(Originally published in http://revueperiode.net/guide-de-lecture-aux-marges-de-la-revolution-ru…)
I wrote my forthcoming book, Revolutionary Social Democracy: Marxist Politics Across the Russian Empire (1882-1917) (Brill Publisher, Historical Materialism Book Series, 2019), to examine the development of revolutionary politics in Russia from an empire-wide perspective. By expanding our geographic scope to include the imperial borderlands, the book seeks to challenge long-held assumptions about the development of Marxist approaches to state power, working-class revolution, tactics in the labour movement, and party organisation, among other key strategic issues. In so far as contemporary socialist politics continues to be shaped by the lessons drawn from the Russian Revolution, arriving at a more accurate and nuanced assessment of this experience is not simply an academic affair.
In writing my monograph, I was able to draw on a range of primary and secondary accounts. Though the overall historiography of the Russian Revolutions remains deeply Russocentric, there exists an overlooked stream of works on revolutionaries and revolutions in the borderlands of the Tsarist empire. Unfortunately, the bulk of these are not written in Western European languages – as such, the following reading list is necessarily incomplete. But it should provide a good starting point for readers interested in deepening their knowledge about this topic. Rather than attempt to sum up each individual work, in this introduction I will briefly outline the general contours of the existing historiography and explain why it is necessary to broaden our analytical and empirical scope to include the whole Russian empire. At the request of the Période editors, I have given somewhat longer explanations for works that I have written.
The Russian Revolution was far less Russian than has often been assumed. In 1974, Latvian scholar Andrew Ezergailis called for a break from the prevailing ‘refusal to recognise that the revolution originated, developed, and matured in the Empire at large rather than in Petrograd or Moscow alone’. Most inhabitants of imperial Russia were from dominated national groups – Ukrainians, Poles, Finns, Latvians, Jews, Muslims, Georgians, among others. The same was true for most Marxists. Yet the history of non-Russian socialists has been ignored or marginalised. As such, the prevailing accounts of the movements culminating in the overthrow of Russia’s autocratic and liberal governments in 1917 remain at best one-sided and at worst deeply analytically flawed.
The study of Marxist politics in Russia has remained marred by a myopic focus on the centre of the empire. This hegemonic academic and activist blind spot reflects longstanding Russocentric tendencies. Historians for much of the twentieth century analysed Russia as if it were an ethnically uniform nation-state. So too did studies of the 1905 and 1917 revolutions largely overlooked the dominated peoples of the imperial periphery. Numerous influential studies of the development of Marxism in Russia ignored non-Russian socialists and their parties all-together. More frequently, the borderlands were given a brief mention, while the general account and analysis remained overwhelmingly focused on central Russia.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the growing scholarly attention to ‘difference’ and non-class forms of oppression led to a major upsurge in academic research on the Russian empire’s periphery. Yet since this ‘imperial turn’ in the academy took place simultaneously with the stampede away from research on labour movements and socialist parties, the overwhelming majority of these newer works have continued to ignore the borderland Marxists. To be sure, various important scholarly works on the non-Russian socialists have been produced over the past century, as can be seen in the list below.
But it should be underlined that studies of borderland Marxists have frequently been limited to examining the national question and they have virtually always focused on one particular national group, rather than the empire-wide movement. Their findings, moreover, have not yet been incorporated into broader analyses of the development of Marxism in Russia and in the Second International.
Socialist historiography over the past century has likewise been limited by a narrow geographic and interpretative lens. Though a considerable literature on borderland Marxists was produced by leftist scholars in the Eastern Bloc, Bolshevism in central Russia remained the hegemonic empirical focus and analytical model. Socialist writers outside the Soviet Union and its satellite states have paid far less attention to the non-Russian Marxists. If borderland socialists have been mentioned at all, it has usually been fleetingly in uncritical discussions of V.I. Lenin’s support for national self-determination. Presumably, the experiences of the non-Russian revolutionary parties add little to our understanding of the general political debates and conflicts that led to the overthrow of both Tsarism and capitalism in 1917. Given these dominant interpretative trends, and the fact that the most serious studies on the borderland Marxists produced over the past decades were written in not-widely read Eastern European languages, this history remains largely unknown beyond small circles of specialists.
