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This is people under communism a series of documentaries interviews and talks based upon documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union. The series is presented transcribed by the National Association of educational broadcasters in consultation with scholars from the Russian Research Center at Harvard University. The Russian Institute Columbia University and the Hoover Institute and library at Stanford University. The program you're about to hear is an analysis of national self-determination Soviet style the analysis by Dr. Philip be mostly director of the Russian Institute at Columbia University. During World War 2 Dr. mostly was advisor to the Department of State and expert at the Moscow conference in 1903 the Potsdam conference 1045 and the meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers at London and Paris. In one thousand forty
five and one thousand forty six he has spent some 2000 hours as a United States representative in face to face negotiations with Russians on international commissions. Dr. mostly. Today and every day they must radio is blaring out the slogans of national self-determination. The Soviet radio and the communist parties throughout the world claimed that the Soviet government and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union are the only political forces in the world which are trying to help the various peoples achieve self-determination. Now this is a powerful slogan. It reaches people in many parts of the world. In Western Europe. The Soviet slogan is that France and England and Italy and West Germany have lost their independence that the United States has destroyed to their right of self-determination. And they tell them every day that
they can achieve self-determination only by joining with the Soviet Union in many parts of Africa in Asia in South America Soviet propaganda accuses the United States of preventing the exercise of national self-determination and claims that it alone is willing and able to liberate nations. Now what do these words mean. Do they mean what they usually mean to the rest of us or have they a special Soviet meaning. I want to take a few minutes today now to look at the record of Soviet words and deeds. And I want to turn first to the spam a Soviet decree of November 15 1917 on national self-determination. Quoting in part from this famous decree which has run round the world it said that it supported the right to self-determination
up to and including the separation and formation of an independent state by the people who had previously lived within the Russian empire. It said it said that it supported equality and sovereignty for all nations and the right of free development by them. At that time the new Soviet government holding power precariously in a few principal cities of Russia could not if it wanted to control the development in Ukraine in the Caucasus in Finland and therefore it was willing at that time to recognize that the governments of these regions the non Russian regions of the former Russian empire. But I want to turn now to certain events which have remained almost unknown in the outside world. These are things that happened during the Second World War and happened on Soviet territory. The six peoples who had previously
enjoyed national rights within the Soviet Union in accordance with the definition which I will explain a little later where this deprives not only of those rights but of their physical existence. These peoples were the Chechen the English the carrot Chai of the Caucasus region the Crimean Tartars who had lived for eight hundred years in their own territory in the south of Russia. The Germans of the Vogue who had been settled in that region in the 18th century. The Soviet decrees abolishing these republics said that during the Second World War. Some of the peoples of these nationalities had cooperated with the German invaders. And that the peoples referred to had not resisted this request and temptation to cooperate with the Germans
and that therefore they had been abolished and their republics had been done away with and the people of those nationalities had been removed to outlying regions of the Soviet Union. It is not clear how some of these peoples could have cooperated with the German invaders since they lived beyond the father Most line of German military penetration. But be that as it may this is a terrible confession for a government to make. Here were people's totaling some three million. Who had lived for twenty five years under Soviet rule and under Soviet propaganda and who were now destroyed as a group. And removed. I want to turn briefly to what was told me by a former Soviet army officer. At the time of the removal of the Chechen and English people from the North Caucasus to Central
Asia and to Siberia he was a member of the punitive expedition sent to seize them. He describes how they ordered the people gathered together then encircled their villages with military forces marched them down to the railroad lines and in the dead of winter I lowered them on open for a cause. The women and children in one direction. The men those who were left in still another direction that's separating them destroying the families preventing any possibility of recreating their national life in their places of new settlement. This officer had been until then a loyal Soviet officer but the impression made on him by this barbaric treatment of people in Soviet villages was undoubtedly one of the factors which led him later to leave a Soviet service and to escape to Western
