to syllabus

Study Questions on R. G. Suny, The Structure of Soviet History:  Essays and Documents (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2003).  Week XIII, pp. 329-338, 340-358.

Field, "Irreconcilable Differences" pp. 330-338

According to Field, how did "official morality" (my phrase) as demonstrated in Party/State propaganda portray divorce in the Khrushchev era and why?

Did Soviet couples and Soviet divorce courts behave in accordance with this "official morality"?  Explain.

According to Field, how did the realities of divorce relate to Khrushchev's goals, and what can the difference between the official morality and actual behavior (including the rulings of real judges) tell us about the failures of Khrushchev's "populist" agenda?  (In other words, what is her thesis?!)

Why was the establishment of clear models of "Communist Morality" an important element of Khrushchev's "populist" agenda?  How/why did this differ from the emphasis upon Communist Morality in the Stalin era?

How could the regime enforce "moral codes" (e.g., the 1961 "Moral Code of the Builder of Communism")?  And what were the two basic assumptions that Soviet moralists in this era made about the nature of private (family) life?  Explain.

OK--now let's focus specifically on marriage:  according to Field, why were stable marriages so important to this concept of Communist Morality?  And what did this mean for moralists recommendations regarding private behaviors?

Why didn't Soviet divorce court judges base their rulings on the precepts of this official view of marriage?

Did most divorcing couples seem to give priority to the concerns of Communist Morality?  Explain.

Does Field think that when plaintiffs or defendants in divorce cases did appeal to Communist Morality it necessarily indicates that they themselves were motivated by their concern for official moral precepts?  Explain.

So, back to Field's thesis--what does this material on divorce cases suggest about the weaknesses of the Soviet regime in the Khrushchev era?


The following two documents actually fit into our reading for last week (Suny textbook chapter 17)--I put them off to this week to give you more time to work on your papers (last week).  Will will start this week's session by discussing the next two documents...


Khrushchev's 1956 "Secret Speech" (340-350)

Be ready to discuss how and why Khrushchev in this speech explained Stalin's policies and behaviors.  Did Khrushchev reject all of Stalin's actions?  Explain--of what policies did he approve and why?  What policies did he criticize and why?

What comments ("revelations") by Khrushchev seem to have stirred up the most reaction in the audience (made up of party members from the USSR)? 

What proposals does Khrushchev make for abolishing the "cult of the individual leader"?  How would you connect this to the main idea of Chapter 17 in Suny, The Soviet Experiment ("From Autocracy to Oligarchy")?


Starobin, "1956-A Memoir" (350-356)

According to Starobin, did the criticism of Stalin launched by Khrushchev's 1956 speech come as a complete surprise?  Explain.  Had Starobin already begun to question Stalin's legacy, and was he alone among communists internationally?

What did Starobin find most shocking about the process of de-Stalinization in 1956?  Explain.  Khrushchev and other party leaders continued to defend the repression of "Trotskyists" and other oppositionists in the late 1920s (although they now condemned the Terror of the 1930s); did Starobin agree?  Explain.

How and why did the revelations of 1956 make Starobin rethink the nature of the international communist movement?

According to Starobin, why did the 1956 revelations (and the way they were "revealed") function to discredit the Soviet Communist Party internationally, among members of the various national communist parties in other countries?  What kinds of questions did they begin to raise?

According to Starobin, how was de-stalinization (and its limits in the USSR) related to the events in Poland and Hungary in 1956? (Remember the discussion in Suny, ch. 17?)


This third document relates to material in the Suny textbook, ch. 18...

1962 Report of KGB Chairman Vladimir Semichastnyi (pp. 356-358)

From this document, do you get the sense that all citizens of the USSR passively accepted Communist policies and party rule in the late Khrushchev period?  Explain.  What kinds of people reportedly were involved in acts of opposition and resistance?

Was all such resistance and opposition "atomized," or does it seem as if people were capable of (illegally) organizing themselves for the purpose of resistance/opposition?  Explain.

How did the KGB seem to understand the source of opposition and resistance?

In his introduction to the document, Suny points out that Khrushchev's own policies had made such opposition activities possible--why would that be?