Stalin's Last Generation: Soviet Post-War Youth and the Emergence of Mature Socialism
Raleigh, Donald J., The Historian
Stalin's Last Generation: Soviet Post-War Youth and the Emergence of Mature Socialism. By Juliane Furst. (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. xiv, 391. $99.00.)
Drawing on a wide array of central and regional Russian archival and published sources, the author of this study has produced an appealing account of the last generation to come of age under Josef Stalin. Born in the 1930s, this generation became socialized in the immediate postwar era, a period of "late" Stalinism and the focus of a spate of historical studies in recent years that collectively spotlights the dynamism of the epoch and often seeks to understand Soviet history within a European and broader Western context. In "creating a multifaceted image of how young people related to the Soviet system," Juliane Furst examines the relationship between youth and the Soviet state and the importance of Stalin's last years within the context of the Cold War (4). She argues provocatively, yet ultimately unconvincingly, that "Stalin's death was less of a decisive point of change than has been hitherto assumed" and that much of what proved fatal to the Soviet experiment under Leonid Brezhnev "can be traced back to the upheaval, chaos, and make-do conditions of the wartime era" (6).
Comprising eight wide-ranging and in-depth chapters, the monograph explores how total war impacted Soviet youth; the state's postwar ideological campaigns; mechanisms of integration; the rise and fall of Aleksandr Fadeev's novel The Young Guard, "one of the most successful propaganda items of all times"; the myth and reality of juvenile crime; fashion and nonconformity; personal relations and gender identities; and how young people developed a sense of self through consumption, not ideology (139). …