Reviews

Differently from other books on Soviet national policy, the present work really takes into account the ethnic diversity of the country in which Bolsheviks established their power after October 1917. The result is refreshing: Instead of an abstract reconstruction of ethnicity, the author invites us to follow the concrete life of ethnic communities defined as narody. Focusing in four chapters on the territorial, juridical, economical and cultural aspects of the existence of Finno-Ugric, Slavic and Turkic populations in southern Urals (viz. in present-day Bashkortostan, Northern Kazakhstan, and Orenburg Region), the book offers a vivid overview of the conditions in which Soviet national policy was involved. Another interest of the book is the trans-regional approach that has been used by an historian with an excellent knowledge of regional archive collections (in Orenburg, Chelyabinsk, and Ufa). Showing how the situation of each community was depending on that side of the inner-Soviet border where it was situated, the author sheds light on the deep complexity of ethnic territories. The first chapter is devoted to the territorial dimension of the issue, and provides a new insight on Bashkir and Kazakh autonomies through consideration of their interaction. As the cultural centre of both Bashkir and Kazakh intelligentsias, Orenburg was bound for integration into both territories. Between 1920 and 1925 the city was the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic (present-day Kazakhstan), though debates never ended as to its future. Till the mid 1930s, the right to national self-determination was prolonged at local level through the creation of national districts. The author provides details on this fact, which sometimes favoured the preservation of the old ethnic and patriarchal order. In the second chapter, the legal situation of each nationality (Germans, Ukrainians, Jews, Russians, Tatars, Kazakhs, Bashkirs, Chuvash, Maris. . .) is introduced with reference to both Tsarist and Soviet legislations. State and party institutions created to take in charge each minority are analysed, and their efficiency compared with that of the Red Army. It is well known that indigenisation (korenizatsiia) was delayed by the lack of national specialists, but new facts are provided on pressures from Moscow to improve it. Tensions provoked by the use of Tatar language for Bashkir and Kazakh schools are also well documented. We find stimulating mentions on local elections, for instance on the mobilisation of clan networks for the election of bigger numbers of deputies from one nationality in party comities. The third chapter deals with the economic situation of national minorities and with attempts by the state administration to erase discrepancies. Assistance was provided along ethnic affiliations (during the 1932 famine, thousands of Kazakhs were settled in Bashkiria), and ethnic rivalries were generally based on economic factors: In the Southern Urals Russian peasants were often rending their lands to Bashkir owners. Differences on land legislation between the RSFSR and the republics had important consequences. They are analysed within a comparison of the respective settling process among Bashkirs and Kazakhs. The last chapter on the cultural aspect of the things shows the importance given to the creation of written languages for the struggle against illiteracy. Teaching in mother tongue was the rule and the reputation in this field of German national schools had gained other regions. Among information on education and publication processes, the book provides innovative considerations on the place of national languages in the Soviet judicial system. Finally, the main regret that one can feel after reading this book is the absence of reference to international historical research.

Xavier Le Torrivellec, French-Russian Centre for Human and Social Sciences, Moscow
CER: II-3.2.C-183