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The Voice of the People

The Voice of the People

C. J. Storella
A. K. Sokolov
S. V. Zhuravlev
V. V. Kabanov
T. P. Mironova
T. V. Sorokina
A. K. Sokolov
E. V. Khandurina
C. J. Storella
A. K. Sokolov
S. V. Zhuravlev
V. V. Kabanov
Documents translated by C. J. Storella
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    The Voice of the People
    Book Description:

    This book presents the first comprehensive collection in English of peasant writings during the early years of the Bolshevik regime. Drawn entirely from Russian archival sources, it presents more than 150 previously unpublished letters addressed to newspapers, government officials, and Communist Party leaders. The letters and accompanying commentary result in a unique history of the Soviet peasantry's engagement and struggle with a powerful state, enabling readers to hear the voice of a social class that throughout history has too often been rendered voiceless.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18901-8
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    C. J. Storella
  4. Note on Transliteration and Translation
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Note on the Documents
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    In the early hours of 26 October 1917, shortly after seizing power from the Provisional Government in the Russian capital, Petrograd, Bolshevik Party leaders hurriedly hammered out a proclamation transferring control over private farmlands to the peasants who worked them. Determined to get their Decree on Land approved at the All-Russian Congress of Soviets then in session, the exhausted yet triumphal insurrectionists scribbled the sweeping terms of the new law down on paper in fervent, all-but-illegible scrawl. According to an eyewitness, the drafters’ poor penmanship actually prevented the Bolshevik Party chief, Vladimir Lenin, from reading out the decree to the...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Revolution and War Communism
    (pp. 27-55)

    Few people have ever experienced more turmoil and catastrophe in so brief a time as the inhabitants of the Russian empire in the four years between February 1917 and March 1921. These forty-nine months witnessed the final collapse of the centuries-old tsarist feudal-autocratic system, followed in short order by the establishment of a liberal, then liberal-socialist Provisional Government. Amid unmanageable chaos, the last government quickly fell victim to an adventurous coup that led, ultimately, to the emergence of a one-party Marxist dictatorship. Within months, the new regime extricated the country from a long and bloody world war, but the dictatorial...

  8. CHAPTER 2 The Old Village and the New Economic Policy
    (pp. 56-111)

    By late 1920, Red victory in the civil war was certain, but at a tremendous economic and human cost. Citizens safely beyond the reach of the fighting as well as those in the war zones had endured extraordinary privations. The winding down of the war, therefore, raised popular expectations that the harsh war-communist regimen would relax. No such change was immediately forthcoming, however, for Party leaders invoked economic collapse to justify the perpetuation of extreme measures. Grain requisitions continued, penalties for infractions of labor discipline were stiffened, trade unions came under increased state control and were redefined as organizers of...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Smychka: The Bond between City and Village
    (pp. 112-151)

    For the Russian communists, the early years of the NEP were a time of reappraisal. During the civil war, the crushing of the German Spartacist revolt in January 1919 and the collapse later in the year of a Soviet-inspired regime in Hungary demonstrated that the postwar revolutionary tide in Europe was fast receding. The failure of the 1920 Soviet military offensive against Poland highlighted the Red Army’s limitations as a bearer of revolution to Europe and ensured that for the time being the Soviet republic would stand alone, an isolated Red beacon in a capitalist sea. Reality and survival now...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Was Society Transformed?
    (pp. 152-203)

    The writer Maxim Gorky posed questions about the revolution—how it would change Russian lives and whether it would bring “light”—in his newspaper,New Life,shortly after the Bolshevik takeover, knowing full well that similar questions had been uppermost in the minds of idealistic Russian men and women for decades. Only if the revolution succeeded in liberating the people from ignorance and crushing material deprivation could those dedicated to revolutionary change justify to themselves and to posterity the suffering they were willing to endure and to inflict on others. Such validation could not be found in the simple act...

  11. CHAPTER 5 People and Power
    (pp. 204-246)

    InA Week,the communist novelist Yury Libedinsky offers an honest account of the activities of a provincial Party organization during the civil war and the motley personalities who make up its membership. From the idealist to the careerist, from the bureaucrat to the man of action, Libedinsky portrays them all through characters that appear deeply human in their thoughts and motivations, in turn hopeful, frightened, inspired, and uncertain of the future. The novel also conveys communists’ isolation from their surroundings in rural Russia. Only the Red Army garrison stationed in the town ensures the organization’s safety by holding the...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Whither Socialism?
    (pp. 247-290)

    By the mid-1920s, the Soviet economy appeared far healthier than it had been only a few years earlier. Successful harvests in 1925 and 1926 and the return to prewar production levels in most industries by the latter year seemed to vindicate the Party’s strategy of economic concessions to agriculture coupled with modest investments in industry. Not all difficulties had been overcome: grain production had yet to attain prewar levels, and procuring sufficient quantities of grain at prices favorable to the state remained a ceaseless struggle; some key industries, like metals, had not recovered as fully as others; and continued overall...

  13. CHAPTER 7 The Great Break
    (pp. 291-361)

    In October 1927, peasant grain deliveries to official collection agencies began to drop off unexpectedly. Over the next several weeks, the situation deteriorated to the point of crisis as deliveries fell far short of projected targets. By the end of the year it became apparent that unless peasants provided more grain, the cities would face a very hungry winter, and the regime’s industrialization plans would be placed in jeopardy. Unexpected in its magnitude and severity, the “grain crisis” and the leadership’s response to it set the stage for a complete reversal in the regime’s relationship with the peasantry, a reversal...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 362-374)

    Collectivization and dekulakization destroyed the Russian village and, with it, what remained of the peasants’ traditional life. Together with rapid industrialization and the implementation of economic planning, the two campaigns helped bring about the reconstitution of Soviet society along highly centralized and authoritarian lines. The ruling elite, with Stalin and his supporters firmly at the helm, now employed every means at their disposal to mobilize all necessary resources—human and otherwise—in their mission to build socialism. Proceeding at breakneck speed, this cruel and ruthless process reinforced the hardness, if not callousness, of officials at all levels of the state,...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 375-402)
  16. List of Documents
    (pp. 403-414)
  17. Index
    (pp. 415-426)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 427-427)