Joseph Stalin: Man of the Borderlands

| | March 4, 2024

We know what Heaven and Hell may bring,
But no man knoweth the mind of the King.

Rudyard Kipling, “The Ballad of the King’s Jest.”

In his memoirs, the Georgian Menshevik émigré Grigorii Uratadze described Joseph Stalin, whom he had known in the days of their revolutionary activity in the Caucasus, as “a man without a biography.”[1] The assertion was not without foundation, and little has changed in the intervening years to alter Uratadze’s judgment. Up to the moment when Stalin emerged as a leading figure in the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet government in 1917, the details of his personal and political life remain skimpy and much disputed.[2] But there is more to the mystery of Stalin than the absence of reliable documentary evidence on his early life. The information about himself that he allowed to be made public in his own lifetime contains an unresolved paradox.

On three occasions—in 1937, when a large exhibition of Georgian art in Moscow portrayed Stalin’s early career in Transcaucasia—in 1939, when the documents on his early life appeared—and in 1946, when the early volumes of his collected works containing the Georgian writings were published—the propaganda apparatus widely publicized Stalin’s Georgian identity at the very time it was beating the drums of Great Russian nationalism. At the height of the election campaign to the Supreme Soviet under the new Soviet constitution, a large exhibition of Georgian paintings opened at the Tretiakov Gallery, featuring as one of its main themes the history of the Bolshevik organization, with paintings of high points in Stalin’s Transcaucasian career.[3] Two years later, the leading journal of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Molodaia Gvardiia, published an eighty-page compilation of sources entitled “Childhood and Youth of the Leader: Documents, Memoirs, Stories,” which dealt exclusively with Stalin’s Georgian roots.[4] In 1946, the first volumes of Stalin’s Collected Works began to appear, consisting mainly of handouts and brief programmatic statements that hardly seem worth mentioning, let alone immortalizing. To be sure, they established Stalin’s early revolutionary credentials. But this trivia also reminded the party and the public that up to the age of twenty-eight Stalin had written and published exclusively in Georgian.[5]

Stalin could not escape his ethnic origins. His heavily accented Russian betrayed him as a man of the borderlands. Self-consciousness about his pronunciation affected the way in which he dropped his voice in conversation. There were jokes about his accent even among Georgians, albeit his enemies. Leon Trotsky inflated Stalin’s shaky Russian into something more sinister. In later days, his faithful translator, Oleg Troyanovskii, found it anachronistic to give a literal rendering of Stalin’s words, “we Russians,” and substituted “we Soviets.”[6] Stalin could not deny his Georgian identity, but why advertise it?

Although the material in Molodaia Gvardiia and the Collected Works may not be entirely accurate, reliable, or complete, it is not without value as a historical source. It was, after all, assembled under Stalin’s personal guidance.[7] As such, it may serve to illuminate two processes at work. Stalin is here engaged in shaping, indeed, controlling the presentation of his own image to the world at large, of reinventing himself in such a way as to endow his life with a powerful political symbolism. At the same time, his selective texts offer clues to the ways in which he sought to reconcile his self-presentation with his political aspirations.[8] In order to resolve the paradox, then, it becomes necessary to take a new approach to Stalin’s biography.

The aim of this essay is to explore how the politics of personal identity became the foundations of a Stalinist ideology and a homologue for the Soviet state system. Most previous treatments of Stalin fall roughly into three, often overlapping, categories: Stalin as a “great man,” as a pathological criminal, and as a bureaucratic despot.[9] Common to all is the interpretation that Stalin desired to become Russian and that he carried out a policy of unremitting russification. No full-scale biography of Stalin can neglect any one of these elements. My approach follows a different trajectory. It takes as its point of departure the literature on identity formation in order to explore the relationship between Stalin’s struggle to transform and present his self and his solution to the central problem of the Bolshevik revolution: how to construct a centralized polyethnic state on a proletarian class base.[10]

READ MORE: The February Revolution

This approach requires a tripartite strategy: to examine Stalin’s representation of self not only from the perspective of 1939 but throughout the entire process of his identity formation during his years as a rebellious youth and putative revolutionary; to explore the ways the social and cultural matrix of the Caucasus may have shaped his beliefs, attitudes, and politics in his formative years; and to undertake a rereading of his political writings as a function of the transformation of his persona within the revolutionary movement in order to gain insights into his subsequent policies as the leader of the Soviet Union. The unifying theme that I use to link all three approaches is the concept of Stalin as “a man of the borderlands.”

In this sense, Stalin represents a new type of political leader that emerged from the wreck of empires and the discrediting of the traditional elites following the wars and revolutions of the early twentieth century. In the old regimes, the primary ethnic and regional identities of these future leaders were peripheral to the traditional power centers. Their political goals were to build or rebuild the state in order to legitimize their role as leaders of a new type. The nature of their origins also disposed them to suspect conventional forms of nationalism. In a period of political and social uncertainty, they sought to reconstruct in radical ways both state and society in order to locate themselves at the symbolic and real centers of power. Their individual prescriptions varied according to local circumstances and historical precedents, ranging from Adolf Hitler’s racial state, to Josef Pilsudski’s revival of the Jagellonian federation, Gyula Gömbös’s identification with Greater Hungary and repression of his own Swabian minority, and Corneliu Zelea Codreanu’s supra-national Christian fascism.[11] Stalin’s aims were just as complex and perhaps even more difficult to achieve. Surely he had a longer distance to travel from his borderland to the center of power.

In tracing the individual contours of Stalin’s identity formation, this essay utilizes both a metaphor and an analytic category. The metaphor derives from the work of the Polish émigré sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, who uses it in a different context to suggest journeys across space and time that involve more than physical movement. The analytic category stems from the work of the American sociologist-anthropologist Erving Goffman, who developed the concept of “frame analysis” as a way of organizing experience that involved “two basic replicating processes.” One is a systematic form of transforming reality into a copy, or interpretive scheme. The other fabricates this process, in part or in totality, for improper ends. In this essay, framing serves a dual function: it enables us to analyze Stalin in terms of what he makes of himself and what we can make of him.

The trajectory of Stalin’s political career from youthful rebel to revolutionary, state-builder, and imperialist followed an irregular course that transported him from the periphery to the center of the Russian Empire. It was a rough and tumble journey across a “space without contours,” where “the trails are blazed by the destination of the pilgrim and there are few other tracks to reckon with.”[12] There were no forerunners to emulate and few guidelines to follow. Along the way, the young Iosif (Soso) Djugashvili traversed immense distances in the process of identity formation. It has been argued that “the ‘people’ themselves play the part of theoreticians in this field.”[13] But it should be added, not always in the end the way they want. Stalin’s case was not exceptional. Despite his greatest efforts, carried to the monstrous extreme of physically eliminating those who could contest the veracity of his acquired identities, he was unable to complete the metamorphosis, to shed entirely the mental habits, cultural outlook, and even the literary evidence of his formative years. His attempt to cross the wide frontier between two competing ethnic identities—the Georgian and the Russian—left him suspended, politically triumphant but personally isolated.

Few travelers across the terrain of ethnic transformation have escaped the confusions of cultural ambivalence. As a general rule, ethnic identities are complex and shifting phenomena, which may be experienced differently by different members of what is assumed to be an ethnic group and may be shaped by socioeconomic structures. So, too, are they perceived differently by those observing the process from different vantage points.[14] But Stalin’s self-presentation also involved his reconciling and integrating the conflictual components of the geography, community, and class that shaped his existence from the day of his birth.

In Stalin’s case, it is possible to utilize frame analysis to illuminate how he constructed a social identity that would achieve particular political ends, and as a mode of analysis to uncover the sources of his multiple identities. In other words, for the purposes of scholarship, framing can serve as a critical mode of analyzing “the master builder” at work.[15] Applied to the material in Molodaia Gvardiia, it explains how Stalin’s life experiences may be organized in three interpretive frames: the cultural (traditional Georgian), the social (proletarian), and the political (hegemonic Russian). It is important for my argument to stress that these frames are social constructs and do not signify essentialist values or attitudes. As in most cases of multiple identities, each one contains its own set of ambiguities; all compete and at times conflict with one another. 10

There is no denying that the inner part of each frame, what Goffman calls “untransformed reality,” was constructed out of documentary evidence, however selective. But the outer rim was fashioned by an elaborate “layering of fabrications” composed of arbitrary slices of real and fictive actions. They constituted a set of puzzles for those who had to re-transform the stream of activity into official biographies.[16] Once in power, Stalin consciously manipulated the same technique of “heavy layering” by constructing ideological pronouncements in such a way as to suggest the possibility of multiple interpretations. The “correct” one was never clear, and it could change over time. For example, Stalin could arrange ritualistic intra-party diskussia on any issue, including his own writing. This enabled him to give the appearance of open debate, while reserving for himself the right to intervene at a critical moment as the master interpreter and thus reaffirm his supreme authority.[17]

The material in Molodaia Gvardiia supplies abundant references to Stalin’s embeddedness in Georgian traditional culture. Lengthy excerpts from contemporary ethnographic material describe in great detail the types of Georgian rattles, baubles, and toys that amused infants at the time of Soso Djugashvili’s birth. His mother was reputed to possess a musical voice and to be a “great master at reciting folk tales and legends of the oral tradition.” Examples are given of the nursery rhymes of Akakii Tsereteli and the poetry of Rapiela Eristavi, classical Georgian poets, which presumably filled young Soso’s ears. Later, he was allegedly renowned for his own recitations of shairi, the sixteen-syllable poetic form used after the time of the great Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli for presenting epics of old Georgian literature.[18]

Only recently has the significance of the oral tradition been appreciated by historians as a source of creating myths to live by in societies which are still in the transition to a written culture, such as Georgia in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.[19] In legendary accounts, according to Albert Bates Lord, “the birth of a god or hero was important because it explained his special powers and characteristics. Narratives of his childhood deeds gave early evidence of his extraordinary personality and strength, proving his divine, or at least ‘different’ origin.” Was not Stalin in 1939 not only rehearsing his own debt to this tradition but in fact also creating a new legend in the same spirit? Lord continues: “In some cultures in many parts of the world the biographical scheme in oral-traditional literature plays a very large role, second only to creation myths and sometimes intertwined with them. The miraculously born and magically equipped god or hero creates order from chaos, thus establishing the cosmos and he also overcomes monsters that would destroy the universe and return humanity to chaos and death.”[20]

According to the documents in Molodaia Gvardiia, the young Djugashvili did not discard the Georgian culture of his childhood when he began to learn Russian and to attend school, where he led the choir in performances of Russian folk songs and the works of D. S. Bortnianskii, P. I. Turchaninov, and Tchaikovsky, or even after he entered the Tbilisi Seminary, the Caucasian cradle of revolutionaries.[21] As they portray him acquiring the rudiments of a Russian identity, they emphasize nonetheless his deep immersion in the great works of Georgian national literature.

During his school years, according to the selected reminiscences of his contemporaries, Soso Djugashvili devoured the writings of the Georgian critical realists, Ilia Chavchavadze and Akakii Tsereteli. Their form of social protest was influenced by the Russian radicals of the 1860s, but they also vigorously promoted Georgian language and culture in the face of the Russian government’s efforts to denigrate it.[22] He is also credited with reading Georgian neo-Romantics such as Aleksandr Qazbegi (Kazbek), whose idealized tale of resistance to the Russian conquest, The Patricide, made such an impression that Soso much later adopted the name of the avenging bandit hero, Koba, as a revolutionary pseudonym.[23]

The tradition of social bandits in Georgia was a recent invention of the mid-nineteenth century. In Qazbegi’s stories, it took the form of the independent mountaineer fighting to defend his craggy land.[24] But there were many other examples. Chavchavadze’s famous poem “The Bandit Kako,” in which the hero took blood revenge for his father’s death by killing the guilty landowner, was, according to one of the sources in Molodaia Gvardiia, the most beloved poem of the schoolboys in Stalin’s hometown. Another tale related by a different source in the same collection places young Soso at the scene of the execution of two well-known social bandits, peasants who had escaped from the exploitation of their landlord into the forests and mountains, robbing only landowners and helping the poor.[25] The tales of social bandits built on the medieval epic tradition in Georgian literature exemplified by the poetry of Shota Rustaveli. Emblematic of this tradition was a code of courage, loyalty, and patriotism.[26] Illustrative examples in the form of twelve aphorisms from Rustaveli’s work were reprinted by the editors of Molodaia Gvardiia. One can only assume that these were among Stalin’s favorites. The dominant trope of dichotomies, favored by Stalin, is of friends and enemies, trust and disloyalty, which can be interpreted in two ways: as proofs applied to one’s own conduct or to that of others. Consider, for example, what a temperamentally suspicious man might make of the salutary warning: “the kinsman of a foe is dangerous and proves to be an enemy.”[27]

In the nineteenth century, Georgians prided themselves on their warrior culture and enjoyed a reputation among Russians as excellent horsemen and brave soldiers.[28] In Georgia, Ossetia, and throughout the North Caucasus, the custom of blood revenge, a particular characteristic of warrior societies, survived well into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries despite the best efforts of the Russian and later Soviet authorities to suppress it.[29] Fieldwork among the peoples of the North Caucasus, Montenegro, and other traditional societies suggests commonalities with respect to a variety of types of blood revenge. In certain areas, for example, vengeance was symbolic, replacing the blood that had been lost rather than punishing the specific killer. It was also considered a psychological means of compensating for a strongly felt personal loss. Warrior “brothers” were “prone to retaliate homicidally when any one of their group was killed.”30 It will become clear how this tradition provided Stalin with the psychological response he needed when S. M. Kirov, one of his “warrior brothers,” was assassinated.

There were in the Georgian culture two alternatives open to an individual who found himself outside the protective cover offered by traditional society. Exploited, mistreated, or betrayed, the social bandit can become a rebellious loner who like Koba at the end of Qazbegi’s novel wreaks revenge on his enemies but then fades into the forests.31 In a different social situation, the individual can undergo a dual socialization inside and outside the village community. As in other traditional societies undergoing modernization, the tension between the two increases as the outside world changes more rapidly. The strong sense of localness, of belonging to the village, can create defensiveness, even helplessness, outside it, a tension that has been described by anthropologists as greater in Georgia than among other peasant societies. Beyond the protection of the village, the child must learn how to survive in the no man’s land where there is neither kin nor friend. What he seeks then is a substitute for the actual family (which in Soso’s case was dysfunctional in any case) through spiritual kinship, a kind of brotherhood of warrior companions.32

When Soso was forced to leave his local enclave, his first attempt to create a family of his own ended in tragedy. His first wife, Ekaterina (Kato) Svanidze, a Georgian girl from a traditional religious background, died in 1908 shortly after the birth of their child, Iakov (Iasha). As a substitute, he painfully assembled a band of brothers from among his closest collaborators in a foreign land (Baku) bringing them with him as he rose to power: men such as Kirov, K. E. Voroshilov, Sergo Ordzhonikidze, Anastas Mikoian, and Avel Enukidze. But Stalin did not give up on the idea of reconstituting a natural kinship system. His second attempt at the age of forty, when he married seventeen-year-old Nadezhda Allilueva in 1919, can be interpreted as a psychological imperative to mediate the contradictions of his multiple identities: proletarian, Georgian, Russian. She was the daughter of a veteran Marxist railroad worker who, though Russian, found work and a second home in the Caucasus. Later, during Stalin’s years of exile, the Alliluev family was a source of constant support and refuge. Nadezhda’s mother, who was part Georgian and spoke Russian with a strong accent, ran a Caucasian household. In 1917, Stalin lived from time to time in their apartment and appeared to regain some of the high spirits of his youth.33 For him, they had already become a family before he married young Nadezhda.

