J. V. Stalin

The Don and the North Caucasus

(Machinations and the Facts)

June 1, 1918

Source : Works, Vol. 4, November, 1917 - 1920
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2009
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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 first meeting of the peace conference in Kiev, 1 the Ukrainian delegation announced that it had statements from the Don, North Caucasian and other "governments," declaring that they had seceded from Russia and had established friendly relations with the Ukrainian-German Government. "We are not opposed to negotiating with representatives of the Soviet Government," Mr. Shelukhin, the Chairman of the Ukrainian delegation, said, "but we should like to know to what regions the authority of the Russian Federation extends, because I have statements from a number of governments (Don, North Caucasian, etc.), declaring that they do not wish to remain parts of Russia."

Far from remonstrating against this move of the Ukrainians, the Turks and Germans, in a number of official statements, support the claims of the above-mentioned semi-legal "governments," and seize on them as a formal pretext for the "self-determination" (i.e., seizure) of new territories. . . .

But what are these mysterious "governments"? Where do they come from?

It is strange, in the first place, that the patron of these "governments" and the official sponsor of this whole campaign should be the Ukrainian Hetman Government, which came into being only yesterday by the grace . . . not of the people at any rate. By what right does the Ukrainian delegation venture to speak in this way to the Soviet power, which was freely chosen by tens of millions of inhabitants of the Russian Federation, and which, moreover, has rallied around itself the broad regional Soviets of the Don, Kuban, Black Sea and Terek, which were elected by millions of inhabitants of these regions? In face of this, what weight can the present Ukrainian Government have, which was not only not elected by the people, but is not even backed by a stage-managed Diet elected on a limited suffrage, in the nature, at least, of a Landtag representing the upper classes? Furthermore, it may be taken for granted that if the peace conference were taking place not in Kiev, but somewhere in neutral territory, the recently overthrown Ukrainian Rada would not fail to come forward and declare that a treaty with the Hetman Government cannot be binding on the Ukrainian people, who do not recognize this government. Two questions would then arise: 1) whose credentials in such a case should be recognized as the more valid, those of the Hetman Government, or those of the Ukrainian Rada? and 2) what could the present Ukrainian delegation, which sets such high value on "declarations" of every kind, say in its own vindication? . . .

It is no less strange, in the second place, that Germany, which supports the statement of the Ukrainian delegation and is assiduously coquetting with the adventurist "governments" of the Don and the North Caucasus in the interests of "self-determination," has not a singleword to say about the self-determination of Polish Poznan, Danish Schleswig-Holstein, or French Alsace-Lorraine. Need it be shown that, in comparison with the mass protests of the Danes, Poles and French in those regions, the adventurist declarations of the hastily concocted "governments" of South Russia whom nobody recognizes lose all weight, all value, and all semblance of decency? . . .

But all this is a "trifle." Let us pass to the main thing.

Well, then, how did these mythical South Russian "governments" originate?

"On October 21, 1917, in Vladikavkaz" — the Don "government" says in its "Note" — "a treaty was signed establishing a new federal state, the South-Eastern Federation, comprising the population of the territories of the Don, Kuban and Astrakhan Cossack troops, the highlanders of the North Caucasus and the Black Sea coast, and the free peoples of South-East Russia."

We find almost the same thing said in a wireless message from the representatives of the North Caucasian "government," Chermoyev and Bammatov, delivered to us on May 16:

"The peoples of the Caucasus lawfully elected a National Assembly, which, meeting in May and September 1917, proclaimed the establishment of a Federation of Caucasian Highlanders." And further: "The Federation of Caucasian Highlanders has resolved to secede from Russia and form an independent state, whose boundaries will be: in the North—the geographical borders which the Daghestan, Terek, Stavropol, Kuban and Black Sea regions and provinces possessed in the former Russian Empire; in the West—the Black Sea; in the East—the Caspian Sea."

It thus appears that on the eve of the victory of the October Revolution, which overthrew the Kerensky Government, groups of adventurers linked with that Government gathered in Vladikavkaz and, without even taking the trouble to ask the consent of the population, proclaimed that they were "authorized" governments, and that the South of Russia had seceded from Russia. Of course, in a free country like Russia no one is debarred from indulging in separatist dreams, and it will be readily admitted that the Soviet power could not, and was not obliged to, rush to follow the adventurist declarations of dreamers who had no link whatever with the peoples of South Russia. We have no doubt that if Germany were to grant the citizens the same liberty as that now enjoyed in Russia, then Poznan, Alsace-Lorraine, Poland, Courland, Estland, etc., would be covered by a network of national governments which would have far weightier grounds for calling themselves governments than the Bogayevskys, Krasnovs, Bammatovs and Chermoyevs who have been expelled by their own peoples and are now in exile. . . .

