to syllabus

Study Questions on R. G. Suny, The Structure of Soviet History:  Essays and Documents (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2003).  Week VI, pp. 87-147.

Chapter intro, pp. 89-93

What were the "three successive political contexts" of the 1920s?

How did Deutscher explain the path the the revolution took in the 1920s?  How did E. H. Carr's interpretation differ from Deutscher's?  M. Lewin?  S. Fitzpatrick?

Why was NEP unpopular with the Communist Party rank and file?

How does Suny define the basic positions taken by the Zinoviev and Kamenev, and then by Bukharin, in opposition to those of the Stalin-led majority bloc in the party leadership?


Martin, "Affirmative-Action Empire," pp. 93-102

What is Martin's main point? 

When and why did formulating a nationalities policy become important to the Communist regime?  And how did Lenin defend the idea of national self-determination in 1919?

What were the 3 premises on the nationalities question shared by Lenin and Stalin?  (Martin explains this is a long series of paragraphs on pp. 94-97)

When Lenin said that most Russian Communists were Great Russian (or Great Power) chauvinists, what did he mean?  And what "crucial principle" of Soviet nationalities resulted from Lenin's concern over chauvinism?

Martin points out that while Lenin and Stalin agreed and many basic premises of nationality policy, they had two important "differences of opinion" on the issue; what were these?

In sum, then, what was the rationale for Soviet nationalities policy as formulated in 1919-1923?  What did it mean to say that nationalism is a "masking ideology"?  Did this policy claim that the socialist countries immune to nationalism?  That the grievances of national minorities in Soviet Russia illegitimate?  That nationalism was always reactionary?  Explain.

Did the Communist Party continue debating the formulation of nationalities policy after the April 1923 12th Party Congress?  What did this policy mean (in principle) for the "nationhood" of national minorities and their "right" to territory, cultural and linguistic distinctiveness, etc?

What did the term "korenizatsiia" mean?  What does Martin mean when he says that it was "presented in psychological terms"?  And what was supposed to be the goal of this policy?

Some Communist leaders (e.g., Khristian Rakovsky) wanted the Constitution of the Soviet Union to functionally decentralize power by giving real policy making authority to the various member republics (as a confederation); what was Stalin's position on this question, and what final form did the USSR constitution take?

Did the promise of equal status and treatment of nationalities in practice mean equal access to state economic resources?  Explain.  Does Martin this that the USSR was really a "federation" of equal states?  Explain.

Martin calls the Bolsheviks "international nationalists"--what does he mean by this?  What was the Party's role supposed to be in relation to nationality movements?

Did Soviet policy at this point endorse "assimilation" of national minorities into the majority culture?  Explain.

What does Martin mean when he calls the USSR an "Affirmative Action Empire"?  In what ways did Soviet nationalities policy create "preferences" that favored non-Russian peoples, and what did this mean for Russians?

In most Empires, the "center" exploits the "periphery"--for instance, the British can be said to have exploited India and its other colonies; according to Martin, did the Russian "center" of the Soviet Empire exploit the non-Russian periphery in the USSR?  Explain.

So, what is Martin's main point?


Kollontai, "The Workers' Opposition," pp. 103-112

What basic social realities did Kollontai argue complicated the tasks of the Russian Communist Party in early Spring 1921?

Did K think that Soviet administrative institutions at that point were dominated by the working class?  Explain.

Did K think that Soviet economic institutions at that point were under the control of the working class?  Explain.

For K, why was the influence and "dominance" of these "class alien" elements in administration (especially in the factories) a threat to socialism, particularly at a time when the Reds seemed poised to win the Civil War?

Remember that we talked about how the Moderate Socialists once in power (in the Provisional Government) in 1917 found themselves defending "state interests" rather than the interests of the working class?  Did Kollontai argue that the Bolsheviks had put themselves in a similar situation?  What did she see as the consequences for the Party?  Did she see this as a threat to the Party's relationship with the working class?  Explain.

Did K argue that Soviet power had improved workers' standard of living in 1918-1921?  Explain--who did she say had benefited most from the Revolution?

Why did K disapprove of both Trotsky's and Lenin's position in the debate over trade unions?  What role did K say the unions must play in Soviet life?

According to K, who was really behind efforts to silence debate and discussion inside Party and Soviet institutions?  And what groups did she say would support the positions of the Workers' Opposition?


Resolutions of the 10th Party Congress "On Party Unity" and "On the Syndicalist and Anarchist Deviations in Our Party," pp, 112-117

"On Party Unity"

How did this resolution define factionalism?  Why was factionalism described as a danger to the Party, the workers, and socialism?

How did this document use the language of "enemies"?

How did the resolution explain the means the Party must use to fight factionalism? 


"On the Syndicalist..."

How did this resolution explain the cause of "deviations" within the Party?

How did this resolution define (label) the Workers' Opposition? 

What did the resolution identify as "wrong" in the platform of the Workers' Oppostion?

What role did this resolution claim for the Party in its relations with the working class?  Was this a new claim?  Explain.

