Stalins Russia by 1941

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  • Created by: Louise
  • Created on: 27-04-13 20:24


Communist enthusiasts did not just want to win support for government policiy but wanted to indoctrinate the population into a different "marxist" way of thinking

Art, literature, cinema, music, posters and radio would be used to mould the new Soviet man woman and child.

Soviet state devoted enormous resources to propaganda as they believed it was a way of spreading messages to the masses. 

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Propaganda in the 1920's

In the 1920's-

  • Propaganda was less effective, this was become communist organisations were relatively new. The regime tried to influence the peasants to support communism but was competing unsuccessfully with the orthodox church.
  • There were few commited peasants many were illiterate.
  • Cultural activity in NEP was relatively free of communist ideology. Western films were more popular with ordinary Russians. 
  • This was to change as the state progressibely took more control of all aspects of the media and culture.
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Propaganda and Stalin

When Stalin came to power there was much to build on the effectiveness of Soviet Propaganda:

  • The regime was on the way to reducing illiteracy opened up for more varieties of propaganda. 
  • The concept of censorship was already well established. 
  • The regime had increased political conent of education. 
  • Party youth organisations were growing in influence.

Stalinist propaganda: -Much more effective

  • Collectivisation would allow propoganda to reach the peasants, farming units were dominated by communism and gave the regim more oppurtunity to influence attitudes
  • Collectivisation had also brought schools to peasants meaning more were literate
  • The State progressibely took more control of all aspects of the media and culture and tried to influence the everyday life of the masses.
  • In the towns and cities an increasing number of party members were trained as agitators and organisers of meetings in factories

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The soviet state had a great advantage over democratic societies in which there was less government control over everyday life, when using propaganda. The communists had control over public information and therefore could prevent alternative views being presented

  • There had been government-imposed censorship since the revolution it bit became much more rigorous under Stalin.
  • All means of communication were harnessed to the regimes goals of rapid economic and social change.
  • Censorship reinforced the perception of the USSR as surrounded by hostile enemies intent on destroying the emerging socialist society.
  • Artistic freedom disapeered.
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Cult of Leadership

  • By the 1940's Stalin domindated the USSR physically as well as politically
  • His image was literally everywhere, he acquired an almost god-like status
  • Praise was haped on Stalins personality and his link with lenin and his role in the achievments of the first five year plans were emphasised. 
  • The regime didn't want people to be alienated by a remote leader so a more popular image of Stalin was created.

Why did the personality cult develop?

  • Disrupion and disorientation brought about by the first five year plan meant that people wanted to be reassured by a strong leader.
  • Image of Stalin reassure people they had a strong leader to take them through the difficult times
  • The cult of personality was useful in holding societ societ together
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Reactions to the Cult

  • Benefactor - Many people (Stakhanovites,soldiers, intellegestia) had reason to be grateful to Stalin as they had gained power status. Stalin was admired as he achieved the astounding changes brought by Collectivisation and Industrialisation
  • Traditional Defender of the People - Stalin played a very similar role to that of Tsars. Millions of letters were sent to him asking for help against misfortunes.Criticism was directed against local officials while the ;eaders were praised
  • Charismatic Leader - Stalin was percieved a demi-god with superhuman abilities and wisdom. This was reflected in the icons and symbols that appeared in houses and processions

Rejection of the Cult:

Some of the population were aware of the abserdities of the cult. There was active criticism about stalins "God status" Some workers objected declarations of love for Stalin. Many in the party felt this isn't what Lenin would have wanted and favoured a more collective leadership. Such crisicisms was less likely to be expressed once the Great Terror began but there is evidence that the excessive propaganda was counterproductive and that people were becoming cynical.

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Art and Culture in the 1920's

  • Lenin himself admired some aspects of pre-revolutionary culture but believed Russia was a brutalised society with not enough culture
  • Many communists believed that culture was based on class and pre-1917 culture was "bourgeois"
  • Enthusiatic marxists wanted to create a proliterian culure that would reflect the feelings and interests of the working class.

Street processions designed to compete with and replace religious processions. Literature encouraged proliteriat themes. Cinema was taken up by communists who realised its propaganda potential - political films.

Many significant cultural figures of the NEP : Maxim Gorky (Author), Sergei Eisenstein (Film), Mikhail Sholokva (Author) , Dmitri Shostakovich (Composer) 

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Art and Culture under Stalin

1928 - The year of the First five year plan and collectivisation saw an accompanying cultural revolution that lasted for three years. Combination of two themes: - a class war that attcked old values and a projection of the new seocitety that would emerge due to the economic revolution taking place

Social realism - Stalin liked realism, Films, books, art and theatre had to have straightforward messages that could be easily understood by the masses.  Socialism realisim used the arts to depict the soviet vision of society not the reality. Music was also expectd to be optomistic and jolly.

