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The Russian Empire, the former «prison of nations», where the tsarist autocracy pursued a policy of national oppression in the border regions, as expressed in the famous dictum of the ideologist of tsarism Pobedonostsev «Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality» is again the ideal for the ruling class of modern capitalist Russia. Th empire, which at the beginning of the XX century gave the world three landmark words: vodka, Cossack and pogrom, appears to us as a ghost, which is called from the grave of history by reactionaries and chauvinists of all stripes. On ists way there are revolutionary ideological impediments of Bolshevism, which has not allowed up to this point the spirits of the old world to acquire  flesh and blood.

And now, one hundred years after the Great October Socialist Revolution, we once again appeal to the noble heritage of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who were able to raise the banner of the liberation of all peoples from the yoke of capital, which eventually led to the destruction of the global colonial system of imperialism. In a period of a new intensification of inter-imperialist contradictions, unprecedented global crisis of capitalism, there are again harbingers of an uprising of the masses. These masses once again raised the issue of fair and equitable union of peoples and a new society free from exploitation and oppression. The successful experience of the Russian revolution as regards socialist construction and the solution of the national question is always the example, which certainly the future generations will try to utilize.


The right of nations to self-determination and the formation of the Bolshevik position

The right of nations to self-determination was included by Russian marxists in the 9th paragraph of the minimum program of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) and supported by the majority of delegates at the II Congress in 1903. This section (of the delegates) later called themselves «Bolsheviks». In general, figures from the  RSDLP supported many of the provisions put forward by Karl Kautsky which were based on the resolution of the Second International Congress. The essence of this principle was developed by Vladimir Lenin in his work «On the right of nations to self-determination» in 1914, shortly before the First World War, where he was in dispute with the Polish Social Democracy of Rosa Luxemburg and elaborated the Bolshevik position on this issue.

The Bolsheviks then accepted the «theory of stages» in their analysis and the forecast of development of the revolutionary process in the world and in Russia and considered the historical perspective of the East through the prism of the upcoming bourgeois-democratic revolutions. The trend of many colonial and marginal peoples to self-determination, the emergence of mass movements after the first Russian revolution, required that party have  a clear and principled position in support of this struggle.

Lenin shrewdly and correctly pointed out that » In Eastern Europe and Asia the period of bourgeois-democratic revolutions did not begin until 1905. The revolutions in Russia, Persia, Turkey and China, the Balkan wars—such is the chain of world events of our period in our “Orient”. And only a blind man could fail to see in this chain of events the awakening of a whole series of bourgeois-democratic national movements which strive to create nationally independent and nationally uniform states. It is precisely and solely because Russia and the neighbouring countries are passing through this period that we must have a clause in our programme on the right of nations to self-determination. «[1]

In the theoretical discussion, Lenin, rejecting the positions of Luxembourg, which opposed the disconnection of Norway from Sweden and Poland from Russia and was limited only to the requirements of cultural autonomy, clearly revealed the importance of the fundamental position of the proletariat and its party on the national question and to grant the right to small nations for state independence. The struggle against their own imperialist powers, including against national oppression by the dominant nation, and in support of the liberation movement of the oppressed small nations, became one of the main aspects of the Bolshevik doctrine.

It is this position defined in the future success and strengthening the influence of Bolshevism in the national regions of the Russian Empire, to the strengthening of the RSDLP(b), as the internationalist party of the working class that led the struggle of various peoples for their social and political emancipation. The great-power chauvinists who were in the socialist and liberal environment of Lenin, were told by him in his work «On the right of nations to self-determination,» in no uncertain terms:

» To accuse those who support freedom of self-determination, i. e., freedom to secede, of encouraging separatism, is as foolish and hypocritical as accusing those who advocate freedom of divorce of encouraging the destruction of family ties. Just as in bourgeois society the defenders of privilege and corruption, on which bourgeois marriage rests, oppose freedom of divorce, so, in the capitalist state, repudiation of the right to self-determination, i. e., the right of nations to secede, means nothing more than defence of the privileges of the dominant nation and police methods of administration, to the detriment of democratic methods. «.[2]

The debate in the environment of Russian Social Democracy honed the views of the Bolsheviks, especially in disputes with the Mensheviks and liquidationists of all stripes. Important in the process of demarcation  of the Marxists in the revolutionary camp was the Stalin’s work «Marxism and the National Question,» written in Vienna in late 1912 — early 1913. It was then in the prewar period that was an active struggle of the RSDLP(b) against the bourgeois nationalists and compromisers among the Ukrainian and Georgian Mensheviks, the Polish «socialists» and the Constitutional Democrats from the regions, who tried to extend their own influence over the proletariat in these regions.

It should be noted that Lenin always examined the issue of self-determination in close connection with the issue of power: “The several demands of democracy, including self-determination, are not an absolute, but only a small part of the general-democratic (now: general-socialist) world movement. In individual concrete casts, the part may contradict the whole; if so, it must be rejected. It is possible that the republican movement in one country may be merely an instrument of the clerical or financial-monarchist intrigues of other countries; if so, we must not support this particular, concrete movement“[3]


The First Imperialist World War

The real practical final division and demarcation of international Social-Democracy took place in the First imperialist World War 1914-18, when as a result of the betrayal by the leadership of the dominant European social democratic parties the thoroughly decayed  II International collapsed. At this time the real role of conciliators and opportunists was clarified, who supported their own governments, and contributed to the development of the world war. Poisoning workers with chauvinistic propaganda, they became the real hirelings and tail of the bourgeoisie, as now they were called «guardians» who came together in a political union with the monarchy, militarism and the most reactionary forces.

The Bolsheviks at that time were amongst the few Europeans, and the only Social-Democrats, who directly and actively were against the war and against their own Tsarist government. The parliamentary group of the Bolsheviks in the Duma in August 1914 refused to vote for war credits. The RSDLP(b) from the outset urged the working class to fight against war and autocracy, revealing the essence of the predatory and imperialist character of world war. As a result, the Party was hit by the most severe repression, and the Bolshevik faction in the Duma, was arrested, tried and sent to prison in Siberia.

