Theme 3: Control of the people, 1917-85.

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Theme 3: Control of the people, 1917-85

Theme 3:

Control of the people, 1917-85. 

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State control of mass media and propaganda.

  • Lenin viewed the press and media as central to advancing in the revolution and ensuring the Communists kept control of power.
  • Prior to the revolution, Lenin had announced to close down Bourgeois newspapers but un-did this to retain control.
  • Russian government established control over the press with the following:
    • Decree on the Press in November 1917
      • Gave the government the emergency power to close down any newspapers which supported counter revolution.
    • Creating a state monopoly of advertising in November 1917.
      • Ensured only the government could publish adverts.
    • Nationalising the Petrograd Telegraph Agency in November 1917.
      • Gave the government control of electronic means of communication
    • Establishing a Revolutionary Tribunal of the Press in January 1918.
      • Power to censor press.
      • Journalists and editors who committed crimes could be punished by the Cheka.
      • Cheka empowered to impose fines or prison sentences.
    • Established the All Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA), solely responsible for distributing news.
  • Initially, Lenin only closed down papers that supported the Tsar or the Provisional Government.
    • This changed to outlawing opposition Socialist newspapers
  • By 1921, the Communists had shut down 2000 newspapers.
    • 575 printing presses.
    • Control of the press was also important during Civil War.
  • As a consequence of these policies, the Communist newspaper “Pravda”, was a lot higher in circulation than any other newspaper.
    • Best selling publication in the Soviet Union.
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Early Propaganda.

Initial Cult of Lenin:

  • Lenin did not approve of his image being used in media.
  • Cult of Lenin was an example of a type of propaganda that emerged in the early Communist regime, that Lenin disapproved of.
  • Pictures of Lenin were a form of propaganda used to promote the government from the beginning of 1918.
  • Focus on Lenin increase in August 1918.
    • Following an Assassination attempt, Lenin was seen as this modern day Christ for surviving the attack.
  • Cult of personality grew, in spite of Lenin’s approval.
  • Senior communists believed that workers and peasants needed a strong leader.
  • Lenin’s photo associated with titles such as:
    • “Leader of the revolutionary Proletariat”
  • During 1919-1920, a new form of writing emerged that involved Lenin:
    • Depicted as a humane leader, a man who refused luxury, a visionary, and a man of great power.
  • Lenin was aware of these trends and was uncomfortable but understood the importance of them and allowed the Cult to grow.
    • Media and propaganda focus on Lenin, gave the revolution a face.
    • Someone, the population could look up to.

Cartoons and photomontage:

  • In the initial years of the revolution, the Soviet Government collaborated with avant-garde artists to produce posters promoting revolution.
  • Many featured Lenin.
    • A spectre is haunting Europe- the spectre of Communism.
    • An early poster which showed a grim and determined Lenin standing in front of a red banner and pointing to the West.
    • Klutsis used photomontage to create posters advertising Lenin’s plans.
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Media and the NEP.

  • Lenin’s press censorship regime continued throughout the civil war.
    • Victory in Civil War did lead not to increased press freedom.
    • Dzerzhinsky introduced Glavit, a new organisation, designed to overlook the censorship regime.
  • Glavlit censorship worked on the following grounds:
    • GPU put in charge of policing every publication available in the USSR.
    • New professional censors employed
    • All books were investigated for anti-Communist bias.
    • GPU compiled a list of banned books.
  • Soviet libraries purged of politically dangerous books.
  • “Book gulags” introduced to hold books which were banned.
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Stalin’s Media.

  • Under Stalin, censorship tightened further.
  • In the 1930’s, works of revolutionaries: Zinoviev, Kamenev and Trotsky were purged from Soviet libraries.
  • Lenin’s own works edits to remove complimentary statements about Stalin’s political opponents.
  • Stalin’s work edits to remove any indication that he had previously been close to those he had purged.
  • Soviet history rewritten to emphasises the role of Stalin during the revolution.
  • From 1928, Glavit controlled access to economic data.
  • Restrictions put in place to limit “bad news”
    • Soviet media forbidden from publishing stories about disasters, suicides, industrial accidents, even bad weather blocked.
  • Soviet Union was a place of good.
  • Only reports of saboteurs were the only “bad news” available for people to view.
  • Stalin always given credit for works during the regime.
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Consumer magazines.

  • Under Khrushchev and Brezhnev, magazines were encouraged to publish letters of the readers.
  • However, rather than praising the accomplishments of socialism, the letters often exposed long term, economic issues of the USSR.
  • In magazines, consumers often complained about the scarcity of consumer goods
  • Readers complained about male alcoholism, inequalities in the house relating to childcare and housework, even domestic violence.
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Soviet cinema and television.

  • Soviet cinema changed under Khrushchev as part of a broader cultural thaw or liberalisation.
  • Many of the films focused on traditional themes such as the soviet victory in WW2.
    • And the Communist victory during the Civil  War.
  • Television also took off during Khrushchev’s rule.
    • Between 1960-1964, Soviet television was successful in supporting the Communist regime.
    • Played a major role in celebrating the Soviet Union’s success in the Space race.
    • In 1961 millions of people tuned into watch a five hour programme celebrating Yuri Gagarin’s space voyage.
  • Under Brezhnev, film and TV culture changed.
    • Kept traditional elements such as success in World War Two.
    • However during the same period, there were more films dealing with the working people’s lives.
    • Soviet film makers tended to focus on citizens in luxurious apartments, causing a spike in desire for consumer goods and fashion.
  • Brezhnev attempted to use television for his own good.
    • Partially successful:
    • Government were able to keep tight control of what was being broadcasted about the War in Afghanistan.
  • Transmission of Brezhnev’s speeches were at full and he was the centre of a great deal of domestic media coverage.
    • However, by 1970, this tactic backfired, the camera’s showed Brezhnev as an old man who was clearly physically incapable.
      • Unable to make speeches.
      • Became confused mid sentence.
      • Difficulty walking.
    • Television voice-overs praised Brezhnev but still, viewers could see his physical incapacity for themselves.
  • Under Brezhnev, Soviet leaders also lost control of the print media.
    • KGB continued to police political publications.
      • Work of dissidents.
  • Western magazines became more publicly available in Soviet cities.
    • Consumer magazines like vogue.
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Conclusion of Media and propaganda.

  • Essential part of Lenin’s vision for taking control of power.
  • Soviet Media control was very effective.
  • Soviet Media turned Lenin into the hero of the revolution.
  • Under Stalin, propaganda focused on the USSR’s godlike leader.
    • Hero with strong accomplishments
  • Under Khrushchev, consumerism rose with magazines from the West becoming more readily available as well as a black market for these magazines.
    • Increasing emphasis on the ordinary people.
    • TV showed ordinary people in space.
    • Ordinary people working on collective farms.
  • TV exposed Brezhnev for who he really was:
    • Old and fraile.
    • Western magazines revealed how poor the USSR was in contrast to the West.
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Purpose of the cult.

