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Life and Times of Andrei Zhdanov, 1896-1948

Life and Times of Andrei Zhdanov, 1896-1948

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 592
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    Life and Times of Andrei Zhdanov, 1896-1948
    Book Description:

    In 1934 Andrei Zhdanov was promoted to the post of secretary of the Communist Party's Central Committee in Moscow and entered the inner circle of Stalin's partners. Notable for his involvement in implementing the artificial crisis of the Great Terror in Moscow and Leningrad, Zhdanov was later involved in the preparation and signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and acted as Stalin's Party emissary in the Winter War and the sovietization of Estonia. Boterbloem details how Zhdanov's career was put in jeopardy in the summer of 1941 when German troops almost captured Leningrad. Stalin kept Zhdanov at the Leningrad front for much of the Second World War because of his alleged failure to halt the initial German advance, where he presided over the terrible suffering of the besieged city's population. In 1945, Zhdanov's ideological commitment led to his recall to the centre of Soviet power where, more publicly visible than ever before, he berated Soviet artists, scientists, philosophers, composers, and foreign Communist Parties for failing to adhere to the Party line. Never in good health, the stress of being Stalin's main assistant in both the massive bureaucracy of the Communist Party and the attempt to restore ideological orthodoxy, combined with anxiety about his son Iurii, led to his death in 1948.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7173-0
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Archival Annotation, Foreign Terms, Transcription, and Glossary (pp. ix-xx)
  5. Preface (pp. xxi-2)
  6. Introduction Stalin’s Accomplice (pp. 3-10)

    At the height of his career, Andrei Aleksandrovich Zhdanov (1896—1948) was seen in the West as the heir apparent of Soviet leader Iosif Stalin.³ Although more contractor than architect, Zhdanov was one of the great builders of the Soviet edifice. While the German Sovietologist Boris Meissner exaggerated in 1952 when he labelled Zhdanov the most important builder, after Stalin, of the Soviet empire and of “Soviet patriotism,” it is undeniable that Zhdanov made a key contribution to the creation of the Stalinist autocracy.4 In highly politicized societies, such as Nazi Germany or the USSR, in which citizens have to...

  7. 1 Youth, 1896–1918 (pp. 11-26)

    Andrei Zhdanov was born on 14 February 1896 in the town of Mariupol’ on the shores of the Sea of Azov in Ekaterinoslavguberniia. He was the youngest child and only son of thirty-five-year-old Aleksandr Alekseevich Zhdanov, a school inspector in the region,³ whose father had been a rural priest, and Ekaterina Pavlovna Gorskaia, daughter of a Russian noble family. Two of her ancestors had been rectors of the same academy where her husband defended his master’s thesis, and one of them had been a member of the Holy Synod, the governing body of the Orthodox church. Ekaterina Pavlovna was...

  8. 2 Rise of a Bolshevik Chieftain, 1918–1924 (pp. 27-50)

    Between July 1918 and May 1919, Zhdanov was forced into three more hasty departures before the White forces. After arriving in Ekaterinburg in June 1918, however, the fugitive quickly recovered from his panic at Shadrinsk. The city, one of the largest in the Urals and an industrial centre, was then the headquarters of the Bolshevik military authorities in the region. Although he was now assigned to the Red Army, which was organized to defend the New Regime against its opponents during this summer, Andrei Zhdanov never actually fought during the Civil War. Documentary sources indicate that as “inspector-organiser” and “agitation-propaganda”...

  9. 3 The Proconsul of Nizhnii Novgorod, 1924–1929 (pp. 51-78)

    In August 1924 Andrei Zhdanov became chief of a Party organization that was much larger than the one he had left in Tver’ two year previously, even if Nizhnii’s Party chapter remained significantly smaller than the giant Moscow and Leningrad branches of the Russian Communist party.² The guberniia Party had almost sixteen thousand full and candidate members when Zhdanov became its helmsman. More than half of the members were at the candidate stage and consisted mainly of recruits from the Lenin Enrolment.³ The provincial Communist Youth League (Komsomol) counted eighteen thousand members. Thus, Communists and members of the Komsomol accounted...

  10. 4 The Great Turn, 1929–1934 (pp. 79-104)

    We will never know to what extent the Stalinists really believed in 1929 and 1930 that their country was exposed to the “clear and present danger” of a capitalist invasion, but, as before, they publicly professed to believe that the world’s first socialist country was threatened by implacably hostile foreign powers. In this way, Stalin justified his crude project to make the USSR economically self-sufficient by stepping up the pace of industrialization and collectivizing agriculture. The concomitant goal of these economic policies was the realization of a Marxist utopia.² Stalin’s minions, such as Zhdanov, doggedly pursued this profound socioeconomic and...

