The Soviet Far East as a strategic outpost and the regional authorities' nationality policy

The Korean question, 1920-1929

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This article analyses the centre-periphery divergence over the Korean question in the Russian Far East, taking into account material from both Russian central and regional archives. The relative permeability of the frontiers in the Far East practically up to the 1950s and the heavy dependence of the Russian/Soviet Far East's economy on Manchurian commodity streams at least until the beginning of the 1930s gave this region a 'double periphery' character. After the act of judicial 'Sovietization' of the Russian Far East, the Bolsheviks initially tested a model wherein the 'political substance' of Bolshevism was developed on the old market economic framework, which had been adapted to the needs of the new regime mainly through reform measures and not with revolutionary sweep. However, the export-import orientation of the Dal'krai regional economy, which resulted from the region's economic separation from European Russia and its dependence on Manchurian and Pacific commodity markets, was not initially understood by its practitioners in Dal'krai as a retreat from Bolshevik doctrine, but rather as a variant of socialist economic principles applied to special conditions. The constant threat of political annexation and economic subordination by Japan, along with active Japanese and Chinese 'colonial engineering' on the frontier territories, forced the regional authorities to be guided to a considerable extent by foreign policy considerations in their search for solutions to internal issues. In this context, the Bolsheviks manifested appreciable 'central-regional' diversity towards the 'Korean question'. The analysis of the dynamics of this diversity from 1920 to 1929 supports the theoretical considerations of Terry Martin ('Peidmont principle') and Nick Baron (European 'governmentality') on the material of the Russian Far East.

Sibirica

Interdisciplinary Journal of Siberian Studies

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