  • Served a specific political purpose.
  • Firstly, emphasises Stalin’s legitimacy to take ownership over the Communist Party.
    • Stalin was fit to rule because he was carrying on Lenin’s work.
    • Cult created a figure that the Soviet citizens could trust and respect.
    • Dissatisfaction with certain aspects of Soviet life could be blamed on local leaders whilst Stalin could be trusted with control to creating a better Russia.
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Myth of Two Leaders.

  • Stalin’s cult was supported by the myth of two leaders.
  • Myth led Soviet people to believe that the October revolution, victory in the Civil War and the foundations of the USSR had been masterminded by the duumvirate between Stalin and Lenin.
  • Myth required Soviet history to be rewritten to place Stalin at the centre of events and remove Trotsky and other leaders from the image.
    • Achieve by:
      • Publication in 1938 of two histories of the Communist Party. Both of which edited by Stalin.
      • Socialist Realist paintings which were created to show Stalin and Lenin working closely together.
      • Altering photos, removed Trotsky out of images of him with Lenin.
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Lenin’s heir.

  • Cult of Stalin implied that Stalin was continuing the works of Lenin.
  • Painters used techniques to show that Stalin was Lenin’s true heir.
  • Gustav Klutsis’ photomontages use a technique to show a row of figures from Marx through to Lenin and Stalin.
    • Implying that Stalin is the latest of revolutionary leaders.
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  • Stalin Cult changed following World War Two.
    • From 1945, Stalin’s role as Generalissimo or War leader, became the focus of Soviet propaganda.
  • Stalin preferred the title of Marshal, he still used to it reflect his increasing emphasis on Stalin as a military figure.
  • Before WW2, Stalin was presented as a revolutionary and a thinker.
    • After WW2, as Generalissimo, he was presented as a military genius.
      • The man who defeated Hitler.
  • Before WW2, wore green military top.
    • Following WW2, he designed his own, white uniform.
    • Military rank of Generalissimo was created specifically for him.
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Cults of personality under Khrushchev.

  • After Stalin’s death, cults were a lot less powerful.
  • Khrushchev criticised Stalin’s cult and then formed two of his own.
  • Khrushchev revived Lenin’s cult and focused on making Lenin’s name live on
    • Lenin depicted as fun and humane.
    • A person who loved children and family.
  • In many ways, Khrushchev’s Lenin resembled Khrushchev himself.
  • Purpose of the Cult was to move away from Stalinism.
  • Secondly, by 1958, Khrushchev created his own cult:
  • According to Soviet propaganda, Khrushchev was:
    • A disciple of Lenin, completing the task that Lenin began.
    • Responsible for new success such as the Soviet Space race programme and the Virgin Lands Scheme success.
    • A respected statesman who negotiated with the US president as an equal
    • A hero of WW2.
    • An authority on literature, art, science, industry and agriculture.
    • Great reformer who was perfecting the Soviet system.
  • Khrushchev’s cult became more problematic in the early 1960’s
  • By associating himself so strongly with the Virgin Lands scheme, when it failed, he was associated with failure.
  • Claims of expertise unraveled when the disastrous results of the Corn campaign were released.
  • Embarrassing foreign policy climb downs and his failure to deliver on his highly optimistic promises about out producing the USA led to a collapse in strength of the Cult.
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Cult of Brezhnev.

  • Brezhnev’s cult of personality was a shadow of Stalin’s.
  • Brezhnev took a cult for pragmatic reasons.
  • By 1964, a cult for any leader had been established as a key feature of Soviet politics.
  • Brezhnev’s cult had four key features:
    • A great Leninist.
      • Even though Brezhnev hadn’t personally know Lenin, he claimed to be continuing his works.
      • Particularly claiming to continue the policy for world peace
    • A military hero:
      • Brezhnev attempted to present himself as a military leader and he stressed his military prowess in WW2.
      • Promoted to Marshall of the Red Army and received 60 medals.
    • Dedicated to ensuring world peace:
      • Brezhnev stressed his foreign policy success in developing detente with the USA.
    • A true man of the people:
      • Brezhnev biographies talked of a man with humble origins, worked as an engineer in the steel industry.
  • Brezhnev created his image through public festivals marking important anniversaries, such as the fiftieth anniversary of the October revolution
    • Brezhnev’s major birthdays.
    • Anniversaries of World War Two in 1965 and 1975
  • However, Cult of Brezhnev was counterproductive.
  • Mocked for his claims of greatness.
  • Veterans of World War Two resented the inflation of Brezhnev’s role in the war.
  • Young people who were fully aware of the scale of the Soviet Military did not believe his claims for World Peace.
  • Lavish lifestyle of Brezhnev’s family, ruined his claims to be the man of the people.
    • Where Stalin was feared and respected, Brezhnev cult was not plausible and filled with jokes and humility.
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Marxism and religion.

  • Lenin and most Marxist revolutionaries of that period, believed that Marx was an enemy of religion.
  • Marx famously claimed that religion was an ‘Opium of the masses’
  • Therefore Lenin and other Marxist radicals believed that their revolution would liberate working people from capitalist exploitation and from the delusion of religion.
  • Lenin was also very critical of the Russian Orthodox Church as it was affiliated with the Tsar in Russia.
  • Church was an extremely wealthy organisation.
    • Some Russian Orthodox priests led lives of high privilege while working people were poor.
  • New Communist government was suspicious of organised religion for two reasons:
    • Stood for values that opposed Communist values.
    • Religious groups were organisations that were independent of the Communist Government and therefore could become opposition to Lenin.
  • For these reasons, successful Communist Governments opposed religious groups in the USSR, including Russian Orthodox Church and Islam.
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Legal Reform.

  • The following decrees were announced by Lenin, and they defined the relationship between the state and religion:
    • October 1917 Decree on Land gave peasants the right to seize land belonging to the Church.
    • January 1918 Decree concerning Separation of Church and State, and of School and Church meant the Church lost its privileged position in society.
      • Church land and property were nationalised, state subsidies for Church were ended.
      • RE banned in schools.
    • 1922 Soviet Constitution guaranteed freedom of conscience for all Soviet people.
  • In practice, the religious freedom that Lenin opted to give to the people, was compromised by his actions through the measures he took.
    • Soviet courts lacked the power to force the government to obeying the law or respect citizens’ rights.
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Church and the terror.

  • Lenin convinced that the Church was an enemy of the revolution, therefore used terror to try to undermine the Church.
  • In the first year of the revolution, the Church was terrorised:
    • November 1917, Archpriest Ivan Kochurov was murdered outside Petrograd.
    • In January 1918, Metropolitan Vladimir was tortured and shot in Kiev.
    • Orthodox priests in Moscow were massacred in January following a Church decree excommunicating the Bolsheviks.
  • More extreme measures were sanctioned in November 1918 when the Politburo issued a secret order to the Cheka sanctioning the mass execution of priests.
    • Within two years, most of the popular priests were dead.
  • Roman Catholic Priests were treated differently because they had been traditionally been a persecuted minority rather than being backed by the Tsar.
  • In addition to executions and deportations, the new government also used propaganda against the Church and seized Church property.
    • These two policies operated together during the 1921 famine.
  • Government policy towards Islam was contradictory, initially Communist forces used the Decree concerning separation of Church and State to justify taking land from ‘Waqfs’ the Islamic foundations and charities.
    • Quickly reversed as Waqfs funded schools in Muslim areas and the Communist leaders encouraged Muslims to join the Party.
    • No link between Islam and the Tsar.
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The Living Church.

