A Bright New Future?

The 1970’s, the golden years of the space age, it was only a few months ago in July of 1969  that the  Americans had put two men on the moon. With these significant technological innovations and a great deal of growing imagination, the people of the U.S.S.R began to think about life among the stars and the types things we could encounter. In a sense, science fiction writing was socialist in nature, as socialism as primarily founded on the idea of creating that science applied to history would produce a utopian, atheist future. Where the nature of the bourgeois would be discovered, and everything would be grand. With these thoughts many of these young people put those dreams and aspirations of the future into writing, creating a boom in Soviet Sci-Fi books and films. Some of the most influential writers were the brothers Strugatsky their works became world-renowned, with many of their early writings like Noon: 22nd Century (1962) and The Way to Amaltheia (1962) offering bright visions of the future, that was heavily monitored by the state. However, with increasing cultural openness, much of their later works were darker and more filled with more psychological depth, that focused more on individualism, so much so that they became considered social critiques. For instance, Solaris (1972) and Stalker (1979) which would both be turned into popular films by director Andrei Tarkovskii.  They both eschewed the childlike awe of science that had characterized early science fiction, with its fantastic adventures, fancy technological, and dreams of a better future, for a more dark world in which human flaws were still prevalent. (Geldern) To show just how widespread this type of writing became, the films both spawned revitalization and spin-offs. Solaris was remade in 2002 staring John Clooney, and Stalker became the basis for a series of Video games in the early 2000’s. The Strugatsky Brothers were deeply inspired by the earlier works of Stanislaw Lem. A native of Poland where the culture sensitivity wasn’t as strict, allowed him to write novels and books which “questioned scientific rationalism was an effective way to question the rational principles of socialism.” (Geldern) This in its self-became a form of dissidence. They challenged people to think about adventures of the spirit and not the body.

 

 

Work Cited:

Yevg. Brandis and VI. Dmitrevsky. “Notes on Science Fiction: TAKEN FROM REALITY” Current Digest of the Russian Press, 27 Sep. 1978, https://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13630883.

Freeze, Gregory L. “From Stalinism to Stagnation 1953-1985.” Russia a History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 409-416. Print.

Von Geldern, James. “Strugatsky Brothers: Science Fiction.” Soviet History, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1973-2/strugatsky-brothers/. Accessed 22 April 2018.

The Corn Man

Following the Virgin Lands Program, Nikita Khrushchev was looking for a solution for the U.S.S.R’s next major issue, the Soviets diminished livestock population. To increase the number of livestock yields, Khrushchev began a  campaign to promote corn as a feed crop in Russia. In 1959 he toured middle America to witness Corn production in the United States. I think the nature of the campaign is best illustrated in this picture of Khrushchev while in the U.S.

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(Khrushchev with Roswell Garst, as he visits American Farms)

When Khrushchev visited the U.S. his visit was highly publicized, newspapers around the country covered the visit. He was exceptionally well received in the mid-west where he shook hands and visited many local farmers. Including a man named Roswell Garst. Khrushchev and Garst had met in the U.S.S.R and became friends. He toured Garst’s farms and asked questions about the techniques and machinery used. He was so impressed with what he saw in America that he attempted to implement it back in Russia. Unfortunately, it had a very short and limited run of success.

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When Khrushchev arrived back in Russia, he began what was known as the Corn Campaign. Which was the continued push for more production of corn throughout Russia. It was poorly received by the peasants who are stated in saying “We don’t need to sow corn; it will just cause a lot of trouble and bring little use.” (Freeze p.430) Khrushchev would soon become known as Kukuruznik or “Corn-man” to the people, due to his blind obsession with the vegetable  Here are some statistical facts based off of the 17 moments article “Corn Campaign.” According to the article sown acreage of corn rose from 4.3 million hectares in 1954 to 18 million hectares in 1955. This was due to favorably hot weather during two successive years’ growing seasons, corn harvests were abundant. The real failure of the moment to corn was Khrushchev’s failure to concentrate on more efficient methods of cultivating, fertilizing, and mechanically harvesting corn, Soviet leaders merely just expanded the acreage to areas lacking in appropriate climatic conditions and sufficient labor supplies. This was probably due to his overconfidence in his personal knowledge of agriculture. However, the acreage continued to increase, so that by 1960 total acreage increased to 28 million hectares and reached 37 million by 1962. The latter year, cool and rainy in the spring and early summer throughout European Russia, proved disastrous for corn. Some 70 to 80 percent of the acreage planted died. Even in southern regions, where grain corn harvests rose from four million tons in 1953 to 14 million in 1964, yields remained low, and labor inputs averaged three times higher than inputs for wheat. What made matters worse was that all the while, hay production had declined throughout the country, from 64 million tons in 1953 to 47 million in 1965. Meaning even though Corn production had increased it merely only made up for the lack of hay being produced instead of increasing the overall amount of feed. This created a skepticism to the new crop, and a growing lack of faith in Khrushchev’s an ability to lead.

