Staunton, Nov. 14 – The life and ideas of Mirsaid Sultan-Galiyev, the founder of Muslim national communism and the proponent of genuine federalism in Soviet Russia who was ultimately purged and killed on Stalin’s order are continuing to attract attention in Tatarstan and more broadly.
(For background on this Bolshevik dissident and the revival of interest in him in the last year, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/sultan-galiyev-now-having-his-day-in.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/sultan-galiyev-warned-ussr-would.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/04/muslim-national-communists-played.html).
Now, in a new article for Milliard.Tatar, historian Niyaz Akhmadullin calls particular attention to three events in Sultan-Galiyev’s life – his role in the destruction of the Idel-Ural movement, his defense of federalism against Stalin’s centralism, and his destruction by the Stalinist state (milliard.tatar/news/mirsaid-sultan-galiev-pervaya-zertva-stalina-1136).
First of all, Akhmadullin points out, Sultan-Galiyev played a key role in stopping the creation of the Idel-Ural Republic. In early 1918, following democratic and legitimate principles, the Second All-Russian Muslim Military Congress called for the creation of such a state. But before it could be proclaimed on March 1, the Bolsheviks moved to suppress it.
The Bolshevik leaders viewed the creation of such a republic as a threat to themselves because they believed it might open the way for anti-Bolshevik White Russians to move through Kazan to Moscow. They thus proposed instead the establishment of a Tatar-Bashkir Republic, and Sultan-Galiyev, their man on the scene, arrested the leaders of Idel-Ural.
The Bolsheviks weren’t strong enough to hold them for long, and they didn’t keep their promise to form a Tatar-Bashkir Republic. But in the murky maneuverings to block Idel-Ural, Akhmadullin says, Sultan-Galiyev played the key role in confusing the situation by having the advocates of that state detained for a period. Indeed, his role was “decisive.”
Had Sultan-Galiyev taken a different decision, the Tatar historian suggests, the subsequent history of the Middle Volga and indeed all of Russia might have been entirely different.
Second, the historian says, more than anyone else, Sultan-Galiyev defended the principle of federalism that Lenin had announced against Stalin who already by 1923 had gained control of the party apparatus and was able to defeat him in the name of central control and party discipline.
Stalin denounced Sultan-Galiyev as a national deviationist who was “undermining the united revolutionary movement. And that led to the third sequence of events now being recalled: the arret of Sultan-Galiyev, his expulsion from the Bolshevik Party, his eventual re-arrest and his execution.
In his memoirs, Leon Trotsky cites the observation of Lev Kamenyev, one of the Old. Bolsheviks closed to Lenin. “Remember the arrest of Sultan-Galiyev in 1923?” he observed. “This Was the first arrest of an important member of the party carried out at the initiative of Stalin. Zinovyev and I unhappily gave our agreement.” All were then destroyed by the Kremlin.