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Soviet Recruitment Of African American Essay

2464 words - 10 pages

Lenin walks around the world. Frontiers cannot bar him. Neither barracks nor barricades impede. Nor does barbed wire scar him. Lenin walks around the world. Black, brown, and white receive him. Language is no barrier. The strangest tongues believe him. Lenin walks around the world. The sun sets like a scar. Between the darkness and the dawn. There rises a red star.
– Langston Hughes

In the early 1900’s there were very few political parties focused on the plight of African Americans and their quest for civil rights. Communism had inherent within its philosophy the idea that all men and women are equal and focused on an economic model that purported to promote that equality. Karl Marx ...view middle of the document...

It was so attractive that in the late 1920’s African Americans began to migrate to Soviet Russia. This occurred during a time when there was hard push for recruitment from the Soviet Union and an economically devastated America did little to stop them. Life in the Soviet Union was very different from life in America, blacks had a sort of special status and they were used frequently in propaganda campaigns aimed at targeting the United States for their policies on race. This paper will focus on the attraction of the Communist Party to African Americans, how the Soviet Union exploited that attraction to shape opinions of the United States and Europe, and how the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of nationalism in Russia has changed the special status that blacks once had in Soviet Russia.
Until the 1920’s the idea of people of color in Russia was sort of a novelty. The population consisted primarily of people from the caucuses the only person of real color that was present in Russia was one of their national heroes Alexander Pushkin. Puskin’s African lineage could be traced back to his great-grandfather, Abram Hannibal. Hannibal’ story was sort of legend in Russia, he was a slave boy that was brought to Russia and eventually adopted by Peter the Great. Hanibal then rose to fame as a very talented mathematician and engineer who used his skills to help better the Imperial Army. Somewhat ironically, Hannibal himself had serfs, impoverished peasants that basically functioned as slaves. When Pushkin rose to fame in Russia he brought with him a love for his African ancestry. The fact that people of African descent could have such exalted status bestowed on them in Russia would draw those of African descent to the country later on.
It was a sign to many, including prominent African Americans that Russia was practicing racial openness. What was odd about Imperialist Russia’s relationship with those of African descent is that though they were accepting of their race they still had racist tendencies. It has long been documented that there was poor treatment of Orthodox Jews as well as mistreatment towards Central Asians following the invasion of their lands (Matusevich, 2009).
In 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution sympathized with black Americans primarily because Marxist ideals highlighted the idea of a colorblind society. It was in many ways a strategic move; it was obvious that people of color were among the lowest rank in Europe and the U.S. thus it made them an obvious alliance to spread Marxist ideals. There was also an immediate attraction of educated Blacks to Marxism, mainly due to the reason that Marxism outwardly objected to racism and colonialism. African American attraction to the U.S. Communist movement began in the early 1920’s and lasted until the late 1950’s. Prominent poets, writers, playwrights, students, intellectuals, and critics were affiliated with the party. The Communist Party was the only political movement in the late...

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