Despite the attacks on many Party organizations, the arrest of leading figures of the RSDLP(b) in Russia, the mobilization into the army in the tens of thousands of party members and supporters, this initiative was a milestone and a turning point in the history of Bolshevism,  an example of an uncompromising internationalist position. Subsequently, after the disappointment of the war, the masses saw in this action of the Bolsheviks, the only true and correct position, and that the consistent Marxists and socialists should have had.

During this period, the union of the Left Social-Democrats of different countries around the «Zimmerwald platform,» and then the «Zimmerwald Left», which raised the question of the consolidation of socialist forces, standing on the anti-war and internationalist positions, as well as the creation of a new organizational structure to replace the collapsed II International . And then there was a new crystallization of Bolshevism and similar groups around the struggle not only against the chauvinists and traitors, but also against the pacifists and Centrists, which created the cadres  and political bases and prerequisites for the formation of the new III International later.

Then the thesis oforthe transformation of the imperialist war into civil war was born, turning weapons against the domestic bourgeoisie and governments. This slogan was inseparable from the idea of ​​the world socialist revolution, the need for the overthrow of the bourgeois governments and the need for the seizure of power by the proletariat.

In discussions about the United States of Europe, Lenin made the fundamental conclusions that the new union of European nations after a bloody war, can be progressive only on the basis of socialism and in the case of the socialist revolution. Otherwise, it will only be the union of the European capitalists and a thoroughly reactionary Union:  » From the standpoint of the economic conditions of imperialism—i.e., the export of capital and the division of the world by the “advanced” and “civilised” colonial powers—a United States of Europe, under capitalism, is either impossible or reactionary. «[4]

Inside the country the RSDLP(b) acts from a position of revolutionary «defeatism», based on the requirements of the armed overthrow of the tsarist government and the withdrawal of Russia from the war. The Bolsheviks expressed their firm determination to wrest mankind from the clutches of finance capital and imperialism, called for the cancellation of all the secret treaties, for the organization of the  most extensive fraternization of the soldiers with the workers and peasants, in order achieve through revolutionary means a democratic peace between the nations, without annexations and reparations, on the basis of free self-determination of the peoples .

The position of the Bolsheviks and their supporters in the face of the left socialist groups in Europe demonstrated to all the absolute correctness of the Marxist analysis of the processes taking place. It was in the period at the end of the First World War, when the question of national self-determination entered the arena in a very intense way. As a result of the February Revolution, and then the October Socialist Revolution in Russia in 1917, the bourgeois-democratic revolutions in Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1918, the independence gained by the  peoples of Poland, Finland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Baltic states, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and the national liberation struggle of the colonial peoples broke out with new impetus.

This once again demonstrated that the right of nations to self-determination, as a part of the proletarian program is not «utopian» but revolutionary. On the one hand it was a blow against German, French, English right-wing Social Democrats and right-wing Russian Mensheviks and «defencists» who defamed the principle of national independence as «reactionary romanticism». On the other hand, it was a blow to the simplifier, who declared this principle feasible only under socialism and refused to give answers to national issues,which war brought to the fore in an urgent manner.

It is true that today, after the fall of the global colonial system, the various imperialist centres began to actively use separatist movements with the aim of dismembering various countries, changing existimng borders, in order to advance their economic and geopolitical goals. Consequently, in today’s conditions for the communist and workers’ parties, for the working class as a whole, the task emerges to highlight the common class interests of the workers against the imperialist economic interests, geopolitical plans, against imperialist war. These issues cannot be resolved in the interests of the people’s through the assistance of the imperialist powers of the USA, NATO and EU, on the basis of their ambitions.


October Socialist Revolution and the formation of the Federation of Soviet Republics (RSFSR)

The fall of the tsarist autocracy in Russia as a result of the February Revolution of 1917, demonstarted a complete inability of the Russian bourgeoisie and its political representatives – the constitutional democrats,  Right-wing Mensheviks and SRs in the framework of the Provisional Government- to resolve the pressing problems of the revolution. This resulted in the complete paralysis of the ruling classes on the question of peace, as well as regarding agrarian reform and the elimination of social classes, and the provision state independence and a wide autonomy of the national regions.

Moreover,  the rotating ministries were all together the collective government of the war to carry out tasks of the imperialist conquests in the framework the former Union of the Entente countries and the continuation of the counter-revolutionary objectives  of the previous policies of the autocracy against the oppressed peoples. But their initiatives were not destined to succeed in the situation of the army‘s and the the empire’s collapse, the economic disaster,  dual power that represented an extensive system of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. By September, after the suppression of the Kornilov revolt, the Bolsheviks began to dominate in teh Soviets who followed the new program for complete seizure of power by the Soviets («April theses»), developed by Lenin.

The Bolsheviks proclaimed an immediate peace, nationalization and redistribution of land, workers’ control, no confidence in the bourgeois government, the need for proletarian revolution and the establishment of Soviet power, and  finally the federalization of the country. This again emphasized that only the victorious proletariat can implement all the democratic tasks of the revolution, including for the peoples of the empire to have the right to self-determination, which after the conquest of power  to proceeds immediately to the destruction of the old order and to radical social transformation.

In fact, «April Theses» became the basic foundation for the complete «reformatting» of the revolutionary movement, the creation of a new Communist Party, the change of the program and the safeguarding of  the victory of the October Revolution in Russia. II Congress of Soviets on October 26 (November 7) 1917, authorized the armed overthrow of the Provisional Government and proclaimed the Soviet Republic of Russia, announced the decrees on peace, land, formed the Council of People’s Commissars (SNK), which created the Commissariat of Nationalities. The first People’s Commissar for Nationalities was the old Bolshevik Joseph Stalin.