What role did this resolution claim for the trade unions (in contradiction to the "anarchists" and "syndicalists")?

How did this resolution use "class" language to describe those who opposed the position of majority in the Party leadership?  How would you relate this back to the essay we read by Boris Kolonitskii?


Lenin's 17 July 1922 letter to Stalin, pp. 117-118

What does this letter tell you about Lenin's attitude towards non-Communist intellectuals--in particular, those who were prominent in other political parties--after the Civil War had ended?


Lenin's "Testament," 23-31 December 1922, pp. 118-124

On 24 December, what did Lenin see as the chief threat to the Party?

On 24 December, what were Lenin's main criticisms of Stalin, Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, and Bukharin?

In his addition to the letter of 24  December (dated 4 January 1923), how did Lenin modify his judgment of Stalin?

In his 30 December note on the nationalities question, how does Lenin characterize the behavior of Dzerzhinsky and Orjonikidze in the Georgia (Soviet Georgia, not the home of Jimmy Carter!)?  We should note that these two were sent to Georgia by Stalin, and were more or less following his directives...

In his 31 December continuation to his note on the nationalities questions, does Lenin take a position that seems to confirm Martin's analysis of Lenin's thinking on this issue?  Explain.

Historian Moshe Lewin argued that Lenin in his last writings (which you are now reading!) began to argue for greater decentralization of the Soviet system.  Do Lenin's continuation notes on the nationalities question, dates 31 December (pp. 123-124) seem to confirm or contradict this assertion?  Explain.

Historian Isaac Deutscher argued that these last notes of Lenin's indicate his growing frustration with Stalin and his conviction that Stalin must be removed from power--what evidence in this last note might support Deutscher's assertion?



Bukharin and Dzershinskii Disagree...  December 1924, pp. 124-126

Bukharin to Dzherzhinskii:  what position did B take on the use of repression and on the role of the GPU (the State Political Administration--the secret police) in 1924?  

(Also, do you find anything striking about the tone of this letter?)

Dzerzhinskii to Menzhinskii:  Why did D consider it important for the GPU to "become quieter" (etc)?

How would you relate Dzerzhinskii's letter to that argument made by Holquist in his article on surveillance? 


Stalin, "The October Revolution and the Tactics of Russian Communists," 17 December 1924, pp. 126-128

How did Stalin use "his" version of Lenin's ideas to attack Trotsky in 1924?  On what matters did Stalin say Trotsky had deviated from Leninism?  Explain.

How did Stalin explain the reasons behind Trotsky's "errors"?

Stalin and his allies argued that Trotsky was too pessimistic about the building of socialism in Russia--how did Stalin advance this argument in his 17 December essay?

Did Stalin at any point in this document claim to have his own interpretations?  In other words, how was he using rhetoric to define himself as well as Trotsky in relation to Lenin?



Kamenev, Speech to the 14th Party Congress, December 1925, pp. 128-130

In 1925 did Kamenev, who now found himself in the minority/opposition, approve of the labeling of minority positions as class-alien deviations, etc?  Explain.

What "new tendency in the party" was Kamenev criticizing?  Whose influence and power in particular was Kamenev criticizing and why?

Stalin (with aid from Kamenev and Zinoviev) had undermined Trotsky in 1924-1925 by defining Trotsky's views as a deviation away from Leninism; was Kamenev trying to make the same argument about Stalin in December 1925?  Explain.  Did he make much headway in convincing the party congress?


The Code of Laws on Marriage and Divorce, the Family and Guardianship, 19 November 1926, pp. 130-137

I want you to think about how these law codes relate to Suny's discussion of NEP-period social legislation (in The Soviet Experiment, 184-188).  What about these law codes (on marriage and divorce, and on family relations) were "liberationist"?  What do they reveal about the Bolshevik vision for the new society (the new Soviet man and women)?  Explain.


Kamenev-Bukharin exchange, 11 July 1928, pp. 137-139

As you know from your reading, in 1928 Bukharin found himself in opposition to the policies implemented by the Stalin bloc in Politburo (the party's top leadership body), but was unable to convince the party's central committee to alter its policies (the main issue was agricultural policy)....

In talking to Kamenev in July 1928, how did B explain Stalin's latest policy positions? 

What did B think would be the consequences of Stalin's new line?

How did he describe the balance of  power in the Politburo and in the party as a whole, and what was B's "strategy" at this point?


Voroshilov's Letter to Orjonikidze, 8 June 1928, pp. 139-140

What does this letter reveal about the internal politics in the Politburo in summer 1928?  And what issues besides agriculture seem to have been aggravating relations in the Politburo?


Stalin's Letter to Molotov...  30 September 1929, pp. 140-141

What does this letter tell you about Stalin's method of dealing with his opponents on the "Right," and what does it tell you about how Stalin "directed" the members of his inner circle?


Kopelev, To Be Preserved Forever, pp. 141-147

Be ready to talk about what this memoir tells us about how "ordinary" party members were drawn into and effected by the "big" debates among the party's leadership.