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Unwilling Nation

Belorussia in the Soviet Union, 1921–1931 Nation wider Willen

Wei├črussland in der Sowjetunion, 1921–1931

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In Western historiography, the Soviet natsionalizatsiia and korenizatsiia programmes of the 1920s have usually been interpreted in one of two ways: either as a deliberate deception and exploitation of non-Russian national sentiments aimed at their ultimate overcoming or as an experiment which eventually failed due to its own success. In the case of Soviet Belorussia, neither of these two explanations applies. On the contrary, this article argues that Belarusisation was abandoned for its lack of success.

Designed to win over the local population and thus ensure Soviet rule in the Western borderland, Belarusisation ultimately failed to mobilise people through preconceived national categories. In daily use, many Belarusians and Jews preferred the Russian language, which offered assimilation and upward mobility, to the languages they had been assigned by the Communist Party. Modernisation and Belarusisation proved to be mutually exclusive: The large-scale influx of Belarusian peasants to the towns did not lead to the emergence of a distinct Belarusian urban culture but rather to their rapid Russification. Besides, most national minorities were anxious not to become second-class citizens, and therefore, despite party assurances to the contrary, suspicious of Belarusisation. Ultimately, the nation-building campaign run counter to the Sovietisation of the society. When the first Five-Year Plan led to a paradigm shift in Soviet policy in the late 1920s, Belarusisation gradually came to a halt and its intellectual proponents were removed from power.
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Language: German

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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  • The Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas ("East European History") present the discipline in its entire breadth; for thematically focused articles the emphasis lies on the territory of the former Russian Empire and the former Soviet Union. A double-blind review process with international experts ensures adherence to the annals' recognized high quality standards. An extensive section devoted to reviews informs the reader about current trends in German and international research. In addition, the editorial board publishes an electronic review supplement under the title jgo.e-reviews at
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