Art by Yousef Amairi

Art by Yousef Amairi
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February 08, 2016

Popular Opinion in Russia Under Prewar Stalinism by Sheila Fitzpatrick

Source: Fitzpatrick, S. (2009). Popular Opinion in Russia under Pre-war Stalinism. In P. Corner (Eds.), Popular Opinion in Totalitarian Regimes: Fascism, Nazism, Communism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
People look at photos on the "We have won!" memorial panel in Stavropol, Russia May 5, 2015. The panel shows the famous Soviet picture "Flag above the Reichstag" made from 4,222 portraits of defenders of their Motherland during the World War II from Stavropol, local media reported. REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko

            What is popular opinion? One approach would assume that it corresponds to some some kind of general will, in other words, something unitary. That’s the way people thought about it in the French Revolution. By contrast, orthodox Marxists in the Soviet Union and elsewhere dismissed the idea that there was a single “people” (narod), hence a single popular opinion; instead, there was necessarily an array of class opinions (bourgeois, proletarian, kulak, poor peasant, etc). However, the apparent breadth of the array often concealed a binary: proletarian/bourgeois, good/bad[1]; and so it was with opinion[2] - meaning essentially opinion about the government - where the binary was “positive” (pro-Soviet, “proletarian”) and “negative” (anti-Soviet, “bourgeois”).

            Historiographically, popular opinion became an overt concern of scholars only comparatively recently. This is because Western historians did not have access to any real data, and Soviet historians, who had limited access, generally did not write about it because it was too sensitive a topic.[3] For scholars writing in the 1950s and ‘60s, the only way to get opinion data was to generate it themselves by questioning émigrés about their opinions in retrospect, which is what was done (with great effect) by the postwar Harvard Interview Project, whose subjects were refugees from the Soviet Union in Germany and New York in the early 1950s.[4] Many scholars at this time undoubtedly assumed that there was no public opinion in the Soviet Union because under a totalitarian regime, there could be no public. Thus, the pioneering 1950 study by Alex Inkeles treats “public opinion” as an artefact of propaganda, with only a cursory bow to the findings of his own Harvard project data that, in light of the deviant opinions of his refugee interviewees, propaganda was perhaps not as efficient at forming public opinion as might be supposed.[5] Yet, even within the framework of thought that denied the possibility of real popular opinion, Western observers were always on the lookout for negative, dissident attitudes: like the Soviet secret police, they hoped to discover the rare Winston Smiths who had managed to liberate themselves from Newspeak.[6]

The first attempt to approach the topic of popular opinion was made in the 1970s by “revisionists,” critics of the totalitarian model approach, many of whom were social historians with an instinctive “bottom up” approach, in contrast to the “top down” approach of the political scientists who dominated Sovietology in the 1950s and ‘50s. The revisionists framed the issue as an investigation of “social support” for the regime. As social support presumably generated positive opinions, this was an implicit reversal of the more familiar interest (on the part of the NKVD/KGB as well as of Western scholars during the Cold War) in negative opinion; and the revisionists’ apparent privileging of the positive provoked a lot of criticism. Nevertheless, the revisionists’ working premises were those that came naturally to social historians: first, that all societies have a history (even if the totalitarian model, with its atomized and passive population suggested the contrary), and second, that political regimes generally satisfy some social interests and rarely survive by force alone.

The focus of revisionist scholarship was on the interwar period, and the main objects of investigation in the 1970s were workers, peasants, and young people who were upward mobile from the peasantry and urban working class, often via formal affirmative action programs. With the classified sections of Soviet archives closed, and assuming that public statements could not be taken at face value, no direct evidence of support/popular opinion was available, so it was a matter of inference from behavior and the scholar’s own assessment of interest and cost/benefit. Revisionist labor historians found substantial working-class support for the Bolsheviks in 1917 and a few years thereafter, but their claims about such support for the 1920s were modest and for the 1930s virtually non-existent.[7] This was a tribute to the scholars’ respect for data, as at least some of them had probably originally hoped to find evidence of lasting working-class support for the Bolsheviks’ “proletarian dictatorship.” With regard to peasants, revisionist scholars, including the Marxists among them, tended to be very sceptical about Bolshevik claims that the regime was supported by the “poor peasantry” and opposed by “kulaks” (prosperous peasants), concluding that this kind of class division of the peasantry was artificial and the categories largely meaningless.[8] Collectivization was seen as a regime policy that the peasantry as a whole strongly disliked,[9] and almost the only discussion of social support in this connection was a pioneering study of urban workers’ (not peasants’) support via volunteer participation in the collectivization drive.[10]

            The argument that large-scale upward mobility into a new Soviet elite generated social support from the beneficiaries (known to contemporaries as vydvizhentsy, literally, promoted people)[11] was accepted within the revisionist group rather grudgingly, as the Marxist labor historians tended to be uneasy with the idea that workers might put individual opportunity ahead of class consciousness. Outside the revisionist group, a different objection was raised, namely that to speak of “upward mobility” and “affirmative action” in a Soviet context was to misuse concepts which properly related to democratic societies and implicitly to justify the Soviet regime.

