The Name Game
Once, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin said: “A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” (Marxism and the National & Colonial Question) In other words, a population can be called nation only if all these characteristics are present in them.
Stalin and his successors had tried to implement this idea of nation forcefully in order to remove the identity of different ethnicities in the erstwhile Soviet Union. However, their decision backfired and triggered the fall of the Socialist Federation in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. It is because the theory was purely dictatorial and state-centric. This theory is invalid in a liberal democratic country, like India.
Even before Stalin, the Tsars had tried to implement the theory in Russia. Later, the Communists imposed the Stalinist idea of nation after forcefully conquering Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and some other former Soviet states. In the 1970s, Moscow had circulated some images of beautiful Azerbaijani girls performing Russian folk and ballet dance.
The scenario changed in the late 1980s, when the country started facing a political crisis. When the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse, a young man from Azerbaijan told a senior Indian Communist leader that the Azerbaijanis were basically orthodox Muslims. The young man said that elderly Azerbaijani people were upset with the Soviet leadership, as they were not allowed to perform Hajj – an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Hajj is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims, who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence. As Soviet Union was an atheist nation, Stalin had imposed the restriction on Hajj pilgrimage.
The man, who visited India in the late 1980s, further informed the Indian Communist leader that Moscow used to loot oil from Azerbaijan during the Soviet era. However, the Azerbaijanis had no other option, but to use costly ‘Russian’ products. Even, Kremlin did not allow the Azerbaijanis to elect their ‘own’ government.
Moreover, the Soviet leadership had tried its best to dilute the parentage of the Azerbaijani people! The Azerbaijanis speak mainly Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Semitic Muslim languages. However, they were not allowed to use Arabic Muslim names during the Soviet era. As a result, a person – named ‘Ali’ – had to register his name as ‘Alimov’! For the Azerbaijanis, the forceful and brutal use of Indo-European-Russian-Slav languages was an insult. The man told his Indian host: “You will not find a single Russian when the Russian tanks will return.” He was right. That’s why the statues of Vladimir Lenin and Stalin were destroyed immediately after the Russian tanks left Baku. On that day, the Azerbaijanis tried to erase the ‘Socialist’ memories.
The use of force triggered the fall of Russia. Otherwise, the ‘medieval’ central Asians had received the ideas of science, knowledge and modernity from the Russians! Both Socialism and Fascism had tried to stamp their authority on the state with the help of ‘political hooliganism’! In the pretext of safeguarding the ‘great ideology’, they had deployed tanks and ruled people with an iron fist. As the Socialist leaders concentrated only on the process to create a benevolent society, they ignored the pain of the people.
The scenario is completely different in India. So far, multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic India has managed to survive without using force. Many Indian provinces, such as Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya, experienced ‘military separatism’ in the past. However, the Indian government took a number of steps for the overall development of those provinces. Now, people, living in that region, elect their own government. In recent times, they have dumped the regional parties and elected national parties! In the 1970s, people of those provinces used to say: “I am not an Indian.” And now when someone asks those people whether they are from India or China, they feel the pain. It’s because they have realised the concept of India as a nation. India has solved the ethnic problem in its own way. The Stalinist idea of nation won’t work in the South Asian nation!
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