 

(Some Soviet Posters of the Corn Campaign)

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Work Cited:

Freeze, Gregory L. “From Stalinism to Stagnation 1953-1985.” Russia a History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 430-431. Print.

von Geldern, James. “Corn Campaign.” Soviet history, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1961-2/corn-campaign/. Accessed 7 April 2018

Scali, John. “Soviet Leader Tired But Smiling in Heart of Iowa’s Tall Corn Country.” Carroll Daily Times Herald. 23 September 1959.

D. Korolev. “BOUNTEOUS GIFTS OF CORN” Current Digest of the Russian Press, The , 18 Jul. 1962, https://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13789239.

“(Editorial)-FOR HIGH CORN YIELDS” Current Digest of the Russian Press, The , 10 Aug. 1955, https://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13848564.

 

The New Boss

When Stalin suffered a fatal brain injury that would eventually lead to his death in early March of 1953, it set off a bloody struggle of control that would drastically shift attitudes in a new direction for both the government and the country. Stalin’s death is extremely ironic when Stalin needed help the most, the complicated bureaucracy that he created prevented him from getting any, and the purges that he had carried out stopped the proper doctors from providing the necessary care.   Once the glorious leader finally died that’s when the real struggle began.  The death created a tremendous vacuum in Soviet leadership. Stalin had ruled the Soviet Union since the 1920s. With his passing, the heir apparent was Georgi Malenkov, who was named premier and first secretary of the Communist Party the day after Stalin’s death. This position mainly had control of the party He happened to share power with two other people Lavrentii Beria and Nikita Khrushchev However, when Malenkov resigned due to PR scandal,  Nikita Khrushchev assumed his role. You can actually see three men carrying Stalin’s casket during the funeral procession (Pictured Below).

Manezh Square, Moscow

(Stalin’s Funeral from The Manhoff Archives)

 

The out of the remaining competitors Khrushchev’s biggest threat was Beria who was the Head of the Interior and the secret police held a lot of power. To gain the favor of the people, Beria very cunningly took on the role of Liberal reformer. He spoke about protecting civil rights, he released political prisoners and challenged many of Stalin’s acts, including the doctors’ plot.

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(Lavrentii Beria)

Feeling threatened by Beria’s rising popularity amount the people, and for fearing of his take over Khrushchev began to engineer his downfall.  Khrushchev conspired with Malenkov and several other presidium members to arrange for Beria’s arrest at the hands of the military. This plot was sprung on Beria on June 26, 1953.  Khrushchev first launched a blistering attack on Beria, accusing him of being a cynical careerist, and no real Communist believer.  The veteran Molotov and others chimed in against Beria, and Khrushchev put a motion for his instant dismissal. Before a vote could be taken, the panicky Malenkov pressed a button on his desk as the pre-arranged signal to Marshal Zhukov and a group of armed officers in a nearby room. They immediately burst in, seized Beria and manhandled him away. Pravda announced Beria’s fall on July 10th, crediting it to the initiative of Comrade Malenkov and referring to Beria’s ‘ criminal activities against the Party and the State.’  A special tribunal was set up. The accused were allowed no representation and no appeal. “When the death sentence was passed, according to General Moskalenko, Beria fell to the floor and begged on his knees for mercy. It was not a quality he had shown to others, and it was not now shown to him. He and his confederates were taken away and promptly shot.” ( *WARNING!* The video contains vulgar language and violence but gives a dramatized view of what the trial may have looked like, from “The Death of Stalin.”)