Urban youth was considered by revisionists to be a likely source of social support for the Soviet regime, but for some reason almost no serious work was done on it. As for the educated elites, social support was identified as coming from the young militants of Cultural Revolution (the so-called “Communist intelligentsia”) at the end of the 1920s,[12] as well as from upwardly-mobile, Soviet-trained engineers,[13] but revisionist scholarship rarely challenged the then reigning assumption that the “old Russian intelligentsia” had always kept the Bolsheviks at arms’ length, resisting attempts to coopt them, and staunchly defending freedom of thought and professional autonomy.[14] This reticence was in line with the spirit of literary scholarship of the 1970s, which with the notable exception of Katerina Clark’s work[15] still considered “orthodox” Soviet literature to be out of bounds, assuming that interesting artistic works produced during the Soviet period would necessarily be implicitly or explicitly anti-Soviet.

For a long time, we had virtually no evidentiary basis on which to talk about popular opinion, except for the Harvard Project.  Memoirs were few and far between, and moreover subject to heavy censorship.[16] Neither published statements of endorsement of the regime and its policies nor official allegations about anti-regime opinion in such venues as show trials could be taken at face value. The revisionists could only deduce opinion from actions: those who volunteered for collectivization were assumed to share the Soviet values that underlay the program; those who benefited from proletarian affirmative action programs were assumed to be grateful.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, formerly secret archives opened, disclosing various possible types of evidence: for the interwar period, surveys (svodki) of “the mood of the population” made by the secret police;[17] citizens’ letters to authority (including some statements of opinion on public matters along with petitions, complaints, and denunciations), which were often summarized for their “popular opinion” input and sent upwards to the party leaders;[18] formal public discussions (narodnye obsuzhdeniia) on issues of the day, such as abortion and the new Constitution, as well as police reports on what people were saying informally outside the formal meetings, and similar reports on informal comments overheard during soviet elections and censuses.. Untypically, the 1937 population census, later suppressed, included a kind of “popular opinion” question: “Are you a (religious) believer?” Given that religious belief was unacceptable for a Communist or “conscious” Soviet citizen, this was a tricky question indeed, but 57% answered it affirmatively.[19]

The first reaction of social historians was to greet the svodki with joy as an equivalent of the Stimmungsberichte in Nazi Germany, the closest thing we were likely to get to a Gallup poll in Soviet circumstances, though some objected to using police reports as a basis for assessing opinion.[20] Svodki, along with citizens’ letters, were the main source base for the major archive-based study  of popular opinion, Sarah Davies’s Popular Opinion in Stalin’s Russia.[21] The initial assumption was that when the secret police presented a report on the mood of the (general) population, that was literally what they meant. More recently, Terry Martin’s (not yet published) work on information circulation in the Soviet Union, based on extensive work on svodki, has called that into question, raising the possibility that the “opinion” on which local secret-police officers reported was often that of persons under suspicion (na uchete) rather than a broader sampling of the general population. Martin also concludes that by the end of the 1920s the political leaders had mainly lost interest in the information from svodki, being less interested in opinion in general than in warnings about where active unrest was likely to flare up.[22]

As already noted, svodki tended to focus on negative opinion, and this was true of the whole category of “secret” archival material that opened up at the beginning of the 1990s because of the close connection between since the secrecy classification and negativity. Information on repression, strikes, revolts, and all kinds of actions associated with resistance became available on a large scale for the first time. This generated a substantial literature on resistance, mainly focused on peasants and influenced theoretically by James C. Scott’s work.[23] It was social historians who were primarily drawn to resistance studies, with the result that revisionists now found themselves pursuing “negative” opinion with the same energy they had earlier pursued “positive.” But the “positive” had not dropped out of the historiography. Paradoxically, however, it became the purview of a group of young scholars, many of them cultural historians, who self-consciously opposed themselves to the older generation of revisionists as well as to the “grandfather” generation of totalitarians, and earned the name of “post-revisionists.”

So far, all the approaches to popular opinion discussed (including that of the Soviet secret police) analyzed opinion (“mood”) in terms of different social and class groups as well as by geographical location and ethnicity: the usual categories were workers (proletariat), peasants/kolkhozniki (broken down in the 1920s into “poor,” “middle,” and “prosperous” [kulak] peasants), white-collar,[24] intelligentsia, and youth. These approaches shared the sociological premise that collective (class, group) mentalities exist, and that analysis of opinion in terms of class or group is generally more meaningful than analysis of national populations as a whole. The problem with this is that thinking is done by individuals, not groups or classes, whose existence as coherent entities in the real world – as distinct from the mind of the analyst – may always be disputed. In the mid 1990s, Stephen Kotkin introduced a new approach to the subject when he focused on public discourse (not differentiated by class or group), implicitly treating popular opinion as a unitary thing.[25] From Kotkin’s perspective, the Soviet Union in the 1930s was full of people trying to “learn Bolshevik” together – that is, learn and simultaneously create the codes of “Stalinist civilization.” Stripped of class consciousness - or rather, stripping themselves of their former habits of thinking as peasants, Bashkirs, Old Believers, or inhabitants of the village of M in N province – Kotkin’s subjects, newly-arrived residents of the industrial city of Magnitogorsk, built from nothing in the middle of the steppe in the 1930s, were in the process of fashioning themselves as Soviet citizens. Though the rich empirical data came from Magnitogorsk, a place without tradition where everyone came from somewhere else, Kotkin‘s reading of “Stalinism as a civilization” (that is, as a cultural system) was clearly intended to apply Soviet society as a whole.