Already on 2 (15) of November 1917, a week after the overthrow of the Provisional Government, the Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia was issued, which on behalf of the Russian Soviet Republic was signed by the chairman of the SNK, Vladimir Lenin, and the Commissar for Nationalities, Joseph Stalin. In the Declaration the four pillars of the national policy of Soviet power were declared as follows:

  1.                    The equality and sovereignty of the peoples of Russia.

2. The right of the peoples of Russia to free self-determination, even to the point of separation and the formation of an independent state.
3. The abolition of any and all national and national-religious privileges and disabilities.
4. The free development of national minorities and ethnographic groups inhabiting the territory of Russia.

The declaration proclaimed that the Soviet state sought to achieve the voluntary and honourable union of the peoples of Russia and ensuring full trust between them. » Only as the result of such a union can the working men and peasants of Russia be cemented into one revolutionary force able to resist all attempts on the part of the imperialist-annexationist bourgeoisie.»

On the basis of the Declaration in late 1917 Finland, Poland, the Baltic states received full independence and the many peoples of the Caucasus, Transcaucasia, Central Asia and Siberia received national autonomy. The principles enunciated in the Declaration, were a huge mobilizing force in the consolidation of Soviet power in Russia.

Interesting in itself is the Soviet government’s recognition  of the sovereignty of Finland on 18 (31) in December 1917, which was decided in one day, and the decree signed by Lenin, according to representatives of the Finnish government delegation, directly on the wall in the corridor of the Smolny Institute.

It makes sense to reproduce this decree in full:

a) To recognize the state independence of the Republic of Finland and

b) to organize, in agreement with the Finnish Government, a special commission of representatives from both sides to develop the practical measures that arise from separation of Finland from Russia.

Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars

Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin).

The People’s Commissars:

I.Shteynberg, Karelin, J.Stalin, Managing the affairs of the Council of People’s Commissars  Bonch-Bruevich.

At that time, the Bolsheviks, and Lenin himself, believed that the victory of the socialist revolution in Finland was guaranteed by the very fact of the political rise of working class struggle in this country, the full support of the Social Democratic Party of Finland for  II Congress decision of the Soviets and the process of preparing to seize power in Helsingfors (Helsinki) by the local Soviets. With the prospects of the imminent fall of the main empires and the development of the global revolution in Europe, Finland and Poland would have been involved in this movement and would become Soviet.

To this end,all the evidence exists, because in February 1918, there was a proletarian revolution in Finland, bloodily repressed by German troops and detachments of the bourgeoisie, and in early 1919 the Soviets, who were under the influence of the Communists were formed in all Polish cities. In November 1918 there was a revolution in Germany and Estonia, in December 1918 — in Latvia and Lithuania. In March 1919, in Hungary, in April 1919 in Bavaria in June 1919 in Slovakia there emerged Soviet republics.

It is this fundamental policy of the Soviet Government on the national question and the transfer of power into the hands of the working people thatled to the absolute support of the Bolsheviks in proletarian Latvia in the elections for the Constituent Assembly in November 1917, where the RSDLP(b) received 80% of the votes of the local population. In fact, the Social Democratic Party of Latvia was closely linked to the Bolsheviks, and the Latvian workers and laborers participated actively as early as the 1905 revolution. This explains  the absolute devotion to the Soviet government of the Latvian military units, even after the occupation of their country by German troops in early 1918.

On 5 (18) on January 1918, It was proposed in the Constituent Assembly by the Central Executive Committee to adopt the Declaration of Rights of Working and Exploited People. The Declaration repeated the decision  of the Congress of the Soviets on  agrarian reform, workers’ control and peace. However, the Assembly by a majority of 237 votes to 146 refused to even discuss the Bolsheviks‘ Declaration. The refusal to accept the document by the SR-Cadet majority, served as the formal reason for the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, because it was an instrument of the bourgeoisie in its attempt to regain power.

The draft Declaration of Rights of Working and Exploited People was written by Lenin, and on January 3, 1918 it was adopted at the meeting of the Central Executive Committee. A commission was selected to edit the Declaration. The amended version of the Declaration of Rights of Working and Exploited People was adopted at the III Congress of Soviets on January 12 and in this form was the first part of the RSFSR Constitution of 1918. In the first two paragraphs there are the following basic positions: 1) Russia was declared as a Republic of Workers’, Soldiers‘ and Peasants‘ Soviets. All power, centrally and locally, is vested in these Soviets. 2) The Russian Soviet Republic is established on the basis of a free union of free nations, as a federation of Soviet national republics.

Thus, at the III All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the supreme organ of the proletarian dictatorship, the federal structure of association of the Soviet national republics (RSFSR) was finalized, as a basis for the future establishment of a World republic of Soviets. The position of the Bolsheviks on the national question was expressed also as regards the recognition of the national statehood of the peoples of the Russian Empire, including those which did not have the historical and political experience of such independence. This was reflected in the subsequent creation of the Soviet republics Ukraine, Belarus and the Transcaucasian Federation, in Turkestan, as well as providing broad autonomy to Bashkirs, Tatars, Kazakhs, the peoples of the Volga and the North Caucasus.


The Bolsheviks and the Muslims of Russia

An important contribution to the liberation of the muslim peoples of the East and the Asian regions of the Russian Empire was the principled position of the Bolsheviks in giving them all equal rights and freedoms, and in calling for their release from the shackles of colonial oppression. In the Declaration of the Rights of Peoples of Russia 2 (15) in November 1917 and the circular of the People’s Commissars «To All Working Muslims of Russia and the East» of November 20 (December 3) 1917, the Soviet government declared the rejection of the imperialist policies pursued by the tsarist and Provisional governments and stated the desire to build relations with the colonial and dependent peoples on the basis of equality and mutual respect. Both documents had a tremendous impact on the Muslim population in the territory of the former Russian Empire and the Islamic countries as well.

