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Repressions against Nationalities

"Gorbachev Factor"

The repressions against nationalities reached their peak in the mass deportations of entire peoples during the Second World War. When Soviet power was threatened by the Nazi invasion, Stalin accused the Crimean Tatars, the Volga Germans, and a number of Caucasian peoples of collaboration with the enemy, and deported nearly two million people in cattle trucks to eastern Kazakhstan, Siberia, and central Asia. About one-third of the deportees died en route or did not survive in the harsh conditions of the exile. 

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 and the Soviet victory in the Second World War allowed Stalin and his regime to complete the reintegration of the Russian lands lost at the time of the revolution and not only to take back the regions populated by East Slavs but also to reannex Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Bessarabia. The sovietization of the reclaimed territories led to the deportation of tens of thousands to labor camps and exile.

After his death in 1953, the excesses of Stalins treatment of nationalities did not reappear. At the same time, no conclusive and permanent break with Stalinist practices in this or any other sphere was made by his successors. Still, the post-Stalin leadership partially resuscitated some of the methods of the 1920s, including indigenization, greater reliance on non-Russian Communists in the union republics, and tolerance toward local languages and cultures. The concessions remained halfhearted, and the nationality policy oscillated between a more flexible, lenient tendency and repression.

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Soviet Nationalities


Soviet Russia

Understanding the Soviet Period
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