The template of “Stalinism as a civilization” has since been adapted by younger scholars such as Jochen Hellbeck and Igal Halfin to focus specifically on “Stalinist subjectivity,” which amounts to a Foucauldian version of Weltanschauung.[26] They understand ideology not as something imposed from above on a society but as something produced by the society; and what they are trying to show is how the process of production works in specific individuals (not groups). This means that first-person documents (diaries, memoirs, autobiographical statements of various kinds) are often the major source base: Hellbeck’s first work, for example, analyzed the diary of Stefan Podlubnyi, a kulak’s son living in Moscow in the 1930s and trying (as his diary describes) to squeeze the kulak elements from his soul and turn himself into a true Soviet person.[27] While post-revisionist scholarship uses different terminology, there is a sense in which it, too, addresses the revisionists’ “social support” issue, for those Soviet citizens who are earnestly thinking themselves into a positive relationship with “the Soviet project” (what an earlier generation of scholars would have called the Soviet regime and its goals) can surely be understood as providing support for the regime. The approach differs from the revisionists’, however, in the scope of its claims: on the one hand, smaller (focussing on the individual, not the group or class), on the other, more global (not limited to a particular group or class).

If the global claims may be doubted (“speaking Bolshevik” was probably not a major preoccupation on the kolkhoz or for the 57% of self-declared believers in the  population), they are very plausible for at least two overlapping groups of the population: urban youth and victims of social stigmatization. (Hellbeck’s Stepan Podlubnyi belonged to both of them.) Young people in towns provided much of the enthusiasm and adventurous spirit that (despite and along with terror) marked the 1930s. It was they who responded to calls to volunteer for various causes like collectivization and pioneering the Far East, and who, judging by memoir and other evidence, were inclined to think of the Soviet project as their own. Victims of stigmatization are, on the face of it, a much less likely group of Soviet supporters; indeed it is misleading to call them a group in this context, since any sense of commonality they may have possessed had to be suppressed in the service of becoming Soviet. Nevertheless, there is evidence that some of the most passionate, sometimes almost hysterical, support for the Soviet cause came from people whose families had been dekulakized or who had experienced other forms of discrimination. Such people were often young, embracing Soviet values even as they were renouncing or separated from their stigmatized parents. Golfo Alexopoulos’s study of petitions from disenfranchised persons shows how eloquently those who were victims of discrimination could write about their attachment to Soviet values. Of course, eloquence is no proof of sincerity, and the disenfranchised had good practical reasons for wanting to recover their civil rights. But we find a similar combination of identification with Soviet values and experience of class discrimination not only in contemporary sources like the Podlubnyi diary but also in interviews with elderly women conducted in the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union. It appears that in many individuals the experience of discrimination produced a particularly intense and anxious form of Soviet patriotism, expressive of a longing to belong to the community on the part of those knew what it meant to be outcast.[28]

Other lines of scholarly enquiry have illuminated particular branches and aspects of “popular opinion” in the Stalin period.  Literary scholarship has been transformed over the past twenty years by the acceptance of “Soviet literature” as an object of study and a new focus on “socialist realism” as something more than a means of political control of writers.[29] The new British-based field of Russian cultural studies rejects a simple “top-down” approach to Soviet culture and contests the assumption that dissident literary texts are the only ones that matter.[30] In the field of history of science (flourishing since 1991, largely through the contributions of a lively cohort of young Russian scholars), the old preoccupation with issues of autonomy and freedom of thought has given way to an almost ethnographic interest in the scientific world and the way it interacted with the political one. Instead of dealing with an alien “Soviet regime” as antagonists or outsiders, the scientists are assumed to be part of it.[31]Analyses like Jochen Hellbeck’s of the diary of the writer Alexander Afinogenov[32] have shown how passionately many intellectuals embraced the regime in the 1930s, and the same point is made with regard to Jewish intellectuals (a substantial presence in the Soviet Russian intelligentsia) in Yuri Slezkine’s work.[33] 

Scholars have become much more interested in ethnic and national questions since the collapse of the Soviet regime, and their researches have revealed a spectrum of attitudes among particular ethnic/national groups at different times. Some of this scholarship addresses the question about nationalities (meaning non-Russians) that was the focal point of nationalities scholarship during the Cold War, namely resistance to Moscow and attempts to evade its domination and protect the national tradition. But it has become increasingly clear to scholars that Soviet Moscow was in its own way a protector and even creator of nations.[34] Terry Martin has written about affirmative action policies on behalf of “backward” national minorities (the national counterpart to the class-based affirmative action mentioned above).[35] Yuri Slezkine has shown the importance of Jewish support for and identification with the Revolution and Soviet regime in the interwar period.[36]  David Brandenberger has investigated the policy shift of the mid 1930s toward increasing tolerance (encouragement) of Russian national sentiment, characterizing it as  “an ideological `big Deal’ of sorts,” meaning a regime concession to a popular demand made in implicit exchange for loyalty.[37]
Any summary of the major advances in our knowledge of popular opinion on the Stalin period over the past decade, and its changes over time, must be highly subjective. For me, the most striking single contribution has been Slezkine’s on Jewish support for the Soviet project – a topic that was previously more or less taboo for scholars because of Nazi propagandists’ obsession with “Jewish Bolshevism” in Germany – which shows the quasi-official anti-semitism of the late Stalin period to be a real breakpoint for Soviet Jews, especially Jewish intellectuals, not (as suggested by earlier scholarship) simply more of the same old history of persecution. Another significant advance has been the gradual dismantling of the (self-)image of the Soviet Russian intelligentsia as a group of heroic dissidents throughout the Stalin period and the concomitant recognition that the intelligentsia was in fact an elite and comparatively privileged group. As intelligentsia opinion comes to seem more positive, however, peasant opinion is increasingly confirmed as highly negative throughout the Stalin period, as well it might have been, given the circumstances of collectivization and the subsequent brutally high rate of agricultural procurements and taxation. Even the Second World War, in general clearly a rallying point for patriotic popular opinion,[38] left peasants largely unaffected – except perhaps for those who managed to use military service as a way of avoiding return to the kolkhoz.

