The Buriats and the Far Eastern Republic : an aspect of revolutionary Russia 1920-22
The Far Eastern Republic (1920-22) was a property-owning democracy, established and run by Soviet Russia with the aim of exploiting American-Japanese rivalry to oust Japanese interventionists occupying the Russian Pacific littoral. The Buriats under its jurisdiction were a northern Mongol people, Buddhists and nomadic livestock-herders. The thesis explores the complexity and interactivity of communist policies and the difficulty of reconciling conflicting aims within the revolutionary agenda. Changes undergone by the Transbaikal and its Buriats in the pre-revolutionary period are briefly outlined, focusing upon those resulting from modernisation and changing Tsarist policy. Special attention is given to the two main institutions of Buriat culture, its nomadic livestock rearing economy and its religious system. Buriat efforts to attain self-government during the Russian Revolution brought success under the Far Eastern Republic, but autonomy was difficult to establish. Communists would not tolerate 'bourgeois nationalists' of doubtful loyalty, while deep-seated inter-ethnic problems over land prevented delineation of an autonomous Buriat territory. Alienation of the huge Russian peasant majority could not be allowed as it would threaten communist control over the republic's democracy. Many Buriats had fled the civil war to settle in Mongolia. Russia wanted them to return with their huge herds of animals, partly to ease food shortages and partly to assist Comintern's aims. Distrust and governmental incompetence hindered this. Buddhists' fears of military conscription exacerbated this problem and helped to build a very strong 'anti-autonomy' movement in the form of the theocratic movement, led by lamas, seen by communists as 'parasites' who refused to work, but lived off the people. Although this movement echoed the sentiments of many poor Buriats who did not want an expensive autonomous administration which sheltered many enemies and exploiters, the association with religion ensured it was demonstrated and crushed by the communists.