The marginalisation of the socialist movements of the Russian borderlands does not accurately reflect their actual weight in imperial Russia, nor their analytical importance for our understanding of the evolution of Marxist politics. Reducing the history of socialist politics under Tsarism to a bilateral Menshevik-Bolshevik conflict has obscured a far more dynamic and complicated picture: over a dozen Marxist parties debated, collaborated, split, and united across the empire. All, with the significant exception of the legal Finnish socialist party, were engaged in the unprecedented historical experiment of building a Marxist movement in underground political conditions. Imperial Russia’s first Marxist organisation arose in Poland in 1882, over twenty years before the emergence of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.
Non-Russians were actually disproportionately represented in Russia’s leftist movements before 1917. In an empire where non-Russians comprised fifty-eight percent of the empire’s population, borderland parties represented a considerably higher percentage of organised socialists. And, up through 1917, the massive Finnish Social Democracy remained the single largest socialist party in the world per capita.
Contrary to the impression given by most of the literature, revolutionary movements remained stronger in the borderlands than in the centre for much of Tsarist rule. As one Russian writer of the era noted, ‘the centre lies at the peripheries’. The first revolution in Russia indisputably advanced furthest in non-Russian regions, where general strikes, workers’ insurrections, soldier mutinies, and rural rebellions led in many locales to the partial or complete seizure of power by working people.
Though St. Petersburg became the pace-making vanguard of the empire-wide movement after 1905, the borderlands again played a pivotal role in 1917 and in the subsequent Civil War. Tsarism’s overthrow in February unleashed a revolutionary wave that immediately engulfed all the country’s regions and nationalities. Within a span of months, most of the radical non-Russian parties allied with (or joined) the Bolsheviks in the fight for soviet power and world socialist overturn. Workers’ revolution, in short, was not solely a phenomenon of central Russia. Even in peaceful, parliamentary Finland, working people and socialists became increasingly convinced that only a workers’ government could offer a way out of social crisis and national oppression.
Bolsheviks and Western capitalist powers alike understood that Russia’s periphery was a key battleground for the expansion or containment of socialist rule. Between central Russia and the rest of the world stood the borderlands: were the revolution to triumph in the empire’s periphery it could very well proceed to advance across Western Europe and Asia.
Examining the experience of the borderlands, furthermore, is critical for understanding the politics of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, each of which had a considerable base outside of central Russia. Histories of the Russian Social Democracy have tended to assume that developments in St. Petersburg were replicated across the empire, an assumption contradicted by the historical record. Examining the often-distinct experiences of socialist organisations in the periphery thereby allows for a more accurate appreciation of the stances of these currents as a whole. Expanding our analytical attention beyond Petrograd provides a better sense, for example, of what we might call ‘ballpark Bolshevism’, i.e., the core political stances generally shared by all levels of party cadre and projected by them to working people across the empire.
Perhaps most importantly, broadening our interpretative lens to include all the major Marxist parties under Tsarism enables and obliges a considerable rethinking of long-held views on the development of revolutionary politics up through 1917. Imperial Russia, with its diverse regions and organisations, is a historically unique laboratory for a comparative analysis of socialist politics. A broad geographic scope helps highlight the fundamental political trends, similarities, and limitations that marked moderate and radical socialists in all corners of the country. And the exceptional case of Finland — the only region of Russia where the Tsar allowed political freedom, a democratically elected parliament, and a legal labour movement — provides a rich point of comparison between the distinct dynamics of socialist parties in autocratic and parliamentary polities.
Like in the prevailing academic literature, the existence of borderland Marxist parties is generally ignored in the socialist literature, giving the impression that the Bolsheviks were alone in pursuing a path different from their counterparts in Western Europe. But even a cursory examination of the underground socialist parties in the Russian empire illustrates the flaws in the argument for Bolshevik exceptionalism. Positions and practices long assumed to have been particularities of Lenin’s faction were in fact quite common. The fact that there was no major Bolshevik stance that was not also shared by various non-Russian parties helps illustrate that no position on its own could lead directly to October 1917 – or, as anti-Communist historians would have it, to Stalinism. There was no socialist silver bullet or original sin.
A few examples, explicated in detail later, should suffice here to demonstrate the trend. Rosa Luxemburg’s famous 1904 critiques of Lenin’s conception of centralism are almost always cited without any acknowledgement that her own party in Tsarist Poland was far more top-down and anti-democratic. Likewise, it is frequently mistakenly claimed that the Bolsheviks were the only major socialist party to oppose World War One, thereby ignoring the radical anti-militarism of other leading borderland Marxist parties. Finally, the fact that the Bolsheviks were not the only party in the former Tsarist empire to lead workers to power in 1917-18 has remained remarkably unacknowledged.
