A. Nelson

Looking Back

Welcome to the final edition of the 20th-Century Russia Digest for Spring 2018. The collective  went out on a very strong note! The best of the final contributions are featured in the slider and can be found in the Red Star or Comrade’s Corner categories .The slider posts suggest the array of challenges that ultimately overwhelmed the Soviet system, including the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, the AIDS crisis, and the Baltic republics’ bid for independence. Other posts this week explored the fallout of social and economic transformation in government efforts to regulate the supply of alcohol, the complex dynamics of youth culture, and changing norms of sexuality.

The Final “Student’s Choice” award — highlighted in grey in the center of the page — goes to Emma’s fascinating exploration of Soviet efforts to manipulate public perceptions of HIV / AIDS. We encourage you to read this post in tandem with Garret’s discussion of the AIDS crisis from the angle of public health policies.

The middle section of the site features posts the class selected as “Greatest Hits” from the entire semester. Your editorial team is proud of the range of interests, topics, talent, and perspectives represented here and elsewhere on the site. We’ve learned a lot together and these greatest hits offer visitors to the site an overview of how exciting that journey has been.

As your editor-in-chief I want to thank you all for your enthusiasm, commitment and patience over these last few months. There were some bumps along the way, but you navigated them with grace and humor. I hope you will look back on the work we did together with pride and that the course has piqued an ongoing interest in a fascinating place with a rich and complicated historical experience.

Finally, please join me in thanking your devoted, accomplished and talented student editors. The weekly editions and the discussions in class and in the comments would have been impoverished or absent without them. They brought their best to the class and the website and we all benefited from their insight, experience and interest in Soviet History. Thank-you Spencer, Caroline, and Ellen!

Final Blogpost Guidelines

Mikhail Gorbachev’s leadership ushered in an era of increased freedom, opportunity, and hope for Soviet citizens, even as it fostered economic uncertainty, political instability, and the threat of chaos. For your final blog post, please choose a topic that gives you some insight on the collapse of Soviet communism and the social transformation that accompanied it.

There are two more modules (on 1985 and 1991) from Seventeen Moments in Soviet History that offer an array of topics ranging from nationalism, sexuality and youth culture, to the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, the anti-alcohol campaign, and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Please also consult and use the Current Digest of the Soviet Press and cite the articles you use from this collection. Feel free to explore any other relevant topic from this period as well.  There are good suggestions for primary materials on the Soviet History Resources page. You could also use articles from Historical New York Times to compare the coverage of a particular event or issue in the US with the articles you use from the Current Digest.

Jeans, Dreams, and Olympic Rings – The Soviet 70’s

Corruption, fashion, and rock-n-roll…This week’s posts engaged the complex dynamics of Soviet society in the seventies. The Moscow Olympics and the invasion of the Afghanistan at the end of the decade attracted the most attention, but visitors will find wonderful discussions of science fiction, generational struggles over popular music and the appeal of Levi jeans here as well. Looking forward to the end of the Soviet Union (and the Semester), these posts provide context for the major stressors and changes that awaited the Soviet system in its final decade. Enjoy!

8th Blogpost Guidelines

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.

Culture & Corn: Reform and Reaction in the Sixties

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!

After Stalin – Politics and Society after the Vozhd’

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.

Not One Step Back!

"Not One Step Back" Postage Stamp 1945

By G. Savitsky, USSR Post. – свой скан бумажных марок из личной коллекции, Public Domain, Link

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.

6th Blog Post Guidelines: From the Big Deal to the Thaw

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.

Building Socialism: Purges, Polar Exploration and New Men and Women

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!