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Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s [Format Kindle]

Sheila Fitzpatrick

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Most popular books about the Stalin era feature the big names and a firm narrative shape: Robert Conquest's The Great Terror; Alan Bullock's Hitler and Stalin. Some books yield their revelations at a glance, like the stunning The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia.

But scholar Sheila Fitzpatrick is famous for letting the common people and the facts speak for themselves, in all their complexity. Her new book on Soviet life in the 1930s--based on research in newly opened archives--does for urbanites what her Heldt Prizewinning Stalin's Peasants did for rural victims. The many witnesses in this fascinating horror story cast doubt on Stalin's notorious 1935 slogan "Life has become better, comrades; life has become more cheerful."

A comment made by a victim of Ivan the Terrible would be more apt: "We Russians don't need to eat; we eat one another and this satisfies us." Famine, caused by bad weather and worse policies, plagued the decade, and life became a chronic struggle to wrest crumbs from an incompetent bureaucracy. Stalin's sly methods of deflecting blame from the state onto allegedly disloyal citizens provoked orgies of denunciation (which could backfire on denouncers). A mad starch factory director forbade comrades to get shaves or haircuts at home--it would have been disloyal to the factory's hairdresser. One kid, Pavlik Morozov, reported his father for grain hoarding in 1937, was murdered by relatives, and became a national hero to kids. Andrei Sakharov's future spouse Elena Bonner was shocked at her 9-year-old brother's response to his father's arrest: "Look what these enemies of the people are like--some of them even pretend to be fathers." The celebrated Moscow Children's Theater put on The Squealer, a drama strikingly like Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront.

Fitzpatrick gives a sense of what it really was like to live under the satanic circus master Stalin: it was beyond Kafka, and it was bloody hard work. --Tim Appelo

From Publishers Weekly

In a parallel to her 1994 Stalin's Peasants, a textured study of life in the countryside, Fitzpatrick, a University of Chicago historian known for her writing on social and cultural history, addresses the trials and tribulations of urban life in Stalin's Soviet Union. Based on archives and interviews, her newest fleshes out our general knowledge of the hardship Russians endured under Stalin. Not only did people gravitate blindly to queues, but the few goods available, such as shoes, were terribly made. In poorly equipped, cramped communal apartments, residents hung sacks of food out of the windows for space and preservation. The transformative spirit went well beyond propaganda: men dropped peasant names for more modern identifiers (Frol for Vladimir). The totalitarian state was so imposing that many people blamed Soviet power in their suicide notes. But citizens had their strategies to counter the oppression, among them blat (which translates as pull, influence or, under the Soviets, thievery) and subversive jokes that twisted Soviet slogans?for, as Fitzpatrick concludes, "Homo sovieticus was a string puller, an operator... a survivor." While she notes that the Great Purges of 1937-1938 could be endured but not explained, she cites the state's manipulation of patriotism and its provision of welfare as reasons for Soviet citizens' acceptance of their government. Fitzpatrick's absorbing study provides solid details for the general and student reader and lays the groundwork for future research.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1055 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 312 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0195050002
  • Editeur : Oxford University Press (4 mars 1999)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B004RTH6XY
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°316.186 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Amazon.com: 4.4 étoiles sur 5  32 commentaires
71 internautes sur 77 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Stalinism from a different angle. 22 avril 2002
Par Virgil - Publié sur Amazon.com
I've read several dozen works on the Soviet era between the October revolution and the Second World War, from Pipes to Conquest and including Solzeynitsin's "Gulag" trilogy. While Solzeynitsin focused on the impact of those who were swept up in the great terror of the '30s, "Everyday Stalinism" looks at the impact on the average individual's daily life in the cities of the USSR.
Unlike the Pipes/Conquest terror-as-a-psychopathic-spasm-and-if-you-don't-believe-that-you're-a-revisionist school, Fitzpatrick is more focused on Stalinism at the common level. How it was maintained and what its effects were.
And, surprisingly, many people supported or benefited from it by filling the spaces of those "liquidated" or informing and denouncing rivals in love or work. The real fear wasn't always the KGB at 4am but a neighbor or acquaintance at work. The sad truth is that many were co-opted by the system and worked within it to support the party.
Addressed is the commonly held belief then that no matter what you may have done since the revolution, if you had been born into an "enemy class" then you were in a sense marked for life. The commoness of this view is highlighted in Fitzpatricks account. the irony of this is that those who rose up to replace the liquidated were themselves given bourgeois rewards.
Fitzpatrick does excellent work in guiding the reader throught the beauracratic, social and economic difficulties of the average Soviet citizen. Well researched and well written this can be read as an introduction to the era or especially as a valuable look at Stalinism from the perspective of the urban "masses".
Fitzpatrick, unlike the Conquest/Pipes school, does better at facing the sad and bitter truth that the system- while terryifing for some- was held together and supported by many who benefited. Even today walking the streets of St Petersburg, you will see many in the older generation holding pictures of Stalin in a sort of reverence. The co-opting of the culture and population is, to me, the most troubling aspect and legacy of Stalinism. Everyday Stalinism could function as an interesting companion piece to Orwell's 1984.
Well done.
29 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Well written and well researched 29 décembre 2000
Par doc peterson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Written by one of the most respected scholars of the USSR in the 1930's, Everyday Stalinism is outstanding. Fitzpatrick has exhaustively scoured recently opened Soviet archives for material in this book, and it shows. There is an abundance of new information here. Fitzpatrick details urban life in 1930's Soviet Union - the daily struggles of common men and women in extraordinary circumstances are vividly portrayed: the shortages of food and clothing, the ubiquitous presence of the government, the almost feudal arrangements between social strata (party members and others who hold "blat" - influence) and the competition for housing as the USSR began to urbanize. Only one chapter is devoted exclusively to the Great Purges of the late 1930's, although its silent presence is tangible just beneath the surface in much of the books subject matter. As one would expect from a professional historian, the books primary purpose is scholarship. But a strength is Fitzpatrick's writing style which is fluid and never dull. Be forewarned, this is not light reading. With that said, I highly recommend it to anyone who has more than a passing interest in the Soviet Union or Russia. If you want a deeper understanding of why the USSR socially and econcomically rotted from within, this is an excellent starting place.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Everyday life and the state under Stalin 6 avril 2007
Par M. A. Krul - Publié sur Amazon.com
Sheila Fitzpatrick, specialist in the Stalin period of the USSR, has written a counterpart to her history of peasants and their lives in this era (Stalin's Peasants: Resistance and Survival in the Russian Village after Collectivization). Here, in "Everyday Stalinism", she chronicles the urban experience of life under Stalin during the 1930s, with all its paranoia, hardship and oddities.

