Cancelling Russia

Leon WASILEWSKI (1870-1936)



Political journalist, diplomat, historian, activist of the Polish Socialist Party (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, PPS), publishing also under the pennames Os…arz and L. Płochowski. B. Aug. 24, 1870, St. Petersburg, father of Wanda Wasilewska, who in 1941 joined the Soviet Communist Party, and in 1944 became vice-president of the Polish Committee for National Liberation (Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, PKWN). 1893-94 Wasilewski was a member of National League (Liga Narodowa), but in 1896 joined PPS. During World War I he was active in the Polish National Organization (Polska Organizacja Narodowa, 1914), Supreme National Committee (Naczelny Komitet Narodowy (NKN, 1915-1917), and Central National Committee (Centralny Komitet Narodowy, CKN, 1917), as well with the Piłsudski’ite Convent of Organization A (Konwent Organizacji A) and Polish Military Organization (Polska Organizacja Wojskowa, POW). In 1918-19 foreign minister, member of various delegations for international conferences. From 1928, member of the Head Council of PPS, from 1931 its vice-president. From 1924, president of the Institute for Study of Recent Polish History (Instytut Badania Najnowszej Historii Polskiej), from 1929 editor of Niepodległość, from 1931 president of the Institute for Study of Nationality Issues (Instytut Badania Spraw Narodowościowych). Author of many works, among them Litwa i Białoruś (“Lithuania and Belorussia”, 1912), Ukraińska sprawa narodowa w jej rozwoju historycznym (“The Ukrainian National Cause in its Historical Development”, 1925), Zarys dziejów PPS (“A Short History of the PPS”, 1925).

The selected fragments are from the article “Skasowanie Rosji” (“Cancelling Russia”), Przegląd Polityczny, May 1924, vol. 3, pp. 71-73.


There can be no doubt that the Bolsheviks are masters of destruction. What war weakened and undermined, they brought to ultimate ruin. Moreover, they caused a further disintegration of social and political life. The fanatical elimination of the intelligentsia, the liquidation of a better part of the industrial proletariat, the dramatic fall in the civilizational standards of the masses, the breakdown of the means of transportation, the mental depravation of the masses – all of this accompanied the Bolshevik regime. However, inflicting ruin and destroying previous forms of life, the Bolsheviks simultaneously – and unintentionally – created conditions that made the development of new forms and patterns possible. Moreover, these new forms and patterns, once they take root, make it impossible to recreate the former relations.

                The dissolution of large agricultural properties and the taking possession of land by peasants did not produce the effects expected by the Bolsheviks and did not make peasants supporters of communism. Nevertheless, a peasant landholder will under no circumstances allow the return of pomyeshchiki. Moreover, the Orthodox Church, so closely allied with the monarchy and the class of large owners in former Russia, will not regain its former importance. The Bolsheviks managed to bring about the internal disintegration of the Church even in Great Russia, where new feuding tendencies and currents have sprung up. […]

                There is one more area where the Bolsheviks brought about the destruction of relations established under the Tsars. This is the area of nationality, in which the Bolshevik economy, should it perpetuate itself, may lead to far-reaching consequences. Nationalist movements within the Russian State, repressed with utmost effort under the Tsars, assumed new forms of development as a consequence of Russia’s war defeats. It was already during the first Russian Revolution (1905) that nationalist tendencies came to the surface, not only in the western reaches of Russia, but also among the semi-barbarian tribes of Eastern Siberia. The post-revolutionary reaction, however, hampered their growth. It was only the disasters experienced by Russia during the World War and the German occupation that drove these movements onto the path of undisguised separatism. Yet not all peoples held under the heel of Tsardom managed to detach themselves from Russia. Even if we omit the Finnish and Turkic peoples and tribes in the North and East, or Belorussia, where the national movement was very feeble, the Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaidzhan and the mid-Asiatic khanats fell back under Russian domination.

                The life of the tribes, peoples, and nations of former Russia, awaking to independence, forced the Bolsheviks to take their cultural aspirations into account. Perceiving their power base in the Russian urban workers and in the urban population in general, even in Great Russia the Bolsheviks had difficult access to the countryside. What can we say, then, about regions inhabited by integrated masses of alien tribal origin, which did not speak Russian and therefore were totally inaccessible for the communist propaganda, but were already entertaining national aspirations, incipient or well-established? Driven by the desire to bring this non-Russian-speaking peasantry into their fold, the Bolsheviks sought ways to approach their mentality. Exploiting the nationalist aspirations proved an efficient tool for taking control of the non-Russian countryside.

                They started creating autonomous regions (oblast’) and republics with homogenous national populations, within the boundaries of former provinces. The use of local languages in schools, courts, offices, self-government bodies, etc. was introduced. A class of Communist intelligentsia began to be developed by means of special schools and courses. This intelligentsia, speaking in their native language, developed communist literature and press, established reading rooms, theatres, etc. In some places, for example in certain tribes of the Caucasus, the communist intelligentsia began creating new literatures, previously not existing in the given language. This was a formidable effort, but ideological communism often gave way to practical nationalism, far more appealing to the minds of the peasantry, especially those professing Islam. […] The Ukrainian, Tartar, Georgian, and other nationalist elements joined the communists in their work and started to have an ever-growing impact on the course of the nationalization of life in particular republics and autonomous provinces. The cause of combating Great Russian chauvinism was put on the agenda of the Communist Party congresses. Comrades from Georgia, Turkestan, etc. did not refrain from charging Russian comrades – communists like them – with russificatory tendencies. Russia was eliminated and today Soviet authorities publish decrees intended to combat the tradition of using this word.

Leon Wasilewski - Leon Wasilewski (1870-1936), publicysta, dyplomata, historyk, działacz Polskiej Partii Socjalistycznej, publikujący także pod pseudonimami Os…arz i L. Płochocki, ur. 24 sierpnia 1870 r. w Petersburgu, ojciec Wandy Wasilewskiej, która w 1941 r. została członkiem WKP(b) – sowieckiej partii komunistycznej, a w 1944 wiceprzewodniczącą PKWN. W latach 1893-94 Wasilewski był związany z Ligą Narodową, w 1896 wstąpił jednak do PPS. W latach 1897-1905 redagował socjalistyczny „Przedświt”, stając się jednym z przywódców tzw. starych w PPS, a po rozłamie w partii, jaki nastąpił w 1906 r., stał się czołowym działaczem PPS-Frakcji Rewolucyjnej, członkiem jej władz i redaktorem jej organów prasowych („Robotnik”, „Przedświt” i in.). Podczas I wojny światowej aktywny w Polskiej Organizacji Narodowej (1914), NKN (1915-17) i CKN (1917) oraz w związanych z J. Piłsudskim Konwencie Organizacji A i Polskiej Organizacji Wojskowej. W latach 1918-19 minister spraw zagranicznych, członek różnych delegacji polskich na konferencje międzynarodowe. Od 1928 r. członek Rady Naczelnej PPS, od 1931 r. jej wiceprzewodniczący. Od 1924 r. prezes Instytutu Badania Najnowszej Historii Polskiej, od 1929 redaktor „Niepodległości”, od 1931 prezes Instytutu Badania Spraw Narodowościowych. Autor wielu prac "Litwa i Białoruś" (1912), "Ukraińska sprawa narodowa w jej rozwoju historycznym" (1925), "Zarys dziejów PPS" (1925). W 2001 r. OMP wydał wybór pism Wasilewskiego "Drogi porozumienia".

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