Stalin's Empire of Memory

Stalin's Empire of Memory: Russian-Ukrainian Relations in the Soviet Historical Imagination

Serhy Yekelchyk
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 230
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442680166
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Stalin's Empire of Memory
    Book Description:

    Based on declassified materials from eight Ukrainian and Russian archives,Stalin's Empire of Memory, offers a complex and vivid analysis of the politics of memory under Stalinism. Using the Ukrainian republic as a case study, Serhy Yekelchyk elucidates the intricate interaction between the Kremlin, non-Russian intellectuals, and their audiences.

    Yekelchyk posits that contemporary representations of the past reflected the USSR's evolution into an empire with a complex hierarchy among its nations. In reality, he argues, the authorities never quite managed to control popular historical imagination or fully reconcile Russia's 'glorious past' with national mythologies of the non-Russian nationalities.

    Combining archival research with an innovative methodology that links scholarly and political texts with the literary works and artistic images,Stalin's Empire of Memorypresents a lucid, readable text that will become a must-have for students, academics, and anyone interested in Russian history.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8016-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xv-1)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    The spectacular ease with which the republics of the USSR converted themselves into nation-states in 1991 puzzled many western observers. Did this sudden transformation confirm the traditional view of the oppressive Soviet empire, which had imposed its ideology on pre-existing nationalities and was finally undone by its peoplesʹ long-suppressed national stirrings?¹ Or did it corroborate the ʹrevisionistʼ vision of the Soviet Union as the creator of territorial nations with their own modern high cultures, political elites, and state symbols?²

    Access to declassified Soviet archives allows researchers for the first time to examine in unprecedented detail the inner workings of Soviet...

  7. Chapter One Soviet National Patriots
    (pp. 13-32)

    ʻThe workers have no fatherland,ʼ declared Marx and Engels in theCommunist Manifesto. The founders of Marxism did not ignore the existence of nation-states or nationalism, but they considered them secondary and transitional phenomena. Marx understood the grand design of human history as the succession of distinctive ʻmodes of productionʼ determining the forms of social organization: primitive, slave, feudal, capitalist, and communist. For the traditional nineteenth-century narrative of the rise of nation-states, Marx substituted the story of the struggle between exploited classes and their exploiters. According to theCommunist Manifesto, ʹThe history of all hitherto existing society [was] the history...

  8. Chapter Two The Unbreakable Union
    (pp. 33-52)

    The Stalinist retreat from proletarian internationalism reached its climax in December 1943, when the Kremlin dropped the ʹInternationaleʼ as the Soviet anthem. Reflecting the new official blend of Russian and Soviet patriotism, the new anthem began with the line, ʹGreat Rusʼ forever joined together the unbreakable union of free republics.ʹ Significantly, the non-Russian republics soon proceeded to create their own anthems. As early as 21 February 1944 the Ukrainian authorities announced a competition for the best text and music. Most entries were variations of the ail-Union anthem with two or three local themes added: the great and free Ukraine, the...

  9. Chapter Three Reinventing Ideological Orthodoxy
    (pp. 53-71)

    Occasionally, a senior ideologue’s rough notes can open exciting avenues for contextualizing Soviet ideological processes. In the case of the UkrainianZhdanovshchina, for instance, a file in the personal archives of Dmytro Manuilsky is very revealing.¹ This file combines his drafts of various anti-nationalist resolutions with extremely interesting handwritten notes on the question of ‘national prideʼ — apparently the first draft of an article or speech. The notes reveal how the person who single-handedly wrote most of the era's principal ideological pronouncements in the republic agonized over the definition of Ukrainian Soviet historical memory. In one paragraph, Manuilsky begins by...

  10. Chapter Four The Unfinished Crusade of 1947
    (pp. 72-87)

    By January 1947 the purification campaign in Ukraine had clearly ended. No new ideological resolutions had appeared since early October, and the wave of criticism in the media was dying out. The republicʼs ideologues and intellectuals seemed to have arrived at an understanding of what the new proper version of Ukrainian historical memory was to be. Neither the Ukrainian leadership nor its Moscow bosses spoke of further eradication of ‘nationalist deviations.ʼ Then, an unexpected turn in Khrushchevʼs political fortunes and Kaganovichʼs arrival in Ukraine changed the situation dramatically.

    In late February 1947 Stalinʼs trusted trouble-shooter Lazar Kaganovich arrived in Kiev...

  11. Chapter Five Writing a ‘Stalinist History of Ukraine’
    (pp. 88-107)

    Stalin’s toast, which the Ukrainian artist Mykhailo Khmelko portrayed in his monumental paintingTo the Great Russian People! (1947; 3m x 5,15m; Stalin Prize, Second Class, for 1947), inaugurated a celebration of Russian national greatness that knew no bounds. Russian chauvinism and messianism had been an increasing presence in the official discourse since the mid-1930s, but they mushroomed after May 1945. The Soviet media waxed rhapsodic about the Russiansʼ having always been the greatest, wisest, bravest, and most virtuous of all nations.² Developments in Ukraine reflected the general Soviet ideological transfiguration.Radianska Ukrainagreeted the news of Stalinʼs toast in...

  12. Chapter Six Defining the National Heritage
    (pp. 108-128)

    In March 1951 Soviet Ukraine mourned the ninetieth anniversary of Taras Shevchenkoʹs death. Innumerable speeches, meetings, newspaper articles, and radio broadcasts glorified the nineteenth-century Ukrainian bard as the nationʹs founding father, with the expression ʹour fatherʼ (nash batko) often being slipped in among more official designations such as ʹrevolutionary democratʹ and ʹthe founder of Ukrainian literature.ʹ Shevchenko was the only topic to appear on the first three pages in the newspaper of the Ukrainian Writersʹ Union,Literaturna hazeta. The front-page headline read ʹForever Aliveʹ — an epithet usually exclusively reserved in Soviet public discourse for the founding father of the...

  13. Chapter Seven Empire and Nation in the Artistic Imagination
    (pp. 129-152)

    In June 1951 hundreds of Ukrainian writers, actors, musicians, and artists arrived in Moscow for adekada(ten-day festival) of Ukrainian art. This grandiose exhibition of Soviet Ukraineʹs cultural achievements appeared to be a huge success and was crowned by the decoration of 669 Ukrainians with various orders, medals, and honorary artistic titles.Pravdaprovided extensive, enthusiastic coverage of the festival, expressing only minor criticism regarding the operaBohdan Khmelnytsky, which, according to the newspaper, did not contain a single battle scene and did not portray the Polish gentry as the enemy.¹

    The ambassadors of Ukrainian culture left Moscow in...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 153-162)

    Having completed an ideological purification campaign in late 1951, the Ukrainian leadership was satisfied with its efforts. From November 1951 to May 1952 no ideological decrees or major public statements indicated the party’s concern with any ‘nationalist deviations’ in culture and scholarship. Soon, however, the republic’s bosses discovered that Stalin himself remained suspicious of Ukraine’s ideological situation. In May 1952 First Secretary Melnikov disclosed to the members of the KP(b)U Central Committee: ‘On 14 April Comrade Korotchenko and I were received by Comrade Stalin. In a conversation that lasted approximately four hours, losif Vissarionovich showed great interest in the state...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 163-198)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-216)
  17. Index
    (pp. 217-231)