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Stalinism as a Way of Life

Stalinism as a Way of Life: A Narrative in Documents

Lewis Siegelbaum
Andrei Sokolov
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 480
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vm70q
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  • Book Info
    Stalinism as a Way of Life
    Book Description:

    "Maybe some people are shy about writing, but I will write the real truth. . . . Is it really possible that people at the newspaper haven't heard this. . . that we don't want to be on the kolkhoz [collective farm], we work and work, and there's nothing to eat. Really, how can we live?"-a farmer's letter, 1936, fromStalinism as a Way of LifeWhat was life like for ordinary Russian citizens in the 1930s? How did they feel about socialism and the acts committed in its name? This unique book provides English-speaking readers with the responses of those who experienced firsthand the events of the middle-Stalinist period. The book contains 157 documents-mostly letters to authorities from Soviet citizens, but also reports compiled by the secret police and Communist Party functionaries, internal government and party memoranda, and correspondence among party officials. Selected from recently opened Soviet archives, these previously unknown documents illuminate in new ways both the complex social roots of Stalinism and the texture of daily life during a highly traumatic decade of Soviet history.Accompanied by introductory and linking commentary, the documents are organized around such themes as the impact of terror on the citizenry, the childhood experience, the countryside after collectivization, and the role of cadres that were directed to "decide everything." In their own words, peasants and workers, intellectuals and the uneducated, adults and children, men and women, Russians and people from other national groups tell their stories. Their writings reveal how individual lives influenced-and were affected by-the larger events of Soviet history.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12859-8
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-x)
    Lewis Siegelbaum
  4. Notes on Transliteration and Terminology (pp. xi-xi)
  5. A Note on the Documents (pp. xii-xiii)
  6. Glossary and Abbreviations (pp. xiv-xviii)
  7. Introduction (pp. 1-27)
    Lewis Siegelbaum

    SEVERAL YEARS AGO, the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg assembled an exhibition on the art of the Stalin era. Taking up three floors of the museum, the exhibition, “Agitation for Happiness,” comprised gigantic canvases in oils bearing such titles asS. M. Kirov Takes the Parade of Physical Culturists(A. N. Samokhvalov, 1935), andGlory to the Great Stalin(Yu. P. Kulach et al., 1950); smaller paintings of industrial and agricultural life teeming with purposeful activity; sculptures cast in bronze of muscle-bound workers, Red Army sentries, and proud, determined schoolchildren; and the stuff of everyday life: medals and postage stamps,...

  8. CHAPTER ONE The Socialist Offensive (pp. 28-102)

    THE YEAR 1929 marked the beginning of the full-scale collectivization of agriculture, the key element of what was, in the terminology of official propaganda, a “full-scale socialist offensive on all fronts.”¹ The slogan, with its connotations of attack and advance, was absolutely typical of Communist rhetoric at this time. It eclipsed more gradualist and organic metaphors, such as growing into (vrastanie) socialism, which N. I. Bukharin and others had employed during the heyday of the New Economic Policy (NEP). Impatience with compromises, fear that the country was growing into capitalism rather than out of it, and disgruntlement among rank-and-file workers...

  9. CHAPTER TWO “Cadres Decide Everything!” (pp. 103-157)

    The country’s leaders, also under the spell of the Socialist Offensive, were sometimes forced to work until they were on the verge of an emotional breakdown. The mighty task—to rouse the masses and lead them into battle—took its toll. In a letter to his wife written in May 1929, G. M. Krzhizhanovsky, chairman of Gosplan, described one of his speeches as follows: “What great times we are living through.… The great might of those at the bottom has been roused! A decisive historic force has emerged! The excitement and joy that come over me when I see this...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Stalin’s Constitution (pp. 158-206)

    THE DISCUSSION AND ADOPTION of a new Soviet Constitution was one of the most important public events of the 1930s. Arguments about the document continue unabated to this day, reflecting not only its own complexity but the complicated and contradictory nature of those times. Graced from the moment of its birth with Stalin’s name and called “the most democratic in the world,” the constitution was designed to consolidate the principles of the new socialist state and social system and to give socialism an attractive image for the working people of the USSR and the whole world.

    Less than thirteen years...

  11. Illustrations (pp. None)
  12. CHAPTER FOUR Love and Plenty (pp. 207-281)

    IN MARCH 1939 an amateur poet sent a poem to the Eighteenth Congress of the VKP(b) in which he wrote: Heroes grow all over our land. And if you suddenly ask each one: “Tell me, who inspired your exploits?” With a happy smile, he will joyfully reply: “He who is the creator of all that is wonderful, The masterful architect, our friend and father Comrade Stalin. We are Stalin’s children.”¹ Many regard the second half of the 1930s as the shining hour of Stalinist socialism, notwithstanding the mass repressions, the Yezhovshchina, the atmosphere of latent fear, suspicion, the very clear...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Bolshevik Order on the Kolkhoz (pp. 282-355)

    THE SOVIET COUNTRYSIDE was mostly collectivized by the mid-1930s. The process of “de-peasantization”—the liquidation of the last individual peasant farms—continually increased the proportion of rural households belonging to collectivized farms. In order to strangle the independent demon once and for all, the state intensified pressure on independent peasants. Year after year they were compelled to reduce their output and forbidden to sow all of their arable land. Forced to use up previous earnings to buy food, many went elsewhere in search of seasonal work, or left altogether for the cities and other regions of the country. Only 10...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Happy Childhoods (pp. 356-420)

    PEOPLE WHO WERE BORN after the Revolution were destined to live under communism. The Great Lenin promised them this. But first they had tobuildthis unprecedented society of social brotherhood, equality, and justice. They had been designated for this mission by the Revolution, through which the older generation had suffered. They were not supposed to be like their parents; they were to become completely “Red”—that is, utterly devoted to revolutionary ideals and free from the influence of the “accursed past.” That period had been left far behind—its image had been zealously pounded into the new generation since...

  15. Conclusion (pp. 421-424)

    Neither in the 1930s nor in subsequent decades did Stalinism produce a single, uniform way of life. No matter how powerful its transformational thrust, it did not obliterate the variety of attitudes and modes of social existence that antedated its ascendance—hence the complaint by L. M. Kaganovich in 1933 that 80 percent of the “mentality of the past, egotism, vanity, selfishness” had survived (doc. 140). Differences between rural and urban dwellers, Russians and non-Russians, manual and mental workers, the young and the old persisted or even took on new dimensions, sometimes in conformity with official policies and sometimes in...

  16. Notes (pp. 425-440)
  17. Index of Documents (pp. 441-448)
  18. General Index (pp. 449-460)