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Belorussia: Under Soviet Rule, 1917--1957

Ivan S. Lubachko
Copyright Date: 1972
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Few European nations are so little known to the world at large as Belorussia. For centuries this Eastern European country has served as a pawn in the power plays of predatory neighbors. In this, the first detailed study of Belorussia's recent history, the author depicts the successive invasions of German, Polish, and Russian armies in two world wars and the upheavals stemming from the Russian Revolution.

    The Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, established in 1919, progressed culturally, educationally, and economically during Lenin's lifetime. Under Stalin, however, her leaders were liquidated in a series of purges, and hundreds of thousands of her people were shot or exiled to Siberia. Thousands more died in the famine that followed the forced collectivization of agriculture. Although Stalin gained the admission of Belorussia to the United Nations, the author concludes that Russian hegemony over Belorussia is as complete today under the Communists as it was for a century under the tsars.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6360-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. 1. Historical Background
    (pp. 1-11)

    Belorussians are people of an ancient culture. Together with the Russians and Ukrainians, they are descended from the eastern Slavic tribes. From the time when, according to historical legend, the first Russian state was formed by Rurik in c. 862 until the Mongol invasion and occupation of Kiev in 1240, all three of these Slavic peoples lived in a number of principalities broadly designated as Kievan Rus’ (Kievan Russia). By family relationship among the princes, the region had a certain degree of political unity, with primacy centered in Kiev. Geographically, the area now called Belorussia occupied the central western portion...

  5. 2. The Formation of the Belorussian Republic
    (pp. 12-30)

    For centuries, Russia had been one of the most multinational states in the world, and its treatment of the minority nationalities had been less than fair. The fall of the autocracy in the February Revolution of 1917 made the future treatment of internal nationalities a major question. Only the Bolsheviks were prepared to meet the problem, for they, unlike the other parties, had formulated propaganda, if not a policy, on nationalities long before. At the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Party in July 1903, Lenin declared: “We have included in the draft of our Party program the demand...

  6. 3. The Partition of Belorussia
    (pp. 31-46)

    Belorussia, because of its geographic position, has for many centuries been an arena of political, national, religious, and cultural struggle between the Russians and the Poles. Partitions of Poland between 1772 and 1795 decided the outcome of this contest in favor of Russia. From 1795 until 1918, Poland, as a state, did not exist on the map of Europe. A large part of Poland was administrated by Russia during this time. The Polish nobles were not deprived of their feudal estates nor of their serfs, whether the latter were Belorussians, Ukrainians, or Poles. But they were deprived of their state...

  7. 4. Belorussia & the Formation of the USSR
    (pp. 47-61)

    The partition of Belorussia gave Soviet Russia a major expansion of territory, yet faced it with a renewed problem of territorial digestion. The recent release of much of Belorussia from Polish bondage gave the Bolsheviks a temporary advantage in popular favor, and the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was speedily reestablished. Nevertheless, there remained an embarrassing dichotomy between the real and the apparent. Real, of course, were Russian military occupation and the rulership by a small minority of predominantly Russian Communists. Still unattained, however, was a convincing semblance of popular government. There had already been two Soviet governments in Belorussia; neither...

  8. 5. Belorussia under the New Economic Policy
    (pp. 62-79)

    At the end of the Civil War, Belorussia was on the verge of total economic chaos. Its transportation system was completely paralyzed after six years of war and revolution; its industry, underdeveloped as it was before the war, had practically ceased to exist. Agricultural production dropped to less than 50 percent of the prewar level.² In addition to this, forced requisitions of agricultural products and mass political terror, enforced by the Cheka, the Communist Security Police, stimulated unrest in Belorussia, as in many parts of Russia. During 1920–1921, a series of peasant uprisings took place, the most serious of...

  9. 6. A Golden Age of Belorussian Culture
    (pp. 80-92)

    The New Economic Policy of the 1920s represented more than concessions to the peasantry, restoration of a limited system of private enterprise, and a temporary political reconciliation with the local nationalists. It aimed also at a realization of the policy of nationalities by making concessions to the minority nationalities of the USSR for the development of their national cultures. Taking advantage of these concessions, the Belorussian leaders began at once to build up the cultural and educational institutions of the republic. In 1921, they founded the Institute of Belorussian Culture (Inbelkult) as a scientific research center to study Belorussian culture...

