William Henry Chamberlin | Soviet Russia: A Living Record and a History
IT is perhaps not generally realized that the Soviet Union contains one of the most variegated and complicated patch-works of nationalities to be found anywhere in the world. A little over half the population consists of Great Russians, and a little over a fifth is made up of ethnological first cousins to the Russians, the Ukrainians, who have, however, a distinct language and cultural traditions of their own. The remainder is divided up among almost two hundred races, ranging from peoples with a long historical past, such as the Tartars, Turcomans, and Armenians, to tiny tribes of the mountains and deserts, whose very names are known only to a few specialists.(1)
A gathering of representatives of all the peoples of the Soviet Union, each speaking his own language, would suggest a veritable Tower of Babel. Besides Slavic peoples, Great Russians, Ukrainians, and White Russians, one would find in such a gathering Finnish and Tartar stocks, Mongolian descendants of Genghiz Khan's conquering hordes, aboriginal Siberian tribes whose origin is still a subject of dispute, the picturesque and varied races of the Caucasian Mountains, where people sometimes do not understand the language of their neighbors in the nearest valleys, Jews, Armenians, and many others.
The Great Russians are most solidly concentrated in perhaps a score of provinces in the central and northern part of European Russia, with Moscow as the centre. Starting from this base, the general streams of Russian colonization, as a general rule, follow the rivers and the railroad lines. To the west are the White Russians; to the south lies the land of the Ukrainians. In the Valley of the Volga Russians are inextricably mixed with Tartars, Bashkirs, Chuvashes, Mordvians, and other small nationalities. There is a solid belt of Russian peasant settlement north and south of the single railroad which spans Siberia. North of this belt, Yakuts, Tunguzes, Samoyeds, and other Arctic tribes, with their reindeer herds, maintain a precarious existence by hunting and fishing. South of it one comes to the steppes and deserts, over which wander the nomadic Kazaks (not to be confused with the Cossacks, Russian and Ukrainian colonists who were settled in various parts of the country and enjoyed special privileges in return for their obligation of constant military service in the Tsarist armies). Still farther south lie the cotton regions of Central Asia, where a thin layer of Russians is to be found along with the native population of Uzbeks, Turcomans, Tadjiks, and other middle-Asiatic tribes. In the far southeast of European Russia the blue-eyed and fair-skinned Cossacks of the fertile valleys of the Don and Kuban give way to dark-skinned mountaineers, mostly devotees of Islam, as one enters the foothills and main ranges of the Caucasus Mountains.
The Tsarist Government attempted to solve the problem of its racial minorities by applying a policy of uncompromising forcible assimilation and Russification. The written use of non-Russian languages was discouraged and sometimes positively forbidden. Russian was the sole language of official business. Russians, as a rule, received preference in the state service, and the member of a minor nationality who aspired to high office had first of all to prove himself a thoroughgoing Russian nationalist.
This policy was perhaps a logical fruit of the steady process of conquest and colonization by which the Russian Empire was built up. But it quite failed to extinguish the national aspirations of many of the non-Russian peoples. This became very evident in 1917, when centrifugal nationalism was not the least of the forces that rent the fabric of the old Russian state order and prepared the way for the coming of Bolshevism. During the period of revolution and civil war more than a score of nationalist governments, of various degrees of significance and stability, sprang up in separate regions of the former Empire.
The end of the civil war found the Soviet Government in control of the territory of the former Russian Empire, with the exception of Poland, Finland, Esthonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, the independence of which states has been formally recognized [by the Soviet Government], and the province of Bessarabia, the occupation of which by Rumania is still officially challenged and unrecognized by the Soviet Union. But from a very early period of its existence the Soviet Government proclaimed a complete reversal of the Tsarist policy of compulsory Russification. A Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, signed by Lenin as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and by Stalin as Commissar for Nationalities, and published November 15 (new style), 1917, eight days after the Bolshevik seizure of power in Petrograd, lays down the following four basic principles of Soviet policy in regard to the nationalities of Russia: -
1. The equality and sovereignty of the peoples of Russia.
2. The right of the peoples of Russia to free self-determination, including separation and the organization of an independent state.