  • One strategy used against the Orthodox Church was the establishment of the Living Church.
  • Claimed to be a reformed version of the old Orthodox Church, in which ordinary people have power.
  • Aided by the GPU, organised a national congress in April 1923, which deposed Patriarch Tikhon and introduced a new decentralised structure.
    • Part of a government backed strategy to split the Church.
      • Take away its central leader.
      • Weaken its national structure.
  • However the leader of the Living Church, the Archbishop Vedenskii, was not prepared to support the communist regime.
    • In 1923, he publicly debated science and religion.
    • Gained widespread support for his argument that science could not disprove the existence of God.
  • Overall, the Church was more successful but the Church split did not diminish church growth, nor faith in saints and miracles which continued through the 1920’s.
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  • During the 1920’s, the Soviet Authorities initiated campaigns against Islamic groups.
  • Communists objected to islam for two main reasons:
    • Claimed that Islam encouraged ‘crimes based on custom’ especially those infringing women’s rights.
    • Secondly, they recognised that Islamic organisations had the loyalty of many people in the Caucasus and Central Asia., therefore the Communists wanted to destroy the religion in order to extend their own power.
  • In order to weaken Islam, the Communists:
    • Closed mosques, turning them into sports clubs and storage depots.
    • Discouraged pilgrimages.
    • Attacked Islamic shrines
    • Started campaigns against women wearing the chador, a dress which included a veil.
    • Opened anti-Islamic museums near recognised holy places.
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Stalin, religion and terror.

  • Stalin often pragmatic when dealing with religion.
  • During the Collectivisation process, Stalin ordered the closure of many churches as they aided resistance against his policies.
  • Outside of Russia, Stalin set targets for the number of people from different ethnic groups he wanted purged.
  • In the Central Asian Republics, where Islam was the dominant religion, the NKVD attacked local priests and intellectuals.
  • The NKVD attacked local priests and intellectuals..
  • NKVD also attacked groups that had been set up to defend Islam in the 1920s from Soviet attacks.
  • Regardless of the attacks, Islam still survived in Sufi groups.
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Religion and War.

  • During Second World War, Stalin made a pragmatic alliance with the Orthodox church.
  • One of his strategies for winning the War was to appeal to the patriotism of the Russian people to boost morale and inspire them to fight.
    • Russian Orthodox Church was linked with Russian National Identity.
      • Therefore as patriotism re-awoke, it was a natural instinct for Russians to look up to the Church.
    • The war was a time of continual crisis when all families faced losing loved ones.
      • Church provided comfort for bereaved families.
    • Soldiers also found comfort in the thought that God would welcome them into the heavens.
  • Early on in the War, Stalin reached an understanding with the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church.
  • The Russian Orthodox Church’s most senior figure urged Christians to  fight for the motherland.
    • Proclaiming Stalin as ‘ God’s chosen leader’
    • In return, the government changed its policy towards the church:
      • From War, the anti-religious propaganda ceased.
      • Communist publications such as Bezbozhnik were officially closed.
      • Stalin granted Metropolitan Sergey an official residence in Moscow
      • Stalin promised to end the censorship of religious magazines following the war.
      • Stalin promised that the Churches that had been closed by the Government would be reopened. 414 churches reopened during the final year of the War.
    • Church grew as a result of the easing of restrictions.
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Khrushchev and religion.

  • Khrushchev’s major anti-religious campaign started in 1958. Included the following measures:
    • Churches reopened during World War Two were reclosed.
    • Anti-religious propaganda reintroduced.
    • Anti-religious magazines were reintroduced, for example, Science and Religion, was published regularly from 1960.
    • Roman Catholic monasteries were closed in 1959.
    • Orthodox converts were placed under surveillance.
    • Patrols refused to let believers have access to holy sites.
  • Khrushchev also used the Soviet space programme to attack religion.
    • Yuri Gagarin commented that having travelled up to the heavens, he found no God.
    • Valentina Tereshkova, as the first woman in space, also argued that her trip into space led to the victory of atheism.
  • Khrushchev’s campaigns targeted female believers as government figures showed that 2/3 of Orthodox Churchgoers were women and 80% of Protestant Christians were women.
  • Concerned that women were passing on religious beliefs to their children.
  • Therefore, from 1960, a propaganda campaign encouraged men to take the leading role in education of their children.
  • Aspects of Khrushchev’s campaign succeeded, for example, the KGB closed down thousands of Churches, reducing the number of Orthodox Church buildings from 8000-5000 from 1958-1964.
  • However, women continued to protect their religious freedoms.
  • Some marched to defend Islam and Christianity.
    • Others took their children out of schools in order to counter the anti-religious campaigns and propaganda.
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Religion in the USSR, 1964-85.

  • Brezhnev ended Khrushchev’s overt campaign against religion.
  • Church closures stopped and so did poster campaigns/
  • Brezhnev advocated spreading atheism rather than attacking religious groups.
  • In 1968, he opened the Institute for Scientific Atheism which published articles in newspapers and advised teachers how to spread atheism in the classroom.
  • Brezhnev seeked allies in the Middle East, whilst other Soviet leaders described Islam as ‘Backwards and barbarian’
  • Under Brezhnev, the government started supporting anti-American Islamic groups.
    • As a consequence, in the late 1960’s, the government described Islam as: ‘progressive, anti-colonial and revolutionary creed’ that was compatible with socialism.
  • Brezhnev’s promotion of atheism did not lead to less people support religious groups.
  • No more churches or mosques closed.
  • 20% remained professing a religious faith.
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The Secret Police.

Attacks on opponents of government

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Cheka and the Red Terror.

  • The Cheka, being Lenin’s first secret police, embodied Lenin’s views on violence for the revolution.
  • Established in December 1917, the Cheka were a political police.
    • Targets were the counter-revolutionaries
    • Those who tried to overthrow the revolution.
  • Felix Dzerzhinsky was head of the Cheka from 1917-26.
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Role of the Cheka.

  • During Civil war, the Cheka’s role was to protect Communist rule.
  • Red Army was responsible for defending and enlarging Communist-held territory.
  • Cheka also attacked socialists as well as counter-revolutionaries.
  • In January 2918, the Cheka and the Red Army closed down the Constituent Assembly, a parliament dominated by SR’s
  • Cheka did not enforce any laws.
    • Nor bound by any laws.
  • Between 1917-1921, The Cheka used terror in many ways:
    • Helped Red Army requisition grain from the peasants. (War Communism)
    • Closed down opposition newspapers and imprisoned socialist opponents.
    • Extreme violence against enemies of the Communist Party in recently captured areas.
      • Priests crucified
      • White Army members were frozen to death and turned into ice statues and others were scalped or burned alive
    • Supported Red Army attack on the Kronstadt Naval base.
      • Cheka agents with machine guns were instructed to stand behind the Red Army and shoot any soldiers who refused to fight
    • Ran concentration camps.
      • Housed Communist enemies.
    • Stopped private trading.
      • Under War Communism was outlawed.
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Surveillance and deportations.

