Terror in My Soul: Communist Autobiographies on Trial

By Cassiday, Julie A. | Canadian Slavonic Papers, September-December 2005 | Go to article overview

Terror in My Soul: Communist Autobiographies on Trial


Cassiday, Julie A., Canadian Slavonic Papers


Igal Halfin. Terror in My Soul: Communist Autobiographies on Trial. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003. 366 pp. Illustrations, tables. $45.00 cloth.

In this, his second book devoted to exploring the eschatological dimensions of Soviet communism, Igal Halfin illuminates yet one more way in which the Utopian dreaming of the first decade of Soviet power fed into the nightmare of the Great Purges. Focusing on the complex inner workings of Communist Party membership, Halfin refuses to lay blame for the purges either on the Party itself or on its individual members. Instead, the author argues for a dynamic model of "Communist 'self-fashioning'," in which coercion on the part of the Party merged with cooptation on the part of its members, so that "Neither the producers nor the consumers of this [Communist] discourse could have fully known the implications of what they were saying and doing" (p. 5). Halfin's argument relies primarily on a deep analysis of several different types of texts: most importantly, the Communist autobiography, which the Party demanded of all aspiring members; popular prose fiction, which fleshes out the sometimes laconic personal narratives composed by would-be Communists; and early Soviet scientific writing, which articulates most clearly the ideological underpinnings of both the Communist autobiography and popular novels. Through this analysis, Halfin describes the emergence of the New Soviet Man as a scientific, psychological, and morally driven construct and demonstrates that, during the 1920s, the culpability for counterrevolutionary activity shifted from the body of the individual to his mind or soul, allowing the Party to criminalize not only the individual's actions, but more importantly his unwitting and even unconscious intentions.

Halfin's reading of the Communist autobiography relies on an analysis of emerging Soviet discourse in the 1920s and 1930s, which he terms "The Communist hermeneutics of the soul-the complex ritual of words and deeds that permitted the Party to determine who was worthy to belong to the brotherhood of the elect" (p. 7). Halfin's assertion that the Communist Party in the early Soviet Union constituted more of a messianic order than a political organization reiterates the conclusion of his first book, From Darkness to Light: Class, Consciousness, and Salvation in Revolutionary Russia (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000). However, Halfin gives this credible contention additional weight in the current study by charting the evolution of a black-and-white vocabulary of good and evil that conflated religious confession with legal declaration of guilt as the 1920s gave way to the 1930s. While the means of expression changed with time and varied greatly depending on the autobiographer's social and political background, Halfin convincingly describes the development of self-introspection and self-criticism within the self-narration of the Communist autobiography.

To support his interpretation of these short, first-person narratives, Halfin examines Soviet science's attempts to understand the individual during the same period. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Terror in My Soul: Communist Autobiographies on Trial
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    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.