In 1931, Stalin announced that the cultural revolution had come to an end. Many intellectuals and artists disapeered during th Great Terror. In 1932 all existing proliterian artistic organisations were merged into a single union. Stalins hold over cultural life was complete.

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Women in the 1920's

  • Bolsheviks maintained a belief in gender equality and fter the revlution women were awarded equal rights and oppurtunities to men. 
  • The reality was party members had little interest in womens lives, party reluctantly set up womens organisations - they failed in forming pressure groups and were unpopular
  • Equality in law was limited impact in practive. When unemployment rose in NEP, it pushed women into lower paid unskilled work.
  • Also social inequality -men could easily divorce their wives and had no responsibility to them. Simplified divorce procedures meant divorce rates rocketed. 
  • Many women did not believe party propaganda about the joys of equality and freedom, propaganda painted a very different picture to reality.

Women in the Party - only 65,000 out of 1 million. The percentage of women in the party fell during 1920's. The party discriminated as much as society. Women were more likely to be expelled from the party than men. Only very few women rose to important positions in the party. 

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Women and Family under Stalin

Upheavels caused by collectivisation and industrialisation (quicksand society) added to the growing problem of social instability. The State and Stalin recognized there was a problem. 

  • The regime in the 1930's suddenly became positively pro-family and pro-discipline. Known as the "Great Retreat" to family values. There was a shift back from Bolshevik attitudes (women equality) to Borgeouis concepts. 
  • Marrige was now to be taken seriously, children urged to love/respect their parents.
  • The change can be seen in the Family Code of May 1936 - abortion was outlawed, divorce procedures made more difficult, and child support payments increased.
  • Laws were also passed against prositution and homosexuality

None of this significantly improved womens lives. Some may have preffered the new laws as NEP in practise had favoured men. One new benefit to women was education. However poorer women were expected to look after their childrens and homes as well as the additional burden of contributing to the workforce as part of the drive for socialism.

Juvenile Crime - also a problem in early 1930's, for juvenile offenders the law was relatively mild, rehabilitation was preffered. In 1935, a law passed - Juveniles were punishable in the same way as adults. Parents could be fined for the hooliganism of their children.

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Education in NEP - 1920's

After the revolution there was a period of expermentation with an interest in progressive techineques. Ivolved more active larning and a less authoritarian method of teaching.

Major problems arose:

  • Untrained teachers with little authority had lack of control.
  • Most teachers were not communists - diaproving of the new methods. Traditional teachers were therefore replaced by communists.
  • Unefficient school resources, number of children attending school fell
  • Examinations scrapped
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Education under Stalin - 1930's

Stalin saw the results of experimentation as disatrous. The USSR needed a more educated and skilled workforce. 

  • The need for skilled workers, scientists and techincians led to the introduction of more organised school structure and traditional methods (Exams and Uniform reintroduced)
  • Emphasis put on higher training of specialists who could help the industrialisation drive
  • Centralised control over education
  • A political slant which presented a marxist viewpoint was still put on some subjects.
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Living Standards

1929-1935  -Living standards dropped considerably, 1933- the worst year

  • There was rationing of food and water
  • The great famine (1932-3)caused millions of deaths and major problems intowns, swamped with refugees and the rationing system broke down
  • Internal passports were introduced
  • Housing shortages
  • Many cities lacked sewage systems, street lighting and public transport
  • Increased urban violence

1935 - 1937 - Conditions improved, 1937 - the best year

After 1937 - Problems increased again after 1937

  • The bad harvst of 1936 had an impact an living standards worsened again
  • continued rise of the urban population, put strain on the public services

When war came in 1941, conditions for civillians as well as soldiers became very harsh

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Religion in NEP

Bolshevik attitude to religion - Religion was rejected by the communists, as marxists they belived religion distracted people from working toward a socialist society. Communists regarded the Orthodox Church as a bourgeois tool of repression used against people. 

