Stalinism: Russian and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium

Stalinism: Russian and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium

Stalinism: Russian and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium

Stalinism: Russian and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium

Synopsis

Stalinism surveys the efforts made in recent years by professional historians, in Russia and the West, to better understand what really went on in the USSR between 1929 and 1953, when the country's affairs were shrouded in secrecy. The opening of the Soviet archives in 1991 has led to a profusion of historical studies, whose strengths and weaknesses are assessed here impartially though not uncritically. While Joseph Stalin now emerges as a less omnipotent figure than he seemed to be at the time, most serious writers accept that the system over which he ruled was despotic and totalitarian. Some nostalgic nationalists in Russia, along with some Western post-modernists, disagree. Their arguments are carefully dissected here. Stalinism was of course much more than state sponsored terror, and so due attention is paid to a wide range of socio-economic and cultural problems. Keep and Litvin applaud the efforts of Soviet citizens to express dissenting views.

Excerpt

This volume is designed as a contribution to the ongoing debate in Russia and the West on the Soviet past, and more particularly on the years 1929-53, during which virtually all power was concentrated in the hands of J.V. Stalin and a handful of associates in the upper echelons of the ruling Communist Party, then known as the AUCP(b). The immediate aim is to give students and the interested general public a sense of what has been achieved of late by professional historians in the Russian Federation and in Western countries: to 'take stock' of this literature, to offer encouragement or constructive criticism where it seems to be called for, and to indicate how the gaps in our knowledge might best be filled by future researchers. It is hoped that the bibliographical references will be helpful, even if for practical reasons many of the works cited may at present be hard to obtain. With the rapid development of computer-assisted research tools, this situation is sure to improve in the years to come.

The 1930s, which have been better studied than the post-war era, were years of massive social turbulence, marked by the influx to the towns and construction sites of millions of rural folk displaced by collectivization. Crisis in some sectors of the economy, notably agriculture, was the price paid for rapid growth in others. Giant construction projects symbolized the spirit of the era. The 'administrative command' system of managing the economy led initially to chaos: plan targets were under-fulfilled and statistical data manipulated to conceal the fact. Later, the pace of advance slackened a little; more sophisticated methods of catering to popular needs were developed that paid greater attention to the quality of the goods produced. Nevertheless, the interests of the consumer always took second place to those of the state, eager to promote the development of capital-intensive heavy industry, not least for reasons of national defence.

In the 1930s, the USSR saw itself as an embattled country, a bastion of socialism under siege by ruthless imperialist powers. This image, though exaggerated for propaganda reasons, was not wholly unrealistic since both Japan and, from 1933, Nazi Germany represented serious latent threats to Soviet security. In response, Moscow relaxed its initial hard ideological stance towards limited co-operation with 'bourgeois' democratic states and joined the League of Nations. However, these moves did not signify any departure from Leninist principles of irrevocable class struggle, as interpreted by the current leader.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.