Russia 1917-85- control of the people


State control of the media

  • a decree in November 1917 banned all non-socialist newspapers and all non-Bolsheviks newspapers were banned by the early 1920s
  • Pravda had a circulation of 10.7 million in 1983
  • prohibited topics included plane crashes and natural disasters but carried the endless achievements of socialism
  • In September 1957 270,000 people were exposed to dangerous levels of nuclear waste, but it was never reported
  • radio station Spoken Newspaper of the Russian Telegraph Agency featured propaganda 
  • radio was useful to communicate to the 65% of people who were illiterate
  • In 1950 the were 10,000 television sets, by 1958 this was three million
  • government television provided news, documentaries and achievments of socialism
  • by 1985 there was greater emphasis on light entertainment
  • the Soviet people got used to reading between the lines
  • government came to reply on the media to provide a distraction from the realities of socialism
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Cult of Lenin

  • only a cult of Lenin after he died
  • being hailed a hero of the revolution as soon as he was buried
  • newspapers, statues and cinemas contained endless pictures of Lenin
  • his body was embalmed for display in the mausoleum in Red Square, for which there were long queues to see
  • Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in 1924
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Cult of Stalin

  • linking him to Lenin even where there were no links
  • Tsaritsyn renamed Stalingrad in 1925
  • images of Stalin representing an all-knowing leader, a benefactor, inspiration and defender of socialism
  • His early life in biographies was often embellished or invented- hagiography
  • He gathered increasingly ridiculous titles, such as 'Brilliant Genius of Humanity'
  • staues of Stalin were erected in most cities and towns
  • by the 1940s, the cult of Stalin was near unrecognisable to the real Stalin
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Cult of Khrushchev

  • Khrushev condemned Stalin's cult of personality in the Secret Speech in 1956
  • This had politcal uses for him as he pushed de-Stalinisation
  • Khrushchev still had his own cult of personality, although less so than Stalin, to be seen as a more important leader than Malenkov (who he had originally shared power with)
  • Visits to peasnats served as good photo oppurtunities
  • the development of the cult showed Khrushchev's egotistical personality
  • He made use of the media for publicity, taking on a more desperate tone with every failed policy
  • Cult of personality stated as one of the reason's for his dismissal in 1964
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Cult of Brezhnev

  • Brezhnev's cult of personality was less a method of securing power than a substitute for real power
  • gave him the symbols of power without having to exercise it
  • he was awarded at least 100 medals 
  • took on a more practical use when Brezhnev's health deteriorated, providing the appearance of leadership
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Attacks on Religion

  • Bolsheviks against religion because it proposed an alternative ideology to Marxism
  • Lenin had a particular hatred for priests
  • In 1918, the Decree on Freedom of Conscience separated the Orthodox Church from the state
  • During the famine of the civil war, attacks on the Church insreased and valuable objects seized to help pay for food supplies
  • Religious rituals were attacked and there was a campaign to replace baptisms with Octoberings
  • Under Stalin, priests were lablled as kulaks and deported
  • However, Church supported the war effort, prompting an accommodation
  • Khrushechev was very anti-religious and within four years, 10,000 churches closed
  • Surviving priests were harassed by the secret police
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Attacks on Religion (2)

  • Active persecution declined with Brezhnev as he was aware that the persecution damanged relations with the West
  • Council of Religious Affairs monitored religious services and clergy
  • Jews and Baptists were treated with less tolerance
  • The Bolsheviks feared that Islam's links to national minorities might threaten the social cohesion of the state
  • Ramadan was condemned and polygamy was prohibited
  • Mosques and sharia courts were shut down
  • During the 1980s only 25% of people believed in God
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Attacks on opponents of the government

  • Task of the secret police was to act against counter-revolution and sabotage
  • During the Civil War, the Cheka could act with minimal interference from other legal bodies
  • The Cheka intensified its actions against Mensheviks and SRs in the Red Terror- execution became the rule rather than the exception
  • Cheka replaced by the GPU in 1922
  • they only took orders from the Communist Party
  • kulaks were sent to the Gulags, run by the secret police
  • people who were arrested were subjected to torture until they confessed, causing in a wave of potentially false confessions
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Roles of Yagoda, Yezhov and Beria

  • Yagoda was the head of the secret police in 1934
  • The emphasis of the Gulags changed from ideology to economic considerations
  • He used 180,000 Gulag labourers digging by hand to build the 141-mile White Sea Canal- was completed under budget in less than two years but cost 10,000 lives and was 12ft deep, making it useless for shipping
  • His influence increased as the number of political opponents rose in the Great Purge 1936
  • Accused of incompetence in safeguarding Kirov in 1936 and was shot in 1938
  • Yezhov was nicknamed 'the bloody dwarf' as he was only 5ft tall
  • the process of arrest, trail and imprisonment was sped up
  • number of Gulag inmates rose considerably, as did deaths within the camps
  • the surveillance of the general public by the NKVD increased
  • Stalin accused him of being responsible for excessive purges
  • Beria was an 'energetic man of impressive organisational skills and unsavoury characteristics'
  • he wanted to reform the excessive behaviour of the secret police
  • wanted to make the Gulag a profitable part of the economy
  • early releases from camps were cancelled so that inmates expertise could be put to good use
  • over one-third of the country's gold and timber was produced through the Gulag
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Changed to the role of the secret police during WW