In his early years of power, Stalin surrounded himself with an enlarged family, combining his natural kinship, the relatives of both wives, and his spiritual kinship, the band of brothers. Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s at Zubalovo, the estate of a former Caucasian industrialist, Stalin acted out the role of the traditional Georgian pater familia and host with both groups. He found his relatives and “brothers” places in the Soviet bureaucracy; at parties and banquets for the family and intimate friends, he was genial and entertaining, vastly enjoying the games of his own children and their friends, at least until disaster struck with the death of Nadezhda.34

Stalin’s emotional attachment to his Georgian past surfaced again in his selection of names for his children. His first born, Iakov (Jacob), was named for the son of the biblical Joseph, it would appear, as a concession to his religious first wife. But the name of his daughter, Svetlana, recalled the mother of the heroic Ossetian folk epos, Soslan, who was called “svetozarnaia Satana” (Bright Satana). Significantly, Stalin persistently referred to Svetlana as Satanka in letters to his wife.35 To be sure, he despised the concepts of “feudal honor,” the practice of gift giving, and other survivals of an outmoded class structure.36 But Stalin was always selective in identifying with things Georgian.

What must have been for him a personal idyll was smashed by two tragic events, the suicide of his second wife Nadezhda and the murder of Kirov. He mourned the loss of Nadezhda but also blamed her in bursts of self-pity: “The children will forget her in a few days, but me she has crippled for life.”37 The death of his wife deprived him of a real and symbolic center to his kinship group. He virtually abandoned Zubalovo and became a wanderer again, shifting his residence from place to place.38 Within two years, Kirov was dead. According to the eyewitness account of Stalin’s sister-in-law, Maria Svanidze, who saw Stalin almost daily, the assassination devastated him: “I am orphaned completely,” he lamented.39 After the assassination, his daughter Svetlana reflected, “He ceased to believe in people; perhaps he never much believed in them.”40 The kinship structure was coming apart, and Stalin in his perverse way was helping to destroy it. Stalin perceived himself as the victim; the question was, who was the enemy?

Stalin’s impulsive initial reaction to Kirov’s death took a peculiar form of vengeance in the code of blood revenge. He retaliated against whoever was close at hand, in this case, a group of “white guardists,” officers and officials of the old regime who had been imprisoned for years in Leningrad, hence “innocent” in any modern juridical sense. Yet they represented the most extreme expression of counter-revolution and as such served as symbolic objects for Stalin in avenging the death of Leningrad’s foremost representative of Soviet power. Only after this spontaneous, emotional outburst did he begin to exploit Kirov’s death more systematically by widening the circle of enemies to encompass the “Leningrad terrorist center” of Zinovievites.41

Stalin’s campaign against the Old Bolshevik oppositionists cleared the way for L. P. Beria, who had already prepared his deep infiltration into the band of brothers, to play the Georgian card. Since the 1920s, Beria had worked tirelessly to ingratiate himself with Stalin. By the early 1930s, he had clawed his way up the ladder of power in Georgia, becoming chairman of the Georgian State Political Directorate (GPU) and then first secretary of the Georgian party. He had gained the confidence of Stalin and Grigory Ordzhonikidze through intrigue and denunciation in the complex world of Georgian Bolshevism. But he had higher ambitions.42 Since early 1933, he had been reworking the history of the Bolshevik organization in Transcaucasia in order to magnify Stalin’s role in the revolutionary struggle in the Caucasus. He had established a Stalin Institute in Tbilisi to collect and where necessary to repress all the relevant materials and to organize the writing of a book, On the History of the Bolshevik Organization in the Transcaucasus, for which he took full credit.43 Highly tendentious, it transformed Stalin from a modest, even peripheral figure into the dominant Bolshevik revolutionary leader of the region.44

In order to rewrite history and demonstrate his loyalty to Stalin, Beria had to discredit the memoirs of A. S. Enukidze, among others.45 An old friend of Stalin and veteran Bolshevik, Enukidze was secretary of the Central Executive Committee and thus responsible for security in the Kremlin. He was also the godfather to Stalin’s wife Nadezhda, a relationship that was taken very seriously in Georgian culture. In light of Beria’s “revelations,” Stalin set one of his trusted assistants, Lev Mekhlis, at work to expose Enukidze’s errors.46 Shortly after Kirov’s assassination, Enukidze was obliged to respond to the attacks on his work in a half-page of self-criticism in Pravda. Within a few months, Beria had launched a purge of the Transcaucasian party organizations and published his book. Simultaneously, Enukidze was publicly accused at the June 1935 Party Plenum of moral laxness and protecting “enemies” within the service personnel of the Kremlin. A series of speakers including Beria succeeded in gaining approval for Enukidze’s expulsion from the Central Executive Committee and also the party. Stalin’s proposal for a more moderate solution may have been no more than play acting. Enukidze was arrested and shot in 1937.47

Enukidze was the first Old Bolshevik without an oppositionist past to be expelled from the party; perhaps even more important, he was the first of Stalin’s inner circle to be condemned. It was the opening of Beria’s campaign to replace Stalin’s natural and spiritual kinship systems with one of his own. For two decades, Stalin had engaged in the brutal repression of his enemies in his struggle for power. He now began to test the loyalty of his warrior brothers. Some, like Ordzhonikidze, could not take the strain and committed suicide. For Stalin, this was more evidence of betrayal. At the same time, Beria began something new. Once he became head of the NKVD, he systematically wiped out Stalin’s Georgian relatives, whose hatred for Beria was universal.48 But there was no attempt to touch the Alliluevs. Stalin allowed most of the Svanidzes to be arrested and destroyed and gradually abandoned his Georgian lifestyle. At the same time, he represented himself to the outer world, in the materials of Molodaia Gvardiia, as a true son of the Georgian people.49 For Stalin, the Koba image of a solitary and vengeful hero triumphed over the natural and spiritual kinship system he had constructed to protect himself against the no man’s land of the outer world that then engulfed him.

In defining his Georgian identity, the one element that remained absolutely constant was language. Until he was twenty-eight years of age, he wrote and published exclusively in Georgian. This includes not only his early political writings but also his youthful poetry. That the great leader, the vozhd’, was sufficiently proud of his sentimental and romantic adolescent effusions to have them mentioned prominently in the materials for his biography is surprising enough. What is truly astonishing is that there was no attempt to conceal the original conditions of publication. The dedication reads “to Prince R. D. Eristov.” Famous in his day as a poet, dramatist, ethnographer, and Georgian patriot, Eristov had been an early critic of serfdom and was known as “the people’s poet” for his celebration of the peasant way of life (byt’). But in his later years, he turned more and more to nationalist themes, particularly the Georgian resistance to the Muslims of Turkey and Persia.50 At first glance, young Soso’s choice of the newspaper Iveriia as the vehicle for his poetic debut appeared to be another anachronism. Edited by another prince, Ilia Chavchavadze, Iveriia was a “progressive” organ of the critical Georgian intelligentsia, but it was also highly nationalist and subsequently one of the main targets of the early social-democratic press in Georgia.51 Moreover, the poems were published at a time—from June to December 1895—when, according to reminiscences in Molodaia Gvardiia, Soso Djugashvili had first read Karl Marx’s Capital. The sixth and last poem was published the following year, 1896, in Kvali (The Furrow) a legal, left-wing reformist newspaper identified in the first volume of Stalin’s Collected Works as “an organ of a liberal-nationalist orientation.”52 Yet the memoirists cited in Molodaia Gvardiia testified that at this very time Stalin had already formed the first illegal, Marxist circle at the Tbilisi Seminary and become “a propagandist of Marxism.”53 Given the discrepancy between the dreamy poet writing for Georgian nationalist organs and the Marxist novitiate organizing illegal reading circles, there have been some who have doubted that the verse was really Stalin’s.54 Whatever the truth of the matter, the important point is that Stalin claimed authorship and thereby a place, however modest, in the Georgian national literary tradition.

For Stalin, the defense of the right of nationalities to use their own languages was the glue with which he could join ethnicity and class, Georgian and proletarian, in a sturdy double frame. There can be no mystery about his lifelong consistency on this issue, notwithstanding the twists and turns taken by other aspects of his nationality policy. He never forgot, as he put it in 1904, that “language was the instrument of development and struggle.”55 Once in power, he continued to insist on the importance of recognizing local languages. For example, in 1925, he wrote to the Presidium of the Central Committee demanding “complete freedom” for the submission of documents and applications to it in any language of any national group of the Russian Republic without exception.56 Despite the 1938 language decree on the compulsory teaching of Russian, the Molodaia Gvardiia materials stressed how the evils of linguistic russification under tsarism had sparked a political backlash among disaffected Georgian youth, Soso Djugashvili among them.57 Stalin’s awareness of the political implications of “linguicide” went beyond his concern as a ruler over its potential to generate resistance to any established authority, including the Soviet. His experience as a man of the borderlands had taught him that defending the right of a nationality to employ its own language was necessary to offset the centrifugal nationalist forces in Caucasian political life; later, its purpose was to defend the territorial integrity of the Soviet Union against right-wing nationalist deviations, which, combined with foreign intervention, could lead to the disintegration of the state. To be sure, Stalin reserved for himself the right to determine how many national languages existed in the Soviet Union, and he counted differently at different times.58 Nevertheless, even after he called a halt to political korenizatsiia (the Soviet version of affirmative action) in the mid to late 1930s, he retained important elements of its cultural dimensions.59 Until the end of his life, he remained committed to the defense of national languages as he defined them, a reminder that there were limits to russification if not to centralization.60 For Stalin, then, his Georgianness was emblematic of the multi-cultural state over which he ruled.

Crucial to Stalin’s revolutionary career was his presentation of self in the second frame as a symbolic proletarian. Here, too, he sought to transform the stigma of his class origins into a badge of honor. Born into a poor but not impoverished family of ex-serfs, his passport identified him as a peasant until 1917. His father, Vissarion, wandered between the traditional world of the peasant and the modern urban life of a proletarian, pausing from time to time at the way station of independent craftsman. The story presented by the material in Molodaia Gvardiia is that Vissarion opposed his son’s further education and took him off to work in a leather factory in Tbilisi. Interviews with old factory veterans and ethnographic documentation give a vivid and horrifying picture of working conditions. There is no indication how long young Soso was exposed to this dangerous and unhealthy atmosphere before his mother, “after some time,” rescued him and returned him to school. But other excerpts taken from contemporary sources paint just as grim a picture of life in the villages like those surrounding Stalin’s hometown.61 The impression is left that Stalin experienced class exploitation firsthand and not as so many other Marxist intellectuals only by reading books.

Identifying himself as a proletarian was not only a retrospective tactic. In his earliest polemics with the Georgian Menshevik leader Noi Zhordaniia, Stalin took great pains to defend V. I. Lenin’s concept of the relationship between the party and the working class in terms that appeared to dispel the image of subordination of the latter to the former. His exegesis of Lenin drew the distinction between the ease with which the workers could “assimilate” (usvaivat’) socialism and their inability to “work out” (vyrabotat’) scientific socialism on their own. Similarly, he refuted Zhordaniia’s claim that Lenin had denigrated the worker as someone who was “‘by virtue of his condition more of a bourgeois than a socialist.'” The point is, Stalin insisted, “I can be a proletarian and not a bourgeois by virtue of my condition and not be aware of my condition and therefore subject myself to bourgeois ideology.” By adopting a hard line on matters of party organization and discipline, Stalin associated himself symbolically with the tendency of “proletarian steadfastness” (Bolshevik) as opposed to the tendency of “the intelligentsia to vacillate” (Menshevism).62

Framing himself as a proletarian was for Stalin a complex process that involved a redefinition of the word itself. The descriptive elements he most frequently employed were “hard” or “firm” as opposed to “soft” or “wavering,” the underground conspirator as opposed to the “liquidator,” and the man of practice (praktik) as opposed to the man of theory (teoretik). His appearance, whether consciously or not, reinforced the impression. With the exception of those few months when his father had dragged him off to a Tbilisi leather factory, Stalin was never a manual worker. But he took on all the trappings of one: his dress, speech, mannerisms, and public demeanor all suggested a man of humble origins, at least before World War II. When he was reproached for his coarse and vicious language in his Caucasus days, “he would excuse himself by claiming to speak the language of a proletarian and that proletarians did not engage in delicate manners.”63 There are many witnesses to his spartan style of living, his indifference to amassing wealth even after he rose to a position of unchallenged power.64

Throughout his early career, Stalin continued to associate himself symbolically, whenever possible, with workers, as if to erase the stigma of his peasant origins and passport identity. On March 25, 1907, in the village cemetery of Chagani, Kutais Province, he gave a funeral oration in which he identified himself with the life of a young worker and social-democratic activist, G. P. Teliia. He set the tone from the beginning: “Comrade Teliia did not belong to the category of ‘scholars.'” He was self-educated, taught himself Russian, worked first as a servant, which did not suit him, then as a worker in a railroad lathe shop. He became a propagandist, threw himself into the Tbilisi demonstrations of 1901, gave all his time to socialist self-education, was relentlessly pursued by the police, went underground, moved from city to city, established an illegal press in Batum, was sent to prison, which became his second school. He begins to write and publish, but consumption, the curse of his imprisonment, carries him off. “Only in the ranks of the proletariat,” Stalin intones, “do we meet such people as Teliia, only the proletariat gives birth to such heroes as Teliia, and that same proletariat will strive to revenge itself on the cursed order which claimed our comrade as a victim, the worker G. Teliia.”65

Stalin’s identification with the proletariat did not mean that he accepted workers as his equal. For example, in 1901, Stalin opposed worker participation in the Tbilisi Committee. The Tbilisi workers, by origin Georgian or related groups such as Ossetians and Mingrelians, had close ties to their villages and the mountains and retained much of the independent and militant spirit of resistance to Russian rule. It was not surprising, then, that they did not take kindly to any signs of superiority among political agitators like Stalin. Nor were the workers averse to carrying out acts of individual terror against government spies and provocateurs, of whom, it was estimated, there were about 500 in Tbilisi alone. The attempts of some of the social-democratic propagandists to control these “excesses” were also a source of friction.66

An incident involving Stalin reveals how his presentation of self as a proletarian was vulnerable to exposure as a deception. One member of the committee, subsequently a Bolshevik, without referring to Stalin by name, described a “young, uncouth [nerazborchivyi] intelligentsia comrade [sic], ‘energetic’ in all things, [who] invoking conspiratorial considerations, lack of preparedness, and lack of consciousness of the workers, came out against admitting workers to the committee.” Shortly afterward, this “young comrade” left Tbilisi for Batum, where the local comrades reported back on “his unbecoming attitude, hostile and disruptive agitation against the Tbilisi organization and its activists.” In Tbilisi, this was attributed to individual shortcomings and not to principled stands of a type who was given to “personal capriciousness and a tendency to despotic behavior.”67 But the reports came from hostile sources. In Batum, Stalin was careful to live and work in the midst of the working class as if to underline the difference between himself and the “drawing-room revolutionaries” such as the future Mensheviks Nikolai Chkheidze and Isidor Ramashvili, who lived far from the workers’ district.68

In 1907, Stalin was more successful at enforcing his claim to be a proletarian in Baku, where he found a new and receptive audience, the Russian worker. Twenty-three different nationalities were represented in the city, but the Russians, who constituted one-quarter of the proletariat, were the most literate, skilled, and ripe for organization.69 Stalin found it easier to battle the moderate Russian Mensheviks for the allegiance of Russian workers in Baku than to compete with the more militant Georgian Mensheviks on his and their home ground. By shifting the locus of his activities to Baku, he could also identify himself with a real proletarian center, which he then compared favorably to the place that had rejected him: in Baku, “the sharp class position of the Bolsheviks finds a lively resonance among the workers,” as opposed to the “stagnation” in Tbilisi, where the absence of sharp class conflict has turned the city into “something like a swamp awaiting an external impulse.”70

In his battle with the Mensheviks, Stalin was shrewd enough to realize that competing for the loyalties of the skilled Russian workers alone would not enable him to gain the advantage. Stalin soon turned to a source that offered no interest to the Mensheviks and for which they had only contempt—the unskilled, largely illiterate, and unorganized Muslim oil field laborers, who constituted nearly half the working-class population of the city. Many of them were seasonal Azeri immigrants, both legal and illegal, from the northern provinces of Iran.71 But in order to penetrate the unfamiliar world of the Muslim workers, he needed allies. He found them among a small group of young Azeri radicals who began at the end of 1904 to form conspiratorial circles and to spread nationalist and social-democratic propaganda among the youth and urban poor. They called themselves Himmat, or Gummet in Russian (variously translated as Endeavor, Energy, or Mutual Aid) from their hectographed newspaper of that name. The leading Bolsheviks in Baku, A. M. Stopani, Alesha Dzhaparidze, Stepan Shaumian, and Stalin, gave them advice and supported their efforts.72 In return, Himmet generally threw its weight on the side of the Bolshevik-dominated Union of Oil Workers against the Menshevik-dominated Union of Mechanical Workers. Once outside of Georgia, Stalin could outmaneuver the Mensheviks by forging a proletarian alliance between Russians and Muslims, and it was of little concern to him that the opening to the latter was through an organization, Himmet, that had weaker credentials as a social-democratic party than his hated rivals the Georgian Mensheviks.73

Stalin’s contempt for “the scholars” was equal to that of Lenin’s, but only Stalin among the very top party leaders liked to boast of a proletarian pedigree. During the struggle for power, he repeatedly invoked his worker identity. At the height of his great duel with Trotsky, when he was scrambling to defend his doctrine of “socialism in one country,” Stalin found himself outclassed at the theoretical level. But he could and did appeal to a party cadre no longer dominated by intellectuals by offering a different set of revolutionary credentials through his personal identification with the social foundations of the “workers and peasants’ state” he proposed to construct in the Soviet Union.

