March 4th: Stalin’s Social Revolution

From the hour Joseph Stalin realized his aspiration to become the supreme leader of the USSR in the mid-1920s, he undertook the reorganization of not only the USSR’s political structures but also the lifestyles and social opportunities of the people of the USSR. Tomorrow Max and I hope to lead a discussion focused around the effects of Stalin’s Five Year Plan and his creation of a new elite along with the lives of Ekaterina Olitskaia and Pasha Angelina.

  1. How did the Bolsheviks initially compensate for a lack of educated experts in their new government? 
  2. What were Stalin’s concerns surrounding the group of non-communist experts in the Soviet government? 
  3. What steps were initiated in creating a new Cadres that were both “Red and Expert”? 
  4. How did the Great Purges affect the introduction of the new cadres at the end of the 1930s?
  5. What were the characteristics of Stalin’s new Soviet “Intelligentsia” by the end of Stalin’s Cultural Revolution?
  6. How does Pasha Angelina’s view of the Soviet government differ from Ekaterina Olitskaia’s? (A-cat-er-en-ah O-leat-sky-yah) 
  7. Both Angelina and Olitskaia experience sexism throughout their lives within the USSR however, the sexism directed at Angelina differs greatly from the sexism aimed at Olitskaia. In what moments did Angelina and Ekaterina experience similar sexism? In what moments did the sexism contrast?
  8. Do you see the success of Pasha as a triumph for the USSR, even though the road for her was rough and unpaved? 
  9. Even though all of the women were “supposed to be Communists” when presented with the equal distribution of the green onions by Olitskaia, the imprisoned women within the train car converted back to capitalism. Why do you think Olitskaia chose to include this account in her My Reminiscences?
  10. When conversing with Tonia Bukina, Olitskaia hears about the effects of Stalin’s propaganda distributed after the arrest of Bolshevik party members. What does Tonia’s perspective of the aftermath of the arrests tell us about Stalin’s propaganda? Would propaganda about your own friends and companions be able to convince you of their treason and be as effective in today’s media?

7 Replies to “March 4th: Stalin’s Social Revolution”

  1. In regards to question one and two, I believe they are connected to one another. As if there were more communist experts, Stalin would not become paranoid of the non-communist experts and take actions against them. Because there were so little communists who had specialized education and degrees, they were placed in higher roles but mainly just to have authority over their non-communist underlings. The non-communist experts made the majority of the decisions, because they were experts. Due to this early practice, and the fact that even though Stalin gave communists the opportunity to go to school but they did not, he feared for the “overthrow” of the regime.

  2. In regards to questions six and seven, I think that their experiences differ because of their location and political parties. We know Olitskaia was a socialist who participated in anti-government propaganda. Angelina was a praised communist for her work and her beliefs on the betterment of collective work. When Olitskaia was in prison, she observed the faults in the soviet system when she saw devout communists being punished because of false confessions. I think her experiences in prison reinforced her outlook on the soviet union. With Angelina, however, she was able to rise above her station and fulfil the communist dream. Referring to their experiences with sexism, they both had to deal with similar issues regarding their sex. However, Angelina’s experience helped her improve her life. She took the comments, and even the attack, as a sign to keep moving forward. She created an all women’s tractor brigade because she saw women were discouraged to participate in farming. She wanted to prove everyone wrong. She was, however, hard on herself and spread herself very thin just to prove to people that women can farm. She had to be very careful not to make any mistakes. If she did, people would blame it on her sex. It was different with Olitskaia because the sexism she encountered was more physical and was focused on embarrassment. She was in a train labeled cattle, and she was stripped publicly to shower with everyone else while the male guards watched. To her, the sexism she encountered was enacted to treat her as subhuman. They both experienced sexism, but in very different ways. They both handled it in different ways, as well.

  3. In regards to question 4, the Great Purges affected the introduction of the new cadres because many in the purges who were killed is how the new people came to be in their positions in the first place. So, whoever took up a new position after the Great Purge was just replacing a person who had been assassinated during that time. Also, in regards to question 9, I believe that Olitskaia included the women who converted back to capitalist beliefs because she had also emphasized the sexism that occurred, and wanted to build upon that.

  4. In regards to question 10, I believe that Tonia’s perspective shows how convincing Stalin was as a leader. For a good while after her friends were arrested she genuinely believed that they were guilty of the crimes in which they were being accused. It was only after her own arrest that she was slightly able to breathe a sigh of relief that they were in fact not guilty and it was just the state that was looking for enemies. At the time the only real media was the state media which shows that there were no other real options for information on supposed “enemies” other than what is passed along by the state. Living in today’s climate with all of the media available I feel as though I would not believe the state accusing my friends of treason. I am a Public Relations major and have been taught to look closely at media to determine the bias and weight that it has. However, while I do not think that I would believe that about my friends, I have also studied the affects that media has on the masses. Evidence of this is in the media now, something is posted and people follow it unquestioningly.

  5. 1. The Bolsheviks compensated with for a lack of education by promoting education and illiteracy campaigns. Later on, they provided education to the floor workers (Reds) to take over the working positions of the bourgeois (Experts).
    8. I see Pasha’s success through Stalinism as a complete success for the USSR and Stalinism. Compared to others, her path was not necessarily that rough. She faced troubles with people doubting her and mocking her, but otherwise, in my opinion, it was easy. As compared to Ekaterina O, Pasha was living the dream. Olitskaia was arrested and treated poorly.
    9. When it comes down to life or death situations, or me over you, communistic ideas don’t win. People are not going to share something that will provide them life, it’s everyone for himself. Human nature kicks in and people become greedy. I think she included this part because it shows a glimpse to Stalin-communism not working like they way her, SR, communism would work.

  6. In regards to question 9, Olitskaia included the part about the women who covered back to capitalism because I believe she wanted to show the fact that the women could not be controlled by another person. Olitskaia wanted to build upon everything that the women had been through and how they were treated. The “wrong” distribution of the green onions was just the start because the women felt that if they paid 50 kopeks they should get more because they worked for their money unlike the people who did not have the money. She also put the account in to show what has happened to her way of thinking since being in prison.

  7. I agree with Lauren about question nine. Olitskaia’s recount of her time in prison is a criticism on Stalin’s corruption of communist philosophy through implementation. The prisoners when given the opportunity to share their green onions turned away from communist ideals because they were hungry and did spend their own money on those onions. Communism does not naturally work in a system in which people are struggling to survive, and Olitskaia is criticizing Stalin’s regime because of that. Just like how “Each one knew the truth about herself but did not believe any of the others,” Stalin’s policy of arresting these women made them distrust each other (432). Communism relies on trust and community.

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