Stalinism and empire : Soviet policy in Tuva, 1921-1953
This thesis provides an investigation of the nature of Soviet rule in the early Soviet
and Stalinist periods among non-Russian peoples. The research begins with a' .
theoretical overview of the idea of the USSR as an empire, and provides a broad
comparison of other European empires and the Soviet regime to provide a context for
the historical analysis which follows.
The main part of the thesis consists of an examination of the history of Tuva, a remote
region in southern Siberia, inhabited by the Tuvan people, who were nomadic
pastoralists closely related to the Mongols. Based on primary sources from the region
and from Moscow, the research argues that the expansion of Soviet rule into Tuva
bears close comparison with the nature of imperial expansion as practiced by other
empires. In the 1920s - when Tuva was formally an independent state - Soviet
influence relied on the presence of Russian settlers in the region, and was
characteristic of colon-style colonies in other empires. The Soviet ideological urge for
national equality ensured that this system was unsustainable in the long term, and a
new local elite was formed from young Tuvans, which was used to overthrow more
traditional leaders, and to attempt to transform much of the way of life ofTuvans.
This new pro-Soviet elite and more nationalist counter-elites struggled for power in
the 1930s, but more nationalist groups were dismissed from power and often executed
or imprisoned in purges in the late 1930s. Despite the triumph of pro-Soviet groups in
the leadership, the full implementation of Soviet policies was only achieved in the 1950s, after Tuva had been incorporated into the USSR and a mass influx of ethnic
Russians had taken place.
The thesis provides the first detailed, primary-source account of Tuva' s history in
western literature, and is an addition to a growing body of work on non-Russian
peoples of the USSR and the nature of the Soviet multiethnic policy.