- Hardcover: 344 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 29, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691004110
- ISBN-13: 978-0691004112
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,645,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Thank You, Comrade Stalin! Soviet Public Culture from Revolution to Cold War Hardcover – November 29, 1999
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From Library Journal
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.AMarcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Long before the words 'politically correct' entered our vocabulary, Lenin and his associates set about installing an altogether steelier and more suffocating notion of 'political literacy.' By every means, down to censoring the content on matchbook covers, the Bolsheviks declared the minds of the people their possession to mold as they chose. . . . With unmatched thoroughness and persistence, [the Bolsheviks] brought to heel the press, theater, art, film, and every other form of public culture. Brooks meticulously surveys the process by which this was done and the product it yielded."--Foreign Affairs
"Brooks provide[s] the perfect backdrop to the Koestleresque drama of the Moscow trials."--George Walden, Times Literary Supplement
"[Brooks] tells a tightly spun tale about Cold War Soviet life. . . . Thorough and cogent."--Library Journal
"Soviet history has its own specificity. The student of Soviet literature must be a historian and political scientist and the historian involentarily becomes a philologist. Jeffrey Brooks is rich in this experience. . . . As Brooks shows, Soviet society and the stalinist epoch existed in a fantasy world of ideological construction not only because the authorities 'concealed the truth' and 'censored brutally,' but because through the press, literature, and art 'there was created a stylized, ritualized, and self-reflexive public culture which produced its own reality, supplanting all other forms of expression.' . . . Brooks happens to be both a knowledgeable and sensitive guide to the upside down world which appeared in the pages of Soviet newspapers and magazines."--Evgenii Dobrenko, Novyi Mir (New World, the leading Soviet literary journal)
"The book's central theme carries crushing weight. At least for a time, a regime can define reality. Brooks instructs most by reminding that Newspeak is old news, that a properly orchestrated public culture can creep, kudzu-like, through private thought."--Susan McWilliams, Boston Review
"[Brooks] invites us to ponder how the cultural dimension can be understood. The stimulating quality of his insights will surely provoke valuable debate."--Laura Englestein, American Historical Review
"This rich and compelling study of the genesis and development of official public culture in the Soviet Union has significant implications for our understanding of Soviet society. . . . While Brooks is certainly not the first to discuss the important consequences of the Bolshevik press monopoly, he has undoubtedly read and sampled the early Soviet press more systematically, more rigorously, and over a longer time interval than any other historian, and his book provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the text and illustrations that appeared in the Soviet Union's most influential national newspapers between 1917 and 1953."--Julie Kay Mueller, Journal of Social History
"This book provides a vivid and systematic analysis of the techniques used by the Soviet leadership to build a nation unified in service to the state."--Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics
"Thank You, Comrade Stalin is a landmark study--and a profoundly moral book."--Eric Naiman, Slavic and East European Journal
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Brooks calls Soviet public culture, as he defines it, as a performance. `Political activity has always been akin to drama', he writes, and `Stalin and others employed rituals of theater to draw citizens into public displays of support.' (xvi) While the image newspapers sought to create of the regime more often than naught conflicted with reality, `Soviet people could not take the public culture as a fairy tale because it infiltrated every aspect of their lives.' (xvii)
On November 9, 1917, the day after they seized power, the Bolsheviks nationalized the publishing industry. Initially, the Bolsheviks sought to use the press to persuade the population to their revolutionary cause; however, the language of the new authorities was often not understood by the masses. Further consolidation of the press into a state monopoly increased this inability to communicate. This brought upon a `shift from persuasion to compulsion in the late 1920's.' (18)
A new political class and a new social structure arose during the first decade of Soviet rule for whom `socialist building' had great appeal. The expansion of the state meant upward mobility and jobs in the public sector. Stories in the press of mobility and service legitimated the new hierarchy. In the 30s, `Stalin became the living protagonist of an almost sacred cult.' (60) And it was to him, and to a lesser extent the party, that all Soviet citizens owed a great debt to for the reported great gains of the turbulent period.
Until the completion of the first five-year plan in 1932, the press had emphasized self-sacrifice. This changed after 1932, when the plan was hailed as a success. `The ethos of self-denial for a cause ... gave way to perpetual indebtedness.' (83) Following this `great break' (author's words), the so-called `economy of the gift' became prevalent. There developed a society in which public allocation of resources `were officially presented as moral transactions, and performers who publicly thanked Stalin validated personal ties to the leader.' (84) Even having a normal job was seen as a gift, thus indebting the entire nation to the regime. Hence comes the quote which graces the title, `Thank You, Comrade Stalin, for a Happy Childhood'.
With the advent of World War Two, the press abandoned its effort to center all Soviet identity on Stalin. `Within months of the invasion', Brooks write, `the war spawned a plurality of intertwined narratives and a range of perspectives.' (160) As the war turned for the worse, the cult of Stalin waned. It was during the war when journalists were allowed a `breath of fresh air', and some journalists `tentatively displayed aspects of a civil society.' (175) This is a very strong statement, one that Brooks really doesn't seem to follow up on, or perhaps address effectively. Nevertheless, once `the tide of battle turned from defeat to victory, Stalin reasserted his public persona, and another narrative of the war arose.' (185) Stalin resumed his place at the top of the hierarchy, `the font of recognition and honor.' (186) Following the war, the population's presumed indebtedness to Stalin increased. Victory in the war became attributed to Stalin, and Stalin alone.
To sum up, I'm going to cop out and just toss in this paragraph from the epilogue:
Through his charisma, Stalin established the `otherness of the Soviet experience, its exceptionalism and independence from strictures that governed other societies. By accepting him as leader and prophet, participants in the performative culture were able to enhance their own power, justify the rightness of their cause, and deny the applicability of all other standards of behavior and morality ... The gratitude they expressed in what I have called the moral economy of the gift can be understood as a personal expression of gratefulness to Stalin and of the bond between them. The officials, activists, and enthusiasts who enjoyed this bond with Stalin were the government's link to the general populace ... This is why the pedagogical function of the performance was so important. Participants who comprised the "link" rehearsed the routines of the social order and so communicated their understanding of "the facts of life" to others.
It turns out Princeton's printer had placed this cover on the text of a different book - one on economics by a different author with the same surname. I've had to send the book back. I've never seen anything like this before. You would think someone would have double-checked the production run.
I'm not sure if all of Amazon's copies of this book have the same problem, but they might want to examine their stock!
Brooks also seemed to enjoy writting in what I call "unecessary verbosity". He went on and on at times in vernacular that I don't think several college professors would understand. That is all good and well if you might be trying to impress your peers, but not so good for the layman or undergraduate college student.
The publisher also apparently had very low quality coontrol standards as half of my class had pages missing, or totally misplaced throughout the book. My particular issue had pages 150-154 which were actually important pages of topic material for a test moved to the very last pages in the book somehow.
Overall, if I was the kind of person who burned books like a Nazi, I might have used this book for fire starting material during the recent cold snap. As it is, I got rid of it as soon aspossible as if it were a plague.