Bourgeois nationalism

​The most frequent accusation used in justification of reprisals against politicians and cultural people in Estonia in the second half of the 1940s and early 1950s.

One of the hostile ideologies for the communist regime in the Soviet Union was termed as ‘bourgeois nationalism’. People thus labelled were enemies both regarding their class (bourgeoisie) as well as their nationality (non-Russians). The qualities of ‘bourgeois nationalism’ were rather vague and varied. In most general terms this could be anti-Soviet mentality and its propagation, but also any deviation from the official ideology, unsuitable social background and contacts with the previous bourgeois state order. The term was used in ideological struggle with ‘capitalist countries’ and in determining the enemy inside the USSR.

In the 1930s ‘bourgeois nationalism’ was used as an accusation in the Soviet mass reprisals against national minorities (including Estonians). In the second half of the 1940s and early 1950s, fighting against ‘bourgeois nationalism’ officially became one of the major issues in the society of Soviet Union (including reoccupied Estonia). Manifestations of ‘bourgeois nationalism’ were ‘uncovered’ in art, literature and science, as well as on various levels of leadership in different republics. Accusations were followed by punishment and sacking from jobs.

The campaign culminated at the March plenary of the Central Committee of the Estonian CP in 1950 when, accused of favouring ‘bourgeois nationalism’, the leader of the Estonian SSR, Nikolai Karotamm, was sacked. A number of other leading figures were arrested and sacked as well, accused of participating in the political or social life of the Republic of Estonia. The same happened in the fields of culture and science.

Although ‘bourgeois nationalism’ existed in the communist phraseology until the collapse of the Soviet Union, repression on that basis ended with the death of Stalin in 1953.

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