In a speech delivered in Tbilisi at a welcoming ceremony during a visit to Georgia in June 1926, Stalin constructed a proletarian biography in three stages by weaving together proletarian and religious imagery.74 As in Bauman’s metaphor of the pilgrim, Stalin represented his journey from Georgia to Russia as a transformation that combined a quantitative leap in class consciousness with the ritual washing away at each stage of the original sin of ignorance. He declared that “my first teachers were the Tbilisi workers.” They had given him his lessons in practical work: “Compared to them I was a greenhorn.” He modestly admitted that he may have read a bit more than they, but, “as a practical worker, I was then without a doubt just an apprentice.” “Here in this circle of comrades I then [1898] received my fighting, revolutionary baptism.” In 1905–1907, he discovered from the workers of Baku what it was “to lead large masses of workers.” It was here that he received “his second fighting revolutionary baptism. Here I became a journeyman of the revolution.” This was followed by a period of “wanderings [skitanii] in prisons and exile.” In Petrograd (Stalin wrote Leningrad), “in the circle of Russian workers—the liberators of subjugated peoples and the skirmishers of the proletarian struggle of all nations and peoples—I received my third fighting revolutionary baptism.” Only then was Lenin readmitted to the script: “There in Russia under the guidance of Lenin I became a master of the revolution.” In his rhetorical flights, Stalin forged a link between his self-image as a proletarian and the development of the state by invoking the image of Russia as “the metallic country.” This theme, too, was taken up and embellished by his sycophants and the official folklore.75

The extent to which Stalin’s efforts to present himself as a symbolic proletarian affected the outcome of the struggle for power in the party may be glimpsed in N. I. Bukharin’s fearful exchange with the Menshevik émigré Fedor Dan in Paris in 1933. When asked how he and other members of the party could have entrusted such a “devil” with their fate, its fate, and the fate of the country, Bukharin replied: “You do not understand, it was quite different; he was not trusted, but he was the man whom the party trusted; this is how it happened: he is like the symbol of the party, the lower strata [nizy], the workers, the people trust him; perhaps it is our fault, but that’s the way it happened, that is why we all walked into his jaws . . . knowing probably that he would devour us.”76

The three most prominent elements in composing Stalin’s Russian frame gradually emerged in his adaptation of Russian as his preferred political language, his location of the primary base of world revolution in the Great Russian core territory, and his self-identification with Russian national heroes such as Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great. He acquired these dimensions of his identity in bitter struggles with his political opponents, first in the local party organizations of the Caucasus and then on the all-Russian level. Whatever his larger ambitions may have been to play on a national scene, his more modest efforts to achieve local successes were frustrated by opponents he came to resent with a bitterness that was only slaked by his conquest of the Caucasus in 1923.

Stalin’s clash with the leaders of Georgian Menshevism illustrates the complex, even contradictory relationships between his Georgian and Russian identities. His dealings with them provided much of the momentum that propelled him from the periphery to the core of empire, from the Caucasian borderlands to the Great Russian center. To begin with, there were striking differences between him and them on the basis of social origins, level of formal education, and their experience of Europe and its languages compared with his provincialism. Most of them belonged to a European-educated, déclassé nobility. They fashioned a revolutionary ideology that combined national resistance and socioeconomic discontent in a very different fashion from their Russian counterparts and the small number of Georgian Marxists including Stalin who were excluded from their tightly knit group. With their assistance, the peasant disturbances that had begun in 1901 reached a climax during the Revolution of 1905 in the establishment of a virtual peasant socialist republic in their home district of Kutais Province, formerly the kingdom of Guriia.77

Stalin’s first public clash with the Georgian social democrats came over the implications of these events for the party’s stand on the agrarian question. As early as the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (RSDRP) in 1903, the Georgian delegates portrayed the peasantry as a genuine revolutionary force and demanded that the special economic conditions of the Georgian peasants be recognized in the party program.78 The Revolution of 1905 convinced the Georgian Mensheviks more than ever that unless they met the practical needs of their peasant constituency, there could be no successful revolutionary outcome in Georgia. At the Fourth (Stockholm) Unity Congress in 1906, they agitated for a new two-pronged agrarian platform that would redistribute confiscated state, church, and landlord land between the peasants and locally elected municipalities.79

Stalin’s reaction to these debates was a misguided attempt to carve out his own position on the agrarian question. He opposed the views of the Bolshevik majority on nationalization, knowing that endorsement was tantamount to political suicide in Georgia. But he also rejected municipalization because it would have meant acknowledging the leadership of the Georgian Mensheviks in the countryside. He contemptuously dismissed the importance of the Guriian rising as a purely local phenomenon. “In general a lot of legends have been spread about Guriia, and it would be entirely unjust for comrades from the rest of the country to take them for the truth.”80 While the Bolsheviks ignored his defection from their ranks, the Georgian Mensheviks ridiculed him on the floor of the congress.81

To untangle the differences between Stalin and the Georgian Mensheviks on the national question is more difficult, because in the early debates within the RSDRP there was no disagreement in principle between the Bolsheviks and Georgian Mensheviks on this issue.82 Yet Stalin managed to introduce differences in tone and emphasis that set him apart from his rivals. Where Stalin went beyond the Georgian Mensheviks and even Lenin in shaping a different concept of the national question in Georgia was in what might be called his “borderland thesis.” He sought to identify the condition of underdeveloped class consciousness with the territorial periphery of the empire. On occasion, Lenin was willing to acknowledge the special position of the Georgian Mensheviks in return for political favors.83 But Stalin denounced the Mensheviks, making no exceptions for the Georgians as representatives of regions that were, with the exception of southern Russia, “centers of small-scale production”: the Caucasus, Transcaucasian region, and the towns of the western provinces under the influence of the Bund and the peasant organizations of the “Spilka” (Ukrainian Social Democratic Union). Thus Menshevik tactics were “the tactics of backward towns,” while the Bolsheviks represented the “advanced towns, the industrial centers” where revolution and class consciousness were primary. Stalin offered further evidence for his conclusion by claiming that the Bolsheviks counted more workers among their delegates, thus refuting the Menshevik claim that it was a party of intellectuals, and more Russians, whereas the majority of Mensheviks were Jews and Georgians.84 Subsequently, Stalin would make his “borderland thesis” the foundation on which he built his theory of Soviet statehood.

Aside from theoretical considerations, the hard school of practical politics brought Stalin to the realization that he could not challenge the Georgian Mensheviks either in his own country or in Transcaucasia as a whole. They blocked him at every turn in his quest to become a revolutionary leader.85 In 1901, he had been obliged to leave the Tbilisi Committee dominated by supporters of Zhordaniia under humiliating circumstances. As a result of the growing Menshevik strength in Georgia, Stalin failed to get elected as a delegate to the Fourth “Unity” Congress in Stockholm or the Fifth Congress in London. When he showed up with spurious documents, the Georgian Mensheviks challenged his credentials both times, humiliating him on the floor of the congresses.86 Nor was Stalin’s attempt to create a legal Bolshevik press in Georgia any more successful than his other organizing efforts in the region.87

For Stalin, then, all roads seemed to lead out of Georgia. Returning from London to Baku in May 1907, Stalin submitted his first signed article in Russian on the congress to the illegal Bolshevik newspaper Bakinskii proletarii; he never again published anything in Georgian.88 The Bolshevik press of Baku, though Russian, was still provincial and attracted little attention in the political and intellectual core areas of the empire. But Stalin had taken a decisive step in his quest for his self-identity, changing his linguistic signposts as he followed the way of the pilgrim.

Stalin’s first publication outside Transcaucasia came in February 1910, when his “Letter from the Caucasus” appeared in the organ of the Bolshevik Central Committee, Sotsial Demokrat. In journalism as elsewhere in his activities, the pilgrim’s progress was slow. Two years elapsed before he authored another piece for an all-Russian audience, this time in the form of a leaflet “For the Party,” which bore the signature of the Central Committee of the RSDRP throughout Russia.89 Shortly afterward, he began to write regularly for the central Bolshevik organs in St. Petersburg.90 This marked the end of his participation in the provincial press of Transcaucasia. Thereafter, his attitude toward Georgia was marked by a deep ambivalence.

For Stalin, the pilgrim, Baku was the halfway house to what became his final destination. It was there that for the first time he had lived through revolutionary events, immersed himself in mass politics, and played the role of a Kulturträger of Marxism in its Russian form to the Muslim world. There, too, he had escaped the stifling atmosphere of Georgian Menshevism, which represented for him all he despised, opposed, and sought to destroy. The key to his growing success as a professional revolutionary was his closer association with things Russian. From this time forward, he displayed an increasing tendency to frame his activities and his symbolic gestures in ways best suited to reinforce his Russian identity, but always with a Georgian accent, style, and proletarian gruffness. Following the London Congress, Stalin spent a total of only two years or less in his native region. Once in power, he paid three short visits to his mother, in 1921, 1927, and 1935, although he continued to correspond with her in Georgian until the month of her death in 1937.91

This did not mean that Stalin had come to a decision to abandon his Georgian identity in favor of adopting a Russian one. Rather, he was shifting from his primary aim of being a Bolshevik in Georgia to becoming a Georgian in Russian Bolshevism. Nor was this the result of a sudden decision, although the London Congress appears to have been a crucial turning point. It was, instead, the outcome of a long and uncertain struggle. For reasons that can only be guessed at, Stalin himself left behind the evidence with which this struggle can be traced if not fully plumbed. It lies in his search for the most appropriate name.92

Choosing a nickname or a pseudonym can be one of the most purposeful and decisive acts of presenting oneself to the external world. The adoption of a new public identity that also becomes a very private one is, to borrow an illuminating phrase of Ludwig von Wittgenstein’s, “an occult process.” It acquires the status of a magical formula, a cultural totem.93 The individual receives a baptismal name from his parents without prior knowledge, discussion, or consent. The adoption of a pseudonym is an act of will, a “speech act” that creates an alternative identity and, since others are obliged to use it, legitimizes the descriptive characteristics associated with it.94

Pseudonyms used in the context of revolutionary activity or underground resistance are emblems of political and social engagement in the form of self-begetting. Different from authorial pseudonyms, they are associated with a collective, a “shadow army” taking its value from the dual process of initiation and ordination similar to entering a priesthood. They are a means to reveal or conceal, to instruct or deceive, depending on different audiences, whether comrades or police. Their primary practical purpose is to serve as protection; clandestine circumstances require that they be changed frequently in order to avoid detection.95 The plurality of revolutionary pseudonyms was a characteristic feature of the Russian revolutionaries, employed more often when traveling with passports under an assumed name than when publishing, when the established ideological identity of the author counted for a great deal. Stalin used many aliases and party cover names to elude the police, but in almost every case he immediately discarded them. Some are variations of his given name or patronymic; others appear to have been selected at random without any deep symbolic significance.96

The decision to turn the fantasy nickname of boyhood, Koba, into a revolutionary pseudonym was not taken quickly, a sign of its seriousness. In Volume 1 of Stalin’s Collected Works, the signature “Koba” first appears only on item twenty-three of the published pieces. The rest are either anonymous or signed by a collective underground group, such as the Tbilisi Committee, with three exceptions: they bear the signature “I. Besoshvili.” “Beso” is the diminutive for Vissarion, his father’s name, and “shvili” a Georgian suffix meaning son of, so that his name change was transparent to the few who knew him, and it bore such a close resemblance to his real name that it could hardly have signified a bold assertion of a new self-image, to say nothing of an attempt to disguise his ethnic identity.97 It was only later that year, following his first appearance at an international meeting of social democrats at the Stockholm Conference in April 1906, that he signed himself Koba. Over the following decade, it was his preferred pseudonym as an author and in his underground activities. Even after he became Stalin in public, his former identity remained intact for much longer in the private sphere. As Pierre Bourdieu suggests, the preservation of a name from the past “assures continuity across time and unity of personality across space which are the manifestations of this individuality in different fields.”98

Well into the 1930s, he was still affectionately known as Koba among some of his oldest Bolshevik comrades, including Bukharin, whose last poignant note from prison read: “Koba, why do you want me to die?”99 After the great purge trials, there was virtually no one left to call Stalin Koba. But long before it became impossible to address the vozhd’ informally, Koba had accumulated new layers of meaning. It preserved the moment of a new birth and also the sense of the fraternity of struggle, which by the early 1930s was already imbued with a terrible irony. It also metamorphosed into a term of familiarity, even intimacy, although in Trotsky’s hands it acquired the sharp edge of contempt.100 The question that has remained up to now is how “Koba” became “Stalin.”101 53

The pseudonym Koba or various abbreviations of it such as “Ko…” remained Djugashvili’s signature from July 13, 1906, to July 13, 1909, with one significant modification and two important exceptions. The modification came in 1907, when he signed himself Koba Ivanovich in publishing his report on the London Congress in Bakinskii proletarii, the illegal Bolshevik organ in Baku.102 By combining his Georgian nom de guerre with a Russian patronymic, he presented himself for the first time to revolutionary organizations in Transcaucasia and in Russia as a man who bridged two cultural worlds.

The two important exceptions were his use of the pseudonym “K. Kato” in March and June 1908 in what may have been a private reference to the most painful episode in his personal life in the Caucasus. In Georgian, Kato is an affectionate diminutive for Ekaterina, which was the name of his first wife, Ekaterina Svanidze. It was also the name of his mother, but the diminutive used for her in all the sources is “Keko.” Kato, on the other hand, is reserved for his wife. Almost nothing is known about the marriage; even the date is in question.103 But there is evidence that in March 1908 Kato gave birth to their first and only child, a son, Iakov.104 On the eve of his son’s birthday, Koba published an article in the revolutionary press signed K. Kato. Can this be anything other than his own way of celebrating a joyous occasion? By linking his wife’s name with his own in the form of his symbolic initial, he was able to create an emotionally powerful aleatory effect.105 Sometime later, the young mother died, devastating Djugashvili, but until now the date and causes have been unknown.106 The second time Koba used K. Kato may explain both.

This signature appeared under three articles published in late April and early May 1908 while he was in prison. Was this not another commemoration, a terrible one, of his wife’s death? If so, then it appears likely that Kato died from complications resulting from childbirth shortly after Iakov was born on March 16 and before Koba was arrested on March 25. Such a deduction would also explain why the stricken Koba rejected his son, blaming him for his wife’s early death.

He turned the infant over to his sister-in-law to be raised in Georgian schools until the 1920s, when the boy’s uncle, Aleksandr Svanidze, insisted that he join the family in Moscow. According to Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, Stalin opposed Iakov’s coming and ridiculed him at every opportunity, even when the young man bungled a suicide attempt. When the Germans took Iakov prisoner during World War II, Stalin refused to accept a German offer to exchange him for some German officers.107 The episode suggests how Koba used pseudonyms to mark important emotional stages in his inner life.

His search took another turn in the first article that he published in an all-Russian organ of the Bolshevik fraction, Sotsial Demokrat, in January 1910. Here, the initials “K.S.” appear for the first time, leading to speculation that Koba was already thinking of himself as Stalin. But this was not the case, for the signature on the original manuscript of December 1909 was K. Stefin.108 It is therefore safe to conclude that the signature K. St. under the following article in the Collected Works refers to Stefin and not Stalin. To be sure, Stefin may be considered a Russian name, although an odd one.

