Staunton, May 26 – The combination of Moscow’s pressure on the non-Russians and the centenary of the Russian civil war is attracting attention to documents from the past that reveal a great deal about the thinking of Soviet leaders on issues that continue to agitate the leaders and population of the Russian Federation.
In Kazan’s Business-Gazeta, journalist Mikhail Birin reports that “close to the end of the Civil War, on September 22, 1922, Joseph Stalin sent a letter to Vladimir Lenin declaring that “We have come to a situation when the existing order of relations between the center and the borderlands, i.e., the complete lack of any order and complete chaos, has become intolerable” (business-gazeta.ru/article/383540).
“Thus, Birin continues, Stalin “demanded an end to ‘games about the independence of the republics … For the four years of the Civil War when we in view of the intervention were forced to demonstrate the liberalism of Moscow on the nationality question, we have raised up communists … who demand real independence in all senses.’”
Such people, Stalin continued, “’view the interference of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party as deception and hypocrisy on the part of Moscow.’” They must be stopped, and Stalin “insisted on the most rapid possible replacement of formal (fictional) independence by real autonomy.”
Stalin viewed the proper course as imposing party control over all other institutions of power “both at the center and in the localities – in all oblasts and krays of Soviet Russia and in particular in its young republics,” the Kazan journalist says. He sent his own people there, replacing many quickly who proved unable to impose Moscow’s will.
It does not require much imagination to extrapolate Stalin’s judgment on the sources of Moscow’s concessionary policy to the non-Russians in the first years of power and on his need to change it once that pressure was reduce to Vladimir Putin’s on the sources of post-Soviet Russia’s handling of the non-Russian republics after 1991 and his approach since 2000.