Boris Lvin (bbb) wrote,
Boris Lvin
bbb

Терри Мартин о национальной политике 30-х годов

Почти шесть лет назад мне довелось дать линк на короткую статью Терри Мартина, и даже привести несколько пространных цитат из нее (http://bbb.livejournal.com/1118892.html?thread=4941484#t4941484). Статья эта мне кажется очень важной. Она, конечно, суммирует результаты его великой книги, но это суммирование проводится так логично и последовательно, что приобретает самостоятельную концептуальную ценность.

С тех пор многое изменилось, Ник Бэрон удалил свой сайт и статья Мартина исчезла из сети. Собственно, это была даже не статья, а выступление на ежегодной конференции BASEES 2002 года.

Терри Мартин был столь любезен, что откликнулся на мою просьбу и прислал мне текст этого выступления, добавив, что оно так и осталось не опубликованным ни в каком виде. Считаю, что оно заслуживает того, чтобы снова вернуться в публичный доступ.

*********************

TERRY MARTIN

THE SOVIET NATIONALITIES POLICY IN THE 1930s: WAS IT FUNDAMENTALLY INCOHERENT?



As is often the case with conference papers, when one volunteers a topic a year ahead of time, one is not always happy with one’s title when it comes time to write the paper. In my case, I proposed my title because I wanted to develop further a conclusion I had come to in the course of writing my book, The Affirmative Action Empire, namely that while the original nationalities policy adopted by the new Bolshevik regime in 1923 was logically extraordinarily coherent, if highly utopian, the revised policy that emerged in the years from 1933 to 1938, while much more pragmatic, was nevertheless filled with some serious logical contradictions, primarily because it was formulated in an ad hoc fashion rather than theorized from first principles. [1] Of course, as soon as I set down to write the paper, I realized that I was privileging a particular form of coherence – the one intellectuals tend to favor – namely, logical intellectual coherence rather than a pragmatic, on-the-ground policy coherence that is the more proper goal of working politicians, as opposed to radical theorists. In fact, much of my effort in my book was devoted to showing that, once implemented, the original, logical, utopian policy of the 1920s led to various contradictions and that the revised policy adopted in the 1930s was – for the particular state socialist dictatorship that had by then emerged – more successful. So I will back away from my title’s contrast between a ‘coherent’ 1920s and ‘incoherent’ 1930s, and indeed from the word ‘coherence’ itself, but still address the same question that prompted my original title. For it does seem to me that the revised nationalities policy adopted in the years 1933 to 1938, because of its pragmatic mixing of incompatible policy elements, did indeed have certain striking logical tensions, or even contradictions, that had long-term implications for the unity of the Soviet state. The purpose of this paper will be to trace the origins and implications of those particular contradictions.

To that end, I will first very briefly sketch out the logical premises of the original Soviet nationalities policy, as I see them. [2] The Bolsheviks - or rather Lenin and Stalin, for they were the two key figures in formulating nationalities policy – were properly impressed with the threat of nationalism in the modern world. Their respect for nationalism was greatly augmented by both their experience of nationalist mobilization during the Russian Revolution and Civil War – particularly in Ukraine where nationalism had not previously been seen as a serious threat [3] – as well as by the example of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire along national lines. The Bolsheviks had a unifying principle, socialism, that they believed could substitute for the integrating role of nationalism in the nation-state (or imperialism in the form of empire). However, separatist nationalism was a potential threat to the unifying principle of socialism, if the non-Russian peoples should perceive the central state as Russian rather than as international and socialist. As Bukharin put it in 1923, "when we tax [the non-Russian peasantry] their discontent takes on a national form, is given a national interpretation, which is then exploited by our opponents." [4]

The original Soviet nationalities policy was a preventative or prophylactic strategy to forestall the emergence of separatist nationalism by supporting what Stalin later called the "forms" of nationhood, in particular, the following four national "forms": territories, elites, languages, and "cultures". National territories meant, in the 1920s, not only the now-independent union republics, or the still mostly existing autonomous republics and regions, but literally thousands of national districts and village soviets. National elites meant that the governments, economic enterprises and educational institutions in those national territories should be staffed primarily, though not exclusively, with members of the "titular" nationality. National languages meant that the language of government in those territories should be the national language. [This proved to be by far the most difficult task and was rarely implemented in more than a superficial fashion] [5]. National "cultures" requires a little more unpacking for, in fact, Bolshevik plans for the social transformation of the country did not allow for any fundamentally distinctive religious, legal, ideological or customary features [6]. The Bolshevik term natsional’naia kul’tura is probably better translated as "national identity", for Soviet policy did systematically promote the distinctive national identity and national self-consciousness of its non-Russian populations through the aggressive promotion of symbolic markers of national identity: national folklore, museums, dress, food, costumes, opera, poets, progressive historical events and classic literary works.