Geoffrey Hosking writes: «Muslims were enraged at the fluctuations of the Provisional Government, which rejected the demand of the All-Russian Congress of Muslims to build their own system of education, religious and military institutions. However, in contrast to the Provisional Government, the Bolsheviks began their Eastern policy declaration «To All the Working Muslims of Russia and the East» … «.[5]

The return of the lists of the Koran of Caliph Osman to the muslims (confiscated in past by the tsarist authorities) at the Congress of Muslims in Petrograd in December 1917, of the mosque Caravanserai in Orenburg and the Suyumbike tower in Kazan, as well as other similar gestures in the Caucasus and Central Asia have made a tremendous impression on the wavering section of  Muslims. Muslims held congresses, where the revolutionaries — the Bolsheviks, the Left SRs, left Jadids — sat next to the mullahs. Ofen, the propaganda of the Bolsheviks ofen promoted the position of the compatibility and interoperability of Sharia and communism. In view of this fact, a section of the Muslim clergy even put forward the slogan «For the Soviet power, for the Sharia!». »

The first national administrative-territorial units of the RSFSR were republics of the Muslim peoples. In 1918-1921, the following  were formed (in chronological order) Turkestan, Bashkir, Tatar, Kyrgyz (1925 — Kazakh), Highland, Dagestan (the last two — at the same time) and the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1920 on the territory of the former Russian Empire in Central Asia there emerged Khorezm and Bukhara People’s Republic, in the South Caucasus — Azerbaijan SSR.

There following opinion of G. Hosking does not cause objections:. «The mutual relationship of Bolshevism with Islam has been inconsistent. Marxist atheism is not compatible with the strict monotheism of Islam in general. Nevertheless, many politically active Muslims joined  some socialist movements over the ten years before (October -. AK) revolution. This is partly explained by purely pragmatic considerations: after the events of 1905,  Muslims saw in socialism a political movement, the ability to organize an underground party, to mobilize the masses and to create a real threat to the government of their oppressors … But there was another consideration of fundamental importance, which made possible the adoption of the socialist ideas by the Muslim intellectual elite: socialist theory had promised them the brotherhood and equality of all peoples in the struggle against Western imperialism. «[6]

The enormous propaganda activities of the Bolsheviks, their political principles in the granting of independence to all peoples and their struggle against imperialism and colonial oppression created conditions for the rapid spread of the influence and organization of the RCP(b) among the Muslim and «indigenous» peoples. Their flexible policies and declarations on freedom of conscience, formed a solid foundation for the Soviet regime in all Eastern and Asian regions of the empire. In addition, this meant, in practice, that the Bolsheviks acquired military and political force in the struggle against the counter-revolution and foreign intervention of Germany, Turkey and the Entente.

So in June 1918 in Kazan at the I Conference of Muslim Communists, organized by the Central Muslim Commissariat, the Muslim Party of Communists of Russia (RMPK) was established. The new party participated on a federal basis in the RCP(b) up to March 1919. The leaders of RMPK were  M.Vahitov, M. Sultan-Galiev and B.Mansurov. By decision of the I Congress of the Communist-Muslims in November 1918, the party was transformed into a Muslim committees of the RCP(b). Earlier, February 15, 1918 the People’s Commissariat for Nationalities Board decided on the possible establishment of national sections of the Red Army. Then, Stalin allowed the creation of a muslim section of the Red Army. The greatest results of the policy of the Bolsheviks were in the Volga region, the Urals and Siberia, less so in the Crimea and North Caucasus.

On November 20, 1918   by order No. 276 of the Chairman  of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic, L. D. Trotsky, the Central Muslim Military Collegium was established,  headed  by M. Sultan-Galiev. In late 1918 — early 1919, the Central Bureau of Communist Organisations of the Peoples of the East sent their representatives to the areas where prisoners of war were gathered and other categories of the Turkish population. The main slogan of their activities was the call «Organize and kindle a fire of social revolution in Turkey!». This once again shows how the Bolsheviks paid attention to the development of the world revolution in neighboring Muslim countries and the colonies of the European empires.


The role of the Bolsheviks’ position on the national question in the victory in the Civil War

Finally, the correct position of the Bolsheviks in the national question led to the victory of Soviet power in the civil war. The most important factor was the attitude towards the warring parties of the peoples of the Volga and the Urals, which did not even support the «democratic counter-revolution» represented by the Mensheviks and SRs of Komuch and directories in 1918,  nor Kolchak’s White Guard government in 1919. Moreover, in areas where these people lived, there were constant revolts, the emergence of green and red partisan groups. On the other hand, districts and provinces with «aliens» were the basis for the replenishment of the Red Army and the support for Soviet power. In fact, this determined the defeat of the Whites.

The refusal of counter-revolution leaders and the White movement to provide broad national autonomy and recognize the independence of the regions of the former empire, led to a falling away from their camp of even Tatar, Bashkir and Kazakh bourgeois nationalists and intellectuals. Conversely the declaration of the Bolsheviks and the Soviet government of full freedom for all peoples, and the right to cultural and political autonomy and a possible separation as independent states led to successful negotiations with representatives of the nationalist parties, which ultimately supported Red Moscow.

For example, when Admiral Kolchak undertook the leadership of the White movement in late 1918, Kazakh autonomists lost all hope of saving Kazakh independence and began to look for ways to negotiating with victorious Soviet power. On the part of the new regime, there was interest in cooperation with the «Alash» nationalist party, which controlled most of the Kazakh population. 5 November 1919 signed by the commander of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Frunze , the amnesty was issued for all former armed opponents from «Alash Orda»  . In 1920 «Alash Orda» became part of the Kyrgyz (Kazakh) revolutionary government, abandoning all its previous laws and, as such, the party ceased to exist.

The absence of a coherent policy of the leaders of the Whites with regard to religious and national minorities contributed to the growth in popularity of the Bolsheviks. For example, in the Crimea Tatar party «Milli Firka» for while cooperated with Denikin, but he disbanded it convened Kurultai (national assembly), deciding to stop any attempt to create the Crimean autonomy. As a result, there emerged in the Crimea clandestine groups of Muslims under the leadership of the «red-green» bureau of the RCP(b), and in the liberation of Crimea from Wrangel in November 1920 as part of the army of M.Frunze,  cavalry regiments of the Crimean Tatars played a role. As did the dissolution of Muslim military formations by Kolchak previously,  which led in early 1919 to the defection of many of their members to the side of the Bolsheviks.

