Nation-building in the Soviet Way


  • Vitaly Tikhonov



H. Yilmaz; national identity; Soviet historiography; nation-building; national history


The author reviews a monograph by H. Yilmaz, the first attempt to synthesise data for the last half-century on the issue of Soviet nation-building: it demonstrates that in the 1930s–1940s, the Stalin regime purposefully formed historical narratives of the peoples of the USSR to lay foundations for their national identity. The author demonstrates that foreign policy played an important role in constructing the necessary historical narratives, especially the fear that neighbouring countries could use some nations for their own purposes. The most important reason for the intensive construction of the Soviet version of Ukraine’s national history was Nazi Germany’s desire to prove the historical inferiority of Slavic peoples. The book pays special attention to the formation of a new pantheon of national heroes and their use by Soviet propaganda to stimulate patriotic mobilisation during the Great Patriotic War. According to H. Yilmaz, no universal pattern was used to create national histories. For instance, the national histories of Azerbaijan and Ukraine had more national romantic features than the Kazakh historical narrative. Thus, the process behind the writing of national histories was not one-sided compliance with the orders of the Soviet centre. National histories were authored by local historians controlled by local elites actively involved in nation-building. The book emphasises the fact that that images of the past created during the Stalin era still have a significant influence on the modern identity of the citizens of the post-Soviet republics.

Author Biography

Vitaly Tikhonov

PhD (History), Leading Researcher, Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

19, Dmitry Ulyanov Str., 117292, Moscow, Russia.


But, Yu. (2017). Ponyatie “naciya”: rossijskij i evropejskij kontekst [The Concept of Nation: Russian and European context]. In Quaestio Rossica. Vol. 5, № 3. P. 882–892. DOI 10.15826/qr.2017.3.256/

Lidner, R. (2003). Gistoryki i ulada: natsyyatvorchy pratses i gistarychnaya palityka u Belarusi XIX–XX st. [Historians and Power: The Process of Nation-building and Historical Policy in Belarus, 19th–20th Centuries] / transl. by L. Barshcheusky. St Petersburg, Neuski prastsyag. 540 p.

Tillett, L. (1969). The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non-Russian Nationalities. Chapel-Hill, Univ. of North Carolina Press. 480 p.

Yekelchyk, S. (2004). Stalin’s Empire of Memory: Russian-Ukrainian Relations in the Soviet Historical Imagination. Toronto, Univ. of Toronto Press. 252 p.



How to Cite

Tikhonov, V. (2018). Nation-building in the Soviet Way. Quaestio Rossica, 6(3), 912–919.



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