Soviet socialist patriotism

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Soviet socialist patriotism refers to the socialist patriotism involving cultural attachment of the Soviet people to the Soviet Union as their homeland.[1] It has been referred to as "Soviet nationalism". However, the concept of "Soviet nationalism" is claimed to be a misnomer and inaccurate because Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks were officially opposed to nationalism as being reactionary, a bourgeois creation, and contrary to the interests of proletarian class struggle and communist revolution.[2] Under the outlook of international communism that was especially strong at the time, Lenin separated patriotism into what he defined as proletarian, socialist patriotism from bourgeois nationalism.[3] Lenin promoted the right of all nations to self-determination and the right to unity of all workers within nations, but he also condemned chauvinism and claimed there were both justified and unjustified feelings of national pride.[4] Lenin explicitly denounced conventional Russian nationalism as "Great Russian Chauvinism", and his government sought to accommodate the country's multiple ethnic groups by creating republics and sub-republic units to provide non-Russian ethnic groups with autonomy and protection from Russian domination.[2] Lenin also sought to balance the ethnic representation of leadership of the country by promoting non-Russian officials in the Communist Party to counter the large presence of Russians in the Party.[2] However, even at this early period the Soviet government appealed at times to Russian nationalism when it needed support - especially on the Soviet borderlands in the Soviet Union's early years.[2]

The National Question was never as well resolved in the Soviet era as idealism wished or propaganda claimed. Joseph Stalin, even having been the first People's Commissar for Nationalities and the author of Marxism and the National Question, found that balanced supranational union in the USSR remained a falsehood. The failure of the world revolution and true proletarian internationalism in the early 1920s was a severe test of Marxist theory that in fact shattered some aspects of it. This crisis drove Bukharin, Stalin, and associates to the new theory of Socialism in One Country, which was anathema to many internationalist communists. Stalin emphasized a centralist Soviet socialist patriotism that spoke of a "Soviet people" and identified Russians as being the "elder brothers of the Soviet people",[2] during World War II, Soviet socialist patriotism and Russian nationalism merged, portraying the war not just as a struggle between socialists versus capitalists, but more as a struggle for national survival.[2] During the war, the interests of the Soviet Union and the Russian nation were presented as the same, and as a result Stalin's government embraced Russia's historical heroes and symbols, and established a de facto alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church,[2] the war was described by the Soviet government as the Great Patriotic War.[2] After the war, however, the use of Russian nationalism dramatically decreased and emphasis returned again to Marxist–Leninist ideology, but Moscow was forced to accept a degree of national communism in Yugoslavia and in Albania.

Nikita Khrushchev moved the USSR government's policies away from Stalin's reliance on Russian nationalism.[2] Khrushchev promoted the notion of the people of the Soviet Union as being a supranational "Soviet People" that became state policy after 1961,[5] this did not mean that individual ethnic groups lost their separate identities or were to be assimilated but instead promoted a "brotherly alliance" of nations that intended to make ethnic differences irrelevant.[6] At the same time, Soviet education emphasized an "internationalist" orientation.[6] Many non-Russian Soviet people suspected this "Sovietization" to be a cover for a new episode of "Russification", in particular because learning the Russian language was made a mandatory part of Soviet education, and because the Soviet government encouraged ethnic Russians to move outside of the Russian SFSR.[6]

Efforts to achieve a united Soviet people were severely damaged by the severe economic problems in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s resulting in a wave of anti-Soviet sentiment among non-Russians and Russians alike.[6] Mikhail Gorbachev presented himself as a Soviet patriot dedicated to resolving the country's economic and political problems, but he was unable to restrain the rising regional and sectarian ethnic nationalism, with the Soviet Union breaking up in 1991.[6] Pushed to the breaking point by poor economics, low standard of living, and repressed liberty, Soviet socialist patriotism was outmatched by what Gorbachev referred to as the "parade of sovereignties", in which ethnic nationality proved more powerful and lasting, the union as a supranational one, which had always been a false pretense to smaller or larger degrees over the decades, finally fell apart. Many Russians today hold that the failure to adequately resolve the National Question at the founding of the union figuratively placed a powderkeg beneath it which would eventually and inevitably explode (as Vladimir Putin has expressed it).

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  1. ^ The Current digest of the Soviet press , Volume 39, Issues 1-26. American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, 1987. Pp. 7.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Motyl 2001, pp. 501.
  3. ^ The Current digest of the Soviet press , Volume 39, Issues 1-26. American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, 1987. Pp. 7.
  4. ^ Christopher Read. Lenin: a revolutionary life. Digital Printing Edition. Oxon, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: Routledge, 2006. Pp. 115.
  5. ^ Motyl 2001, pp. 501-502.
  6. ^ a b c d e Motyl 2001, pp. 502.