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.
Welcome to the seventh edition of our digest of Soviet History. This week we turned our attentions to the social, economic and political parameters of de-Stalinization. We have a bumper crop of terrific posts – many of which focus on Khrushchev’s favorite vegetable….you guessed it…CORN!!! Other significant topics include the cultural ferment of “The Thaw,” the Sino-Soviet split, the space race, and new forms of expression and leisure.
We are taking a break next week for midterms but will be back in your feed on April 23. Enjoy this deluxe edition!
Cultural and social change rocked the Soviet Union in the years after Stalin’s death. This week’s posts address many aspects of the liberalization in politics and society leading up to Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” in 1956. From returning veterans, the H-bomb, and the advent of the space race, to hipsters, youth festivals and the emptying GULAG, this weekly edition suggests how rich, varied and contradictory the dynamics of de-Stalinization were. We should also note Russia’s transfer of Crimea to Ukrainian control in 1954. Intended as a “gift” commemorating the tricentennial of the union of Russia and Ukraine, Crimea remained a popular vacation destination for tourists from across the Soviet Union. Seventy years later, this “gift” would acquire enormous historical significance, as relations between the now independent Russian Federation and Ukraine soured.
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.
The imperative of order 227 (and the potential punishment for failure to obey the command to not retreat) conveys the all-encompassing urgency of the Soviet Union’s struggle to defend itself and repel the German invaders during World War II.This weekly edition features a rich assortment of posts on the many facets of that costly defense — from the evacuation of factories from the country’s West to safety behind the Urals, to snipers, tactics, and the broader reasons for the Soviets’ lack of preparedness for the war and for their eventual success. Enjoy reading. We will be back with more features on Stalin’s final years and the transition to life after the Vozhd’ next week.
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.
Welcome back — We had a terrific crop of posts this week! With submissions touching on everything from film and the Purges to changing gender roles and Polar exploration, and many components of the “Great Retreat” (Soviet Champagne, anyone?), this weekly edition provides a fascinating introduction to the contradictions and complexities of Soviet life in the thirties. Your editorial team hopes you will catch up on posts in the (filled to overflowing) slider and in Comrades’ Corner. And do checkout the Students Choice award, which was a particularly close contest this week.
The trauma of World War II awaits us. Вперед!
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!
Victorious in the Civil War, the Bolsheviks faced a series of challenges as they moved to secure the peace, consolidate their gains on the home front, and advance their agenda for transforming society. This week’s posts engaged many of these issues, from the ideologically compromised but politically necessary New Economic Policy, to the campaign against the church, and changing norms around gender and the family.