Environmental protection, pasture rights, and the birth of chemical industry in Shymkent (1860s-1920)

Environmental protection, pasture rights, and the birth of chemical industry in Shymkent (1860s-1920)

March 26, 2014

March 26, 2014

Beatrice Penati, Nazarbayev University

Abstract: In the last quarter of the 19th century, a medicinal plant, Artemisia cina, used to grow spontaneously and abundantly on the right bank of the Arys river, not far from Chi mkent, in what was the Syr-Darya province of Tsarist Turkestan. Preparations derived from this plant were in high demand at the time. Flowers were harvested by the local Kazakh population and handed over to intermediaries, who sent them to Europe to be processed industrially. Entrepreneurs from different parts of the Russian empire established their own chemical plants in Chimkent and Tashkent from the 1880s onwards. Most of them pressured the Russian imperial government to restrict the rights of the Kazakh population to access the land where Artemisia cina grew, and to obtain the exclusive right to exploit such a resource. In their attempts, these entrepreneurs used conservationist arguments and advocated a ‘cultured’, scientifically sound approach to the management of natural resources located on the ‘State land’. These attempts collided with the ‘usage rights’ of the Kazakhs, as defined by the Turkestan Statute, but eventually received a keen hearing at the State Administration for Land Organisation and Agriculture (GUZZ). This paper reconstructs this debate up until the revolution, when the existing chemical plants were nationalized and become the core of the development of chemical industry in Chimkent under Soviet rule. The land under Artemisia cina was nationalized, too, and exploited by specialized sovkhozy.


Bio: Beatrice Penati has been assistant professor at Nazarbayev University (Astana) since 2011. She received her PhD in History from the EHESS and the Scuola Normale Superiore in 2008. She was an intern at IFEAC in Tashkent , a post-doc at the Slavic Research Center of Hokkaido University and a Newton Fellow of the British Academy at the University of Manchester. Her research and publications concern the economic and rural history of Central Asia in the colonial and early Soviet period.

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