  • In 1922, Lenin ordered Dzerzhinsky to set up an agency within the GPU to monitor the press.
  • GPU kept former Tsarist officers, who now served in the Red Army, under surveillance.
  • Lenin was also suspicious of intellectuals and experts who did not support the government fully.
    • Again in 1922, Lenin ordered Dzerzhinsky to supervise the deportation of professors and engineers who were suspected of anti-Communist ideas.
  • Generally, the GPU kept public opinion under close scrutiny during the 1920’s.
  • GPU had power to intercept the mail and other forms of communication.
  • GPU surveillance reports sent straight to the Central Committee.
  • GPU also reported to the Central Committee about drunkenness, gambling and any signs of inequality.
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Political Trials.

  • Lenin was insecure about the future of the revolution.
  • Feared that the economic compromise of the NEP would lead to political overthrow.
  • Ordered Dzerzhinsky to set up political trials of the leading socialist opponents.
  • In 1922, Dzerzhinsky organised the trial of SR leaders.
    • Accused of treason, sabotage, and plotting to overthrow the Soviet state.
    • At the end of the Trial, in August 1922, all of the defendants were sentenced to death.
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Religious, moral and economic crimes.

GPU monitored the semi-capitalist marketplace created by the NEP:

  • Imprisoned NEPmen who had grown too rich.
  • Harassing women who dressed in Western styles
  • Persecuting young people who listened and danced to jazz.
  • Persecuting priests.
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Stalin’s Terror.

  • Transformed under Stalin.
  • Lenin used the Cheka, GPU and the OGPU to attack the enemies of the party, whilst Stalin used them against the Party.
  • Used terror much more widely.
  • Sent millions to Gulags.
  • In order to justify the level of terror he was applying, he developed a new doctrine that led to a change in the culture of the secret police.
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NKVD under Yagoda.

  • Appointed head of the NKVD in July 1934.
  • Following Kirov’s death, responsible for the hunt for the enemies of the Communist Party.
  • Yagoda was a disappointment for Stalin.
    • Although he organised the arrest, interrogation and trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev, Stalin wanted more from him.
  • Scale of terror in the USSR during 1935 and 1936 was not unusual by Soviet standards, therefore proving to be a disappointment.
  • Played an important role in the terror:
    • Collaborated with Stalin to turn the NKVD against the Communist Party.
    • Therefore, his appointment as head of the NKVD was a turning point in Soviet history and politics.
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Terror under Yezhov.

  • Yezhov played a crucial role in radicalising the NKVD.
  • Under Yezhov, Great Terror spread to take over the entire Soviet Government.
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Sharpening class struggle

  • To justify the extensive use of terror, Stalin put forward a new political theory:
    • The doctrine of sharpening class struggle.
  • Stalin argued that as socialism advanced, the class struggle intensified.
    • Capitalists fought harder as socialism succeeded.
  • Provided justification for the increase in terror.
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Yezhov and the new NKVD.

  • Under Yezhov, the NVDK changed quickly:
    • Stalin set targets for arrests, executions and deportations.
    • NKVD purged in 1937.
      • NKVD members from 1918 were loyal to the party and only sometimes loyal to Stalin and mostly loyal to Stalin’s political opponents.
      • Many of these members opposed the use of mass terror in a socialist society.
      • Removing old NKVD agents allowed Stalin to speed up the pace of terror.
    • New NKVD agents recruited.
      • No loyalty to the party.
      • No ideological opposition to terror.
      • Many enjoyed the power to be violent, or a promotion.
  • Introduced a conveyor belt system to speed up the process of getting confessions from the NKVD victims.
    • System involved groups of NKVD agents working shifts to terrorise and interrogated relentlessly until prisoners confessed.
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  • Under Yezhov, terror attacked all aspects of Soviet life:
    • Party
    • Army
    • Industry
    • Collective farms.
  • Result from 1937-1938 was described as a ‘Yezhov bloodbath’
  • 10% of the male adult population were arrested by the NKVD.
  • Period of time known as Yezhovshchina.
    • Meaning the whole of Soviet society was engulfed in Yezhov’s terror.
    • Yezhovshchina transformed government districts of Moscow and Leningrad into ghost towns.
    • Mass arrests of government officials left apartments empty.
  • Terror focused on people who would be the most likely to oppose Stalin.
    • Urban educated men between 30-45.
    • Manual workers and women were less likely to threaten Stalin’s position.
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Local initiative.

  • Terror not always directly from above.
  • Terror expanded and accelerated in part due to popular participation.
  • At local levels, workers and peasants created their own show trials.
    • Government employees, party officials and factory managers arrested by groups of citizens.
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Consequences of terror.


  • Replacement in officials with his own supporters, those with loyalty to him.
  • Economic issues due to the deportation and execution of factory managers, economic planners and government officials.
    • Led to the removal of the experts required to run the economy.
  • Terror claimed the lives of Yagoda and Yezhov.
  • Yezhov and 300 of his associates were shot in 1940.
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NKVD at war.

  • NKVD responsible for policing ethnic minorities during WW2, those whom Stalin feared would side with the USSR’s enemies.
  • In 1942, Beria organised the mass deportation of the Kalmyks, from Kalmykia, which is north west of the Caspian to Siberia.
  • Stalin feared that that Kalmyks would welcome a German invasion.
    • By 1953, only 53,000 of the original 130,000 survived.
    • In 1944, Beria ordered the deportation to Siberia of all 460,000 Chechens from their homeland in Chechnya within seven days.
    • Those who refused to leave, were locked in their stables and barns and burned alive.
    • Deportations resulted in 170,000 deaths.
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Beria after the war.

After WW2, Beria’s NKVD continued to persecute people:

  • In 1945, the NKVD integrated the 1.5 million soviet prisoners of war who had been liberated from Germany.
    • Most were deported to Siberia.
    • Stalin viewed these men as traitors for allowing themselves to be captured rather than fighting to the death,
  • The ‘Leningrad Affair’: in 1949, Stalin launched a purge against officials in the Leningrad Party.
    • Stalin claimed that the Leningrad Party acted independently as if it were an island in the Pacific.
  • The Doctors’ Plot’:
    • During 1952-53, many of Stalin’s medical staff were arrested for trying to poison Stalin.
    • Anti-semitism may have been a cause for this purge as many doctors were Jewish, and Stalin was a well known anti-Semite.
    • Stalin died before the doctors could be prosecuted.
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Beria’s death.

  • For Stalin’s heirs, Beria was associated with the policy of terror.
  • Stalin’s heirs agreed that there would be no return to mass terror and no further use of the NKVD against the party itself.
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  • Stalin’s Great Terror took the use of terror to unprecedented heights.
  • Terror became a regular part of government.
  • Following 1938, there was fear that Stalin would unleash more terror, as large as that in the 1930’s.
  • Khrushchev renounced the use of mass terror and stopped using it as a weapon against the party.
  • Khrushchev preferred the use of “popular oversight”
    • Where citizens disciplined themselves and each other.
    • In 1953, Khrushchev announced that there was no longer any political prisoners.
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Andropov’s suppression of dissidents, 1967-82.