Such is the story of the origin of the mythical "governments" of South Russia.

The "Note" of the Don "government" and Cher-moyev's wireless message refer to the past, to September and October 1917, and to Vladikavkaz, as the refuge of the retired generals. But nearly a year has passed since then. In the interval Don, Kuban-Black Sea and Terek Regional People's Soviets have been formed, which unite around themselves millions of the population: Cossacks and inogorodnie, 2 Abkhazians and Russians,

Chechens and Ingushes, Ossetians and Kabardinians, Georgians and Armenians. The inhabitants of these regions recognized the Soviet power long ago and widely exercise the right to self-determination granted them. As to Vladikavkaz, the former residence of the Karaulovs, Bogayevskys, Chermoyevs and Bammatovs, it has long ago proclaimed itself the seat of the Terek People's Soviet. What value, then, can the fossil generals and their adventurist declarations of the summer of 1917 have in face of these generally known facts? In September and October the Kerensky Government still existed in Russia and was fulminating against the Bolshevik Party, which had then been driven underground, but which is now in power. If September and October 1917 are of such sacramental significance to the Ukrainian delegation and the German Government, why do they not invite to the peace conference the remnants of the Kerensky Government, which was then still extant, as they are now inviting the remnants of the "government" of the Chermoyevs and Kara-ulovs, who were also extant in September and October 1917?

Or again: in what way exactly is September 1917 preferable to April 1918, when the Ukrainian Rada, which was about to send a delegation for negotiations with the Soviet Government, was hurled in one instant into political oblivion "on the basis" of the German "interpretation" of the principle of self-determination of nations? . . .

Or, lastly: why is the declaration of Cossack General Krasnov, who has been expelled by the Cossacks, and who towards the end of 1917 was taken prisoner by the Soviet troops at Gatchina and then released by the Soviet Government on parole—why is his declaration considered "a political act of major importance," while the declaration, for example, of the Crimean Council of People's Commissars, which had rallied around itself hundreds of thousands of Russian and Tatar inhabitants, and which thrice proclaimed by radio the indissolubility of the tie between the Crimea and the Russian Federation, is considered of no political importance?

Why does General Krasnov, who has been expelled by the Cossacks, enjoy the special patronage of the Ukrainian-German rulers, while the members of the Crimean Council of People's Commissars, which was freely elected by the population, have bean savagely shot? . . .

Obviously, the point here is not whether the "declarations" are genuine or not, nor whether these "declarations" are supported by the masses. Nor, still less, is it the interpretation of "self-determination," which is being barbarously defiled and distorted by official bandits. The point simply is that the "declarations" are highly useful to the Ukrainian-German lovers of imperialist machinations, because they are a convenient camouflage for their efforts to seize and enslave new territories.

It is significant that of a whole series of delegations from the so-called Don government, delegations just as "lawful" as General Krasnov's, the Ukrainian-Germans selected the latter, because none of the others adhered to the German "orientation." Moreover, the fictitiousness and unreality of the Krasnov-Bogayevsky "government" is so obvious, that a number of Ministers appointed by

Krasnov (Paramonov, Minister of Education, and Se-myonov, Minister of Agriculture) offically declined on the ground that they "had been appointed Ministers by General Krasnov in their absence." But the Ukrainian-German self-determinators are evidently not in the least put out by this, because Krasnov is a very convenient screen for them.

It is no less significant that the so-called SouthEastern Federation, which went to its eternal rest in January, suddenly returned to life in May somewhere in the Ukraine, or even in Constantinople, and, what is more, not all the peoples of the North Caucasus yet know that the "governments" which they had buried long ago continue to "exist" illegally, perhaps in Constantinople, or maybe in Kiev, from where they intend to enact laws for them. The Ukrainian-German self-determinators are evidently not put out by this ingenuous machination either, since they can make capital out of it.

Such are the "affairs" of the power-lusting South Russian adventurers, on the one hand, and the political machinators, on the other.