By reading the works on the borderlands listed below, one can begin to see the impact of the autocratic Tsarist context in pushing all illegally organised socialists down a very different path than their counterparts in Western Europe. Conditions of Russian absolutism obliged Marxists of all nationalities to adopt a different approach from their counterparts in Western Europe. An empire-wide analytical lens demonstrates that the obvious differences between the Bolsheviks and Europe’s Social-Democratic parties were not the product of theoretical or practical ruptures from Second International orthodoxy.
Marxist parties operating illegally under Tsarism adhered to many of the strategic perspectives and organisational practices that have usually been portrayed as distinct to Bolshevism by both its detractors and defenders. Up through the 1905 revolution, all of these currents (including the Mensheviks) engaged in violent armed revolutionary struggle; all broke from the organisational model of Western socialist parties; all rejected blocs with liberals and argued that only the independent working-class movement could lead the democratic revolution to victory. For the autocratic context of Russia such stances were explicitly sanctioned by orthodox Social Democracy, which made a sharp distinction between strategy for countries with or without political freedom. Conditions under Tsarism clearly precluded any attempt to adopt the specific organisational structure or the political focus of the German Social-Democratic model. In other words, not only was orthodox Marxism much more revolutionary than is usually assumed in regards to capitalist democracies, but its stance for the absolutist Russian context was particularly intransigent.
The weight of the feudal Tsarist state, moreover, facilitated the ability of the Russian empire’s socialist parties to uphold their political radicalism. Both in the centre and the periphery, the absence of political freedom and parliamentary democracy mitigated against the growth of strong parliamentary reformism or the emergence of conservative labour bureaucracies. The growing gap between the militant programmes and the accommodationist practices of Western Social-Democratic parties could not be replicated in the same way under the Russian autocracy. The one major exception in the empire proves the rule: The Finnish Social-Democratic Party, like its counterpart in Germany, was able to build up a heavy parliamentary presence and a massive organisational infrastructure with a large and growing bureaucratic apparatus. Sharing many of the accommodationist and overly cautious tendencies as German Social Democracy, the history of the Finnish party became one of ongoing tension and conflict between revolutionary social democrats and party moderates.
Following the demoralising defeat of the 1905 revolution, a wide range of socialists — including the Mensheviks, the Jewish Bund, and many Ukrainian Social Democrats—broke from the hitherto radical consensus and for the first time began to search for a bloc with the liberal bourgeoisie. In contrast, the empire’s other radical organisations largely upheld their stances on the big questions of revolutionary strategy and, on this shared basis, organisationally and politically converged in 1917.
A century’s worth of historiographic myths and omissions have obscured the compelling complexities of imperial Russia’s anti-capitalist movements. The interrelated limitations of Russocentrism and Bolshevik exceptionalism, in particular, have hampered our understanding the development of revolutionary socialism in Russia and beyond. It is well past time to rediscover the following works on the borderland Marxists and Russia’s peripheral revolutions, which have been overlooked by socialist activists for far too long.
The 1905 Revolution in the Borderlands
Blanc, Eric 2017a, ‘“Comrades in Battle” Women Workers and the 1906 Finnish Suffrage Victory’, Aspasia: The International Yearbook of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European Women's and Gender History – In this article, I demonstrate that the autonomous organising of Finnish working women was in large part responsible for transforming Finland into the world’s first polity with full suffrage.
More specifically, suffrage was won through a mass general strike and anti-imperial insurgency in Finland, combined with a revolution across the empire. Female socialists led the fight for women’s suffrage, while the mainstream women’s organisations supported wealth qualifications for the vote until the end of 1905. Contrary to the common claim that Marxism ignores issues of women’s oppression, Finnish socialists simultaneously fought gender, national, and class domination, decades before the emergence of theorisations of “intersectionality.”
Dismissing or idealising the labour movement as a vehicle for women’s emancipation fails to capture the complexities of the dynamics in Finland. Working-class struggle, in the context of anti-imperial resistance and an empire-wide revolution, was largely responsible for winning full suffrage for the first time in history—but this victory may not have been possible without autonomous female self-organisation and mobilisation.
Blobaum, Robert 1995, Rewolucja: Russian Poland, 1904–1907 – The 1905 revolution was arguably most explosive in Russia-dominated Poland. Blobaum provides an excellent overview of the dynamics.
Longworth, J. George 1959, The Latvian Congress of Rural Delegates in 1905 – This is a rich, and surprisingly overlooked, monograph on the political climax of the 1905 revolution in Latvia. It is also one of the few books in English that seriously delves into the politics of the two main Latvian Marxist organisations.