  • In 1967, Brezhnev promoted Andropov to lead the KGB.
  • In Khrushchev’s period, heads of the KGB had been very low profile, and so the position had been a dead end.
  • Under Andropov, this changed, the head of the KGB returned to become a leading position in government.
  • Due to the change of emphasis at the top of the Communist Government.
  • Andropov’s role was much smaller than that of previous Secret Police officers.
    • Whereas Dzerzhinsky, Yezhov, and Beria had limitless power, Andropov’s goal was to control people who refused to work with the regime:
      • “Dissidents”
    • Goal was to control the dissidents who refused to conform to the expectations of the Soviet regime.
  • Although Andropov was suspicious of cultural freedom, there was no return to mass terror like during  Stalin’s period, or civil war period.
  • Andropov keen to expose and prosecute the corruption that was growing in the Communist Party, although Brezhnev was like sympathetic to this plan.
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Discipline in the KGB.

  • KGB agents not allowed to accept gifts and were forced to declare all financial assets
  • KGB agents whose relatives broke the law were sacked.
  • Promoted KGB agents from the whole of the USSR, based on success of controlling dissidents.
  • In 1967 he established the Directorate V, a special branch of KGB to deal with dissidents.
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  •  Andropov had two ways of dealing with dissidents:
    • High profile dissidents with a big reputation was allowed to emigrate.
      • A number of artists who consistently opposed authorities were allowed to emigrate in the 1970’s.
      • Policy was extended and over 100,000 potential trouble makers were allowed to leave the USSR while Andropov was head of the KGB.
      • The policy was related to Jewish emigration since the establishment of Israel in 1948, Soviet Jews had campaigned for the right to move to the new Jewish state.
        • Andropov changed the policy of restricting immigration, and ensured that most Jews who wanted to leave were provided with exit visas.
      • Andropov argued that keeping Jews in the USSR created more dissidents as most were in professions that had influence of media.
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Repressive psychiatry.

  • Emigration was Andropov’s preferred weapon against well-known dissidents.
  • For less well known dissidents, they could be sent to psychiatric institutions for compulsory treatment.
  • Policy was used under Stalin and Khrushchev but expanded greatly under Brezhnev.
  • Sending someone to hospital was a lot less likely to attract media attention.
  • Criminal records were public documents and therefore Western journalists could trace dissidents who were sent to prison, however, psychiatric records were private and therefore easier to hide the repression.
  • Psychiatric patients, their treatments could last indefinitely whereas prison sentences come to an end.
  • Practice used against Protestant Christians and Jehovah’s witnesses.
    • Groups were small and considered as heretics by Russian Orthodox Christians.
      • Therefore were vulnerable to official persecution.
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Prevention and repression.

  • Andropov changed the emphasis of the KGB from repression to prevention, did this for two reasons:
    • Believed that Stalinist repression was ineffective.
    • Growing belief in the part that socialism was incompatible with widespread repression.
  • From November 1972, the KGB adopted a policy of issuing official warnings.
    • The KGB set up a process of where dissidents were interviewed and warned to stop these activities.
    • People were kept under surveillance.
    • Stop dissident activities without resorting to repression and not creating publicity with a trial.
  • Around 70,000 Soviet dissidents received a KGB warning in the 1970’s.
    • Leading to the stopping of around 2000 subversive groups in the 1970’s.
  • Warnings did not always persuade dissidents to conform, for example, dissidents could be:
    • Demoted or sacked from their jobs.
    • Sent to psychiatric institutions for treatment.
    • Exiled
    • Sent to prison.
  • Number of dissidents being sent to prison increased after Andropov’s appointment in 1967.
  • Andropov also prepared to using show trials.
  • KGB would also use violence to intimidate dissidents.
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Monitoring of popular discontent 1982-85.

  • Andropov succeeded Brezhnev as the Soviet leader in 1982.
  • Retained control of the KGB.
  • In the early 1980’s, he continued to monitor public opinion, an initiative that he began since 1968.
  • Andropov was aware of Brezhnev’s failures as a leader.
  • Corruption of large parts of government and popular discontent with the government.
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Popular discontent and social malaise.

  • The Soviet citizens:
    • Were anxious that as the 1970’s progressed, standards of living began improving slower.
    • Were dissatisfied with the quality and availability of food and consumer goods.
    • Felt that there were insufficient opportunities for promotion within Soviet industry. and therefore no incentive to work hard.
    • Resented the privileges and corruption of party members and managers.
  • KGB reports indicated that loss of faith in the system led to social malaise which included an increase in:
    • Alcoholism
    • Poor labour discipline.
    • Increased black market trade
    • Avoidance of military service.
    • Demand for Western goods and services.
    • Sympathy for strikes taking place in Poland
    • Increase Church attendance.
    • Falling birth rate.
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Dealing with discontent.

Andropov introduced a series of policies that were designed to tackle the malaise by heightening discipline.

  • KGB reports showed that Soviet citizens would prefer a return to Stalinist discipline.
    • Anti-Corruption campaign:
      • Andropov investigated senior party officials and industrial managers who were using Soviet resources to become wealthy, such as the Minister Of the Interior.
      • Nikolai Schelokov was sacked and put on trial for corruption.
    • Anti-alcohol campaign
      • Workers could be sacked for drunkenness and fined for damaging machinery under the influence of alcohol.
    • Operation Trawl:
      • An anti-drunkenness and anti-absenteeism campaign:
        • KGB officers would visit parks and train stations arresting people who were absent from work or drunk.
      • Operation Trawl did lead to less absenteeism in the short term but Andropov became ill soon after the campaign and couldn’t sustain it.
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Soviet Police were a constant feature of the Soviet Government’s regime. However, the roles of the police varied over time.

  • For example, Andropov’s policies regarding the Secret Police were a lot more subtle in contrast to Lenin’s and Stalin’s.
  • KGB could not stop the growing malaise but could deal with the dissidents.
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The State and cultural change.

Proletkult and the avant-garde, 1917-29

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Proletarian art.

  • Communists believed that the October Revolution had ended capitalism.
    • Therefore had created a new kind of society where workers would increasingly become their own masters.
  • Communists disagreed on what the new revolutionary culture should be like.
  • Anatoly Lunacharsky, the new People’s Commissar of Enlightenment argued that following the revolution, proletarian culture should flourish.
  • Lenin, on the other hand, felt that the proletariat should learn from the best of bourgeois culture.
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Lunacharsky and Proletkult.