Religion in NEP Russia

  • Religion wasn't actually banned as it commaded the loyalty of many Russians
  • Church property was confiscated, preists were persecuted
  • In NEP Russia the state focused on using propaganda to spread an anti-religious message, publications were used
  • Members of the Komosomol destroyed religious icons and disrupted festivals.
  • Sometimes activities backfired, and in some areas th party actually stopped anti-religious campaigns as they realised they were counterproductive, gaining publicity for the Church
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Religion under Stalin - 1930's

It was realized that people could not be merely pursuaded to renounce their religious beliefs.In 1929 the regime resorted to a much more direct attack:

  • Teaching of religious creeds was banned
  • Hundreds of churches were destroyed and closed down
  • All religious schools were closd
  • Preists had to function in secret

For all the effort, the regime found it impossible to completely kill off religious belief not just in the Orthodox Church but also Islam and Judaism. In 1937 census half a million citizens descired themselves as religious believers, although the actual number was much higher it still shows many soviet citizens held onto their faith.

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Public opinion in the USSR

  • It was not easy to gauge true public opinion and the the stat had contolled all means of communication and there was no freedom of speech. Citizens were discouraged from expressing their true opinions, especially in the years of the terror.
  • The regime was very keen to know what people were thinking, ordicary citizens sent millions of letters to political laders, the police spent much time compiling reports on public opinion which would then be sent upwards. 
  • The regime and Stalin learned a lot from these reports. Leaders knw that the regime was not very popular among people. But it is difficult to judge whether these reports ever had influence on official policy.

Support for the regime was generated by several factors:

  • The regime did associate itself with progress and modernization, positive impact on many young people. 
  • Soviet propaganda had some success in portraying the regime as the guardian of national security and patriotism. 
  • Conditions did improve at times, the state did provide for some basic needs.
  • Stalin himself was immune to criticism, people often blamed problems on local officials. Stalin had a strong father like image in soviet propaganda. 
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Key Features of Stalins regime

  • Personal dictatorship
  • A "command economy" that was centrally controlled and directed
  • A politicisation of life, all aspects of life given a political slant with a marcist view
  • Citizens couldn't behave as individual, were expected to confrom and work for the good of the community
  • A social structure which in theory allowed equality of all, in reality communist party ccontrolled all aspects of life
  • A culture whose content was determined by the state. All cultural activity had to suit the ideology of the regime
  • A conservative ethos. Although preaching a revolution based on marxism, in practise became conservativ and resistant to change
  • A cult of personality
  • The use of terror and propaganda to reinforce control 
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Stalins Power

  • The USSR was a dictatorship of the Communist party. Under Stalin it effectively became a personal dictatorship. 
  • Although tht party dominated the population, Stalin dominated the party. No official position as leader but as General Secretary, Stalin was unchallanged after 1929
  • Stalin was the driving force, even his closest colleagues were in fear of him
  • When there was a significant change in policy it clearly came from Stalin
  • Stalin did not travel far from the kremlin but was well informed through various party and personal channels. He took personal interest where it suited him
  • The politburo met less and less and Stalin preffered to work through individuals
  • Difficult for Stalin to keep absolute control as he didn't run everything personally. 
  • Local party officials sometimes acted independantly of orders given by the centre

The huge bureacracy ran the USSR not because it was efficient but becayse it was unchallanged and all powerful. Administrators who ran the bureacracy were picked from a list (Nomenklatura) which consisted of people who were politically reliable.

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Impact of Stalinism - Nationalities

  • Stalins rule had proved difficult for the various nationalities that made up the USSr
  • The USSR was a federation meaning a union of equal states and the constitution allowed any state to leave if it wished
  • The reality was very different - control exercised from Moscow by the communit party
  • Collectivisation had a devastating effect on some economies. The Ukrain suffered terribly from famine
  • Nationalities educated in their own languages but Russia was made compulsary and was the official language in the soviet army
  • Nationalities also suffered in the terror, deportations began in lt 1930's
  • No evidence of mass nationalist discontent, life for societ citizens outside Russia itself was as difficult for Russians
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Impact of Stalinism - Economy

The command economy was firmly in place after Stalin acquired power in 1929. 

  • Centralised planning and target setting
  • Emphasis on heavy industry and defence
  • Comparative neglect of agriculture given a second role to industry
  • Neglect of consumer goods
  • Greater emphasis on quantity and meeting targets than quality
  • Economy driven by the state determining priorities rather than responding to consumer need

These features were the basis of soviet economy

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Impact of Stalinism -Politicisation

  • Marxists took the view that it was difficult to serperate politics from other areas of human activity
  • Stalin claimed that class differences had largely disapered by the 1930's, the interests of the only classes left (Peasants, Workers, Intellegestia) were in alliance with each other and were looked after by the party and so there was no need need for independant organisations or pressure groups
  • A political slant was put on all aspects of life. 
  • Stalinism ensured that all activity- artistic, sporting, intellectual served the interest of the people and state as a whole
  • Cultural activity- closely controlled by the state and was part of the politicisation of life
  • Censorship and the extensive use of propaganda were part of everyday existence and affected art, literature, cinema, education and all means of communication
  • All activity was politicised and had a strong marxist message
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Impact of Stalinism -Social Structure