But what is the attitude towards independence of the peoples of South Russia themselves, in whose name Messrs. the self-determinators pretend to be acting?

Let us begin with the Don. Already since February there exists an autonomous Don Soviet Republic, which is uniting around itself the overwhelming majority of the population of the region. It is no secret to anybody that the regional congress held in April and attended by more than 700 delegates, publicly confirmed the indis-solubility of the tie with Russia, of which the Don Republic constitutes an autonomous part.

Here is what the Central Executive Committee of the Don Republic had to say of the claims of the new-baked Krasnov-Bogayevsky "government" in its resolution of May 28 :

"The Central Executive Committee of the Don Soviet Republic desires to inform the Council of People's Commissars and the peace conference in Kiev that there is no governmental authority in the Don except the Central Executive Committee and its Presidium. Any other persons who have proclaimed or may proclaim themselves the government are state criminals, who will be committed to trial by a people's court for high treason. We have been informed that a delegation has appeared at the peace conference which professes to represent the Don government. We, as the state power, apprise the Council of People's Commissars and the peace conference in Kiev that no delegates who are not furnished with credentials from the Soviet Government of the Don Republic should be allowed to take part in the peace negotiations, and if any such should have appeared, we declare that they are usurpers and impostors, who will be committed to trial as state criminals. The Central Executive Committee insists that this bogus delegation from the ‘Don government' be ejected from the peace conference, since it is unlawful and must not be allowed to take part in the peace negotiations.

"Chairman, Central Executive Committee, V. Kovalyov

"Secretary, V. Puzhilev

"(Adopted May 28) Tsaritsyn."

Let us pass now to the Kuban. Everyone knows that there is a Kuban-Black Sea Autonomous Soviet Republic which unites around itself 90 per cent of the population of all the departments and districts of the region without exception.

Everyone knows that in April of this year a largely attended congress of the Kuban-Black Sea region, in which Chechens and Ingushes took part, and at which Y. Poluyan, a Cossack, presided, solemnly confirmed the indissolubility of the region's tie with Russia, and just as solemnly outlawed all adventure-seekers of the Fili-monov and Krasnov type. Incidentally, the fact that tens of thousands of Kubanians are now under arms and staunchly defending Soviet Russia from Sukhum to Bataisk is eloquent testimony enough of the sentiments and sympathies of the Kuban and the Black Sea region. We say nothing of the fleet, whose destruction the benefactors of the Krasnovs and Filimonovs are awaiting so impatiently. . . .

Lastly, the Terek region. It is no secret to anyone that there is a Terek Regional People's Soviet which unites around itself all, or practically all (95 per cent), of the auls, stanitsas, villages and hamlets, to say nothing of the towns. At the first regional congress in January of this year, all the delegates without exception declared themselves in favour of the Soviet power and the in-dissolubility of the tie with Russia. The second congress, held in April, which was still broader and more numerously attended than the first, solemnly confirmed the tie with Russia and proclaimed the region an Autonomous Soviet Republic of the Russian Federation. The third regional congress, now in progress, is going a step further and passing from word to deed, calling upon the citizens to take up arms in defence of the Terek, and not only the Terek, against the encroachments of uninvited guests. The so-called Note of the so-called Don government talks a great deal about the "free peoples of the South-East," who, it alleges, are anxious to secede from Russia. Believing that facts are the best refutation of "declarations," we shall let the facts speak for themselves.

Let us first hear the resolution of the Terek People's Soviet:

"The Terek People's Soviet learns from telegraphic dispatches that alleged delegates from the North Caucasus now in Constantinople have proclaimed the independence of the North Caucasus and have notified this to the imperial Turkish Government and other powers.

"The Terek People's Soviet, comprising the Chechen, Kabar-dinian, Ossetian, Ingush, Cossack and inogorodnie groups, affirms that the peoples of the Terek region have never delegated anyone anywhere for the above-mentioned purpose, and that if any individuals now in Constantinople pretend to be delegates of the peoples of the Terek region and act in the name of these peoples, they are nothing but impostors and adventurers.

"The Terek People's Soviet expresses its astonishment at the political shortsightedness and naivete of the Turkish Government in allowing itself to be imposed upon by swindlers.

"The Terek People's Soviet, comprising the above-mentioned groups, declares that the peoples of the Terek region constitute an inalienable part of the Russian Federative Republic.

