Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957

By Elena Zubkova; Hugh Ragsdale | Go to book overview
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Chapter 11
The Birth of the Anti-Stalinist Youth Movement

The year 1948 is often compared with the purge years of the 1930s-- two waves of repression that rolled over society, leaving in their wake painful memories. The comparison is prompted not only by the tragic similarity of these events. It is also simpler and deeper. The latter year is both the continuation and an admission of the inadequacy of the former. The elements of continuity are plain enough: the same methods, the same grand dragnet, the same hopelessness for those falling into the net, the uncertainty and fear of those not yet sharing the fate of the enemies of the people.

Yet in spite of the massive nature of the purges of the 1930s and the relentless work of the machine of intimidation thereafter, 1937 did not avert 1948. It is sometimes suggested that the terror of 1948- 1952 was an artificial phenomenon, that there were in the Soviet Union after the war no forces of opposition sufficiently serious to threaten the government. In fact there were not. Did Stalin then strike out at phantoms? Hardly. The campaign of 1948 was intended chiefly to intimidate, but the very fact that the authorities used such severe preventive measures suggests that the struggle was directed against a real rather than a phantom phenomenon.

The first shoots of political dissent sprouted where the regime least expected it, among the youth, whom, it would seem, the dark secrets of life scarcely touched. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn observed, "Along those very strips of asphalt over which the Black Marias scurried at night this tribe of youth marched in the daytime with banners and flowers, singing their irrepressible songs."1

-109-

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