The Bolsheviks were originally quite unsympathetic to the ideas of the nation and national community. In Bolshevik thinking, the national community was primarily a bourgeois construction that served to draw the attention of the proletariat away from their real and objective interests. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union that the Bolsheviks established on the ruins of the Tsarist Empire was the first state to systematically base its political units on ethnicity. In the Soviet Union, national identity comprised the main principle of territorial political organization. I have explored this paradox through an investigation of a particularly prominent example of this strategy, the so-called national delimitation of Central Asia. In 1924, the Communist Party dissolved the multiethnic political entities of Bukhara, Khorezm, and Turkestan and replaced them with national Soviet republics (and oblasts). The national delimitation appears to be a particularly fruitful point of departure for a discussion of Soviet nationalities policy as it represented a fundamental reorganization of the region. What did the Soviet regime hope to achieve, and what kind of polity were the different national entities supposed to make up? On one hand, I have analyzed the discourse of the central Soviet authorities in connection with the delimitation in order to discuss how they perceived the introduction of national political entities and the role of these entities within the Soviet state.


National Identity National Community Soviet Regime Soviet State Objective Interest 
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© Arne Haugen 2003

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