  • Lunacharsky argued that just as capitalism had been dominated by bourgeoise culture, so the new revolutionary society should be dominated by proletarian culture.
    • Art made by working people.
  • Additionally, Lunacharsky believed that a truly revolutionary society should foster artistic talent among working people, as the artistic expression was an important part of a fulfilling life.
  • He believed that proletarian culture would be fundamentally different to bourgeois culture.
  • The culture, he argued, would naturally focus on collective experience and involve a wide range of people.
  • Bourgeoise culture reflected the culture of capitalism.
  • Therefore Bourgeois culture was individualistic and dominated by an artistic elite.
  • In order to foster the growth of proletarian culture, Lunacharsky supported Prolekult:
    • The proletarian culture movement.
  • The new organisation was established prior to the October Revolution.
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Lenin and revolutionary culture.

  • Lenin was critical of Lunacharsky’s philosophy and Proletkult.
  • He argued that the best culture was universal.
  • Neither bourgeois nor proletarian; rather is reflected the human spirit.
  • He defended bourgeois culture and argued that working people should learn from the best bourgeois artists who had created a universal culture.
  • Lenin also had misgivings about Proletkult.
  • He believed that in searching for a new culture, Proletkult was encouraging artists to embrace Futurism.
    • This was a style Lenin believed was the worst kind of bourgeois art.
  • Lenin argued that Futurism was degenerate.
    • In the sense that it celebrated individual self-expression.
      • Most working people simply could not understand it.
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The dissolution of Proletkult.

  • Proletkult flourished from 1917 to 1920, which was a remarkable achievement in the context of the Civil War.
  • However, Lenin was suspicious of the organisation.
  • He believed that Proletkult was dominated by socialists associated with opposition movements such as anarchism.
  • Lunacharsky continued to defend the independence of Proletkult.
  • However, Lenin sent representatives to the National Congress of Proletkult, which took place in October 1920.
  • Following an appeal for Proletkult to support the Communist Government, the Congress voted and voluntarily merged with the Commissariat of Education.
  • Dissenting artists who wanted to stay independent were criticised by the Soviet press.
  • Following the merger, government funds were diverted away from local activities to supporting traditional arts such as ballet.
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  • Lenin and Trotsky believed that art could be used to inspire people to support the government.
  • In 1920, this led to the establishment of the Department of Agitation Propaganda.
    • Agitprop.
  • This was a department within the Communist Party.
  • In the same year, the Commissar of Enlightenment established a similar department:
    • Glavpolitprosvet.
    • These departments organised propaganda that was designed to support the government.
    • The agitprop departments that were formed in 1920 built on propaganda work that had been going on since the revolution.
  • Agitprop was often produced by avant-garde artists working for the government.
  • In this sense, the style of early agitprop was experimental, much more experimental than Lenin wanted.
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Painting and sculpture.

  • Russian artists associated with the avant-garde collaborated with the government to make posters, sculptures and paintings to encourage support for the new regime.
  • El Lissitzky, a graphic designer and photographer, created the poster “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” in 1918, one of the most famous experimental posters of the Civil War.
  • It uses geometric shapes to represent the Red Army and White Army.
  • Vladimir Tatlin was another artist who use sculptures to support the regime.
  • His “monument for the Third International” was designed to be the tallest in the world.
  • Designed to be made from a series of geometric shapes that moved at different rates so that the shape of the monument was shifting continually.
  • A ten-foot model of the monument was completed in 1920, but it was never fully built.
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Revolutionary cinema.

  • Lenin believed that cinema was the most important art form of the 20th century.
  • Also argued that it should be used to inspire support for the new government.
  • During the Civil War cinematic equipment, such as cameras, films and projectors.
    • They were quite scarce.
  • Nonetheless, in the 1920s, Soviet cinema flourished.
  • Experimental filmmakers such as Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein made films that supported the regime.
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Sergei Eisenstein.

  • Eisenstein made a series of agitational films in the 1920s, which combined a revolutionary message with experimental filmmaking.
  • Unlike Vertoz, he did use actors, scripts and sets, and his films told clear stories.
  • In the mid-1920s, Eisenstein designed a series of 7 films, entitled Towards Dictatorship of the Proletariat, which was designed to tell the story that led to the October Revolution.
  • The strike was the first part of the series and told the story of a strike set in 1903.
  • Significantly, Eisenstein’s film was influenced by Futurism and abstract art.
    • It contained many scenes dominated by circles or grids.
    • Eisenstein also used special effects to combine human faces with the faces of animals.
  • Battleship of Potemkin tells the story of a naval mutiny which took place during the 1905 Revolution, and October: Ten Days That Shook the World, dramatised the events of the October Revolution.
  • By the late 1920s, Eisenstein’s experimental techniques were criticised as they could not be understood by workers and peasants.
  • Moreover, in the 1930s the films were edited to take out references to Trotsky.
  • Eisenstein continued to make films in a more traditional style under Stalin.
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Art under the NEP.

  • During the period of the NEP, there was a relatively large degree of creative freedom.
  • As the 1920s went on the Communist Party was able to assert a greater degree of artistic control.
  • From 1918 to late 1920s, Lenin and senior Communists were preoccupied with winning the Civil War, and therefore there was relatively loose control of artists.
  • During this period, Proletkult and avant-guard artists flourished.
  • As the Civil War came to an end, Lenin began to enforce tighter control of artistic expression.
  • The first victim was Proletkult.
  • By the end of the 1920s, the Communist Party was firmly in control of art.
  • According to the most senior Communists, workers and peasants simply could not understand avant-garde art.
  • As the 1920s progressed, the avant-guard became less influential.
  • Artists were forced to change their style and artistic institutions were attacked and in some cases closed.
  • Kazimir Malevich sent his most radical paintings to Germany in 1927 and adopted a more conventional style at the end of his life.
  • The Petrograd State Institute of Artistic Culture was forced to close in 1926.
    • This was following a campaign against avant-garde art in Pravda.
    • The newspaper claimed that the art school was using government money to encourage individualism and debauchery.
  • Official concerns about contemporary art forms encouraging moral problems also extended to popular culture.
  • From the mid-1920s the government was critical of the influence of American fashion and music on young people.
  • Fashion from the USA especially clothing, and jazz was very popular with youth in Soviet cities.
  • Party leaders claimed that the new fashion encouraged sexual promiscuity.
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Socialist Realism, 1930-53.

  • Stalin had strong views on art.
    • He then initiated a significant shift in Soviet art.
  • Like many communists, Stalin was suspicious of the avant-garde and experimental techniques.
  • In 1930, Stalin wrote an article in The Bolshevik, which argued that revolutionary art should reflect government priorities over individual creativity.
  • He also criticised abstract art and non-narrative films.
    • He argued that ordinary Soviet citizens would be unable to understand them.
  • Following the establishment of the Union of Soviet Writers, USW, in 1932, the new group of artists developed Socialist Realism.
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Defining new style.

  • Socialist Realism proved hard to define.
  • Ivan Kulik, President of the Union of Soviet Writers, argued that Socialist Realism had 2 qualities:
    • Contained true reflection of reality.
    • Aimed to participate in the building of socialism.
  • In painting, this came to mean art that was realistic.
  • In the sense that pictures looked like photos.
  • Also showed paintings of factory construction or workers.
  • Literature wise, the new style meant that novels had to have a plot that any ordinary person could follow.
    • Also had to have a subject related to building socialism.
  • Fyodor Gladkov’s 1924 novel Cement was held up as an example.
  • The novel tells the story of a group of workers who having played a major role in the Civil War, reconstruct a cement factory.
  • Ballet also changed, to reflect the new style.
  • In the 1920s Soviet ballet had been influenced by Constructivism and Futurism, therefore dance moves were angular.
  • The Soviet ballet was about telling epic stories rather than choreography.
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Artistic production.

