Cover image for Thank you, comrade Stalin! : Soviet public culture from revolution to Cold War
Thank you, comrade Stalin! : Soviet public culture from revolution to Cold War
Brooks, Jeffrey, 1942-
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Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xx, 319 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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DK266.4 .B76 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Thank you, our Stalin, for a happy childhood." "Thank you, dear Marshal [Stalin], for our freedom, for our children's happiness, for life." Between the Russian Revolution and the Cold War, Soviet public culture was so dominated by the power of the state that slogans like these appeared routinely in newspapers, on posters, and in government proclamations. In this penetrating historical study, Jeffrey Brooks draws on years of research into the most influential and widely circulated Russian newspapers--including Pravda , Isvestiia , and the army paper Red Star --to explain the origins, the nature, and the effects of this unrelenting idealization of the state, the Communist Party, and the leader.

Brooks shows how, beginning with Lenin, the Communists established a state monopoly of the media that absorbed literature, art, and science into a stylized and ritualistic public culture--a form of political performance that became its own reality and excluded other forms of public reflection. He presents and explains scores of self-congratulatory newspaper articles, including tales of Stalin's supposed achievements and virtue, accounts of the country's allegedly dynamic economy, and warnings about the decadence and cruelty of the capitalist West. Brooks pays particular attention to the role of the press in the reconstruction of the Soviet cultural system to meet the Nazi threat during World War II and in the transformation of national identity from its early revolutionary internationalism to the ideology of the Cold War. He concludes that the country's one-sided public discourse and the pervasive idea that citizens owed the leader gratitude for the "gifts" of goods and services led ultimately to the inability of late Soviet Communism to diagnose its own ills, prepare alternative policies, and adjust to new realities.

The first historical work to explore the close relationship between language and the implementation of the Stalinist-Leninist program, Thank You, Comrade Stalin! is a compelling account of Soviet public culture as reflected through the country's press.

Author Notes

Jeffrey Brooks is Professor of European History at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of When Russia Learned to Read (Princeton), which won the Vucinich Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and of many articles on Russian and Soviet culture and politics.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Brooks (Johns Hopkins Univ.) has spent a decade reading closely four major newspapers, 1917 to 1953, for both editorial and news content; now, using this extensive research, he tells a tightly spun tale about Cold War Soviet life. During Lenin and Stalin's administrations, he notes, the Russian government used the controlled press to create an illusion that the state and the society were synonymous; and the official narrative of public life, as disseminated in the press, replaced the secular and pluralistic public culture that had existed before 1917. Citizens were then required to take part in a public performance that affirmed their allegiance to the state and that provided them with goods and services they needed. The required goal of these performances was first to build socialism, later to preserve the state against aggression. Along with these performances, he describes public treatment of scientists, artists, and award winners. In the end, he concludes, the Soviet monopoly of information and public discourse left the state unable to perceive its own weaknesses and to protect itself from collapse. Thorough and cogent; this book is recommended for academic libraries.ÄMarcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Brooks addresses the Soviet state's domination of public culture and its consequences. Accompanied by more than 50 pages of notes and a number of reproductions, the book reflects long years of research and thoughtful analysis. However, Brooks's concentration on widely circulated Soviet newspapers--virtually to the exclusion of other media of public culture and their role in emphasizing, inter alia, Stalin's achievements, the country's economic accomplishments, and its growing international stature--is somewhat problematic. Indeed, only a minuscule part of the study--less than ten pages--is devoted to art, music, and cinema. Despite this, the book raises interesting issues. The concept of the "economy of the gift" is illustrative. This concept posits the belief that the state was presumed to dispense necessary goods and services to beholden citizens, who were thus obligated to provide their labor in return. A form of "moral economy" first expostulated by Marx and representing economic relationships as moral relationships, the economy of the gift was represented in the Soviet press as a tacit justification for policies ranging from Stakhanovism to the sacrifices of the Great Fatherland War to relations with the People's Democracies. Upper-division undergraduates and above. G. E. Snow; Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Prologuep. xii
1 The Monopoly of the Printed Word: From Persuasion to Compulsionp. 3
2 The First Decade: From Class War to Socialist Buildingp. 19
3 The Performance Beginsp. 54
4 The Economy of the Gift: "Thank You, Comrade Stalin for a Happy Childhood"p. 83
5 Literature and the Arts: "An Ode to Stalin"p. 106
6 Honor and Dishonorp. 126
7 Many Wars, One Victoryp. 159
8 The Theft of the Warp. 195
Epilogue Renewal, Stagnation, and Collapsep. 233
Notesp. 249
Indexp. 307