Similar processes occurred in the Kuban and the North Caucasus, where inevitably there was a split and then a direct confrontation with a section of the Cossacks, who desired the creation of the autonomous republic, and the mountain peoples of the armies of Denikin and Wrangel and then in 1918-1920, which was the cause of the collapse of the supply lines and then the front of the counter-revolutionary forces of Southern Russia. The White armies in Ukraine fell into the same trap, fighting against the forces of Petliura, refusing to recognize the emergence of an independent Polish state.

That reluctance of monarchist White Russian generals,was important in the decision of «the chief» of Poland Pilsudski in refusing  military support for Denikin’s campaign against  Moscow in the autumn of 1919. This enabled the Bolsheviks to pull the Red Army forces from the western borders of the RSFSR and focus them on defeating the gangs of the white Cossack Ataman Mamontov. In turn, the campaign of the Polish troops in the spring of 1920 and the occupation of part of the Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR also turned into a defeat for them because of national oppression and the oppression of the Ukrainians and Belarusians by the Whites.

Today, there is not much focus on the importance that the  participation of national and international parts of the Korean and Chinese workers, who fought on all fronts, Latvian, Estonian and Finnish regiments, Bashkir cavalry and Tatar teams and units from the number of former German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war had in the final victory of Soviet power.

The national sections of the  RCP(b) including the number of German and Hungarian prisoners of war, played a prominent role in shaping the human foundations of various communist parties, such as in Hungary, which was headed by Bela Kun in March 1919, when he took part in the formation of the Soviet Republic in Budapest . Therefore, it is once again demonstrates that the questions of national liberation and self-determination of questions of international revolutionary struggle of the proletariat against capital were inseparable for the Bolsheviks.

These sections played a decisive role in the propaganda amongst the invading soldiers of the Entente in Odessa, Arkhangelsk, Vladivostok. This work for the revolutionary  influencing of foreign troops was carried out so successfully that after a series of rebellions in the Navy and refusal to shoot at the front, the French and British imperialists were forced to withdraw their military contingents at the end of 1919. This coupled with the international trade union solidarity campaign of the proletariat in the United States, Britain, France and other countries with Soviet Russia determined the complete failure of the foreign intervention.

The National Commissions of the People’s Commissariat of Nationalities, together with the party and the military authorities played an important role in the formation of the Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in late 1918 — early 1919’s. Separate commissariats were created in relation to the Muslim peoples, helping them to strengthen the autonomous republics. Here an important role was as always played by Lenin, who always constantly stressed the need to support the establishment of national state entities, even at the height of the civil war.

In autumn of 1918, Lenin in a conversation with one of the leaders of the revolutionary movement in Azerbaijan, Buniatzade Dadashov, said that «the loss of 26 commissioners, headed by Comrade Stepan should not stop us starting work, you need to gather strength again and re-educate thos deceived by the Mensheviks and social revolutionaries of the workers and peasants of Azerbaijan and to liberate them.»[7] Then Buniatzade reported to Lenin that the Azerbaijani Communists have different points of view about the future of the state system of the republic: one for creating the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, others proposed to divide the province of Azerbaijan, and the last — to attach itself to the RSFSR. Buniatzade recalled: «Ilyich said bluntly that the first opinion on the establishment of an independent republicis correct, and the second is colonization and even stupidity.»[8]

The underground All-Baku Bolshevik Party Conference held May 2, 1919, put forward the slogan «Independent Soviet Azerbaijan», in opposition to the independence of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. The Bolshevik newspaper «Fugaru sadasi» ( «Voice of the poor») on August 17 reported that the idea of ​​the Azerbaijan Soviet Republic was approved by Lenin. As Isaac Mintz writes: «The slogan «Soviet Azerbaijan»  helped to mobilize the broad masses of workers and peasants of Azerbaijan in the struggle for Soviet power, to expose the Musavat as stooges of foreign imperialism and the traitors of national interests of the Azerbaijani people.»[9]

A similar position was adopted by the Bolsheviks towards the formation of the Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR, as opposed to nationalist formations including the Mensheviks, who received military and political support  first from German imperialism, and then from the Entente. All these facts suggest that it was the nationalities program of the Bolshevik Party and the policy of the Soviet authorities for unconditional and direct maintenance of the right of peoples of the former Russian Empire to self-determination, played a decisive role in politically winning over the masses in the national regions, in the final victory over the forces of counter-revolution, to expand and dissemination of national liberation and revolutionary struggle in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.


Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East in 1920

Without an end to the fighting on the fields of the Civil War, in September 1920, the I Congress of the peoples of the East was assembled, which involved representatives of many other countries. The decision to hold this conference in Baku was made at the end of June 1920 by the Executive Committee of the Comintern and the RCP(b). It created an organizational Office for the preparation of the Congress, which included Sergo Ordzhonikidze, Stasov Elena, Nariman Narimanov and Ashot Mikoyan.

It was the Congress not only of communists, but also of non-party, anti-imperialist-minded national leaders, representatives of the broad masses of the working people and their organizations. It was attended by representatives of 37 nationalities, including from Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Persia, China, Korea, Syria, Turkey and other countries, a third of them were Communists. It was an important work of the Bolsheviks to involve representatives of the young intelligentsia of the oppressed peoples, which later became the founders of the communist parties of the USSR or friendly organizations in their respective countries.

