. 45
( 115 .)


and their world within that order.98
However, self-descriptions of nationalities were often ambiguous and con-
fusing. Consequently, none of the central authorities could actually answer the
question, What was an Uzbek, a Kazakh, a Chechen, or a Mountain Jew from
the Caucasus? How was one to recognize an Uzbek? By his language? On his
belonging to a certain tribe? By his particular customs and manners? Nobody in
the government could provide satisfying answers. For the Ukrainian National-
Communist Skrypnik, all Muslims in the empire were “Turks”; Trotsky con-
sidered Uzbeks to be “Sarts”; and, when confronted with the bloody con¬‚ict in
the Caucasus, Lenin had to be shown maps depicting the populations™ ethnic
composition.99 For this reason, the government left it to experts to survey the
Soviet Union anew: orientalists, ethnologists, linguists, and “bourgeois” scien-
tists. Throughout the Soviet Union of the 1920s, tribes, clans, and linguistic
groups were rede¬ned as nations and accorded territories. Rural dialects were
raised into the hierarchy of national languages, and wherever there was no writ-
ten language, one was devised by linguists. Such demarcations were also con-
summated in western regions of the empire, such as when the Ukraine, White
Russia, and the Russian Federation swapped territories during the 1920s. By the
mid-1920s, the resurveying of the Soviet Union and the objective classi¬cation
of ethnic attributes had been completed.100 As Sergei Dimanshtein described
in 1937, Soviet nationality policies transformed an “indistinct, amorphous
mass” into individual nations.101 A Turkish-speaking Muslim in the Caucasus
was henceforth an Azerbaijani. He now spoke a national language, he had a
homeland with a capital city, and, as a result of his “cultural backwardness,”
he enjoyed privileges over and above those of Christians who lived in “his”
land. The Bolsheviks created a world according to their own expectations.
The subjected cooperated in the construction of this world order in that they

Anastas Mikoian, Tak bylo (Moscow: Vagrius, 1999); Nikita S. Khrushchev, Khrushchev

Remembers: The Glasnost Tapes (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1990); Lazar M. Kaganovich,
Pamiatnye zapiski (Moscow: Vagrius, 1997); Alfred J. Rieber, “Stalin: Man of the Border-
lands,” American Historical Review 53 (2001): 1651“91; Baberowski, Der rote Terror, 196“8.
Tainy natsional™noi politiki TsK RKP: Stenogra¬cheskii otchet sekretnogo IV soveshchaniia

TsK RKP 1923 goda, ed. Ia N. Gibadulin (Moscow: INSAN, 1992), 79“80; Gosudarstvennyi
arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (GARF), f. 3316, op. 509, ll. 64“69; Mikoian, 151“3; Baberowski,
Der Feind, 237.
Martin, The Af¬rmative Action Empire, 31“55; Terry Martin, “Modernization or Neo-

Traditionalism? Ascribed Nationality and Soviet Primordialism,” in Fitzpatrick, Stalinism,
348“67; Francine Hirsch, “The Soviet Union as a Work-in-Progress. Ethnographers and the
Category Nationality in the 1926, 1937, and 1939 Censuses,” Slavic Review 56 (1997): 251“
78; Francine Hirsch, “Toward an Empire of Nations: Border-Making and the Formation of
Soviet National Identities,”Russian Review 59 (2000): 201“26; Francine Hirsch, “Empire of
Nations: Colonial Technologies and the Making of the Soviet Union, 1917“1939” (Ph.D.
diss., Princeton University), 1998; Yuri Slezkine, “N. Ia. Marr and the National Origins of
Ethnogenesis,” Slavic Review 55 (1996): 826“62.
S. Dimanshtein, “Stalin “ tvorets sovetskoi gosudarstvennosti narodov SSSR,” Revoliutsiia i

natsional™nosti, no. 1 (1937): 23.
The Quest for Order and the Pursuit of Terror 207

