No 2406 (2016)

The Hunt for Red Orient: A Soviet industrial trest between Moscow and Bukhara (1922-1929)

This paper narrates the story of Red Orient (Rus. Krasnyi Vostok; Uz. Qizil Sharq) textile trust (trest). This trust was initially owned by the Bukharan People’s Republic, then, after the national delimitation of Central Asia, by the Uzbek SSR. Its activity included all the steps of the added-value chain of industrial transformation of ginned cotton (spinning, twisting, dyeing, finishing, weaving, and printing). Its factories and mills, initially all located in Russia, served as a training ground for the first generation of native Uzbek textile workers while its management participated in the planning and construction of the first cotton textile plant in Fergana towards the end of the decade.

Two threads are entangled in this story: first, the day-by-day workings of the New Economic Policy in a small industrial organization; second, the economic side of early Soviet nationality policies. This paper looks at the nitty-gritty aspects of procurements, bookkeeping, audit, and management. It shows how balance sheets were more an item for negotiation and a political weapon, than a diagnostic tool for the efficiency of Red Orient’s business. Above all, the story of Red Orient reveals that early Soviet economic policies did not exclude that the Central Asian cotton harvest could be processed by mills owned by the republics themselves, and result in finished textiles for the Central Asian market. The Bukharan (later, Uzbek) governments, either directly or through their representatives in Moscow, confronted all-Union agencies in the name of the “national” nature of the trust, be it to settle complicated debt relations, to reshape the procurement of raw materials, to acquire additional looms and, ultimately, to negotiate the construction of the first textile factory in Fergana. In other words, the republics, as shareholders and eponymous “nations” of the trust, took ownership of its destiny and day-to-day trade and production activities.

Table of Contents

Beatrice Penati