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Study questions on Ronald Grigor Suny, The Soviet Experiment:  Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1998)  

Week 9

Chapter 12, Culture and Society in the Socialist Motherland, pages 269-290

Detailed Questions

During the "Cultural Revolution" of 1928-31, what groups dominated cultural policy? 

What did the "proletarianists" during the Cultural Revolution have to say about traditional and classical arts and about the avantguard art of  "fellow travelers" and "bourgeois intellectuals"?

What happened in 1932 to RAPP, RAPM, and the other "proletarian art" organizations of the Cultural Revolution?  Why?

Did Stalin show any interest in policy regarding the arts?  Explain Stalin's view on the arts circa 1932.

What was "Socialist Realism"?  Was it experimentalist?  What was "Socialist Realist" art supposed to be?

We've seen that policy towards industry, agricultural, and repression "lightened up" in the mid-1930s.  Was there a similar "lightening up" of cultural policy?

Suny suggests that "Socialist Realist" art, music, film, and literature in the mid-1930s appealed to the tastes of the mass public.  Why was this so?

According to Suny, what kind of heroes and what kind of values were presented by Socialist Realism? 

Why did Pravda attack Shostakovich's opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in 1936?   How did the experience change Shostakovich's work and the work of other composers?

Did Stalinist cultural policy reject or embrace the classics of Russian literature?   Explain.

What sorts of non-Russian literature did the regime favor?

In what ways was Stalinist art conservative?  In what ways was it nationalistic?

What kinds of films were successful in the Soviet 1930s and why?  From the point of view of the Stalin regime, what were films in the 1930s supposed to convey?

Suny suggests that the whole rhetoric of class struggle was de-emphasized in the late 1930s (especially with the adoption of the "Stalin Constitution" of 1936), and that official doctrine emphasized that the USSR was composed of three harmonious classes--the workers, the peasants, and the Soviet intelligentsia.  (See p. 276)  

What criteria were used to judge in members of the intelligentsia were loyal to Soviet power? 

What happened to intellectuals who had supported the opposition or had resisted the Stalinists' efforts to control all science and culture?

What in Mandelstam's poem (quoted on pp. 277-78) led to his arrest and execution?

Suny says that intellectuals "were among the principle beneficiaries of the Stalinist system."  Explain this statement.

According to Suny, in what area of cultural policy did the Stalinists make the biggest retreat?

What became of the Women's Section of the Communist Party (the Zhenotdel) in 1930 and why?

What tasks did the Stalinist leadership want women to fill?

Why and in what ways did Stalinist policy towards the family change after 1931?

In what ways did the regime crack down on "deviance"?

"Natalism" is the term applied to policies that promote increasing the birth rate.  In what ways was the Stalin regime natalist and why?  Give examples.

Were all women in the USSR supposed to work?  Explain.

Did the Soviet regime succeed in its campaign against illiteracy?  Explain.

Did the Stalinists support experimental and "progressive" educational programs?  Explain.

What did the slogan "national in form, socialist in content" mean?  How was this applied to schools in the non-Russian regions?

Did Stalin remain distant from decisions over how history should be approached, written, and taught? (Think  of the examples given in Suny, pp. 281-82)

Why did the Stalinists attack the historian Pokrovskii?  What was supposed to be the lesson of Russian national history according to Stalin?

In what ways did the Stalinists interfere in the sciences and the social sciences?

Suny suggests that the Stalinist regime consciously worked to assimilate traditional religious festivities.  Give some examples.

Suny says that it is ironic that the Soviet state saw itself as internationalist.   Why?

In what ways had the regime helped to consolidate non-Russian cultures in the USSR in the 1920s?

How did Soviet nationalities policy change after December 1932 and why?

Was the patriotism of the Stalinist 1930s internationalist?  Explain.  Why was the use of terms like rodina and otechestvo important?    Which of the nations in the USSR was seen as having the most advanced culture?

On p. 289, Suny says that "The irony of Soviet nationality policy was already evident in the 1930s."  What is he talking about here?

Big Questions

After the end of the "Cultural Revolution" of 1928-31, what kind of art did the Stalin regime want and how did Stalin see the role of the artist in Soviet society?   Explain.

Who would determine what was acceptable art and science in the Stalinist ear?   What impact would this have on creativity?

Respond to this statement and be prepared to defend your position!!  "The Stalin regime simply gave the public the kind of entertainment and art that the public wanted, just like Hollywood did in the USA."

Why did the Stalinist leadership turn away from the radical family policies of the revolution's first decade?

Respond to this statement and be prepared to defend your position!!  "The Stalin regime had social policies that would appeal to 'cultural conservatives' in the US today:  they were trying to crack down on crime and deviance and promote the traditional family."

In what sense was Stalinist educational policy conservative?

Were the Stalinist 1930s simply a period of grim, gray hardships, or did people also have leisure-time activities and entertainment?  Explain.

Was the Stalin regime nationalist?  Be prepared to explain and defend your answer!

Why does Suny find Stalinist nationality policy to be "ironic"?

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