3. Abolition of all national and national-religious privileges and limitations.
4. Free development of national minorities and ethnographic groups inhabiting the territory of Russia.(2)
In the stress of civil war it was not always easy to apply the broad principle of self-determination without some additional qualifications. More than once it happened that a minority consisting of workers in some non-Russian territorial unit favored the Soviet power, while the peasant majority of the population showed itself indifferent or hostile. This led to a movement in the Communist Party to declare the working class the recognized interpreter of the national will. However, Lenin always insisted that, just because the Tsarist Government had oppressed the non-Russian nationalities, the Communist must be especially careful to avoid even the appearance of "Russian chauvinism" and must respect the wishes of the nationalities in such matters as the use of their native language.
For a time the task of looking after the needs of the racial minorities was largely entrusted to a Commissariat for Nationalities, which was headed by Stalin. Ultimately, however, this Commissariat was liquidated as superfluous, in view of the final organization of former Russia on a federal basis. Under the new federal constitution, formally adopted in 1923, the Soviet state was called the Union of Socialist Soviet Re-publics. The omission of any reference to Russia in this new title had perhaps a double significance: it emphasized the absolute equality of all peoples inhabiting the territory of the former Russian Empire, and it left the door open for the adhesion of future Soviet Republics, should they be organized in other countries of the world.
The Union of Socialist Soviet Republics has six component members: the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, the White Russian Socialist Soviet Republic, the Trans-Caucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, and the two Central Asian Republics of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Much the largest of these political units is the Russian Soviet Republic, which includes more than two thirds of the population and more than nine tenths of the area of the Soviet Union. It stretches over most of European Russia and all of Asiatic Russia, except for the territory of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is itself a large-scale federative structure, with eleven autonomous republics and twelve autonomous oblasts, or territories, carved out of its area to correspond with the varied national composition of the population.(3)
Trans-Caucasia is also a federation, its three main units being Georgia, Azerbaidjan, and Armenia, while several smaller autonomous republics and territories have been created to accommodate the racial minorities of these republics. Ukraina has one autonomous Soviet Republic, Moldavia, which lies along the left bank of the River Dniester, directly opposite the lost province of Bessarabia, where the Moldavian element in the population is quite strong. Soviet Moldavia, therefore, may become the nucleus of a future Soviet Bessarabia. In the southern part of the Central Asiatic Republic of Uzbekistan, adjacent to the Afghan frontier, exists the autonomous Republic of Tadjikistan.
The central government of the Soviet Union reserves for its exclusive control the following administrative departments: war, foreign affairs, trade, transport, posts and telegraphs. The Gay-Pay-Oo, or secret police, is also under unified direction. The Commissariats for Labor, Finance, and Workers' and Peasants' Inspection, together with the Supreme Economic Council, function in an All-Union capacity, but also exist as local organs in each republic. Each republic retains in its own management the governmental departments dealing with education, health, justice, agriculture, and some other subjects.
In practice the Soviet Union is a much more centralized state than one might imagine from reading its Constitution. The Communist Party, which recognizes no national limitations on its authority, is a powerful connecting link for the whole state system. A decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party about trade or industry, education or agriculture, is equally obligatory for the Communist officials of Russia and Ukraina, White Russia and Trans-Caucasia. The theoretical right of secession, enjoyed by the republics making up the Union, could not, in practice, be exercised without revolution and civil war. The legislative and executive organs of all the associated republics are entirely under Communist control; and it is almost inconceivable that any large group of Communists should ever vote for secession; in fact any such group would be promptly denounced as traitors to the Revolution and expelled from the Party. And any nationalist movement against the Soviet power which started under anti-Communist leadership would be regarded as bourgeois and counter-revolutionary and suppressed with all the armed forces at the disposal of the Union, as has, indeed, happened in the Caucasian Republic of Georgia, where Russian troops are at hand to suppress any revolt headed by the Georgia Mensheviks, or Nationalist Socialists.
However, while recognizing that the Soviet Union, for all political and economic purposes, is a solidly unified state, one should not for a moment underrate the significance of its organization along federal lines. Two results of the first importance have emerged from this reconstruction: first, the absolute elimination of any legal discrimination as between the different races of the Soviet Union, and, second, a sweeping development of the individual national cultures.
