Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917-1941

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9780801488214: Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917-1941
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Soviet official culture underwent a dramatic shift in the mid-1930s, when Stalin and his fellow leaders began to promote conventional norms, patriarchal families, tsarist heroes, and Russian literary classics. For Leon Trotsky-and many later commentators-this apparent embrace of bourgeois values marked a betrayal of the October Revolution and a retreat from socialism. In the first book to address these developments fully, David L. Hoffmann argues that, far from reversing direction, the Stalinist leadership remained committed to remaking both individuals and society-and used selected elements of traditional culture to bolster the socialist order. Melding original archival research with new scholarship in the field, Hoffmann describes Soviet cultural and behavioral norms in such areas as leisure activities, social hygiene, family life, and sexuality. He demonstrates that the Soviet state's campaign to effect social improvement by intervening in the lives of its citizens was not unique but echoed the efforts of other European governments, both fascist and liberal, in the interwar period. Indeed, in Europe, America, and Stalin's Russia, governments sought to inculcate many of the same values-from order and efficiency to sobriety and literacy. For Hoffmann, what remains distinctive about the Soviet case is the collectivist orientation of official culture and the degree of coercion the state applied to pursue its goals.

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Review:

"Hoffmann... argues that campaigns for literacy, sobriety, personal hygiene and 'cultured speech' helped promote an aspect of social transformation that coexisted with the forced labor camps and mayhem. Drawing on original archival research, he documents a less well-known movement that involved reproduction incentives in the face of plummeting birth rates during the 1930s, which ironically coincided with earlier efforts for sexual abstinence to preserve 'energy for socially productive work.'"

--Library Journal

"Hoffmann provides a new cultural framework for understanding Soviet history during the interwar period.... Hoffmann argues that the Stalinist state neither 'betrayed' the socialist revolutionary nor 'retreated' to traditional Russian mores. Instead he shows that the Stalinist order, like other European post-Enlightenment states, sought to catalogue, mobilize, and shape its citizens into ideal men and women. Defining modernity as the rise of the interventionist state and the birth of mass politics, Hoffmann details the various ways that the Soviet state tried to enlighten and transform human nature in their quest to create an ideal socialist order.... This book will force us to think about the wider international implications of Stalinism. The writing is a model of clarity, and the text can be used at both the graduate and undergraduate levels."

--Choi Chatterjee "American Historical Review "

"Shooting with a wide-angle lens, David L. Hoffmann locates Stalinist culture within the broader context of European modernity. To his great credit, he does so without obscuring the distinctive features of the Soviet state's attitudes toward social intervention and mass politics. An engaging, clearly written, and much-needed rereading of the Soviet incarnation of modern mass culture, Stalinist Values represents a real achievement by a careful, thoughtful historian."

--Donald Raleigh, University of North Carolina

"Stalinist Values is a wide-ranging, thorough survey and analysis of the cultural and social values promoted by Stalin's regime. Hoffmann synthesizes and extends current research on the Stalinist project of the 1920s and '30s and places it precisely within the context of twentieth century modernity.'"

--Daniel Orlovsky, Southern Methodist University

"Using a variety of sources, including the Russian archives, the author has written a brilliant description of Stalinist values and proved that Stalin was an ideologue to the end. He shows that the ideology failed precisely because it was an ideology--out of touch with reality and people. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."

--Choice

Synopsis:

Soviet official culture underwent a dramatic shift in the mid-1930s, when Stalin and his fellow leaders began to promote conventional norms, patriarchal families, tsarist heroes and Russian literary classics. For Leon Trotsky - and many later commentators - this apparent embrace of bourgeois values marked a betrayal of the October Revolution and a retreat from socialism. David L. Hoffmann argues that, far from reversing direction, the Stalinist leadership remained committed to remaking both individuals and society - and used selected elements of traditional culture to bolster the socialist order. Melding original archival research with new scholarship in the field, Hoffmann describes Soviet cultural and behavioural norms in such areas as leisure activities, social hygiene, family life and sexuality. He demonstrates that the Soviet state's campaign to effect social improvement by intervening in the lives of its citizens was not unique but echoed the efforts of other European governments, both fascist and liberal, in the interwar period.

Indeed, in Europe, America and Stalin's Russia, governments sought to inculcate many of the same values - from order and efficiency to sobriety and literacy. For Hoffmann, what remains distinctive about the Soviet case is the collectivist orientation of official culture and the degree of coercion the state applied to pursue its goals.

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