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The Transformative State The Intersection of Early Soviet Ideology and Culture.

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Presentation on theme: "The Transformative State The Intersection of Early Soviet Ideology and Culture."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Transformative State The Intersection of Early Soviet Ideology and Culture

2 Introduction

3 Outline  Introduction  Marxism and the Russian Conundrum  Ideology and the public sphere  The intersection of ideology, policy, and lived experience  Conclusion

4 Marxism and the Russian Conundrum  Marxism: Historical determinism -- Capitalism would produce a proletariat which would eventually unite to overthrow capitalism and establish a socialist system  The conundrum: Russia had not experienced Marx’s full-fledged capitalism yet. The “proletariat” was relatively small; most Russians were peasants.

5 Leninist ideology  Argued for the role of the party to lead the revolution (the vanguard party)  Required consciousness- raising  Espoused the dictatorship of the proletariat

6 The Soviet view on public culture “Soviet authorities were never ashamed of their monopoly on culture. They considered the policy progressive. Culture was a weapon of class struggle, available to acquaint people with the socialist program. Allowing the enemy access to mass media would have seemed criminally stupid, and neglecting propaganda a disservice to the people.” James von Geldern, Mass Culture in Soviet Russia

7 Transmission Mechanisms  The press  Film  Campaigns (agitation trains)  The public trial  The education system

8 Communication strategies  Broadcasting the preferred message (newspapers, film, art, public trials)  Censoring unwanted messages (Glavlit)  Bolsheviks established the Revolutionary Tribunal of the Press in January 1918  Replaced by the Chief Administration of Literary and Publishing Affairs (Glavlit) in June 1922

9 Mass media  Even with the advent of radio, newspapers remained the dominant medium in the USSR.  The newspapers Pravda (Truth) and Izvestia (News) were two of the primary party organs and reached an elite audience.  Other papers such as The Workers’ Newspaper, Working Moscow, and The Peasant Newspaper were aimed at the less politically literate masses.

10 Sample radio excerpt (1925)

11 A closer look “Comrade workers, peasants, and everyone else listening to this radio-newspaper in near and distant cities and villages of our Union. You are sitting by your radio receivers and loudspeakers and listening to Moscow. You want to know how Moscow is celebrating the eighth anniversary of the October Revolution. We won’t be transmitting all of today’s speeches, because they were already broadcast from Red Square and you’ve heard them. But we will tell you how Moscow is abuzz and enjoying itself today…. Decorations in the Red Presnya and Rogozho-Simonovsky districts were particularly beautiful. The Red Presnya Raikom [district party committee] was the center of the district festival. The Raikom building is drowning in greenery and posters. The letters USSR are aflame on both sides of the building. The slogans proclaim: Every Soviet, every Ispolkom [Executive/ state administrative committee], every judicial institution must be the faithful guardian of revolutionary legality. ‘May the union of workers and peasants grow and expand, may its roots in Communist Party leadership grow stronger.’” “Heard in Moscow,” Radio-Newspaper Correspondence Report, No. 285, November 7, 1925

12 Using Pravda to send political messages “The general line.” The flags read, “Lenin, industrialization, complete collectivization, socialist competition, shock work” and “Exceed the industrial financial plan.”

13 Film  Useful for targeting illiterate populations (only 2/5 of the adult population could read in 1920)  The Bolsheviks established a subsection for movies in the Extramural Education Department of the Commissariat of Education in January 1918, headed by Lenin’s wife, Nadezhda Krupskaia.  On August 27, 1919, the Soviets nationalized the film industry. “…for us the most important of all arts is the cinema.” Lenin, 1922

14 Agitki  An agitka was a short propaganda film  A sample agitka plot: The Frightened Burzhui “As a result of the Revolution, a capitalist loses his appetite and becomes an insomniac. Then he is ordered to appear in a work battalion. Honest labor cures him immediately.” (Kenez, p. 32)

15 Agitational trains and ships  Carried news reels and propaganda films into the countryside  People saw the country’s leaders for the first time  These trains and ships were equipped with their own printing machines and film screening equipment

16 Products for mass consumption  Songs  Children’s stories  Pop fiction

17 Socialist Realism  “Socialist realism is the basic method of Soviet literature and literary criticism. It demands of the artist the truthful, historically concrete representation of reality in its revolutionary development. Moreover, the truthfulness and historical concreteness of the artistic representation of reality must be linked with the task of ideological transformation and education of workers in the spirit of socialism.” First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers, 1934

18 Socialist realist art  In practice, socialist realism extolled the virtues of labor, whether in industry or agriculture. Bolshevik Harvest

19 Socialist realism, cont.  Socialist realism also contributed to the cult of personality around Stalin and, to a lesser extent, Lenin.

20 Typical socialist realist plots  In film, socialist realism generally consisted of a plot in which a “in the process of fulfilling a task, the hero, under the tutelage of the seasoned Party worker, acquires an increased understanding of himself, the world around him, the tasks of building communism, task struggle, and the need for vigilance.” (Kenez, p. 144.)

