The New York Review of
November 29, 2001
In the Promised Land
By Aileen Kelly
You, Comrade Stalin! Soviet Public Culture from Revolution to Cold
by Jeffrey Brooks
Princeton University Press, 319 pp., $45.00;
as a Way of Life: A Narrative in Documents
by Lewis Siegelbaum and
Yale University Press, 460 pp., $35.00
"Great massacres may be commanded by tyrants, but they are imposed by
peoples," H.R. Trevor-Roper wrote on the European witch hunts of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries.
Afterwards, when the mood has changed, or when the social
pressure, thanks to the blood-letting, no longer exists, the anonymous people
slinks away, leaving public responsibility to the preachers, the theorists,
and the rulers who demanded, justified, and ordered the act.
This passage is cited by J. Arch Getty in The Road to Terror, a
selection of documents on internal purges among the Soviet Party elite in the
1930s. The opening up of former Soviet Party and police archives has allowed
scholars to narrow the range of estimates of the number of victims of Stalin's
Terror. In its two worst years (1937–1938) 1.5 million people were arrested on
political grounds, hundreds of thousands were shot, and the population of the
labor camps increased by half a million. The overall number of deaths caused by
repression in the Thirties (including the casualties of the collectivization of
agriculture) has been calculated as between 1.5 and 2 million, although some
estimates are considerably higher. Add to that
countless ruined lives, the use of torture to extract confessions, the brutality
of the huge system of work camps, and a national trauma that lasted for
Enormous though Stalin's guilt was, the mass slaughter and the widespread
repression of the Soviet 1930s cannot be explained away by the paranoia of a
power-crazed despot. We now know that the Soviet party-state was not (as the
"totalitarian" school of analysts once believed) a monolithic system ruling
omnipotently over a passive, victimized society. Sheila Fitzpatrick, Stephen
Kotkin, and others have demonstrated from previously inaccessible archives that
Stalinism was not just a political system but a set of values and a way of life
which many Soviet citizens actively embraced or passively assented to from a
wide variety of motives. As Getty observes, at every step of the road to terror
there were constituencies both within and outside the elite that
supported repression of various groups, sometimes with greater vehemence than
Stalin did.... Repression was as much a matter of consensus as of one man's
dementia, and this is somehow even more troubling.
Many would argue that the boundaries of responsibility for the Terror extend
more widely still. The phenomenon of Stalinism may owe something to the peculiar
history of the Russian state, in which a native tradition of arbitrary authority
blended with the heritage of Mongol rule; but it is equally indebted to the
Western utopian tradition—in particular to the two dreams that have shaped
modern Western culture: the Enlightenment's ideal of a rationally ordered
society, and the Romantic notion of the Promethean self-transformation of man.
Both these visions were combined in Marxism, which owed its great potency to a
third ingredient: the view that an earthly paradise is no utopia but the
necessary outcome of precise and demonstrable historical laws. Hence the
enthusiasm with which Western delegations of philosophers, writers, and
journalists endorsed Stalin's claim to have converted socialism (with help from
Marx and Lenin) "from a dream of a better future for humanity into a
In the words of Stephen Kotkin, in its obsession with planning
and control Stalinism constituted "a quintessen- tial Enlightenment utopia." Like the French
Terror of 1793–1794, the Soviet killings of the 1930s were officially justified
by the regime's commitment to the most advanced ideals of freedom and progress.
The material emerging from the archives is generating fresh perspectives on the
mentality of Stalinism and its affinities with other modern versions of the
witch hunt. One aspect that the new sources have brought into relief is the link
between a utopian conception of time and the ethical attitudes that led to
acceptance of the purges.
In Ideology and Utopia—first published in 1929, the year when Stalin
defeated the last of his rivals for control of the Party—the German sociologist
Karl Mannheim discusses the sense of historical time peculiar to revolutionary
Marxists. They experience time as "a series of strategical points" along a path
to the future ideal, which they conceive in a novel fashion—almost like a real
organism with a definite function in life, which can be investigated
scientifically. Its "virtual presentness" means that the factors that make up
the present can be weighed and understood only in the light of their completion
by the future.
