|Terry Martin book is the most comprehensive study on the Soviet nationalities policies up to date. It is an excellent complementary to Brandenberger’s volume. The usage of the phrase “affirmative action empire” describes the Soviet leadership support for ethnic groups, primarily the state’s fostering of national territories, languages, elites, and identities of these ethnic groups (pp.18). Martin shatters through his research and finding the stereotypes of the Soviet Union as a ‘prison of nation’ and that of the direct, forced, and all-pervasive Russification of nations and nationalities in the USSR.
Terry Martin sees uses two related forms of nationality policy in the Soviet Union from 1920 to 1940: korenizatsiia and natsionalizatsiia. The first coinage is the general term describing the set of processes by which Soviet power was to become native, intimate popular, and comprehensible (Lenin). During the instrumentalization of korenizatsiia two versions of it developed. It could be “mechanical”- the “affirmative action” was applied regardless of conditions, to the largest possible extent, and at the expense of the Russian core for fear of “great power chauvinism”. And it could be “functional” – it would promote ethnic elites within the limits a necessary modus vivendi with the Russian core. The latter version is the basis for natsionalizatsiia (Stalin discursive preference to korenizatsiia) – the nation-state building project based upon a hierarchy of national loyalties, but without a sole titular nation.
Terry Martin also extensively looks into the dark side of the nationalities policy of the Soviet regime – the terror and purges. He states that Stalinism’s conceptualization of loyalty, state-building and raison d’état determined the character of what were then called the “national operations” (deportation, execution, imprisonment, forced labor upon entire “enemy national groups)”. The “affirmative action” policies were not abandoned, but their character was greatly altered by the concepts such as “enemy class”, “saboteurs”, “collaborationists”, “deviationists” or “bourgeoisie nationalism”. Ultimately, Martin argues that the dominance of the Russian core in the USSR was rather an indirect than a direct result of the state-building and identitarian discourse of the Stalinist regime.