In the book, 1989, Mary Elise Sarotte used her book to look at the final days of the Soviet Union and the events that helped cause the collapse of the Soviet Union.  She argued that the events in China did not “transfer to Europe”, the easing of tensions by the Americans first and then the Soviets, the East Germans demanding a change in “the status quo”, “self confidence increase”, and “television transforms reality at a crucial moment.” ((Mary Elise Sarotte. 1989: The Struggle To Create Post-Cold War Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. 16.))

One of the more crucial points and one of the more striking things to me, that Mary Sarotte made was the impact the media, particularly television, had on the end of the Soviet Union.  During this section, using the example of the Berlin Wall, she wrote how the media scrambled to get to the wall to capture images of East and West Berliners tearing down the wall.   She discussed how the media not only observed the events but they had also publicized and personalized the events going on.  In particular, she noted two people in East Berlin, “reporter Georg Mascolo and his cameraman Rainer Marz of Spiegel-Tv” who not only took pictures but also filmed the events going on in the East. ((Mary Elise Sarotte. 1989: The Struggle To Create Post-Cold War Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. 43.)) During and after the events of the Berlin Wall, photos and footage of the events showed up in Western Media as well as in Eastern German media.  This was significant to the downfall of the Soviet Union because it not only showed the west how ugly events were getting, but it also spurred on more Eastern Germans to take part in separating themselves from the Soviet Union.

Women and abortion in Soviet Society

In the article “Revolution and the Family”, Wendy Goldman discussed the ideas of abortion and women in the Soviet Union.  She discussed how women in the Soviet Union, believed and even acted on using abortion in their lives.  She argued that abortion was used more often with women who were in comfortable positions, such as being married, than women who were unmarried, jobless, or young.  To prove her argument, she looked at influences in Soviet society that helped women in stable conditions make such decisions.

So why did Soviet women, the married and stable ones, decide to use abortion?  Wendy Goldman noted that the use of abortion was evident from the mid 1920s until the prohibition of abortion in 1936.  During this time, Goldman noted that abortion was a result of two important aspects.  First, she noted that during the 1920s, there had been the problem of overcrowding of children in Soviet homes.((Wendy Goldman, “Revolution and the Family” in The Stalin Revolution: Foundations of the Totalitarian Era. 4th edition. Edited by Robert V Daniels.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994. 163))  This can be contributed to two factors.  First, the devastating effects of World War I and the Russian Civil War left many children parentless, thus creating influxes of adopted children throughout homes.  Second, Goldman pointed to the idea of Stalins policies that everyone works, both men and women.  Thus, opportunities in the workforce and the military opened up for women, allowing them to leave the home.  Wendy Goldman noted that the number of women entering the workforce between 1930 and 1931 “in heavy industry leaped suddenly from 22 percent to 42 percent.” (((Wendy Goldman, “Revolution and the Family” in The Stalin Revolution: Foundations of the Totalitarian Era. 4th edition. Edited by Robert V Daniels.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994. 164)) As a result of the rapid jump in the number of women entering the workforce, women who were in stable conditions tended to abort their children because because of the strain pregnancy and taking care of children were on the women.

Considering Wendy Goldmans piece on abortion, do you think that this was true among all ethnic groups?  Or do you think it was only true among ethnic Russians?

Sputnik Generation

In his two articles, Donald Raleigh interviewed two people, Natalia P and Victorovich Ivanov, who were from the city of Sarastov, in the Oblast region of Russia.  Both of whom grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, recalled memories of their childhood, families, events, and learning experiences during the early years of their lives.  Natalia’s interview was particularly striking to me.

One of the more striking points that Natalia P. made in her interview involved her discussion of her father.  Growing up in the mid fifties, she discussed the experience she had with her family.  She mentioned that despite some of the needs of the family, her father, as a university professor, did not care for the things he spent his money on. Although he spent his money on educating her, Natalia stated that despite the ties his father had with other prominent people and the fact that he could get certain things from those people, he “never regretted spending money on such things, on books, on education, on tutors, on music, on English lessons….yet nothing that was connected with living conditions interested him.” ((Donald Raleigh, “Russia’s Sputnik Generation: Soviet Baby Boomers talk about their lives” Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 103))  Although she did not talk about this, this belief  might suggest to the fact that her father was influenced by Stalins time in power.  During the Stalin era, people had to deal with having very little, particularly during the famines.  In addition, if you had too much stuff, you could have been accused of being a Kulak and be sent off to a Gulag for that.  For Natalia, it could be that her father was very much influenced by the painful time period that he grew up in.   One of the most important aspects that Natalia mentioned was that despite the lack of materials regarding living conditions, she was still provided education materials.  During Stalins time and throughout the 1950s, the state had recognized that the children were the future of the party.  In order to have them become good Soviet citizens,  the children had to be given a proper education so that they could push the state forward. As a result of Natalias mothers and fathers likely experience under Stalin, Natalia was given the same kind of upbringing by stating that their upbringing was passed down to her. ((Donald Raleigh, “Russia’s Sputnik Generation: Soviet Baby Boomers talk about their lives” Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 90)) This seems to suggest that although the Stalin era had ended, the memory and scaring of it for some Soviet citizens may very well have lasted well into the 1950s.