Mannheim's definition anticipates the doctrine of Socialist Realism,
officially formulated in 1934 as "the truthful, historically concrete
representation of reality in its revolutionary development" and prescribed as
the basic method of Soviet literature. As a theorist of the new method
explained: "The artist sees today in the light of tomorrow."
In official pronouncements on the regime's achievements in the Thirties the
distinction between tomorrow and today became increasingly blurred. On May Day,
1939, Pravda boasted: "Now all advanced humanity says of our
country...'There it is, the promised land of communism!'"
Along with the future, Stalinism appropriated the past. In its most sacred
text, the Short Course on the history of the Soviet Communist Party
(whose authorship was attributed to Stalin himself), the ideas and events of the
past were crudely categorized according to whether they had promoted or hampered
the march to communism. Endlessly cited in the mass media and faithfully
reflected in the works of Soviet historians, philosophers, writers, and artists,
the Short Course helped transform the nation's historical consciousness
and its sense of time. The Russian critic Boris Groys has noted that Stalinist
culture saw itself as postapocalyptic, presenting a mythical future as an
immediate concrete reality from whose perspective a final judgment on all
previous human history could be delivered. This vision survived
de-Stalinization: the dissident writer Andrei Sinyavsky remarked at the end of
the 1950s: "Our art, like our culture and our society, is teleological through
What began as a novel notion among revolutionary Marxists—the
concrete existence of the future in the present—became by the mid-1930s a
mandatory belief for an entire people. Nadezhda Mandelstam puts it succinctly in
her memoir of the period:
A man who knew that you cannot build the present out of the bricks
of the future was bound to resign himself beforehand to his inevitable doom
and the prospect of the firing squad.
Her husband, the poet Osip Mandelstam, was such a man. Those who survived,
she recalls, suffered the progressive loss of their sense of reality.
Jeffrey Brooks's study of the mass media in the Stalin era, Thank You,
Comrade Stalin!, provides a telling account of how this was achieved. He
presents the Stalinist regime as an "omnipresent magic theater" in which both
actors and audience leave the everyday world, with its values and practices, to
enter a dreamlike arena free from the normal constraints of time. The
performance was sustained through strict control of the flow of information,
suppression of negative features of the surrounding world, and exclusion of the
daily events regarded as news in other cultures. The Soviet conception of time
as a path from darkness into light, a conception constantly reinforced by the
media, allowed for no sharp separation of the future from the present, whose
value was accordingly diminished. "Time became a path through the present, not
to the present.... It was an attempt to force past, present, and future into a
single magical continuum."
The First Five-Year Plan and the collectivization of agriculture, launched in
1928 and 1929 respectively, were celebrated in the press, on the radio, and in
films and other media as programs for the creation of a new world, and
thereafter the public was treated to a dizzying succession of plans and
blueprints, all calculated to reinforce the faith that the Soviet state could
overcome the limiting effects of time in its headlong advance to history's final
goal. Literature and the arts had a supporting role: the writer Valentin Kataev
began his novel of 1931, Time, Forward!, by quoting Stalin's speech of
the same year in which he gave Russia ten years to accomplish the work of a
century. Following Stalin's decision to complete the First Five-Year Plan a year
ahead of time the press adopted the slogan "Five Years in Four" to apply to the
country's total transformation. New Year's editorials in Pravda described
the luminous achievements of the coming year not as prognostications but as
statements of fact.
The new Soviet world dissociated itself from its many failures to fulfill its
pledges by blaming them on survivals from the past in the shape of class
enemies. Former Bolshevik leaders and others accused in the show trials of
1936–1938 were ritualistically referred to in the press as vermin, reptiles,
traitors, murderers, and "fascist filth." These frenzied attacks had the
formulaic quality of a morality play featuring an apocalyptic battle between
good and evil.
Denunciations of villains alternated with paeans to exemplary workers and
hosannas to Stalin, whose cult as exemplar of the new order was the core of the
primitive drama in which his personality took on a near-mystic authority.