The book is focused in particular on the relationship of daily life and the state, with relatively little attention for cultural history. However, making much use of the Harvard Project interviews with Soviet citizens from this period, she offers a compelling and fascinating view into the attitude of Soviet citizens towards the state, towards Stalin, and towards each other. Much more than just a tale of survival under threat of secret police, Fitzpatrick shows how people got by in terms of getting consumer goods, getting ahead, and getting even. Of course the Great Purges are given due attention, but what is particularly interesting is that in this book we see those events, as well as the earlier show trials, from the bottom up: not the political history of Stalin eliminating his enemies, but a struggle for power between the Party elites (largely received with disinterest by the general populace), and subsequently a series of rapid repressive maneouvres that descend onto the unsuspecting middle level.

Fitzpatrick pays excellent attention also to social policy and what effect this had on women, social and ethnic minorities, and so on. The USSR as an "affirmative action empire" has been well chronicled: The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (Wilder House Series in Politics, History, and Culture). Nevertheless, Fitzpatrick's overview is clear and cogent, and we get also get a good idea of the immense advances in literacy, cultural knowledge and general outlook that were made in roughly the period 1927-1937. Whereas in 1926 only 57% of those aged between 9 and 49 were literate, in 1939 81% of the whole population was literate. Similarly, the entire mass of the population learned basic culture such as appreciating poetry, washing regularly, using soap and towels, not leaving cigarette butts everywhere and not spitting on the floor, etc.

Striking is the amount of critical letters and appeals that people kept sending to Party and Politburo leaders in the (often, but not always vain) hope of redress of grievances or changes in policy. This was already a set tradition dating back to Czarist times, but was maintained during the Revolution and post-Revolutionary period in the form of public debate in leftist papers and letters to Lenin (see Voices of Revolution, 1917). This gives us a good indication however of the public opinion in the Stalinist days, to which Fitzpatrick usefully adds the NKVD reports of overheard conversations and the like. This surprisingly indicates that skepticism towards Stalin himself as well as the general system was reasonably widespread, despite the "cult of the personality".

Overall, this is a well written and interesting history of urban life in the Soviet Union during the 1930s. It must be emphasized though (as this is not directly apparent from the book description) that it only deals with urban life, and only the 1930s. Neither WWII nor the post-War Stalinist period is discussed.
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An excellent read 4 août 2000
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
A well-written book, by a leading professor in the field!! Fitzpatrick has taken many different documents and worked them together to describe what city-life was like in the Soviet 1930's. This is the companion to her book "Stalin's Peasants", which describes peasant life during this same time period. Fitzpatrick describes what the average life of a Russian city-dweller was like, using many different stories. She ends the book by comparing life during this time to three different things. I will let you read the book to see what they are!!
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Intriguing glimpse into the everyday misery of 1930s Russia 15 mai 2000
Par David Ljunggren - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Fitzpatrick has produced an intriguing book about the miseries of everyday life in Stalin's Russia during the 1930s, when people had to struggle with a world which had been turned upside down by both the revolution and the turmoil of the collectivisation and industrialisation policies of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Using a wealth of sources, she shows with particular clarity the great incompetence of the bureaucracy, where everyone seemed more interested in fighting for influence than in serving the people. She also puts the focus on crime, hooliganism and how the lot of women was slowly improved through the chance to get a decent education. Fitzpatrick also does not disappoint with the crushing effect of the nightmare years of 1936-1938, when millions were executed or imprisoned during the Great Purge. A vital read for all those fascinated by the topic of Stalinism
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