The borders of what is present-day Kazakhstan were first drawn up after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. After becoming an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation, it became a Soviet Socialist Republic within the Soviet Union in 1936 . Since the late 1930s some vast regions in Kazakhstan (especially in Karaganda region) became Gulags with many hundreds of thousands of prisoners sent to them. During the war, the Soviet republic served as one of the USSR’s main evacuation hubs. On 16 December 1991, Kazakhstan declared independence.
On the eve of the German invasion, the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic had an estimated population of 6 million people. About 20,000 Jews lived in the Kazakh SSR, most of whom were Ashkenazi. There was also a number of Bukharan Jews who lived mainly in the southern cities of Shymkent and Turkestan. About one hundred thousand Jews arrived in Kazakhstan as evacuees, refugees, Gulag prisoners or exiles. Most of them left when the war ended.
The Ministry of Culture and Sports is responsible for the Central State Archive of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The ministry coordinates the central and regional archives. Additionally, there is also the Archives of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (the former Communist Party archive) which is under the administration of the President. In order to access these archives in Kazakhstan, foreign nationals should submit a written application including a letter of recommendation on site. Usually, access (at least to the catalogue) is granted on the same day, but it is strongly advised to contact the archive in advance. Written permission is given by the director of the archive and is valid for one calendar year. There are some archival guides available online, but they are limited and fragmented.
EHRI Research (Summary)
EHRI has identified some twenty archival institutions in Kazakhstan which hold Holocaust-related material. Five of them are located in the republic’s former capital, Almaty. The most relevant archives to Holocaust research include the Central State Archive of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Almaty. Its collections include a fond on the evacuation authority and personal registration evacuation cards, and various files dealing with the Polish government-in-exile. Similar files of a more local provenance are contained in the regional archives, principally those in Almaty, Shymkent and Karaganda.
Outside of Kazakhstan, EHRI has identified and partially described archival institutions and/or collections relevant for research on Kazakhstan.
EHRI Research (Extensive)
A. EHRI approach to Kazakhstan: Pre-existing research, available archival guides, expert support
For a general overview of the Central State Archive in Kazakhstan, which is available in Kazakh and Russian, see:
For a list of regional archives and contacts (English version):
B. Characteristics of the Kazakh archival system and specific challenges
The majority of the central and regional Kazakh archives were founded during the pre-war Soviet period. Thus most of them are based on the Soviet system of cataloging and most of the inventory files are written in Russian while new forms use Russian and Kazakh. There are also other archival institutions that were established or reformed after Kazakhstan’s independence. The former Archive of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan was renamed the Archive of Social History and then became the Archives of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. It holds a large number of decrees related to the evacuation, war efforts and the fate of the Jews. As a result of regime changes and administrative reforms, some archival institutions in Kazakhstan have been renamed, which may cause some initial confusion among researchers.
C. EHRI identification and description results on Kazakhstan
C.I. In Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan, EHRI identified some twenty archival institutions which hold or may hold Holocaust-relevant material. Five of and the most important of them are concentrated in the republic’s former capital, Almaty. The Central State Archive alone stores about 3,000 fonds, and the regional archives of Nur-Sultan (the new capital), Karaganda and Shymkent hold a similarly impressive number of collections. In fact, the Central State Archive has uploaded some evacuation-related documents online: http://www.cga.kz/index.php?module=showonline&do=more&id=3. Given the scale of mass evacuation to Kazakhstan, many Holocaust-relevant collections are either known to be stored or can be expected to be found in the country’s archives. Of special interest might be documents related to Hungarian Jewish soldiers who were imprisoned in Kazakhstan as prisoners of war along with other Hungarian soldiers.
C.II. In other countries
Outside of Kazakhstan, EHRI has identified and partially described archival institutions and/or collections that may prove relevant to Holocaust research on Kazakhstan, for instance the State Archives of the Russian Federation and the Russian State Archives of Socio-Political History (former Central Communist Party Archive) in Moscow hold records and circulars sent to various Socialist Republics and have a large fonds concerning evacuation. In Israel, Yad Vashem holds documentation from archives in Kazakhstan from 1930 to 1960 and the Archives of the History of the Jewish people in Jerusalem also hold a handful of collections related to this period. Furthermore, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stores selected records from the Central State Archive of Kazakhstan as as well as certain regional records containing data about thousands of evacuees and refugees.