All Commentary
Tuesday, May 1, 1962

Mental Gaps In Our Thinking About Russia


Dr. Dobriansky, Professor of Economics at Georgetown University, is well known as a writer and lecturer on communism and Soviet policy.

Although we have dissolved much of the fog in our thinking about Russia during the past ten years, our concept of this global menace still remains distorted by a series of assiduously cultivated myths.

In fact, I have just now momen­tarily nourished one of these myths by saying, “our thinking about Russia” when I should have referred to the “Soviet Union.” This is the most common myth: using “Russia” and “the Soviet Union” interchangeably as if they were the same territory and the same people. It suits the com­munists just fine when we commit this error.

Russia is only one of the fifteen entities that comprise the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. But as the “boss” nation of the com­munist federation it strives to make the world believe that the other nations are natural members of one big Russian family whose papa sits in the Kremlin.

This is not just a semantic quib­ble. Moscow wants us to forget that its empire began with the gun-point capture, between 1918 and 1922, of over fourteen non-Russian nations that differ, often markedly, from Russia proper in language, race, history, culture, and religion. Simply stated, these nations are no more Russian than the Irish are English, or than the Japanese are Chinese. They were first subjugated by the Czars, then more terribly resubjugated by Lenin and Stalin, and are still in captivity under Khrushchev.

When they are misidentified as Russian, it serves Moscow‘s pur­poses because the term Russia by­passes the fact of a Soviet empire, and obscures that empire’s inter­nal problems and inherent weak­nesses. Moreover, when we call the people of the many non-Russian nations Russians, we in effect ig­nore their legitimate feelings of national pride and loyalty, and we appear to approve of their forci­ble absorption into the communist totalitarian empire.

But even more important, the acceptance of this first myth con­ditions people to an easy and often unquestioning belief in other myths that build up the false face the Kremlin shows to the world.

A Federal Union

For instance, the Kremlin com­munists and their apologists in America have for years spread the fiction that the U. S. S. R. is a federal union of states very much like the United States of America. This spurious claim is obviously an attempt to equate Russia‘s armed conquest and forced incor­poration of other nations with our union of fifty states and territories that freely willed their own feder­alization. Ours is a single and free­ly united nation; the Soviet Union is a multinational empire held to­gether by totalitarian brutality, but disguised as a federal union.

This myth is unwittingly en­couraged by the failure of our press and news commentators con­tinually to emphasize that the So­viet Union is a vast and brutally forged empire within an even more wickedly wrought communist em­pire. Prominent Americans on oc­casion perpetuate this myth of a Soviet Union of freely federalized states when they refer to Ukraine as Russia‘s Texas and compare Byelorussia to Massachusetts!

Part of the price we pay for this thoughtlessness is our failure to convince millions in Africa, Asia, Central and South America that we are not the imperialistic and colonial monster that the commu­nist empire builders charge us as being.

The Nationality Problem

The Soviet Union‘s myth of it being a free federal union similar to the United States of America is supported by what may be called its population myth. This is ex­pressed in such terms as “the na­tional minorities” and “the na­tionality problem” in the Soviet Union, with the suggestion that it parallels the U. S. minorities situation but is handled with more justice and wisdom, and with much less friction.

Here again we see the hand of masterful propagandists, unin­hibited by obligations to the truth, turning gullible minds away from the fact of the captive non-Russian nations in the Soviet Union, and toward the scarlet fiction that some 214 million Russians loving­ly stand together under the ham­mer and sickle.

The facts contradict this Soviet-created illusion. About 54 per cent of the U.S.S.R.’s population is non-Russian. In fourteen of the Soviet republics non-Russian natives are a majority of their population. Only a propagandist indifferent to truth would call these nations, with their native majorities, “na­tional minorities.” They are na­tions with distinctive cultures and histories, one of which goes back 4,000 years. But by referring to them as “national minorities” Moscow further diverts attention from the empire it rules and the colonialism it practices as a fixed policy.

It is grimly amusing to note that Karl Marx called the Czarist empire “a prison-house of na­tions”—an even more appropriate epithet for the system that today pays lip loyalty to communism’s founder.

Misplacing the Blame

The free world’s acceptance of these Soviet myths is indicated by another common error we make one the Kremlin totalitarians are content to leave uncorrected. That is, the mistake many anti-Soviet individuals and agencies make when they rebuke other fervent opponents of the Soviet Union who customarily assert that the free world’s enemy is “totalitarian Russian imperialism.” The burden of their protest against this char­acterization is that our real enemy is international communism, and that the term “totalitarian im­perialism” lays the crimes of com­munism on the Russian nation and people, rather than on the Marxist ideology.

Moscow has no quarrel with this argument. It permits her to con­tinue accumulating slave colonies behind the façade of Marxist his­torical materialism that has no relationship to the Soviet empire. When we attack Soviet com­munism as the sole enemy, Khrush­chev has only to reply that the “imperialist West” is opposed to the concept of soviets, which are no more than representative workers’ councils.

But when we point to Russia’s history of imperialism—during the Czars under the banners of the Third Rome and Pan Slavism, and since 1918 under the guise of com­munism—then Khrushchev can do little more than rage impotently, as he has most notably done when we celebrated Captive Nations Week.

Moreover, when we speak of Russian totalitarian imperialism and refer to its colonialism and the certainty of ultimate Moscow control and empire absorption, then we are dealing with facts that have flesh and blood meaning in the world of today. Restless millions of have-nots are more easily aroused against imperialism and colonialism—which they think they have experienced and under­stand—than against communism, which they do not know or under­stand.

