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The Soviet Union: the real story

Discussion in 'History' started by EatTheRich, Mar 18, 2017.

  1. EatTheRich

    EatTheRich Governor

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    Race relations: Lenin, himself an ethnic Russian, made major efforts to reverse the Russian chauvinism typical of the capitalist era. Largely at his insistence, and over opposition led by Tomsky, Russia initiated broad programs of affirmative action, minority-language recognition even for the smallest minorities, and self-determination. Revolutionary Russia took an active interest in and contributed assistance to the emancipation of American Blacks, the Chinese, and other oppressed people. Among the top party leaders in Lenin's time were the Polish Radek, the Armenian Mikoyan, the Ukrainian Rakovsky, the Georgian Stalin, and the Jewish Zinoviev, Trotsky and (his brother-in-law) Kamenev. Stalin, as commissar for nationalities and acting on Lenin's support, differentiated between the economically "backward" nationalities of Asia, who were given large-scale assistance (as military and economic exigencies permitted) and Poles, White Russians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, and Jews, who were concentrated in parts of the former empire that were more developed and better educated than the Russian heartland. These peoples were also allowed to benefit from affirmative action and minority-language programs that addressed Russian chauvinism, but their nationalist demands were treated with greater suspicion, particularly when they sought to compound their economic advantage or when Poles sought to dominate Ukrainians, Ukrainians sought to dominate Poles, or both sought to dominate Jews.

    Jews were about 6% of the population of the Soviet Union at the time of its creation, but about 30% of the membership of Lenin's party, and an even higher percentage of the Mensheviks. They were a majority in the Communist Party in Belarus (Byelorussia), as they were a majority in its major city, Minsk, and nearly a majority of the Ukrainian Party. The White (anti-communist) forces led by Kolchak and Denikin systematically murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews.

    Nationalist opposition to the Bolsheviks came from Czechs and Slovaks, who worked out a deal with the French to get an independent Czechoslovakia in former Austro-Hungarian land in exchange for fighting the Russians, and from Siberian nationalities (Tanguts, Mongols, Tatars, etc.), who were encouraged by Japan to found an independent buffer state under Kolchak. Both states were met by military force as reactionary enemies but the peoples also encouraged in their ambitions toward self-determination if they would adopt a friendlier attitude toward Russia and the working classes.

    The Don Cossack tribe, which historically achieved aristocratic knightly privilege as military shock troops for the czars, murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews and Communists in an effort to establish an independent republic. Led by Lenin and Dzerzhinsky, the Bolsheviks responded with a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign again st them that killed tens of thousands in less than 2 months.

    Ethnic clashes between Armenians and Azeris also broke out as Armenians resisted Azeri efforts to dominate them; Lenin's government intervened on the Armenian side. Georgia meanwhile elected a Menshevik - led government that fought against the Russians. On Stalin's initiative and over Lenin's objections, they were met with an ethnic cleansing campaign that killed thousands.
     
  2. EatTheRich

    EatTheRich Governor

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    Race relations, part 2: The forcible incorporation of Georgia and the creation of the USSR, which restricted national autonomy, marked the beginning of Stalin's reversal of Leninist policy. Between 1921 and 1928, Stalin systematically favored Russians, White Russians, and Ukrainians. Kazakhs and other "backward" nationalities were increasingly neglected economically. A subtle Jew-baiting campaign, organized to assist the purges of leftists such as Trotsky and Zinoviev, reduced the proportion of Jews in the party to less than 10%. (Jews were later disproportionately swept up in the 1936-1938 purge of Old Bolsheviks, and by 1939 were only 4% of those in the party.) Pogroms against Poles, encouraged by Stalin, killed thousands. Minority languages, especially those of small minorities such as Swedes, were no longer given official encouragement, and Polish or other nationalists were subject to arrest for nationalist deviationism. The scope of affirmative action programs was scaled back sharply. Then suddenly in 1928, as Stalin made his ultraleft zigzag, his nationality policy was radically changed. Russian and Ukrainian nationalism were treated with more suspicion. Minorities, especially the Poles and Kazakhs, were encouraged to "struggle" against their "oppressors." Stalin created a new Jewish homeland in the Far East (along the dangerous border with Japanese - occupied Manchuria). And the government embarked on a large scale ethnic cleansing of the Ukrainians, intended to break resistance to forced collectivization, which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions. With the success of this campaign by 1931, arrests for Russian chauvinism ceased and Russian chauvinism again became the guiding principles of Stalin's nationalities policy. Stalin's regime also used administrative methods to deal with perceived threats, beginning with the ethnic cleansing (forced removal) of ethnic Koreans as potential Japanese spies in 1937, and going on to the removal of Germans (in which hundreds of thousands were killed), Chechens (likewise), and Tatars in 1941-1944. Meanwhile Hitler's forces killed millions of Russian Jews.