  10. 7. Collectivization & Industrialization
    (pp. 93-106)

    Great diversity of opinion existed among the leaders of the Communist Party of Russia with regard to the New Economic Policy when it was introduced. The old Bolshevik leaders, such as Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, who later became known as the leaders of the Left-Wing Opposition, considered the NEP a great and dangerous concession to the peasantry and to private enterprise generally. Other Bolshevik leaders, such as Nikolai Bukharin and Aleksei Rykov, later known as the leaders of the Right-Wing Opposition, accepted the NEP as the policy of the Soviet government for many years to come.

    It is difficult...

  11. 8. The Liquidation of Belorussian Nationalism
    (pp. 107-126)

    The idea has always prevailed among the leaders of the Bolshevik section of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP) that the party should be monolithic in its unity and that any weakness of will or disobedience to Party discipline on the part of the individual members should not be tolerated. Lenin, as a leader of the Bolsheviks, wanted Party members not only to obey Party discipline but also to show their devotion to the Communist cause. Those who did not follow these requirements were to be expelled from the Party. In the introduction to his workWhat Is to...

  12. 9. West Belorussia under Poland
    (pp. 127-138)

    Turning aside from the grievous impact of the Stalinist purges in Soviet Belorussia, let us review briefly the hardly less unfortunate plight of the part of Belorussia under Polish control. It will be recalled that Poland, through the Treaty of Riga in 1921, received a large part of the Ukrainian territory and more than one-third of Belorussia. This was much less land than the Polish leaders wanted. They were aware, however, of their weak strategic position and therefore were prepared to be “generous” to Soviet Russia at Riga by abandoning their claims to the so-called Polish “historical boundaries.”¹

    The Polish...

  13. 10. The Reunion of West & East Belorussia
    (pp. 139-145)

    Just a week before the German attack upon Poland, the Nonaggression Pact of August 23, 1939, was concluded between the Soviet Union and Germany. By Article 1 of this pact, both countries agreed to refrain from any act of violence, any aggressive action, or any attack against each other, whether individually or jointly with other powers.

    Simultaneously, the governments of the Soviet Union and Germany secretly agreed to a forthcoming partition of Poland.¹ Accordingly, just as the German army was about to complete the occupation of Poland proper, on September 17, 1939, the Soviet Red Army marched into Poland from...

  14. 11. Belorussia under German Occupation
    (pp. 146-164)

    Geographically, Belorussia occupies a passageway between the East and the West. For this reason, in every European war in which Russia has participated, Belorussia has been an important theater of military action. Historically, in the face of two great invasions—those of Charles XII of Sweden and Napoleon—the Belorussian peasants remained loyal to their country. In June 1941, however, many of them welcomed the advancing German troops as liberators. The contrast deserves notice: the serfs of the Polish kings and the Russian tsars in Belorussia did not welcome the foreign invaders, but the serfs of Stalin’s Communist Party did....

  15. 12. Belorussia after World War II
    (pp. 165-176)

    Because of its geographic situation Belorussia suffered from the Nazis more than any other country in Eastern Europe. One American who traveled through it in 1946 wrote, “During six months I traveled from one end of this republic to the other, and I can only think of it as the most devastated territory in the world.”¹ During the three years of occupation, the Germans had destroyed and burned 209 towns and 9,200 villages in Belorussia.² Eighty percent of Minsk, the capital of the Belorussian SSR, was destroyed. Ninety percent of Vitebsk, the second largest city, was destroyed. All other cities...

  16. 13. Belorussia & War Diplomacy
    (pp. 177-186)

    So far we have examined modern Belorussian history from a somewhat parochial viewpoint, as a sequence of frequently painful events within the country itself. Simultaneously, however, Belorussia served as a pawn in the maneuverings of wartime diplomacy. Among the results of this maneuvering were two historical developments: a drastic shifting of Belorussia’s western boundary and the amazing appearance of the Belorussian SSR as an original member of the United Nations.

    The Soviet Union and its Western allies had trouble, both during and after World War II, in planning and defining the western frontier of Belorussia. The government of the Soviet...

  17. 14. Conclusion
    (pp. 187-192)

    The Belorussian national movement originated and grew up in the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, as the renaissance of a distinctive regional culture and as a protest against Russian social, political, and national suppression. World War I brought such destruction and suffering to Belorussia that the February Revolution was greeted with great enthusiasm and hope. The leaders of the Belorussian national movement were eager to cooperate with the Provisional Government in Petrograd, in the belief that the new Russia would be a democratic country with no place for social and political injustice. The...

    (pp. 193-210)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 211-220)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-221)