Comrades’ Corner

Let’s Get Physical (Culture)

James von Geldern describes physical culture as “the hygiene and discipline of the bodies of socialist citizens” (von Geldern). This phenomenon was of fundamental importance to the Soviets in the 1920s and 1930s for several reasons. Prior to the revolution, sports clubs … Continue reading

A Martyr of the Great Terror

  When I traveled to Russia during the summer of 2013, I was fortunate enough to stumble across an exhibit dedicated to the life of Leon Trotsky in the basement of a Gulag museum in Moscow. I knew very little about the man who at one point was one of Vladimir Lenin’s right hand men, […]

It’s a ChurchPoolChurch!

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was built over the span of 40 years, and opened in the 19th century.  This church is the archetype of what all churches hope to be: it was the largest Orthodox Church ever built, and was a prime example of opulence.  The inner sanctum was circumscribed by two galleries, […]

The Mustache the Masses Loved… Or Did They?

Joseph Stalin became the center of the Communist Party as the 1930′s passed.  Stalin had the short history of the Bolshevik party and the revolution re-written by a group of “objective” historians, to portray a history of the Communist Party and the Soviet State which was deeply rooted in the work and leadership of the one and only Joseph Stalin.  It was published in October 1938.  This new history of the rise of the Soviet Union, which made Stalin a central figure, became the basic text of Stalinism.  It sold over forty million copies in Russia and throughout the world.  Even Time Magazine made Joseph Stalin its Man of the Year for 1939. Stalinism was the aura of the grandeur of Stalin and all that he did.   He was depicted as flawless, a man of the people, and yet stronger, wiser, better.  Stalin’s depiction was one of charisma, beyond even his political role.  The mass media was fed a perception of dire need for vigorous leadership in Soviet society.  Stalin was shown as that leader and more. Stalin’s portrayal in the media left an impression of power, wisdom, and incredible leadership.  He was compared to great Russian leaders of history to include Peter the Great, even though these leaders ideologies did not align with the communist agenda. Everyone Votes for the Supreme Soviet (193Smilie: 8). Award-Winner Petr Semenovich Orlov, famous bricklayer and instructor of Stakhanovite work methods. Orlov describes his meeting with Comrade Stalin. This video displays an interview with an acclaimed brick layer named Petr Semenovich Orlov, a vanguard of the Communist Party, who has just been rewarded for his great work by receiving the honor of meeting Stalin.  In his interview he seems extremely enthused and pleased by his meeting.  Orlov describes Stalin and explains what a great and inspirational person Stalin is and how this meeting has inspired him to work even harder.  It is likely that this interview was coached, and even possible that Orlov never met Stalin at all but was made to give this interview to improve Stalin’s reputation.  Regardless, this interview is just one example of the type of media which was used to increase the charisma, and cult of personality of Stalin.  These types of media were used to paint a portrait of Stalin to the public as a kind, and benevolent leader, not just a strong and bold one. This cult of personality which depicted Stalin as the Savior of Russia was mostly shared among the Soviets.  Stalin’s control of the media prevented any other news or opinions on his character or actions from being shown.  A climate of fear kept those who held other opinions in check.  People began to self-censor from fear of what may happen to them if they didn’t.  This only aided in the creation of the illusion of undisputed support for Stalin.  This perceived support for Stalin further enhanced the cult of Stalinism for the Soviet populace.  The fear of the public was justified and made clear during the Stalinist show trials of 1937 and 1938, where in Stalin purged many members of the Communist party whom were dissenters or viewed as Stalin’s opposition. Leon Trotsky: Trotsky on Stalin (1937). From his Mexican exile, Trotsky provides his version of the history of the Comintern, reserving particular disdain for both Stalin and the Second International. While in exile in Mexico, Trotsky was put on trial by the Stalinist Regime.  This audio is from Trotsky’s statement in reaction to the trial.  He defends himself and his family, but also accuses Stalin of betrayal to the ideals which he claims to have built the Soviet government on, and claims that instead of communism, Stalin has built a regime of “Stalinism” using fear and his secret police force to enforce the reign of his new government over those who would oppose him. Stalin built a regime around his own inflated image, and maintain it through fear and control. Sources: Seventeen Moments in Soviet History: http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1939personality&Year=1939&navi=byYear Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalin’s_cult_of_personality Freeze, Gregory L. Russia A History. Oxford University Press, Oxford New York, 2009.

Moscow Metro

The Moscow metro signified one of the first and greatest public work projects undertaken by the Stalin in Soviet Russia, completed in 1935. Currently the Metro has 12 lines, 195 stations and services over 6 million riders a day. The metro began operation on May 15th, 1935 and opened as a monument to Soviet working […]

Великая чистка

The travesty that befell Russia from 1936 until 1939 (some argue longer) was brought about by a paranoid tyrant. When Stalin came to power he was fearful of others he had shared power with taking it from him. So he … Continue reading

“Thanks to Comrade Stalin for Our Happy Childhood…” Really?

The Bolsheviks made many changes to the face of the Soviet Union, not least of all was the change to children’s education. Stalin and the Bolsheviks wanted to create a strong communist society and what better way than to start … Continue reading

The Soviets Loved to Drink…Champagne?

Local Soviet Confectionery(1)   When one thinks of things synonymous with Russia or the Soviet Union , vodka  is one of the first images to pop into mind. However, the Soviets experienced fancier times when it came to their high levels of alcohol consumption.  The Mid 1930′s up until the war was an easier time […]

The Role of Religion

  The Bolshevik revolution aimed to create a new social ethos that redefined the political, social, and economic systems in Soviet Russia. In order to alter the popular consciousness the regime needed to transform the values and norms of people … Continue reading

Bolsheviks: We Believe in Nothing

Boris Ignatovich: Restorers(1928) “Workers dismantling a Russian Orthodox Church while reading The Godless”   Thanks in part to the beliefs of Marx and Lenin, the Bolsheviks soon began their quest to rid the Soviet Union of religion. In their point of view, “religion was the opiate of the masses”(1). In other words, religion was something […]