The Socialist Way of Life in Siberia

The Socialist Way of Life in Siberia: Transformation in Buryatia

Melissa Chakars
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Socialist Way of Life in Siberia
    Book Description:

    The Buryats are a Mongolian population in Siberian Russia, the largest indigenous minority. The Socialist Way of Life in Siberia presents the dramatic transformation in their everyday lives during the late twentieth century. The book challenges the common notion that the process of modernization during the later Soviet period created a Buryat national assertiveness rather than assimilation or support for the state.

    eISBN: 978-963-386-014-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Notes on Transliteration and Translation
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    Speaking in 1978 on the local Ulan-Ude radio programThe Socialist Way of Life, a Buryat woman named Darizhap Zham’ianova described how her life was very different than that of her mother. Her mother was orphaned at age seven and had been forced to work forkulaks, a label applied to supposed wealthier herders. At one point her mother had given birth to a son, but her grandmother “gave him to thedatsan,” the Buddhist monastery, and she “never got him back.”¹ Her mother had lived in the Siberian countryside, was very poor, and had struggled just in order to...

  6. Chapter 1 The Buryats of Siberia: From Imperial Russia to the Soviet State
    (pp. 25-60)

    Before the turn of the twentieth century, the Buryats and the Russian government had settled into a relationship that was generally peaceful and worked fairly well for both parties. The Buryats had certain tax and administrative obligations to the government and as long as these were met, the state interfered little in their everyday lives. Although individual officials could be cruel and occasional disputes sometimes interrupted that stability, in many cases Buryats could easily overcome their grievances by employing traditional nomadic strategies such as moving away. However, European Russian immigration to Siberia, which began in great numbers toward the end...

  7. Chapter 2 Stalinism in Buryatia
    (pp. 61-88)

    During the 1920s, authorities in Buryatia espoused atheism, promoted communal farms, and encouraged Buryats to become workers and local government bureaucrats. Although some Buryats answered these calls, the majority did not. Instead, the everyday life of most continued much as it had before the October Revolution and the Russian Civil War. The majority of Buryats lived privately off the land and had minimal contact with the government. This changed, however, when in the 1930s, Joseph Stalin chose to forcibly collectivize the country’s agriculture, rapidly industrialize, and centralize economic decision-making. These policies ended the government’s more relaxed attitudes toward religion, nomadism,...

  8. Chapter 3 The New Buryats
    (pp. 89-116)

    The growth of industry in eastern Siberia, starting in the 1930s and continuing into the 1980s, brought thousands of immigrants from the European regions of the Soviet Union to the Buryat-Mongolian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR).¹ This diminished Buryat representation in the republic, but also created opportunities for social mobility through job creation, particularly in the postwar years. Both local and national leaders sought to bring economic development to Buryatia through the construction of such industries as an electric engine plant, a wool-manufacturing factory, an appliances plant, and many others.² In the 1970s, authorities also started two new major industrial...

  9. Chapter 4 Education for Change
    (pp. 117-158)

    A good education was crucial for social mobility in the Soviet Union. In Buryatia, local government administrators, educators, and parents contributed to the development of an education system that encouraged professional advancement. Their efforts illustrate the manner in which Buryats engaged in a key part of the Soviet modernization process. However, educational development could also be contentious. The clearest example of this was the vacillating policy of teaching the Buryat language. In the 1930s, many Buryat national schools offered instruction in Buryat up through the fourth grade with Russian taught as a subject. In the early postwar years, Buryat language...

  10. Chapter 5 Buryat Literature for a New Society
    (pp. 159-192)

    Local authorities in Buryatia relied on cultural and educational institutions for creating skilled workers and professionals, as well as altering the behavior and attitudes of society. Literature was a key part of this and authorities assigned great prestige to the written word. They considered printed matter a central symbol of Soviet culture, crucial for nation building, necessary for raising the cultural level of ordinary citizens, and a critical method for communication.¹ For these reasons, officials across the country devoted many resources to developing literature both in Russian and non-Russian languages. For all Soviet peoples, literature became a marker of cultural...

  11. Chapter 6 A Means to Modernity: Newspapers, Radio, and Television
    (pp. 193-226)

    In 1961 officials launched Buryatia’s first TV station, bringing moving and speaking pictures to people in a way that had never existed before. Television was twentieth century modernity in a tangible form available in one’s own home. In Buryatia, the content of local television also told the story of the contemporary era and helped to define society in new ways. The new medium spread quickly across the republic and by 1976, officials announced that 80 percent of the population had the opportunity to watch TV—either at home or at a local clubhouse. That same year authorities also declared that...

  12. Chapter 7 Reform, But What Kind?
    (pp. 227-260)

    The majority of this book is dedicated to the building, spreading, and running of media, cultural, and educational institutions in Buryatia from the early postwar years to the 1980s. By the final decade of Soviet power, such institutions had become well established. They employed many Buryats and were a part of everyday life. They also consistently promoted a culture of progress and a path for Soviet success. When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, his reform policies ofperestroikaandglasnost’ brought about great changes in these media, cultural, and educational institutions in Buryatia, as...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 261-272)

    While conducting research in Buryatia, I spent many days in the Dissertation Room at Buryat State University when the National Archives of the Republic of Buryatia, the National Library, and the library at the Buryat Scientific Center were closed. My time in the Dissertation Room (where a poster on the wall menacingly asked “Are YOU writing your dissertation?”) revealed much about scholarship in the post-Soviet period that sought to understand both the contemporary and historical identity of the Buryat people. The research projects housed there showed how local graduate students at Buryat State University and other regional institutions were conducting...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-290)
  15. Index
    (pp. 291-296)
  16. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 297-304)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-305)