Marzec, Wiktor 2018, ‘Vernacular Marxism: Proletarian Readings in Russian Poland around the 1905 Revolution’, Historical Materialism https://brill.com/abstract/journals/hima/25/4/article-p65_65.xml?rskey=… – Marzec’s deep reading of Polish primary sources serves as the starting point for an illuminating examination of the political ‘awakening’ of Polish workers in and before 1905.
Shtakser, Inna 2014, The Making of Jewish Revolutionaries in the Pale of Settlement: Community and Identity During the Russian Revolution and its Immediate Aftermath, 1905-07 – A remarkable study of the emotional and personal dynamics of radical Jewish activists in 1905. Shtakser, unlike most authors, does an excellent job of illustrating what it felt like to be a socialist militant in this period.
Weinberg, Robert 1993, The Revolution of 1905 in Odessa: Blood on the Steps – The focus of this very good monograph is the process through which the proletariat in Odessa became a “class for itself” in 1905 by organising unions, political parties, and soviets. It’s a useful counterpoint to more well-known works on the “party-class” relationship in St. Petersburg.
The 1917-19 Revolutions in the Borderlands
Arens, Olavi 1976, Revolutionary Developments in Estonia in 1917-18 and Their Ideological and Political Background, PhD Dissertation – Estonia was one of the few borderland regions in 1917 where Bolshevism became hegemonic in the working class. This is the definitive account.
Blanc, Eric 2017, ‘Finland’s Revolution’. Finland’s experience in 1917-18 shows that workers’ revolution was not solely a phenomenon in central Russia. Even in peaceful, parliamentary Finland, working people became increasingly convinced that only a socialist government could offer a way out of social crisis and national oppression.
Nor were the Bolsheviks the sole party in the empire capable of leading workers to power. In many ways the experience of the Finnish SDP confirms the traditional view of revolution espoused by Karl Kautsky: through patient class-conscious organisation and education, socialists won a majority in parliament, leading the Right to dissolve the institution, which in turn sparked a socialist-led revolution.
The party’s preference for a defensive parliamentary strategy did not ultimately prevent it from overthrowing capitalist rule and taking steps towards socialism. In contrast, bureaucratised German Social Democracy — which had long since abandoned Kautsky’s strategy — actively upheld capitalist rule in 1918–19 and violently smashed efforts to overturn it. Yet Finland showed not only the strengths but also the potential limitations of revolutionary Social Democracy: a hesitancy to abandon the parliamentary arena; an underestimation of mass action; and a tendency to bend to moderate socialists for the sake of party unity.
Bocjun, Jaromyr Marko 1985, The Working Class and the National Question in the Ukraine: 1880–1920, PhD Dissertation – Most scholarly works on Marxism and the national question in Ukraine tend to paint Ukrainian socialists as angels and the Bolsheviks as imperialist demons. Bocjun’s dissertation, in contrast, argues that the implosion of the revolutionary process can be traced to political limitations on both sides.
Ezergailis, Andrew 1974, The 1917 Revolution in Latvia – This is the standard English-language study of Latvia in 1917, the borderland region of the empire where the Bolsheviks had their deepest roots.
Hickey, Michael C. 1998, ‘Revolution on the Jewish Street: Smolensk, 1917’, Journal of Social History, Vol. 31, No. 4 (Summer, 1998) – For those interested in the role of the main Jewish socialist parties in 1917, including the Jewish Bund, this is a useful starting point. Like the Mensheviks, the Bund’s class-collaborationism ultimately cost it its mass working-class base.
Jones, Stephen 1992, ‘Georgian Social Democracy in 1917’ in Revolution in Russia: Reassessments of 1917 – A balanced outline of the role of the Georgian Mensheviks in 1917.
Smele, Jon 2017, The "Russian" Civil Wars, 1916-1926: Ten Years that Shook the World – Smele’s comprehensive monograph provides an excellent overview of the civil war(s) in the borderlands.
Suny, Ronald Grigor 1972, The Baku Commune, 1917-1918: Class and Nationality in the Russian Revolution – This classic was one of the first English-language works to seriously examine the Bolsheviks, and 1917, outside of the imperial centre. Among other strengths, Suny’s book illustrates the importance of regional and local Bolshevik leaders, in contrast with the typical historiographic fixation on Lenin.
