Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ethnic policy of the USSR

Polian (2004) makes a distinction between repressive migrations (deportations) and non-repressive migrations; granted, he considers them all as “forced migrations”. His classification of these movements is adopted below:

A.            Repressive migrations (deportations):
I. on social grounds: decossackization, dekulakization, expulsion of nobility
II. on ethnic grounds: “political preparation of the theatre of war”, total deportations of “punished peoples”, compensatory deportations, imposed “pale of settlement”
III. on confessional grounds – entire confessions/clerics from various confessions
IV. on political grounds – members of banned organizations and parties, people’s enemies’ family members, socially unsafe elements, treaty repatriates, foreign nationals
V. prisoners of war – POWs, civilian internees
VI. prisoners – political (prisoners of conscience), criminals
B.            Non-repressive (“voluntary-compulsory”) migrations:
VII. planned resettlements and resettlements “on call”, e.g. as an effect of military, industrial, power production-related and other types of construction work; demobilized army service members
VIII.  evacuees (re-evacuees), refugees, volunteer repatriates – displaced by war, as a result of genocide, ethnic or confessional conflicts, natural disasters and environmental catastrophes
Figure 1. Classification of forced migrations (after Polian 2004: 44-45)

It seems to be of importance that while the deportations of Latvians to other republics clearly belong to the categories A. IV. and A. VI., also – A. III. and A. V., the immigration of Russians and other Slavs to the Latvian SSR belongs to the category B. VII. Even if both movements were in fact forced, the psychological effects on the Latvians that stayed in Latvia are not difficult to surmise. Both the departure of their loved ones and the arrival of foreigners – as if in order to “take their place” – must have caused opposition and aversion.
When analysing Russian migration to non-Russian republics, Kolstoe (1994) summarizes three possible causes for this movement mentioned in the literature. What is interesting, the cases of the Baltic states, including Latvia, seem to provide counter-arguments for all three hypotheses:
1)         the socio-economic hypothesis (e.g. Lewis, Rowland & Clem 1976) ascribes migration to the universal processes of modernization. Russians were moving to undeveloped regions in order to urbanize and modernize them. This argument cannot apply to Latvia and Estonia, which, upon entering the USSR, were more modernized than many other Soviet republics. It may be claimed, however, that the two states, while possessing highly trained and well-educated staff, did not have sufficient numbers of manual labour force. For this reason, Russians moving there were usually poorly educated, which in turn reduced their capability of learning the local languages and interest in the local cultures;
2)           the ethno-political hypothesis (e.g. Titma & Tuma 1992) implies the existence of either a deliberate plan to eradicate ethnic identities of all Soviet citizens in order to create a denationalized Soviet everyman, or a covert but tenacious russification strategy. The fact that Russians arriving in Latvia and Estonia formed rather isolated communities counters the former; the experience of Lithuania, where the Communist Party consisted mostly of ethnic Lithuanians (e.g. in Latvia it consisted of only 29.2% ethnic Latvians[1]) and where “local authorities managed to impose a considerable limit on immigration”[2] counters the latter;
3)           the security hypothesis: large numbers of Russians and other Slavs were sent to those republics in which the titular nation was considered unreliable by the Kremlin. This argument seems to apply to Latvia and Estonia, but fails to explain why a considerably smaller number of Russians was sent to Ukraine and Lithuania, where the resistance towards Sovietisation was just as high[3].
In relation to the second hypothesis it may be noted that, as Kolstoe suggests, Lenin truly believed in the idea of a denationalized Soviet man, in the eradication of any national consciousness, Russian included[4]. What is more, he understood that it was impossible to build Soviet power in the provinces on the support of local Russians only, so the development of local languages and education of local Russians were encouraged by Moscow. But by the time the Baltic states entered the USSR, it was led by Stalin, who supported Russian as a lingua franca and the Russian nation’s role of the ‘big brother’.
There are more differences between Latvia (and Lithuania and Estonia) and other non-Russian republics. It has been mentioned that the peak of Russian immigration to the Baltics – and to other republics, in fact – occurred at the end of the 1940s. In most republics, Russian immigration no longer played a significant role in the 1960s and 1970s. But the Baltics continued to experience it: 708,000 persons arrived after 1959[5]. What is more, while Latvians and Estonians – and Russians in other republics – noted a negative birth rate, the positive birth rate of Baltic Russians was caused by the fact that the Russians migrating there were much younger and many of them reached the reproductive age at that time[6]. They also seemed to have better conditions for starting a family. While 79% of families whose members had all immigrated to Latvia from other republics – and 68% of those who had lived in Latvia for less than five years – already lived in individual flats, only 57% of Latvian families and single Latvians lived in individual flats[7].
After the Union collapsed, while for example in Central Asia state authorities have made strenuous attempts to persuade the Russians to stay, Latvian and Estonian authorities were anxious to have them evicted[8].
*part of the project “Discourse-historical analysis of the press discourse on ethnic conflict in Latvia” carried out at the Herder Institute in Marburg, Germany, in January-February 2013. For full bibliography, see here.

[1] Ābols 2003: 245.
[2] Kolstoe 1995: 60.
[3] Kolstoe 1995: 53.
[4] Kolstoe 1995: 73.
[5] Bleiere et al. 2006: 418.
[6] Kolstoe 1995: 63-66.
[7] Bleiere et al. 2006: 421.
[8] Kolstoe 1995: 69.

No comments: