The Secret Speech Aftermath

To me it seems as though Khrushchev was abundantly clear in what he meant through the Secret Speech. He sought to bring to light the wrongdoings of Stalin as a leader and revert to the neo Leninist model. After the speech there was widespread confusion to how the general populous should respond. There were some that wanted nothing to do with the de-Stalinization movement while many others upon hearing the speech followed a philosophy of iconoclasm, or rejecting the Stalin’s various iconography. This included destroying or refusing to show portraits, statues and monuments of Stalin. To me, this effectively lines up with the intention of Khrushchev’s Secret Speech. However, the desecration of these artifacts led to a crackdown on the criminality of it. There was no real violence to these acts, they only appeared to be acts of vandalism. Making these sort of acts criminal seems to go against what Khrushchev wanted. I understand there was a widespread fear of anarchy from these actions but the question I pose is this: do you feel as though the fear of anarchy was enough to make these actions criminal? In addition to this, do you feel as though the destruction of Stalin iconography was what Khrushchev had in mind?

7 Replies to “The Secret Speech Aftermath”

  1. Khrushchev wanted to turn public opinion against Stalin, so he must have known that the destruction of Stalin iconography was inevitable. I think how fast Stalin’s legacy was destroyed made Khrushchev and his inner circle nervous because if Stalin could be taken down that fast, the whole of the Soviet regime could be taken down. Their anxiety made them criminalize public acts of vandalism because they feared the power of the people’s anger and resentment.

    1. I do believe that the general sense of anarchy and the threat of becoming a full anarchical state was enough to consider these acts criminal. As we all know the political status of Russia, historically, has been rather fluid. The people have been subjected to the transition of monarchs and even entire governmental systems for generations. Then for a populous at this point in time too hear a government official publicly critiquing the dominative party and the acts of vandalism that followed, would then make the political status not only seem fluid but “vaporous”. In other words because of the history and rapid succession of destruction that followed the secret speech, the people of Russia as a whole had no real sense of a unifying governmental system. In turn making these acts of vandalism criminal, and in the peoples’ eyes, an indicator for the anarchy that could very well take full effect.

  2. I agree with Kate in that Khrushchev definitely knew that the destruction of Stalin’s monuments would have been inevitable. Going further with that, it seems to me like Soviet leaders such as Khrushchev and Stalin were basically anarchists if they were not in power. To elaborate, the only government either one of them would have supported would have been their own. This can be seen in the secret speech, as well as Stalin’s comparing himself to the past Romanov monarchy (as seen in his later years). So, criminalizing vandalism would make sense if we were to compare Khrushchev to conservative Romanov monarchs since in his mind, he was the leader and it would have been treason for such vandalizations. I also think that Kate’s point – of their government being nervous about someone as important as Stalin being taken down so fast would present the possibility of them being taken down possibly quicker – is very significant.

    1. Another point to consider about the vandalism is that Khrushchev and the Russian government only considered public acts to be criminal. Big displays of destruction worried Khrushchev because they could possibly influence other Russian citizens to commit acts of vandalism that could go further than attacking Stalin iconography. People were free to take down their portraits of Stalin in their homes, but anything outside of the home was considered to be criminal.

  3. I think that the anticipation of the big anti-Stalin movement was that it would not lead to public disorder. I agree with Kate in that they had to expect people to be upset and take down statues and portraits, but I think it got way beyond their liking of control. They did not want people to form groups that hated communism thought. They just wanted to transform back to Leninism. After the speech, we see people question the state of the government and its role in people’s lives. When citizens started to attack statues, it caused fear in the government. They feared that people would get too out of control, so they had to criminalize the acts before they got too major.

    1. I would agree that the central focus was to return to Leninism, and not a direct goal of public disorder. Although by the audacious nature of the speech and the pure shock value to the public: I would say it would be juvenile to expect anything less than some form of social disorder. Because this could have set a precedent of anarchy, the action by the government to make these act criminals was needed to maintain some mode of control.

  4. I agree with Kate and Ainsley on the point that vandalism was criminalized in part due to fear and for preservation of the new legacy Khrushchev and his circle was trying to create. However, I don’t believe that Stalin’s iconography was really a target from the speech but merely collateral damage from destroying his real target, Stalin’s legacy. I feel as though the tearing down of statues and monuments is something that usually happens in times of chaos and rioting and if that was his intention he would have given the speech publically.

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