21 Socialist realist ballet The Football Player “…in which the inevitable tractor, a coal shaft and a derrick were parts of the stage setting, and which featured in its program a harvest dance, a coal dance, and an oil dance….” Picture of contemporary ballet dancer David Hallberg performing the “Socialist Realist tractor ballet” The Bright Stream in 2011

22 Socialist realist literature The Literary Gazette was a newspaper directed at writers. It urged utilitarianism in literature and the portrayal of class enemies like kulaks or entrepreneurs as individuals lacking and redeeming qualities.

23 The public trial  The trial of the Socialist Revolutionaries  Foreshadowed the Great Purge of

24 Ideology through interaction  Interaction with Soviet policies  Collectivization  Industrialization  Time management/productivity policies  Family policy  Women’s issues

25 Collectivization  Forced the peasant population into state- owned or collectively-owned farms  Abolished private ownership of cattle, equipment, seed, etc.  Met with staunch opposition from the peasantry, who, rather than bringing their livestock to the collective, slaughtered them in protest (Hindus estimates that half of the country’s pigs were killed and one fourth of the cattle)

26 Objections to collectivization  “The very word kolkhoz inflamed her to fury. She shuddered at the idea of mixing with other folk in her everyday work and of being told by others what she should and what she should not do.”  As one peasant argued with a kolkhoznik, “Give us the same privileges that you are enjoying, good land, machinery, credits, stock, and see if we don’t even go one better than you….When a man has his own things he will work his head off to get results, but when everything is pooled as it is in a kolkhoz, he says to himself – ‘I’ll do as little as I can, for I’ll get as much as the other fellow anyway.’”

27 Media and culture meet policy Swell the Harvest Hey Fyodor and Malania, And Avdotia and Pakhom, Let’s strike up a merry song About the sowing season. Hey you, Vanya, best stretch out That accordion past your ears. Why should you be sowing from Your grandpa’s basket in these years. Take a gander in the barn – Ain’t it mighty nifty How that newfangled machine Sorts the grain so swiftly Hey you, basket, blow away, Like some measly weevil, Cuz we got ourselves a drill A fancy city seed-drill. It ain’t nothing like you are -- It’ll dance a pretty dance, Each seed drops out where it should, Not a single one askance

28 Everyday experience of collectivization  Long lines and shortages (the USSR was exporting foodstuffs like caviar, butter, eggs, cheese, and jam to make money to purchase steel and iron and other industrial products abroad)  Food rations were allotted by class; people classified as “proletariat” received considerably more than the “non-proletariat”  Meanwhile, mass media praised collectivization as a success and the mechanization of agriculture – tractor production was constantly upheld by Soviet leaders as a sign of Soviet progress

29 Attitudes toward people who oppose Soviet objectives: The example of industrialization and the Five Year Plan “The five year plan in four – this was the new slogan and the new ambition, and from hundreds of posters and banners floating from buildings, plastered on corner posts, staring from street cars, stuck onto automobiles, the words flashed their imperious message. Anybody who questioned the wisdom or the possibility of packing a generation of industrial development into four years…was an opportunist, a defeatist, a deviator, a traitor, a blackguard, a counter- revolutionary – anything but a true soldier of the Revolution and of the one and only cause.” Maurice Hindus, Red Bread

30 Standardization and Productivity  The Soviets targeted religious holidays in particular in order to make people more productive. One scholar estimates that people in the Tver region had 100 free days a year, when Sundays and national and local holidays were factored in.

31 Manipulating the Calendar

32 Family and women’s issues  Marriage: Under decrees passed within days of attaining power, the Bolsheviks changed the law so that women were no longer forced to adopt their husband’s family name and making it easier to divorce.  Abortion: The Bolsheviks legalized abortion in 1920 but were concerned by the high number of abortions that subsequently took place.

33 Opposition  Opposition to the regime sometimes surfaced in anonymous letters to newspapers  Though unpublished, these letters demonstrate that people were aware of the tension between Soviet propaganda and reality. “‘So this is the glorious epoch,’ wrote one anonymous writer in But ‘for me the following thing remains incomprehensible… We have a colossal army of convicts, tens of millions of them, who are overflowing the jails, the camps, and the [labor] colonies…In the majority of cases the accusation against them is completely brazen, crass and based entirely on lies…’”

34 “From utopia to ideology” Over time, ideology “within the party underwent fundamental changes; its content was drained; only the hollow forms of the terminology remained.”

35 About ideology  “Ideology is the language of politics in the USSR.”  “Ideology is…an exercise in salesmanship or public relations. It seeks to persuade the Soviet citizens that theirs is the best of all possible societies.”  Meyer proposes a law: “The intensity of the indoctrination and the rigidity of the official dogma are inversely proportional to the credibility of the doctrine.”

36 Conclusion  Soviet leaders sought to permeate the public sphere with Leninist ideology in order to rouse the proletariat and peasants to class consciousness and to establish legitimacy for their government. This would be a particularly strong emphasis of Stalinist propaganda (e.g. the slogan “Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for a happy childhood!”).  The rhetoric of ideology was prevalent through the Gorbachev period; adherence to the beliefs underlying that ideology, however, was significantly weakened.


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