J. V. Stalin

Our Tasks in the East

March 2, 1919

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.

With the advance of the Red Army eastward and the opening of the road to Turkestan, a number of new tasks confront us.

The population of the eastern part of Russia is characterized neither by the homogeneity of the central gubernias, which facilitates socialist construction, nor by the cultural maturity of the western and southern border regions, which made it possible swiftly and painlessly to clothe the Soviet power in appropriate national forms. In contrast to these border regions and the centre of Russia, the eastern regions—the Tatars, Bashkirs, Kirghiz, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Tajiks and a whole number of other ethnic groups (a total of about thirty million inhabitants) — present a great diversity of culturally backward peoples who either have not yet emerged from medievalism, or have only recently entered the phase of capitalist development.

This circumstance undoubtedly complicates and somewhat handicaps the tasks of Soviet power in the East.

In addition to the complications of a purely internal character connected with the manner of life, there are complications of a "historical" character, introduced, so to speak, from without. We are referring to the tsarist government's imperialist policy aimed at crushing the peoples of the East, the insatiable greed of the Russian merchants who acted as masters in the eastern regions, and, also, the Jesuitical policy of the Russian priests, who strove by fair means or foul to drag the Moslem peoples into the bosom of the Orthodox Church—circumstances which aroused in the eastern peoples a feeling of distrust and hatred of everything Russian.

It is true that the triumph of the proletarian revolution in Russia and the Soviet Government's policy of emancipating the oppressed peoples have undoubtedly helped to eliminate the atmosphere of national enmity and have won for the Russian proletariat the confidence and respect of the peoples of the East. More, there is every ground for asserting that the peoples of the East, their more enlightened representatives, are beginning to regard Russia as the bulwark and banner of their liberation from the chains of imperialism. Nevertheless, restricted culture and backward manner of life cannot be done away with at one stroke and they still make (and will continue to make) their influence felt in the building of Soviet power in the East.

It is these handicaps that the Programme Drafting Commission of the Russian Communist Party 1 has in mind when it says in its draft that as regards the question of national freedom "the R.C.P. upholds the historical and class standpoint, giving consideration to the stage of historical development in which the given nation finds itself—whether it is on the way from medievalism to bourgeois democracy, or from bourgeois democracy to Soviet democracy," and that "the proletariat of those nations which were oppressor nations must exercise particular caution and be particularly heedful of the survivals of national sentiment among the labouring masses of the oppressed or unequal nations." Our task is:

1) In every way to raise the cultural level of the backward peoples, to build a broad system of schools and educational institutions, and to conduct our Soviet agitation, oral and printed, in the language which is native to and understood by the surrounding labouring population.

2) To enlist the labouring masses of the East in the building of the Soviet state and to render them the utmost assistance in forming their volost, uyezd and other Soviets comprised of people who support the Soviet power and are closely connected with the local population.

3) To do away with all disabilities, formal and actual, whether inherited from the old regime or arisen in the atmosphere of civil war, which prevent the peoples of the East from displaying the maximum independent activity in emancipating themselves from the survivals of medievalism and of the national oppression which has already been shattered.

Only in this way can Soviet power become near and dear to the enslaved peoples of the boundless East.

Only in this way can a bridge be erected between the proletarian revolution of the West and the anti-imperialist movement of the East, thus forming an all-embracing ring around dying imperialism.

The task is to build a citadel of Soviet power in the East, to plant a socialist beacon in Kazan and Ufa, in Samarkand and Tashkent, which will light the path to emancipation for the tormented peoples of the East.

We have no doubt that our devoted Party and Soviet officials, who bore the whole brunt of the proletarian revolution and of the war with imperialism, will discharge with credit this further duty which is laid upon them by history.

Pravda, No. 48, March 2, 1919


1.The commission for drafting the programme of the R.C.P.(B.), of which V. I. Lenin and J. V. Stalin were members, was set up by the Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) on March 8, 1918. The commission's draft was taken as the basis of the programme adopted by the Eighth Congress.

The passages from the draft quoted in this article were embodied in the final text of the programme without alteration (see Resolutions and Decisions of C.P.S.U.(B.) Congresses, Conferences and Central Committee Plenums, Part 1, 6th ed., 1940, p. 287).