behaved toward each other in a manner that leading Bolsheviks understood as
an endorsement of their worldview.102
The “ethnicization” of the Soviet everyday carried with it national quotas
that, among other things, determined which nationality was to be favored in
the distribution of particular work and academic opportunities. The “indige-
nization” of the Party and state apparatus also awakened claims by those who
had been excluded from the halls of government prior to the Revolution. The
Bolsheviks nationalized backwardness; they forced their subjects to submit not
only to social, but to national confessions as well.103 Already by the end of the
1920s, subjects in all regions of the Soviet Union de¬ned who they were in ways
that accorded with the Bolsheviks™ social and national categories. Even when
one contested membership in a negatively viewed social or national group, the
existence of the group was con¬rmed in the very act of denial. The status of
a person in Soviet society thus depended upon how one acted in relation to
ascribed social and national attributes and how one used these attributes to his
or her own advantage. Turkish or Tatar workers in Baku or Kazan™ preferred to
be members of a “backward” nation, while Russian workers typically spoke in
the language of “class” whenever they wished to demonstrate their superiority
over the privileged “barbarians.”104
Thus, nations were not only language communities. They were cultural
communities, recognizable by their customs and manners. This essentialist,
romantic understanding of the nation, however, contradicted the very project
of social and cultural homogenization that the Bolsheviks had scribbled on
their ¬‚ags. For wherever social relations were indigenized, the importance and
in¬‚uence of nationalist Communists increased, for whom cultural autonomy
and national identity meant more than the Socialism of the Bolsheviks.105 By
the mid-1920s, the GPU leadership had already warned Ukrainian national-
ists, Azerbaijani Kemalists, and Tatar and Uzbek religious reformers about
allegedly working to undermine the Communist Party. In March 1927, the

Alexopoulos, 129“57; Baberowski, Der Feind, 314“49.

Douglas Northrop, “Nationalizing Backwardness: Gender, Empire and Uzbek Identity,” in A

State of Nations, eds. Ronald G. Suny, Ronald Grigor, and Terry Martin, 191“220; Martin,
The Af¬rmative Action Empire, 125“81.
Baberowski, Der Feind, 349“68; Alexopoulos, 13“43; Martin, The Af¬rmative Action Empire,

348“67; Sarah Davies, Popular Opinion in Stalin™s Russia: Terror, Propaganda, and Dissent,
1934“1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 82“90.
Azade-Ayse Rorlich, “Sultangaliev and Islam,” in Ethnic and National Issues in Russian and

Eastern European History: Select Papers from the Fifth World Congress of Eastern Euro-
pean Studies, Warsaw, 1995, ed. John Morison (New York: St. Martin Press, 2000), 64“73;
Adeeb Khaled, “Nationalizing the Revolution in Central Asia: The Transformation of Jadidism
1917“1920,” in Suny and Martin, 145“62; Alexandre Bennigsen and Samuel E. Wimbush,
Muslim National Communism in the Soviet Union: A Revolutionary Strategy for the Colonial
World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 8“19; Alexandre Bennigsen and Chantal
Lemercier-Quelquejay, Les mouvements nationaux chez les musulmans de Russie: Le “Sul-
tangalievisme” au Tatarstan (Paris: Mouton, 1960); Baberowski, Der Feind, 223“41; Martin,
The Af¬rmative Action Empire, 211“72.
Jorg Baberowski and Anselm Doering-Manteuffel