    A small insurgency of fascist - minded armed Ukrainian nationalists had been active in the USSR since 1929, at which time it was government policy to starve the Ukrainians to death. After 1932, however, Stalin's government fought these Ukrainian nationalists only when they fought the government, but turned a blind eye when they massacred tens of thousands of Poles and Jews. In 1939, the Ukrainian Nationalist Organization cooperated with Hitler's invasion, as did many nationalists in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. However, Germany opposed an independent Ukrainian state, and Ukrainian Nationalist fighters found themselves fighting Germany as well after 1940, especially before the German invasion of the USsR was repulsed. As the Soviets regained the initiative in 1943-1944, Ukrainian nationalists resumed cooperation wish Nazi Germany, and as the Germans were forced to retreat from Ukraine, the U.S. stepped in to replace the former support the Germans had given. The U.S.-backed Ukrainian insurgency continued until 1959, a though after 1949 its leadership was purged of its most fascistic elements.

    Stalin, alarmed by Jewish enthusiasm for Israel, consciously emulating Hitler, and in response to the disproportionately Jewish opposition to his autocracy in the Communist Party, made preliminary efforts to initiate a large-scale persecution of Jews starting in 1952. Stalin's biggest collaborator in this effort was Malenkov, while Beria led the effort to frustrate his plans. Hundreds of Jews were arrested in 1952-1953, but a large-scale persecution of Jews was prevented by Stalin's death, Beria 's maneuvering, and Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin's plans.

    Khrushchev moderated Stalin's Russian chauvinism, allowing for example the Chechens and Tatars to return from Siberian exile. He also, however, firmly repressed expressions of nationalism. His administrative transfer of the Crimea to Ukrainian control was not intended to strengthen Ukraine, but to weaken the Ukrainian nation by diluting the vote of Ukrainians by the addition of hundreds of thousands of Russians.

    As the Zionist movement grew more strident while political repression grew more ubiquitous under Brezhnev, hundreds of Jews were arrested.

    The scapegoating of Muslims under Brezhnev and his successors as part of the Afghan war propaganda and in response to the growing drug and crime problems led to further diminution of affirmative action and helped contribute to ethnic clashes between Azeri and Armenians that broke out in 1987. Gorbachev's governing intervened, first on the Armenian side, and then on the Azeri side; thousands on both sides were killed.

    Nationalist aspirations played a major role in the fall of the USSR, as Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia led the way in declaring independence in 1990-1991, followed shortly by the Caucasian republics and then Russia; the Central Asian republics, especially Kazakhstan, on the other hand l, tended to oppose the breakup.

    In recent years, a more strident anti-Semitism has been openly voiced in Russia, largely on the initiative of Zyuganov, while Russian chauvinism has been crudely voiced by Zhirinovsky and Putin. A war broke out between independent Armenia and Azerbaijan ending in Azeri victory, while Russia has mounted successful wars against the Chechen, Dagestan, Ingush, and Georgian people while getting bogged down in a more recent war on Ukraine.
     
  3. EatTheRich

    EatTheRich Governor

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    Religion: The Soviet state was never officially atheist, but the Communist Party was hostile toward religion to one degree or another. Religious policy under Lenin was dominated by Yaroslavsky. Through the education system under Lunacharsky's leadership, children were taught to see through religious propaganda. After 1918 it was illegal to teach children under 18 religious dogmas or bring them to religious services. Adults were allowed to worship freely in private, but public religious celebration was banned, the construction of new Christian churches was banned, and anarchist vandals destroyed a number of churches, particularly Orthodox and Catholic Churches in Ukraine. Sermons were also strictly monitored and required to confirm to state standards. Until 1925 Muslims were exempted from most of the laws against religion as part of the government's efforts to win over the Muslim masses. Indeed, until the establishment of the USSR in 1921, sharia law in the Muslim Soviet republics was tolerated by Lenin's government on grounds of self-determination. However, the Russian government intervened to prevent the Muslim Azeri community from imposing sharia law in areas with a Christian Armenian majority. Religious Jews were heavily targeted by atheist propaganda and forbidden from indoctrination chosen, but allowed to worship in public until 1929. In 1918 the gold belonging to the Orthodox Church (but not other churches) was requisitioned by the government for the war effort.

    Early religious policy was opposed within state / party circles by Bukharin, who called for combating all religions equally, as opposed to Yaroslavsky's policy of concentrating on the Orthodox/Catholic churches primarily, and for arrests of believers and bans on religious practice, and from the other side by Gorky, the main proponent of state-church cooperation and removing restrictions on religion.