Europe where he was able to tell his story. I feel I must omit his name because. He has relatives living in the Soviet Union and according to Soviet decree. The families of a deserted from Soviet Union whether military or civilian. Are liable to be sent to forced labor in the eastern parts of the country even though they knew nothing about the intention of their own relative or family member to leave the Soviet Union or the Soviet service abroad. The Comelec people were also destroyed. These people who had lived in their present places for several hundreds of years a few months ago some three hundred and twenty five column weeks were admitted to the United States. And these are the only surviving group of the Comelec people who formerly numbered over 600000. Does
the final form of self-determination in the Soviet Union has been the destruction of complete nationalities. After these nationalities have been destroyed. Their place names are removed from the maps and replaced by new names so as to wipe out even the historic memory of their former life sometimes for many centuries on the same soil where they had always lived. But I want to turn back now from this horrid sight and recollection of the destruction of these peoples. To the beginning of the Soviet period. In November 19 17 the new Soviet government promised the peace it promised land to the peasants it promised. Control of the factories to the workers and it promised national self-determination to all the peoples of Russia and elsewhere in the world. But the
Soviet government did not specify at that time who would exercise the right of self-determination. And as a matter of fact this has not been an easy question to decide as is witnessed by the problem of the Kashmir dispute. The establishment of Israel and many other difficult problems of the practical exercise of the right of national self-determination. Should it be all the people on a given territory. If so how is that territory to be defined in advance or should it be only certain nationalities in a given territory. If there are several nationalities on that land. Or if those can be decided. Can. We say that it should be only certain classes. Or perhaps. It should be only a single political party which should exercise the right of national self-determination on behalf of entire
people. As a matter of practice this last definition that of the exercise of this right by a single party has become the basic view of the Soviet government. At first however the Soviet leadership was not clear about this point. After issuing the famous decree of November 917 the Soviet government recognized the independence of several republics founded on the former territory of the Russian empire. It recognized the Ukrainian People's Republic which was controlled by political parties hostile to the Communist Party of Russia. It recognized the People's Republic of Finland. The People's Republic of Armenia. In December. 917 Stalin himself went to Helsinki. And told the leaders of the various Finnish political parties and of the new
Finnish Republic that the Soviet government recognised without reservation the independence of Finland. However a few days later Stalin helped to organize a new Communist Party of Finland and only a few weeks after that. This communist party began an armed struggle for the seizure of power. In Finland a struggle which went on for several months and was a bloody and bitter one. One of the leaders of the Soviet forces in this civil war of 918 in Finland wrote at that time in Prague the official newspaper of the Soviet Communist Party that 80 percent of the forces in the Finnish Red Army were actually of Russian origin. And not Finns. A similar thing happened with regard to the Ukraine the Ukrainian communist
party withdrew went to Moscow and there organized a Soviet government for the Ukraine. And this government was later established in power in the Ukraine with the support of Soviet forces. This principle of that Soviet political and military power would be back of. One political party that is a communist political party in neighboring states and would help it to secure power and then to carry through self-determination in order to rejoin Russia was clearly expressed by Stalin in 1923 at a meeting organized by the Communist Party of Lithuania. Stalin stated that in the previous years the. Anti Soviet forces had been able to defeat the Soviet and communist forces in that country
but that the day would come when the military power of Soviet Russia would give the victory to the Communist Party of a three way Nia. Thus as early as 1923 Stalin had clearly in mind that the right of national self-determination was a right which could be and might well be determined by outside military interference provided that could be carried through without risk to the Soviet state. This shift in the definition of who has the right to exercise national self-determination was clearly expressed as early as January 19 18 at the 3rd Congress of Soviets which was dominated by the Bolshevik or Communist Party of Russia. At that time Stalin presented a resolution which redefined the right of national self-determination. And said that this right should