Suny, Ronald Grigor 1990, ‘Social Democrats in Power: Menshevik Georgia and the Russian Civil War', in Party, State and Society in the Russian Civil War: Explorations in Social History – A balanced assessment of the strengths and limitations of Georgia’s Menshevik government. Includes a useful comparison with central Russia regarding the weight of social conditions in explaining the policies of revolutionary governments.
Upton, Anthony F. 1980, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918 – This remains the standard English-language work on the Finnish Revolution. Though it is generally well-researched, Upton’s account is marred by an unfounded dismissal of the revolutionary politics of Finland’s ‘Kautskyist’ Marxists.
White, James D. 1971, ‘The Revolution in Lithuania 1918-19’, Soviet Studies – A solid overview of this brief, and unsuccessful, attempt at establishing a soviet government in Lithuania, where both the working class and Bolshevism was weak.
The National Question
Blanc, Eric 2016a, ‘Anti-Imperial Marxism: Borderland Socialists and the Evolution of Bolshevism on National Liberation’ – In this piece, I argue that the Marxist approaches to national liberation that we today associate with Lenin were first developed by his non-Russian Marxist rivals in the Russian empire.
In the empire’s periphery—notably Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, the Caucasus, and Ukraine—non-Russian Marxist parties sought to tie national liberation to a class struggle orientation. Most advocated a united revolutionary movement on the basis of national autonomy or federalism. Up through 1905, both V. I. Lenin and the Iskra current to which he belonged were less sympathetic to national aspirations than has usually been assumed. Iskra’s push for working-class unity was undermined by the limitations of its stance on the national question. Many of the positions later championed by Lenin and the Communist International were in these years opposed by Iskra and advocated by non-Russian socialists.
Eventually, the Bolsheviks overcame their earlier limitations and implemented an effective strategy of national liberation. Though Lenin’s evolution began in 1913, the fundamental turn in the practice of the Bolshevik party as a whole came after the 1917–20 defeats of socialist revolutions in Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. In response to these setbacks, numerous Bolsheviks in all levels and regions concluded that addressing non-Russian national aspirations was an urgent necessity. To root the Soviet regime among non-Russian peoples, the Bolsheviks from 1921–23 onwards actively developed national cultures and languages, implemented state federalism, and promoted borderland Marxists to leadership positions.
Gitelman, Zvi Y. 1972, Jewish Nationality and Soviet Politics: The Jewish Sections of the CPSU, 1917-1930 – A fascinating study of how Communists and their allies addressed ‘the Jewish question’. Also includes a useful overview of the Bund in 1917.
Ijabs, Ivars 2012b, ‘The Nation of the Socialist Intelligentsia: The National Issue in the Political Thought of Early Latvian Socialism’, East Central Europe, Volume 39, Issues 2-3, 2012 – Latvian scholar Ijabs deftly describes the genesis of early Latvian socialism’s approaches to national liberation.
Riddell, John (ed.) 1993, To See the Dawn: Baku, 1920: First Congress of the Peoples of the East – A fascinating documentary account of this historic conference. As always, Riddell’s introduction and annotations are very useful.
Riga, Liliana 2012, The Bolsheviks and the Russian Empire – This intriguing book examines the non-Russian ethnic roots of many top Bolshevik intellectuals.
Smith, Jeremy 1999, The Bolsheviks and the National Question, 1917-23 – Smith’s study is the best overview of the national question and the early Soviet government. Among other things, he shows that the Bolsheviks adopted many of the national-cultural policies against which Lenin had polemicised before 1914.
Zimmerman, Joshua D. 2004, Poles, Jews, and the Politics of Nationality: the Bund and the Polish Socialist Party in late Tsarist Russia, 1892–1914 – This is a very good study that examines how Jewish and Polish socialists sought to address questions of Polish national independence and Jewish equality from a Marxist perspective. This is also one of the few studies in English to take the politics of the Polish Socialist Party seriously.
Works on Non-Russian Marxists
Blanc, Eric 2018, ‘The Rosa Luxemburg Myth: A Critique of Luxemburg’s Politics in Poland (1893–1919)’, Historical Materialism 26 https://brill.com/abstract/journals/hima/25/4/article-p3_3.xml?rskey=6j… – This article combats the widespread romanticisation of Rosa Luxemburg by looking at the politics and practices of her party in Poland (the SDKPiL) regarding national liberation, party-building, and the German SPD.
Three specific myths about Luxemburg serve as the starting point for the article’s discussion. First, contrary to the common claim that Luxemburg was a ‘national nihilist’, this article demonstrates that her orientation significantly reflected Polish national sentiments, both positive and negative. Only after 1914 did Luxemburg’s opposition to national independence become a major political liability – in the preceding period, her most problematic stance was a needlessly hostile approach to the PPS.