Increasingly the future was treated as if it had already arrived: as the First
Five-Year Plan neared completion, all references to the disparity between what
had been promised and what was accomplished were suppressed, and the press
launched a celebration, which lasted for decades, of the regime's
Brooks cites one revealing anecdote on what it was like for the ordinary
Soviet citizen to live in a utopian temporality. The German Communist Wolfgang
Leonhard, who grew up in Moscow, describes his confusion when in 1935 he and his
mother sought to replace their outdated 1924 map of Moscow and discovered that
the new map contained all the improvements destined to be completed by 1945: "We
used to take both town plans with us on our walks from then on—one showing what
Moscow had looked like ten years before, and the other showing what it would
look like ten years hence." As Brooks says, "what had vanished or, more exactly,
become compressed between two dream worlds was the present."
Regrettably, he does not discuss further the reaction of the Soviet public to
the performance: as he observes, the supporting chorus of officials, Party
activists, and exemplary workers and peasants whose affirmations of Soviet
values were cited in the mass media were no more than a "wishful representation
of the body politic." But the material now available on the attitudes of
ordinary citizens leaves no doubt that the virtual disappearance of the present
in the Stalinist conception of time transformed the national consciousness in
ways that smoothed the path to collusion with the Terror.
This is not to say that Soviet citizens were stoically indifferent to their
daily tribulations, or that they managed to ignore the increasing disparity
between the regime's achievements and its propaganda claims as the First
Five-Year Plan consistently failed to meet its wildly unrealistic targets.
Indeed, the misery and bewilderment that this caused is a dominant theme in the
letters, petitions, complaints, reports, confessions, and denunciations from
peasants, workers, intellectuals, and Party officials assembled by Lewis
Siegelbaum and Andrei Sokolov in Stalinism as a Way of Life. The impact
of the documents in this collection (the successor to The Road to Terror
in Yale University Press's admirable series Annals of Communism) is strengthened
by the fact that some of their writers were barely literate.
The industrialization project was celebrated as a triumph of
rational planning. A very different picture is painted by workers on
construction sites where chaos and confusion reigned, exacerbated by the
constant raising of targets on orders from Moscow. There were frequent protests
to Pravda about lack of basic food and shelter, and unsanitary conditions
which led to outbreaks of disease of epidemic proportions. One worker complains
that although his brigade fulfilled the plan by more than 190 percent, their
families were starving; rations were reserved for the workers alone. Their co-op
contained "nothing but empty shelves and bottles of perfume," while at the
markets profiteers sold goods at vastly inflated prices.
Another worker protests: "Lice have eaten us to death, and soap is given only
to railroad workers." Pravda was inundated with peasant accounts of
thieving and mismanagement by collective farm chairmen, and other kinds of
persecution suffered by farm workers: "We live in a free country, but there are
so many prisoners and for what. If your crops get diseased it's ten years, if
your horse wears out its withers it's ten years, if you didn't give somebody a
cigarette it's ten years, and so on."
Others wrote harrowing accounts of the fate of dispossessed kulaks ("rich"
peasants), who had been sent by the hundreds of thousands to forced exile in
distant provinces with no food or shelter; even secret police officials
complained of mismanagement on this score. The cult of the plan remained a
foundation of Stalinism; but plans changed with unpredictable frequency, each
new turn bringing the downfall of officials who had been diligently implementing
the previous Party line.
Moreover, no interpretation of any plan at any given time could be regarded
as wholly reliable. The chairman of a rural council wrote to Politburo member
M.I. Kalinin of his fear of being tried for misappropriation of funds as a
result of attempting to fulfill contradictory orders from the regional and
central Party finance departments: "You work like you're on the edge of a
Many complaints and protests show a keen awareness that the system had
created a new privileged class—a rampant bureaucracy with privileged access to
scarce goods and apartments; and many refer to the shadow economy, whereby
citizens coped with endemic shortages through illegal trading in state goods and
the cultivation of influential contacts.