From 1910 to 1913, there is evidence of hesitation. Now writing for all-Russian publications, Djugashvili appears loath to give up K. as the emblem of his mythic Georgian past. But he cannot yet find the appropriate Russian name to go with it until 1913 when for the first time he appends the name “K. Stalin” to his major theoretical work “Marxism and the National and Colonial Question.” Even after that in January 1917, he reverts to the initials K.St.109 In the interim, the frequent changes in pseudonyms hint at a psychodrama that is otherwise hidden from view. After its first use, K.St. does not show up again for two years. Instead, there is a return twice to K.S. and then simply S., when he writes for the first time for the St. Petersburg paper Zvezda.

In quick succession, S yields to S—n; is he getting closer? No, for the next signatures to appear are K. Salin and K. Solin. Then there is a return to K.S. and to K. Solin twice more. It is clear by this time that Koba is fascinated with the acoustical combination of K and S or St. Does Georgian-Ossetian folklore once again provide a clue? The most popular hero of Ossetian tales is Soslan Stal’noi (Soslan the Iron Man), with variations in other North Caucasian epics. The cult of iron or steel was very widely, possibly uniquely, prevalent in the Caucasian oral tradition, and Soslan the Iron Man was portrayed as both a defender and occasionally the ruthless destroyer of his kinsmen.110 But the suffix “an” is not Russian, while “in” is and has the added attraction of identifying its bearer with Lenin.

By the time Koba is writing for Pravda in October 1912, he falls back on the more ambiguous K.St. three times until the New Year reveals him as K. Stalin. The new pseudonym referred to all three frames of his identity: the Georgian hero Koba and thus the heroic attributes of Georgian heroes, the hard proletarian symbolized by the root word steel, and the Russian form of the name with its “in” suffix.

Signaling his emergence as the man of steel, his authorship of his 1913 work on the national question performed three additional functions in his efforts to define and assert his complex persona. It staked his claim to pronounce on issues that were essential in his deadly conflict with the Georgian Mensheviks, it applied a uniform finish to all three frames of experience and myth constructed over the previous decade and a half, and it announced the end to his pilgrimage from periphery to center. His essay may not impress by its theoretical originality or stylistic bravura, but as a statement of his personal and ideological integration it may serve as a useful guide to Stalin’s subsequent actions as a state-builder and imperial statesman.

Stalin composed his essay on the national question in response to urgent prompting by Lenin, who was alarmed by the meeting in August 1912 in Vienna at Trotsky’s invitation of anti-Bolshevik social democrats to discuss a decentralized structure of the party that would meet the demands for national cultural autonomy of such groups as the Georgian Mensheviks, Bund, and Latvians. For Lenin (and Stalin as well), there was a real danger that the RSDRP would disintegrate into a set of loosely grouped national-socialist parties as in Austria-Hungary.111 With characteristic single-mindedness, therefore, Lenin immersed himself in the national question, furiously writing articles and rounding up allies for a verbal onslaught against his opponents. By one count, he wrote no fewer than thirty articles on the subject between 1912 and 1914. Simultaneously, he was busily urging some of his closest associates to help him recruit comrades of varied ethnic origin or else to volunteer themselves to write specialized studies. Stalin was only one of several Bolsheviks who responded to the call.112 Lenin greeted all their contributions with enthusiasm, although he was not entirely satisfied with any one of them.113

Stalin’s work on the national question brought into alignment the three frames of his personal identity that he had struggled to harmonize. The class interests of the proletariat determined the right to exercise national self-determination, regional autonomy guarded the rights to use indigenous languages, and the Russian state provided the “general framework” for political organization of the whole. Stalin’s work both summarized his earlier concepts and foreshadowed the concept of the state he would propose, defend against Lenin, and finally impose on the party in the post-revolutionary era.

In politics, Stalin has been most often portrayed as either a pragmatist or an ideologue. By contrast, the previous analysis has argued that his approach to both practice and theory was embedded in his experience as a man of the borderlands who sought to play a major role at center of power. On the way to becoming a self-proclaimed “master of the revolution,” Stalin had pieced together a complex identity that embodied the rudiments of a tripartite state-building program. His self-presentation as a symbolic proletarian served to mediate between his Georgian and Russian identities, firmly linking periphery to core. As the following pages will demonstrate, once in power, he sought to combine these three elements in his shaping of the Soviet state as he had endeavored to integrate them into his own persona.

Stalin emerged from the cauldron of revolution, civil war, and intervention more than ever convinced that the relationship between center and periphery embodied in what I have called his “borderland thesis” held the key to the construction of the new Soviet state. As early as the debates preceding Brest-Litovsk in the winter of 1917–1918, Stalin had been skeptical of the possibility of revolution in the West.114 If war were to come with the Austro-German imperialists, it would come over resistance to the Central Powers’ occupation of the borderlands. In an unusual non-Marxist formulation that he would repeat in 1941, it would not be a revolutionary war but “a fatherland war [otechestvennaia voina] begun in Ukraine that will have every chance of all-out support from Soviet Russia as a whole.”115

Stalin’s solution for the dilemma of revolution confined to the borders of the old empire was the fusion of the class and national principles in the form of regional autonomy. The fusion would not be the result of a spontaneous joining together but of action by the center. At the Third Congress of Soviets in January 1918, five years before the constitutional debate that brought him into conflict with Lenin, he made it clear that “the roots of all conflicts between the periphery and central Russia lie in the question of power.”116 Expanding on earlier themes, he claimed that the socialist revolution in the Russian Empire had produced a situation in which a more advanced center, that is, a territorial core possessing a highly developed proletarian class, was bound to dominate a backward periphery.

For Stalin, the periphery was backward not only in the economic but also in the cultural meaning of the term. In particular, “the people of the East,” as he called them, lacked the homogeneity of the central provinces. They were barely emerging from the Middle Ages or else had just entered the state of capitalism.117 At the constitutional debates during the Twelfth Congress in 1923, when Stalin was hard pressed by his critics, he was even more bluntly specific: the center was a proletarian, the periphery a peasant region.118 This crude image enabled him to make explicit the link between the new Soviet state structure and the outside world.

Throughout the Russian civil war, Stalin hammered at the theme of the socioeconomic backwardness of the periphery posing a mortal threat to the security and stability of the Soviet state. The lack of a strong local proletariat had given the local bourgeois nationalists—such as the Georgian Mensheviks—their opportunity to demand separation from the center, thus weakening the class-based Soviet power. This in turn had created “a zone of foreign intervention and occupation” that endangered its very existence.119 In order to defeat these machinations, Stalin came to the conclusion that the center could not count solely on physical coercion. He groped his way uncertainly toward a solution that would reconcile the conflicting identities of class, ethnicity, and region within a strong state system.

He sought to convince both the unitarists and the autonomists within the party that they could not survive without one another. As the periphery crumbled away from the center, he claimed that only his federal solution would protect the separate republics from foreign domination and the loss of their autonomous rights. He reassured the nationalities that “there would be no state language.” And he insisted the Soviet power must create local schools, courts, and administrative organs staffed and run by “local cadres,” even if this meant cooperating with the non-Communist intelligentsia.120
This latter policy, dubbed korenizatsiia from the stem word koren’, was another example of the politics of identity that Stalin employed and manipulated to further his own ends.

In 1925, during his struggle with Trotsky, he rehabilitated the slogan of “national culture” that he had previously identified only with nationalism as a right-wing deviation.121 Up to the early 1930s, he pursued korenizatsiia most consistently in the more underdeveloped republics. When, in his eyes, the policy threatened to go too far, as in Ukraine, he denounced it, first in 1926 and then more ferociously after 1928.122 Once Stalin had eliminated his major rivals in the party and launched collectivization and the first Five Year Plan, he brutally reshuffled the tripartite components of the state structure. Many if not all aspects of korenizatsiia and their supporters fell victim to the new policy. After 1933, ethnic deportations from the borderlands were stepped up to ensure greater security from external attack. Yet, at the same time, a policy of ethnic consolidation was undertaken in order to minimize ethnic conflict within the republics.123 In building socialism, ethnic identity, so often equated with the peasantry, yielded primacy of place to proletarian identity. Stalin decreed that the distance between them would be closed not by a pilgrimage but by a forced march.

In the early years of the Soviet state, however, Stalin’s main concern was to substitute the mutual interdependence of Russia and the borderlands for the idea held by many Bolsheviks on the mutual interdependence of Russia and the world revolution. In 1920, he wrote, “Central Russia, the hearth of world revolution, cannot hold out long without the assistance of the border regions, which abound in raw materials, fuel, and foodstuffs. The border regions of Russia, in their turn, are inevitably doomed to imperialist bondage without the political, military, or organizational support of the more developed Central Russia.”124 Foreshadowing his doctrine of socialism in one country, he argued that the unity of center and periphery provided the two “constant conditions” that guaranteed the success and future development of the revolution, that is, Russia’s “vast and boundless land” and its autarkic resource base.125 Therefore, he trumped the nationalists by offering a form of association that he dubbed “socialist federalism,” nationalist in form and socialist in content. Before 1917, Stalin had opposed the concept of federalism as divisive of working-class unity. Once the Bolsheviks were in power, he came to view it as a formula for unity within a polyethnic state.126

Stalin’s position on federation had shifted in response to the experience of the civil war, the intra-party debates on the future of the Soviet state, and his disagreements with Lenin. By 1922, Stalin envisaged three types of federalist ties: within the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic, between the Russian republic (RSFSR) and the other Soviet republics such as Ukraine that had been part of the Russian Empire, and a “confederation” between the Soviet Union and other soviet republics such as Hungary and Germany that had not been part of Russia.127 Stalin’s tripartite formula sought to address real problems that had surfaced during the civil war between the center and periphery. In a letter to Lenin dated September 22, 1922, but only recently published, he argued that his federal plan would eliminate the chaos of conflicting jurisdictions, which created constant conflict between the center and the borderlands. The alternatives were either to grant the republics real independence, which would shatter the economic unity of the state (and split the proletariat), or to grant them real autonomy, that is, non-interference “in the areas of language, culture, justice, internal affairs, agriculture, etc.,” which would maintain both the diversity of ethnic identities and the unity of the proletariat.128

What has gone unnoticed in the abundant literature on this question is how Stalin’s formula foreshadowed the establishment of a ring of dependent states, subsequently called “popular democracies,” outside the borders of the old Russian Empire. While Lenin’s state structure was designed to accommodate the future voluntary adhesion of independent revolutionary states in the advanced capitalist countries to a socialist federation, Stalin took a more limited view based on the old imperial, territorial principle. In Stalin’s eyes, the Russian Revolution and the building of a socialist state catapulted the Soviet Union into the most advanced stage of development. Subsequent adherents to the system, particularly those countries adjacent to the Soviet Union, would have to earn their passage. In 1928, he made this explicit in his first major speech to the Comintern. He argued that, in countries with weak capitalism and feudal remnants, such as “Poland, Romania, etc.,” where the peasantry would play a large role in a revolution, “the victory of the revolution in order that it can lead to a proletarian dictatorship can and probably will demand some intermediate stages in the form, let us say, of a dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.”129

Later, Stalin changed the terminology of transitional stages but not the concept. In early 1945, he harshly reminded Tito that “your government is not Soviet—you have something between de Gaulle’s France and the Soviet Union.” In May 1946, he repeated the same message to the Polish communists. “The democracy that has been established in Poland, in Yugoslavia and partly in Czechoslovakia is a democracy that draws you close to socialism without the necessity of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat and the Soviet system.”130 Twenty years earlier, Stalin had constructed the state system on the basis of the what he perceived to be a special relationship between Russia and its borderlands that could never be duplicated.

In defending his state-building program against Lenin’s critique, Stalin sought to apply the lessons learned from the experience of framing the triptych of his personal identity to shaping new Soviet institutions. Only the compelling force of this deeply rooted conviction could explain his willingness to confront Lenin during the intra-party debates in the fall and winter of 1922–1923 over the constitutional question. There was, first of all, the question of the relationship between the borderlands and the center. Lenin disagreed with Stalin by insisting on recognizing the formal independence of the constituent Soviet republics, a position that had little support among the Bolsheviks except for the Georgians. L. B. Kamenev told Stalin that “Ilich was preparing for war in defense of independence” and had asked him to meet with the Georgians. Stalin’s response revealed the deep source of his conflict with Lenin. In Stalin’s eyes, the Georgian Bolsheviks had never traversed the route of his pilgrimage. They remained rooted in their native soil and were thus exposed to the most pernicious influences of local nationalism. “It’s necessary to be firm with Ilich,” Stalin told Kamenev. “If a couple of Georgian Mensheviks exercise an influence on the Georgian communists and consequently on Ilich, then one should ask—what does that have to do with independence?”131

His opposition to Georgian independence was matched by his concern over the effect of Lenin’s formula on the structure of the Russian republic. Initially, Stalin feared that Lenin’s proposal for a bicameral legislature (one Russian and one federal) would lead to the removal from the RSFSR of eight autonomous republics, their declaration of independence together with the Ukrainian and other independent republics, and a radical reconstruction of the entire state that was neither timely nor necessary.132 Not only would this encourage the Georgians, but it would move the Russian republic toward a more purely ethnic unit within a federation of ethnically defined states. In a note to his colleagues in the Politburo in February 1923, Stalin warned of the dangers. By separating the Russian population from that of the autonomous republics, such republics as the Bashkir, Kirgiz, and Tatar would be deprived of their capitals, which were Russian towns, and would require a serious redrawing of their boundaries.133 Moreover, Stalin added in his speech to the Twelfth Party Congress in 1923, the creation of a pure Russian republic would strengthen the position of Great Russians in the state as a whole and weaken “the struggle with Great Russian chauvinism [that] is our fundamental task.” Finally, in much the same way, he argued against the dissolution of the Transcaucasian Federation (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaizhan), because that would play into the hands of Georgian nationalists.134

At the same time, Stalin was obliged to reverse his position on a bicameral legislature. Responding to Lenin’s pressure, the Politburo endorsed the concept of bicameralism and then appointed Stalin to present the proposal as part of his Theses to the Twelfth Congress. This obviously caused Stalin great embarrassment. He vehemently denied that he was a “master of the nationality question.” He was “sick and tired” of being tagged with responsibility for it, and had been “forced” to serve as the rapporteur to the congress.135 But he was able to salvage something from his setback. Representation of the nationalities in the second chamber would still enable the RSFSR to command a majority if its constituent autonomous republics voted with it.136 Stalin saved his heavy artillery, however, for a dual assault on “Great Russian chauvinism” and local nationalism. Arguing that the struggle with the former was the principal task in which Russians should take the lead, he insisted that the struggle against the latter should be carried out by indigenous cadres. Otherwise, ethnic conflict would sharply increase.137 It is hard to imagine any more satisfying demonstration of Stalin’s determination to balance core and periphery, to mediate between the two national identities that he could recognize as potentially conflicting elements within both his own persona and the body politic of the Soviet state.

Was Stalin merely being disingenuous about the dangers of Great Russian chauvinism? Throughout his life, he opposed the creation of a Russian Communist Party corresponding to other republican parties. Ironically, in the 1920s, it was one of the very few issues on which he agreed with Trotsky, although he was less specific in his motivations. More than twenty years later in the notorious Leningrad case, one of the major accusations brought against the Leningrad party organization was its alleged support for the creation of a Russian Communist Party and the establishment of a new republican capital for the RSFSR in Leningrad.138 At that time, Stalin denounced N. A. Voznesenskii, a member of the Politburo, the head of State Planning, and a major figure in organizing the war effort, as one of the top leaders of the Leningrad “conspiracy”: “For him,” Stalin told Mikoian, “not only Georgians and Armenians”—by which Stalin clearly meant himself and Mikoian—”but also Ukrainians, are not people.”139

To be sure, Stalin’s deep suspicion of loyalties in the borderlands was, if anything, even greater. In 1936, he ordered the dissolution of the Transcaucasian Federation into its constituent national parts, the three republics of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaizhan. The move appeared to be in accord with the introduction of the Stalin constitution that proclaimed the existence of only non-antagonistic classes (and presumably also ethnic groups) in the USSR. Yet, at the same time, he and Beria unleased a blood purge of the republican party organizations in Transcaucasia that was among the most severe in the entire USSR.140 Stalin’s oscillation in punishing alleged representatives of Great Russian chauvinism at the center and local nationalism at the periphery was another example of his increasingly brutal method of promoting institutional instability as a means of securing his own power.141 But it was also another manifestation of the conflict within his own identity.

