For this week’s blog post I decided to focus on the question: what role did nationality and religion play in the formation of the Soviet State? I first checked out the subject essay by Lewis Siegelbaum, “The Muslim East” to see if I could get an overview of what was going on between the Soviet government and the Russian/Eastern Muslims. What I got what that, “the Soviet government for its part appealed to “Moslems of Russia and the East” to throw in their lot with the revolution, promising them the inviolability of their faith and customs and national self-determination.” (Siegelbaum) After reading two primary sources about this topic I have to concur with this statement.
In December 1917 Stalin and Lenin wrote from the Council of People’s Commissars an “Appeal to the Moslems of Russia and the East”. When I first read this all I could think of was it sounded like an email from a presidential candidate trying to get you to donate money. “Great events are taking place in Russia…A new world is being born…The power in the country is in the hands of the people…” They start is off with how the war is over and they are changing. That we are all free now thanks to the leader of this revolution, the Soviet of People’s Commissars. Then they get to their main point, “in the face of these great events we turn to you, toiling and disinherited Moslems of Russia and the East.” They are saying your beliefs and culture is free now because of the Soviets and we need you to help defend them. They mention that you won’t be a slave, but we still really need to you fight against Europe. “We await your sympathy and support in this cause of building a new world.” So did this work? Did they appeal to the Moslem people?
After reading the second primary source my answer is yes. In June 1923 the Russian Administration for Religious Affairs of Russian Moslems made a “Proclamation to All Moslems in the World”. The proclamation starts by saying that the oppressor of Islam (the British) is going after the Soviet government (the protector of the oppressed). It’s a short document essentially saying that the whole Moslem community believe everything the British are saying about the Soviet’s to be untrue, and that the Soviet government had always supported them. “The Moslems of the whole world must not forget this and must thank the Soviet Government. We, the Moslems of Russia, consider the Soviet Government the protector of the oppressed and declare to the four hundred million Moslems of the world the necessity of full support of the Soviet regime.”
So to answer the question, the Soviet State needed more people on their side of the revolution so they appealed to people who also needed support. Whether or not they believed or agreed with the Moslem people is not really the point here. They made them an offer and almost 6 years later the Moslem people were still fighting for them, so it seems up until this point it worked for both sides.
This post earned a “red star” award from the editorial team!