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Sedition: Everyday Resistance in the Soviet Union under Khrushchev and Brezhnev

Vladimir A. Kozlov
Sheila Fitzpatrick
Sergei V. Mironenko
V. A. Kozlov
O. V. Edelman
with assistance from E. Yu. Zavadskaia
English edition edited and introduced by Sheila Fitzpatrick
Translated by Olga Livshin
English edition annotated by Andrew Janco
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This book explores Soviet prosecution records to tell the hidden story of ordinary citizens who were arrested for expressing discontent during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev years.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16856-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH EDITION Popular Sedition in the Post-Stalin Soviet Union
    (pp. 1-24)

    WE ARE USED to picturing the Soviet Union, even after Stalin’s death, as a totalitarian state with iron controls, a pervasive secret police, general conformity with ideological orthodoxy, and a cowed population. This book about popular sedition (kramola) presents a different, though not necessarily incompatible, picture. The secret police are well to the fore, certainly, for it is thanks to their investigative efforts that we have information about popular sedition in the first place; prominent also is the regime’s obsessive concern with preventing “heresy” and enforcing ideological conformity. But viewed through the prism of prosecutions for “anti-Soviet” speech and actions,...

    (pp. 25-64)

    IN AUGUST 1974, the émigré journalPosevpublished an interview with the Russian poet Alexander Galich, who had just emigrated from the Soviet Union.¹ Galich was asked, among other questions, about the Soviet dissident movement: “The Western press commonly uses the term ‘dissidents.’ Do you think this an appropriate term?” Galich replied that he did not like either the word “dissidence” or the term more commonly used in the Soviet Union at the time, “nonconformism” (inakomyslie). As an alternative, the poet proposed the French termrésistance.² Galich added an interesting thought about a “silentrésistance”: that hundreds of thousands of...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Stalin Is Dead!
    (pp. 65-94)

    JOSEPH STALIN’S death, which was a significant event both in real-life politics and in popular mythology, marked the beginning of a time of relative liberalization in the Soviet Union. But the social and political significance of the death was far greater than historians and the Russian general public may have then realized. The circumstances of the death itself, at Stalin’s dacha in early March 1953, gave rise to legends, and over the years, oral tradition made the deaths by trampling that occurred in the crowd at the ceremonial farewell to the Leader into a Khodynka-style massacre.¹ And that was really...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Voice of the People
    (pp. 95-152)

    IN THE EARLY years of the Khrushchev period, as under Stalin, one of the most common causes of political repression was “anti-Soviet conversation.” At least 20 percent of the cases supervised by the Department for Oversight of Investigations by State Security under the Procuracy of the USSR were of this type. (Determining the exact number of cases is difficult because the boundaries of the category are blurry. Most people who were convicted of engaging in such activities as writing leaflets or anonymous letters were also charged with engaging systematically in “anti-Soviet conversations.”) In the period in which we are interested,...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Heretics and Profaners
    (pp. 153-166)

    THE CULT of personality gave both the Party leaders in the Soviet Union and their visual representations a special significance. Party leaders’ portraits and statues symbolized their actual presence. In George Orwell’s1984, no matter where you go, the same, ever-present portrait of Big Brother is watching you. We see a picture similarly replacing the real person in a historical anecdote about Nicholas I. The tsar was told of a man who spat on his portrait at a tavern while drunk. Nicholas ordered that the man be pardoned. He wrote, “Tell him I spit on him, too,” and ordered that...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Get Out the Vote!
    (pp. 167-188)

    PEOPLE WHO were involved in subversive activities had a solid understanding of the essence of the Soviet electoral system. A person did not have to have access to additional (forbidden) information or listen to foreign radio stations or have a college degree to realize that the choice of one candidate, “the representative of Communist bloc and non-Party members,” was a farce.

    Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, criticism of the electoral system remained a constant topic of anti-Soviet conversations. People said that the elections were a lie, that people were pressured to vote, that all the candidates were Communists and...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Lone Protesters
    (pp. 189-198)

    SOME INDIVIDUAL acts of protest took an open and public form. These acts could be intentional and carefully thought out, or they could be spontaneous and emotional. Acts of protest ranged from drunken anti-Soviet shouts to discerning speeches of criticism at Party meetings or collective farm meetings. None of the cases presented here involves underground activities or anonymous writings.

    For many years, no open acts of protest took place in the Soviet Union. The last organized protest was in 1927, when the Trotskyite opposition staged an alternative political demonstration on the ten-year anniversary of the October Revolution. In Stalin’s time...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Leaflets and Anonymous Letters
    (pp. 199-250)

    THE DISTRIBUTION of anti-Soviet leaflets and anonymous letters was one of the most prevalent varieties of deliberate agitation and propaganda. Of the 4,500 oversight records on anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda from 1953 and 1986 registered in our database, nearly 1,100 cases (one in every four) concern the distribution of anonymous documents. (We have not included charges against prisoners in camps, which will be discussed later). According to our data, 29 percent of cases involved anonymous letters, and 71 percent involved leaflets; approximately 80 cases included both actions. The statistics do not tell us that distribution of leaflets was more common,...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Authors and Their Suggestions for the Improvement of Life
    (pp. 251-283)

    IN THEORY, Article 58 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR covered only crimes of “agitation and propaganda.” This would seem to suggest that simply having an opinion or a text that had not been shown to anyone was not a prosecutable act. In practice, however, there were many cases in which words in a diary or a notebook with “anti-Soviet content” constituted sufficient evidence for a conviction. The materials were usually uncovered during a search conducted for other reasons (for example, an accusation of anti-Soviet speech), and the papers often served to prove the rooted and deliberate nature of...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Underground Groups and Organizations
    (pp. 284-332)

    ALTHOUGH underground groups and organizations had limited power and means, the regime saw them as the most dangerous variety of subversion in the 1950s–1980s. Strangely, despite this concern, the Procuracy’s annual and semiannual reports did not include mandatory data on the number of convictions of members of underground groups, which makes it impossible to isolate that number from the total number of convictions for all anti-Soviet activities. Short reports to the Central Committee on the KGB’s work contain information about the number of “politically harmful” groups (including nationalist organizations) that had been “uncovered and rooted out.” Judging by these...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 333-384)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 385-388)
  15. Name Index
    (pp. 389-407)
  16. Place-Name Index
    (pp. 408-414)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 415-416)