The urban population seems in general to have been better disposed than the rural towards the Soviet regime, despite the abrupt fall in living standards at the end of the 1920s; and my reading of the attitudes expressed in Leningrad workers’ letters to authority in the 1930s is that a residual identification with the Revolution and Soviet regime remained, at least in the Leningrad working class.[39] But Sarah Davies is surely right in emphasizing the outrage of workers at the 1938 and 1940 labor laws, which may well have been a real turning-point in labor attitudes.[40] Certainly Filtzer’s study of labor in the postwar period suggests that very little worker identification with the regime survived, at least for the younger generation inducted into manual labor in the 1940s, among the depressed and often alienated blue-collar workers of the early 1950s.[41]

In a comparative perspective, the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union was surely much less popular among its own broad population than the Nazi one in Germany.[42] This may partly be because Nazi terror was much more predictable in its objects: if you did not fall into one of the stigmatized categories, you had no particular reason for fear. But I suspect that an even more important reason was that living standards improved under the Nazis, whereas under the Stalinist regime they dropped sharply at the end of the 1920s and did not recover until the 1950s. There was no attitudinal equivalent in the Nazi period to the solid alienation of Soviet peasants (still more than half the total population in the prewar period) as a result of the unpopular and in many ways disastrous experiment of collectivization. In assessing popular opinion, one also has to take account of the fact that those who found themselves outside the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War generally didn’t want to return, and that this seems to have applied across the board, regardless of class, nationality, or life experience in the Soviet Union.[43]

Concluding complications
The account of popular attitudes I have given so far assumes that, whatever the limitations of our knowledge in practice, the question of whether Soviet citizens supported or opposed the Soviet regime could in principle be answered. In other words, if we had total access to the relevant data, we could make definite identifications of individual attitudes, place them on a continuum from negative to positive, and on this basis make statements about the degree of satisfaction of the population as a whole and of its component parts (groups, classes).  But there are difficulties with this assumption that must be addressed.

The first question is whether, in substituting “popular opinion” for the term we would use discussing opinion in a Western society, namely “public opinion,” we have not carried out some sleight of hand to evade the problem that one cannot have public opinion without a public, that is, something capable of being a “carrier” of opinion.[44] 
According to most definitions, totalitarian societies do not have a public (or, to change the terminology, a civil society). When totalitarian regimes close down the cafes and coffee houses in which opinion is formed,[45] suppress voluntary organizations not directly controlled by the state, restrict professional autonomy, censor publication, and punish people for anti-regime talk, they eliminate civil society and public opinion (the argument goes), leaving only a artificial “popular opinion” that is a reflection of regime propaganda.

            Demonstrably, however, people in the Soviet Union had opinions that were not reflections of regime propaganda. These opinions, moreover, were not conceived and guarded in solitude. They were part of everyday sociability – exchanged with friends and strangers at work, in trains, at markets, in the kitchens of communal apartments and dormitories, or standing in queues. They even displayed another characteristic of a Habermasian public sphere, namely conscious separation from the sphere of the state.[46] The jokes that were ubiquitous in Soviet society expressed a collective subaltern mood or opinion, often framed for humorous effect as a dialectical inversion of a familiar official cliché, and were diligently gathered by the secret police for exactly this reason.[47] The police also monitored the venues of everyday sociability, using informers as, in effect, their poll-takers.  It seems, therefore, that our problem of slippage between “popular” and “public” opinion is not consequential after all: we have found a public, though not one of Western “bourgeois” type, and this public has its opinion, even if that opinion is elaborated and exchanged not in a coffeehouse but over a bottle of vodka split three ways between strangers in a stairwell.

The second problem is the assumption that individuals have a single, static opinion (or, in secret police’s terminology, “mood”) rather than a shifting range or repertoire of opinions (moods), some of them mutually contradictory. This would be a questionable assumption in any context, but particularly the Soviet one, in which many observers have identified  duality as a key component of  popular thinking. There are a number of different versions of the duality argument. One is the duality of present and future – the claim that the lineaments of the (better) future can be discerned through the (imperfect) present – which is central to socialist realism. Scholars are increasingly treating socialist realism not just as “official Soviet dogma” but as a popular habit of thought as well.[48] This means that a Soviet citizen thinking in this way might be perfectly aware of the imperfections of the present without questioning the premise that Soviet society was in the process of “building socialism”; in other words, his opinion about Soviet society might be negative (with regard to the present) and positive (with regard to the future) at the same time. Russian-speaking foreigners will recognize remnants of this way of thought surviving into in the late Soviet period in the popular habit of giving almost any question about Soviet society a double answer: first “in principle” and then ”in practice” (as in “V printsipe, this is where you buy tape-recorders; v praktike, none are on sale”).