    In 1923 under Stalin and Gorky's influence the ban on public worship was dropped. In 1925, largely on Yaroslavsky's and Krupskaya's initiative, the League of the Militant Godless was founded with Communist Party backing to wage a public struggle against religion. In 1929, Bukharin led a successful fight for a new ban on public religious practice and on ordain in new clergy. These policies remained in place under Stalin after Bukharin was purged from the Politburo that same year.

    In 1941, Stalin significantly lifted restrictions on religious belief and practice, including legalizing public religious services, and the Orthodox Church, which began to grow closer to Stalin's regime, was encouraged to take a bigger role in public life. In 1949, Stalin outlawed the League of the Militant Godless and arrested its leaders.

    Religious Jews, meanwhile, were increasingly persecuted around the same time along with their secular counterparts. Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostals, and Jehovah's Witnesses had often been subject to arrest since Lenin's time based on these sects' anti-government, evangelical, and (sometimes) pacifist views, but they were flatly banned in 1951 and hundreds were sent to mental institutions. Baptist churches were not banned, but, like other minor Protestant sects as well as Islam, they were often forced to turn over their church buildings to the Orthodox Church. The Lutheran Church for the most part cooperated closely with the Stalin regime and faced little harassment.

    Malenkov was one of the biggest supporters of lifting restrictions on the Orthodox Church, which initially went even further after Stalin's death in 1953, and after he was purged and forced into retirement in 1957 he became an open Orthodox Christian himself. However, after Khrushchev gained the political initiative in 1955-1956, he began stepping up propaganda and education campaigns against religion and restricting the Orthodox Church's access to state media.

    Despite his regime's intensified persecution of Jews (itself reversed around 1977 as the mass exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel became an accomplished fact), Brezhnev adopted a more permissive attitude toward religion in general after taking power in 1964. The banned religious groups were again permitted to worship, all bans on church construction were dropped, and the content of sermons became less strictly controlled. Freedom of religion grew again after Gorbachev took power in 1985 and again--at least in most places--after the Soviet Union fell in 1991.

    However, arrests of Muslims spiked sharply after the 1979 invasion, and turf wars between rival bureaucratic cliques erupted into religious battles killing thousands between Muslims and Christians in 1988-1991, with Moscow intervening on both sides. These clashes continued after the dissolution of the USSR in the form of a war between largely Muslim Azerbaijan and largely Christian Armenia. Meanwhile, both the Central Asian republics, and Russia in its own Caucasus, found themselves threatened by Islamist insurgencies, while Putin's Russia aligned itself closely with the Orthodox Church, which was officially favored, and imprisoned several of its critics.
     
  4. EatTheRich

    EatTheRich Governor

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    That's jacked up: Take your pick: the hostage-taking, Katyn massacre, killing of the Romanovs, execution quotas, GULAG system ... the suppressed testament of Lenin, the world's worst maritime disaster when the Russians torpedoed a Nazi German military transport ship filled with soldiers and hundreds of civilian evacuees ... the attempted cover-up of the Chernobyl disaster, which greatly increased the damage caused, the weapons dumped into the Caspian Sea to cover up the program, the KGB role in creating AIDS conspiracy theories that put public health at risk, and the list goes on ... some of it clearly unjustifiable, some a wise if horrible choice under inhuman circumstances.

    The media: Until the Kronstadt mutiny crackdown, access to the scarce presses nationalized by Lenin's government in 1917 was given to the Council of People's Commissars, all legal political parties, the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the provincial governments, each of the trade unions and the union federation, the Red Army, the Petrograd Soviet, the Moscow Soviet, the women's department of the CP Secretariat, and the People's Commissariat for Nationalities. After 1921, Lenin restricted press access to the Council of People's Commissars, Communist Party and Central Committee, and People's Commissariat for Nationalities. The Cheka and its successors, as well as various party and state organs, unions, and factories, also published internal bulletins not for public dissemination. The international organizations the Comintern (organization of communist parties), Profintern (communist unions), and Warsaw Pact (communist states) also published newspapers in the USSR, and other foreign newspapers were available to officials with appropriate security clearances. A 1921 decree by Lenin required all journalists to have a year of political education by the Communist Party, but due to a shortage of trained journalists this decree was widely ignored in practice. Editors were often chosen for class background rather than professionalism, especially after 1921 and at an accelerated pace after 1928. Under Stalin between 1928-1933, during his fight against the Right Opposition, newspapers for the trade unions and Red Army were restored. In 1936, after he had crushed his opposition, Stalin allowed provincial governments to resume publishing newspapers, to create the appearance of broad support. Stalin also allowed the Orthodox Church to print a public newspaper starting in 1942, a decision reversed in 1953 on Khrushchev's initiative. After the 1928 arrest and execution of dozens of dissident journalists, journalists writing in all media were careful to write only what they were instructed to write by TASS, the state-run news agency. Newspapers were given considerably more leeway to fix their own political positions and cover hitherto controversial stories, however, under the 1982 Andropov reforms, and Gorbachev legalized most domestic opposition media (that not obviously financed by foreign intelligence) during the deepening of the glasnost campaign in 1987. Between 1924, when Lenin's testament was suppressed by Stalin, and 1982, but especially before Stalin's physical extermination of most of the communists by 1939 and almost all by 1945, a strong underground or "samiszdat" current of opposition press shined light into the state's shadows.

