A Guide to the Soviet Union

By William M. Mandel | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
THE SOVIET EAST

One reason why the Soviet Union was able to turn the tide against Hitler at Stalingrad in 1942 was because, for the first time in Russian history, the Eastern peoples of the Caucasus and Central Asia fought alongside them in huge numbers, and manned industries to equip the Red Army. It was the fruit of what Henry Wallace calls "ethnic democracy," and describes as follows:

"A third kind of democracy, which I call ethnic, is in my opinion. vital to the new democracy, the democracy of the common man. Ethnic democracy means merely that the different races and minority groups must be given equality of economic opportunity. . . . Russia has probably gone further than any other nation in the world in practicing ethnic democracy. From the Russians we can learn much, for unfortunately the Anglo-Saxons have had an attitude toward other races which has made them exceedingly unpopular in many parts of the world. We have not sunk to the lunatic level of the Nazi myth of racial superiority, but we have sinned enough to cost us already the blood of tens of thousands of precious lives. Ethnic democracy built from the heart is perhaps the greatest need of the Anglo-Saxon tradition."1

When the Soviets came to power at the end of 1917, a cabinet post for the affairs of nationalities was set up immediately and given to Joseph Stalin, himself from Georgia, a subject nation in the Caucasus. He had been recognized by Lenin as the Bolshevik Party's outstanding expert on nationality problems and was author of its platform planks on that subject. In a "Report on the National Question" delivered at a Bolshevik Party Congress in May, 1917, Stalin said:

"Thus, our views on the national question reduce themselves to the following propositions:

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