By the end of the constitutional debates in 1924, Stalin had emerged as the main theorist and practical designer of the Soviet state. The shape of the USSR came closer to his version of a federation than to Lenin’s, although it was a compromise between the two. But in 1924, the process of state-building was not yet over. Nor had Stalin reached the final station in his pilgrimage, which would be the complete identification with the state as its supreme ruler. In his struggle for power with the other epigones of Lenin—Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin—Stalin’s central ideological problem was how to defend his unique conception of the relationship between core and periphery against attacks that he was selling out the international revolution for a mess of nationalist pottage. Outside the party ever since 1918, hostile critics had denounced the drift toward national Bolshevism. Within the party, Stalin’s rivals sought to tar him with the same brush and forced him to adopt a defensive position with respect to his doctrine of socialism in one country.142

But Stalin also sought to refute the insinuations by reaffirming his dedication to the internal, multinational—if not strictly international—task of overcoming the gap between the core and periphery. In 1925, shortly after he had enunciated socialism in one country, he developed the theme of economic integration (smychka) of the predominantly peasant periphery into the more advanced core in a speech to the future leaders of the Asian republics, the students at the University of the East. But he warned them of two deviations. One was to apply mechanically a model that was “fully applicable to the center but does not correspond with conditions in the so-called periphery.” The other was to exaggerate local conditions and peculiarities.143 “National” Bolshevism of any sort was dangerous; only “Soviet” Bolshevism as Stalin defined and embodied it was acceptable.

During the earliest days of Soviet state-building, Stalin had arrived at the point where his presentation of self came closer than other party leaders to representing the profile of the new party that had emerged from the civil war. By constructing and disseminating a multiple identity, he could appeal in the 1920s and 1930s to all sections of the party: the Great Russian centralizers, the supporters of cultural autonomy among the nationalities and the lower strata, all of whom, as Bukharin lamented, came to trust him, a trust he would soon betray. In explaining Stalin’s success in the struggle for power, much has been made of his skills in packing and manipulating the bureaucracy and of the mistakes of his opponents. But some credit must be given to his ability to construct an identity for himself that embodied the aspirations of a growing number of the party rank and file, who, like him, came from the social and ethnic peripheries of prerevolutionary society.

The paradox of Stalin’s self-presentation resolves itself in the construction of the future socialist state. It was an extension of himself based on three interlocking frames: the proletariat as the dominant class, the ethno-cultural region as the territorial unit, and Great Russia as the political center of the state. Once having created it, Stalin set himself the task of maintaining a balance among these elements, each of which contained the potential for conflict and contradiction. Who would be better suited to make the necessary adjustments than the man whose understanding of their mutual relationship was born of the struggle to unify them all within the identity he had constructed for himself? The stability and security of such a state depended wholly on the ability of the leader in whose image the state was made to control, through whatever means necessary, the threats that could, almost inevitably must, arise from the clash of principles that he himself had defined as essentialist. The entire history of the revolutionary movement had demonstrated that in a country with such deep class, regional, and ethnic divisions the resolution of conflict could not be left to debating societies—whether dumas, soviets, or party congresses—especially in the hands of intellectuals, whose very nature was to debate fine points, to split hairs, to sow confusion, and to waver. These manifestations of uncertainty and confusion were and would continue to be as great a danger to the unity of the state as they were to the identity of the man who had shaped the state in his own image.


The Battle of Stalingrad

Grigori Rasputin, the mad monk who refused to die

Catherine the Great

Alfred J. Rieber is a professor of history at the Central European University in Budapest. He has taught at Northwestern, the University of Chicago, Columbia, and Penn. His publications reflect his interests in the political and social history of imperial Russia, Russian historiography, and Russian and Soviet foreign policy. In the first category, they include The Politics of Autocracy (1966), Merchants and Entrepreneurs in Imperial Russia (1982); in the second, “The Study of the History of Russia in the USA” (in Russian), Istoricheskie zapiski (2000); and in the third, Stalin and the French Communist Party, 1941–1947 (1962), “Persistent Factors in Russian Foreign Policy,” in Hugh Ragsdale, Imperial Russian Foreign Policy (1993), and as editor, contributor, and translator, Forced Migration in Central and Eastern Europe, 1939–1950 (2000). The current essay is part of a larger work, “The Cold War as Civil War: Russia and Its Borderlands,” nearing completion.

The final version of this article owes much to the encouragement and criticism of William G. Rosenberg and Marsha Siefert. I am also grateful to the anonymous readers of the American Historical Review. The support of Michael Grossberg and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom came at crucial moments. Earlier drafts were presented to the Seminar in Russian Politics at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, the London School of Economics, the Ernest Gellner Seminar in Prague, and the Faculty Seminar of the Central European University in Budapest. The comments and questions of the participants helped sharpen my argument. For research assistance, I wish to thank Badri Kuteli and Aleksandr S. Stypanin. Kirill Anderson, director of the Russian State Archive for Social and Political History, kindly gave his permission to publish the photographs from the Alliluev family album now held by the archive.

1 Grigorii Uratadze, Vospominaniia gruzinskogo sotsial-demokrata (Stanford, Calif., 1968), 66. The manuscript is undated but was deposited at the Russian (now Bakhmeteff) Archive at Columbia University in 1959 shortly before his death in Paris. See the introduction by Leopold Haimson, v.

2 In recent years, researchers on Stalin have not even benefited very much from the opening of the Russian archives. There have certainly not been any startling revelations. Dmitrii Volkogonov, who had access to the Presidential Archive, which at the time of his writing housed Stalin’s personal archive, virtually ignored Stalin’s early years, noting that “the future ‘leader’ did not like to recall in public” his pre-October period. Dmitrii Volkogonov, Triumf i tragediia: Politicheskii portret I. V. Stalina, 2 vols., 4 pts. (Moscow, 1989), 1, 1: 33–36. Richard Pipes, who had similar access, noted in his preface to a new edition of The Formation of the Soviet Union (Cambridge, Mass., 1997) that he found only snippets of information that did not change his earlier views of Stalin’s nationality policy. The situation may now change due to the transfer of two large fonds from the Presidential Archive to the Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Sotsial’no-Politicheskoi Istorii (hereafter, RGASPI), formerly the Russkii Tsentr Khraneniia i Izucheniia Dokumentov Noveishei Istorii (RTsKhIDNI). They are fond (f.) 71, “Sektor proizvedenii I. V. Stalina, 1936–1956,” which currently has 47 inventories (opisi) and 41,843 files (dela) dealing with the period 1921–1982, and f.558, op.11, “Stalin,” which had already in 1993 10 inventories and 16,174 files dealing with the period 1866–1986 but which has received additional material since then. Most of this material deals with the period after 1917. A preliminary sounding of documents dealing with the earlier period generally confirms the findings of Volkogonov and Pipes, but there are matters of detail that are revealing.

3 Vystavki sovetskogo izobrazitel’nogo iskusstva: Spravochnik (Moscow, 1967), 2: 179; Izvestiia, November 17, 1937.

4 Vladimir Kaminskii and I. Vereshchagin, “Detstvo i iunost’ vozhdia: Dokumenty, zapiski, rasskazy,” Molodaia Gvardiia 12 (1939): 22–101. As the subtitle suggests, the collection was made up of brief excerpts, sometimes only a few sentences, from prerevolutionary histories, almanacs, periodicals, published and unpublished reminiscences, and oral testimony from archives in Moscow, Tbilisi, and Gori. The self-effacing editors restricted themselves to identifying the sources and supplying a few explanatory notes but did not provide any commentary. Kaminskii devoted the next ten years to collecting additional material for a work of some 412 pages entitled, “Stalin, His Life and Activity in the Transcaucasus, 1879–1903.” But according to the reviewers for the Institute of Marx-Engels-Lenin, it contained little that was new and did not shed further light on “which factors or specific incidents played a fundamental role in the formation of the personality of the great leader.” RGASPI, f.71, op.10, d.273, list (l.) 1. Although the review was generally favorable, the work was never published.

5 I. V. Stalin, Sochineniia, 13 vols. (Moscow, 1946–52), vols. 1 and 2. The preparation and publication of Stalin’s Collected Works was an enormous administrative undertaking organized by a special Sector of the Works of Stalin of the Central Committee established in 1936. A year earlier, Stalin’s first private secretary, Ivan V. Tovstukha, a Ukrainian who had served under him in the Commissariat of Nationalities, had already begun to collect Stalin’s speeches and articles. He also supervised the translations from Georgian. The prospectus for Vol. 1 was ready in 1940. RGASPI, f.71, op.10, dela (d.) 6, ll.364, 365, 372. Through correspondence and the dispatch of expert commissions, masses of documents were collected from regional organizations. For example, over 400 pages of documents were provided by the Vologda State Archive on Stalin’s years of exile there from 1908 to 1911. RGASPI, f.71, op.10, d.277. Experts in the Institute of Marx-Engels-Lenin reviewed and commented on the drafts of each volume. RGASPI, f.71, op.10, d.374–80. Stalin was closely consulted on the selection of material, and great efforts were expended in verifying the authors of unsigned documents. Following consultation with Stalin, a substantial number of proclamations, letters, and articles attributed to him in the period from 1901 to 1917 were not included in the first two volumes. RGASPI, f.71, op.10, d.20, ll.917–23. This material still requires close analysis.

6 For puns at Stalin’s expense, see W. H. Roobol, Tsereteli: A Democrat in the Russian Revolution (The Hague, 1976), 13, n. 52; Trotsky plunged the knife deeper: “Russian always remained for him not only a language half-foreign and makeshift, but far worse for his consciousness, conventional and strained.” Leon Trotsky, Stalin, the Man and His Influence (New York, 1941), 20. Personal communication from Oleg Troyanovskii, Washington, 1993. The publication of Stalin’s Collected Works beginning in 1946 required some editorial work on the early articles written in Russian in order to eliminate “the poor usage and construction” of the originals. Robert H. McNeal, ed., Stalin’s Works: An Annotated Bibliography (Stanford, Calif., 1967), 15. Anecdotes by critics and admirers testify to his sensitivity to language snubs. M. E. Rasuladze, “Vospominaniia o I. V. Stalina,” Vostochnyi Ekspress 1 (1993): 42; Kaminskii and Vereshchagin, “Detstvo,” 40.

7 Aside from deciding what to include and exclude from his Collected Works, Stalin characteristically eliminated his enemies from the text or else denigrated them. For example, in reviewing the proof sheets for his second volume, Stalin crossed out all references to L. B. Kamenev, G. E. Zinoviev, and the names of a whole series of individuals who were later repressed. The term “comrade” was removed from Trotsky’s name. The director of the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute insisted that “the inclusion of facts [drawn from the unsupported memoirs of an old Bolshevik worker] in the biographical chronicle is possible only after the approval of Comrade Stalin.” RGASPI, f.558, op.11, d.932, ll.5–7.

8 My use of the biographical material that Stalin allowed to be published differs from all of his biographers, who take them at face value. See, for example, Robert C. Tucker, Stalin as Revolutionary, 1879–1929 (New York, 1973), esp. chap. 3. Whenever possible, Tucker compares the Molodaia Gvardiia documents with the reminiscences of Stalin’s boyhood acquaintance written in emigration, Joseph Iremaschwili, Stalin und die Tragödie Georgians (Berlin, 1932). He treats the latter very critically and refers on several occasions to “Soviet confirmation” of Iremaschwili rather than the reverse. See also Edward Ellis Smith, The Young Stalin: The Early Years of an Elusive Revolutionary (New York, 1967), particularly the first three chapters. Smith is if anything even more skeptical about all other Soviet sources except for the Molodaia Gvardiia material.

9 Representative works in the first category are Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (New York, 1949), which compares him to Oliver Cromwell and Napoleon; E. H. Carr, Socialism in One Country, 1924–1926, 2 vols. (New York, 1958), 1: 174–86, which describes Stalin as a man shaped by his time in contrast to Lenin, who shaped his time; and Bertram Wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution: A Biographical History (New York, 1948). Adam Ulam, who recognized both the tragic and heroic elements of Stalin’s reign, was also moved to call it “preposterous.” Stalin: The Man and His Era (New York, 1973), 14, 741. In the second category, numerous works emphasize Stalin’s pathological personality. The most extreme and fanciful of these is Daniel Rancour-Laferriere, The Mind of Stalin: A Psychoanalytic Survey (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1988). Tucker, Stalin as Revolutionary, and Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928–1941 (New York, 1990), fits the profile of a psychobiography, defined by William McKinley Runyan as “the use of systematic or formal psychology in biography.” See “Alternatives to Psychoanalytic Psycho-biography,” in Runyan, ed., Psychology and Historical Interpretation (Oxford, 1988), 221. Tucker’s model was Karen Horney’s “neurotic character structure.” Robert C. Tucker, “A Stalin Biography’s Memoir,” in Runyan, Psychology, 63–81. Philip Pomper, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin: The Intelligentsia in Power (New York, 1990), is more eclectic. Critical of such approaches is Ronald Grigor Suny, “Beyond Psychohistory: The Young Stalin in Georgia,” Slavic Review 50 (Spring 1991): 48–58, a sketch for a forthcoming full-scale biography. Suny seeks to place Stalin in the socio-cultural matrix of Georgia, which he interprets as an “honor and shame” society, while maintaining that Stalin later “abandoned his public identification with Georgia in favor of Russia.” A third approach, which identifies Stalin as a bureaucratic despot, owes much of its inspiration to Trotsky’s brilliant and venomous biography, Stalin. This view has been much elaborated and expanded in the work of Moshe Lewin, who includes Stalin’s pathological character in his many-sided treatment of the dictator. See among others “Grappling with Stalinism,” in Lewin, The Making of the Soviet System: Essays in the Social History of Interwar Russia (New York, 1985); and most recently, “Bureaucracy and the Stalinist State,” and “Stalin in the Mirror of the Other,” in Ian Kershaw and Moshe Lewin, Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorship in Comparison (Cambridge, 1997), 53–74 and 107–34.

10 My approach to the problem of identity formation follows from Peter Weinreich’s explanation of the absence of any grand theory in the field: value systems evolve and change both in relation to the individual biography and the major developments within the socio-historical context. Weinreich, “Variations in Ethnic Identity: Identity Structure Analysis,” in Karmela Liebkind, ed., New Identities in Europe: Immigrant Ancestry and the Ethnic Identity of Youth (Aldershot, 1989), 45, 67. In each case, and Stalin is no exception, the historian is free to construct his or her own model by drawing selectively on theoretical insights provided by social anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists. I have been guided by the need to bridge the gap between studies of personality and the individual favored by psychologists and philosophers and the studies of ethnic group identity conducted by cultural anthropologists and social psychologists. The sources I have relied on most heavily are Erik Erikson, Identity, Youth and Crisis (New York, 1968); D. Bannister and F. Fransella, Inquiring Man: The Theory of Personal Constructs (London, 1971); A. Jacobson-Widding, ed., Identity: Personal and Socio-Cultural (Stockholm, 1983); G. Breakwell, ed., Threatened Identities (Chichester, 1983); Anthony P. Cohen, Self Consciousness: An Alternative Anthropology of Identity (London, 1994).