However, while Soviet citizens were not slow to complain about the miseries
and injustices of daily life, and to denounce inefficiency and corruption on the
part of their coworkers or immediate superiors, they tended to present these as
abuses by local officials of a system whose inherent rationality they did not
question. One complainant concludes that all the abuses he lists can easily be
prevented: "All you have to do is have the right person put pressure in the
right place." Or, as another affirms: "If our dear leader Comrade Stalin knew
what is going on in the countryside, he would never forgive it."
An implicit belief in the rationality of the system underlies many
justifi-cations of the Great Terror, whose beginnings coincided with the
adoption of a new constitution, hailed in Pravda as "the most democratic
in the world." The official slogan for the country at that time was Stalin's
incessantly quoted "Life has become better, comrades, life has become merrier!"
The leadership presented the purges of the Thirties as both rational and
necessary to eliminate the enemies of communism.
Yet the terror of all against all unleashed in 1937 contrasts
with earlier repressions of specific groups in its sheer self-destructive
randomness, engulfing the loyal along with the dissident (and, eventually, the
executioners along with their victims), severely damaging the economy through
the loss of a generation of specialists, and destroying the army high command on
the eve of the Nazi invasion. (In a deranged simulacrum of rationality the
"plan" still reigned supreme: NKVD detachments throughout the country were given
quotas for arrests in their areas.)
We can still only speculate on Stalin's motives and the wider pressures that
led to the orgy of violence. Yet Lewis Siegelbaum's analysis of letters from
ordinary citizens shows that very many did not question the policy of repression
itself, ascribing "excesses" in this respect only to particular individuals: a
common suspicion was that "enemies of the people" had wormed their way into the
NKVD and, by arresting loyal Communists, were attempting to undermine Soviet
power. Substantial numbers of the Party elite seem to have seen the Terror as a
necessary defensive operation. Those who (we may assume) did not, such as the
veteran Bolshevik Nikolai Bukharin, were forced to use the official rhetoric. In
a letter to Stalin which he hoped would save him from execution after his trial
in 1938, he protests his innocence of the charges against him, but writes that
"there is something great and bold about the political idea of a general
purge...[which] encompasses 1) the guilty; 2) persons under suspicion; and 3)
persons potentially under suspicion."
Memoirs of the period, however, suggest that expressions of belief in the
rationality of the purges were commonly more than just a stratagem for survival.
Nadezhda Mandelstam recalls the exasperated retort of the poet Anna Akhmatova,
when one of their acquaintances began speculating on the reasons for a
particular arrest: "What do you mean, what for? It's time you understood
that people are arrested for nothing!"
The new sources present formidable problems of interpretation, in particular
the difficulty of distinguishing strategies of adaptation from genuine
conviction. Siegelbaum notes that all Soviet citizens were confronted with the
necessity of dealing with the state by somehow fitting themselves into its grand
narratives: as Kotkin comments in his study of the workers in the great steel
complex of Magnitogorsk, without "speaking Bolshevik" it was impossible to
understand much of everyday activity, including what was demanded and what was
forbidden. But as Getty
observes, one should not underestimate the impact of language on the
self-understanding even of those using it for self-interested and utilitarian
reasons. Moreover, the Stalinist utopia could command genuine adherence for many
reasons, including the need to fill a vacuum created by the suppression of
religious belief, and the contrast between the principles of socialism and the
evils of capitalism as evidenced in the crisis-ridden economies of the
Such factors help to explain the regime's stability, but it seems unlikely
that it would have retained so much support for so long if very many Russians
had not internalized the vision of reality and historical time which was
constantly presented to them by the media and by novels in the Socialist Realist
tradition. Critics of the genre have remarked that the weirdness of these novels
consists in their heroes' schizophrenic existence in two kinds of time, their
sudden transitions from the discourse that we associate with literary realism to
the perspective of a complete and perfected world in which time has been
abolished. As Sinyavsky puts
it, the characters who "are mournful but not quite like Chekhov's, [create]
their happy families which are not quite like Tolstoy's, and, suddenly becoming
aware of the time they are living in, scream at the reader the copybook slogans
which they read in Soviet newspapers, like 'Long live world peace!'"
