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In addition, Gramsci's concept of practical politics senso commune suggests ways in which what Russian and Soviet sociologists and moralists called byt loosely translated as everyday life might be investigated. That hegemony cornes as a provisional victory of the ruling classes over byt, which constantly resurfaces most vividly.

Short History of Soviet Socialism

In the outline that follows, I will focus on three broad areas of context: institutional, social, and cultural or ideological. The Institutional Context. These included the People's Commissariat of Enlightenment Narkompros , a likely patron, but also less likely candidates, such as the Red Army, the Cheka or political police, trade unions, the youth leagues, and the Communist Party propaganda apparatus. How did they persuade intellectuals, artists, and writers to collaborate with them? A whole academie industry that might be called the sociology of taste or esthetics emerged.

Researchers went out to record audience reactions to plays and movies; they distributed readers' surveys on literature with such enthusiasm that one satirist accused the opinion researchers of surveymania anketomanija ; they collected letters to the editors of popular and cultural publications. They would try virtually anything except to let the market allow vulgar philistinism to triumph.

The Social or Sociocultural Context. The aristocracy and bourgeoisie were noto-. Only the intelligentsia could give rise to a civil society for Russia that would recast the despotic nature of the Romanov autocracy in the direction of serving the national welfare. The intelligentsia underwent a dramatic transformation in , both in the way it perceived itself and its power and the ways in which it interacted with other social groups.

Although the Bolshevik leadership also claimed intelligentsia origins, they too repudiated the moderate, parliamentary political solution that the Provisional Government was striving to implement. And most state activities simply could not be entrusted to untutored masses, but demanded specialized skills, if nothing more than familiarity with government documents and chains of command. Again, we know little about the nature of continuity in these white-collar positions from the prerevolutionary into the postrevolutionary institutions, but what little we know suggests that the holdover was immense.

A major means of achieving that legitimacy was to recruit into its ranks writers, artists, and musicians from peasant and proletarian origins as much as possible and also to demonstrate to the new political masters that the hybrid formation preserved the best of the old intelligentsia tradition of serving the people. The Cultural-ideological Context. Now I corne to the third context in my agenda — the cultural or ideological, perhaps better yet, attitudinal contexts of cultural life in the s.

First to return briefly to the avantgarde, those iconoclastic, internationalist modernists who left the greatest mark on world culture for the Russia people. As a rule, they repudiated everything from the Russian past in the name of an urban utopian future of science and materialism. By no means were.

The avant-garde, ever certain of its mission to transform Russia, looked with contempt at the benighted masses and with frustration at the culturally conservative Bolshevik leaders. I will focus on two broad areas of discussion to reveal some of what can be learned about cultural and political attitudes among the intelligentsia: first, a search for a new national culture and second, attempts to reshape human relationships and sexuality in a postrevolutionary social order. The New National Culture. These efforts gradually gathered strength in tandem with international and domestic political events: the failure of the 'German October' in Instead of national and religious 'superstition', science and materialism carried the day and were perhaps the most important components of what came to be called Marxism-Leninism, but which probably owed more to late nine- teenth-century Darwinism and positivism.

Relations with other cultures on the territory of the Soviet state also were important for defining the content of a new Soviet Russian culture. The closest were Ukrainian, Belorussian and Jewish cultures, ail of which enjoyed a great flowering in the s. Another important historical reference point, in both chronological and geographical dimensions, for the Russian intelligentsia had been the relationship of Russia to the West; and this discussion too revived in the s, albeit in a new guise.

National power meant industry, urbanization, a well-equipped military, a central state administration, universal literacy and modem medicine. Gender Relations and Sexuality. The second broad area of discussion that is particularly revealing about the complex world of ideas and attitudes that constituted the intellectual scene of the s focussed on human relationships. Romance and romantic love were viewed as concessions to weakness, typical philistine obsession with self-satisfaction, selfishness, and materialism.

By contrast, an old Ukrainian or Uzbek, for that matter peasant woman could be expected to be a virtually hopeless bulwark of ail that stood in the way of pro- gress. Though women were heavily employed in industry, they were concentrated in the non-heavy sector; therefore, even as workers their place in the hierarchy of values was always a rung or two lower than their maie counterparts.