Another kind of duality popular with Western scholars in the post-Stalin period, – as well as in dissident circles of the Soviet intelligentsia - was that between public and private utterance. In this framework, Soviet citizens were seen as invariably saying one thing in public and the other in private, the first opinion being positive about the Soviet regime, the second negative; and it was usually taken for granted that only the second opinion was sincere.[49] This has recently been disputed with regard to the late Soviet period by a young Russian-born anthropologist, Alexei Yurchak, who argues that the existence of an “official” Soviet language, whose use on public occasions was obligatory and which was widely mocked in private by the younger generation, did not mean that the mockers’ attitude to Soviet values was necessarily hostile or dismissive.[50] It has also been disputed for the Stalin period by Stephen Kotkin (who considers the question of “true” belief to be unknowable, but understands Soviet citizens to be involved in a collective project of mastering “Soviet” ways of thinking[51]) and historians of “Stalinist subjectivity” like Jochen Hellbeck. Yet, even accepting the validity of these arguments, we are still left with a consensus that Stalinist citizens knew two ways of thinking, only one of which was “Soviet.”[52]

Harvard project interviewers saw duality from yet another angle: they were interviewing a population of postwar refugees who, by definition, had rejected the Soviet Union but still praised many of its features. The leaders of the Harvard Project concluded that Soviet citizens generally liked the system, especially its welfare features but disliked “the regime,” that is, the men who ran it.[53] Why, liking the system, they still wouldn’t go back, was implicitly answered by the observation that they had a strong sense of the punitive aspects of the regime and would expect to be punished.[54] Two of the Project’s psychologists, Eugenia Hanfmann and Helen Beier, reflected further on this phenomenon in their in-depth analysis of six Russian refugees. Although the group  included three who had join[55]ed the Vlasov Army during the war to fight the Soviet Army under German protection, and might therefore be presumed to be particularly hostile to the Soviet regime, they found that all but one member reported past attachment to Soviet values and, even more surprisingly, none seemed strongly hostile to the Soviet Union, even when being interviewed as refugees by Americans in 1950 (that is, during the Cold War), and two were definitely sympathetic.[56]  To be sure, the refugees spoke of events in their Soviet pasts (arrests, purges, failure of Soviet authorities provide support in time of need) that had disillusioned them. But most responded as if their opinion of the Soviet Union, as well as their decisions to leave the country,  were largely the product of the circumstances of the moment, particularly the fact that, as former POWs in most cases, they were bound to be under constant suspicion if they went back. One interviewee seemed to speak for the majority of the group when he said that he “would not have hesitated to return to the Soviet Union if he could have been certain of his safety.”[57]  To their perplexed interviewers, it seemed that they were simultaneously pro- and anti-Soviet.

Whether one accepts any or all of these theories of the duality of Soviet opinion, it is reasonable to register a note of caution about any absolute statements we may be tempted to make about popular opinion in the Stalin period. Different opinions, which may seem mutually contradictory, can coexist over long periods in the one individual, let alone in a social group.[58] This is particularly true when a binary convention prevails (as it has done among Western Sovietologists, as well as in the Soviet secret police and probably the Soviet population as well) of treating opinion (mood) as a binary toggle switch which is either in the “anti-Soviet” or “pro-Soviet” position, but cannot be in between. If we substitute “generally tending toward” for any absolute statement about individual or group opinion, we will be on safer ground. But even that does not do justice to the peculiar ambiguities of popular opinion in the world’s “first socialist society” – or at least the first to have made negation a structuring principle of subaltern discourse and turned the Hegelian-Marxist dialectic into a popular art form.
Sheila Fitzpatrick is primarily a historian of modern Russia, especially the Stalin period, but has recently added a transnational dimension with her research on displaced persons (DPs) after the Second World War. She received a Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award in 2002 and the American Historical Association’s Award for Scholarly Distinction in 2012. She is past President of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (formerly AAASS) and a member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