[I should note here parenthetically that the main theoretical contradiction in the original Bolshevik nationalities policy, from the perspective of current understandings of national identity, is this belief that one can separate out the "form" and "content" of national culture and support the former while suppressing the latter. Social identity theory would instead posit that "form" is "content": that is, that the fundamental motivating fact is individuals’ belief that they form a distinctive group and that "content" – in the form of ethnocentric behavior – will flow naturally from this identification]. [7]

The original Bolshevik policy of supporting the "forms" of nationhood is by now quite familiar to Soviet specialists. [8] Less clear, however, is our understanding of the role assigned to the Russians in this scheme, although this was probably the most important single aspect of the policy. I have described the goal of the Soviet nationalities policy as defusing nationalism by promoting the forms of nationhood, but a better summary might be that it was a conscious strategy to prevent the emergence among non-Russians of the subjective perception that they were living in a Russian empire. Mark Beissinger, in an important recent article, has convincingly argued that empire is largely useless as an objective analytical term – the search for the objective features that characterize an "empire" is as chimerical as the similar longstanding search for the objective features of the "nation" – but extremely important as a subjective category of experience. [9] For, in the contemporary age of nationalism, to be labeled and perceived as an empire means to be categorized as a state that will eventually and inevitable collapse along national lines.

Lenin and Stalin understood this fact, and therefore the Soviet Union was explicitly conceived as an anti-imperial state in both its foreign and its domestic policies. Russians, therefore, were originally required to downplay their national identity. There was no Russian Communist Party and no Russian republic (only a multi-national all-Russian federated republic- the RSFSR); Russians alone were ineligible for Soviet affirmative action policies; while the Russian language remained dominant in practice, its status was formally downgraded in the national territories where Russians were asked to learn and use the native languages; and much of traditional Russian culture was scapegoated as the culture of oppression and empire. This formally unequal national status of the Russians was institutionalized in the "greater danger" principle, which stated that Russian nationalism, as the nationalism of the former oppressor, was more dangerous than the non-Russian nationalisms of the formerly oppressed. Ironically, this preserved the national structure of the old empire as, in an important sense, the Russians remained the Soviet Union’s state-bearing people, only now they were asked to accept a formally unequal national status to further the cohesion of the anti-imperial multinational state.

Such was the logic of the nationalities policy that the Soviet state attempted to implement beginning, roughly speaking, in 1923. I cannot go into the rather elaborate story of how the Soviet leadership became disenchanted with this policy, [10] but will instead baldly state four conclusions that I believe Stalin had reached by the end of 1932; first and foremost, that aggressively supporting the forms of nationhood had not defused nationalism, but was in some cases even exacerbating it and, in particular, had led to the phenomenon of "national Communism" whereby republican Communist parties were using appeals to the Soviet nationalities policy to oppose their parochial interests to the interests of the "center"; second, that this had led to greater opposition to the Soviet Union’s most important domestic policy campaign – collectivization and dekulakization – in the non-Russian regions of the Soviet Union [11]; third, that this was a potentially serious foreign policy concern given the potential for foreign nations to influence cross-border minority populations in the Soviet Union (Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, Tajiks, etc.); and fourth, that the Soviet nationalities policy had produced considerable resentment among the Russian population, in particular Russian members of the Communist Party. In short, the original Soviet nationalities policy had failed to provide a sufficient integrating national principle for the multiethnic Soviet state and needed to be revised substantially.