But Socialist Realism was not wholly undeserving of its name: its fantastic
heroes had their real-life counterparts in Stalin's Russia. Describing the sense
of solemn emotion he felt on his admission into the Komsomol, the Communist
youth organization, in 1939, Wolfgang Leonhard comments that a Western reader
might find this peculiar. Two years earlier, at the beginning of the Terror, his
mother had disappeared into a prison camp; he had subsequently witnessed the
arrest of his teachers and friends. He had long since realized that reality in
the Soviet Union was different from the picture in Pravda:
But somehow I dissociated these things, and even my personal
impressions and experiences, from my fundamental political conviction. It was
almost as if there were two separate levels—one of everyday events and
experiences, which I found myself criticising; the other that of the great
party line which at this time, despite my hesitations, I still regarded as
correct, from the standpoint of general principle.
Kotkin comments on the same phenomenon of dissociation among the Magnitogorsk
workers: for many the discrepancies between lived experience and ideological
interpretation appear to have given rise to a dual reality in which the
acceptance of a revolutionary truth contrary to observational truth was not only
necessary for daily survival, but also a way "to relate mundane events to a
larger design; it offered something to strive for."
Many commentators have presented Bolshevism as a religion. But faith in
salvation through the Party line does not of itself explain the fact that so
many Russians in the Thirties were able to live a split existence without
experiencing a mental breakdown. Much of the explanation must lie in the
Stalinist media's success in blurring the perspective from which Soviet citizens
viewed everyday reality. To use one of the most potent images of the Thirties,
many of them glimpsed it as if from a speeding train.
In the words of the founder of Russian Marxism, Georgii Plekhanov, "we have
boarded the train of history which is taking us at full speed to our goal."
After the Revolution the train became a symbol of the modernizing energy of the
new order and its dynamic vision of time and space. Soviet cinema directors such
as Dziga Vertov seized on the image of the train to convey the transformation in
consciousness wrought by the Revolution. The train carriage repeatedly features
in Soviet films as a microcosm in which representatives of the new world are
carried forth to their tasks of construction in the country or to the capital,
the nerve center of the new order, while through the windows there flash by
fleeting impressions of an ever-changing landscape.
In the Thirties this image of the world of experience outside the Communist
trajectory as a linear blur helped the Party dehumanize its enemies, stripping
their lives and fates of depth and specificity. The press was forbidden to
publish pictures of expropriated kulaks for fear this might arouse sympathy in
some quarters; instead they were depicted in caricatures, such as one in
Komsomol Pravda which is reproduced in Brooks's book. Under the title "On
the General Line [of the Party]" an electric streetcar is shown racing at full
speed, mowing down enemies of the regime, one of whom pleads "For God's sake,
don't squash the kulak!" without effect; a bloody severed leg flies through the
We have an ironic perspective on this all-pervasive symbol in the diary of
Andrey Arzhilovsky, a peasant who had spent years in a labor camp and would soon
be shot for "counter-revolutionary kulak sabotage." Life, he muses, "is a
speeding train. The ones who have a ticket ride, the others...watch them pass
by. I used to have a ticket and I was speeding through life on that train. But
now here we are—walking. The line goes on and on, and they're out of tickets."
The regime's dehumanizing obsession with speed had found an appropriate
discourse with the declaration in 1929 of a "socialist offensive on all fronts"
to eradicate all vestiges of the pre-socialist past. Words like "assault" and
"storm" became part of the everyday vocabulary of activists in the factories and
in the cultural field, and the whole population was put on permanent alert in
the battle against "hostile elements" and "saboteurs" who were "infiltrating"
Communist institutions. On expeditions to the countryside to requisition grain,
Communists behaved like occupying troops.
For Russian Communists, the acceleration of activity in all spheres of social
existence was not just a means to an end, but a key constituent of the end
itself. The revolution had aimed to create not only a new society but a new kind
of human being. "Go on, turn yourselves inside out!" Mayakovsky, the bard of
Bolshevism, urged his contemporaries in 1918. In the Twenties the term
"Bolshevik tempo" was used by the artistic avant-garde to help define the "new
Soviet person," based on an idealization of modern machine culture. A Soviet
critic urged musicians to pay close attention to the new rhythm of revolutionary
life and create instruments to express the "thunderous sounds that herald 'the
establishment of communism on earth,'" while the theater director Vsevolod
Meyerhold set up a school of body motion to create a "new high-velocity man":
his theory, "Biomechanics," was much influenced by the ideas of the American
Frederick Winslow Taylor, the father of time-and-motion study. (Meyerhold was
himself later beaten horribly before being executed.)