"The Terek People's Soviet protests against the action of the Transcaucasian government in associating the North Caucasus with the proclamation of independence of Transcaucasia" (see Narodnaya Vlast, organ of the Terek People's Soviet).

(Resolution adopted unanimously. May 9.)

And now let the Chechens and Ingushes, who are being calumniated by the usurpers and their patrons, have their say. Here is a resolution of their group, representing all, or nearly all, the Ingushes and Chechens:

"This special meeting of the Chechen-Ingush group of the Terek People's Soviet, having considered the report that the North Caucasus has been proclaimed independent, unanimously adopts the following resolution: Declaration of the independence of the North Caucasus is an act of extreme importance which can be made only with the knowledge and consent of the entire population concerned.

"The Chechen-Ingush group affirms that the Chechen-Ingush people have not sent any delegates to conduct negotiations of any kind with the Ottoman delegation in Trapezund or with the Ottoman Government in Constantinople, and that the question of independence was never discussed in any body or assembly expressing the will of the Chechen-Ingush people.

"Consequently, the Chechen-Ingush group regards the persons who have the impudence to speak in the name of the people, who did not elect them, as impostors and enemies of the people.

"The Chechen-Ingush group declares that the only salvation for all the North Caucasian highlanders and for the liberties won by the revolution lies in close unity with the Russian revolutionary democracy.

"This is dictated not only by their innate love of liberty, but also by those economic relations which in the last decades have closely cemented the North Caucasus and Central Russia into one inseparable whole."

(Adopted May 9. See Narodnaya Vlast, organ of the Terek People's Soviet.)

And here is an excerpt from a fiery speech delivered by Comrade Sheripov, a representative of the Ingushes and Chechens, at the meeting of the Terek People's Soviet, an excerpt explicit enough to put

"Thanks to the great Russian revolution, we have received that fair and lovely liberty for which our ancestors fought for centuries and, vanquished, threw themselves on the bayonet's point. Now that we have received a guarantee of the right to self-determination, the people will never surrender this right to anyone. Today we hear talk of the independence of the North Caucasus coming from the lips of landlords, princes, provocateurs and spies and all against whom Shamiel waged a mortal struggle for fifty years. Attempts are being made by these enemies of the people to declare the independence of the Caucasus and proclaim it an Imamate. But let me tell you that Shamiel cut off the heads of the ancestors of these princes, and that is how he would act now. Our group, which represents the Ingush and Chechen people, expressed its opinion on the declaration of independence of the North Caucasus in the resolution it adopted at its special sitting." (See above. Reproduced from Narodnaya Vlast.)

Such are the facts.

Is all this known to the German-Ukrainian-Turkish self-determinators? Of course! Because the regional Soviets of South Russia act quite openly, in the eyes of all, and the agents of these gentry read our newspapers attentively enough not to miss generally known facts.

What, then, is the purpose of the above-mentioned statement of the Ukrainian delegation concerning the mythical "governments," a statement which the Germans and Turks are supporting by word and deed?

Only one, namely: to use these bogus "governments" as a screen for the seizure and enslavement of new territories. The Germans used the Ukrainian Rada as a camouflage when they advanced "on the basis of the Brest treaty" (oh, of course!) and occupied the Ukraine. But now, apparently, the Ukraine can no longer serve as a screen and camouflage, yet the Germans need to make another advance. Hence the demand for a new camouflage, a new screen. And since demand creates supply, the Krasnovs and Bogayevskys, the Chermoyevs and Bammatovs were not slow in coming forward and offering their services. And it is not at all improbable that in the near future the Krasnovs and Bogayevskys, directed and supplied by the Germans, will advance against Russia, for the "liberation" of the Don, while the Germans once again vow and swear their fidelity to the Brest treaty. The same must be said of the Kuban, Terek, etc.

That is the whole point!

The Soviet Government would be burying itself alive if it did not muster every ounce of its strength to resist the invaders and enslavers.

And that is what it will do.

People's Commissar

J. Stalin

Pravda, No. 108, June 1, 1918


1.The reference is to the peace conference between representatives of the R.S.F.S.R. and of the Ukrainian Hetman Government which opened in Kiev on May 23, 1918.

2. The name given by the Cossacks to all those residing in the Cossack regions but not belonging to the Cossack order.—Tr.