be given to the toilers and to the toilers organized along class principles. Reading into this the practical meaning given to it by the Soviet leaders it meant that all those groups which were arbitrarily defined as not belonging to the toilers would be excluded from the right to join in exercising the right of national self-determination and that only those toilers would be recognized as toilers if they accepted the leadership of the Communist Party. Thus the definition of national self-determination was stood on its head as early as January. One thousand eighteen and in accordance with this resolution the intervention to establish Soviet regimes in Finland which failed there. And to establish a Soviet regime in Ukraine which succeeded there. I was
justified in terms of the party doctrine. Now what does the right of national self-determination mean within the Soviet Union. In practice it means the right to use the national language in schools in theatres in the administrative offices in courts. This it must be said was a definite advance over the situation which generally prevailed under the Russian empire. But it was clear that the various national republics have no life of their own. Each National Republic was created by a decree of the central government. And as we have seen happened during the Second World War. These republics could also be destroyed by the central government. This is in contrast to our system of Federation under which the
states cannot be destroyed their territories cannot be changed against their will. In the Soviet Union the central government can create and can destroy the national republics. The problem of the real meaning of equality of nationality goes beyond this. However it is not very much of a privilege to be allowed simply to repeat the same slogans in different languages and yet that is the practical meaning of the Soviet nationality policy. Stalin's works have been translated into 24 languages in order that they might be better read and better understood and absorbed by the people of those different nationalities. But the peoples themselves have. No right to determine from below by free
association by free choice the national content of their cultures. During the Second World War a popular Ukrainian Soviet poet so Suha wrote a poem called Ukraine. This poem was repeated over and over again over the radio. It was distributed in thousands of inexpensive or free copies and it taught the patriotic support of the Ukraine against the German invaders. A few years after the war so sure as point was denunciation he was accused of ignoring. The great role of Russia because he praised Ukraine. He was accused of omitting the mention of Russia in his poem and he failed according to the highest literary and political authorities of the Soviet Union and to recognize the great liberating role of the Russian people
in giving Ukraine all these many privileges for the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus. One of the heroic periods of their history was the 30 years of struggle against attack by the Russian empire and against conquest by Nicholas the first. The leader of this resistance Sharmila has remained a popular figure among them during the first 25 years of the Soviet regime. Neil was idolized as a leader defending his people against outside attack and oppression although his movement was. Based on traditional national and religious motives and not on the modern revolutionary motives which were praised by the Soviet regime. However since
1947 the appraisal of Sharmila and his movement has been drastically revised he is now Deno onst for resisting the Russian empire for having failed to see that by not only accepting but perhaps cooperating in Russian conquest of his people. He would have opened the way for them to come into closer cooperation with the progressive Russian people to learn Russian the language of Lenin Lenin of course was not even born at that time and therefore she might be excused for not having realized how important it was to learn the language which Lenin was later to speak. In any case. Historians have been removed. Politicians have been purged and the textbooks have been completely rewritten in order to show that it not only would be wrong for the peoples of the Caucasus to
criticize the fatherly policies of the Soviet government today but that their great grandfathers were wrong in having resisted the conquest by the Russian troops of a hundred years ago and more. Perhaps the real key to the status of the National republics within the Soviet Union is found within the Constitution of the Soviet state and the charter of the Soviet party. The Constitution of the Soviet state continues to reproduce. The right of the various nationalities to secede from the Soviet Union. This is that same right proclaimed in November 1917 and the one which is used throughout the world to show that the Soviet government has solved in a liberal spirit. The problem of national
self-determination. But if you turn it to a document which is even more important for Soviet practice the charter of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. You will find in this that. No communist no member of the Communist Party is free to advocate the separation of any National Republic from the Soviet Union. To do so or even to be a suspected of favoring the weakening of the centralized control over the entire country is enough to cause the purge and probably the physical destruction of that party member. It is clear which of these two documents is more important. It is not the Constitution of the state but the charter of the party for even according to the constitution of 1937. The Communist Party exercises a monopoly of leadership within the state.
