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USSR and Nationalism - Case Study: Russia.

Bourgeois nationalism isn't limited to certain countries - it's present everywhere. As much as the nationalists of former USSR republics want to claim the USSR was a state ruled by Russian chauvinists, the Russian chauvinists disagree - they hate what the USSR has done to the Russian Empire. Putin is one of them - he despises Lenin for making Ukraine a republic. In this article, I'll attempt to cover the history of nationalism in pre-Soviet, Soviet, and post-Soviet Russia.

Through the 19th century, Russia was a semi-feudal country ruled by a Tsar with absdolute power. Though there were certain liberal reforms (such as the abolition of serfdom), the process went slowly. By the 20th century, the major revolutionary currents in the country were, on one hand, Marxists, that looked at everything through the prism of materialism, and on another hand, Narodniks, that claimed the problem is intellegentsia "losing its connection to the people". There were also movements for liberalism. Due to the semi-feudal nature of the Russian Empire, a major class in the country was peasants; just like workers were oppressed by the factory owners, peasants were oppressed by the landlords. The country was heavily religious; the state supported nationalist and Anti-Jewish sentiments.

In 1905, workers led by a priest tried to present a petition to Tsar, complaining about the overreaching power of the factory owners - but since Tsar represented the ruling class - that is, the landlords and, to a lesser extent, the bourgeoisie, the Imperial Guard fired at them in front of the Winter Palace - this was known as Bloody Sunday.

This served as the trigger that forced the people to realize their problems can't be solved under the current economic conditions. Mass strikes followed, and the Tsar's government created a parliament. Well, except the parliament didn't have legislative power, it was only for "consultations". The revolutionary sentiment was strong; the protests continued, and after a few more months a "proper" parliament was introduced, as well as something like a constitution (it's called State Duma by the way; the name was copied by modern Russia).

The Leftist Duma was highly inconvenient for Tsar. This resulted in basically zero laws being adopted because of no consensus between the Duma and the State Council (which was the upper house of the parliament). The Duma was dismissed and reelected, but it kept its left stance. Tsar decided to dismiss it again, this time illegally changing the election legislation, effectively paving the road for the bourgeoisie to take control of the Duma. As such, the revolution of 1905 came to an end, with its goals largely unfulfilled.

It's important to note this revolution was the first one where strikes played a major role; essentially, while it was a bourgeois-democratic revolution, it was led by the proletariat, unlike the previous attempts to overthrow the Tsar, led by the upper classes.

What about Lenin? What was he doing? He was part of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), which was illegally founded in 1898 on the basis of a merge of multiple smaller parties. The first congress in Russia was raided by the police. Three years later the party tried to hold a congress in Brussels, but the police didn't allow it, so they had to hold it in London instead.

On the congress, they discussed many fundamental issues related to party policy. In particular, the issue that served as the cause as the split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks was seemingly minor - Bolsheviks wanted each member of the party to "personally take part in one of the party's organizations", while Mensheviks wanted each member of the party to "personally regularly cooperate with the party under the leadership of one of its organizations". It might seem like a minor difference, but in practice the difference is whether the party accepts anyone who "cooperates" with it, even if they aren't part of one of its organizations, or only the most dedicated revolutionaries. In practice, the split went wider. After the revolution, RSDLP was allowed to join the State Duma; in 1913, Bolsheviks split from the RSDLP into RSDLP(b), and in 1914 they were kicked from the Duma for not supporting Russia in the World War I, while Mensheviks stayed within legal bounds, calling the war defensive on Russia's side. Mensheviks were fine with Russia becoming a bourgeois-democratic republic, while Bolsheviks wanted to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.

