Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957

By Elena Zubkova; Hugh Ragsdale | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
"The Situation Doesn't Change": The Crisis of Postwar Expectations

The war was in no hurry to retreat into the past. Although the victory salutes were long since silent and the Soviet Information Bureau no longer brought news of the course of combat, reminders of the war were everywhere. There were belated burials, ration cards, villages without men, cities in ruin, military garments in place of civilian dress--all this a year and more after the end of the war. The majority of people who lived through this period clearly think of the war and the postwar years without any distinction. And the basis of this lack of distinction was emotional, the extraordinary stress of life, the initial wish to win the victory at all costs and then to return to normal peacetime life. The great aim uniting millions of people and the principle of victory at any price as the means of achieving that aim created a special spirit in postwar society, formed a kind of spiritual bond among contemporaries.

At the same time the very principle of sacrifice became something like a psychological instrument of motivation, strong enough on the one hand to bring millions to the commitment to victory but limited by the fact that it could not be exploited indefinitely. In order to activate this principle, it was necessary to have, at a minimum, an extreme situation and a limited period of time for its application. Otherwise, as fatigue accumulated, the sensation of extreme stress and extraordinary commitment receded.

The extreme conditions of the first postwar years were occasioned principally by the task of rapid restoration of the country. The aspiration of people to enter as quickly as possible into a normal life in this

-101-

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