai Museum if it opens in Kazakhstan.


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