While the new Duma wasn't as left, it still opposed the Tsarist government. The country wasn't fit to fight in the World War I at the time, so it struggled economically as well. In 1917, Anti-war protests grew, turning into a general strike, the capital fell into anarchy; the second revolution started. Two governments were formed to replace the Tsarist ones - a soviet government, and a parliament. The Tsar was arrested. The soviet government and the parliament started to become more and more opposed to each other, as support for Bolsheviks in soviets grew; while the parliament refused to stop the war, and generally primarily served the interests of the bourgeoisie; the Narodnik "Social-Revolutionary" party held the majority, and largely lost popular support because of its failure to represent the people's will. This culminated in the slogan "All power to the soviets!". The parliament and its supporters attempted to suppress the soviets. The parliament was still too weak to take power in its hands; the soviets were already too weak to take power in their hands. The parliament attempted to claim Lenin was a German spy, and opposed the war to weaken Russia and let Germany win. Eventually a third revolution started - the goal was finally fulfilling the demands of the people, which neither the Tsarist government nor the bourgeois parliament could do, and giving the power to the people via soviets. The pro-parliament were overwhelmed military, and soviets took power.

Bolsheviks supported giving independent territory to national minorities in Russia - Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, and a single republic for Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. This, combined with their attitude towards the war, meant the Russian nationalists strongly resented Bolsheviks. A broad coalition of monarchist and liberal nationalists was formed (the White movement), and a civil war started. Their slogan was "For a Great, United and Indivisible Russia!". This was in contrast to communists that were against the war that Russia joined as an imperialist power and that wouldn't help the proletariat, that standed for the principles of internationalism and refused to support Russian chauvinism. Ironically, the White movement that claimed Lenin was a foreign agent seeking Russia's demise was itself supported in the war by the Great Britain, Australia, Canada, India, France, the USA, Italy, Greece, Romania, Poland, Japan, China, KSHS, Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, Finland, as well as Ukrainian, Belarusian, Finnish and Polish nationalists (yes, armies of all of these countries literally entered Russia to fight against the communists). Meanwhile, the Red Army was only supported by the communist movements that formed in the former Russian Empire. At the same time, Soviet Russia signed the Brest-Litovsk treaty that essentially meant giving away some territories.

After the defeat in the civil war, the White movement continued to exist in exile, because every supporter of it in the USSR was rightly repressed as an enemy of communism. Many of them supported the fascists that called for "national unity"; some, such as Pyotr Krasnov, fought for the Nazi Germany in hopes to gain back full control over Russia. Antisemitism was widely spread in the White movement, so joining Germany to fight against Jews and communists was, for many, a no-brainer. Some of the White fascists, such as Ivan Ilyin, who Putin deeply respects, lamented the loss of many Russian lifes in the WW2, but maintained support for fascism in general. Some members of the White movement hoped to stop the USSR's internationalist policies and foster Russian chauvinism, but that never happened.

In post-Soviet Russia, the flame of nationalism flared up. The flag of the Russian empire was restored; a new State Duma was formed, called after the Tsarist duma. The dislike for liberalism didn't disappear after the USSR, especially after it had disastrous consequences in the 1990s - but since the masses were now devoid of class consciousness, they turned to fascism as the solution to its problems. Many members of the White movement were reabilitated, a party called "United Russia" after the aforementioned slogan became the majority in the parliament. New fascist movements were formed, amalgamated with the sorrow at losing the dominant place in the world. Nationalism merged with blind nostalgy for the USSR, devoid of class analysis. The government says the same things as the members of the White movement - but claims it's a successor of the Red USSR. A clear example of the sheer theoretical ineptness of the people is the newly formed National Bolshevik (NazBol) ideology, which claims to be related to communism, but is nothing but idealism in practice. Of course, this situation is favorable to the government - it's great when the proletariat wants to align itself with the bourgeoisie of "its nation", as opposed to fighting for its interests with the workers of every other nation against the bourgeoisie that became Russia's new ruling class. This means nationalism became Russia's new state policy, for example, when announcing the 2022 military operation, Putin openly denounced Lenin for giving Ukraine independency, calling it "an artificial state"; many politicians claim the problems in the country are caused by "Western influence", while in practice the only thing "Western influence" affects is whether Russian or Western capitalists profit from Russian labor. In this way, Russia openly denounces communism, claiming the USSR was not an achievement of communism, but an achievement of the Russian people, and seeks to appropriate the victories of communism to itself, while opposing communism at the same time.

As we will see in the next articles in this series, this pattern repeats again and again. Marxist, materialist analysis of the world gives clear answers to the questions of why this happened, it allows us to form a complete picture of the world. What happened in Russia isn't a coincidence - it's a natural outcome of its material conditions.

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