Equal representation for all nationalities is, the principle underlying the creation of the Council of Nationalities, a body which sits simultaneously with the All-Union Soviet Executive Committee and possesses equal rights with the latter body as a legislative chamber. The Council contains five representatives from each of the autonomous Republics and one from each of the autonomous Territories. Theoretically it would be possible for a combination of the small nationalities to block a measure which had received the approval of the All-Union Soviet Executive Committee and thereby create something in the nature of a legislative deadlock. The Constitution merely prescribes that, in the event of a difference of opinion between these two legislative chambers, a commission from both shall be appointed to work out a solution. As a matter of fact, however, the predominance of Communist influence in both these legislative bodies pretty effectively ensures substantial harmony of opinion on major questions. Perhaps the most important functions of the Council of Nationalities are: to serve as a clearing house for examining the suggestions and complaints which come from the national republics, to initiate legislation especially designed to meet the needs of the minor races, and to introduce such modifications into general laws as seem required to meet the varied special local conditions which inevitably exist among races of different historical and cultural traditions and modes of life.
Under the new federal system the highest public officials of the various autonomous republics almost invariably belong to the dominant nationalities of the individual republics. The state employees in the smaller and more backward of the national republics are still to a large extent Russians;(4) but those officials who come most in contact with the masses are, so far as possible, drawn from the native nationality. The predominance of Russians in the state service of many of the non-Russian republics is largely due to the fact that there are not enough educated natives to staff these services effectively. A serious effort is being made to overcome this educational handicap, both by creating new elementary and higher schools and by setting aside a certain number of places in the state universities and technical schools for students of the minor nationalities. In Dyetskoe Syelo (formerly Tsarskoe Syelo), near Leningrad, there is an interesting "Rabfac," or special preparatory school for students picked out from some of the very small tribes of eastern and northern Siberia. In Moscow has grown up the University of the Toilers of the East, where seven hundred students, mostly from Central Asia and the Caucasus, are passing through a four-year course of political and general education which is supposed to prepare them to substitute Marx and Lenin for the Koran and the Shariat as the guides of their Mohammedan fellow countrymen.
The Soviet Government with one bold stroke has cut the Gordian knot of the language problem, the bane of most states in eastern and southern Europe which are inhabited by populations of mixed nationality. One finds a practical illustration of the principle of cultural autonomy as soon as one crosses the border from Poland into the Soviet Union. On the Polish side every public sign is in Polish. On the Soviet side the name of the border station, Nyegorelye, is written in the characters of four languages, White Russian, Russian, Yiddish, and Polish, corresponding with the four chief races of the region.
In general the rule is carried out that every nationality in the Soviet Union possesses the right to its own language in schools, courts, and the transaction of public business. In this respect the framers of the Soviet Constitution have tried to be fair not only to the minorities of the former Russian Empire, but to the minority enclaves which often reside within the boundaries of the larger minorities. In Georgia, for instance, the Georgian language, quite different from Russian not only in character but also in its alphabet, has been quite generally introduced in public administration. But the Georgians, who have always resented Russian domination, during their period of separate national existence under the Menshevik Government displayed a tendency to repress the cultural autonomy of the Abkhazians and Adjarians, two peoples who live along the coast of the Black Sea. So two little autonomous Republics of Abkhazia and Adjaristan have been created within the framework of the Georgian Republic, endowed with the same right to reject Georgian that the Georgians assert to reject Russian. A similar educational adjustment has been made in Ukraina, where the city population is divided more or less evenly among Russians, Ukrainians, and Jews, while the country population is almost solidly Ukrainian. In the Ukrainian cities and towns each of these three races enjoys schools in its own language in proportion to its numerical weight in the population.
Courts, like schools, are carried on, as a general rule, in the language which is comprehensible to the majority of the local population, and any citizen of the Soviet Union may demand the right to plead his case in his own tongue. Now that the racial minorities are not only permitted but encouraged to develop their own language there has been a great expansion of the printed word in the national republics. Ukraina in a single year put out five thousand volumes in thirty-five million copies.
