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On the whole, the unionís various republics and national territories seemed to be obedient to Moscow in all essential matters. The level of visible conflict between national groups, or between nationalities and the center, was extremely low. The regime believed that it had been quite successful in molding ďa new historic community of peopleóthe Soviet nation.Ē All citizens of the Soviet Union were members of a supranational Soviet people, subscribed to a unifying ideology (Marxism-Leninism), embraced a single political goal (communism), and communicated in a common language (Russian). 

However, these hopes were never fulfilled. The relaxation of Communist controls after the death of Stalin and a limited decentralization that came with it rekindled the process of nation building stifled by Stalinís tyranny. The intelligentsia of various nation groups was growing more proactive, contributing to a revival of national languages, literatures, and self-awareness. The rising national elites were increasingly frustrated with restraints imposed by Moscow.

In the three decades following Stalinís death, non-Russians were able to use much better the opportunities implicit in the Soviet federal structures. From the 1960s they were fairly adequately represented in their republican leaderships and delegated their representatives to the center in Moscow. With time, members of the indigenous nationalities came to take certain rights for granted. These included the principles that the leader of the Communist Party organization in that republic was a member of the indigenous nationality, and that national cultural traditions were respected and developed as long as they did not directly clash with Soviet ideological doctrine.

The steady rise in the populationís educational levels over the decades of Soviet rule further contributed to the formation of a national intelligentsia and a national political elite in each republic. The growth of ethnic self-consciousness among various Soviet peoples fostered a tendency for the leaders and populations in the republics to think of the territory and institutions in their jurisdiction as ďtheirs.Ē As a result, the national identity of the indigenous nationality became firmly bound with the territory that carried its name, even though some of the nationalities had had no tradition of independent statehood prior to the formation of the USSR.

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Soviet Nationalities

 

Soviet Russia

Understanding the Soviet Period
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