  • Under Stalin, art was produced in a similar way to other goods.
  • Artists were set targets for the number of paintings or sculptures they were required to produced and sent to factories or farms to record what they saw.
  • Equally, in 1936, during the Great Terror, Soviet artists were purged.
  • Nonetheless, according to Alexander Gerasimov, Stalin’s favourite painter.
    • The terror led to a new creative atmosphere of enthusiasm among the entire mass of artists.
  • Socialist Realism focused on building socialism as Kulik intended.
  • To celebrate the opening of a ball-bearing factory, Soviet sculpture of a ball bearing ten metres in diameter.
  • Many paintings focused on the FYPs.
  • Gustav Klutsis’ “In the Storm of the Third Year of the Five-Year Plan” portrays heroic workers mining.
    • As well as Alexander Lobanov’s painting “Training Workers for Magnitogorsk”.
      • This depicted the daily occurrence at the new Soviet steelworks.
  • Soviet artists also celebrated Collectivisation.
  • Samuil Adlivankin’s painting “Voting to Expel the Kulak from the Collective Farms, for example, showed popular enthusiasm for dekulakisation.
  • The style continued from the 1940s and 1950s.
  • Famous paintings from Stalin’s later years include Fedor Shurpin’s “Morning of Our Motherland”.
    • This showed Stalin standing in a landscape transformed by collectivisation and industrialisation.
  • Sculptures also focused on the people building socialism as well as the process of building socialism.
  • The leading Socialist Realist sculptor, Sergey Merkurov, was famous for creating the giant statues of Lenin and Stalin.
  • He created the three largest sculptures of Stalin in the USSR.
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Dissenting artists.

  • There was a small amount of room in the Soviet art in the 1930s to dissent from Stalin’s artistic vision.
  • One way of doing this was to celebrate the achievements of Lenin rather than Stalin.
  • The world famous Soviet filmmaker, Dziga Vertov did this in his 1934 trilogy Three Songs about Lenin.
  • The film focused on Lenin’s vision and the achievements of ordinary people.
  • Stalin was barely mentioned in the film.
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Khrushchev and art.

  • Khrushchev wanted to forge an alliance between the Party and creative intellectuals.
  • Successive Soviet Governments had invested in education.
  • As a result of investment in Soviet universities, there were a growing number of intellectuals in the USSR.
  • Improvements in education meant that the Soviet intelligentsia was the fastest growing section of society in the 1960s.
  • Khrushchev believed that intellectuals should help the government build socialism.
  • He also believed that true intellectuals would understand the benefits of Communism and therefore would willingly collaborate with Soviet leaders.
  • He also believed that Communism should liberate artists.
    • Khrushchev also believed that ordinary Soviet workers were not ready for complete freedom, or even for the truth about Stalin’s policies.
  • He believed that freedom could destabilise the Party by allowing criticism of the government.
    • They also believed that too much freedom could undermine the regime.
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The ‘thaws’.

  • Under Khrushchev Soviet culture experienced a series of “thaws”:
    • 1953-54 – Following Stalin’s death, the government authorised a series of novels which acknowledged generational differences between the new generation of the 1950s and the previous generation of Stalinists.
    • 1956-57 – Following Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, there was another period of cultural liberalisation.
      • New World published Vladimir Dudintsev’s Not by Bread Alone.
      • Again the story was critical of the Stalin period.
    • 1961-62 – Following the 22nd Party Congress and the vote to remove Stalin’s body from Red Square, a number of books were published that were critical of Stalin’s rule.
  • The thaws were not purely about literature; there were other cultural innovations during these periods.
  • For example, during the World Youth Festival, held in Moscow in 1957, young people danced to jazz music and African drumming.
  • The Soviet Union experienced a “thaw” under Khrushchev in terms of music.
  • For example, the classical music of Western Europe and the US, which was not taught in schools under Stalin, was put back on the curriculum in 1957.
  • For example, the work of US composer George Gershwin, which was influenced by Jazz, was taught in schools from the late 1950s.
  • At the end of each period, there was a temporary freeze.
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Propaganda and ‘popular oversight’.

  • Under Khrushchev, there was a significant change in Soviet propaganda.
  • During Stalin’s rule, Soviet people had been depicted as heroic and, in a conventional sense, beautiful.
  • Soviet farms and factories had been depicted as modern, efficient and harmonious.
    • After 1954, this change.
    • Propaganda posters increasingly poked fun at Soviet people.
  • Graphic designers such as V. Fomichev and N. Denisovski designed posters that showed Soviet people in a new light.
  • The new posters attempted to challenge non-conformity through popular oversight.
    • Posters presented non-conformist citizens as comically bald, fat or lazy.
    • The Lazy Bureaucrat shows a plump man sitting at a disorganised desk.
    • The Alcoholic depicts a drunk man lying in a pool of his own vomit.
    • The posters were designed to encourage popular oversight.
  • Citizens were expected to keep other citizens under surveillance.
    • Rather than reporting misbehaving citizens to the police, good citizens were encouraged to intervene with helpful moral advice.
    • For example, the poster “When two girls met” tells the moral tale of how a good working-class upbringing leads to a disciplined child.
      • Whereas the children of indulgent intellectual parents grow up to be lazy, selfish and obsessed with fashion.
  • Khrushchev-era posters were also a break from the past in that they recognised the inefficiencies of Soviet farms and factories.
  • For example, “The Cowshed” pokes fun at the inefficiencies on Soviet farms by showing two cows living in a palace, complete with chandeliers.
  • The poster also contained a quote from Khrushchev criticising waste and at the top of the poster, a quote from Khrushchev criticises wasteful spending on farms.
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Disciplining ‘style hunters’.

  • Government concerned about women’s behaviour.
    • Worried that they might become consumerists.
  • There was an official campaign against women who adopted Western fashion.
  • Officials at Gosplan believed that women’s natural desire to shop could lead to lasting economic problems in a consumer society.
  • Female sexuality was also another concern.
  • The government assumed that fashionable clothes implied sexual promiscuity.
  • As a result, there were official campaigns against Western fashion.
  • The 1957 World Youth Festival had raised concerns that young Soviet women were having sex with male delegates from other countries.
  • Notably the authorities did not consider Soviet men having sex with foreign women a problem.
  • During the festival squads of Party members patrolled the streets and shaved the heads of young Soviet women that they found having sex with foreign men.
  • Women’s lifestyles worried policy makers due to rising teen pregnancy.
  • Soviet officials were worried by what they considered to be the emergence of a new phenomenon:
    • Female sexual desire.
    • Officials considered the male heterosexual desire to be natural and normal, but the female sexual desire of any kind was considered unhealthy.
  • Welfare policies attempted to direct women towards marriage and childbearing.
  • While the government and the Party encouraged women to adopt simple, contemporary, but conventional ways of dressing, they were unable to stop the rise of the stilytagism – fashion hunters.
  • The government failed to constrain the Soviet desire for fashion.
  • Between 1964 and 1970 consumer spending on clothes tripled.
  • The government continued to try to combat the Western influence of fashion.
  • During the 1970s trade with the West increased, so Soviet cinemas showed films from the US and Western Europe that effectively showcased Western fashion.
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The 1970s and early 1980s.

