Sunday, June 11, 2017

Idel-Ural – An Idea from Revolutionary Times that May have a Revolutionary Future

Paul Goble

           Staunton, June 11 – The Russian revolution and ensuing civil war were never the cartoon cut-out struggles between the Bolsheviks and the Whites that many, including Vladimir Putin, appear to believe it was. Far more forces were involved, and the increased public attention to the immediate post-revolutionary period is attracting more attention to those groups as well.

            One consequence of that is that even if Putin’s appeals for national reconciliation between the Reds and the Whites in fact succeed, a highly unlikely proposition given what the supporters of each are learning about the other, that coming together will have little or no impact on all the other groups involved in the struggles between 1917 and 1922.

              Instead, as more information becomes available about these groups, ethnic, class, religious and otherwise, they are likely to provoke discussions about alternative futures that were cut off when the Bolsheviks won and suppressed everyone else and even to attract support among those attracted by those alternatives.

              One of the most important of these groups and the alternative future it called for was the movement in the Middle Volga known as Idel-Ural, Turkic for “the land between the Volga and the Urals mountains that included at various times the Tatars, the Bashkirs, the Mordvins, the Mari, the Udmurts, and the Chuvash.

             It has been usefully discussed in a new article by Ersubay Yangarov who points not only to the divisions the Bolsheviks were able to exploit to destroy it but also to the continuing interest of many among these nations in the idea, an interest which is not so much opposed to either Reds or Whites but to the side of both (

               There are many other such movements and groups that are now resonating among the nations within the current borders of the Russian Federation, and they merit attention not simply as historical curiosities, the way they are sometimes discussed in Moscow and the West, but as real alternatives that may matter even more in the future than they did in the past. 

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