Category: Motherblog Central

Songs of War, Olympic Rings, and the New Morality – The Last Soviet Decades

Corruption, female sexuality, and rock-n-roll…This week’s posts engaged the complex dynamics of Soviet society in its final decades. The invasion of Afghanistan, the Moscow Olympics, and the Chernobyl nuclear accident attracted the most attention, but visitors will find wonderful discussions of popular music, Gorbachev’s efforts to limit alcohol consumption, and the intransigent problems of Soviet agriculture 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 affected the Soviet system in its final years. Enjoy!

Final Blogpost Guidelines

We end our study of Soviet history with yet another turbulent decade – one that began with the invasion of Afghanistan and the Moscow Olympics, and ended with the entire Soviet system on the verge of collapse. 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 dynamics of the late Soviet period and the social transformation that would result in the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Please find a topic in the final three modules (on 1980, 1985 or 1991) from Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. As usual, the possibilities are vast, with 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.

Textbook context for this post includes the remainder of Ch. 13 and pp. 451-464 of Ch. 14

Televisions and Tractors: Reform and Reaction in the Sixties

Welcome to the fifth 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 focusing on the fallout of the “Secret Speech,” changing gender norms (again), sports and television,  Other significant topics include the cultural ferment of “The Thaw,”  and new forms of expression and leisure. I am delighted to report that we had a clear winner for Students’ Choice. You will see it’s sputnik graphic near the top of the website.

We are taking a break next couple of weeks for midterms but will be back in your feed for a final digest in early May. Enjoy this deluxe edition!

From “Not One Step Back!” to Postwar Reconstruction

"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, Arctic Convoys, a new national anthem, and the broader reasons for the Soviets’ lack of preparedness for the war and for their eventual success.

Another set of posts takes up the challenges of rebuilding Soviet society and the economy after the devastation of the war. Gender and the family, the challenges facing returning veterans, and the emergence of the car as a symbol of postwar prosperity prove to be fascinating topics to explore how military victory conditioned the peace that followed.

Enjoy reading. We will be back with more features on the transition to life after the Vozhd’ next week.

5th Blog Post Guidelines: Thaw and Refreeze

Dramatic changes in Soviet society, culture and politics followed Stalin’s death in 1953. This week we turn to the initial period of “De-Stalinization” and “The Thaw.” The modules on 1954, 1956 and 1961 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: Entertainment, Purges and the Family

We had a terrific crop of posts this week, with submissions touching on everything from film and the family to the purges and the Moscow Metro. This research digest offers valuable insight on many components of the “Great Retreat” (Soviet Champagne, anyone?) and explores the contradictions and complexities of Soviet life in the thirties. Your editorial team hopes you will catch up on posts in the 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 and the contradictions of the postwar period await. Вперед!

4th Blogpost Guidelines: Defending the Motherland and “High Stalinism”

This week we turn our attention to The Great Patriotic War (aka World War II) and the immediate post-war period.  Please use one of the modules from 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. (We worked on this in class on Tuesday.)

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 these questions:

The Great Transformation

We’ve missed posting for the last few weeks but got back in gear with a series of submissions on the twenties and the collectivization and industrialization drives that defined the First Five Year Plan (1928-1932). There were some terrific posts that circled around two key themes: The way in which religion is intertwined with culture and politics, and the way in which the trauma of collectivization was informed by broader cultural and political forces. 

The slider features provocative discussions of NEP and its discontents, the process of “de-kulakization,” the life and times of a celebrated church leader, the way that Bolshevik attitudes toward women and organized religion infused their approach to both, and a terrific post about revolutionary cinema. The students’ choice award recognizes a post about the “continuous work week” a fiendishly clever and extremely unpopular plan to eliminate the traditional weekend. Enjoy!

3rd Blogpost Guidelines


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!

Second Blogpost Guidelines

Beat the Whites with a Red Wedge - El Lisitsky 1919

“Beat the Whites with a Red Wedge.” By El Lissitzky –, Public Domain,

Spring is here, and that means it’s time to blog again! For this post, please use the resources in Seventeen Moments in Soviet History (1921,1924, or 1929) to examine a significant aspect of the first decade of Soviet rule.The twenties were a turbulent and fascinating decade bookended by Bolshevik victory in the civil war in 1921 and the massive upheaval of the First Five Year Plan (1928-32), 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 is often seen as a “second” revolution.