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Myth, Memory, Trauma

Myth, Memory, Trauma: Rethinking the Stalinist Past in the Soviet Union, 1953-70

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Myth, Memory, Trauma
    Book Description:

    Drawing on newly available materials from the Soviet archives, Polly Jones offers an innovative, comprehensive account of de-Stalinization in the Soviet Union during the Khrushchev and early Brezhnev eras. Jones traces the authorities' initiation and management of the de-Stalinization process and explores a wide range of popular reactions to the new narratives of Stalinism in party statements and in Soviet literature and historiography.

    Engaging with the dynamic field of memory studies, this book represents the first sustained comparison of this process with other countries' attempts to rethink their own difficult pasts, and with later Soviet and post-Soviet approaches to Stalinism.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18721-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    During the night of 31 October 1961, two trucks drove onto Red Square, and their occupants entered the mausoleum on the side nearest to the Kremlin wall. Removing Iosif Stalin’s embalmed body from where it had lain beside Lenin since Stalin’s death eight years earlier, they hastily buried it and left no marker for the burial place. Two days later, the Soviet population woke to a picture inPravdaof the mausoleum, with Stalin’s name now erased from the frontage. “Operation mausoleum” was never explained to the Soviet public.¹

    The stealth and speed of Stalin’s disappearance suggest that he had...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Secret Speech
    (pp. 17-56)

    For nearly three years after Stalin’s death, the power struggle among the supposedly “collective” leadership was not resolved, nor was the question of how to deal with the memory of their towering predecessor. Indeed, Khrushchev did not emerge as the winner of this power struggle until he performed his “Secret Speech” about Stalin in February 1956. Before that, from 1953 to late 1955, Central Committee (CC) discussions of post-Stalinist domestic and foreign policy had often expressed or implied a desire to break with Stalinist precedent, and some changes implemented, especially during Lavrentii Beria’s dramatic “100 Days” of reform, in fact...

  6. CHAPTER TWO From Thaw to Freeze: Party History and Soviet Literature, 1956–57
    (pp. 57-96)

    In late December 1956, the Central Committee circulated a warning to all party organizations about the need to “strengthen political work … and to curtail the emergence of anti-Soviet elements.”¹ Issued nine months after the Secret Speech, the letter was shrouded in far greater secrecy, its existence never mentioned in the Soviet press. Nevertheless, its calls for greater ideological militancy had an immediate effect. Party meetings were held across the country to discuss the letter, and calls for ideological “purity” noticeably intensified in Soviet public culture, as did punishment of anti-Soviet sentiment in Soviet society.² The December 1956 “closed letter”...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Forgetting within Limits: Censorship and Preservation of the Stalin Cult
    (pp. 97-128)

    In January 1957, Khrushchev raised a toast to Stalin at the Chinese embassy in Moscow, asking that “God grant that every communist will fight for the interests of the working class as Stalin did.” This was the clearest sign yet of how far the leadership had retreated from the anti-Stalinism of the Secret Speech, or even of the milder party resolution of summer 1956.¹ This was also not the first leader’s toast to be interpreted as a shift in party policy, but the unusually close domestic and international attention paid to Khrushchev’s tribute highlights how Stalin’s official posthumous reputation was...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Trauma and Redemption: Narratives of 1937 in Soviet Culture
    (pp. 129-172)

    “Perhaps we should build a monument to the victims of terror?” Khrushchev’s proposal at the 22nd Party Congress to erect this memorial is one of the most notorious unfulfilled promises of his time in power.¹ Crowning a congress dominated by testimony of terror, especially the Great Terror, the planned monument promised remembrance of the cult of personality, to complement the forgetting of the Stalin cult also mandated by the congress (as examined in the previous chapter). Yet, while Stalin’s body hastily disappeared from the mausoleum after the congress, the monument to his victims failed to appear.

    In fact, the first...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Between Myth and Memory: War, Terror, and Stalin in Soviet Popular Memory
    (pp. 173-211)

    In 1960, a librarian from Smolensk wrote to the Soviet novelist and poet Konstantin Simonov about a readers’ conference held to discuss his recently published novel,The Living and the Dead; it had concluded, she reported, that the novel was a “hymn to the Soviet person, struck by great grief on his military path.”¹ This report was just one of many hundreds of letters received by Simonov and byZnamia, the “military-patriotic” journal that publishedThe Living and the Deadand its 1963 sequel,People Are Not Born Soldiers.² Both novels were among the most widely disseminated and important literary...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The “Cult of Personality” in the Early Brezhnev Era
    (pp. 212-257)

    In late 1964, a prose work by the writer Anatolii Rybakov appeared in the journalNovyi mir.¹ EntitledSummer in Sosniaki, the novella was set in the early post-Stalin era, but mainly concerned the effects of the Great Terror on the population of the eponymous factory town. The novella had originally been planned for publication in 1965, but after Khrushchev’s ouster in October 1964, the journal’s editor Aleksandr Tvardovskii expedited publication, moving it forward to the penultimate issue of the year. Much later, Rybakov reflected that Tvardovskii had “understood how things were going to turn out,” and hurried to publish...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 258-262)

    In summer 1987, more than two decades after its first (and only) public performance, Simonov’s 1965 address to the Moscow Union was finally published in the Soviet Union, becoming the most popular article of the year in the journalNauka i zhizn’.¹ The next year, some of the most controversial passages of Simonov’s 1941 diaries appeared in the same journal, again reversing their Brezhnev-era prohibition, and again eliciting an enthusiastic popular response.² The decision to publish these works in 1987–88 and their importance to the historical debates of the time was no accident.³ This was a unique phase of...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 263-330)
    (pp. 331-356)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 357-362)