    Radio and TV in Russia, which were largely neglected (except for military and police use) until standards of living began to rise during the Khrushchev era, were strictly controlled by the government from 1917 right up through the 1987 reforms, although various provinces allowed more leeway for media and foreign media was often illegally consumed (with few repercussions, in most cases, after 1982). Yeltsin's government legalized foreign media in Russia in 1991, and greatly reduced funding for TASS while increasing its editorial independence. Putin has sought since 1999, with some success, to proliferate state-owned media and increase its reach, but has had little success with silencing opposition media.

    Until 1925, most music (except for the important film music industry) and most writing were produced by private, state-subsidized clubs whose dues-paying members voted on what to produce. But the Communist Party officially encouraged (while it did not require) its members to patronize some works and boycott others, while internal disagreements over the amount of formal experimentation allowed (the maximum, for Lunacharsky, Shliapnikov, and the nonparty member Bogdanov who was their influential, union-backed ally; a great deal according to Trotsky and Lenin, but balanced with the struggle for a progressive politics; very little according to Zinoviev and Stalin); the amount Russian classical tradition should influence Soviet writing (a great deal, according to Stalin and Gorky; a bit, according to Trotsky; very little, according to Lunacharsky); and the extent to which music and writing should be subordinate to political considerations (to the maximum extent according to Zinoviev; to a considerable extent according to Lenin, Trotsky, and Gorky; a bit, according to Stalin; and very little, according to Lunacharsky).

    After 1925 a monopoly on legal music and creative writing was put in the hands of unions dominated by Stalin. Through 1932 Stalin's main artistic policy was to encourage classical traditions while minimizing political themes; in 1932, this changed to promoting loyalty to the state, a policy that was the basis of Soviet creative writing policy in generations to come but in the sphere of music gave way in 1941-1945 to the encouragement of a proliferation of experimental music forms. After 1945 a new push was made to promote traditional Russian music. The popularity of dissident artists, especially Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Anna Akhmatova, helped push back the censorship with the Khrushchev thaw of 1956. Underground music grew, and popular pressure led to the legalizing of Beatles records in 1967, to the proliferation of rock bands after the 1979 Afghanistan invasion, and the first tour by an American rock star (Dean Reed) in 1985.

    The Soviet Union was a pioneer in film, although (especially during the Molotov period in 1926-1932 and the Zhdanov/Malenkov periods 1945-1953) "socialist realist" political dictates pushed filmmakers to compromise artistic integrity for incorporation of political boilerplate. Lenin's government made filmmaking a priority, largely on Lunacharsky's initiative, and by 1923 had more movie theaters per capita than any other country, a record still held by Russia. Even in rural areas movies were cheap and theaters were usually nearby. Movie and theater tickets were also often provided free for union workers, students, and party members. The most popular early filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein, was so influential that he was not harassed for being openly gay even after the Stalin regime banned homosexuality and sharply repressed dissent. Foreign films were freely available until 1931, and not again until 1991.
     
  5. EatTheRich

    EatTheRich Governor

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    User political polls: Support for the Moscow government was consistently higher with women than with men, consistently higher in traditionally Muslim areas than traditional lying Christian areas, and consistently higher among Russians than Ukrainians, Poles, or Germans, and consistently higher among these groups than among Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians. It was higher among Chechens and Tatars than Russians prior to 1941, and lower afterward. It was higher among union workers than among non-union workers, and higher among the unemployed than among union workers in 1917-1920 and 1928-1936 only. It was higher among Jews than gentiles prior to 1939, and lower afterward. It was higher among atheists than the religious, and among the religious highest among Muslims, then non-evangelical Protestants, then the Orthodox, then Catholics, and then evangelical Protestants. It was typically higher in urban areas than rural areas, but not in 1924-1928. It rose from 1917-1919, then declined until 1921, and rose again until 1958 when it reached its peak. Its popularity continued to decline until 1991 when it increased shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union. Nostalgia for the USSR within its former borders rose until 1999, declined between 1999 and 2007, and has risen since then to its highest level since 1991.
     

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