For the more remote, small, and backward nationalities, some of which did not possess a written language before the Revolution, the work of the Central Publishing House of Nationalities is of great significance. This enterprise publishes an enormous amount of literature simultaneously in a great number of languages. Up to the present time it has issued 1 805 books in fifty-four languages and dialects, with a total circulation of almost nine million copies. It also publishes five newspapers, two in Tartar, one in Chuvash, one in Mordvian, and one in Mariisk. Its output ranges from the inevitable translation of the works of Lenin to nursery rhymes, which doubtless represent a new event in the lives of children whose parents never saw a printed page.
Sixteen new alphabets have been created, several of them for the Caucasian mountain tribes, and the movement to substitute Latin for Arabic characters among the Tartar, Turanian, and Finnish peoples of the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Volga Valley is making rapid progress. If one now visits Baku or Tashkent or any other oriental city of the Soviet Union, one sees the old delicate complicated Arabic script, which was always inevitably the property of a very small educated minority of the people, yielding to strange-looking combinations of Latin characters, representing the new official language of these Eastern peoples. The advantages claimed for the new alphabet over the old are that it makes literacy much more accessible to the masses of the people and brings these comparatively primitive Eastern peoples into closer contact with the science and culture of the West.
While the general principles of the Soviet nationality policy are applied all over the Union, they produce various effects in various parts of the country. One of the most interesting fields for this experiment in granting full freedom of cultural development is Ukraina, next to Russia the largest of the federated republics, with a population of about thirty millions and an area equal to France. A visit to Kiev, the largest city of Ukraina, gives one a good concrete illustration of how far the policy of Ukrainization has been carried out.
There was a time when Kiev was known as the Mother City of Russia. It was here that the Russians were first converted to Christianity and baptized en masse in the River Dnieper. In pre-revolutionary days the Pechorskaya Lavra, Kiev's famous monastery, perched on a high bluff overlooking the Dnieper and dominating the city with its burnished golden domes, was an object of pilgrimage for vast numbers of devout Russians.
But to-day one could almost walk the streets of Kiev, or Kiiv, as the Ukrainians insist on calling it, without realizing that the city has any connection with Russia. Street signs, advertisements, names of public buildings, are all written in Ukrainian. The main newspaper of the city appears in Ukrainian, and only a small news sheet satisfies the needs of the citizens who read only Russian. If one goes to the local opera house to hear Carmen, the singing is in Ukrainian.
Ukrainian nationalism made visible strides during the interval between two visits which I paid to the city in 1924 and 1927. In 1924 Russian still held its own as a dual language. But now Ukrainian has completely pushed it out in the government offices and institutions. It is not unusual to find among state employees the same aversion to speaking Russian, even when they know it, that prevails among the people in Poland, Latvia, and other countries which have broken away from the former Russian Empire. This intense, somewhat self-conscious nationalism is especially marked in the Ukrainian Commissariat for Education. When I visited the central headquarters of this department in Kharkov, the Ukrainian capital, one of the officials insisted on expounding the special characteristics of the Ukrainian educational system - very distinct, as he proudly assured me, from the Russian - in German, rather than in Russian, although linguistically he was probably more at home in the latter language.
The new nationalism in Ukraina has its intolerant sides. There is a commission on Ukrainization which is ruthless in weeding out state employees who are too indolent or too wedded to the Russian language to learn Ukrainian. One day the Kiev newspapers printed a warning list of thirty-six persons who had been dismissed for this reason. The old Russian population of Ukraina is inclined to feel that it has been suddenly transferred to a strange and not very hospitable country.
And yet, while the policy of forcible Ukrainization doubtless has its excesses and defects, it must, I think, on the whole be reckoned as a bold and shrewd stroke of statesmanship on the part of the ruling Communist Party. The Ukrainian cities, with their mixed population, are only islands in the sea of peasant villages; and the native tongue of the peasants is Ukrainian.
The history of Ukraina during the Revolution also furnishes strong arguments for granting the country full cultural autonomy. The Soviet regime was established in Ukraina, especially in the five northwestern provinces (Kiev, Chernigov, Poltava, Volhynia, and Podolia), where Ukrainian national sentiment was strongest, with greater difficulty than in almost any other region. Long after the regular civil war was over Western Ukraina was harassed by insurgent guerrilla bands which roamed about, attacking stray military detachments, destroying railroad communications, and making pogroms against the Jews. Besides exploiting the discontent of the peasants with the requisitioning policy which the Soviet authorities pursued at that time, the leaders of these bands proclaimed, the slogan of Independent Ukraina and denounced the Communists as foreign rulers from Moscow.
