Monday, June 24, 2024

Putin Must Avoid Kolchak’s Mistakes on National Question, ‘Soveshenno Sekretno’ Historian Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 17 – The Russian past offers many lessons for the present and not just those the current powers that be want people to draw. Among those unlearned lessons, Sergey Lozenko of Sovershenno Sekretno says, is one that comes from the disasters that followed from Aleksandr Kolchak’s failure to take the nationality question seriously.

            In a 2,000-word article entitled “Kolchak’s Nationality Question,” the historian says what the leaders of the White Movement routinely underestimated the importance of ethnic issues and believed that any problems in that area could be solved by force alone. The result was disaster (

            Lozenko devotes particular attention to the ways in which Kolchak ignored and then sought to repress Ukrainian nationalism in the Russian Far East. His intelligence operatives told him that ethnic Ukrainians there wanted to split off that region from Russia and that he had no choice but to use force against them.

            That is precisely what he did, alienating many Ukrainians there and driving some of them into the hands of the Bolsheviks. But at the same time, Kolchak chose to rely on units raised by Ukrainian military leaders, only to see these forces later change sides and fight against him including at the Volga, thus preventing a link up with Denikin that might have led to victory.

            The details Lozenko provides are fascinating and convincing. But it is his conclusion about Kolchak’s failure and the lessons it has for today that are especially noteworthy. He writes that the inability of the White Russian leaders to “realize the significance of nationality policy and provide a unifying idea for the representatives of the peoples in Russia led to disaster.”

            And he ends by asserting that “it is necessary to draw lessons from this history in order to promptly identify and forestall challenges that are emerging today.” Few who read his article will fail to see the parallels he is drawing between Ukrainians then and now and between Admiral Kolchak and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 


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