I define racism as the ascription of generalized and innate negative traits to cultural groups in which membership is determined by ancestry. That is if you attribute particular behaviors to people based upon their membership in a group which they were born into, they can not leave, and their children will inherit then you are engaged in racial thinking. Race has nothing to do with categories of biological inferiority based upon genetics. It has nothing to do with skin color other than phenotypes are one possible signifier that can be used to identify groups based upon ancestry. But, it is by no means the only one. Ancestral language and religion have also frequently been used. In short I agree that ethnicity is race without the biological pseudoscience if the determination of this category is by birth and it is immutable. If you remove the aspects of voluntary association and ability to assimilate into other groups from ethnicity you have race no matter how much you insist that it is based upon culture rather than biology. I realize that a large number of very prominent academics such as Francine Hirsch and Amir Weiner completely reject this definition when it comes to the USSR. But, I still maintain they are wrong.
The Stalin regime accused whole nationalities whose membership was defined at birth on the basis of parentage of treason. That is the government claimed that each and every member of these groups which numbered over two million people in total were traitors by virtue of their ethnic heritage and ancestry. This accusation is clearly false as well as racist. Most of the deportees were women, children, the elderly, and the infirm, people who were physically incapable of militarily collaborating with the Nazis. Thousands more were loyal members of the Communist Party and tens of thousands had actively fought against the Nazis defending the USSR while serving in the Red Army. Yet, there were almost no exceptions made for loyal members of the Communist Party, Komsomolists, or Red Army soldiers. They too fell under the false charges of treason and suffered in exile or labor camps along with their ethnic kin. Even those awarded orders and medals for their service to the Soviet Union found themselves and their families accused of treason and punished. The only criteria for the Soviet accusation of treason and punishment through mass deportation of the entire population to remote areas of the USSR and imposition of severe legal restrictions on their civil rights was their natsional'nost. In this case the word natsional' nost in Russian like the word volk in Afrikaans is indistinguishable from the word race in its political and legal functions.
The claim that this repression was not racist, but rather merely political because of the accusations of treason, the presence of the war, and Soviet security concerns is laughable. Political concerns, justifications couched in the language of security, and false claims of treachery by ethnic minorities are not in any way incompatible with racial discrimination. In fact they almost always accompany it to a greater or lesser degree. Does anybody honestly believe that the US relocation of Japanese Americans was not an act of racial discrimination because Japan attacked Pearl Harbor thus creating real security concerns for the US in the Pacific states? Yet the number of people who claim that the deportation of the Russian-Germans to Kazakhstan and Siberia was not racial discrimination, but merely political or a understandable security measure because Germany attacked the USSR is quite large. Why the double standard? Why are there so many defenders of Stalin on this particular issue? The ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union had been in the Russian Empire and USSR for nearly six generations compared to only two for the Japanese Americans. There was not even a unified German state when their ancestors arrived along the shores of the Volga and Black Sea. Ascribing a political connection between this large and diverse population and Nazi Germany based solely upon their descent from immigrants who geographically lived in areas that became Germany in 1871 was clearly racist. But, in many cases the connection was even weaker. It was based on the fact that their ancestors spoke a dialect of what the Soviet government considered to be the German language. So the descendants of immigrants from Switzerland, Holland, and other other countries also suffered deportation on the basis of being labelled "German" by the Soviet regime. In my mind the Soviet deportations were just as racist as the US policies at the same time towards Japanese Americans.
I realize that my position is an extreme minority among academics. That people who claim that there was never any racial discrimination involved in the official treatment of groups like the Russian-Germans and Crimean Tatars by Stalin dominate the field. But, all the arguments I have seen that the deportations and special settlement restrictions were not acts of racial discrimination similar to the internment of Japanese Americans or South African apartheid fail to convince me.