The present thoroughgoing Ukrainization of the schools and courts, the newspapers and the state services, has helped to take the wind out of the sails of these nationalist anti-Soviet agitators; and political banditism in Ukraina is now a thing of the past. It has made the village teachers, the agricultural experts, and in general the rural intelligentsia more friendly to the Soviet Government.
Incidentally the recognition of Ukrainian as an official state language may well have international significance. Several millions of Ukrainians live in the eastern frontier districts of Poland, districts which are always suggestively referred to in the Soviet press as "Western Ukraina." While Polish policy toward the Ukrainian and White Russian minorities has become more liberal since the inauguration of the Pilsudsky regime, it is still very far from reaching the state of complete linguistic independence which has been achieved in Soviet Ukraina. Unless the Polish Government succeeds in assimilating its Ukrainian citizens, or agrees to grant them some form of federal autonomy (and both these contingencies are rather remote) it will always be at a disadvantage in comparison with the Soviet Union, so far as nationalist Ukrainian sentiment is concerned.
There are two important points of contrast between Tsarist and Soviet policies in regard to the Mohammedan peoples of the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Valley of the Volga. The Tsarist Government gave no recognition to their languages and placed them under the administration of Russian officials. At the same time it left almost untouched the network of feudal and patriarchal Islamic customs which governed the daily lives of these tribes of the forests, the deserts, and the mountains. The Soviet Government grants them the free use of their languages, even creating alphabets when these were hitherto lacking, trains and installs as rapidly as possible a native Communist administrative class, and simultaneously carries on a vigorous, crusading onslaught against Asiatic living habits which have behind them the weight of centuries of tradition.
An unromantic jail sentence now awaits the Caucasian mountaineer who attempts to avenge an insult or honor the memory of a murdered relative with the aid of his revolver or dagger. The sale and abduction of brides are also legally prohibited. The harem has also been outlawed.
The bey, or tribal chief, and the mullah, or Mohammedan priest, still enjoy a certain amount of prestige; but every effort is made to undermine their power, politically, economically, and socially. The beys of Kazakistan, the huge territory of steppes and deserts which rolls from the borders of China to the Caspian Sea, were recently subjected to a process of drastic expropriation; all their sheep and cattle (the chief form of wealth in these arid regions) above a certain minimum norm were confiscated and many of the more influential beys were banished from their native districts, in order to destroy the last remains of their influence.
Talking with an old Tartar peasant in one of the remote mountain villages of the Crimean Soviet Republic, once the realm of Tartar khans, I acquired a vivid impression that Islam, in its old traditional forms, was a dying force in the Soviet East. The old Tartar was very far from being a Communist; but with oriental fatalistic philosophy he recognized the coming of changes which he probably neither understood nor approved.
"People don't believe in the Prophet any longer," he declared. "Only a few of us old men go to the mosque on Friday. But now our two mullahs have resigned because there is no one to pay for their support, so there is no one to read the Koran. Look how the women go about unveiled and join a circle where men are talking. They would never have done this in former times," the old man concluded, with a sweeping gesture which included his wife and another woman who had come in.
The Khan's palace in the old capital of the Crimea, Bakchi-Serai, produces the half-haunting, half-melancholy impression of a grandeur that has passed. One pauses before the Fountain of Tears, where single drops of water slowly form and fall in memory of the Khan's beautiful Polish captive, Princess Pototzky, poisoned, according to the legend, by one of his jealous wives. There are some excellent specimens of mosaic work; restful gardens are surrounded by walls ornamented with flower patterns and verses from the Koran; Venetian stained-glass windows recall the fact that Crimea formerly lay athwart one of the trade routes between Europe and Asia.
But an atmosphere of neglect and decay broods over the edifice. Much of the original beauty of the palace was lost as a result of the barbarous methods of renovation employed by some of the Tsarist governors. Swallows flutter through the Khan's reception halls and courtyards. One more touch points the contrast between past and present; and that is furnished on the entrance gate, where the inscription is scrawled: "Krim Rabfac, 1926." Evidently some students from a Crimean rabfac, or workers' high school, had passed through Bakchi-Serai on an excursion.
