V. I.   Lenin



Published: First published in 1930 in Lenin Miscellany XIII. Sent from Poronin to Baku. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 142-143.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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May 19, 1914[2]

Dear Suren,

I have received your letter of April 17. I hope you will reply when you have read the end of the article on self-determination of nations (I am writing it just now) in Prosveshcheniye.[1]

Regarding your pamphlet against An, be sure to send a Selbstanzeige, or exposition, to Prosveshcheniye,[3].

I propose the following plan to you in addition. In order to combat the stupidity of the “cultural-national autonomists”, it is necessary for the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group to bring in a Bill in the Duma for the equality of nations and the defence of the rights of national minorities.

Let’s draft such a Bill.[4] The general principles of equality—the division of the country into autonomous and self-governing territorial units according to, among other things, nationality (the local population indicates the boundaries, the State Parliament endorses them)—the limits of powers of autonomous regions and areas, as well as of self-governing local units—illegality of any departure from the equality of nations in the decisions of the autonomous regions, Zemstvos, etc.; common school councils, democratically elected, etc., freedom and equality of language—choice of languages by municipal institutions, etc.— defence of minorities: the right to a proportional share of   expenditure, to school premises (free) for pupils of “alien” nationalities, to have “alien” teachers, “alien” departments in museums and libraries, theatres, etc.—the right of every citizen to seek cancellation (by the courts) of every departure from equality in respect of any “infringement” of the rights of national minorities (five-year censuses of the population in mixed regions, ten-year censuses in the state as a whole), etc.

I have a feeling that by this means we could give a popular explanation of the stupidity of cultural-national autonomy and kill the supporters of this stupidity for good.

The Bill might be drafted by the Marxists of all, or of very many, nations of Russia.

Write immediately whether you agree to help in this. In general, write more frequently, not less than once a week. It is unforgivable to put off replying for a long time: have this in mind, especially now!!

All the best,




[1] See “The Right of Nations to Self-Determination” (present edition, Vol. 20, pp. 393–454).—Ed.

[2] The date “May 19” was crossed out by N. K. Krupskaya and replaced by the date when the letter was sent, “June 4”. In the margin   is written: “For ... [one word heavily deleted.—Ed.] urgent.” The letter has an addendum by N. K. Krupskaya: “Because of the Bill the letter remained unposted for two weeks. Have you received the previous letter sent to the same address? Why don’t you reply? Warmest greetings!”

[3] Reference is to Shahumyan’s pamphlet National-Cultural Autonomy, which he wrote in Armenian in 1913. The pamphlet was a reply to articles by the Armenian bourgeois nationalist D. Ananun (An), “The Problem of Nationalities and Democracy”.

No communication from the author about the contents of the pamphlet was published in Prosveshcheniye.

[4] The outlines of the Bill given in this letter formed the basis of Lenin’s “Bill on the Equality of Nations and the Safeguarding of the Rights of National Minorities” (see present edition, Vol. 20 pp. 281–83). The Bill was to be brought into the Fourth Duma by the Bolshevik group, but this was not achieved.

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