** Soviet Communism ethnicity

Soviet Communism: Ethnicity

Figure 1.--Ethnicity was a huge threat to the Soviet Uniin as it is to any multi-ethnic empire. As a result any expression of etnicity was dangerous in the Soviet Union. This was especially true during the Stalinist era, but even after Stalin it was dangerous. One of the few expressions of ethnicity permitted was children wearing ethnic costumes for dancing performances. Here we see Kindergarten childrn about 1960. They are wearing folk iytdits and are presumably learning folk dances. we are not sure what ethnicity is involved, perhaps Bylorussian or Ukranian.

The Tsarist Empire was a huge multi-ethnic empire which stretched from Eastern Europe to the Far East, at one time even including North America (Alaska). It was populated by more than 120 different ethnic groups. The Soviet Union was built on the Tsarist structure, making it the last great land empire. The Russian heartland dominated the Tsarist state and then the Soviet state, despite propaganda to the contrary and Stlin's Georgizm origins. And it was the Russians that were from the beginning the most supportive of both Tsardom and Soviet Communism. A few parts of the Empire on the northwestern fringe (Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland) managed to achieve independence after the Revolution, but had to fight the Red Army to do so. Most Tsarist possessions like Ukraine filed and would pay a terrible price. The Soviet Union was organized into 16 different republics (the mumber varied slightly over time), each with a basically ethnic base. Lenin began the process of building a Soviet state and people from thid varied population. Stalin intenified the process and through unbelievable brutality applied by the NKVD and the creation of a vast Gulag which both killed people in the millions and provided a slave work force. The result was to slaughter national elites in an effort to create a new Soviet people out of the various ethnic groups inherited from the Tsarist Empire. The various actions against the ethnic/national minorities has been chronicled in great detail. [Solzhenitsyn] The Soviet Union was a vast country, but huge areas more than half the country was sparsely settled and in many areas virtually uninhabited. One of the goals of the Gulag was to force a work force into these sparsely populated often onhispitable areas, many in the far north. World War II offered another opportunity to purse this policy. Stalin ordered the NKVD to move whole ethnic groups designated 'traitor nations' to the uninhabited areas of Central Asia with great brutality. This meant that some 60 million people were living outside their republics. (This was a policy of empires begaon in Mdsopotamia since the dawn of civilization.) Any ethnic expression was potentially very dangerous as Soviet leaders understood the potential devisive potential. World War II also enabled Stalin to regain control over the people who has escaped Soviet clutches after the Revolution--all but Finland. Despite the brutality of the Stalin's NKVD/KGB, nationalist feeling and rivalries were supressed, but not eliminated. And after Stalin's death when the brutality of the NKVD receeded, the expression of ethnic feeling became more pronounced. And with it demandsd from the individual republics for greater autonomy and eventually independence. The number of people living outside their republic was a further irritant. It was a recipie for national disaster. And as a result of the inherent inefficencies of scocialist command economics, economic problems intensified in the 1970s and became severe in the 80s--essentially the spark that would blow apart the Soviet Union. Gorbechev's idelistic half measures only served to intensify the ethnic divide. [Graham]


Graham, James. "Ethnic problems in the Soviet Union," On ThisDay Website.

Solzhenitsyn, Alexsanddr I. Trans, Thomas P. Wjitney. The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-56: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (Harper & Row: New York, 1973), 660p.


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Created: 6:37 PM 11/23/2021
Last updated: 6:37 PM 11/23/2021