Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s

Sheila Fitzpatrick, Author Oxford University Press, USA $27.5 (304p) ISBN 978-0-19-505000-4
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. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
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