But what about the exercise of national self-determination abroad outside the Soviet Union. This problem has been greatly complicated and also clarified by developments since the war. For since 1945 there are a number of Communist regimes in control of countries outside the Soviet Union in Poland in Czechoslovakia and Hungary in vogue area the Rumanian in Albania and also in Yugoslavia. Do communist parties abroad have the right to exercise national self-determination according to their own communist views. Or are they limited in this now by the decisions and desires of the Soviet leadership. The split of Yugoslavia from Soviet control in June the nineteen
forty eight makes it clear that the Soviet leadership assumed that the Yugoslav communists led by Tito. Would simply carry out the programme and the instructions given them by the Soviet leadership when that the Yugoslav communist leaders claimed the right to decide questions for themselves and for their own party that they were declared outside the pale of the International Communist movement and the Soviet government organized a propaganda attack and efforts at espionage and sabotage against Yugoslavia in an effort to overthrow the communist regime in that country which it no longer regarded as loyal to the Soviet leadership. Elsewhere in Poland in Hungary in Czechoslovakia many of the early leaders of the new communist
parties have been removed and in some cases have been tried and executed for criticizing the decisions of the Soviet leadership. Or for trying to defend interests of their own countries against Soviet interests. Thus it is clear that the Soviet leadership assumes that at the same definition of national self-determination which it has applied within the Soviet Union for 30 years should also be applied abroad and that wherever Communist Parties exist they should place a Soviet interest first not only as they see them themselves but as they are defined by the leadership in Moscow. National self-determination is a dynamic slogan. It was one
of the factors which underlay the American Revolution. It acted powerfully during the French Revolution. It was one of the principal goes stated by leaders such as much Xeni and Woodrow Wilson. It brought millions of people to action during the First World War and the second world war. Abroad outside of the Soviet Union where the practice of the Soviet government is hidden by a strenuous control over information and where an active propaganda is at work. To present the most favorable aspects of Soviet policy. The Soviet concept of national self-determination is a valuable slogan. It attracts a great many followers abroad especially in
areas where national self rule has not yet been achieved or where there is sharp national oppression or discrimination. Within the Soviet government and within the orbit of Soviet rule however national self-determination means in practice that it is a right to be exercised only by the Communist Party and in effect only under the direction of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This makes it clear I think that national self-determination. Is a very useful propaganda weapon but it is one which is a deception. Unless it includes all the other freedoms. If there is no personal freedom then you cannot make your
own contributions to the development of your national culture. If there is no political freedom you canot. Govern the life of your people in the way in which you wish. If there is no religious freedom then the very basic element of religious feeling. And loyalty is eradicated from the very concept of national self-determination. Thus to single out the idea of national self-determination as something which has been achieved by the Soviet regime. While it has destroyed political personal and religious freedom. It shows the complete lack of consistency in this Soviet claim. You cannot have genuine national self-determination unless you have personal political religious and cultural freedom along with it as integral
parts of it. Today the Soviet leadership is trying to monopolize all the good words the words which have inspired Western civilization. The two great achievements they claim that they are achieving freedom democracy progress and peace. They also claim that they alone are trying to help people achieve national self-determination and that they have achieved it for those peoples who are living within the Soviet orbit. It is important for us to understand that these slogans are valued by the Soviet leaders as weapons to enhance their own power to weaken and divide those who defend true freedom and democracy including the right to national self-determination. This has been an analysis of national self-determination
Soviet style by Dr Philip be mostly director of the Russian Institute at Columbia University. This talk was another transcribed program in the series. People under communism. The series as a whole was prepared in consultation with scholars from the Russian Institute of Columbia the Hoover Institute and library at Stanford University and the Russian Research Center at Harvard University. This is Parker Wheatley. These programs are prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters and are made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education an independent organization established by the Ford Foundation. This is the N A B tape network.
People under communism
National self-determination
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents a talk by Professor Philip E. Mosely of Columbia University: "National Self-Determination: Soviet Style".
Series Description
A series of documentaries, interviews and talks based upon documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union.
Broadcast Date
Politics and Government
Sovereignty--History--20th century.
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Advisor: Hoover Institute and Library on War, Revolution, and Peace
Advisor: Columbia University. Russian Institute
Advisor: Harvard University. Russian Research Center
Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Host: Wheatley, Parker, 1906-1999
Producer: Tangley, Ralph
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Mosely, Philip E. (Philip Edward), 1905-1972
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-38-19 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:31:09
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Chicago: “People under communism; National self-determination,” 1953-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 10, 2023,
MLA: “People under communism; National self-determination.” 1953-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 10, 2023. <>.
APA: People under communism; National self-determination. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from