[1]           This is a basic argument in Igal Halfin, From Darkness to Light. Class, Consciousness and Salvation in Revolutionary Russia (Pittsburgh, 2000), esp. 12-16.
[2]           Called “mood” (nastroenie) in Soviet bureaucratic language.
[3]           A rare exception was the 1938 survey of attitudes of young peasants, published in the 1970s along with a more recent survey as Sotsial’nyi oblik kolkhoznoi molodezhi po materialam sotsiologicheskikh obsledovanii 1938 i 1969 gg., (ed.) V. E. Poletaev et al.  (Moscow, 1976).
[4]           The two general volumes generated by the Harvard Interview Project were Raymond A. Bauer, Alex Inkeles, and Clyde Kluckhohn, How the Soviet System Works (Cambridge, Mass., 1956) and Alex Inkeles and Raymond Bauer, The Soviet Citizen. Daily Life in a Totalitarian Society (Cambridge, Mass., 1959).  Other specialized studies by Project members are listed as appendices in both general volumes.
[5]           Alex Inkeles, Public Opinion in Soviet Russia: A Study in Mass Persuasion  (Cambridge, Mass., 1950). Inkeles was aware of the phenomenon of citizens’ letters of complaint, (Alex Inkeles and Kent Geiger, 'Critical Letters to the Editors of the Soviet Press: Areas and Modes of Complaint,' American Sociological Review 17 (1952), and 'Critical Letters to the Editors of the Soviet Press: Social Characteristics and Interrelations of Critics and the Criticized,' ASR 18 (1953), as was Fainsod (Merle Fainsod, Smolensk under Soviet Rule  (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), ch. 2 ('The Right of Petition – Letters to the Press and Party Headquarters'), but neither scholar conceptualized them as having anything to do with popular opinion. .
[6]           See George Orwell’s distopian novel 1984 (London, 1950), which contains an appendix elaborating his idea of 'Newspeak', a revised version of the English language 'whose purpose was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc [English socialism], but to make all other modes of thought impossible.'
[7]           On workers’ support for the Bolsheviks in 1917, see Diane Koenker, Moscow Workers and the 1917 Revolution (Princeton, 1981) and S. A. Smith,  Red Petrograd: Revolution in the Factories, 1917-1918 (Cambridge, 1983). For a revisionist position on the early post-Soviet years, see William G. Rosenberg, 'Workers’ Control on the Railroads and Some Suggestions concerning Social Aspects of Labor Politics in the Russian Revolution', Journal of Modern History 49:2 (1977), 1181-1219, and idem., 'Russian Labor and Bolshevik Power after October', Slavic Review 44:2 (summer 1985), 213-38 and “Reply,” loc. cit., 251-56. The latter article was strongly criticized by Vladimir Brovkin, who argued that that workers were not eternally frozen into a posture of support for Soviet power, regardless of their attitudes in 1917  (Slavic Review 44:2, 244-50; see also his book The Mensheviks after October. Socialist Opposition and the rise of the Bolshevik Dictatorship (Ithaca, 1987)). There was comparatively little revisionist work on workers in the 1920s until William J. Chase, Workers, Society and the Soviet State. Labor and Life in Moscow 1918-1929 (Urbana and Chicago, 1987).  As for the Stalin period, the model for an approach emphasizing Bolshevik mistreatment of workers and betrayal of the promises of the 'proletarian revolution' was set by the Menshevik Solomon M. Schwarz in his Labor in the Soviet Union (New York, 1951) and confirmed with a more abundant research base by Donald Filtzer, Soviet Workers and Stalinist Industrialization (Armonk, NY., 1986).
[8]           Moshe Lewin, Russian Peasants and Soviet Power. A Study of Collectivization, trans. by Irene Nove (London, 1968), esp. 41-80. Teodor Shanin, The Awkward Class. Political Sociology of Peasantry in a Developing Society. Russia, 1910-1925 (Oxford, 1972).
[9]           Lewin, Russian Peasants, parts 2 and 3.
[10]         Lynne Viola, The Best Sons of the Fatherland. Workers in the Vanguard of Soviet Collectivization (New York and Oxford, 1987). As a belated postscript to the 1970s discussions of (absent) peasant support for collectivization, I wrote an article in the 1990s proposing that, while there were supporters of the Soviet regime in the villages in the 1920s - many of them young Red Army veterans from the Civil War - such people tended to leave the villages quickly once employment opportunities opened up in the towns (which happened on an unprecedented scale as a result of the industrialization drive, coincident in time with collectivization). The article has so far appeared only in Russian ('Vopros sotsial’noi podderzhki kollektivizatsii' [The question of social support for collectivization], in Otechestvennaia istoriia XX Veka, ekonomicheskaia, politicheskaia i sotsialnaia zhizn’. V pamiati V.Z. Drobizheva,  (ed.) Efim Pivovar (Moscow, 2004)), but should be published shortly in Russian History.
[11]          Sheila Fitzpatrick, Education and Social Mobility in the Soviet Union (Cambridge, 1979).
[12]          Sheila Fitzpatrick, (ed.), Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1928-1931 (Bloomington, 1978).
[13]          See Fitzpatrick, Education and Social Mobility and idem, 'Stalin and the Making of a New Elite' (1978), reprinted in Fitzpatrick, The Cultural Front. Power and Culture in Revolutionary Russia  (Ithaca, 1992).
[14]          For example, Loren Graham, a scholar sympathetic to revisionism when it emerged in the early 1970s, made the 'revisionist' point that the Soviet government was a big supporter of science, with a policy towards the Academy of Science that was 'not entirely one of coercion for the sake of political control', but still framed the early relationship of the Academy and the new regime in terms of the autonomy battle: see Loren R. Graham, The Soviet Academy of Sciences and the Communist Party 1927-1932 (Princeton, 1967),  esp. pp. viii,  200, 208-9.  Graham’s pupil Kendall Bailes, studying the engineering profession,  wrote cautiously of a 'fragile' working relationship between the technical intelligentsia and the regime, in which 'the forces of mutual attraction proved stronger than the forces of mutual repulsion.'  Noting that  'the technostructure … grew in size, status, and material privileges' and 'elements of [it].. had influence and some power',  he nevertheless shied away from any suggestion of partnership or overt recognition of what revisionists called 'social support' for the regime on the engineers’ part. See Kendall E. Bailes, Technology and Society under Lenin and Stalin. Origins of the Soviet Technical Intelligentsia, 1917-1941 (Princeton, 1978), esp. 410, 413, 422. 
