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On the Ideological Front

On the Ideological Front: The Russian Intelligentsia and the Making of the Soviet Public Sphere

Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 346
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  • Book Info
    On the Ideological Front
    Book Description:

    Having emerged, exhausted but triumphant, from the bloody and divisive Russian Civil War, V. I. Lenin and his colleagues turned to eliminating perceived ideological foes from within. InOn the Ideological Front, Stuart Finkel tells the story of the1922 expulsion from Soviet Russia of almost one hundred prominent intellectuals, including professors and journalists, philosophers and engineers, writers and agronomists. Finkel's meticulously researched and persuasively argued study sets this compelling human drama within the context of the Bolsheviks' determined efforts to impose ideological conformity, redefine the role of the intelligentsia, and establish a distinctly Soviet public sphere. The book demonstrates that the NEP period was not a time of intellectual pluralism and ideological retreat on the part of the Bolsheviks. On the contrary, from its formative years, the Soviet regime zealously policed the ideological front and laid the institutional and discursive foundations for the Stalinist state.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14507-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    On 15 November 1922 seventeen intellectuals and their families prepared to board the German steamshipPreussenoff the shores of Petrograd, bound for Stettin, Germany. The members of this diverse group of professors, journalists, philosophers, writers, engineers, and agronomists were not departing voluntarily; they were leaving because Russia’s new rulers, V. I. Lenin and his colleagues in the Bolshevik Party, had ordered their expulsion. On the docks Soviet secret policemen, calledchekisty, carefully checked their documents and went through their belongings. The long and grueling day was complicated by the fact that no one on either side seemed to know...

  5. 1 The Russian Intelligentsia and the Bolsheviks at the End of the Civil War
    (pp. 13-39)

    By the end of 1917 it was readily apparent, if it had not been previously, that a wide chasm separated the Bolsheviks from most of the rest of the intelligentsia. Dozens of intellectuals fled to join the embryonic counterrevolutionary forces, while many others denounced the Bolshevik coup d’état and called for the convocation of the Constituent Assembly. The professoriat reacted with almost universal opposition, as did most student groups. Those intellectuals who lived in Moscow and Petrograd under extremely difficult conditions during the Civil War remained overwhelmingly hostile toward the Soviet regime. Even the cautious Academy of Sciences described the...

  6. 2 Bolsheviks and Professors: The Struggle over University Autonomy
    (pp. 40-66)

    Before 1921 the Soviet regime, enmeshed in a brutal struggle for survival, did not have the luxury of devoting significant resources to reforming higher education. As the sociologist Pitirim Sorokin wryly remarked, “Busy with Civil War, the Bolsheviki had not yet annihilated all University Life.”¹ The changes introduced were piecemeal, often contradictory, and had little practical effect. The situation changed considerably, however, at the end of the Civil War. With the external enemy vanquished, the Bolsheviks felt ready to turn their attention to the “ideological front.” The autonomous professoriat was seen as a major obstacle to ensuring hegemony over the...

  7. 3 Exposing the Caste Spirit in Professional and Scientific Organizations
    (pp. 67-88)

    When Narkompros leaders eliminated autonomous professors’ organizations, they were implementing in the academic realm what was fast becoming general policy toward independent intellectual and professional associations. Engineers, agronomists, physicians, and teachers were all welcome to organize, but such groups would be closely monitored for anti-Soviet activity, construed to mean something much broader than direct political opposition. Any indication that group interests might be distinct from or in conflict with those of the proletarian dictatorship was viewed as a manifestation of corporate, or “caste” (kastovoi), exclusivism. Societies could lobby on behalf of their members’ material interests, but the party-state reserved the...

