Book Review: Kazakhstan in World War II: Mobilization and Ethnicity in the Soviet Empire


by Roberto J. Carmack

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2019. Pp. xiv, 266. Illus., map, diagr., gloss., notes, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN: 0700628258

A Soviet Republic at War

Dr. Carmack, an independent specialist in Soviet history, has a particular interest in the non-Slavic peoples of the U.S.S.R., a surprisingly neglected subject; although about a third of Soviet troops during the war were of non-Slavic origins. In this work he gives us the first history of Kazakhstan, the largest central Asian republic in the war.

Kazakhstan had several roles in the war. Many industrial plants moved from the western U.S.S.R. were relocated there, as were many civilians evacuated from enemy occupied areas. In addition, great numbers of “unreliable” peoples – Crimean Tatars, Volga Germans, Caucasian Moslems, and so forth – were “resettled” in Kazakhstan. Tensions often arose between native Kazakhs and newcomers.

Hundreds of thousands of Kazakhs were drafted into the Soviet armed forces, although since were classed as a socially “backward” people (i.e., politically unreliable) – they Kazakhs in the Red Army were usually employed as service troops. Although men in the “Labor Army” were not supposed to be combat troops, they were often employed as such, particularly as the war dragged on and casualties mounted.

Carmack notes that Kazakhstan’s political leadership – almost all officials were ethnic Russians or other Slavs. He discusses how the Soviet authorities used the war to further their long standing effort to turn Kazakhs, and other peoples, into “new Soviet men”. Though the Kazakhs did respond to the appeal of “Soviet patriotism”, cementing them more closely to the regiment, the belief in their “backwardness” did not change much, and it hampered the development of the republic in the postwar period.

Kazakhstan in World War II is an interesting read for those specializing in Soviet history or the Nazi-Soviet War.


Note: Kazakhstan in World War II is also available in several e-editions.

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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