The Flag of the Islamic Republic of Turkestan

by Laurence on 6/28/2005 · 2 comments

For those who are interested in Mohammed Salih’s Erk party’s use of symbolism, Flagspot has a nice display of historical flags from Central Asia, including the flag of Union of Central Asian Islamic National Insurgent Organizations of 1921-24:

It looks just like the Erk flag on Solih’s webiste . . .

UPDATE: Here’s the description of the flag’s history, from Flagspot:

At Samarkand in September 1921, the Union of Central Asian Islamic National Insurgent Organizations instituted an all-Turkestani flag. This flag was accepted by the Turkestani state constitution in April 1922 and was very popular and used until January 1924 when the last part of Turkestani territory fell to the Red Army. The flag consisted of nine alternating stripes of 5 red and 4 white, with an orange rectangle, bearing a white star and crescent, located next to the hoist between the two upper and two lower stripes. Around all four sides of the flag was a very narrow light blue border. The pole was topped by a Wolf’s Head.

BTW Enver Pasha, leader of the Turkestan movement symbolized by the above flag, is viewed with horror by Armenians because of his attitude toward the Armenian massacres. For example, this statement of May 19, 1916: “The Ottoman Empire should be cleaned up of the Armenians and the Lebanese. We have destroyed the former by the sword, we shall destroy the latter through starvation.”

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Nathan June 28, 2005 at 11:24 am

I think it’s easy to make too much of this in principle. On the one hand, I’m not too put off by Islam playing a larger role in Central Asian society. What does bother me about Salih is that he’s an opportunist who has gone way too far in sidling up to unsavory characters when it appears to suit his interest. Right now, the wind is blowing the other way and he is trying to become the recognized legitimate voice of the opposition. I don’t think he’s particularly nefarious–just dumb.

jonathan p June 29, 2005 at 12:59 am

I don’t know where you came up with the name “Islamic Republic of Turkestan,” but that is the flag of the Pan-Turkish-leaning, Basmachi-influenced unofficial “Republic of Turkestan” (note that the word “Islamic” is not in the title).

This was the odd, short-lived and unstable spawn of some (not all!) Basmachis, some clerics, some pro-Caliph forces, and the famous Enver Pasha (a Turk who originally backed the Bolsheviks and then decided to fight against them in a vainglorious attempt to become leader of a united Turkic nation). His “followers” (a portion of whom actually imprisoned him at one point) mostly came from what is now northern Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan, and far southwestern Tajikistan.

It’s true that Enver Pasha did eventually ally himself — to the chagrin of more moderate (and wiser IMHO) Turkistan National Liberation Movement leaders like Togan — with the pro-Emir Muslim clerics in an effort to defeat the Bolsheviks through direct military confrontation. But his alignment with them was surely one of political expediency for a man who had spent most of his adult life fighting against the Scholasticist Recidivist demands for Shari’a in Istanbul. And, as I said before, he was imprisoned by the pro-Emir faction of his fighters at one point and was only released after issuing pro-Islam orders.

Perhaps a small portion of the Basmachis who followed Enver Pasha could have had Islamist leanings. But remember that these people were mostly village Sufis (generally not disposed to Islamicism), and the majority of Basmachis had long since become disenchanted with the Emir’s policies.

Also, note that this “Republic” should not be confused with the Turkish-Islamic Republic of Eastern Turkestan (TIRET), which was established in Kashgar, I think in the early 1930s, and had no relationship to the above at all.

All this to say: The above flag is not one of an “Islamic” republic. And I think the Erk party’s decision to adopt it makes sense on a lot of levels. (Though the fact that it was the flag of a motley and confused lot of ill-prepared and poorly led fighters does not bode well for the party, does it?!)

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