  • In 1941 they were given some powers of supervision of the Red Army
  • By 1943, the Red Army had started to overrun areas previously captured by the Germans
  • In January 1953, a group of doctors were arrested, accused of trying to assassinate Stalin- most of the accused were Jewish
  • Stalin personally signed many death warrants
  • He gave the NKVD quotas to meet
  • Terror was an essential part of Stalin's policies
  • Many aspects of the terrror reflected Stalin's paranoia 
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Suppression of dissidents

  • Intellectuals- high status encouraged them to think independently
  • Political dissidents- tried to hold the government to the account of its own laws
  • Nationalists- groups of Latvians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians and Georgians existed that called for a greater status for their own cultures
  • Religious dissidents- included Baptists and Catholics
  • all shared a concern with human rights and freedom of expression
  • secret police would conduct surveillance and harassment of suspected dissidents
  • dissidents were either exiled or put in 'mental hospitals' where they were goven drugs and electric shock therapy until they were 'cured'
  • dissidents had little support from the general public
  • By the end of the 1970s, Andropov had managed to keep dissident groups small and divided and in mutual mistrust
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Monitoring of popular discontent, 1982-85

  • KGB monitored conversations were recorded using tape and cassette recorders and listening devices and cameras were secreted in briefcases and bras
  • Andropov realised that popular discontent was most likely to do with economic concerns, knowing that they could threaten the USSR with instability
  • he used the KGB to clamp down on alcoholism and absenteeism in the workplace
  • mothers didn't like this as they had to juggle work and raising their children
  • Andropov surrounded himself with people who were relatively free thinkers, such as journalists and academics
  • he made a conscious effort to promote a younger, more reformist generation
  • Ill-health hampered Andropov's ability to introduce widespread reforms
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Prolekult, avant-garde and Socialist Realism, 1917

  • Lenin created the Commissariat of Enligtenment to promote the arts, encouraging artists to work within the new regime
  • The prolekult was the new Proletarian Culture- art made to serve a political and social purpose
  • The anniversary of the storming of the Winter palace was celebrated by a reenactment using over 8000 people
  • V. Mayakovsky, a poet and playwright, worked to produce slogans and posters for the government
  • The Cultural Revolution served to sweep bourgeois elements away from society
  • Socialist Realism- art that presented idealised images of life under socialism
    • avant-garde styles were rejected
    • literature involved plots of people guided to better things by the Party
    • Stalin waled out of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth in 1953 due to discordant notes
    • achievments of the revolution cnveyed through film
    • buildings built in 'Stalinist baroque', making use of classical lines
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Non-conformity in the 1950s

  • After WW2 there were signs that the government were prepared to allow artists and writers greater freedom, but this was dispelled as elements of Western culture were condemned in the Zhdanovschina, which was launched to remove all bourgeois culture from the West
  • As part of de-Stalinisation, Khrushchev allowed works to be published that had been previously banned, such as works by Isaac Babel
  • writers began to explore themes such as spiritual concerns, the bleakness of rural life, problems of adultery, dovorce and alcohol abuse
  • Brezhnev narrowed the boundaries of what was acceptable
  • Official culture still focused on propoganda and the achievements of socialism
  • By the 1970s, Soviet culture had become more conservative
  • Soviet youth were drawn towards trends in the West
  • By the 1980s, noncomformity in the cultural sphere had continued to cause government irritation
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Clashes between artists and the government to 1985

  • Khrushchev banned Boris Pasternak's novel Dr Zhivago, but it was smuggled into Italy and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958- an embarressemnt for Khrushchev for the USSR
  • Abstract art was not encouraged and was a personal hate of Khrushchev's
  • Komosol geroups patrolled the streets and dance halls to report of young people with unnacceptable behaviour, but these were ultimately a failure
  • Brodsky was arrested for writing without a license and was used as an example to those who wanted to do the same- he was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but was released after 2 due to protests
  • Sinavsky and Daniel were arrested for writing books depicting life the USSR as harsh and surreal- this resulted in a prostest from 200 students from Sinavsky's institute, but Sinavsky was sentenced to seven years in a labour camp and Daniel was sentenced to 5
  • Awards were given to artists who would serve the state, and employment was withdrawn from troublemakers
  • songs written by non-Soviet composers were restricted to 20% of radio air time
  • clashes between artists and the government made for bad press for the Soviet Union in the West
  • Most artists preferred to keep their heads down
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