Enemies of the People: The Destruction of Soviet Literary, Theater, and Film Arts in the 1930s

Enemies of the People: The Destruction of Soviet Literary, Theater, and Film Arts in the 1930s

Enemies of the People: The Destruction of Soviet Literary, Theater, and Film Arts in the 1930s

Enemies of the People: The Destruction of Soviet Literary, Theater, and Film Arts in the 1930s

Synopsis

A history of the Stalinist attack on the arts during the Great Purge. This book offers an overview of the status of the arts and a broad portrait of cultural policy during the Stalin era. It describes what was lost, speculates about what might have been lost and discusses why some work survived.

Excerpt

Those who dare to talk to each other about
the Book of Odes and the Book of History
should be executed and their bodies exposed
in the marketplace. Anyone referring to the
past to criticize the present should, together
with all members of his family, be put to
death. … Those who have not burned [the
books] within thirty days after the issuing of
the order, are to be branded and sent to do
forced labor.

—Prime Minister Li Ssu to the First Exalted
Emperor of the Ch'in Dynasty

The book of history

The Book of History, one of the Five Classics attributed to Confucius, celebrates kings whose virtue typified their whole administration. These ideal rulers, devoted to their subjects' welfare, even selected men better than their own sons to succeed them. Such kings were as rare as they were devoutly wished for. Therefore, according to Li Ssu's reasoning, those who kept alive the memory of such ideals must be destroyed. the regime of the First Emperor of the Ch'in, in its massive construction projects, police control, attempts to obliterate unwanted ideas by controlling behavior through fear, and general suffering of the population—in particular peasants— resembles nothing so much as Stalin's Soviet Union. Although they never achieved the vast power and control of a Stalin or a First Exalted Emperor of the Ch'in, the tsars and tsarinas of Russia had moments of inventiveness. Some of their techniques and devices survived the 1917 revolutions, providing useful precedents for Soviet leaders.

Stalin, who was personally acquainted with tsarist censorship and prisons, elaborated these devices of intimidation and terror and applied . . .

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