J. V. Stalin

Author's Preface

To a Collection of Articles Published on the National Question in 1920

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.

This pamphlet contains only three articles on the national question. The publishers evidently made this particular selection because these three articles reflect three very important periods in the solution of the national question within the ranks of our Party, and, evidently, the purpose of the pamphlet as a whole is to give a more or less complete picture of the policy of our Party on the national question.

The first article (Marxism and the National Question, see the magazine Prosveshcheniye, 1913) 1 reflects the period of the discussion of the fundamental principles of the national question within Russian Social-Democracy at the time of the landlord-tsarist reaction, a year and a half before the outbreak of the imperialist war, at the time when the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia was gathering momentum. Two theories of nations, and, correspondingly, two national programmes contended with one another at that time: the Austrian, supported by the Bund and the Mensheviks, and the Russian, or the Bolshevik. The reader will find a description of both trends in the article. Subsequent developments, especially the imperialist war and the breakup of Austria-Hungary into separate national states, clearly demonstrated which side was right. Now, when Springer and Bauer are confronted by the failure of their national programme, it is scarcely to be doubted that the "Austrian school" has been condemned by history. Even the Bund has had to admit that "the demand for cultural-national autonomy (i.e., the Austrian national programme—J. St.), which was put forward under the capitalist system, loses its meaning in the conditions of a socialist revolution" (see The Twelfth Conference of the Bund, 1920). The Bund does not even suspect that by this it has admitted (inadvertently) the fundamental unsoundness of the theoretical principles of the Austrian national programme, the fundamental unsoundness of the Austrian theory of the nation.

The second article (The October Revolution and the National Question, see Zhizn Natsionalnostei, 1918) 2 reflects the period following the October Revolution, when the Soviet power, having defeated the counter-revolution in central Russia, came into conflict with the bourgeois-nationalist governments in the border regions, which were hotbeds of counter-revolution; when the Entente, alarmed by the growing influence of the Soviet power on its (the Entente's) colonies, openly began to support the bourgeois-nationalist governments with a view to strangling Soviet Russia; when in the course of the victorious struggle against the bourgeois-nationalist governments, we were confronted with the practical problem of what should be the concrete forms of regional Soviet autonomy, of the organization of autonomous Soviet republics in the border regions, of the extension of the influence of Soviet Russia to the oppressed countries of the East through the eastern border regions of Russia, and of the creation of a united revolutionary front of the West and the East against world imperialism. The article notes the inseparable connection between the national question and the question of power, and treats national policy as a part of the general question of the oppressed peoples and colonies, that is, the very thing against which as a rule the "Austrian school," the Mensheviks, the reformists and the Second International objected, and which was later confirmed by the whole course of developments.

The third article (The Policy of the Soviet Government on the National Question in Russia, see Zhizn Natsional-nostei, October 1920) 3 relates to the present period of, still incompleted, administrative redivision of Russia on the basis of regional Soviet autonomy, the period of the organization of administrative communes and autonomous Soviet republics in the border regions as component parts of the R.S.F.S.R. The central theme of the article is the practical implementation of Soviet autonomy, that is, the ensuring of a revolutionary union between the centre and the border regions as a guarantee against imperialist attempts at intervention.

It may seem strange that the article categorically rejects the demand for the secession of the border regions from Russia as being a counter-revolutionary move. But there is really nothing strange in that. We are for the secession of India, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and other colonies from the Entente, because secession in this case would mean the liberation of those oppressed countries from imperialism, a weakening of the positions of imperialism and a strengthening of the positions of the revolution. We are against the secession of the border regions from Russia, because secession in that case would mean imperialist bondage for the border regions, a weakening of the revolutionary might of Russia and a strength ening of the positions of imperialism. It is for this reason that the Entente, which fights against the secession of India, Egypt, Arabia and other colonies, at the same time fights for the secession of the border regions from Russia. It is for this reason that the Communists, who fight for the secession of the colonies from the Entente, at the same time cannot but fight against the secession of the border regions from Russia. Obviously, secession is a question which must be decided in conformity with the specific international conditions and in conformity with the interests of the revolution.

Certain passages which are only of historical interest might have been deleted from the first article, but because of its polemical character it had to be given in full and unaltered. The second and third articles are likewise reprinted without alteration.

October, 1920

J. Stalin, Collection of Articles, State Publishing House, Tula, 1920


1.Marxism and the National Question (see Works, Vol. 2, pp. 300-381) was written by J. V. Stalin in Vienna at the end of 1912 and the beginning of 1913, and was first published (signed K. Stalin) in Prosveshcheniye, Nos. 3-5, 1913, under the title "The National Question and Social-Democracy."

Prosveshcheniye (Enlightenment) — a Bolshevik monthly magazine which was published in St. Petersburg from December 1911 to June 1914, when it was shut down by the tsarist government. One double number appeared in the autumn of 1917. The magazine was directed by V. I. Lenin. J. V. Stalin, when he was in St. Petersburg, took all active part in its publication.

2.The October Revolution and the National Question (see present volume, pp. 158-170) was published in the newspaper Zhizn Natsionalnostei, No. 1, November 9, 1918.

Zhizn Natsionalnostei (Life of the Nationalities) — weekly organ of the People's Commissariat for the Affairs of Nationalities, published in Moscow from November 9, 1918, to February 16, 1922. From February 25, 1922, it appeared as a magazine under the same name and continued publication until January 1924.

3.See present volume, pp. 363-375.