GPU in Azerbaijan discovered a “not insigni¬cant net of anti-Soviet elements”
that had misused the Turki¬cation of schools, universities, and the state appa-
ratus in order to spread the nationalist program of Turkish Kemalists in the
Caucasus. The First Secretary of the Azerbaijani Communist Party, Ali Heidar
Karaev, proclaimed at a plenum of the local Central Committee that it was now
time to lead a “merciless ¬ght” against such nationalists. Nationalism was no
path to Socialism, he argued. It was its contradiction. Wherever “bourgeois”
professors and teachers indoctrinated students in the spirit of national emanci-
pation, wherever Islamic spiritual reformers spoke of secularization but meant
national self-determination, and wherever workers prioritized national privi-
leges, Bolsheviks were silenced. This dilemma was recognized by the advocates
of nationalization in the Politburo. In response, Stalin and Kaganovich autho-
rized the GPU, in the late summer of 1926, to utilize violence against Ukrainian
nationalists. A campaign against Islamic scholars, alleged Pan-Turkists, and
religious of¬cials was launched in the Asiatic regions of the Soviet Union in
It was no accident that this terror grew out of the cultural revolution of the
late 1920s, as Bolsheviks regarded national elites not only as representatives of
their nation, but as interpreters of cultures that were contrary to the envisioned
Soviet order. Thus, when the regime began to close churches and mosques, to
prohibit festivals and rituals, to remove books from libraries, and to “civilize”
farmers and “liberate” women, it had to eliminate these elites™ competing inter-
pretations of events. The Bolsheviks sought a place in the hearts and minds of
their subjects. To this purpose, they had not only to erase their cultural mem-
ory, but to remove the interpreters of culture from their life. Therefore, class
struggle in the national territories of the Soviet Union was, ¬rst and foremost, a
struggle over meaning and interpretation. In arresting, deporting, and murder-
ing national Communists, “bourgeois” nationalists, teachers and professors,
priests, mullahs, shamans, and ethnic leaders, the Bolsheviks were eliminat-
ing their ideological opponents. Terror was more than a “social prophylac-
tic”: it was a cultural-revolutionary attack upon existing ways of life. Such an
approach, however, contradicted the essentialist concept of the cultural nation.
For how could Tatars or Uzbeks not be Muslims if their adherence to Islam
constituted their nation? As a result, opposition to the central government™s
cultural-revolutionary campaigns developed in all regions of the Soviet Union.
In virtually every town and village, opposition manifested itself in national
forms; traditions, whose meaning nobody had ever questioned, became objects

Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv sotsial™noi i politicheskoi istorii (RGASPI), f. 17, op. 67,

d. 410, ll. 1, 45; RGASPI, f. 17, op. 17, d. 12, l. 153; RGASPI, f. 17, op. 17, d. 20, l. 80;
Yuri Shapoval, “The GPU-NKVD as an Instrument of Counter-Ukrainization in the 1920s and
the 1930s,” in Culture, Nation and Identity: The Ukrainian-Russian Encounter, 1600“1945,
eds. Andreas Kappeler et al. (Toronto: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 2003),
The Quest for Order and the Pursuit of Terror 209

of resistance. Violence ¬rst emerged in the Soviet Union™s Islamic regions
during the Bolsheviks™ crusade against religion and during the unveiling
At the periphery, cultural revolutionaries stood with their backs to the wall.
There were simply not enough committed Bolsheviks even within national Party
organizations to translate the Communist message effectively into appropriate
local cultural contexts. In many regions, peasants and workers, in addition
to local elites, opposed the Communists. The regime lost its ability to con-
trol several regions in the spring and summer of 1930 as in Azerbaijan and
in Dagestan. In the republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia Soviet power col-
lapsed under the resistance of armed bands of peasants. The regime fought a
war against the local population in the Ukraine and the Crimea and regularly
deployed military units in order to suppress rebellion.108 In Western Ukrainian
villages, peasants spread the rumor of an imminent war between Poland and
the Soviet Union; similarly, Turkish or Persian troops were expected to invade
the Caucasus. And, wherever living conditions were unbearable, peasants sim-
ply ¬‚ed into neighboring lands: China, Iran, Turkey, or Poland. By the same
token, peasants of Polish or German heritage not only ¬‚ed in large numbers;
they also applied for emigration papers or begged for assistance from foreign
It was no longer an issue of class enemies, kulaks, and “socially foreign
elements” that had to be deported or placed in camps. Events at the periphery
strengthened the government™s belief that the enemy was everywhere and that
it was hiding in ethnic groups. Such ideas were particularly common where
social stigmatizations corresponded with national attributes. In border regions
of White Russia and the Ukraine, the registration of kulaks served simultane-
ously as a means of ethnic discrimination of minorities. German and Polish
peasants not only were members of an ethnic group, but also became members
of the kulak nation. The same also applied for Cossacks in the Kuban and for

Douglas Northrop, Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia (Ithaca, NY:

