Jeltoqsan ( _kk. Желтоқсан; English: December) riot of 1986 was a spontaneous nationwide revolt that took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan in response to General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's dismissal of Dinmukhamed Kunayev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan and an ethnic Kazakh, and the subsequent appointment of Gennady Kolbin an outsider from the Russian Federation. Some sources cite Kolbin's nationality as Russian, while others as Chuvash. The Almaty protests of 17-19 December 1986 were not only the first signs of the failure of Soviet nationality policy, but they also preceded five years of national turmoil that resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 25 December 1991.

The events lasted from December 16 until December 19, 1986. The protests began in the morning of December 17, as a student demonstration attracted thousands of participants as they marched through Brezhnev square across to the CPK Central Committee building. As internal troops and OMON forces entered the city violence erupted throughout the former capital of Kazakhstan. [ Reform and Nationalist Conflict.] U.S. Library of Congress] [ Soviet Troops Enforce Kazakh City Curfew.] THE NEW YORK TIMES] [ SOVIET NATIONALITIES: RUSSIANS RULE, OTHERS FUME.] THE NEW YORK TIMES] [ ORIGINS OF KAZAKHSTAN RIOTING ARE DESCRIBED.] THE NEW YORK TIMES] [ 1986 December events showed people’s striving for independence.] KAZINFORM] In the following days, protests spread to Shymkent, Taldykorgan and Karaganda.


The dismissal of the long-serving First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, Dinmukhamed Kunayev (1964-1986) on December 16 and the appointment of an outsider, Gennady Kolbin (1986-1989) as the First Secretary was the primary reason of the peaceful student demonstrations that started in the early morning of 17 December. According to Gorbachev, after the 27th Party Congress of December 1986, he met with Kunayev and discussed Kunayev's resignation. In the meeting, Kunayev expressed his desire to retire and proposed the appointment of a Russian in his place to stop advancement of Nursultan Nazarbayev in the party ranks. [Mikhael Gorbachev, Memoirs, New York: Doubleday, 1996, p.330] Kunayev, in his own book, states that Gorbachev never asked him about his replacement and only said "a good comrade will be "sent" [ Dinmukhamed Kunayev, O Moem Vremeni, Almaty:Dauir, 1992, p.8]

Demonstrations started in the morning of 17 December 1986 as an initial number of 200-300 students gathered in front of the Central Committee building on Brezhnev square to protest the decision of the CPSU to replace Kunayev with Kolbin. The number of protestors increased to 1000-5000 as students from universities and institutes joined the crowd on Brezhnev square. As a response, the CPK Central Committee ordered troops from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, druzhiniki (volunteers), cadets, policemen and the KGB to cordon the square and videotape the participants. The situation escalated around 5 PM. as troops were ordered to disperse the protestors. Clashes between the security forces and the demonstrators continued throughout the night in the square and in different parts of Almaty. The second day, protests turned into civil unrest as clashes in the streets, universities and dormitories between troops, volunteers and milita units and Kazakh students turned into a wide-scale confrontation. The clashes could only be controlled on the third day. The Almaty events were followed by smaller protests and demonstrations in Shymkent, Pavlodar, Karaganda and Taldykorgan.

Estimates of protestors

The Central Committee of Kazakhstan's Communist Party estimated that 11,000 people protested and 660 were arrested and jailed. More recent estimates are of at least 30,000 to 40,000 protestors with 5,000 arrested and jailed, and an unknown number of casualties. Jeltoqsan leaders say over sixty thousand Kazakhs participated in the protests. [ "Jeltoqsan" Movement blames leader of Kazakh Communists.] EurasiaNet] [ Kazakhstan: Jeltoqsan Protest Marked 20 Years Later] RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty]


According to the U.S. Library of Congress at least 200 people died or were summarily executed soon after. Some accounts estimate casualties at more than 1,000.

The writer Muhtar Shahanov said a KGB officer testified that 168 protesters were killed, but that figure remains unconfirmed as most material about Jeltoksan is in Moscow, locked in Communist Party and KGB archives. At the same time, according to official data, two people were killed in the disturbances and some 200 were injured.

Kazakh students Qayrat Rısqulbekov and Lyazzat Asanova were among the victims. [ Reform and Nationalist Conflict.] U.S. Library of Congress] [ Kazakhs remembering uprising of 1986.] Associated Press]


Kazakhstan declared independence on December 16, 1991. Many details surrounding Jeltoksan events remain locked up in the archives in Moscow and Almaty. Jeltoksan events constitute the main platforms of Azat and Alash political parties and the Jeltoksan movement in independent Kazakhstan.

On September 18, 2006 The Dawn of Liberty monument, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Jeltoksan, was opened with a solemn ceremony in Almaty. Today, Jeltoksan is regarded as the symbol of Kazakhstan's struggle for independence. The monument has three-parts and points out first two pylons of intricate shapes symbolizing the breach and conflict of past and future, the explosion of the nation's consciousness and downfall of ideological canons, and the triumph of liberty and independence of the state. [ The Head of the State unveiled a monument in Almaty.] KAZINFORM] [ 1986 December events showed people’s striving for independence.] KAZINFORM]

Dinmukhamed Kunayev died in 1993 at the age of 81. An avenue and an institute in Almaty bear his name.

ee also

*Dinmukhamed Kunayev
*Black January
*Vilnius massacre
*April 9 tragedy
*Nursultan Nazarbayev
*Zharmakhan Tuyakbay
*Tulip Revolution
*Student activism


External links

* [ Let my people print]
* [ The price of stability. Kazakhstani control mechanisms in a bipolar cultural and demographic situation]

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