It is in the hands of this youth, crude and unformed, but energetic and bursting with the enthusiasm that comes with the first taste of knowledge, that the future of the Soviet East seems to lie. They will build neither palaces nor fountains of tears. But under their guidance these old Mohammedan lands will probably shake off some of the drowsy torpor that envelops one in the shadow of Tamerlane's mausoleum in Samarkand and other monuments of the Mohammedan Middle Ages, and begin to install factories, electrical stations, and sanitation systems.
In its Latin alphabet, in its forbidding of polygamy and encouragement of women to cast off their veils, the Soviet East has followed much the same Westernizing line that Mustapha Kemal has carried out with such iron iconoclastic resolution in Turkey and that King Amanullah, after a tour of Western Europe which included Russia and Turkey, tried with less success to introduce in backward Afghanistan. The new national Soviet republics which have sprung up on the ruins of old Tartar and Turcoman khanates are as different as possible from their predecessors in outlook and character.
Something has been written and a good deal has been whispered and insinuated about the alleged Jewish domination of the Soviet Government; in fact the idea that the Revolution is somehow the handiwork of the Jews ranks with the "nationalization of women" as one of the most obstinate and widely believed canards about the Soviet Union.(5) As a matter of fact the Jews represent one of the most interesting and complicated of the Soviet racial minority problems.
That the Jews supplied both leaders and rank-and-file members of the revolutionary movement in greater proportion than the Russians or any of the other races which inhabited the Tsarist Empire is undeniable and quite natural, in view of the systematic and merciless policy of anti-Semitic repression and discrimination which the Tsarist Government applied, especially during the reigns of Alexander III and Nicholas II. Jews, as a general rule, were forbidden to live outside a Pale of Settlement in the southern and western provinces of the Empire; they were not allowed to buy land; they were almost completely excluded from the state service; only a limited percentage of Jewish students were admitted to high schools and universities. Moreover, the Jewish communities were never altogether out of the shadow of pogroms, or mob out-bursts of massacre and looting, which were organized by nationalist anti-Semitic societies with the connivance of, or at least with little effective opposition from, the governing authorities.
Macaulay somewhere describes the pariah status of the native Irish under British rule during the eighteenth century and suggests that the Irish emigres in the service of France and Spain must have experienced profound satisfaction whenever they could strike a blow against Great Britain. Certainly, if the British Empire had succumbed to a process of violent dissolution during the eighteenth or nineteenth century one would not have been surprised to find gentlemen with Hibernian names actively assisting at every stage of this process. And so it is quite natural that many Jews, driven into the revolutionary movement in Russia not only by general considerations but by their special plight of racial discrimination and persecution, should have found their way into the directing staffs of the three most important revolutionary parties, the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, and Social Revolutionists.
This circumstance of earlier and greater activity in the revolutionary movement partially accounts for the fact that the number of Jews in the upper and middle ranks of the Soviet bureaucracy is considerably in excess of their proportion in the population.(6) In this connection other factors must also be taken into consideration. The Jews, as an overwhelmingly urban group in the population, had a lower percentage of persons obviously disqualified for state service by illiteracy than the Russians and Ukrainians, with their large masses of ill-educated peasants. The very persecution to which the
Jews were subjected under the Tsarist regime tended to make them more energetic, resourceful, and adaptable than the more slow-moving Slavs. Whereas the Russian intelligentsia, almost as a unit, boycotted the Soviet regime during the first period of its existence, the Jewish educated classes showed a less intransigent attitude and hence filled up many of the positions which the Russians insisted on leaving.
Free access to the state service and to the universities and higher schools, absolute elimination of restrictions on the right of movement and residence and other humiliating marks of pre-revolutionary racial discrimination, protection against mob violence - these are the substantial gains which the Russian Jews owe to the Revolution. But against these gains must be set losses and disabilities which caused an American Jewish observer, very well acquainted with Russian conditions, and by no means unfavorable in his general attitude toward the Soviet regime, to express the opinion that the Jews have suffered more than any other part of the Russian population during and since the Revolution.
