2010/05/20

STALIN, THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND THE NATIONAL QUESTION

One night eight years ago we were arriving to Vienna by car. It was heavy raining and we stopped at the first hotel we saw. The hotel receptionist, a Colombian, recommended us a cheaper pension which was two block away. We found Schönbrunn Pension easily and they gave us a high-ceiling room on the ground floor.
The next day when we went out, we noticed a plaque on the facade with this inscription:

“In diesem Haus
wohnte im Jänner 1913
J.W.Stalin
hier schrieb er das bedeutende Werk
“Marxismus und nationale Frage”



(“In this house / lived in January 1913 / J. V. Stalin / Here he wrote the important work / "Marxism and the national question")

I’m sure the famous Georgian was in the same room we were and he wrote there some pages of his work “Marxism and the national question”.

Some ideas like these:
"A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common
(I) language,
(II) territory,
(III)economic life, and
(IV) psychological make-up manifested in a common culture"


And he adds:
"It is only when all these characteristics are present together that we have a nation"

Later in the book Stalin develops his theory and spends a lot of space (about 35 % of the book) on speaking of the Jewish people and the Bund (Jewish Workers’ Socialist Party).

Things are very clear to him: the Jewish people are not a nation because they have no territory.

The Bund was opposed to Zionism and emigration to Palestine. They were in favor of the use of Yiddish as the Jewish national language and opposed to the Hebrew (the religious language was supported by Zionists)

But Stalin cries against the Bund:

“...Its very existence as an extra-territorial organisation drives it to separatism. The Bund does not possess a definite integral territory; it operates on "foreign" territories, whereas the neighbouring Polish, Lettish and Russian Social-Democracies are international territorial collective bodies. But the result is that every extension of these collective bodies means a "loss" to the Bund and a restriction of its field of action...”

In his opinion the Jewish people had no choice and had to disappear.

These were the ideas of the Left in 1913: Jews, you have no future!


Later, in 1934, Joseph Stalin established the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. It was the result of his nationality policy, which allowed for the Jews of the Soviet Union to receive a territory in which to pursue Yiddish cultural heritage within a socialist framework.
According to the 1939 population census, 17,695 Jews lived in the region (16% of the total population). The census of 1959, taken 6 years after Stalin's death, revealed that the Jewish population of the JAO declined to 14,269 persons. As of 2002, 2,327 Jews were living in the JAO (1.2% of the total population), while ethnic Russians made up 90% of the JAO population. More information from Wiikipedia here.