In the spirit of the scholars of the s, when old disciplinary boundaries were challenged and several new disciplines promoted, these investigations should ideally take a multi- and interdisciplinary form. In reconstituting these contexts, it is important that scholars keep in mind not only the discontinuities and breaks with past tradition, but the often greater continuities that tied the culture of the s to prerevolutionary culture as well as those which tied it to the 'Iron Age' culture of the s.

In so doing, we will better be able to distinguish what is specifically Bolshevik in ail this cultural activity from what is part of a broader culture of the radical intelligentsia and even of the centrist and conservative intelligentsia. Concretely, we will better be able to situate both the avant-garde and the Fellow Travelers in their contemporary setting.

In addition my thinking has been influenced by the literature on popular culture and on the relationships between politics and culture, including that by Fredric Jameson, Antonio Gramsci, Michel Foucault, and the Russian and Soviet formalists, structu- ralists, and semioticians. The original version of these reflections appeared as an effort to summarize a course I taught together with Robert Maguire, whose book on the thick journal Red Virgin Soil Princeton, was itself a model of intellectual and cultural history through the prism of one institution's history; that original version was modified after I taught the course again several years later, this time together with Rosalinde Sartorti at the Ost- europa-Institut of the Free University Berlin.


An example of this characterization even from an author generally not sympa- thetic to the Bolsheviks is Donald Treadgold, Twentieth Century Russia, Boulder, Colo. Stephen F. Tucker, Stalin as Revolutionary, New York, In the first years of glasnost', the Bukharinist position was most vigorously defended by Viktor Danilov and Otto Latsis.

These early reformist groups raised Bukharinism as an historical precursor and thereby legitimate alternate path for a socialism with a human face. They rehabilitated both political and cultural figures and argued in fa vor of a radical discontinuity between the s and the s.

Contemporaries also feared that hostile foreign powers would take advantage of the new regime's fragile hold on its population and exploit any crisis to topple the first socialist state — the fear of capitalist encirclement. The fact that the number of active defenders of the NEP was small does not exclude the very real likelihood that large numbers of the population and perhaps even the Party itself favored its continuation in a silent or passive manner.

See A. For an example of the 'optimistic' reinterpretation of a memoir that is far more despairing of the NEP, see Cohen' s use, in Bukharin, of N. See her collection of essays, The Cultural Front. The capital was Moscow , then and now the capital of Russia. It was also one of the most diverse , with more than distinct nationalities living within its borders.

The majority of the population, however, was made up of East Slavs Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians ; these groups together made up more than two-thirds of the total population in the late s. At its greatest extent, between and the figures and descriptions given below refer to this period , the U.

The U. The most westerly point was on the Baltic Sea , near Kaliningrad; the easternmost was Cape Dezhnev on the Bering Strait , nearly halfway around the world. From north to south the U. Nearly half the territory of the U. To the north the country was bounded by the seas of the Arctic Ocean , and to the east were the seas of the Pacific.

On the south the U.

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Following the Revolution, four socialist republics were established on the territory of the former empire: the Russian and Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republics and the Ukrainian and Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republics. On Dec. In that year the Transcaucasian Republic was abolished and its territory was divided between three new republics: the Armenian, Azerbaijan, and Georgian S. The Karelo-Finnish S. In addition to these, the U. Under the constitution adopted in the s and modified down to October , the political foundation of the U.

*And why it matters today in a new age of revolution.

These existed at all levels of the administrative hierarchy , with the Soviet Union as a whole under the nominal control of the Supreme Soviet of the U. This body had two chambers—the Soviet of the Union, with members elected on a single-member constituency basis; and the Soviet of Nationalities, with members representing the various political divisions: 32 from each union republic, 11 from each autonomous republic, 5 from each autonomous region, and 1 from each autonomous district. The role of the soviets in the individual republics and other territories was primarily to put into effect the decisions made by the Supreme Soviet of the U.

The political system was thus authoritarian and highly centralized, and this also applied to the economic system.

The history of socialism

The economic foundation of the U. On the economic side the planned, highly centralized command economy was to be replaced by the progressive introduction of elements of a market economy, a change that proved difficult to achieve and was accompanied by declining production in many sectors and increasing distribution problems.

Voters were presented with a choice of candidates, and many non-Communists were elected.