In the first place, the majority of the Jewish population, living in districts of southern, western, and southwestern Russia which temporarily fell under the sway of the Whites during the civil war, experienced a series of pogroms more terrible in extent and ferocity than any which have been perpetrated since the Middle Ages. The Tsarist pogroms, bad as they were, pale by comparison with the massacres carried out by the troops of Denikin, Petlura, Gregoriev, and the innumerable Ukrainian band leaders. The establishment of the Soviet power stopped the pogroms, but the Soviet policy of relentlessly crushing private trade and treating the trader as a political and social pariah bore with special severity on the Jewish population, of which 42 per cent before the Revolution was occupied in some form of commerce.(7) As against 300,000 Jews who are now in the state service and a much smaller number who still contrive to enjoy precarious wealth as Nepmen, or private merchants, one must reckon an enormous number of former petty traders and handicraftsmen who have been quite ruined by war and revolution and now have no secure means of livelihood.
The plight of these people has led to a very interesting and constructive experiment in transferring large numbers of Jews to the land. Before the War there were about 50,000 Jewish farm colonists of long standing, who were exempted from the general laws forbidding Jews to own land; now this number has grown to 200,000 as a result of a vigorous campaign of colonization, aided by the Soviet Government, and heartily supported by the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, of America, and by Jewish social organizations in Russia. The Joint Distribution Committee has recently advanced to the Soviet colonization authorities a loan of ten million dollars, which, it is estimated, will make possible the continuation of this colonization work over a period of ten years. Most of these Jewish farm colonists are settling in the northern half of the Crimean peninsula; and here some day a Jewish autonomous Territory or Republic may be created. There are already settlements and districts where Yiddish is the official language.
Along with the farm settlement (the Soviet Government has also set aside a large district in the Amur River region of East-ern Siberia for Jewish colonization), efforts are being made to ease the readjustment process by providing work and raw material for the handicraftsmen and by bringing ,more Jews into the factories. But poverty and unemployment will apparently be the lot of a considerable number of Russian Jews for some time.
In spite of these difficulties, the average Russian Jew, even though he may be an ex-bourgeois or a Menshevik intellectual, and hence opposed to communism in principle, is far less likely to indulge in unqualified condemnation of the Soviet Government than is a Russian of the corresponding social origin. The spectre of the pogrom has not altogether disappeared.
There is still a good deal of anti-Semitism in Russia; cases of maltreatment or persecution of individual Jews are quite often reported in the press, and sometimes brought up in the courts for trial. Some of this anti-Semitism is an inheritance from the past; some of it grows out of jealousy and competition for posts in a factory or in the state service. The official Communist Party and Soviet attitude toward anti-Semitism, or indeed toward any stirring up of racial animosity, is one of uncompromising hostility; but it is frequently complained that the lower organs of the Party, the Union of Communist Youth, and the trade-unions do not act with sufficient energy when cases of race persecution are brought to their attention. Complaints of this kind have increased during the last few years; this is probably due to the fact that the Party and its junior organization, the Union of Communist Youth, have been in-creasing very rapidly in membership and have absorbed into their ranks, along with their new members, a certain quota of Russian popular prejudices. Of course, the position of the Jews, as regards personal safety, is far better than it was in the Tsarist days, when anti-Semitic organizations were allowed to organize openly and incite riots. But the elimination of anti-Semitism is still a hope of the future, rather than a present-day reality.
In general the Soviet nationality policy, while it certainly has improved the relations between the various races of the Soviet Union, has not established complete harmony between peoples of whom many are divided by old and bitter feuds. There are Russian Communists who still regard Ukrainians, Tartars, and Turcomans as "lesser breeds without the law," and there are Communists of the minor nationalities who have not overcome their old antipathy to everything Russian. As an example of the latter tendency one may note the case of the former Ukrainian Commissar for Education, Shumsky, who was removed from his office for carrying out the policy of Ukrainization of the national minorities too roughly and hastily. A seventeen year-old girl of the Bokharan high school in Moscow, Matluba Muhamedieva, recently created a mild scandal by writing a poem denouncing the Russians as oppressors of her people, notwithstanding the fact that she held a membership card in the Union of Communist Youth. (This incident is described in the newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda ("Young Communist Truth"), of March 8, 1929.)
