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Retailing the Revolution: The State Department Store (GUM) and Soviet Society in the 1920s

Marjorie L. Hilton
Journal of Social History
Vol. 37, No. 4 (Summer, 2004), pp. 939-964
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3790073
Page Count: 26
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Retailing the Revolution: The State Department Store (GUM) and Soviet Society in the 1920s
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Abstract

This article examines the role of mass marketing and retailing in the recreation of Soviet society in the NEP period (1921-28). In 1921, the state established the State Department Store (GUM), a model retail enterprise that operated stores throughout Russia and targeted consumers across class, gender, and ethnic lines. GUM's stores served as instruments of the Bolsheviks' goals of conquering private enterprise and rebuilding it along socialist lines and of democratizing consumption for workers and peasants nationwide. GUM also served as an agent of publicity. Its advertising and promotional campaigns communicated to the population the goals of the regime and attempted to inclucate new attitudes and behaviors. In its efforts to create a socialist consumer culture, GUM recast the functions and meanings associated with the everyday activities of bying and selling, turning them into politically charged acts that could either contribute to or delay the transformation of the economy and society. Ultimately, however, GUM's efforts to build communism through consumerism were unsuccessful and only succeeded in alienating consumers from state stores and instituting a culture of complaint and entitlement.

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