[15]          Katerina Clark, The Soviet Novel. History as Ritual (Chicago, 1981).
[16]          On problems of the memoir in the Soviet period, see Hiroaki Kuromiya, 'Soviet Memoirs as a Historical Source', in A Researcher’s Guide to Sources on Soviet Social History in the 1930s, (ed.) Sheila Fitzpatrick and Lynne Viola (Armonk, NY: M.E.sharpe, 1990), 233-54.
[17]          The bulk of the svodki remain inaccessible in the still-closed KGB archives, but some rich deposits have been found, e.g. in the Leningrad party archive, and in Ukrainian archives.
[18]          For a typology of this source, see Fitzpatrick, 'Supplicants and Citizens' (1996), reprinted in Sheila Fitzpatrick, Tear off the Masks! Identity and Imposture in Twentieth-Century Russia (Princeton and Oxford, 2005), 155-81.
[19]          For peasants’ comments and calculations on this question., see Sheila Fitzpatrick, Stalin’s Peasants. Resistance and Survival in the Russian Village after Collectivization (New York, 1994),  204-6, 294-5,
[20]          For this criticism, see Jochen Hellbeck, 'Speaking Out: Languages of Affirmation and Dissent in Stalinist Russia', Kritika 1:1 (2000),  esp. 76-9.
[21]          Sarah Davies, Popular Opinion in Stalin’s Russia. Terror, Propaganda and Dissent, 1933-1941 (Cambridge, 1997). Svodki are also a  major source for Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (New York, 1999), whose chapter 7 ('Conversations and Listeners') surveys the main types of  newly-available 'popular opinion' data on the 1930s.
[22]          Based on a reading of draft chapters from Terry Martin’s book-in-progress, Policing Soviet Politics: an Informational Interpretation of Stalinism, 1921-1954.
[23]            James C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia (New Haven, 1976) and idem, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven, 1985).  Lynne Viola, Peasant Rebels under Stalin: Collectivization and the Culture of Peasant Resistance (New York, 1996) and idem, (ed.), Contending with Stalinism. Soviet Power and Popular Resistance in the 1930s (Ithaca, 2002); Fitzpatrick, Stalin’s Peasants; Jeffrey J. Rossman, Worker Resistance under Stalin: Class and Revolution on the Shop Floor (Cambridge, Mass., 2005). Resistance is also an important theme in Sarah Davies, Popular Opinion in Stalin’s Russia.
[24]          Sluzhashchie or state employees was a Soviet statistical category separate from the workers, despite the fact that a strict Marxist analysis should have treated them as a white-collar branch of the proletariat.
[25]          Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain. Stalinism as a Civilization (Berkeley, 1995).
[26]          The programmatic statement is I. Halfin and J. Hellbeck, 'Rethinking the Stalinist Subject: Stephen Kotkin’s “Magnetic Mountain” and the State of Soviet Historical Studies', Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 44 (1996).  Relevant works are Igal Halfin, Terror in my Soul: Communist Autobiographies on Trial (Cambridge, Mass., 2003) and Jochen Hellbeck, Revolution on My Mind. Writing a Diary under Stalin (Cambridge, Mass., 2006).. The Russian scholar Oleg Kharkhordin, also influenced by Foucault, is working separately on similar lines in his book The Collective and the Individual in Russia: A Study of Practices (Berkeley, 1999).
[27]          Hellbeck edited Podlubnyi’s diary for German publication as Tagebuch aus Moskau 1931-1939 (Munich, 1996) with a long introduction which is published separately as 'Fashioning the Stalinist Soul: The Diary of Stepan Podlubnyi, 1931-9', in Sheila Fitzpatrick, (ed.), Stalinism: New Directions (London, 2000),  77-116. Hellbeck’s recent book, Revolution on my Mind, offers a detailed analysis of four diaries, including Podlubnyi’s.
[28]          See Golfo Alexopoulos, Stalin’s Outcasts. Aliens, Citizens, and the Soviet State, 1926-1936 (Ithaca, 2003); Barbara A. Engel and Anastasia Posadskaya-Vanderbeck, A Revolution of Their Own. Voices of Women in Soviet History (Boulder, 1997);  Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism, ch. 6.
[29]          See, e.g., Thomas Lahusen, How Life Writes the Book. Real Socialism and Socialist Realism in Stalin’s Russia (Ithaca, 1997); Evgeny Dobrenko, The Making of the State Reader. Social and Aesthetic Contexts of the Reception of Soviet Literature (Stanford, 1997) and idem, The Making of the State Writer. Social and Aesthetic Origins of Soviet Literary Culture (Stanford, 2001)
[30]          Russian Cultural Studies. An Introduction, (ed.) Catriona Kelly and David Shepherd (Oxford, 1998),
[31]          See, e.g. Nikolai Krementsov, Stalinist Science (Princeton, 1997; Alexei Kojevnikov, 'Games of Stalinist Democracy: Ideological Discussions in Soviet Sciences 1947-52',  in Sheila Fitzpatrick, (ed.), Stalinism. New Directions (London, 2000), 142-75.
[32]          Hellbeck, Revolution on My Mind, 285-345.
[33]          Yuri Slezkine, The Jewish Century (Princeton and Oxford, 2004), esp. 222-42. After showing the size of that presence in various professions, Slezkine concludes that 'there is no doubt that the Jews had a much high proportion of elite members than any other ethnic group in the USSR. In absolute terms, they were second to the Russians, but if one divides the elite into groups whose members came from the same region, shared a similar social and cultural background, and recognized each other as having a common past and related parents, it seems certain that Jews would have constituted the largest single component of the new Soviet elite, especially (or rather, most visibly, its cultural contingent)…' (236).