To provide an honest and competent governing apparatus in the new national republics has not been altogether easy. The former Tartar President of Crimea, Veli Ibrahimov, ended his days before a firing squad in May 1928, after a hectic career of malfeasance in public office, involving the embezzlement of as much of the public funds as he and a gang of adventurers with whom he. was associated could lay their hands on and the removal by murder of more than one inconvenient witness. It would be unfair to generalize too widely on the strength of Ibrahimov's case; but administrative corruption, often leading to wholesale removal of officials when it is exposed, seems to be rather more common in the backward national republics than in Russia or Ukraina.
Still, the benefits of the Soviet nationality policy seem to me very decidedly to outweigh its defects. The fate of the former Russian and Austrian Empires shows the inevitable weakness, in moments of crisis and military defeat, of states which are based on the subjugation of large, self-conscious national minorities. The Soviet federal constitution, with its almost unprecedented accompaniment of actually encouraging the small peoples of the heterogeneous states to use their own languages, is a fresh, bold, original piece of statesmanship. It is already, I think, reaping its reward in the devotion which one often finds in the Chuvash or Kazak or Tartar, who, like the Communist worker, sees in the Revolution a genuine act of emancipation. The cultural autonomy of the non-Russian nationalities, like the substitution of public for private control of industry, the new status of the workers, and the transfer of the land to the peasants, is, in my opinion, one of those fundamental results of the Revolution which will endure in principle, even if there may be an occasional modification in detail.
(1) According to the census of 1926, the peoples constituting more than one per cent of the population of the Soviet Union are divided in the following proportions: Russians, 52.97 per cent; Ukrainians, 21.25; White Russians, 3.23; Kazaks, 2.70; Uzbeks, 2.66; Tartars, 1.99; Jews, 1.82; Georgians, 1.24; Turanians, 1.16; Armenians, 1.07.
(2) This declaration is published in Sovyetskaya Politika za iv Let po Nationalnomu Voprosu v RSFSR ("Soviet Policy in the Nationality Question in the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic for Ten Years"), pp. 1-2.
(3) In general, the status of a republic, as distinguished from that of a Territory, is granted to nationalities of a larger population and area, and in a more advanced state of cultural development.
(4) Mr. S. Ordzhonikidze, Commissar for Workers' and Peasants' Inspection, gave the following figures for the percentages of Russians and natives in the state service of some of the national republics: Tartar Republic, Russians 65.8, Tartars 25.5; Crimea, Russians 60.7, Jews 16.3, natives 16.1; Kazakistan, Russians 70.3, Kazaks 16.5; Uzbekistan, Russians 61.9, natives 24.7; etc. He draws the conclusion: "The upper layers are local; but the state apparatus to a very great degree consists of Russians." See the Report of the Central Control Committee and the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection to the Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party, pp. 31-33. Published by the State Publishing Company, 1928.
(5) Perhaps the most decisive refutation of the idea that the Soviet Government is under Jewish domination is to be found in the fact that for the last two or three years and up to the moment of writing (September 1929) all the members of the potent Political Bureau of the Communist Party Central Committee and of the Soviet cabinet are non-Jews, although, of course, no racial test is required for membership in either body. Several Jews are Assistant Commissars, and one is a "candidate," or alternate member, of the Political Bureau.
(6) There are about 2,800,000 Jews in the Soviet Union, about 1.8 per cent of the population. Mr. Ordzhonikidze, in his report to the Fifteenth Party Congress, which I have already quoted (p. 30), gives the following percentages of Jews in various branches of the state service in Moscow and Leningrad: Soviet administrative offices, Moscow 10.3, Leningrad 8.1; Finance Commissariat, Moscow 8.9, Leningrad 4.8; judicial offices, Moscow 7.8, Leningrad 8.7; police, Moscow x.6, Leningrad 1; administration of state trade, Moscow 16.6, Leningrad 19.7. In Ukraina, where the Jews constitute 5.4 per cent of the population, they hold 22.6 per cent of the civil service posts. In White Russia, where they are 8.2 per cent of the population, they hold 30.6 per cent of the posts. (See Mr. Ordzhonikidze's Report, p. 31.)
(7) See the article of U. Larin, "The Social Structure of the Jewish Population of the Soviet Union," in the magazine, Bolshevik, No. 15 for 1928, for an interesting analysis of the social readjustments which have taken place in the Jewish population of the Soviet Union since the Revolution.