  • In therory all were equal in the workers state, in practise this was far from the case
  • Higher party hunctionaries were given provelages in terms of wealth, housing and special goods
  • Ordinary people had minimal rights, workers didn't have trade unions, peasants were restricted by internal passports and women were second class citizens.
  • Skilled workers earned considerably more than unskilled workers
  • Inequality was firmly built into Stalinism
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Impact of Stalinism - Nationalism

  • Strong emphasis on nationalism and patriotism
  • Building Soviet Strngth seemed as much about beating the endmey and creating national pride as about building socialism
  • Stalin talked like an old fashioned Russia nationalist
  • Sense of competition developed between USSR and others
  • Stalin often used Nationalism to appeal to the people, firstly in his policy of Socialism in one country used to defeat opposition
  • Nationalism and Patriotism was to be useful for the USSR in the coming war against Germany
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Stalinism: Revolutionary Conservatism

Ideal Communism - The "Second Revolution" (Industrial and Agricultural) was supposed to lead the USSR into socialism- as socialist state became stronger and enemies overcome it would transition into Communism. In Communism all class differences would have disapeered and the srare would fade away as it would be unnecessary

Under Stalin - Ironically the power of the State strengthened. Stalin argued that as the USSR travelled towards communism, enemies became more desperate and so a strong state was needed to protect the gains of revolution and the working class. The state was to remain even in communism until the defeat of international capitalism

Conservative bureacracy - The result was a huge and brutal bureacracy. Those who ran it became reluctnt to implement any changes, it became more conservative and nobody dared challange Stalin. Stalin created the system and allowed it to develop.

Conservative Policy - The move to a conservative approach was evident early in Stalins regime. The policy of class discrimination was ended when Stalin announced old bourgeois specialists would be beneficial to thee conomy. The policy of promoting those from a proliteriat background was replaced by an emphasis on ability and specialist skill. Policy towards women, family and education became more conservative.

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Strengths of the USSR in 1941

  • The USSR survived the war, the USSR must have been strong to defeat Germany
  • Stalins industrialisation programme had given the USSR a strong industrial base, enabling it to compete with other powers. E.g it was able to significantly outproduce Germany in heavy industry during WW2, despire the devastation caused by invasion
  • The centralised command economy enabled it to adapt quickly to the needs of war
  • Stalinist propaganda had already created a "seige mentality" amongst the soviet people, it promoted patriotism and nationlism which was needed for a war
  • The people were used to hardship and so adapted to the crisis ofwar
  • Stalins was respected as a strong leader
  • Five year plans achieved remarkable growth and gave the USSR a stong base for futher developments
  • Collectivisation had some successes - regime reached the peasants, provided a workforce,  government could secure the grain needed for industrialisation
  • Education became more widespread, increase in literacy. 
  • Workforce become more skillful
  • Development in social services - health
  • Living standards were beginning to rise 
  • Stalins regime did inspire enthusiasm amongst some communists - young people
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Weaknesses of the USSR in 1941

  • Stalins economic policies caused immense disruption in peoples lives both in rural and urban areas
  • Collectivisation had a huge social cost
  • Terror was an integral part of Stalins policies, millions of people suffered
  • Economic policies had limited sucess. Agriculture remained a weakness- low yields, unmodernized and an unethusiastic workforce. Problems with industry
  • Urban workforce lived hard lives, strict labour discipline, harsh conditions, poor wages
  • Social problems- overcrowded housing, poor living standards
  • Women remained second class citizens
  • No personal or political freedom, Religious believers persecutued, large censorship, cultural activity was controlled, internal passports, no free electionns
  • The population was bombarded with constant propaganda
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Weaknesses of the USSR in 1941

  • Stalins economic policies caused immense disruption in peoples lives both in rural and urban areas
  • Collectivisation had a huge social cost
  • Terror was an integral part of Stalins policies, millions of people suffered
  • Economic policies had limited sucess. Agriculture remained a weakness- low yields, unmodernized and an unethusiastic workforce. Problems with industry
  • Urban workforce lived hard lives, strict labour discipline, harsh conditions, poor wages
  • Social problems- overcrowded housing, poor living standards
  • Women remained second class citizens
  • No personal or political freedom, Religious believers persecutued, large censorship, cultural activity was controlled, internal passports, no free electionns
  • The population was bombarded with constant propaganda
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