UN Declaration of Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and People

The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and People was created by the UN General Assembly on December 14, 1960. It was a resolution that provided independence for once colonized people. The assembly declared that these people were no longer the subjects of other. One of its main goal was to promote freedom and provide basic human rights to all. It states, ” All States shall observe faithfully and strictly the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the present Declaration on the basis of equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of all States, and respect for the sovereign rights of all peoples and their territorial integrity” (legacy.fordam.edu/halsall/mod/1960-un-colonialism.asp). The declaration signifies the changing attitudes towards human rights that countries collectively share.

Stalin, Fascists and Freedom

The texts assigned for Friday’s class portray the changing views, which the Soviet Union held towards Germany and other Western nations. While the Hitler-Stalin Pact suggests a mutual understanding between the two leaders (and, by extension, their nations), the later documents paint a far different view of a ‘fascist’ Germany.

In Stalin’s speech in February 1946, he seems to align the Soviet Union with the Western world in a coalition against fascism, and describes the USSR (and other countries involved in the coalition) as freedom-loving. To most Westerners, this would appear contradictory: freedom is only seen in a capitalistic, democratic context, indicating that socialism and communism are inherently freedom-less.

Stalin’s response to Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech shows a shift in Stalin’s thinking, as Stalin compares Churchill to Hitler and accuses Churchill of creating an English racial theory, somewhat similar to Hitler’s racial theory. This was a drastic shift, occurring in only a little over a month (Stalin’s response was published in Pravda in March 1946).

In general, these shifts in allies and the definition of ‘good’, ‘evil’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ don’t seem uncommon for the Soviet Union. The massive arrests during the time period, in addition to the Great Purges within the Communist Party, seem indicative of this trend.

Connecting the Declaration of Independence and What is the Third Estate

The Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and signed in 1776 is unquestionably one of the most well-known and significant documents in American history. It spoke against British control and tyranny at that time. Jefferson pens, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Blaisdell 63-64) Jefferson then lists several of “His” (The King of England) transgressions and the overarching aspiration to form a state separate from England and all of the injustices that have been performed under English rule. He states, “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of free people” (Blaisdell 66) and declares the freedom of the respective colonies.

Emmanual Joseph Sieyes brings forth similar emotions in his work, What is the Third Estate? Sieyes speaks out against “the privileged” when he writes, “’No matter how useful you are, ‘they said, ‘no matter how able you are, you can go so far and no further.’”(Blaisdell 72) Sieyes urges his fellow people to rise up against the wide-ranging umbrella of limitations and stresses the importance of reaching the estate’s full potential. He argues the Third Estate “contains everything that pertains to the nation” (Blaisdell 74) and questions why the estate is not something greater. These documents have inherent parallels and pose comparable points and questions, with Sieyes and Jefferson aiming for a similar goal.

It’s the End of Their World as They Know it.

The emancipation of serfs and serfdom in 1861 was forced due to the realization that Russia was far more backwards in compared to other major European powers which prevented them from industrializing at the rate necessary. Although serfdom was far more prevalent in the South than the North due to the availability of healthy land and soil, it did decrease slightly between 1835 and 1858 based on the census taken these two years. Once Alexander II created The Emancipation Manifesto, he enabled Russia to move more towards modernization by completely freeing those who had been subjected to servitude for generations. In this manifesto, Alexander II allowed serfs to take the rights given to free rural inhabitants. Nobles were required to allow the serfs to keep their homes and to keep their livelihood. This was done in a way that allowed nobles to retain their power but enabled the serfs to take control of their lives without remaining in any form of servitude. In order to ensure that this reform was successful, Alexander II created offices specially designed to protect the interests of both the newly formed peasants and the nobles and prevent serfdom from returning.

How was serfdom able to continue to flourish in the 19th century when many Russian controlled territories did not have or allow for serfdom? What was the original consensus of the nobles when this reform began? How did this affect relationships between newly freed serfs and the rest of Russia’s population? Aside from allowing Russia to compete against other world powers why did Alexander decide in 1861 that it was necessary to emancipate serfs?