Observing the variety and partiality of many current judgements on the Soviet policy of nationalities, the author insists on the study of primary documents, and publishes a note and a letter addressed by S. P. Tolstov, the Director of the Institute of Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, to two Secretaries of the Central Committee, respectively B. N. Ponomarev and N. A. Mukhitdinov in March and August 1961.  These documents shed light on the specificities of the Soviet ideology and methodology of the study of ethnic processes in the USSR, and of the political development to be given to these processes (notably: a sharp critic of the Tsarist policy towards a series of peoples of Russia; the qualification as “socialist nations” of the titular nations of federated republics; the progressive character recognised to the fusion of small ethnic groups into bigger ones, though Tolstov refuses forced assimilation as a feature of “bourgeois nationalism”; the critic of the “survivals” of the past as an obstacle to socialist transformation).  In spite of S. V. Cheshko’s incautious assertions on the different levels of integration of the Soviet nations in the mid-twentieth century—allegedly high for the Tatars, who were nevertheless denied the quality of a “socialist nation,” but “poor” for the Uzbeks, who had a federated republic of their own . . .—this publication contributes significantly to illustrate the role, if not the influence of academic ethnography in the shaping of the official discourse on nationalities

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-1.2.A-30