The Russian Idea of a Confederation of Free Self-Standing Nationalities in the Context of the Russian Revolution

Sri Aurobindo identified an idea that arose early in the 20th century in Russia that supported the proposition that each nation or nationality should be able to exercise free self-determination in terms of its governmental control and management, and that coordination between these should be basically as among equals.  This idea arose within the context of Czarist Russia and its imperial control of a number of non-Russian homelands including Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, etc.  Yet it developed during the period of the First World War and was side-tracked by the Bolshevik Revolution that occurred near the end of the World War and swept away everything else before it to set up the dictatorship of a small yet powerful clique under the rubric of the Soviet Union.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  The Russian Revolution “…sought, like the French Revolution before it, to transform immediately and without easy intermediate stages the whole basis not only of government, but of society, and has, moreover, been carried out under pressure of a disastrous war.   This double situation led inevitably to an unexampled anarchy and, incidentally, to the forceful domination of an extreme party which represented the ideas of the Revolution in their most uncompromising and violent form.  The Bolshevik despotism corresponds in this respect to the Jacobin despotism of the French Reign of Terror.  The latter lasted long enough to secure its work, which was to effect violently and irrevocably the transition from the post-feudal system of society to the first middle-class basis of democratic development.  The Labourite despotism in Russia, the rule of the Soviets, fixing its hold and lasting long enough, could effect the transition of society to a second and more advanced basis of the same or even to a still farther development.  But we are concerned only with the effect on the ideal of free nationality.  On this point all Russia except the small reactionary party was from the first agreed; but the resort to the principle of government by force brought in a contradictory element which endangered its sound effectuation even in Russia itself and therefore weakened the force which it might have had in the immediate future of the world-development.  For it stands on a moral principle which belongs to the future, while government of other nations by force belongs to the past and present and is radically inconsistent with the founding of the new world-arrangement on the basis of free choice and free status.  It must therefore be considered in itself apart from any application now received, which must necessarily be curbed and imperfect.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 30, The Principle of Free Confederation, pp. 263-264