Steeltown, USSR: Soviet Society in the Gorbachev Era

By Stephen Kotkin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE

Socialism Is Dead!
Long Live Socialism!:
Regeneration through Elections?

Few people in Magnitogorsk ever expected to see such a variety of signs posted everywhere in the city, but there they were. “Vote for Petrov!” “Vote for Andreeva!” “Riabkov is your man!” “Only Romanov knows what a deputy ought to be!” An election campaign with different choices? More than one candidate running?

There had never been a competitive election for public office in Magnitogorsk in the sixty years of its existence. Of course, there had been innumberable “elections” before, but they were not political contests so much as orchestrated affirmations of legitimacy lubricated by the lavish provisioning of normally scarce food and drink.

As for the filling of offices, previously candidates in “elections” to the city soviet and the oblast soviet in Cheliabinsk, where there had always been exactly as many people running as there were positions, had come preselected by the city party committee. And with the party running city affairs, none of those “elected” to the three district soviets in Magnitogorsk were expected to do anything. As for the “elections” to the Supreme Soviet in Moscow, the reigning director of the steel plant simply added the title to his many others.

This time the food was still there, as was the drink (although it was

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