The Big Brother Myth

In order to solidify its empire and lull the suspicions of newly acquired colonies, Moscow has for years circulated the Big-Brother myth: the figment that the U.S.S.R. is an ever-loving brother­hood, with the Russians them­selves always the benevolent big brothers.

However, there are some false notes in this sweet song: for ex­ample, that the non-Russian na­tions in the Soviet Union do not want to be independent, and that they are grateful to the Russians for whatever they have of well­being. In order to make this cam­paign more plausible and palatable the Kremlin ordered a rewriting of the early histories of Ukraine, White Ruthenia, and Muscovy (Russia). Moscow not only com­piles dishonest records of its own history, but reaches far back to distort and twist the chronicles of earlier times to fit its propaganda.

There is, of course, no special brotherly relationship between the Soviet Union‘s non-Russian na­tions and Russia. Nor do they rec­ognize the Russians as their bene­factors. In fact, they know that Russia would be a second-rate power if deprived of its economi­cally rich captive nations.

Although the big brother song is crooned primarily to those within the Soviet Union, it is also yodeled in the free world to dis­courage us from thinking of Kremlin power as a totalitarian empire without precedent in his­tory, extending from the Danube to the Pacific.

It is no coincidence that the Soviet myths we have been dis­cussing complement and support each other. They are the carefully devised and skillfully circulated inventions of propaganda tech­nicians who employ truth only when it serves their purposes.

It Began Before 1940

Moreover, ‘when we fall into these several propaganda traps, we often then unwittingly do some myth-making of our own in behalf of the Kremlin. For example, we find ourselves dating the begin­ning of Red Russian imperialism as of the 1940′s when Moscow seized the Baltic States and then moved into Central Europe. We point to the capture of these “satellite” nations and suggest that a just and enduring peace could be established if the Iron Curtain were pushed back to the Soviet Union‘s prewar borders. Thus we imply that the Soviet Union is truly Russian, a freely organized federation of some 214 million Russians and some foreign language minorities such as are found in our own country. The Russians’ record of imperialist aggression between 1917 and 1940 is consequently ignored. Russia‘s basic empire goes unremarked, while its captives—greater in number than the total “satellite” population—perhaps conclude the world has forgotten them.

Endorsement by Implication

Finally, the myth of peaceful coexistence between the Soviet Union and the free world amounts to little more than agreement that the Kremlin shall be permitted to strengthen its empire and perfect its plans for the subversion and eventual conquest of the free world. Peaceful coexistence is a form of negative support of Rus­sian totalitarian imperialism.

The alternative is not war, but the development of a relentless spirit of revolution against Rus­sian imperial rule and for the in­dependence of the captive nations both within the Soviet Union and the more recently acquired “satel­lite” nations.

We can best engender this spirit of revolt against Red tyranny by continually rededicat­ing ourselves to the great tradi­tions that have made us a power­ful nation of free men. However incomplete may be our achieve­ment of ideal freedom, neverthe­less we still stand before the world—and particularly before the cap­tive world—as an eloquent ex­ample of freedom and its rewards.

When we stand on this founda­tion—and resolve it shall not be undermined—we can in all truth and consistency reaffirm our na­tional tradition that all the peoples of the world have the God-given right to determine their own des­tiny, free of external coercion or interference. And inherent in this tradition is its logical extension that every individual has the basic right freely to choose his own way of life, without dictation from coercive government.

This inspiration, example, and goal will always remain our major contribution to the freedom of other peoples, and whatever else we do for them should be done within and as an expression of these principles.

Peaceful coexistence, a term first used by the wily Lenin, is a Kremlin cold war propaganda prop with great slogan value because it appeals to our yearning for peace. But since the phrase prop­erly embraces a free and liberal exchange of cultures, ideas, and information, it is impossible of true realization. The Iron Curtain cannot be lifted without endanger­ing the survival of the Russian totalitarian empire. And that is all the Kremlin is interested in preserving and expanding.

It is instructive to observe that Moscow attempts no defense of its brazen colonialism, but instead shifts the spotlight from itself to others by shamelessly demanding, as it did in December 1960, that the United Nations call for an end to colonialism. This from a power that holds at least 22 nations—totaling over 214 million souls—in direct, iron-bound captivity.

And this from a centrally con­trolled international conspiracy that plots the subjugation of still more nations, while the free world since the end of World War II has added to its rolls over 35 former colonies, protectorates, and other dependent areas—with a total population of 800 million people—most of them helped to national independence by the Western powers upon whom they were pre­viously dependent.

Thus, as the Western nations abandon colonialism, Russian im­perialism retains all of its captives and hungers for more.

When the world realizes—as it must for its salvation—the colos­sal hypocrisy that shields Mos­cow‘s malevolent ambitions, then we may hope for an end of the terror that bestrides this little star on which we live. •

Population Figures Major National Entities in U.S.S.R.*

Russians

98 million

Non-Russians

116 million

Estonia

1,200,000

Latvia

2,100,000

Lithuania

2,700,000

Byelorussia

10,800,000

Ukraine

42,000,000

Cossackia

10,000,000

Idel-Ural

15,000,000

Georgia

4,000,000

Armenia

1,800,000

Azerbaijan

3,700,000

Turkestan

17,500,000

Others

5,200,000

  * Rounded estimates based on 1959 U.S.S.R. census.