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(Khrushchev happily looking at corn)

However, while Beria was being trialed and overthrown, Malenkov as head of the state apparatus launched what he called a “New Course.” Which stressed consumer goods production, a shift in policy that was considerably more radical than what Khrushchev was proposing   Malenkov also pushed through an important initiative in collective farm policy which resulted in reduced tax payments by peasants of up to fifty percent. Now even though Malenkov had lost the critical position of First Secretary, these changes still presented a threat, so Khrushchev had to get rid of him once and for all. In the end, Khrushchev forged alliances with important party figures such as Anastas Mikoian and Nikolai Bulganin as well as Marshal Georgii Zhukov, the new Defense Minister, strengthened his position to the point where Malenkov became isolated and was forced to resign as prime minister on February 8, 1955. They replaced him with a Khrushchev puppet, Nikolai Bulganin. In March 1958, Khrushchev consolidated his power by taking the office of premier himself. Khrushchev won the battle over Stalin’s succession by reviving the party apparatus and reasserting its control over the government.

 

Work Cited:

Freeze, Gregory L. “From Stalinism to Stagnation 1953-1985.” Russia a History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 409-416. Print.

Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Succession to Stalin.” Soviet history, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1954-2/succession-to-stalin/. Accessed 31 March 2018

Images:

http://time.com/4976612/nikita-khruschev-russia-us-ambassador/

https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/surrounded-by-aides-and-journalists-soviet-premier-nikita-news-photo/89615591#/surrounded-by-aides-and-journalists-soviet-premier-nikita-khrushchev-picture-id89615591

https://russiapedia.rt.com/prominent-russians/politics-and-society/lavrentiy-beria/

https://www.rferl.org/a/manhoff-archive-part-one-stalins-funeral/28359561.html#&gid=2&pid=8

Open Up, Communism is Knocking on Your Door

You are a peasant worker, just like your father before you. He had been granted land due to the serf reforms in the early 1900’s and was able to be successful. Then the civil war breaks out, you go and fight for the reds even though many of the other prosperous peasants fight for the white. Following the war, you returned to your farm, ready to continue the success your father had started, and raise a family. Unfortunately, you are now deemed a “Kulak” by the government and are told you must surrender your land to the collective. Upon hearing that you must give up all you and your family have worked for to the government, you resist and do not comply. Days later you hear a knock on your door, it’s the Soviet secret police, you are dragged out of your house and forced to leave.

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 (Kulak Deportation)

You are then separated from wife and children, you are taken and interrogated by the police to discover any hostile behaviors. After surviving your interrogation, you are put on a train to Siberia. There you are finally reunited with your family, you are given nothing but the instructions to start your life a new in the cold, unforgiving lands of Siberia. Sadly, this is what happened to many Kulaks and other peasants who opposed collectivization during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.  Those who were deported would be what I would consider the lucky ones, others were sent to labor camps, others in more extreme cases were even killed. This is all part of the “war” against the Kulaks or Dekulakization. Stalin used the Kulaks as scapegoats, they were blamed for the many food and shortages that besieged the Soviet Union as the result of collectivization.

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(Anti-Kulak Soviet Propaganda)

A massive propaganda campaign was started to paint the Kulaks as greedy and as enemies of the state. However, you did not even have to be rich or a land-owning peasant to be considered a Kulak, any peasant who did not want to give up their land were labeled Kulaks. As stated before there was a wide range of punishments, at the very least they would be thrown out of their homes, and have all of their possessions taken, in the most extreme cases they were executed. This happened throughout the whole of the Soviet Union, with the worst case being in the region of Ukraine. Where food was taken from taken from the people and would result in a forced famine that would claim the lives of over 7 million people, all to destroy the Kulaks and anyone else you opposed collectivization.