W. Foster described these events: «Shortly after the Congress of the Comintern, in September 1920, a conference was held in Baku on the colonial peoples, which was attended by representatives of 37 nations. The conference was named the Congress of the Peoples of the East. Among the 1,891 delegates was 235 Turks, Persian 192, 157 Armenians, 100 Georgians, many Chinese, Indians and representatives of other nations. Adopted were three important resolutions that expressed the general Leninist line in relation to the anti-imperialist struggle in the colonial countries. The Council of 47 was selected, representing 20 different nationalities, and published the newspaper «The peoples of the East.» «[10]

The Congress, chaired by G. Zinoviev and Radek, who spoke on behalf of the Central Committee of the RCP(b), met for a week and took a number of important decisions, expressed solidarity with the theses that were decided a month before at the II Congress of the Comintern on the national and colonial questions. Italso approved and published a proclamation to the peoples of the East calling for struggle against the colonialists and an appeal to the workers of Europe, America and Japan to support the liberation movement of the peoples of the East. At the Congress there were representatives of the communist parties of Europe and America: Bela Kun (Hungary), John Reed (USA), Thomas Quelch (England), Rossmer (France), representatives of many nations of the East.

Lenin greatly valued this Congress. In his speech, on October 15, 1920 at the meeting of chairpersons of county, township and village executive committees of the Moscow province, referring to the II Congress of the Comintern and the Congress of the Peoples of the East in Baku, he noted that » These were international congresses which united the Communists and showed that in all civilised countries and in all the backward countries of the East, the banner of Bolshevism, the programme of Bolshevism, the line of Bolshevik action are an emblem of salvation, an emblem of struggle to the workers of all civilised countries and the peasants of all the backward colonial countries. They showed that, during the past three years, Soviet Russia not only beat off those who fell upon her in order to throttle her, but won the sympathy of the working people of the whole world; that we not only defeated our enemies, but acquired and are still acquiring new allies daily and by the hour. «[11]

Subsequently, in January 1922, in Moscow, the congress of workers of the Far East was convened. In 1921 in Moscow, the Communist University of the Peoples of the East (CUPE) was created by the Comintern to prepare thousands of political leaders of the colonial peoples. At different times, disbanded in 1938, 73 nationalities from dozens of countries studied at the CUPE.

The role of this event in 1920 in Baku can not be overestimated. It was after the Congress of the Peoples of the East that the process of creating a communist parties in all colonial countries began. The Communist Party in Israel was formed in 1919, in Turkey and Indonesia — in 1920, in China — in 1921, in Japan — in 1922 in Malaya — in 1926, Vietnam and the Philippines — in 1930, India — in 1933, in Burma — in 1941. The Communist Party emerged in many other Middle Eastern countries, but most of them were illegal. In all these countries there developed active work for the creation and development of trade unions. Along with the help of the Communist International creation of communist parties in semi-colonial countries of Latin America proceeded.

Among the 21 conditions for admission to the Comintern on July 30, 1920, developed by V. Lenin was the provision that a party wishing to join the III International, » must ruthlessly expose the colonial machinations of the imperialists of its “own” country, must support—in deed, not merely in word—every colonial liberation movement, demand the expulsion of its compatriot imperialists from the colonies..».[12]

In parallel, in the international arena the Soviet government openly and vehemently opposed the collusion of the Entente and the US imperialist countries after the First World War for a new redivision of colonies in Asia and the Middle East.  The Council of People’s Commissarsissued a 1920 statement condemning the mandate system in relation to the former German and Turkish colonies as an unacceptable element in the system of international relations, «And when we speak of the distribution of mandates in the colonies, we know that this is  the distribution of mandates for the spoil, plunder, that is the distribution of mandates oto an insignificant part of the world’s population to exploit the majority of the world population. «[13]

These actions of the Soviet government and the Communist Party(b) contributed to breaking the isolation and blockade around the RSFSR and the signing of treaties in 1919 — 1921 with Persia, Afghanistan and Turkey. J.V. Stalin, who wrote in 1921, made a correct assessment of the situation that had been formed in the East in his work»The October Revolution and the National Policy of the Russian Communist»: » The radical improvement in the attitude of Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, India and other Eastern countries towards Russia, which was formerly a bogey to these countries, is a fact which even so valiant a politician as Lord Curzon does not now venture to dispute. «[14]

1920: Group portrait of the delegates of the Congress of Eastern Peoples posing around a meeting table, Baku, Azerbaijan. 

The new nature of relations between Soviet Russia and Kemalist Turkey also dramatically changed the balance of power in the Middle East. Proof of this is the demand of the British Prime Minister Lloyd George for the Soviet side to abandon support for the Kemalists, which he put forward in trade negotiations in London in the summer of 1920 as one of «the prerequisites of trade relations.»

As G. Astakhov wrote in his work «On the sultanate to a democratic Turkey» in 1926: «Focus on Soviet Russia paid off, even in the eyes of those elements, which initially regarded the» alliance with the Bolsheviks «with distaste. Currently, the assistance provided by  Soviet Russia to the  national movement in Anatoliais  known to every farmer. Political support from the Soviet Russia, especially clearly manifested in our demand for Turkey’s invitation to the Genoa Conference is also quite clear. Also the difference between the old Russia, dreaming  of the Dardanelles, and the new, which refused the surrender without conditions,  wrote of debts, and even part of the territory is understood. According to semi-official «Hakimiet Mill», «Russian man stretched out his calloused hand to the Turkish peasant. Both people know each other, and rebelled against the common enemy. «»[15]

The leaders of the national-liberation movements, who had nothing to do with Marxist-Leninist theory, could not but see the Bolsheviks as their allies. So, the Syrian committee for the unification of the Arabs announced in December 1920: “The government of Lenin and its friends and the Great Revolution rose up for the liberation of the East from the oppression of the European tyrants. It is assessedby the Arabs as being a great force, capable of bringing happiness and prosperity. The happiness and peace of the whole world depends on the alliance of the Arabs and the Bolsheviks…Long live Lenin, gis comrades and soviet power! Long live the alliance of all of Islam with the Bolsheviks!”.[16]

Under the influence of the same current, the distinguished ideologue of Arab nationalism and leader of the Syrian Druze, Emir Shakib Arslan, in 1927 acknowledged that “Lenin was the first who inspired the proelatariat with the spirit of brotherly friendship with the peoples of the colonies, and the communists were the first to disseminate this idea and implemented it in practice.”[17]


The discussion about autonomy and the creation of the USSR

The internationalism of the Bolsheviks was not a declarative, and applied rigidly and routinely practiced in the framework of socialist construction and all external and internal policies. Lenin’s principled position was most fully reflected in the debate about autonomy, that is, on the issues of further development of the United Soviet Republics that arose from the ruins of the former Russian Empire. The first head of the Soviet state came out openly against the then supporters of cutting the rights of independent national republics: Ukrainian SSR, Transcaucasian SFSR, Byelorussian SSR, and include them as autonomous entities within the RSFSR.

