Stalin's Citizens: Everyday Politics In the Wake of Total War

TitleStalin's Citizens: Everyday Politics In the Wake of Total War
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsYekelchyk, Serhy
Number of Pages270
PublisherOxford University Press
CityOxford ; New York

The first study of the everydayness of political life under Stalin, this book examines Soviet citizenship through common practices of expressing Soviet identity in the public space. The Stalinist state understood citizenship as practice, with participation in a set of political rituals andpublic display of certain "civic emotions" serving as the marker of a person's inclusion in the political world. The state's relations with its citizens were structured by rituals of celebration, thanking, and hatred-rites that required both political awareness and a demonstrable emotional response.Soviet functionaries transmitted this obligation to ordinary citizens through the mechanisms of communal authority (workplace committees, volunteer agitators, and other forms of peer pressure) as much as through brutal state coercion. Yet, the population also often imbued these ceremonies—elections, state holidays, parades, mass rallies, subscriptions to state bonds—with different meanings: as a popular fete, an occasion to get together after work, a chance to purchase goods not available on other days, and even as an opportunity to indulge in some drinking. The people also understood these political rituals as moments of negotiation whereby citizens fulfilling their "patriotic duty" expected the state to reciprocate by providing essential services and basic social welfare. Nearly-universal passive resistance to required attendance casts doubt on recent theories about the mass internalization of communist ideology and the development of "Soviet subjectivities." The book is set in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv during the last years of World War II and immediate postwar years, the period best demonstrating how formulaic rituals could create space for the people to express their concerns, fears, and prejudices, as well as their eagerness to be viewed as citizens in good standing. By the end of Stalin's rule, a more ossified routine of political participation developed, which persisted until the Soviet Union's collapse.

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