The USSR annexed Karelia from Finland, Kaliningrad from Germany, the Kuril Islands and southern Sakhalin from Japan, Tuva (previously governed by Mongolia and Manchu Empire) etc. In addition the ground was prepared for post-Soviet semi-colonial adventures in Transnestria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Even the continuing basis provided by Nagorno-Karabakh for interference by Russia in the internal affairs of Armenia and Azerbaijan hark back to the USSR’s policies and activities.

On the eve of Ukrainian independence in 1991, eight of Ukraine’s thirteen political parties referred to the country as an exploited “colony” in their programs. After 1991 mos Ukrainian historians described Ukrainians as victims of colonialism while literary scholars drew attention to the nation’s “post-colonial” condition. Most Russian historians stressed that Ukrainians had also served as agents of empire (compare the role of the Scots in the British Empire) and characterized Ukraine’s historical status as “semi-colonial”. Whereas academics disagree as to whether to label the central policies as “Russian”, tsarist, Soviet or intentionally “anti-Ukrainian”, and whether the development that did occur was worth the cost, most Russians and a minority of the population in Ukraine regard that country’s historical association with Russia favorably and do not see Ukraine as a colonial victim of Russian imperial power.

One of the most important tasks imposed on Soviet historians is to rehabilitate the old Russian colonial policy: “…Georgia was at that time faced with the alternative either of being conquered by the Persian Shah and the Turkish Sultan or coming under the protectorate of Russia . . . . They do not perceive that the latter prospect was the lesser evil”.  The theory of “the lesser evil” was at once universally adopted in Soviet literature.  The history of the peoples of the Soviet East depicted as “the history of their friendship with the great Russian people” by Soviet literature.  Soviet histotrian M. V. Nechkina wrote that “The Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaidjan, after their annexation to Russia, were incorporated into the economic life of Russia, which was on a higher level than their own”.

Kazakh khan Kenesary’s revolt (1837—1847) was the subject of a major historical work, “Kazakhstan in the Period from the 1820’s to the 1840’s,” published in Alma-Ata in 1947 by E. Bekmakhanov, a Kazakh. He portrayed Kenesary as a fighter for national liberation and national unity. On 26 December 1950, Pravda published an annihilating article on the errors committed by the historians who had dealt with the history of Kazakhstan. Nothing was left of Bekmakhanov’s entire conception: “Instead of revealing the profoundly progressive significance of Kazakhstan’s annexation to Russia, Bekmakhanov sees in it nothing but colonial oppression . . . The emergence of the Kasymovs (Kenesary and his brother), which stood in the way of annexation, was contrary to the aspirations of the progressive section of the Kazakh people. . . This was a reactionary movement, which dragged the Kazakh people backward . . . Khan Kenesary was a typical feudal bandit. . . Kenesary’s revolt, which was not supported by the Kazakh people, was a reactionary, feudal-nationalist movement, aided by forces abroad which were hostile to Russia”.

And A. Daniyalov in “Voprosy Istorii“, (Questions about history) September 1950, asserted that “objectively, Russia filled the role of liberator of the Caucasian peoples from the cruel and arbitrary oppression of the Iranian and Turkish bandits”

The Soviet Union, which replaced the empire, proclaimed that the goal of its national policy was to forge a new national entity, the “Soviet people”.

Soviet scholarship declared that Leninist national policy had been successfully implemented as the final solution of the nationality problem, resulting in the friendship, equality and unity of all the nations of the USSR.  Though it was still claimed that all nationalities were treated equally, by the late 1930s, reference to the “leading role” of the Russian people in the Soviet society had become common.  From World War II on, the Russians were called the “elder brother” in the Soviet family of nationalities. Before Stalin’s rule ended, Soviet historians were to depict the conquest of Non-Russian nationalities by the Russians as historically progressive and to claim that a great friendship between the peoples of the Soviet Union existed since the establishment of the earliest contacts among them.  Mixed marriage is regarded as an indicator of friendship between ethnic groups and ethnic nationalism was prohibited in the Soviet Union.

Campaigns against the tsar society continued well into the Soviet Union’s history. One of these criticisms was accusation of hindering development in minority areas.  Vladimir Lenin noted that: “national minorities in Tsarist Russia suffered extra oppression, social and ethnic”.  The Tsarist Russian Empire was dubbed the “prison of the nations” by Lenin.

JesseWachter