11 For specialized studies that pay more than casual attention to the effect of the borderland factor on identity and policy formation, see Ian Kershaw, Hitler, 1889–1936: Hubris (London, 1998); M. K. Dziewanowski, Joseph Pilsudski: A European Federalist, 1918–1922 (Stanford, Calif., 1969); Thomas Spira, German-Hungarian Relations and the Swabian Problem: From Károly to Gömbös, 1919–1936 (Boulder, Colo., 1977); and Eugen Weber, “Romania,” in Hans Rogger and Eugen Weber, The European Right: A Historical Profile (Berkeley, Calif., 1966), esp. 516–72. A preliminary effort to compare Stalin and Hitler on this basis is Alfred J. Rieber, “The Marginality of Totalitarianism,” in Lord Dahrendorf, et al., The Paradoxes of Unintended Consequences (Budapest, 2000), 265–84. The original man of the borderlands was Napoleon Bonaparte, but he had no imitators in the relatively stable conditions of nineteenth-century Europe. After World War II, Tito’s ambition to revive Yugoslavism in the form of a great South Slav federation imitated Stalin. For insights into Tito’s “foreignness” in his own country, see especially Milovan Djilas, Tito: The Story from Inside (London, 1981), 61–62. In Asia, the phenomenon also appears in postcolonial revolutionary struggles of the nationalist and communist varieties. Jawaharlal Nehru’s insistence on retaining predominantly Muslim Kashmir is not unrelated to his ancestral ties and psychological identification with the province. References are scattered throughout Nehru, An Autobiography (Oxford, 1980). See also Sarvepalli Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography (Cambridge, 1980), esp. vol. 3. More tenuous but worth exploring further is Mao Zedong’s attachment to Hunan Province, with its strongly defined regional traditions, including social banditry. For suggestive insights, see Stuart Schram, Mao Tse-tung (New York, 1966), 17–25, 283; and Jonathan Spence, Mao Zedong (New York, 1999).

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12 Zygmunt Bauman, “From Pilgrim to Tourist—or A Short History of Identity,” in Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay, eds., Questions of Cultural Identity (London, 1996), 21. Behind Bauman’s key metaphor lies a large literature first defined by the French novelist Michel Butor as “iterology,” the science of journeys, in “Le voyage et l’écriture,” Romantisme 4 (1972). For a recent summary, see Nigel Rapport and Andrew Dawson, eds., Migrants of Identity: Perceptions of Home in a World of Movement (Oxford, 1998), esp. Rapport, “Home and Movement: A Polemic,” 19–38.

13 Edwin Ardener, The Voice of Prophesy and Other Essays (Oxford, 1989), 67.

14 See, for example, Oonagh O’Brien, “Good to Be French? Conflicts of Identity in North Catalonia,” in Sharon Macdonald, ed., Inside European Identities: Ethnography in Western Europe (Providence, R.I., 1993), 113–14, and other essays in this collection.

15 The analysis here draws mainly on Erving Goffman’s work but also on George Kelly’s theory of personal constructs as interpreted by several of his disciples, for example, Bannister and Fransella, Inquiring Man, 31–43. Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York, 1959), explores the role of actors whose use of rules, norms, and roles is largely manipulative and instrumental, masking their real motives, which are the pursuit of perceived private advantage. In Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (1974; rpt. edn., Boston, 1986), Goffman refines the analysis by introducing the concept of keying or transforming materials drawn from actual experiences in accord with a schema of interpretation; the result is a layering between the inner part of the frame, which is “something that does or could have status as untransformed reality,” and the outer rim, which produces a copy, or in Stalin’s case a fabrication, a “front for improper action.” Neither he nor anyone else has yet succeeded in solving the theoretical problem posed initially by David Hume and Thomas Hobbes on locating the “man behind the mask.” For this and other insights into the limits of such analysis, see M. Hollis, “Of Masks and Men,” in Michael Carrithers, Stephen Collins, and Steven Lukes, eds., The Category of the Person: Anthropology, Philosophy, History (Cambridge, 1985), 217–33.

16 Nowhere is this more evident than in the problems faced by the staff of the Sector of the Works of I. V. Stalin. Two examples suffice. First, in May 1936, the Institute of Marx-Engels-Lenin received a bulky package of documents by Lenin and Stalin from Stalin’s secretariat commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the creation of the Azerbaizhan Soviet Socialist Republic. The director, V. V. Adoratskii, replied that “it was impossible to publish the documents in their present form.” After two months of verifying and collating, Adoratskii returned the documents with a large number of questions and notes indicating that the originals of some were not in the institute. He vigorously opposed publication in the organ of the institute, Krasnyi Arkhiv, insisting that they appear in Pravda or Bol’shevik, having been first approved by the Central Committee. The collection organized into four volumes was never published. RGASPI, f.558, op.11, d.1198, ll.2–3; d.1199–1202, the four volumes containing respectively 149, 108, 112, and 110 pages. Second, in June 1956, the head of the KGB reported to Nikita Khrushchev the results of an investigation into the allegations in Life magazine that Stalin had been an agent of the tsarist secret police. He was able to discredit the documents published in Life, but stated that, according to employees of the Krasnoiarsk Archive Department, “over the past fifteen years workers [rabotniki] from Moscow had frequently visited and collected numbers of documents concerning Stalin the contents of which they were unaware.” Moreover, testimony from a local woman established that Stalin had fathered two illegitimate children, one of whom died, while the other became a major in the Soviet army and lived, unacknowledged by Stalin, until 1967. RGASPI, f.558, op.11, d.1288, ll.14–16.

17 See Alexei Kojevnikov, “Rituals of Stalinist Culture at Work: Science and Intraparty Democracy circa 1948,” Russian Review 57 (January 1998): 25–52, for suggestive insights into this process.

18 Kaminskii and Vereshchagin, “Detstvo,” 26–34.

19 E. B. Virsiladze, “Nartskii epos i okhotnich’i skazaniia v Gruzii,” in Skazaniia o nartakh—epos narodov Kavkaza (Moscow, 1969), 245–54; M. Ia. Chikovani, “Nartski siuzhety v Gruzii,” in Skazaniia, 226–44. For an analysis of the slow rate of transformation to modernity in the material culture of Georgian villages, see N. G. Volkov and G. N. Dzhavakhishvili, Bytovaia kul’tura Gruzii XIX–XX vekov: Traditsii i inovatsii (Tblisi, 1982), 174–222.

20 Albert Bates Lord, Epic Singers and Oral Tradition (Ithaca, N.Y., 1991), 36.

21 Kaminskii and Vereshchagin, “Detstvo,” 31, 36.

22 For a lucid survey of Georgian literary and cultural trends of this period, see Ronald Grigor Suny, The Making of the Georgian Nation, 2d edn. (Bloomington, Ind., 1994), 124–36.

23 Iremaschvili, Stalin, 18; Kaminskii and Vereshchagin, “Detstvo,” 53. The best discussion of the psychological significance of Koba for Stalin is now Pomper, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, 158–63. See also Tucker, Stalin as Revolutionary, 79–82.

24 A. Khakhanov, “Iz istorii sovremennoi gruzinskoi literatury: A. Kazbek,” Russkaia Mysl’ 12 (1893): 19–32. The author was a leading Georgian journalist and publicist. The legends of resistance bear all the hallmarks of social banditry enumerated in E. J. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19th and 20th Centuries (1959; rpt. edn., New York, 1965), chap. 2.

25 Kaminskii and Vereshchagin, “Detstvo,” 48–49, 53. Gorkii’s original report was published in the newspaper Nizhegorodskii Listok 327 (November 26, 1896). Following the Revolution of 1905, the Bolsheviks engaged in a form of social banditry through expropriations or robberies to fill the party’s coffers. Stalin’s role in these activities remains obscure, and he carefully avoided assuming responsibility for them. But as one of the local leaders of the Baku organization, his involvement although indirect and supervisory cannot be denied. Trotsky, Stalin, 99–101, reviews the evidence most thoroughly.

26 Rustaveli’s most famous work, “Vepkhistqaosani,” has been translated into many European languages under various titles, for example, Marjory Scott Wardrop, The Man in the Panther’s Skin (London, 1912). The British scholar of Georgia, David Marshall Lang, The Georgians (New York, 1966), 172–76, uses the term “knight” in his excellent summary of the work, and this has become standard even for translations published in Georgia, for example, by Venera Urushadze (Tblisi, 1983).

27 Kaminskii and Vereshchagin, “Detstvo,” 54.

28 S. V. Maksimov, Krai kreshchanago sveta (St. Petersburg, 1866), 47–49; Lang, Georgians, 28.

29 Volkov and Dzhavakhishvili, Bytovaia kultura, 215; Sovetskoe pravo, traditsii, obychai i ikh rol’ v formirovanii novogo cheloveka (Nal’chik, 1972), especially the articles by P. T. Nekipelov, “Prestypleniia, sostavliaiushchie perezhitki mestnykh obuchaev,” and K. Ia. Dzhabrailov, “Krovnaia mest’: Nekotorye voprosy genezisa i ugolovno-pravovoi bor’by s neiu na sovremennom etape”; F. D. Edieva, “Sotsial’nyi dualizm obychaia krovnoi mesti karachaevtsev v XIX v.,” Iz istoriia gorskikh i kochevnykh narodnov Severnogo Kavkaza, part 1 (Stavropol, 1975); I. L. Babich, Pravovaia kul’tura Adygov (Istoriia i sovremennost’) (Moscow, 2000), esp. chap. 2; I. L. Babich, Mekhanizm formirovaniia pravovogo pliuralizma na Severnom Kavkaze (Moscow, 2000), 9, 11, 15.

30 Christopher Boehm, Blood Revenge: The Enactment and Management of Conflict in Montenegro and Other Tribal Societies (Lawrence, Kans., 1984), 60–62. See also Mary E. Durham, Some Tribal Origins, Laws and Customs of the Balkans (London, 1928), 160–65.

31 Pomper, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, 160–61, provides a perceptive analysis of the implications for Stalin’s personal development.

32 Tamara Dragadze, Rural Families in Soviet Georgia: A Case Study in Ratcha Province (London, 1988), 120, 133, 199. Dragadze also links this tradition to Rustaveli’s epic poetry, 158–59.

33 S. Ia. Alliluev, “Moi vospominaniia,” Krasnaia letopis’ 5 (1923); Alliluev, “Vstrechi s tovarishchem Stalinom,” Proletarskaia revoliutsiia 8 (1937); Alliluev, Proidennyi put’ (Moscow, 1946); the memoirs of Sergei Alliluev’s daughter and Nadezhda’s sister, Anna Sergeevna Allilueva, were published in two editions, both in the same year, 1946, as Iz vospominanii, published by Pravda and Vospominaniia, published by Sovietskii pisatel’. Stalin was angered by revelations of his personal life and ordered both editions withdrawn from circulation shortly after they appeared. Svetlana Allilueva, Dvadtsat’ pisem k drugu (New York, 1967), 56–57.

34 Stalin also converted the surrounding grounds into a Georgian garden. Allilueva, Dvadtsat’ pisem, 28–33; “Dnevnik Marii Anisimovny Svanidze,” in Iu. G. Murin, ed., Iosif Stalin v ob”iatiiakh sem’i: Iz lichnogo arkhiva (Moscow, 1993), 155–59.

35 Mikhail Vaiskopf, Pisatel’ Stalin (Moscow, 2001), 196; Murin, Iosif Stalin v ob”iatiiakh sem’i, 31, 35, 37. After Nadezhda’s death, Stalin preferred to call her Setanka in order to avoid the obvious bad connotation of Satanka in Russian. For Stalin’s identification with Soslan, see below, n. 110.

36 Stalin’s later disavowal en famille of his Georgian roots expressed his ambivalent feelings about himself as a man of the borderlands once he had become the leader of the state. Compare Tucker, Stalin as Revolutionary, 432–33, who interprets the evidence as proof of his complete russification.

37 “Dnevnik . . . Svanidze,” 177. Characteristically, Stalin’s reaction was to rage at the world exactly as he had done when his first wife died. Iremaschwili, Stalin, 40–41. His ritualistic mourning of Nadezhda was filled with emotional ambivalence. Allilueva, Dvadtsat’ pisem, 99–109.

38 Allilueva, Dvadtsat’ pisem, 23, 45.

39 “Dnevnik . . . Svanidze,” 168. Shortly after Kirov’s death, at Stalin’s birthday party Stalin joined with his Caucasian band of brothers in singing “mournful, multi-voiced Georgian songs in his high tenor”; 169–70. Folk music may serve as “a kind of totemic emblem” that reinforces ethnic self-identity but also transcends the self by expressing deep commitment to a wider association. J. Blacking, “Concepts of Identity and Folk Concepts of Self,” in Jacobson-Widding, Identity, 52.

40 Allilueva, Dvadtsat’ pisem, 74.

41 Iu. N. Zhukov, “Sledstvie i sudebnye protsessy po delu ob ubiistve Kirova,” Voprosy istorii 1, no. 1 (2000): 46–59, based on classified archival material from the Ezhov fond. Zhukov also exonerates Stalin from participation in the murder. In this, he agrees with another Russian scholar who had access to files not open to Westerners: Alla Alekseevna Kirilina, L’assassinat de Kirov: Destin d’un stalinien, 1888–1934, adapted from the Russian by Pierre Forgues and Nicolas Werth (Paris, 1995), an expanded and rewritten version of the original Russian, Rikoshet, ili Skol’ko chelovek bylo ubito vystrelom v Smol’nom (St. Petersburg, 1993). Western scholars remain divided over the question of Stalin’s responsibility. Robert Conquest, Stalin and the Kirov Murders (New York, 1989), reviews the “four stories” that were invented with Stalin’s connivance to implicate ever larger numbers of oppositionists and others he wished to destroy. Conquest also attempts to prove Stalin’s guilt in organizing the killing of Kirov. J. Arch Getty, “The Politics of Repression Revisited,” in Getty and Roberta T. Manning, eds., Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives (Cambridge, 1993), casts doubt on some of Conquest’s sources. Amy Knight, Who Killed Kirov? The Kremlin’s Greatest Mystery (New York, 1999), using fresh archival material from the Kirov and Ordzhonikidze files, favors a verdict of Stalin’s complicity, but her case also rests on circumstantial evidence. It is still difficult to get around Ulam’s objection: “it is unlikely that Stalin would have wanted to establish the precedent of a successful assassination attempt against a high Soviet official.” Ulam, Stalin, 385.

42 Beria was adept at using “rumor mongering,” which appealed to Stalin, as a means of discrediting his superiors in Georgia and then replacing them. Amy Knight, Beria: Stalin’s First Lieutenant (Princeton, N.J., 1993). Beria appears to have used this technique against his one-time mentor and another of Stalin’s Georgian entourage, Sergo Ordzhonikidze. Knight, Beria, 74. Stalin’s heirs, including Anastas Mikoian and Klim Voroshilov, blamed Beria for having poisoned Stalin’s mind against Sergo. Izvestiia TsK KPSS, no. 2 (1991): 150, 175, 183. The Russian historian Oleg V. Khlevniuk, In Stalin’s Shadow: The Career of “Sergo” Ordzhonikidze (Armonk, N.Y., 1995), 107, considered these accusations politically motivated, but his evidence requires that we accept at face value Beria’s protestations of good will toward Ordzhonikidze. It is not necessary in such matters to assign sole blame to either Beria or Stalin. They seemed to have fed on one another’s differently motivated but equally murderous impulses.

43 Lavrenti P. Beria, K istorii bol’shevistskikh organizatsii na Zakavkazii (Moscow, 1934). The work had originally been serialized in Pravda in eight installments. In 1939, the 4th edition appeared.

44 Tucker, Stalin in Power, 334. For the most complete exposure of Beria’s fabrications, see Knight, Beria, 57–64. In several waves of de-Stalinization since the Twentieth Party Congress, Soviet historians have endeavored to correct the record on the basis of the skimpy surviving evidence in the archives. In addition, a major effort was launched, mainly by historians in the Caucasian republics, to restore to their proper place in the revolutionary movement a number of figures whose importance in the region was at least equal if not superior to that of Stalin in the prerevolutionary period. G. S. Akopian, Stepan Shaumian, Zhizn’ i deiatel’nost’ (1878–1918) (Moscow, 1973), with a laudatory preface by Anastas Mikoian; Stepan Shaumian, Izbrannye proizvedeniia v dvukh tomakh (Moscow, 1978); C. S. Spendarian, Stat’i, pis’ma, dokumenty (Moscow, 1958); P. A. Dzhaparidze, Izbrannye stat’i, rechi i pis’ma (1905–1918) (Moscow, 1958); Z. G. Ordzhonikidze, Puti bol’shevika: Strannitsy iz zhizni G. K. Ordzhonikidze (Moscow, 1956); V. S. Kirilov and A. Ia. Sverdlov, Grigorii Konstantinovich Ordzhonikidze: Biografiia (Moscow, 1986); T. Akhmedov, Nariman Narimanov (Baku, 1988).