  11. 5 Moscow and Leningrad, 1934–1936 (pp. 105-144)

    The first nine months of Zhdanov’s career as an all-Union leader in Moscow stand in sharp contrast to the subsequent four years when he divided his time between Moscow and Leningrad. On 1 December 1934 in Leningrad a process began that culminated in the bloodbath of 1937 and 1938. But even in 1935 and 1936, the city was already witnessing the arrest, sentencing, deportation, imprisonment, or execution of thousands upon thousands of its inhabitants.

    This chapter will begin by outlining what in hindsight seemed to be the almost unbearable lightness of 1934, given the darkness of the following two years....

  12. 6 Purification, 1937–1939 (pp. 145-182)

    Before September 1936 Zhdanov had played no significant role in scripting the grotesque plan to rid the land of its myriad foes. The Moscow Trials provided the public justification for this “purification,” “cleansing,” or “purge” (chistka). We can only approximate the reactions of Zhdanov and some of the other Politburo members to the show trials’ fantastic narrative of a huge conspiracy. Zhdanov was an otherwise well-informed rational man with a decent education. Why did he unreservedly support Stalin’s bloody reckoning with the alleged conspirators of an all-pervasive underground organization that, despite its enormous size, had succeeded in carrying out only...

  13. 7 Dragon’s Teeth, 1939–1941 (pp. 183-224)

    From its inception, the Bolshevik party had cultivated a siege mentality whose roots can be traced from the Marxist idea of the class struggle, to the Party’s illegal existence under the tsar for most of the period before 1917, the assault on the Party by the Provisional Government of the summer of 1917, and the Party’s narrow escape during the Civil War, when it had been attacked from all corners. After Lenin’s death in 1924, a Marxist-based image of the capitalist outside world poised to invade the Soviet Union had been maintained. The notion of implacable foreign hostility was inculcated...

  14. 8 Dragon Harvest, 1941–1945 (pp. 225-252)

    Although Andrei Zhdanov formally lost neither his cc secretaryship nor his Politburo membership, he did not belong to the core Soviet leadership during the “Great Patriotic War,” as Soviet political discourse and historiography labelled World War II. Unlike a number a number of military commanders in particular, Zhdanov escaped severe punishment for his errors in the summer of 1941, when Leningrad narrowly escaped German capture. Zhdanov deferred to the generals in military matters after his disastrous involvement during the early stages of the fighting. As civilian head of a city that held out with great tenacity until the Germans finally...

  15. 9 The Prodigal Son Returns, 1945–1946 (pp. 253-288)

    The Soviet political system had begun to set before 1941, and the Second World War did not change much about the way the Stalinists ruled their subjects. But, far more so than in the 1930s, foreign affairs were central to the deliberations of the Soviet leaders after May 1945.³ Furthermore, the postwar ideological and cultural campaigns that Stalin and his companions unleashed espoused “Great Russian chauvinism” to a far greater extent than the pre-war hype surrounding the release of theShort Course; the message of the campaigns stands in diametric opposition to the internationalist emphasis of the “cultural revolution” of...

  16. 10 The Selfless Fighter Succumbs, 1947–1948 (pp. 289-335)

    The Cold War, the “signal military, political, and cultural event of the last fifty years,” found its origins in the mutual distrust between the Soviet Union and the Western liberal democracies that went back to the Russian Revolution and the Civil War.² This suspicion precluded any long-term continuation of the wartime alliance against the Axis powers. By the late summer of 1947, the battle lines were drawn in a war that never became hot in Europe. Andrei Zhdanov’s landmark speech at Szklarska Poremba in September 1947 underlined the division of Europe and the world into two camps.

    In 1945 and...

  17. EPILOGUE Myths, the Man, and a Legacy in Limbo (pp. 335-344)

    At the twin peaks of his career (1938–41 and 1946–48), Zhdanov had been Stalin’s second or third in command. Like Molotov, Stalin’s other confidant in those years, Zhdanov was a willing partner. But neither Molotov nor Zhdanov was an aspiring leader. Nevertheless, by virtue of Zhdanov’s position at the top, he cautiously cultivated some alliances and friendships with up-and-coming leaders. Zhdanov’s death thus had some profound short-term political consequences. Without their protector many of his (former) clients and assistants fell victim to a ruthless political feud. Zhdanov left a void in the highest level of the power structure...

  18. Notes (pp. 345-524)
  19. Bibliography (pp. 525-564)
  20. Index (pp. 565-594)