This revision took place in a piecemeal fashion in the period from 1933 to 1938. [12] By using the word "revision", I want to emphasize that these changes did not involve the abolition of the original Soviet policy of "indigenization" (or korenizatsiia) as is so often falsely asserted. This policy was certainly downgraded in priority, scaled back and, above all, no longer incessantly publicized, but archival evidence makes clear that Soviet policy continued to involve the support for non-Russian territories (though far fewer), elites, languages (though much less so), and identities (perhaps even more so). The primary innovation was the rehabilitation of the Russians. [13] Initially this seemed to mean that the Russians were to be a nation like others, whose socialistically correct cultural heroes and literature could be celebrated, but quite quickly the Russians came to be portrayed as superior, the "first among equals" of the Soviet nationalities, the most revolutionary nation, the glue that held together the great Soviet Friendship of the Peoples. This ubiquitous metaphor was significant as it imagined the Soviet Union quite clearly as a multinational composite. Russians were given a central, superior status, but Russification was neither implied nor was it pursued. [14] Indeed, a second less conscious process that came to fruition during the 1930s was what I will call the "primordialization" of nationality: the increasing emphasis on the deep historical roots of modern nations, a continuity in essence extending back hundreds, if not thousands of years into the past. [15] This directly contradicted the constructivist interpretation of nationality as a fundamentally modern phenomenon of the era of capitalism that was at the heart of Lenin and Stalin’s pre-revolutionary writings and the original Soviet nationalities policy. The primordialization of nationality was most notoriously institutionalized by the 1938 decree that required individuals to adopt the nationality of their parents in their passport and that forbade any future changes in one’s passport nationality. [16] Until that point, one could always choose one’s nationality and, in the 1920s, the re-identification of the russified Bolshevik leader, Grigorii Petrovskii, as a Ukrainian was celebrated as a triumph of the Soviet nationalities policy.

This primordialization of nationality leads us directly to the first and most overt contradiction of the revised policy. For at the exact same time of a pronounced trend towards priomordialization, from 1933 to 1938, there was also a striking counter-trend in the direction of rehabilitating the idea of voluntary assimilation. In the 1920s, nationality was officially conceived of as constructed and historically contingent, and individuals were free to change their nationality, but such voluntary assimilation was strongly discouraged on the grounds that the only reason to assimilate was objectively unequal national conditions, which the Soviet nationalities policy was explicitly designed to overcome. To forestall the invidious necessity of assimilation, tens of thousands of national territories were established down to the village level and national schools and other institutions were provided for minorities in urban and rural areas. The combination of a constructivist view of nationality and a marked hostility to assimilation is, perhaps, a paradox, but it is not a contradiction. [Nor is it particularly uncommon; it is at the heart of multiculturalism in the United States and Canada]. [17]

As part of the pragmatic trend in Soviet nationalities policy in the 1930s, the vast majority of these small national territories were abolished as both inefficient and as exacerbating local ethnic tensions. [18] By 1939, only 51 national territories remained (those that would, by and large, remain until 1991). At the same time, most national minority institutions, in particular schools, outside these 51 territories were abolished. This was particularly the case in the Russian regions of the RSFSR (that is, the RSFSR minus its autonomous republics and oblasts). [19] Logically, this implied assimilation and these reforms were indeed accompanied by propaganda in favor of the "right" of voluntary assimilation. I. Tajiev, the Uzbek head of the Soviet of Nationalities, publicly declared that he sent his children to Russian-language schools. [20] In both the 1937 and 1939 censuses – bracketing the 1938 primordialist passport decree – propaganda emphasized the right of individuals to choose their nationality. [21] Here lies, then, the contradiction between the institutionalization of nationality at the republican level, which implied assimilation, and at the personal passport level, which implied a primordial continuity of identity. [22]

This first contradiction leads naturally to a second, that between the practice of nation-building and nation-destroying. Prior to the opening of the Soviet archives, we were already aware of the 1937 deportation of the Koreans and the World War II-era deportations of the Germans, Crimeans, Chechens and several other nations. [23] Archival evidence has revealed that we greatly underestimated the scope of national repression in the late 1930s. At least nine nationalities were subjected to ethnic cleansing by 1938 and over a dozen were specifically targeted in the national operations of the Great Terror in 1937-38. [24] As long as the false impression that Soviet nation-building had ceased in the 1930s prevailed, this change in policy was comprehensible: national concessions had given way to national repressions, just as with the peasantry and intelligentsia. However, we now have to ask the question of how nation-building and nation-destroying could and did co-exist through to the death of Stalin. In many ways, this contradiction replicates the previous one. It is difficult to imagine the category of enemy nation – which simply did not exist in the canonical texts on nationality by Lenin and Stalin – without the primordialization of nationality; and it is likewise clear that the practice of nation-destroying accelerated the primordialization of nationality. Why else destroy a nation if its essence is not irreparably flawed? When we turn to practice, however, we find that the designation of enemy nations is extremely contingent. Prior to 1939, it is diaspora nationalities (including Poles, Czechs, Romanians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians) who are systematically targeted; with the Communization of many of these people’s "homelands" they became "friends". This combination of seemingly essentialist and tactical terror has confused many scholars. [25] It naturally also confused many non-Russians.

