Thursday, December 15, 2022

Stalin Opposed Having a Separate Ethnic Russian Republic, Newly Released Document Shows

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 14 – The portal and the “Documented Past telegram channel of the Russian State Archives has published a letter Stalin sent to members of the Politburo in February 23 raising questions that arose again at the end of Soviet times and reverberate to this day: could and should Moscow create an ethnic Russian republic?

            The peoples’ commissar for nationality policy at the time and future dictator of the USSR distributed his letter on this point to the Bolshevik leadership less than two months after the treaty establishing the USSR was signed and well before it was ratified and went into effect (

            Stalin noted that four entities had signed the union treaty, two union republics--Ukraine and Belarus  -- and two federations – the RSFSR which included autonomies that at that time extended into Central Asia and Kazakhstan and the Trans-Caucasian SFSR which included Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.

            That raised the question, the nationalities chief said, as to whether the autonomous republics of the federations should be allowed to join the Union as full-fledged republics and sign the union treaty as Ukraine and Georgia, something he suggested certain non-Russian comrades were pushing.

            Such an arrangement would have advantages, Stalin conceded since it would “simplify the structure of the new state.” But it would have one very negative consequence: it would force the country to address “a poorly resolved dilemma – what then should b done with the Russian people?”

            Were autonomous republics allowed to become union republics and join the USSR in that capacity, that would “destroy the RSFSR” because it would “oblige us to create a separate Russian republic,” an action that would require redrawing many borders and could leave many major cities in the hands of non-Russians.

            That could lead to disaster, he continued, because it would leave the Russian people with “nowhere to go” and would force the Bolshevik government to “formalize the status” of ethnic Russians in ways that could have unpredictably but potentially dangerous consequences.

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