The Soviet Sixties: Nikita Khrushchev, the Cold War, and the Foundations of Stagnation

Iurii Pimenov: Wedding on Tomorrow Street (1962)

Iurii Pimenov: Wedding on Tomorrow Street (1962)

This week’s blogs dealt with the 1960s, a decade that was certainly less tumultuous than any other period of twentieth century Russian history. Yet the decade was full events, trends, and processes that built on earlier moments and also anticipated future developments. Foreign relations topics dominated the blog postings, as the Cold War intensified in Eastern Europe, where the Prague Spring illustrated the first implementation of the Brezhnev Doctrine, in the Caribbean, where Castro’s revolution brought communism to the American sphere of influence, and outer space, where the launch of Yuri Gagarin catapulted the USSR ahead in the space race. Domestically, the Novocherkassk protests and repression demonstrated that the post-Stalinist leadership would not tolerate dissent, while the use of psychiatric prisons for repressing opponents, Khrushchev’s denunciation of the arts, and a renewed anti-religion campaign also illustrated some continuities with earlier practices and policies. Yet the postings about culture, arts, women’s roles, and urban development also showed that even as leadership and ideology settled into stagnation, society was changing too, as the Soviet people explored the potential for new behaviors, ideas, and relationships within the system of existing communism.