  • During the 1970s and early 1980s, the government was still concerned about Western styles.
  • Therefore Soviet magazines continued to ridicule Western ways of dressing.
    • Teachers were expected to discourage Western styles at school.
  • Nonetheless, sometimes official attempts to discourage new fashions backfired.
  • For example, the comedy film An Office Romance ridiculed a fashionable young female secretary for her love of “provocative” clothes.
  • Nonetheless, audiences identified with the secretary rather than her conservative poorly dressed boss.
  • Where women led, men follow.
  • during the 1970s men too were approaching private tailors to get suits with the latest Western looks.
  • In terms of pop culture, the government lost the battle against non-conformity.
    • At least among women in the cities.
    • By the mid-1970s the fashion hunters had won.
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Deviant artists.

  • Khrushchev’s thaws did not allow all Soviet artists to publish their work through official government-owned publishing houses.
  • From the late 1950s, writers produced samizdat – self-published – magazines and books.
  • Alexander Ginzburg is the best-known figure in the underground samizdat movement.
    • He edited the magazine Syntax, which circulated on the Soviet black market.
  • Doctor Zhivago was refused publication in 1954 in the Soviet Union.
  • Nonetheless, foreign editions were smuggled into the country and samizdat editions were also produced.
  • Artists who refused to submit to government control were sent to psychiatric institutions in order to be cured.
  • Josef Brodsky, for example, was sent to the Serbsky Institute where he was confined with people who suffered from mental illnesses that made them violent.
  • Some artists were forcibly medicated as part of their treatment.
  • Conditions in the hospitals were very poor.
    • Inmates lived on watery soup and in the cold and damp conditions, their physical and often mental health deteriorated.
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Art and culture under Brezhnev.

  • Brezhnev was much less interested in the arts than Khrushchev.
  • He was aware of the political impact of art and literature.
  • Extremely critical of Khrushchev’s willingness to publish works that exposed the difficulties of life in the Soviet Union.
  • Art under Brezhnev became nostalgic.
  • Khrushchev appealed to a bright future and shook faith in the past by criticising Stalin.
  • Brezhnev attempted to revive faith and interest in the heroic days of the revolution.
  • Brezhnev’s cultural conservatism did lead to the creation of some exceptional art, especially in ballet.
  • During the 1970s and 1980s, Soviet ballet was in demand around the world.
  • The Bolshoi Ballet, the Soviet Union’s most famous ballet company was a source of huge national pride.
  • The ballet Spartacus was one of the Soviet’s cultural triumphs of the era.
  • The ballet, which celebrates an ancient slave rebellion was originally written in 1954.
  • Political scientist Piero Ostellinlo argues that under Brezhnev there were effectively three groups of artists and intellectuals:
    • Obedient functionaries: intellectuals and artists who were prepared to work with the system without question, whatever their personal opinions about the regime.
    • Loyal oppositionists: intellectuals and artists who were critical of the system, but expressed their criticisms within official channels, trying to improve the system from within.
    • Dissidents: intellectuals and artists who expressed their criticisms publicly.
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The Sinyavsky-Daniel Trial.

  • Initial hopes that Khrushchev’s fall would lead to a complete thaw were dashed by the trial of authors Andrei Sinyvasky and Yuli Daniel.
    • They were arrested for producing anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.
  • The new post-Khrushchev leadership were extremely concerned about Khrushchev’s cultural liberalism, which they believed was undermining faith in the Soviet Union.
  • Indeed, in early 1965 they commissioned a KGB report which stated that there were 1292 anti-Soviet authors who had written almost 10,000 anti-Soviet documents.
  • In order to send a clear message that the thaw was over, the new leadership ordered the arrest and trial of Sinyavsky and Daniel.
  • The trial took place in 1966 was basically a Show Trial.
  • It was significant because the only evidence presented against them were their own writings.
  • Both were charged with seven and five years in a labour camp.
  • The trial revived Stalinist methods.
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The impact of international pressure.

  • The new leadership were, however, aware of the international outrage that persecuting writers and artists provoked.
  • Therefore some writers, who had been imprisoned in Khrushchev’s last years, were released.
  • Brodsky for example, who had been subjected to forced psychiatric treatment and then imprisoned was released in 1965.
  • International pressure led to a change in the approach of the new leadership to artist-dissidents.
  • After the Sinyavsky-Daniel trial, show trials and imprisonment became rare.
  • Rather, well-known dissident artists were allowed to emigrate.
  • Brodsky, for example, emigrated to the USA where he continued to write and win the Nobel Prize in Literature,
  • The Russian cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich, a supporter of Boris Pasternak, also emigrated, as did Sinyavsky, also emigrated, as did Sinyavsky following his release.
  • Lesser known artists who deviated from the Party line were sent to psychiatric institutions.
  • Around 7000 to 8000 dissidents received repressive psychiatric treatment.
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The impact of the Prague Spring.

  • The Prague Spring of 1968 led to a further hardening of Brezhnev’s attitude to art and culture.
  • Reformers in Czechoslovakia had attempted to liberalise Communist rule and create “socialism with a human face”.
  • This entailed a rejection of Stalinism and much greater freedom of artistic expression.
    • Reforms led to popular pressure within Czechoslovakia to end Communist rule and break away from the USSR.
    • Brezhnev responded to the chaos by sending the Soviet Army to crush the liberal regime.
  • The Prague Spring confirmed Brezhnev’s view that cultural liberalisation was a danger to Communist rule.
  • There was increasing pressure on artists to conform.
    • Solzhenitsyn who published controversial work under Khrushchev found it increasingly difficult to publish in the USSR.
  • The Prague Spring had other cultural consequences for the USSR.
  • Following 1968, Soviet official culture became profoundly nostalgic.
  • The trend towards nostalgia had been obvious since 1965, but from 1968 it became the dominant trend in Soviet art.
  • This was clear in Soviet cinema with films like Liberation and its four sequels released between 1970 and 1971 which celebrated Soviet victory in WW2.
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  • Brezhnev was very sceptical of Khrushchev’s thaws.
  • Unlike Khrushchev, he wanted to celebrate the achievements of the Stalin period, rather than expose its atrocities.
  • Under Brezhnev official art became backwards looking, focusing in particular on the Soviet triumph in WW2.
  • The early Sinyavsky-Daniel trial sent a clear message that artistic dissent would not be tolerated and the thaw was over.
  • Nonetheless, international pressure and the uncompromising spirit of Soviet dissent artists meant that by 1985 there was a thriving underground art scene that raids, bulldozers and the threat of psychiatric treatment were unable to end.
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