Korenizatsiia (Russian: коренизация, romanized: korenizatsiya, pronounced [kərʲɪnʲɪˈzatsɨjə]; Ukrainian: коренізація, romanized: korenizatsiia; transl. "indigenization" or "nativization") was an early policy of the Soviet Union for the integration of non-Russian nationalities into the governments of their specific Soviet republics. In the 1920s, the policy promoted representatives of the titular nation, and their national minorities, into the lower administrative levels of the local government, bureaucracy, and nomenklatura of their Soviet republics. The main idea of the korenizatsiia was to grow communist cadres for every nationality. In Russian, the term korenizatsiya (коренизация) derives from korennoye naseleniye (коренное население, "native population"). The policy practically ended in the mid-1930s with the deportations of various nationalities.
Politically and culturally, the nativization policy aimed to eliminate Russian domination and culture in Soviet republics where ethnic Russians did not constitute a majority. This policy was implemented even in areas with large Russian-speaking populations; for instance, all children in Ukraine were taught in the Ukrainian language in school. The policies of korenizatsiia facilitated the Communist Party's establishment of the local languages in government and education, in publishing, in culture, and in public life. In that manner, the cadre of the local Communist Party were promoted to every level of government, and ethnic Russians working in said governments were required to learn the local language and culture of the given Soviet republic.
The nationalities policy was formulated by the Bolshevik party in 1913, four years before they came to power in Russia. Vladimir Lenin sent a young Joseph Stalin (himself a Georgian and therefore an ethnic minority member) to Vienna, which was a very ethnically diverse city due to its status as capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Stalin reported back to Moscow with his ideas for the policy. It was summarized in Stalin's pamphlet (his first scholarly publication), Marxism and the National Question (1913).
As adopted in 1923 korenizatsiia involved teaching and administration in the language of the republic; and promoting non-Russians to positions of power in Republic administrations and the party, including for a time the creation of a special group of soviets called natssovety (нацсоветы, "nationality councils") in their own natsrayony (нацрайоны, national districts) based on concentrations of minorities within what were minority republics. For example, in Ukraine in the late 1920s there were even natssovety for Russians and Estonians.
In 1920s, the society was still not "Socialist". There was animosity towards the Russians and towards other nationalities on the part of the Russians, but there were also conflicts and rivalries among other nationalities.
In 1923, at the 12th Party Congress, Stalin identified two threats to the success of the party's "nationalities policy": Great Power Chauvinism (Russian: великодержавный шовинизм, romanized: velikoderzhavnyy shovinizm, "Great State Chauvinism) and local nationalism. However, he described the former as the greater danger:
[The] Great-Russian chauvinist spirit, which is becoming stronger and stronger owing to the N.E.P., . . . [finds] expression in an arrogantly disdainful and heartlessly bureaucratic attitude on the part of Russian Soviet officials towards the needs and requirements of the national republics. The multi-national Soviet state can become really durable, and the co-operation of the peoples within it really fraternal, only if these survivals are vigorously and irrevocably eradicated from the practice of our state institutions. Hence, the first immediate task of our Party is vigorously to combat the survivals of Great-Russian chauvinism.
The main danger, Great-Russian chauvinism, should be kept in check by the Russians themselves, for the sake of the larger goal of building socialism. Within the (minority) nationality areas new institutions should be organized giving the state a national (minority) character everywhere, built on the use of the nationality languages in government and education, and on the recruitment and promotion of leaders from the ranks of minority groups. On the central level the nationalities should be represented in the Soviet of Nationalities.
Between 1933 and 1938 korenizatsiia was not actually repealed. Its provisions merely stopped being enforced. There also began purges of the leaderships of the national republics and territories. The charge against non-Russians was that they had instigated national strife and oppressed the Russians or other minorities in the republics. In 1937, the Soviet government proclaimed that local elites had become hired foreign agents and their goal had become dismemberment of the Soviet Union and the restoration of capitalism. Now it was time to see that the Russians got fair treatment. National leaderships of the republics and autonomies were liquidated en masse.