The term «autonomy»  arose in connection with the work of the commission set up by the CC RCP(b) in August 1922 to develop a proposal to merge into one state independent Soviet republics. The work of the commission was attended by: J. Stalin (chairman of the People’s Commissar of Nationalities), G. Petrovsky, A. Myasnikov, S. Kirov, G. Ordzhonikidze, V. Molotov, A. Chervaykov and other autonomy plan proposed by J. Stalin and adopted by the Commission, suggested the proclamation of the state of the RSFSR, which included the rights of the autonomous republics of the Ukrainian SSR, Transcaucasian SFSR, Byelorussian SSR; respectively the highest authorities in the country of power and control were to become the  All-Russian Central Executive Committee,  Council of People’s Commissars, Council of Labor and Defense  of the RSFSR.

The relations established at this time between the independent republics were built on the basis of equitable treaties for military-political and economic union. The objectives of strengthening the defense, restoration and further development of the economy on the path of socialism, political, economic and cultural development of all nationalities required the close alliance of the Soviet republics into a single multinational state. The question of the political form of the multinational Soviet socialist state was the main issue  for the commission of the Central Committee of the party.

Lenin, having familiarized with the materials of the Commission and discussed it with a number of comrades, sent a letetr to the members of the PB of the RCP (B), which made a principled critique of Stalin’s plans on the question of autonomy, promoted and established the idea of a unified state on the basis of the complete unity of all the independent Soviet Republics:“ I hope the purport of this concession is clear: we consider ourselves, the Ukrainian S.S.R. and others, equal, and enter with them, on an equal basis, into a new union, a new   federation, the Union of the Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia.”[18]

On September  6, 1922, Lenin sent a note to the Politburo of the Party, which strongly insisted on equal representation of all the Union republics in the general federal leadership in All-Russian Central Executive Committee. Lenin’s plan for the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was the basis for the new Commission draft, which was reported to Stalin and approved by the Plenum of the Central Committee of the RCP(b) October 6, 1922.

Lenin returned to his criticism of the autonomy plan in one of his last letters — The Question of Nationalities or «Autonomisation»- Lenin wrote that “Obviously the whole business of «autonomisation» was radically wrong and badly timed”[19], that it could cause damage, distorting the ideas of the union of the Soviet Republics to the spirit of “big-state chauvinism”. The plan violated the principle of the self-determination of the nations, providing the independent reopublics only with the right to exist autonomously within the boundaries of the RFSFR

Lenin was against too much centralization regarding the issues of the union, amd demanded the greatest possible attention to the solution of matters of national policy. The union of the republics, in his opinion, should take a form that would truly safeguard the equality of nationalities, would reinforce the sovereignty of each republic in the Union: “we must maintain and strengthen the union of socialist republics. Of this there can be no doubt. This measure is necessary for us and it is necessary for the world communist proletariat in its struggle against the world bourgeoisie and its defence against bourgeois intrigues.“[20]

Critique of autonomy plan, Lenin returned to one of his last letters — «On the question of nationalities or ‘autonomy’.» Lenin wrote that «… the whole idea, «autonomy» was radically wrong and badly timed,» that it can only bring harm, perverting in the spirit of  «great-power chauvinism,» the idea of ​​unification of the Soviet republics. The project violates the principles of self-determination of nations, providing independent republics only the right of autonomous existence within the RSFSR.

Lenin argued against excessive centralism in matters of association require maximum attention and care in matters of national policy. The United Republic, in his opinion, should be done in a way that really provide the equality of nations, will strengthen the sovereignty of each union republic «should maintain and strengthen the union of socialist republics; — Lenin wrote — Of this there can be no doubt. We need it as necessary for the world communist proletariat in its struggle against the world bourgeoisie and the protection of its intrigues. »

Lenin’s letter was read at the meeting of heads of delegations of the 12 th Congress of the RCP(b) in April 1923, his instructions were the basis of «On the national question» of the Congress resolution.

In the end the federal center retained features of the common foreign policy, a common economic space, the construction of a unified armed forces. Also it  introduced a single federal citizenship. Priority was given by teh federal authorities to resolve  a number of issues of domestic policy. Lenin also managed to include a provision on the right of the republics to self-determination and secession from the Union, which so angered Putin in January 2016. On December 30, 1922 union treaty was finally signed …

In the USSR, at different times, new independent Soviet republics emerged: Lithuanian SSR, Moldavian SSR, Kazakh SSR, Kirghiz SSR, Tajik SSR, Turkmen SSR. In 1940, Soviet power was restored to the Baltic republics: Estonian SSR, Latvian SSR, the Lithuanian SSR, while a host of new national autonomous regions, territories and regions emerged in the RSFSR and the Union Republics. As a result of the Bolshevik national policy more than a hundred nations and nationalities acquired their written language, education, literature, art, science, and the potential for independent development.

The creation first of the RSFSR and then the USSR provided enmormous historical impetus to the cultural, social and economic development of all the peoples of the former empire, especially in ist regions, including them all in the building of socialism. Internationally, this event singalled the detachment of 1/6 of the Earth’s land area from the chain of international capitalist countries, and has raised the question of the liberation of the working people and the oppressed peoples all over the world.

The history of the Chinese revolution of 1949, the anti-colonial revolutions from teh 1950s to the 1970s and national revolutionary movements of the second half of the XX century shows clearly the historical and political force of the ideas of Bolshevism, contributed to the destruction of the old empires and the world colonial system. The very existence of the Soviet Union s afeguarded at an international level the right of nations to self-determination, as later enshrined in the UN Charter. As a result of the great momentum of this in Russia in October 1917, two-thirds of the world’s population received won their national independence and statehood.