Second, while Luxemburg is usually portrayed as the earliest Marxist to challenge the reformism of the German Social-Democratic Party (SPD), I show that Polish Socialist Party (PPS) Marxists in 1904 wrote the world’s first major critiques of the SPD and its top theoretician Karl Kautsky. Ironically, the impetus for this PPS critique was the campaign by Luxemburg, in alliance with the conservative SPD leadership, against the organisational and political autonomy of Polish socialists in Germany.
Third, the article challenges the myth that Luxemburg supported ‘spontaneism’ and consistent party democracy. The SDKPiL’s perspectives and practices demonstrate that there were no steady strategic differences between Luxemburg and V.I. Lenin on the role of a revolutionary party. In practice, the most consequential divergence between their parties was that the Bolsheviks, unlike the SDKPiL, became more effective in mass workers’ struggles during and following the 1905 revolution.
Naimark, Norman M. 1979, The History of the “Proletariat": The Emergence of Marxism in the Kingdom of Poland, 1870–1887 – Few people know that the first Marxist party in Russia, the Polish Proletariat, arose over twenty years before the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Naimark’s study is a classic that deserves a wider readership in the socialist movement.
Nettl, J. P. 1966, Rosa Luxemburg, London: Oxford University Press (republished by Verso Books in 2019) – Nettl’s biography remains the best available. Unlike most writers, he seriously examines Luxemburg’s Polish writings and actions.
Peled, Yoav 1989, Class and Ethnicity in the Pale: the Political Economy of Jewish Workers' Nationalism in Late Imperial Russia – A very good short sociological study on the structural roots of Jewish Marxist politics in imperial Russia.
Tobias, Henry J. 1972, The Jewish Bund in Russia from its Origins to 1905 – This is still by far the best book in English on the Bund. A classic.
Weinstock, Nathan 1984, Le pain de misère: Histoire du mouvement ouvrier juif en Europe, Tome I. L’Empire russe jusqu’en 1914 – Weinstock’s overlooked study is the most analytically cogent account of the rise and decline of the Jewish workers’ movement in Russia.
Carrez, Maurice 2008, La fabrique d'un révolutionnaire, Otto Wilhelm Kuusinen, 1881-1918: Réflexions sur l’engagement politique d'un dirigeant social-démocrate finlandais – Anybody interested in seriously understanding Finnish Social Democracy should read this massive tome. Carrez provides a nuanced and balanced account of the party through the prism of his biography of its main left-wing leader, Otto Kuusinen.
Soikkanen, Hannu 1978, ‘Revisionism, Reformism and the Finnish Labour Movement Before the First World War’, Scandinavian Journal of History – A good short introduction to the politics of early Finnish Marxism.
Boshyk, George Y. 1981, The Rise of Ukrainian Political Parties in Russia, 1900-1907: with Special Reference to Social Democracy, PhD Dissertation – This is the only serious English-language study on early Ukrainian Marxism. An excellent read, though not easily accessible in libraries.
Maistrenko, Iwan 1954, Borot’bism: A Chapter in the History of Ukrainian Communism – Maistrenko’s study is a good overview of the main national Ukrainian socialist (then Communist) current, Borotba (Struggle).
Bennigsen, Alexandre, and S. Enders Wimbush 1980, Muslim National Communism in the Soviet Union: a Revolutionary Strategy for the Colonial World - A useful introduction to the politics of nationally-focused Muslim Marxists after 1917. The authors, however, tend to treat their subjects (and their national projects) rather uncritically.
Jones, Stephen F. 2005, Socialism in Georgian Colors: the European Road to Social Democracy, 1883-1917 – The definitive account of Georgian Social Democracy (aka Mensheviks) before 1917. Jones shows that the Georgian party had its own autonomous organisational and political dynamics that separated it from Russian Mensheviks.
Sabaliūnas, Leonas 1990, Lithuanian Social Democracy in Perspective, 1893-1914 – This is the only serious work in English about the Lithuanian party. It’s well researched, if rather dry.
Swietochowski, Tadeusz 1978, ‘The Himmät Party: Socialism and the National Question in Russian Azerbaijan, 1904-1920’, Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique, vol. 19, n°1-2, Janvier-Juin 1978. The Himmät party remains strangely unknown in Marxist circles, despite its historic and political importance as the world’s first socialist organisation of Muslim workers.