Under Stalin the dream of a transformed human being became a
means of enforcing compliance with the norms set by the regime. The heroes of
that time were the "shockworkers" who led the effort to speed up production
processes. All signs of deceleration in Soviet life were suspect. A censor took
issue with one sentence in a novel about kolkhoz life—"Sivka trudges slowly."
"Why slowly, why not speedily, why isn't the poor horse happy along with the
collective farm workers?"
With headlines such as "A New Man Is Being Born," the press insistently urged
Soviet citizens to "reforge" themselves into builders of communism. Documents in
Stalinism as a Way of Life confirm what we know from memoirs of the
period about the enthusiasm with which very many, particularly among the young,
embraced this task in the early years of Stalin's rule, joining in "purges from
below" conducted through collective inquisitions and sessions of self-criticism
at the workplace. A few years later, the same striving for self-purification
would allow many to dispatch colleagues and relatives to the Gulag or the firing
squad with a clear conscience.
The feats of "new Soviet people" were highlighted relentlessly through
reports of reco`rds reached in all aspects of Soviet life, from the production
of sugar beets to aviation and polar exploration—all milestones along the path
of the Stalinist express.
Lev Kopelev, a Komsomol activist in the Thirties, describes the intoxicating
effect on his generation of the daily totals, printed in the press, of new
plants and new machinery produced:
These figures never left the pages of the newspapers, they
extended across millions of posters, they shone and sparkled on walls, they
covered rooftops, they sounded in songs and recitations. We knew them by
heart...they meant as much to us as the names of the celebrated "stars" of
movies, jazz, soccer and hockey mean to our grandchildren.... The
dispassionate magnitudes of statistics—the figures for plans, returns, sums
obtained—held for us some spell-binding, cabalistic Pythagorean power.
This obsession with the growth of numbers reinforced the Stalinist vision of
time and further diminished the value of the present, easing the transformation
of young idealists into executioners. Kopelev took part in the grain procurement
expeditions in the countryside that resulted in the famine of the early
Thirties. It was only very much later that the terrible sights he had witnessed
began to weigh on his conscience. At the time, he recalled, he saw the peasants'
suffering as the result of "inexorable" circumstances. The statistics were there
to prove it: the steadily rising figures of grain collected signified the
victory of collectivization: "Everything seemed so pure and simple."
Over half a century after Magnitogorsk was built, the writer Veniamin Kaverin
recalled a visit he made to its construction site: he was dazzled by the speed
with which the factory and city were rising in the empty steppe. He also
recalled being shocked by the sight of starving wives and widows of peasants
deported to the area. Having seen "the direct connection between the growth of
the cemetery and the growth of the steel works, I tried not to see this
connection—and, it came to pass, I walked the construction with closed
To many who felt themselves hurtling along a trajectory toward
the future, not only the lives of those left behind but their own present
existence seemed unreal. Raisa Orlova, a dissident in the post-Stalin era,
recalls that in the Thirties she and her young contemporaries led a "rough,
provisional, slapdash" life which they felt was merely a preparation for the
heroic achievement to come. "Faster, faster, toward the great goal, and there
all would begin in a real sense."
Scholars have observed that Russians interviewed about their lives in the
Stalin period tend to give more prominence to public events than to personal
experiences as defining moments. The general
emphasis on the future was reinforced by the fact that the mass media was
concerned with individual humans only as instances of political processes.
Thus an entire nation was schooled in seeing its present existence as a mere
staging post in the journey to the future: the only time that mattered. Nadezhda
Mandelstam recalls how in the Thirties even such people as her husband and Boris
Pasternak were occasionally tempted to see current reality in this way, fearing
that the Revolution might pass them by if, in their shortsightedness, they
"failed to notice all the great things happening before our eyes."