45 A. S. Enukidze, Nashi podpolnye tipografii na Kavkaze (Moscow, 1925), appeared in a 3d edition under the title Bol’shevistkie nelegal’nye tipografii in 1934, poor timing on Enukidze’s part. Beria’s “revisionist” history claimed that it was Stalin, not Enukidze, who had founded the illegal printing press in Baku in 1901. This was clearly at odds with the memories not only of Enukidze but other participants such as Vako Sturua, “Podpol’naia tipografiia ‘Iskra’ v Baku,” Iz proshlogo: Stat’i i vospominaniia iz istorii Bakinskoi organizatsii i rabochego dvizheniia v Baku (Baku, 1923), 137–38, who did not even mention Stalin’s participation. Clearly, Enukidze stood in the way of Stalin’s new Georgian pedigree. For the most complete account of Beria’s campaign, see Knight, Beria, 56–64.

46 RGASPI, f.558, op.11, d.728, ll.67, 70–74, 78, 108–13. It is clear from marginal comments that Mekhlis’s analysis had aroused Stalin’s anger. Enukidze’s attempt to defend himself in personal correspondence with Stalin did not save him. RGASPI, f.558, op.11, d.728, ll.114–24.

47 Getty, “Politics of Repression,” 51–52, based on the Russian archives, accepts the view that Stalin was exercising moderation. But it is hardly likely at this point that Stalin could not have imposed his will. For Stalin’s diabolical charades, see Lewin, “Stalin in the Mirror of the Other,” 123–24.

48 The brother of Stalin’s first wife, Alexander Svanidze, and his wife Maria were arrested in 1937 and shot in 1941 and 1942 respectively; Alexander’s sister, Mariko, was arrested, sentenced to ten years, and then shot in 1942; Anna Sergeevna (Allilueva) Redens, the sister of Stalin’s second wife, was arrested in 1948 and sentenced to ten years; her husband, Stanislav Redens, a former associate of Beria in the Caucasus, had already been arrested and shot in 1938. Pavel Alliluev, the brother of Stalin’s second wife, was demoted in 1937 and died of apparently natural causes in 1938, but his wife was arrested and executed for having poisoned him. Murin, Iosif Stalin v ob”iatiiakh sem’i, 193–94; Volkogonov, Triumf i tragediia, 1: 2, 581; Allilueva, Dvadtsat’ pisem, 54–55.

49 On the timing of the publication of the Molodaia Gvardiia material, Oleg Kharkhordin provides a complementary line of analysis to my own. While I stress the ethnic factor, he unearths another dimension of Stalin’s cultural roots. He argues that by the end of the 1930s the ritual of “self-revelation,” rooted in the Orthodox tradition, was widely used by Stalin as a means of exercising social control. See Kharkhordin, The Collective and the Individual in Russia: A Study in Practice (Berkeley, Calif., 1999), esp. chap. 5 and 270–78. I would suggest taking his argument one step further. By revealing his own “self” in 1939, Stalin provided a model for individuation that became an essential part of the reigning dogma. At the same time, Stalin was also engaged at a less conscious level in practicing “dissimulation,” a divergent tradition embedded in peasant culture that concealed discordant aspects of an ideal, in his case, Bolshevik, self.

50 A. Khakhanov, “Iz istorii sovremennoi gruzinskoi literatury,” Russkaia mysl’ 4 (1898): 45–63.

51 In his memoirs, Noi (Noah) Zhordaniia refers contemptuously to Iveriia in 1897 as an organ concerned “only with cultural tasks, the rest—social, political and national questions—were of no interest”; Moia zhizn’ (Stanford, Calif., 1968), 24.

52 Stalin, Sochineniia, 1: 398. Less than a decade after the appearance of his poems, Stalin performed one of his surgical operations on history by cutting out any mention of the aristocratic, left-wing liberal nationalists from his brief survey of the growth of Georgian nationalism, leaving only the feudal monarchist, the aristocratic-clerical nationalist, and the bourgeois nationalist. Stalin, Sochineniia, 1: 34–35. But by 1939, such old, fine distinctions were no longer necessary.

53 Kaminskii and Vereshchagin, “Detstvo,” 72–73; Beria, K istorii, 14.

54 Smith, Young Stalin, 38–42. On the basis of the photocopies and the original handwritten texts of the poems preserved in the Stalin archive, it seems reasonably certain that they were in fact written by the young Soso. RGASPI, f.71, op.10, d.190.

55 Stalin, Sochineniia, 1: 44. In this article, Stalin defends the nationality planks in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party platform, including the right of nationalities “to organize their national affairs according to their wishes” up to and including “the right to separate [otdelitsia].” Written as a rebuttal to the Georgian federalist-social democrats who sought to justify the separation of workers into separate parties, it refuted the idea of “a national spirit.” But it cannot be construed as constituting a departure from the central Bolshevik tenets at that time. Compare Erik van Ree, “Stalin and the National Question,” Revolutionary Russia 7 (December 1994): 218–19.

56 RGASPI, f.558, op.11, d.728, ll.16–17.

57 Kaminskii and Vereshchagin, “Detstvo,” 62–66, including an excerpt from a memoir published in 1907 on the systematic exclusion of Georgian students from the Tbilisi Seminary, until in 1905 there were only four left in a graduating class of forty.

58 In 1922, Stalin counted thirty nationalities in the formation of the USSR; three years later, he raised the number to fifty, and in 1936 he established a “final” figure of “sixty nations, national groups and peoples.” Yet the census of 1926 identified a minimum of 185 linguistic groups. A. I. Vdovin, “Natsional’naia politika 30-kh godov (ob istoricheskikh korniakh krizisa mezhnatsionalnykh otnoshenii v SSSR,” Vestnik moskovskogo universiteta, series 8, Istoriia 4 (1992): 21. It is possible that Stalin was referring only to nationalities that had been granted a form of territorial autonomy. But the discrepancy is still hard to explain.

59 Yuri Slezkine, “The USSR as a Communal Apartment, or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism,” Slavic Review 53 (Summer 1994): 414–52; Robert J. Kaiser, The Geography of Nationalism in Russia and the USSR (Princeton, N.J., 1994), 124–35; Bernard V. Olivier, “Korenizatsiia,” Central Asian Survey 9, no. 3 (1990): 77–98. The spread of Russian has been attributed more to sovietization than russification. Roman Szporluk, “History and Ethnocentrism,” in Edward Allworth, ed., Ethnic Russia in the USSR (New York, 1980), 41–54. Recently, Terry Martin has demonstrated that it had become clear to Stalin by the end of the 1920s that his own policy of korenizatsiia, when pushed to extremes, intensified rather than decreased ethnic rivalries, and had to be checked. Martin, “Borders and Ethnic Conflict: The Soviet Experiment in Ethno-Territorial Proliferation,” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 47 (1999), 4: 538–55.

60 His 1950 treatise, “Concerning Marxism in Linguistics,” stated unequivocally that, contrary to the reigning theory in Soviet linguistics of N. Ia. Marr, language was not a class phenomenon but belonged to whole societies. The interbreeding (skreshchivanie) of the national languages in the USSR (presumably into Russian) would be “a process taking hundreds of years.” I. V. Stalin, Works, Robert H. McNeal, ed., 3 vols. (Stanford, Calif., 1967), XVI, 3: 142. It is significant that from the beginning of his campaign to discredit Marr’s theories he recruited a leading member of the Georgian Academy of Sciences, who later recalled: “Stalin hated ambiguities: He was interested in problems of language actually in connection with the national question.” Arn. Chikobava, “When and How It Happened,” Ezhegodnik Iberiisko-kavkazskogo iazykoznaniia 12 (Tblisi, 1985): 41. To be sure, the linguistics controversy was part of a larger campaign of Stalin’s to discredit “ultra-leftists” who had sought, like Marr, who was dead, and like T. D. Lysenko, who was very much alive, to monopolize a field of theory, a privilege Stalin reserved for himself. For the best general discussion, see Yuri Slezkine, “N. Ia. Marr and the National Origins of Soviet Ethnogenetics,” Slavic Review 55 (Winter 1996): 26–62.

61 Kaminskii and Vereshchagin, “Detstvo,” 44–45. In his subsequent and unpublished research, Kaminskii uncovered further details about the incident. RGASPI, f.71, op.10, d.273, l.4, citing pp. 75–79 of the manuscript.

62 Stalin, Sochineniia, 1: 109, 130. He repeated his attack and his characterization of the intelligentsia’s vacillation in another polemic with Zhordaniia in August 1905. Stalin, Sochineniia, 1: 160–72.

63 R. Arsenidze, “Iz vospominanii o Staline,” Novyi Zhurnal 72 (June 1963): 220. See also A. S. Alliluev, Iz vospominanii, 60. On return from Siberian exile to Georgia, Stalin showed up in a military tunic, which became his preferred mode of dress until he assumed the rank of generalissimo during the Fatherland War. It was emblematic of his pose as a simple soldier of the revolution.

64 “Dnevnik . . . Svanidze,” 163, 178; Volkogonov, Triumf i tragediia, 1: 1.

65 Stalin, Sochineniia, 2: 27–31, emphasis in original. Teliia and Djugashvili were the two Caucasian delegates to the Tammerfors Conference in December 1905, where they first met Lenin.

66 S. T. Arkomed, Rabochee dvizhenie i sotsial’no-demokratiia na Kavkaze, 2d edn. (Moscow, 1926), 43–63, 74–76. There were no changes from the first edition, including a preface by Georgi Plekhanov published in 1910. All Stalin’s non-Soviet biographers accept this as a description of him.

67 Arkomed, Rabochee, 81–84. In 1904, Stalin also attempted to circumvent the local Batum committee by directly approaching workers’ groups but had no success and left the city. Arsenidze, “Iz vospominanii,” 218–19.

68 RGASPI, f.71, op.10, d.273, l.1.

69 Ronald Grigor Suny, “A Journeyman for the Revolution: Stalin and the Labor Movement in Baku, June 1907–May 1908,” Soviet Studies 3 (1971): 373–94.

70 Stalin, Sochineniia, 2: 188–89. In Baku itself, Stalin claimed that the Bolshevik-inclined Oil Workers Union had 900 workers, while the Menshevik-inclined Mechanical Workers Union had only 300. Sochineniia, 2: 184–85. At Stockholm, he boasted that Baku was the only industrial center in the Caucasus that broke ranks with the Georgian Mensheviks to support a boycott of elections to the State Duma. Chetvertyi (ob”edinitel’nyi) s”ezd RSDRP: Aprel’–mai, 1906 goda; Protokoly (Moscow, 1959), 311, 322.

71 Audrey Alstadt, “Muslim Workers and the Labor Movement in Pre-War Baku,” in S. M. Akural, Turkic Culture: Continuity and Change (Bloomington, Ind., 1987), 83–91; and Cosroe Chaquèri, The Soviet Socialist Republic of Iran, 1920–1921: Birth of the Trauma (Pittsburgh, 1995), 24–25, who estimates that from 20 to 50 percent of males in northern Iran between the ages of twenty and forty ended up working for some period of time across the border, mainly in Transcaucasia.

72 Bala Efendiev, “Istoriia revoliutsionogo dvizheniia tiurkskogo proletariata,” in Iz proshlogo: Stat’i i vospominaniia iz istorii Bakinskoi organizatsii i rabochego dvizheniia v Baku (Baku, 1923), 39–40; A. M. Stopani, “Iz proshlogo nashei partii, 1904–1908 g.,” in Iz proshlogo, 16.

73 Akhmedov, Nariman Narimanov, and Aidin Balaev, “Plennik idei ili politicheskii slepets,” Azerbaizhan (June 20, 1991).

74 Originally published in the Tbilisi newspaper Zaria Vostoka, the speech was republished in Kaminskii and Vereshchagin, “Detstvo”; and in Stalin, Sochineniia, 8: 173–75, which gives a good idea of its centrality in Stalin’s presentation of self. The peculiar mix of images suggests the deep layering within the proletarian frame. It illustrates once again what Trotsky called Stalin’s “Tbilisi homiletics” or “seminarist rhetoric.” Trotsky, Stalin, 140, 259. But, at another level, it was as if Stalin were probing a subterranean emotional stratum linking himself to the Caucasian worker who had only half-forgotten his peasant origins. Beyond his invocation of a triple baptism and repeated verbal formulas, his unusual use of the word skitanii (wandering) evokes the secret underground and illegal monasteries of the Old Believers that sheltered religious wanderers.

75 Vaiskopf, Pisatel’ Stalin, 346–48.

76 Lydia Dan, “Bukharin o Staline,” Novyi Zhurnal 75 (March 1964): 182 (ellipsis in original).

77 S. F. Jones, “Marxism and Peasant Revolt in the Russian Empire: The Case of the Gurian Republic,” Slavonic and East European Review 67 (July 1989): 403–34.

78 Vtoroi s”ezd RSDRP: Iiul’–avgust, 1903 goda; Protokoly (Moscow, 1959), 216, 223, 226, 228–29, 233, 240, 423. They pointed out, for example, that Lenin’s position on redistributing the land made no sense under Georgian conditions. See also Uratadze, Vospominaniia, 89, 153.

79 Chetvertyi s”ezd, 110. The Georgian Mensheviks also sharply condemned the Bolshevik proposals for nationalization as a measure opposed to the peasant interests. At the same time, it was clear that their concept of municipalization differed from that of the Russian Mensheviks to the extent that they demanded partial redistribution and insisted on working with the peasants rather than simply imposing solutions on them. Chetvertyi s”ezd, 83–84 (speech of Beriev [Ramishvili]); 107–09 (Kartvelov [Chichinadze]); 115–16 (Vorob’ev [Lomtatidze]).

80 Stalin, Sochineniia, 1: 237–38.

81 Chetvertyi s”ezd, 116. Stalin’s contemptuous dismissal of the revolution in Guriia ran counter to the ringing endorsement of the uprising at the Third Congress, composed entirely of Bolsheviks, at which he had been absent. Tret’yi s”ezd RSDRP, aprel’–mai 1905 goda: Protokoly (Moscow, 1959), 440–42.

82 Vtoroi s”ezd, 61–62, 77–78; Chetvertyi s”ezd, 435–36, 442–43, where Zhordaniia outflanked the Bolsheviks to the left by opposing Lenin’s endorsement of the proposal to readmit the Bund to the party, in which case “the Caucasus organization will be destroyed since with this agreement we will accept the introduction of the national principle into our ranks.”

83 In 1907, Lenin told Zhordaniia: “take your autonomy and do what you want in Georgia; we will not interfere, and you don’t interfere in Russian affairs.” Zhordaniia, Moia zhizn’, 53. Irakli Tsereteli independently confirmed the offer. Zhordaniia, Moia zhizn’, 54, editor’s note 41. It is inconceivable that Stalin could ever have subscribed to this statement. Even after the Soviet conquest of Georgia that overthrew Zhordaniia’s Menshevik government in 1921, Lenin wrote to Ordzhonikidze: “It is highly important to seek an acceptable compromise for a bloc with Zhordaniia or Georgian Mensheviks like him, who even before the uprising were not absolutely hostile to the introduction of the Soviet power in Georgia under certain conditions.” V. I. Lenin, Polnoe Sobranie Sochineniia, 3d edn. (Moscow, 1937), 40: 367. By contrast, Stalin even opposed a compromise with the Georgian Bolsheviks!

84 Stalin, Sochineniia, 2: 32–33, 49–51. When in 1913, Zhordaniia’s position had evolved toward the Austro-Marxist position of national cultural autonomy, Stalin was finally able to attack the Georgian Mensheviks frontally. Sochineniia, 2: 291–92, 351.

85 Very early in his revolutionary career, Soso Djugashvili had conceived a deep resentment toward Zhordaniia, and in his discussions with workers he launched “unusually fierce attacks” against the well-known Georgian social democrat when no one else dared speak out. Alliluev, Proidennyi put’, 31.