Work Cited:

Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Collectivization.” Soviet history, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1929-2/collectivization/. Accessed 18 March 2018

Ku.” Marxist, https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/k/u.htm. Accessed 18 March 2018

Photos:

https://kulaks.weebly.com/what-happened-to-them.html

http://triptych.brynmawr.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/Soviet/id/145/rec/52

The March of the Red Guard

The formation of the Red Guard was critical part of the success and preservation of the new soviet government. The idea of a standing army however was very contradictory to the views of Lenin and his fellow Bolsheviks, who viewed a standing an army as the feature of a “bourgeois” state. They soon realized However that if they wanted to survive they would need a professional army in order to survive against both external and internal threats. The former Russian imperial army and navy, together with other imperial institutions of tsarist Russia, disintegrated after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917, so there was a need for a new fighting force. By a decree on Jan. 28, 1918, the Council of People’s Commissars created a Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army on an all voluntary basis, Trotsky was to be put in charge of its formation and upkeep. TheRed Army was recruited exclusively from among workers and peasants and immediately faced the problem of creating a competent and reliable officers’ corps. In order to fix this problem Trotsky recruited and defended the use of former tsarist officers, known as “military specialists.” While few officers identified with Soviet power, many were willing to lend their services in the defense of Russia against foreign powers. This gave the new inexperienced soviet officer core it needed. Soviet government also introduced in April, universal military training. During the civil war, the Red Army saw action on a wide variety of fronts, mostly in the south and east. Relying heavily on the Imperial Army’s arsenals of weapons and drawing on food supplies and horses from the interior, it vastly outnumbered its foes. In order to maintain high levels of recruitment the peasant soldiers would receive pay but more importantly, their families were guaranteed rations and assistance with farm work.  This, plus literacy and political education classes, servedto limit desertions and forge an esprit de corps that carried over into the years after the civil war. The army’s uniform, the long overcoat that overlapped at the front and the pointed cloth cap with red-star badge, proved to be among the civil war’s most enduring symbols.

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This army was essential to the longevity and survival of the soviet state during and after the Russian civil war, without the army the new state would be almost defenseless. It wouldn’t have been able to defend its self against the whites and it would have been the end of the Bolsheviks and the soviet state.

Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Red Guard into Army” Soviethistory.msu.edu, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/red-guard-into-army/. Accessed 10 Feb. 2018

“Red Army” Britannica.com, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Red-Army. Accessed 11 Feb. 2018

Wade, Rex A. (1984). Red Guards and Workers’ Militias in the Russian Revolution. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Snapshot of The Empire: Life of the Peasantry in Russia

It’s the year 1915, the first world war is in full swing. Russia is fighting the Germans and Austro-Hungarian Empire on the eastern front. Death and destruction is everywhere. However, while this is happening a famous Russian photographer, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) is commissioned to complete something much more peaceful but no less powerful. What would be one of his last trips Sergei travels with the minister of transportation to photograph the people of Russia. His photos were in color with a special technique he invented himself. The process involved using black-and-white triple-frame glass plate negatives, made with color separation filters in order to produce colored images.

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This picture was taken along the he Murmansk Railroad which was built by the Russian government during World War I to connect Petrograd to the ice-free port of Romanov-on-Murman. The construction lasted from 1914 to the spring of 1917 when the line was completed. The photograph shows a wooden hand press for baling hay. Although the caption does not identify the location, according to my research the place is in the vicinity to the town of Kondopoga in the north-western part of Russia. The bearded man wearing a hat seems supervises the operation, while three workers in caps stand ready to operate the baling press. On the other side of the press stands a youth in a semi-military tunic, commonly worn during World War I. Behind him is a group of village children, including girls whose heads are covered in white scarves. The hay is taken from a tall drying rack, which is typical of the region.

The photo is interesting because it shows that for many people in Russia the industrial revolution had not yet come, and that for many, life involved hard, long, back breaking work. I wonder just how long it would take these men to bale all of that hay, and just how much would they get payed for that or was it used on livestock? The people in the picture raise a number of different questions. For instance, why is one man dressed in a kind of military uniform, has he just taken a break from war to help his family or is the war over for him, was he hurt and is this all he can do now? Do the women in photo, do they also assist in baling the hay, if not what are their jobs? These are the questions that intregue me, and that I would have to preform more research on to find out.

 

Source: https://www.wdl.org/en/item/5113/#collection=sergei-mikhailovich-prokudin-gorskii-collection