However, she also suggests that many of her acquaintances affirmed the
rational necessity of the Terror because they could not bear to recognize its
"'Treachery and counterrevolution everywhere!' ...Perhaps there
was an element of primitive magic in such words: what else could we do but try
to ward off the evil spirits by uttering charms?"
Some stronger natures made their private protest against the growing chaos
around them by parodying the official rhetoric. The irreverent Arzhilovsky
confided to his diary: "I was thinking of how frantic our pace of life is,
especially these days. The pendulum of our grandfather clock has thrown its
traces and is racing along as though it's trying to make it to the bazaar before
all the cheap potatoes sell out."
Many who lost faith in the Stalinist utopia felt themselves plunged into a
random world, at the mercy of chance. Both the dream world of Stalinism and its
hideous reality were equally alien to the notions of individual responsibility
and moral choice. As Sheila Fitzpatrick has observed, a fatalistic skepticism,
expressed in the popular expression "This too will pass [proidet],"
uttered with a shrug of the shoulders, was one of the few forms of everyday
resistance a Soviet citizen could permit himself in face of the latest policy
pronouncement from above. Thus New Soviet
Man metamorphized all too easily into Homo Sovieticus, a widespread social type
immortalized in Alexander Zinoviev's novel of that name: passive in the face of
authority, infinitely pliable in his behavior and values, with no horizons
beyond the needs of the moment, but superbly equipped with basic survival
It is worth remembering that this unappetizing creature was the end product
of the first attempt in the modern age to realize a Western utopia. The Soviet
experiment to appropriate historical time gets a sardonic obituary in a poem by
Boris Slutsky, himself once a true believer:
This is no climate for clocks.
It'll foul up their works in
And time here is securely locked
as a result, take it from
Time, that in other realms ranges
like the wild wind in the
here sits docile, with its chain
making only a rusty
The timekeepers snore like thunder,—
their fateful schedules;
and the clock hands woodenly blunder,
to years and centuries.
And now and then, everything
goes backwards in
It strikes six, and then it strikes five,
five it strikes four.
And nobody shouts out "Faster!"
will never work it.
The calendar-making factory
sleeps soundly; nobody
will wake it.
 See J. Arch
Getty and Oleg V. Naumov, The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction
of the Bolsheviks, 1932–1939 (Yale University Press, 1999), pp. 7,
Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (University of California
Press, 1995), p. 364.
The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-Garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship and
Beyond, translated by Charles Rougle (Princeton University Press, 1992), p.
48; Abram Tertz (pseudonym of Andrei Sinyavsky), On Socialist Realism
(Pantheon, 1960), p. 26.
Mandelstam, Hope Against Hope: A Memoir, translated by Max Hayward
(Atheneum, 1970), p. 115.
Naumov, The Road to Terror, p. 557 (emphasis Bukharin's).
Magnetic Mountain, p. 236.
 See Katerina
Clark, The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual (Indiana University Press,
third edition, 2000), pp. 36ff; Gary Saul Morson, Narrative and Freedom: The
Shadows of Time (Yale University Press, 1994), pp. 57–58.
Leonhard, Child of the Revolution, translated by C.M. Woodhouse (London:
Collins, 1957), p. 81.
 Intimacy and
Terror: Soviet Diaries of the 1930s, edited by V. Garros, N. Korenevskaya,
and T. Lahusen, translated by C.A. Flath (New Press, 1995), p. 139.
 Lev Kopelev,
The Education of a True Believer, translated by Gary Kern (Harper and
Row, 1980), pp. 249–250.
 Raisa Orlova,
Vospominaniia o neproshedshem vremeni (Ardis, 1983), p. 30.
 On this see
Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times:
Soviet Russia in the 1930s (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 220–221; see
also my review, "The Secret Sharer," The New York Review, May 9,
Everyday Stalinism, p. 222.
 Boris Slutsky,
Things that Happened, translated by G.S. Smith (Glas), pp. 267–268; see
my review, "The Secret Sharer," The New York Review, May 9,