86 A formal written protest was signed by twenty-six Caucasian delegates with a full and three with a consultative vote. Piatyi (Londonskii) s”ezd RSDRP, aprel’–mai 1907 goda: Protokoly (Moscow, 1963), 226–32, 241, 540–42. Uratadze also notes that delegates in the Caucasus were elected on the principle of one for every 300 members, but the Bolsheviks could not muster the necessary number in either Tbilisi or Baku. Vospominaniia, 159, 181.

87 Uratadze, Vospominaniia, 198; Stalin, Sochineniia, 1: 409, n. 66; 411, n. 79; 413, n. 84.

88 The first volume of Stalin’s Collected Works dating from 1901 to 1907 includes twenty items in Georgian and only six in Russian, but four of these are unsigned collective editorials in Russian language periodicals, and the other two are his speeches at Stockholm, which were not published in Georgia at the time. The second volume contains eight articles in Georgian before the report on the London conference.

89 Stalin, Sochineniia, 2: 188–96, 213–18. The evidence that Stalin wrote the latter piece is not, however, conclusive. Compare Sochineniia, 2: 395–96, n. 99, which cites a two-line, unpublished letter of appreciation on behalf of Lenin from his wife, Krupskaia. There are two articles of doubtful authorship published within this period. See McNeal, Stalin’s Works, 39.

90 Stalin, Sochineniia, 2: 416–20.

91 Murin, Iosif Stalin v ob”iatiiakh sem’i, 1–19. The eighteen brief notes that have survived are a mixture of conventional Georgian expressions of health and long life, reports on his own health, news of the children, and apologies for not writing often. He signed himself, “Your Soso.” Only once does he sound a more somber note in a letter of March 24, 1934. “After the death of Nadia, of course, my personal life is hard. But, never mind, a courageous [muzhestvennyi] man should always remain courageous.” Murin, 17.

92 The anthropology of naming is very large, but little of it deals with pseudonyms. See the brief but useful summary in Cohen, Self Consciousness, 71–79.

93 Ludwig von Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, G. E. M. Anscombe, trans. (Oxford, 1953), paragraphs 2, 7, 27, 38. According to Charles Peirce, “in contrast to concepts which aim to be wholly transparent, signs require incorporation of human culture.” Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (New York, 1990), 20. Stalin’s choice of the appropriate “signification of his significant being” was within the context of his multiple identities.

94 According to John Searle, “if both the speaker and the hearer associate some identifying description with the name, then the utterance of the name is sufficient to satisfy the principle of identification, for both the speaker and the hearer are able to substitute an identifying description.” He then adds, “But the essential fact to keep in mind when dealing with these problems is that we have the institution of proper names to perform the speech act of identifying reference.” Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language (Cambridge, 1969), 171, 174.

95 Nicole Lapierre, Changer de nom (Paris, 1995), 243–45. I am grateful to Victor Karady for bringing this source to my attention.

96 A list of all Stalin’s pseudonyms, aliases, and cover names can be found in Smith, Young Stalin, 453–54.

97 Stalin, Sochineniia, 1: 213, 229, 235. But the contents of the articles—a riposte to the Menshevik position opposing the boycott of Duma elections and the two articles on the agrarian question—taken together with the first use of an individualized pseudonym suggest that the author had gained sufficient self-confidence to speak out in his own voice.

98 Pierre Bourdieu, “L’illusion biographique,” in Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 62/63 (1986): 70. For the importance of consistency in maintaining identity, see also Glynis M. Breakwell, “Formulations and Searches,” in Breakwell, Threatened Identities, 9–18.

99 Tucker, Stalin in Power, 500.

100 Trotsky, Stalin, 16.

101 Compare Robert Himmer, “On the Origin and Significance of the Name Stalin,” Russian Review 45 (1986): 269–86, who argues that the choice of the pseudonym Stalin was a conscious effort on Stalin’s part to distinguish himself from Lenin (rather than emulate him) and lay claim to being a true proletarian and successor to the mantle of leadership.

102 Stalin, Sochineniia, 2: 77. Of the twenty-nine pieces included in volumes 1 and 2, covering the period July 1906 to July 1909, fourteen are unsigned, four of the remaining fifteen are signed “Koba,” six “Ko…,” one “Comrade K.,” one “K. Ko…,” and one “Koba Ivanovich.” Clearly, the letter K has become a form of narcissistic fetishism. If the name stands for the person, then a part of the name ought to stand symbolically for the whole name. Bernard Vernier, “Fétichisme du nom, échanges affectifs intra-familieux et affinites électives,” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 78 (1989): 3–6.

103 Iremaschwili, Stalin, 30, remembers the marriage as taking place in 1903, but his memory for dates has been shown to be unreliable, and this date in particular conflicts with Djugashvili’s arrest and exile. Tucker, Stalin as Revolutionary, proposes either 1902 or 1904, and other biographers generally accept 1904. Stalin’s later reluctance to clear up the point is one of many indications that the fate of the marriage was extremely painful for him.

104 The only specific reference to the birth date of Iakov Djugashvili appeared in a German source after he was captured during World War II. On July 24, 1941, Goebbels’ newspaper, Volkischer Beobachter, printed personal information obtained from the prisoner, who claimed to have been born on March 16, 1908. Smith, Young Stalin, 392, n. 262a, was the first to discover this reference.

105 Jozef M. Nuttin, “Affective Consequences of Mere Ownership: The Name Letter Affect in Twelve European Languages,” European Journal of Social Psychology 17 (1987): 383. The article is dated March 2, 1908. Stalin, Sochineniia, 2: 101. The date of birth given by Iakov to the Germans when he was captured was March 16. The discrepancy in the two dates represents the difference in the Julian and Gregorian calendars, which was thirteen days in the twentieth century. According to Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, there were two additional articles signed K. Kato published in March. McNeal, Stalin’s Works, 36. Significantly, Stalin omitted these from his Sochineniia, leaving only the two commemorative dates.

106 Iremaschwili, Stalin, 40, gives a dramatic eyewitness account of Koba’s despair at the gravesite. But as Tucker points out, Iremaschwili is no more reliable when referring to the date of Kato’s death than of her marriage. Tucker, Stalin as Revolutionary, 107–08. Pomper doubts the entire account as “unconvincing” and “mystical” because Stalin did not show any more tenderness between 1905 and 1907 [sic] than he had before or after this time.” Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, 171. For all that Stalin was a moral monster and a mass killer, to deny him any personal human feelings at all seems to me extreme.

107 Allilueva, Dvadtsat’ pisem, 97, 150–54; Svetlana Alliluyeva, Only One Year (New York, 1969), 370. Tucker attributes Stalin’s hostility to the fact that Iakov, who was thoroughly Georgian in manners and speech when he arrived in Moscow, was a vivid reminder of the native roots that Stalin was eager to forget and efface. Stalin as Revolutionary, 433. But at the time, Stalin was still surrounded by his Georgian kinship system.

108 Stalin, Sochineniia, 2: 187. This is the only time this pseudonym appears, but it is the beginning of a series of experiments with the combination of letters S–in, which appears to have had some affective significance for him. See Nuttin, “Affective Consequences,” 384.

109 McNeal, Stalin’s Works, 42, item 134, notes that the first use of “Stalin” was in Pravda on December 1, 1912, but this article was not included in the Sochineniia, suggesting that in retrospect Stalin wished to have his last and most lasting pseudonym emblematic of a major contribution to Marxism, rather than an occasional piece, thus endowing it with totemic significance.

110 Vaiskopf, Pisatel’ Stalin, 183–96. Soslan also bore an eerie physical resemblance to Koba: “short in stature, dark complexioned, with steely eyes, lame or ‘splayed-toed’ recalling the attached toes on Stalin’s foot.” Vaiskopf, Pisatel’ Stalin, 197. David Soslan, the husband of the famous Georgian Queen Tamara, provides another heroic point of reference. Iosif Megrelidze, Rustaveli i fol’klor (Tblisi, 1960), 21, 104, 105, 123, 270.

111 By contrast, the Bolshevik rump meeting in Prague the same year geographically represented little beyond Russia. Robert Service, Lenin: A Political Life (Bloomington, Ind., 1991), 2: 29. Lenin’s effort to disguise the fact by constituting a Central Committee that looked all-Russian—G. K. Ordzhonikidze, S. S. Spandarian, F. I. Goloshchekin, G. E. Zinoviev, R. V. Malinovskii, and D. Shwartzman—was reinforced by the cooptation of I. S. Belostotskii and Koba despite the fact that there were doubts about the latter’s full adherence to the Prague program. M. A. Moskalev, Biuro Tsentral’nogo Komiteta RSDRP v Rossii (avgust 1903–mart 1917) (Moscow, 1964), 195, 197.

112 Iu. I. Semenov, “Iz istorii teoreticheskoi razrabotki V. I. Leninym natsional’nogo voprosa,” Narody Azii i Afriki 4 (1966): 107, 114–17. It would be more accurate to describe most of these articles as touching on the national question, but this does not diminish Lenin’s intense interest in the matter.

113 After Stalin had written his essay, Lenin still found it necessary to write to Stepan Shaumian: “Do not forget also to seek out Caucasian comrades who can write articles on the national question in the Caucasus . . . A popular brochure on the national question is very necessary.” Lenin, Sochineniia, 17: 91. (It is hard to imagine what Stalin’s piece was if not a “popular brochure.”) Even more telling was the absence of any reference to Stalin or his work in Lenin’s own theoretical treatise, “O prave natsii na samoopredeleniia,” which appeared a year after Stalin had completed writing on the national question. Lenin, Sochineniia, 17: 427–74. It is clear that what Lenin admired about Stalin’s writing in general and about the nationality question in particular was his savage attacks on the Georgian “liquidators” and the Bund. Lenin, Sochineniia, 14: 317, 15: 317, 17: 116.

114 “There is no revolutionary movement in the West, nothing existed only a potential,” he stated. The Bolsheviks and the October Revolution: Minutes of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (Bolsheviks), August 1917–February 1918 (London, 1974), 177–78.

115 Stalin, Sochineniia, 4: 47. Stalin first used the formulation of a “fatherland war” in his memo to the secretariat of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic on February 24, 1918. Sochineniia, 4: 42–43.

116 Stalin, Sochineniia, 4: 31.

117 Stalin, Sochineniia, 4: 74–75, 236–37.

118 Dvenadtsatyi s”ezd RKP (b) 17–23 aprelia 1923 goda: Stenograficheskii otchet (Moscow, 1963), 479, 650.

119 Stalin, Sochineniia, 4: 162, 237, 372. Stalin’s concern over intervention took a characteristically distorted form, perceived as both a real threat and as a blunt instrument with which to beat his victims. See, for example, his letter in 1930 to V. R. Menzhinskii, head of the Combined State Political Directorate (OGPU) on preparations for the show trial of the Industrial Party. “I. V. Stalin: Pis’ma,” in V. S. Lel’chuk, ed., Sovetskoe obshchestvo: Vozniknovenie, razvitie, istoricheskii final (Moscow 1997), 1: 426–27.

120 Stalin, Sochineniia, 4: 70, 74, 226–27, 237, 356, 358. The necessity of forming a bloc in the national republics with indigenous “revolutionary democrats” was recognized by the other members of the Politburo. But betraying their Western orientation, some such as Zinoviev argued that such arrangements could only work if they were supervised by the Russian Communist Party and the Comintern. Stalin would have nothing to do with the Comintern interfering in this process. Tainy natsional’noi politiki TsK RKP: “Chetvertoe soveshchanie TsK RKP s otvetsvennymi rabotnikami natsional’nykh respublik i oblastei v g. Moskve 9–12 iiunia 1923”; Stenograficheskii otchet (Moscow, 1992), 227–28 (Zinoviev). This was the meeting at which Stalin was obliged to defend himself against accusations that he had originally taken a soft line toward Muslim national communists such as Sultan Galiev and a hard line against the Ukrainians. Tainy, 80–81 (Stalin); 268 (Frunze); 269 (Rakovskii).

121 Stalin, Sochineniia, 12: 369; Vdovin, “National’naia politika,” 22.

122 James E. Mace, Communism and the Dilemma of National Liberation: Nationalism in Soviet Ukraine, 1918–1933 (Cambridge, Mass., 1983); Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, 257–58; Olivier, “Korenizatsiia,” 94–95.

123 Terry Martin, “The Origins of Soviet Ethnic Cleansing,” Journal of Modern History 70 (December 1998): 813–61; as Slezkine points out, “What did change [after 1928] was the amount of room allowed for ‘national form.’ The ethnic identity of the Great Transformation was the ethnic identity of NEP minus ‘backwardness’ as represented and defended by the exploiting classes.” “USSR as a Communal Apartment,” 441.

124 Stalin, Sochineniia, 4: 351.

125 Stalin, Sochineniia, 4: 375–81.

126 “Federalism in Russia,” he wrote in April 1918, “is destined, as in America and Switzerland, to serve as a transition to a future, socialist, unitary state.” Sochineniia, 4: 73. Compare Robert H. McNeal, “Stalin’s Conception of Soviet Federalism (1918–1923),” Annals of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S. 9, nos. 1–2 (1961): 12–25, which traces the evolution of Stalin’s thinking but concludes that his definition of federalism was “an empty formula.”

127 Lenin, Sochineniia, 25: 624. Lenin’s concept of federalism operated on two levels, one within the RSFSR between Russia and nations such as the Bashkirs that had never enjoyed either statehood or autonomy and between the RSFSR and all other Soviet republics including those that had and those that had never been part of the Russian Empire.

128 “Iz istorii obrazovaniia SSSR,” Izvestiia TsK KPSS 9 (1989): 198–200.

129 Stalin, Sochineniia, 11: 155–56. Lest there be any doubt in the minds of his audience, Stalin repeated his prediction on the future course of revolution in Poland and Romania three times in the one speech. Stalin here revised the formula of “the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry,” which Lenin had devised for the Russian Revolution of 1905 and then discarded, by dropping the word democratic.

130 Milovan Djilas, Wartime (New York, 1977), 436: G. P. Murashko, et al., Vostochnaia Evropa v dokumentakh rossiiskikh arkhivov, 1944–1953 (Moscow-Novosibirsk, 1997), 1: 457–58. To be sure, Stalin reversed himself a few years later but only in response to his perception that external pressure in the form of the Marshall Plan and uncertainty about the loyalty or stability of the popular democracies confronted the Soviet Union with the prospect of losing its western security belt.

131 “Iz istorii,” 208–09. Compare Jeremy Smith, The Bolsheviks and the National Question, 1917–1923 (London, 1999), who demonstrates that the intra-party debates over the nationality question were more complex than previously assumed. But he goes on to argue less convincingly that the differences between Lenin and Stalin on the national question and the constitutional debates have been exaggerated and that at certain points such as 1920 “Lenin was the centralizer, Stalin the separatist.” Smith, 179.

132 “Iz istorii,” 208.

133 Cited in S. V. Kulekshov, et al., Nashe Otechestvo (Moscow, 1991), 2: 155.

134 “Iz istorii obrazovaniia SSSR,” Izvestiia TsK KPSS 4 (1991): 172–73.

135 “Iz istorii,” 170.

136 Compare McNeal, “Stalin’s Conception,” 21–22, who assumes that the “minor nationalities” in the RSFSR would be “more tractable.” Given the history of Bashkir-Russian relations, as only one example, this is a large assumption.

137 “Iz istorii,” 173.

138 Vdovin, “National’naia politika,” 26, and the literature cited there.

139 A. I. Mikoian, Tak bylo: Razmyshleniia o minuvshem (Moscow, 1999), 559.

140 Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, 272–78.

141 See Lewin, “Grappling with Stalinism,” 308–09; and Moshe Lewin, “The Social Background of Stalinism,” in Robert C. Tucker, ed., Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation (New York, 1977), 129–31, for a similar distrust of stable bureaucratic structures.

142 For Stalin’s sensitivity to accusations of national Bolshevism, see S. V. Tsakunov, “NEP: Evoliutsiia rezhima i rozhdenie natsional-bolsheviszma,” in Iu. N. Afanas’ev, Sovetskaia obshchestvo: Vozniknovenie, razvitie, istoricheskii final (Moscow, 1997), 1: 100–12.

143 Stalin, Sochineniia, 7: 141–42.


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