  8. 4 Cultural, Literary, Philosophical, and Spiritual Societies
    (pp. 89-114)

    Unlike agricultural cooperatives andspetsprofessional societies, autonomous cultural, literary, philosophical, and spiritual groupings did not have any definite utility. Despite the difficult conditions in Moscow and Petrograd at the end of the Civil War, writers, litterateurs, translators, and artists had gathered in an increasingly vibrant set of societies andkruzhki, or literary circles.¹ During 1920–22 these institutions, particularly the House of Litterateurs and the House of Arts, provided a central focus for much of literary and cultural Petrograd, while the All-Russian Union of Writers and the Free Academy for Spiritual Culture fulfilled a similar function in Moscow. Maxim...

  9. 5 Publishing, Censorship, and Ideological Struggles
    (pp. 115-150)

    The perceived resurgence of bourgeois ideology at the beginning of NEP catalyzed the Bolshevik campaign against the intelligentsia. The reemergence of “public figures,” the obduracy of the organized professoriat, and the proliferation of autonomous societies were all of great concern, but the advent of unofficial journals, books, and almanacs constituted the central battleground on the cultural front. The persistence of alien viewpoints distressed, even enraged, Soviet leaders, who had taken great care to eliminate opposition newspapers. “Freedom of press in the RSFSR, surrounded by an entire world of bourgeois enemies, is a freedom ofpolitical organizationfor the bourgeoisie,” Lenin...

  10. 6 The Deportations, Part I: Precedents and Planning
    (pp. 151-181)

    Bolshevik leaders viewed the “renaissance of bourgeois ideology” as part of a coherent conspiracy. Although they took solace in the fragmentation that they observed among their foes, they also discerned an overarching unity in the enemy’s use of “Soviet legality” for its own separatist purposes. Zinoviev warned the Twelfth Party Conference that “new formations have arisen in the anti-Soviet camp; there have occurred on new grounds a revival and a consolidation of anti-Soviet forces against us.”¹ The Soviet regime and its security apparatus aimed to eliminate this threat while retaining those members of the intelligentsia who could be reformed and...

  11. 7 The Deportations, Part II: Arrest, Negotiation, and Expulsion
    (pp. 182-214)

    In the early morning hours of 17 August 1922, security operatives fanned out across Moscow and Petrograd, jarring hundreds of intellectuals and their families awake. Thechekistyrifled drawers looking for incriminating evidence, after which convoys whisked the dazed scholars away to the infamous Butyrka and Shpalernaia prisons. There an assortment of the most educated men in Russia shared jail cells and was marched through the interrogation chambers of the GPU. Over the next weeks and months, dozens of Russia’s best-known professors, writers, and scientists were imprisoned, questioned, and ordered to leave the country. Bewildered, they hurred to gather themselves,...

  12. Epilogue: The Deportees in Emigration
    (pp. 215-222)

    The emigration’s conservative majority met the deportees with suspicion, and there were even rumors on the far right that they were Soviet agents.¹ Their friends and colleagues, however, received them with enthusiasm; as bearers of fresh news, they were a unique and privileged group.² The émigré public, eager for reports from recent arrivals, listened attentively to their speeches and discussions. Their common fate gave the deportees a sense of collective identity, especially while most of them lived in Berlin, and they gathered as a group several times in the months following their arrival. The first such evening took place on...

  13. Conclusion: The Intelligentsia in Soviet Russia
    (pp. 223-228)

    By mid-1923 a softening in Bolshevik rhetoric signaled that the skirmish in the struggle on the ideological front had been deemed a success. Even the zealous Zinoviev offered an olive branch at a national meeting of Rabpros’s scientifi c workers’ section, into which all professors had been involuntarily impressed after the dissolution of their autonomous organizations. While recalling the “sabotage” in which many intellectuals had engaged after the Revolution, Zinoviev suggested that a corner had been turned in the relationship between people of science and the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Soviet state had had to restrain the perfectly understandable...

  14. Appendix Intellectuals Expelled from Soviet Russia, 1922–1923
    (pp. 229-234)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 235-238)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 239-320)
  17. Index
    (pp. 321-338)