By the mid-1930s, with purges in some of the national areas, the policy of korenizatsiia took a new turn, and by the end of the 1930s the policy of promoting local languages began to be balanced by greater Russianization, though perhaps not overt Russification or attempts to assimilate the minorities. By this time, non-Russians found their appetite whetted rather than satiated by korenizatsiia and there was indication it was encouraging inter-ethnic violence to the extent that the territorial integrity of the USSR would be in danger. In addition, ethnic Russians resented the institutionalized and artificial "reverse discrimination" that benefited non-Russians and regarded them as ungrateful and manipulative as a result. Another concern was that the Soviet Union's westernmost minorities – Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles, Finns etc – who had been previously treated with conscious benevolence in order to provide propaganda value to members of their ethnic groups in nations bordering the USSR (and thus facilitating future national unification, which would then bring about territorial expansion of the USSR) were now instead increasingly seen as vulnerable to influence from across the border, "fifth columns" for expansionist states seeking to acquire Soviet territory inhabited by their own ethnic group. The adherence of the masses to national rather than class identity was as strong in Russia as in other republics and regions. Between 1937 and 1953, racial policies began to creep into nationality policies, with certain nationalities seen as having immutable traits, particularly nationalities in the unstable borderlands.
Moreover, Stalin seemed set on greatly reducing the number of officially recognized nationalities by contracting the official list of nationalities in the 1939 census, compared with the 1926 census. The development of so-called "national schools" (национальные школы) in which the languages of minority nationalities were the main media of instruction continued, spreading literacy and universal education in many national minority languages, while teaching Russian as a required subject of study. The term korenizatsiia went out of use in the latter half of the 1930s, replaced by more bureaucratic expressions, such as "selection and placement of national cadres" (подбор и расстановка национальных кадров).
From 1937, the central press started to praise Russian language and Russian culture. Mass campaigns were organized to denounce the "enemies of the people". "Bourgeois nationalists" were new enemies of the Russian people which had suppressed the Russian language. The policy of indigenization was abandoned. In the following years, the Russian language became a compulsory subject in all Soviet schools.
Pre-revolution Russian nationalism was also rehabilitated. Many of the heroes of Russian history were re-appropriated for glorification. The Russian people became the "elder brother" of the "socialist family of nations". A new kind of patriotism, Soviet patriotism, emerged, with national survival taking priority over ideological conflicts between communists and fascists.
In 1938, Russian became a mandatory subject of study in all non-Russian schools. In general, the cultural and linguistic russification reflected the overall centralization imposed by Stalin. The Cyrillic script was instituted for a number of Soviet languages, including the languages of Central Asia that in the late 1920s had been given Latin alphabets to replace Arabic ones.
Moldova became part of the USSR as a consequence of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Soon after, the language of the country was renamed to "Moldavian" and it ceased being written in the Latin alphabet, changing to Cyrillic. This policy would only be reversed in 1989, after large demonstrations imbued with patriotic feeling. Romanian is an official language in the Moldovan constitution since its independence, and it is Moldova's sole official language today. Russian is still in use but not as important as it was in the Soviet era, since it has no special status in the country and its usage as mother tongue has been declining for some time.
During the Soviet era, a significant number of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians migrated to other Soviet republics, and many of them settled there. According to the last census in 1989, the Russian 'diaspora' in the Soviet republics had reached 25 million.
Some historians evaluating the Soviet Union as a colonial empire ("Soviet Empire"), applied the "prison of nations" idea to the USSR. Thomas Winderl wrote "The USSR became in a certain sense more a prison-house of nations than the old Empire had ever been."
In April 1923 the Russian Communist Party formalized the policy of korenizatsiia (indigenization or nativization) ...
Elsewhere in the USSR, the late 1930s and the outbreak of World War II also saw some significant changes: elements of korenizatsiya were phased out... the Russians were officially anointed as the 'elder brothers' of the Soviet family of nations, whilst among historians Tsarist imperialism was rehabilitated as having had a 'progressive significance'