Despite its reputation for “stagnation,” the Soviet seventies were anything but boring! Science fiction, new modes of consumerism and expanding television and film offerings shaped the decade, as did the dissident movement, the campaign to clean-up the Aral Sea, and the invasion of Afghanistan.
Change was in the air as the sixties unfolded. Challenges in the sphere of foreign policy and changes in leadership marked the political sphere just as new forms of cultural expression and shifting social norms shaped Soviet society.
Dramatic changes in Soviet society, culture and politics followed Stalin’s death in 1953. This week we consider Stalin’s final years before turning to the initial period of “De-Stalinization” and “The Thaw.” The modules on 1947, 1954 and 1956 from Seventeen Moments in Soviet History are good starting points. You might also be interested in the photographs and films from the Martin Manhoff Collection on Radio Free Europe’s website. These materials offer fascinating views of everyday life and a rare perspective on Stalin’s funeral.
This week we turn our attention to build-up to The Great Patriotic War (aka World War II) and the immediate post-war period. Please use one of the modules from 1939, 1943 or 1947 in Seventeen Moments in Soviet History on-line archive. You should consult Ch. 12 in the Freeze text. If you are writing about something specific to the war, it would be worth considering William C. Fuller’s discussion on pp. 383-392 of Freeze about the reasons for Soviet victory.
I have also flagged some resources that might be of interest on my blog here.
As you develop your topic, think about how your post might address either of these questions:
- Why was Stalin’s Soviet Union so ill-prepared for the war?
- How did the Soviets nonetheless manage to prevail?
There’s plenty of action, drama, and complexity to keep us all engaged this week. Ни шагу назад!
We begin with the upheaval at the end of the twenties, when the forced collectivization of the peasantry and a massive industrialization campaign permanently transformed Soviet life. Indeed the “Great Turn” brought changes so profound and wide-reaching that the period of the First Five Year Plan (1928-1932) is often seen as a “second” revolution. The decade that followed was one of Shockworkers, Stalinist family values, and Purges, as well as a social-political phenomenon scholars have called “The Great Retreat.” So, the thirties are going to be exciting to study!
For your third blog post, use the resources in Seventeen Moments of Soviet History (1921 and 1924) to examine a significant aspect of the Russian Revolution. Make sure to check out and use the primary materials. You should also consult the Freeze text (the rest of Chapter 9 and Chapter 10).
This week we are making sense of the complex dynamics of war and revolution (two revolutions, actually). We also move into range of a fabulous digital archive that will inspire us for the rest of the term. The topic of your post this week is the end of the autocracy and the two revolutions of 1917.
For your first blog post, please select a photograph from this online exhibit at the Library of Congress and analyze it in the context of social and economic change in late Imperial Russia.
A photograph such as this one, for example, might lead you to explore the religious, ethnic and economic diversity of this vast country. Looking forward to our discussions over the next couple of weeks, you should think about how the combination of economic modernization and the autocracy’s resistance to political change would inform developments leading up to the fall of the Romanov dynasty and the rise of the Bolsheviks in 1917.