Cornell University Press, 2004), 69“101; Douglas Northrop, “Subaltern Dialogues. Subversion
and Resistance in Stalin™s Russia,” in Contending with Stalinism: Soviet Power and Popular
Resistance in the 1930s, ed. Lynne Viola (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002), 109“38;
Baberowski, Der Feind, 561“86, 599“661; Marianne Ruth Kamp, “Unveiling Uzbek Women:
Liberation, Representation and Discourse 1906“1929” (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago,
Victor Danilov et al., eds., Tragediia sovetskoi derevni: Kollektivizatsiia, i raskulachivanie:

Dokumenty i materialy, Vol. 1: noiabr™ 1929“dekabr™ 1930 (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2000), 239,
240“1, 260, 430“2.
Tragediia sovetskoi derevni, vol. 2, 236; Tragediia sovetskoi derevni, vol. 3, 318; Nikolai A.

Ivnitskii, “Stalinskaia revoliutsiia ˜sverkhu™ i krest™ianstvo,” in Mentalitet i agrarnoe razvitie
Rossii (XIX“XX vv.) eds. V. P. Danilov and L. V. Milov (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 1996), 247“59;
Jorg Baberowski, “Stalinismus ˜von oben™: Kulakendeportationen in der Sowjetunion 1929“
¨ ¨
1933,” in Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas 46 (1998), 572“95; Baberowski, Der Feind,
Jorg Baberowski and Anselm Doering-Manteuffel

Chechens and Kurds, who became members of “White Guard” or “Bandit”
nations “ the former because they had the reputation of loyalty to the Tsar™s
regime, the latter as a result of their collective opposition to the cultural revolu-
tion. On numerous occasions during collectivization, it was not only “wealthy
peasants” who were arrested and deported, but the entire populations of recal-
citrant villages. In many regions dekulakization was nothing other than ethnic
cleansing; indeed, in the Kuban, the former was used as local euphemism for
the latter.110
Ethnic minorities in the border regions were suspected of treason and of
potential allegiance to neighboring states. Until the mid-1920s, the regime still
believed that by presenting itself as the defender of national minorities living
on both sides of the Soviet border, it could destabilize neighboring states. In
light of the mass impoverishment of the peasantry and the outright terror
that resulted from Soviet policies, however, this strategy resulted in the very
opposite. Nobody wanted an export of misery across the borders. As a result,
Poland, Finland, the Baltic republics, Turkey, and Iran became rivals in the
struggle over political order. By the end of the 1920s, there were no longer
any doubts in Moscow that the Soviet Union would prevail. However, the
Soviet leadership now considered itself threatened not only from within, but
also from without. Its external enemies encouraged unrest and incited their
“compatriots” within the Soviet Union to rebel against the central government.
As such, ethnic minorities became traitor nations undermining Soviet society
with the poison of separatism.111
At the beginning of 1930, as the regime stood at the precipice, obsessions
turned into delusions. At the Tenth Party Congress of the Azerbaijani Com-
munist Party in March 1930, Nikolai Gikalo, Stalin™s governor in Azerbaijan,
declared that a peasant revolt then rocking the Caucasus Republic had been
incited by “Polish agents.” “And, as we know, the English control Polish espi-
onage.”112 Even in Moscow, politicians spoke of the danger of national dis-
integration: from Chechens and Kurdish Bandits, to Polish, German, Iranian,
and Korean spies, all of whom had to be removed from the border regions. At
a meeting of the district Party secretariat of the RSFSR on 21 February 1930,
Stalin and Molotov warned of the dangers threatening Soviet order in the
European and Asian border regions. The collectivization of agriculture and the
subjugation of the population could only succeed if this danger was averted, he
emphasized. For Molotov, not even the Crimea, inhabited by Muslim Tatars,
was safe territory. While it may be separated from foreign territories by the

Tragediia sovetskoi derevni, vol. 3, 146, 529“31; Abdurahman Avtorkhanov, “The Chechens

and Ingush during the Soviet Period and its Antecedents,” in The North Caucasus Barrier:
The Russian Advance towards the Muslim World, eds. Marie B. Broxup and Abdurahman
Avtorkhanov (New York: St. Martin™s Press, 1992), 157“66; John B. Dunlop, Russia Confronts
Chechnya: Roots of a Separatist Con¬‚ict (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 40“


. 45
( 115 .)