Thursday, October 4, 2018

Was the Soviet Annexation of Tuva in 1944 Illegal?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 4 – Soviet, Russian and Tuvan historians have always insisted that the Soviet Union’s absorption of Tuva in 1944 was entirely legal, the result of a request by the legislature of that nominally independent country and its acceptance by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. But in fact, Kristina Rudich points out, there are serious problems with that narrative.

            In an article for Russian-7, the journalist says that historians have noted that the Maly Khural of Tuva as its legislature is called lacked the authority to make such a request and that Moscow’s acceptance violated Soviet law since it was made by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet rather than by that body as a whole (

            In reality, historians say, the decision was taken by Stalin personally, a leader who cared little for legal niceties if they got in the way of what he wanted to do.  Rudich cites the work of Ukrainian historian Ivanna Ostroshenko on this issue, a Kyiv scholar who has written detailed studies of this most murky of Soviet decisions.

            According to Ostroshenko, there were many reasons for Stalin’s decision to absorb the former Soviet protectorate ( First, wolfram, gold and uranium had just been discovered there, and Stalin wanted to make sure that Moscow controlled access to these natural resources which had become increasingly important for military needs.

            Second, the Ukrainian scholar says, Moscow was interested in gaining access to the horned stock in Tuva as part of its plan to develop Soviet agriculture after the war.  And third, Stalin was keenly aware of the complexities of the international situation in the Far East and viewed this move as providing Moscow will a base for operation.

            But here may have been a fourth reason, one that Ostroshenko takes from the writings of British Sovietologist Walter Kolarz. According to him, “the Soviet Union needed to defend the Kuzbass,” the major coal and industrial center near the Chinese and Mongolian borders and
could use a Soviet Tuva to do so.

            And there may even have been a fifth reason, the Kyiv scholar and Rudich says.  “It is not excluded,” the latter writes, that Moscow wanted to block any Move to absorb Tuva in the name of a Greater Mongolia or even was thinking about creating in southern Siberia, “a full-fledged Turkic Soviet Republic which would include Tuva, the Altay (Oirotia) and Khakassia.”

            The Russia-7 journalist points out that this last idea in fact “was discussed both in Siberia and in Moscow but in the end was not carried out.”

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