J. V. Stalin

Counter-Revolution and
the Peoples of Russia

August 13, 1917

Source : Works, Vol. 3, March - October, 1917
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

At the time of the revolution and democratic change the keynote of the movement was emancipation.

The peasants were emancipating themselves from the omnipotence of the landlords. The workers were emancipating themselves from the caprice of the factory managements. The soldiers were emancipating themselves from the tyranny of the generals. . . .

The process of emancipation could not but extend to the peoples of Russia who for ages had been oppressed by tsarism.

The decree on the "equality" of the peoples and the actual abolition of national disabilities, the congresses of Ukrainians, Finns and Byelorussians and the raising of the question of a federal republic, the solemn proclamation of the right of nations to self-determination and the official promises "not to create obstacles" all these were evidences of the great movement for emancipation of the peoples of Russia.

That was in the days of the revolution, when the landlords had departed from the scene and the imperialist bourgeoisie was forced to the wall by the onslaught of the democracy.

With the return to power of the landlords (generals!) and the triumph of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie, the picture has completely changed.

The "grand words" about self-determination and the solemn promises "not to create obstacles" are being consigned to oblivion. Obstacles of the most incredible kind are being created, even to the extent of direct interference in the internal affairs of the peoples. The Finnish Diet1 has been dissolved, with the threat of "declaring martial law in Finland, should the need arise" (Vecherneye Vremya, August 9). A campaign is being launched against the Ukrainian Rada and Secretariat, 2 with the manifest intention of beheading the autonomy of the Ukraine. Together with this we have a recrudescence of the old, contemptible methods of provoking national clashes and criminal suspicions of "treason," with the object of unleashing the counterrevolutionary chauvinistic forces, drowning in blood the very idea of national emancipation, digging gulfs between the peoples of Russia and sowing enmity among them, to the glee of the enemies of the revolution.

Thereby a mortal blow is being struck at the cause of welding these peoples into a united and brotherly family.

For it is self-evident that the policy of national "pinpricks" does not unite, but divides the peoples by fostering "separatist" tendencies among them.

It is self-evident that the policy of national oppression pursued by the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie holds out the menace of that very "disintegration" of Russia against which the bourgeois press is so falsely and hypocritically howling.

It is self-evident that the policy of inciting the nationalities against one another is that same contemptible policy which, by fomenting mutual distrust and enmity among the peoples, splits the forces of the all-Russian proletariat and undermines the very foundations of the revolution.

That is why all our sympathies are with the subject and oppressed peoples in their natural struggle against this policy.

That is why we turn our weapons against those who, under the guise of the right of nations to "self-determination," are pursuing a policy of imperialist annexations and forcible "union."

We are by no means opposed to uniting nations to form a single integral state. We are by no means in favour of the division of big states into small states. For it is self-evident that the union of small states into big states is one of the conditions facilitating the establishment of socialism.

But we absolutely insist that union must be voluntary, for only such union is genuine and lasting.

But that requires, in the first place, full and unqualified recognition of the right of the peoples of Russia to self-determination, including the right to secede from Russia.

It requires, further, that this verbal recognition should be backed by deeds, that the peoples should be permitted right away to determine their territories and the forms of their political structure in their constituent assemblies.

Only such a policy can promote confidence and friendship among the peoples.

Only such a policy can pave the way to a genuine union of the peoples.

Without a doubt, the peoples of Russia are not infallible and may well commit errors when arranging their lives. It is the duty of the Russian Marxists to point out these errors to them, and to their proletarians in the first place, and to endeavour to secure correction of the errors by criticism and persuasion. But nobody has the right forcibly to interfere in the internal life of nations and to "correct" their errors by force. Nations are sovereign in their internal affairs and have the right to arrange their lives as they wish.

Such are the fundamental demands of the peoples of Russia proclaimed by the revolution and now trampled upon by the counter-revolution.

These demands cannot be realized so long as the counter-revolutionaries are in power.

Victory of the revolution is the only way of emancipating the peoples of Russia from national oppression.

There can be only one conclusion, namely, that the problem of emancipation from national oppression is a problem of power. National oppression is rooted in the rule of the landlords and the imperialist bourgeoisie. The way to secure the complete emancipation of the peoples of Russia from national oppression is to transfer power to the proletariat and the revolutionary peasants.

Either the peoples of Russia support the workers' revolutionary struggle for power, and then they will secure their emancipation; or they do not support it, and then they will no more see their emancipation than the back of their heads.


Proletary, No. 1, August 13, 1917


1. The Finnish Diet, convoked towards the close of March 1917, demanded autonomy for Finland. On July 5, 1917, after long and fruitless negotiations with the Provisional Government, the Diet passed a Supreme Powers Law, extending the authority of the Diet to all Finnish affairs except foreign policy, military legislation and military administration, which were to be under the jurisdiction of the all-Russian authorities. On July 18, 1917, the Provisional Government dissolved the Diet on the grounds that in passing this law before the Constituent Assembly had expressed its will, it had usurped the latter's authority.

2. The Ukrainian Central Rada had been formed in April 1917 by Ukrainian bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties and groups. On the eve of the July days a General Secretariat of the Rada was instituted as the supreme administrative authority in the Ukraine. After the dispersal of the July demonstration in Petrograd, the Provisional Government, in pursuance of its policy of national oppression, severed the Donets Basin and the Yekaterinoslav and several other Ukrainian regions from the Ukraine. Supreme authority in the Ukraine was vested in a Commissar appointed by the Provisional Government. Notwithstanding this, the Rada leaders, out of fear of the approaching proletarian revolution, soon came to terms with the Provisional Government, and the Rada became a strong hold of bourgeois nationalist counter-revolution in the Ukraine.