The third and most fundamental contradiction arose from the combination of the 1920s-era policy of non-Russian nation-building, a policy whose entire raison d’etre was to convince non-Russians that they were not living in a Russian imperial state, with the 1930s-era innovation of explicitly, publicly and quite crassly celebrating Russian priority within that state. This policy certainly had the potential to produce the worst of both worlds. On the one hand, non-Russians were systematically being inculcated with the belief that they were distinct nations with their own national cultural identity – indeed with a primordially-understood identity that reached back centuries in time and whose essence was shared with all co-nationals (and was registered on their passports) – and whose nations had the right to self-determination. On the other hand, they were told that Russians were a superior, benevolent elder brother whose paternalistic care for them was not just a fact of current Soviet realities but also extended back deep into the pre-revolutionary past. In many ways, this would seem like a conscious and highly effective recipe for producing the subjective perception of empire.

The potential for the subjective perception of empire was exacerbated by the repression of entire enemy nations. Although this policy affected only a very small percentage of the overall non-Russian population, it contaminated the perception of other repressive actions by creating the image of an anti-national "center". While unlike many scholars, I do see some role for the Ukrainian national factor in the famine of 1932-33, I agree that this was principally an action that targeted peasants. However, there is considerable evidence that it was already at the time perceived nationally and certainly came over time to be perceived as a specifically Ukrainian famine. [26] Similarly, the show trials of the non-Russian "bourgeois intelligentsia" from 1928 to 1931 had nothing to do with specifically targeting non-Russians, as similar show trials of members of the Russian intelligentsia took place. It is clear that the target was the "bourgeois intelligentsia". Period. However, given the image of the center as nation-destroyer, these trials gradually came to be seen as an assault on the non-Russian intelligentsia because of their nationality. Further research would be required to determine when this perception began to emerge in different republics. My impression is that it was primarily a post-Stalin phenomenon, and mostly confined to a narrow segment of the intelligentsia until the glasnost’ period. But the roots clearly lay in the contradictions of the 1930s policy.

On the other hand, there was also potential for Russian discontent with their role as "elder brother". While the rhetoric of fraternal assistance might have been cloying, Nove and Newth found that the Central Asian republics really did benefit disproportionately from central economic allocations. [27] Moreover, the policy of non-Russian nation-building did in the long term have a real effect. By the 1980s, survey data revealed that both Russians and titular nationals believed that in most of the union republics – Belorussia, Ukraine, and Moldova being the exceptions – titular nationals were favored in employment and educational opportunities. The offspring of Russians and titular nationals most often chose to register themselves in their passports as titulars. [28] By the 1970s, there was a net outflow of Russians from the three Transcaucasus republics; and by the 1980s, a net outflow from the four southern Central Asia republics as well. Both the 1920s and 1930s policies encouraged Russians alone to identify nationally with the Soviet Union and with the all-union Communist Party, and there never was a pure Russian republic or a Russian Communist Party. All evidence suggests that most Russians were by and large content with their national status, though a part of the dissident intelligentsia – Solzhenitsyn being the most famous exemplar – had already begun to complain of the burden of empire. [29] The outburst of non-Russian nationalism in the Gorbachev period and the Yeltsin’s team’s seizure of the RSFSR government created a brief moment when the "burden of empire" argument seemed persuasive to enough of the Russian elite to allow for the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet Union. [30]

I am, of course, far from arguing that the collapse of the Soviet Union was made inevitable, or even probable, by the contradictions I have outlined in the 1930s nationalities policy. Much occurred between 1938 and 1991. However, it does seem to me that the subjective perception of empire among non-Russians and of the burden of empire among Russians was important, perhaps even crucial, in the final collapse of the Soviet Union and that the structural roots of this perception do lie in the ad hoc policy changes made in the mid-1930s.

