J. V. Stalin

The October Revolution and the National Policy of the Russian Communists

November 6-7, 1921

Source : Works, Vol. 5, 1921 - 1923
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.

The strength of the October Revolution lies, among other things, in that, unlike the revolutions in the West, it rallied around the Russian proletariat the many millions of the petty bourgeoisie, and, above all, its most numerous and powerful strata—the peasantry. As a result, the Russian bourgeoisie was isolated and left without an army, while the Russian proletariat became the arbiter of the destiny of the country. But for that the Russian workers would not have retained power.

Peace, the agrarian revolution and freedom for the nationalities—these were the three principal factors which served to rally the peasants of more than twenty nationalities in the vast expanse of Russia around the Red Flag of the Russian proletariat.

There is no need to speak here of the first two factors. Enough has been said about them in the literature on the subject, and indeed they speak for themselves. As for the third factor—the national policy of the Russian Communists—apparently, its importance has not yet been fully realised. It will therefore not be superfluous to say a few words on this subject.

To begin with, of the 140,000,000 of the population of the R.S.F.S.R. (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland excluded), the Great Russians do not number more than 75,000,000. The remaining 65,000,000 belong to nations other than the Great-Russian.

Furthermore, these nations mainly inhabit the border regions, which are the most vulnerable from the military point of view; and these border regions abound in raw materials, fuel and foodstuffs.

Lastly, in industrial and military respects these border regions are less developed than central Russia (or are not developed at all), and, as a consequence, they are not in a position to maintain their independent existence without the military and economic assistance of central Russia, just as central Russia is not in a position to maintain its military and economic power without assistance in fuel, raw materials and food from the border regions.

These circumstances, coupled with certain provisions of the national programme of communism, determined the character of the national policy of the Russian Communists.

The essence of this policy can be expressed in a few words: renunciation of all "claims" and "rights" to regions inhabited by non-Russian nations; recognition (not in words but in deeds) of the right of these nations to exist as independent states; a voluntary military and economic union of these nations with central Russia; assistance to the backward nations in their cultural and economic development, without which what is known as "national equality of rights" becomes an empty sound; all this based on the complete emancipation of the peasants and the concentration of all power in the hands of the labouring elements of the border nations— such is the national policy of the Russian Communists.

Needless to say, the Russian workers who came to power would not have been able to win the sympathy and confidence of their comrades of other nations, and above all of the oppressed masses of the unequal nations, had they not proved in practice their willingness to carry out such a national policy, had they not renounced their "right" to Finland, had they not withdrawn their troops from Northern Persia, had they not renounced the claims of the Russian imperialists to certain regions of Mongolia and China, and had they not assisted the backward nations of the former Russian Empire to develop their culture and statehood in their own languages.

That confidence alone could serve as the basis for that indestructible union of the peoples of the R.S.F.S.R., against which all "diplomatic" machinations and carefully executed "blockades" have proved impotent.

More than that. The Russian workers could not have defeated Kolchak, Denikin and Wrangel had they not enjoyed the sympathy and confidence of the oppressed masses of the border regions of former Russia. It must not be forgotten that the field of action of these mutinous generals was limited to border regions inhabited mainly by non-Russian nations, and the latter could not but hate Kolchak, Denikin and Wrangel for their imperialist policy and policy of Russification. The Entente, which intervened and supported these generals, could rely only on those elements in the border regions which were the vehicles of Russification. That served only to inflame the hatred of the people of the border regions for the mutinous generals and increased their sympathy for the Soviet power.

This circumstance accounted for the internal weakness of the Kolchak, Denikin and Wrangel rears, and therefore for the weakness of their fronts, that is, in the long run, for their defeat.

But the beneficial results of the national policy of the Russian Communists are not confined to the territory of the R.S.F.S.R. and the Soviet republics associated with it. They are also seen, indirectly, it is true, in the attitude of the neighbouring countries towards the R.S.F.S.R. The radical improvement in the attitude of Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, India and other Eastern countries towards Russia, which was formerly a bogey to these countries, is a fact which even so valiant a politician as Lord Curzon does not now venture to dispute. It scarcely needs proof that if the national policy outlined above had not been systematically carried out in the R.S.F.S.R. during the four years of the existence of Soviet power, this radical change in the attitude of the neighbouring countries towards Russia would have been inconceivable.

Such, in the main, are the results of the national policy of the Russian Communists. And these results are especially clear today, on the fourth anniversary of Soviet power, when the hard war is over, when extensive construction work has begun, and when one involuntarily looks back along the path travelled in order to take it in at a single glance.


Pravda, No. 251, November 6-7, 1921