[34]          For this argument, see Yuri Slezkine, 'The Soviet Union as a Communal Apartment, or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism' in Fitzpatrick, (ed.), Stalinism, and Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1929-1939 (Ithaca, 2001).
[35]          Martin, Affirmative Action Empire, esp. 17-18 and 125-81.
[36]          Slezkine, Jewish Century, esp.  216-54.
[37]          David Brandenberger, 'Soviet Social Mentalité and Russocentrism on the Eve of War, 1936-1941', Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 48:3 (2000), 406. His book National Bolshevism. Stalinist Mass Culture and the formation of Modern Russian National Identity, 1931-1956 (Cambridge, Mass., 2002) also deals with the issue of Russian nationalism, but more in a context of mobilization (i.e. top down) than of popular sentiment (bottom up).
[38]          See Amir Weiner, Making Sense of War. The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution (Princeton, 2001).
[39]          This is my interpretation of the letters’ frequent complaints about elite privilege, which appear to me to be asserting a special relationship to the revolution, hence a special claim on the regime’s attention, as well as invoking the spectre of betrayal and deception. Davies, however, focuses only on the theme of betrayal and deception (Popular Opinion,  43-48 and 133-38)
[40]          Davies, Popular Opinion,  43-48.
[41]          Donald Filtzer, Soviet Workers and Late Stalinism. Labour and the Restoration of the Stalinist System after World War II (Cambridge, 2002).
[42]         Alf Lüdtke and I have written a joint essay on the Nazi-Soviet everyday comparison , 'Energizing the Everyday: On the Breaking and Making of Social Bonds in Nazism and Stalinism', which explores these themes. See Beyond Totalitarianism: Nazism and Stalinism Compared, (eds.) Sheila Fitzpatrick and Michael Geyer (Cambridge, 2009).
[43]          The ambiguities of refugees’ attitudes to the Soviet Union discovered by the postwar Harvard Interview Project are discussed below,  13-14.
[44]          Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. an Enquiry into a Category of Bourgeois society, trans. T. Burger and F. Lawrence (Cambridge, Mass., 1989), 2.
[45]          This actually happened in the Soviet Union at the end of the 1920s, though as a probably unintentional by-product of the abolition of urban private enterprise.
[46]          See Sarah Davies, '”Us”’ against “Them”: Social Identity in Soviet Russia, 1934-41', in Fitzpatrick, (ed.), Stalinism,  47-70.
[47]          On Soviet jokes, see W. Chamberlain, 'The “Anecdote”: Unrationed Soviet Humour,' Russian Review 16/3 (1957), 27-37, and Robert Thurston, 'Social Dimensions of Stalinist Rule: Humor and Terror in the USSR, 1935-1941,' The Journal of Social History 24:3 (1991),  541-62. for a comparative dimension, see F.K.M.Hillenbrand, Underground Humour in Nazi Germany, 1933-1945 (London, 1995).
[48]          See, for example, the special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly 94:3 (1995) (ed.) Thomas Lahusen and Evgeny Dobrenko: 'Socialist Realism Without  Shores' and Sheila Fitzpatrick, 'Becoming Cultured: Socialist Realism and the Representation of Privilege and Taste', in Fitzpatrick, The Cultural Front. Power and Culture in Revolutionary Russia (Ithaca, 1994), 238-56 Another duality from the sphere of cultural studies is Vladimir Paperny’s 'Kul’turna 1 /Kul’tura 2' in his book Kul’tura dva (Moscow, 1996), translated by John Hill and Roann Barris as Architecture in the Age of Stalin. Culture Two (Cambridge, 2002).
[49]          A pioneering study by an émigré sociologist was Vladimir Shlapentokh’s Public and Private Life of the Soviet People: Changing Values in Post-Stalin Russia (New York, 1989).
[50]          Alexei Yurchak, Everything was Forever, Until it Was No More. The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton, 2006). For his critique of western assumptions about 'binary socialism', see  4-8.
[51]          Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain, esp. 228-29.
[52]          This image is reinforced by memoirs like those of  Lev Kopelev, The Education of a True Believer, trans. Gary Kern (New York, 1980);  Raisa Orlova, Memoirs, trans. Samuel Cioran (New York, 1983). The drama of these autobiographies lies largely in the coexistence of these two opinions and the trauma of the switch between them. This is a one-time event in the memoirs, but there is no reason to exclude the possibility that many Soviet citizens who never made a permanent dissident choice were capable of switching back and forth according to their immediate circumstances and company.
[53]          Bauer et al., How the Soviet System Works,  133-37.
[54]          Ibid., 116: 'The mass of the Soviet population appears to suffer rather uniformly from the fear of punitive action by the regime…'

[56]            Eugenia Hanfmann and Helen Beier, Six Russian Men – Lives in Turmoil (North Quincy, Mass., 1976). The lone interviewee who expressed  no past attachment was Nikolai, a deserter from the Soviet occupation army in Germany in 1948, who also, however, expressed no strong anti-Soviet feelings.
[57]          Alexei, the most homesick and pro-Soviet of the respondents, 'would not have hesitated to return to the Soviet Union if he could have been certain of his safety' (Hanfmann and Beier, Six Russian Men, 63).
[58]          In Kotkin’s useful formulation (Magnetic Mountain,  228) 'elements of “belief” and “disbelief” appear to have coexisted within everyone… Even in the case of the category of “true believers” it is necessary to think in terms of a shifting compromise, of rigidity and the search for slack, of daily negotiation and compromise within certain well-defined but not inviolate limits…'

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