Subsequently, communist parties in Eastern Europe after World War II tried to use the experience of the formation by the Bolsheviks of the Union republics, which resulted in the emergence of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in the attempts to form a Balkan Socialist Federation from among Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania and Romania. This once again shows that after the conquest of power by the workers, offers an unprecedented field for national development and for the formation of a federation of free and equal republics.

Even after the victory of the counter-revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp, the successful experience of the Russian Bolsheviks will always be an attractive example for the workers of the oppressed peoples and future generations of revolutionaries. The conclusions drawn by Lenin and his followers against the United States of Europe, as the reactionaryunion of capitalists, is now reflected in contemporary politics and the example of the current European Union.


Bourgeois propaganda against the Leninist national policy in modern Russia

After the restoration of capitalism in modern Russia and in the CIS republics, there is constant work for the destruction of all democratic reforms carried out by the Bolsheviks, including in the national sphere. Since January 21, 2016 at a meeting on the development of science in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin satatcked  Lenin, calling him the destroyer of the Soviet Union. This thesis has been repeated a few days later during a meeting of heads of offices and activists of sections of the «People’s Front» in Sochi.

According to Putin,  Lenin and the Bolsheviks laid under the foundations of Russia and «atomic bomb» in the form of a new national policy during the discussion of autonomy inthe 1920s, giving equal rights to the national regions of the former Empire and the freedom to establish of national state formations, with the possibility of seccession. The voluntary Union was created, it appears, to the detriment of interests of Russia and Russians, and eventually collapsed.

Another «Crime» of the founder of the Soviet Union, according to Putin, is the fact that he broke the progressive development of the country, killing a young emerging capitalism, and ruthlessly repressed the clergy, the nobility and the intelligentsia, killing the royal family and other members of the Romanov dynasty. No less dangerous and utopian ideas were for the Kremlin and the slogans of «world revolution». In essnece, according to the President of the Russian Federation, the October Socialist Revolution and its leaders are to blame for all the problems , because theu pushed the masses on the path of irresponsible experimentation.

Such attacks against the Soviet state first head are not accidental, as he and the Bolshevik Party are the epitome of proletarian internationalism, a good example of the possibilities of the revolutionary socialist change in favor of the majority. Yes, and the Soviet Union was the antithesis of the Russian Empire that was destroyed, a workers’ state with an equal union of republics with social ownership of the means of production.

At first glance, the  absurd accusations against Lenin and his associates actually have a significant background and basis in the contemporary politics of  the emerging Russian imperialism, which is interested in revising the historic results of development of countries in the former Soviet Union and the autonomous republics created  within the RSFSR, with a view to revising their borders and changing their status.

Starting a discussion on the harmfulness of the Leninist national policies, which are  responsible for the alleged destruction of the country, Putin thus raises the issue of a gradual recovery of the unitary character of the state and the elimination of the rights of national autonomous regions  in present-day Russia. And this applies not only to the political, legal and cultural issues, but also the issue of redistribution of resources and the possibilities of even greater exploitation by Moscow oligarchs of the rich subsoil areas in the territories and autonomous republics.

In conditions of the increasing blockade of the sanctions, the fall in world oil prices, the exacerbation of inter-imperialist struggle on the world stage for markets, for access to sources of raw materials, and finally, the need for political survival, will push the Kremlin to further cuts to the freedoms of the autonomous republics,whose heads have already become appointees. This is not the union of equal nations, within the framework of capitalism , but the deliberate oppression and new enslavement of the regions.

Events in Ukraine have also changed the status quo former post-Soviet space. They began to worsen earlier and form new conflicts between the republics, such as Nagorno-Karabakh in April this year. We can say that stability in the  regimes of the former Soviet Central Asia, as well as pro-Turkish Azerbaijan are starting to be undermined.

This again clearly demonstrates that in ths period the history of the struggle for national liberation, which is impossible without a struggle against capitalism, as well as for the right to self-determination has not ended, but are closely connected to the struggle for socialism, and have nothing in common with the various imperialist plans. The vitality of Bolshevik ideas are now confirmed every day, as well as the need for a new revolutionary upsurge of the working people of all countries for their social and political emancipation, for a new equal union of peoples!

Ainur Kurmanov

[1]V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 20, pp. 393-454.

[2]V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 20, pp. 393-454.

[3]V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 22, pages 320-360

[4]V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers,Moscow, Volume 21, pages 339-343.

[5] History of the Soviet Union: 1917-1991. G. Hosking.

[6] History of the Soviet Union: 1917-1991. G. Hosking.

[7]History of Azerbaijan. Academy of Sciences of the SSR Axerbaijan. 1963. Part 1. Page 182

[8]Traskounov M. Achievement in the name of internationalism. From the history of the revolutionary cooperation of the workers of Russia and the Transcaucasia, 1917-1922. Mernai, 19179, Page 123.

[9]Mints I. The victory of Soviet Power in the Transcaucasia. Metsienereba. 1971. Page 393

[10]William Z. Foster. History of the three Internationals; the world socialist and communist movements from 1848 to the present. New York : International Publishers 1955

[11]V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 31, pages 318-333

[12] V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 31, pages 206-211

[13]V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 30, pages 151-162

[14]J.V. Stalin. The October Revolution and the National Policy of the Russian CommunistsWorks, Vol. 5, 1921 — 1923

[15]Atachov G. From the Sultanate to Democratic Turkey. Moscow-Leningrad. 1926. Pages 7-8

[16]Vasiliev. A.M. Russia in the Near and Middle East: from Messianism to realism. Moscow. 1993. Page 14

[17]History of the East.T.V. page 44

[18]V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 42, pages 421b-423a.

[19]V.I. Lenin Collected Works,Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 36,p. 593-611

[20]V.I. Lenin Collected Works,Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 36,p. 593-611

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