Belmont MA
March 2002


[1] Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (Cornell UP, 2001).
[2] The following five paragraphs summarize argumentation in Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire, chap. 1.
[3] On Ukraine, see Andrea Graziosi, Bol’sheviki i krestiane na Ukraine (Moscow, 1997).
[4] Dvenadtsatyi s’’ezd RKP/b/. Stenograficheskii otchet (Moscow, 1968): 612.
[5] Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire, chaps. 3-4. Gerhard Simon, Nationalism and Policy Toward the Nationalities in the Soviet Union (Boulder Colo., 1991).
[6] Gregory Massell, The Surrogate Proletariat: Moslem Women and Revolutionary Strategies in Soviet Central Asia, 1919-1929 (Princeton NJ, 1974); Douglas Northrop, "Uzbek Women and the Veil: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia" (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1999).
[7] On Social Identity Theory, see John C. Turner, Social Influence (Pacific Grove CA, 1991).
[8] Classic statements are Ronald Grigor Suny, The Revenge of the Past (Stanford CA, 1993); Yuri Slezkine, "The USSR as a Communal Apartment, or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism" Slavic Review (1994): 414-452. Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe (Oxford, 1996).
[9] Mark Beissinger, "The Persisting Ambiguity of Empire" Post-Soviet Affairs (1995): 149-84.
[10] Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire, chaps. 2-7.
[11] For evidence that this was so, see Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire, chap. 8; and Lynne Viola, Peasant Rebels under Stalin (Oxford, 1996).
[12] Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire, chaps. 8-11.
[13] David Brandenberger, "The ‘Short Course’ to Modernity: Stalinist History Textbooks, Mass Culture and the Formation of Popular Russian National Identity" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1999).
[14] Peter Blitstein, "Nation-Building or Russification? Obligatory Russian Instruction in the Soviet Non-Russian School, 1938-1953" in Ronald Grigor Suny and Terry Martin eds., A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Building in the Age of Lenin and Stalin (Oxford UP, 2001): 253-74.
[15] Mark Saroyan, Minorities, Mullahs and Modernity (Berkeley CA, 1997); Yuri Slezkine, Arctic Mirrors (Cornell UP, 1994). Terry Martin, "Modernization or Neo-Traditionalism: Ascribed Nationality and Stalinist Primordialism" in Sheila Fitzpatrick ed., Stalinism: New Approaches (London, 2000): 348-67.
[16] Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire, 451.
[17] Charles Taylor, Multiculturalism (Princeton UP, 1992).
[18] Terry Martin, "Borders and Ethnic Conflict: The Soviet Experiment in Ethnoterritorial Proliferation" Jahrbucher fuer Geschichte Osteuropas (1999): 538-55.
[19] Terry Martin, "The Russification of the RSFSR" Cahiers du monde russe (1998): 99-118.
[20] Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire, 408-09.
[21] Francine Hirsch, "The Soviet Union as a Work-in-Progress: Ethnographers and the Category Nationality in the 1926, 1937 and 1939 Censuses" Slavic Review (1997): 251-78.
[22] As emphasized by Brubaker, Nationalism reframed.
[23] Robert Conquest, The Nation Killers (1977); Aleksandr Nekrich, The Punished Peoples (New York, 1978).
[24] Terry Martin, "The Origins of Soviet Ethnic Cleansing" Journal of Modern History (1998): 813-61.
[25] For an interpretation that emphasizes only the essentialist elements of terror, see Amir Weiner, Making Sense of War (Princeton UP, 2001).
[26] Robert Conquest, Harvest of Sorrow (New York, 1986).
[27] Alec Nove and J. A. Newth, The Soviet Middle East: A Model for Development? (London, 1967).
[28] Robert Kaiser, The Geography of Nationalism in Russia and the USSR (Princeton NJ, 1994): 250-324.
[29] John Dunlop, The Faces of Contemporary Russian Nationalism (Princeton NJ, 1983).
[30] Roman Szporluk, Russia, Ukraine, and the Breakup of the Soviet Union (Stanford CA, 2000).
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