Do you think it was common to see people upbringing their children the same way Natalias father did?  If so, did the state try to make the rules clearer for its populous so that they could overcome the hard times of the Stalin era?


Professor Qualls’s article, “Who Makes Local Memories?  The case of Sevastopol after World War II” discussed who created memories of Sevastopol and how they were created after World War II. In his piece, Professor Qualls argued that despite central authorities attempts to paint Serastopals history in a certain way, it was the “municipal and naval officers” who chose to write the history of Serastopal in a “deeper Russian Historical” way, thus creating a “localized mythology.”  ((Professor Karl Qualls, “Who Makes Local Memories?: The Case of Sevastopol after World War II”  Carlisle: Dickinson College Faculty Publications, Paper 1, 2011. 3))  Citing important authors such as David Brandenberger, Karen Petrone, and Matthew P. Gallagher, Professor Qualls used his argument to show how local communities within the Soviet Union created their own mythical like images to advertise their cities.

One of the most interesting points that Professor Qualls brings up was his connection of the myths used with Sevastopal following World War II with the use of heroism in Soviet Propaganda during the 1930s.  He noted that “the military and local officials took the lead in crafting a myth of Soviet Sevastopol and its citizens as an extension of the great Russian defenders of the Motherland who sacrificed everything for a greater good.”  (Professor Karl Qualls, “Who Makes Local Memories?: The Case of Sevastopol after World War II”  Carlisle: Dickinson College Faculty Publications, Paper 1, 2011, 12)) Qualls noted here how the leaders Sevastopol took the methods of heroism in 1930s. He explained how the myths that were created had a heroism type feel to it so that the memory of Sevastopol would stand out.  I found Professor Qualls to be very effective in using 1930s Propaganda and its use of Heroism to discuss the memory of Sevastopol.  His comparison of two different periods split by World War II and his use of a variety of different scholars, showed how he was effective in writing about the memory of Sevastopol.


Stalin’s Speech

In his 1946 speech, Joseph Stalin reflected on the events that occurred in Europe the last few years by ripping into the Capitalist system, praising the strength of the Soviet People, and discussing the positives of the war on the Soviet Union.  Of the items that Stalin covered in his speech, his praising of the Soviet people stood out to me the most.

During his discussion of the second World War, he noted that the war “was the fiercest and most arduous ever fought in the history of our Motherland.” (Stalin Speech: http://www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/SS46.html))  Highlighting the fact that the Soviet state had endured so much death and destruction from the invasion of the Nazis, Stalin recognized the fact that the Soviet Union had survived because of the determination of its people.  If we place his praising of the Soviet people into context of the late 1930s and early 1940s, one could theorize that the people either had no choice to Serve in the Red Army as a result of the fear of being purged or secondly to protect their families from Nazi occupation.  It strikes me as interesting that Stalin would praise his own people considering the policies he had launched during the 1930s.

Another significant part of his praising was of the Red Army.  He stated that “our victory signifies that the Soviet Armed Forces, our Red Army, was victorious, that the Red Army heroically withstood all the hardships of the war, utterly routed the armies of our enemies, and emerged from the war the victor.” ((Stalin Speech: http://www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/SS46.html))  Stalin used this statement within his speech to not only compliment the bravery of the Red Army, but he also used his speech to hide the blunders that he had made with the purging of his military leaders and the lack of militarization during the 1930s.   When the Germans had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 the Red Army had lacked any leadership as a result of these purges and had lacked military preparation.   As a result, Stalin had to rely on help from western powers to defeat the Nazis.

Although some could argue that the Soviet Union and its system could not have won the war without help from western powers, it can also be argued that if Stalin had not purged his military leaders, had he prepared for the Nazis much sooner than he did, the Soviet Union would have held its own against the Nazis, perhaps winning the war on its own.


The Soviet film, Circus, made in 1936, was about an American Circus artist who was performing in the Soviet Union.  She had left the United States in favor of the Soviet Union because of the racial intolerance towards her and her black son.   The aim of the film, Circus, was to demonize the west, particularly the United States and Nazi Germany, for their inequality and racism.

One of the most vivid scenes came at the end of film when a man looking like Hitler stopped the Circus and attempted to demonize the American circus artist for giving birth to a black child.  He stated that it was “a racial crime! She should be banished from civilized society!” ((Film: Circus)) This part demonized Nazi Germany because it showed how Hitler and Nazi Germany did not tolerate variations from what they wanted in a pure ‘Arian’ race.  The line struck me in that it sounded a lot like Hitlers views toward the Jews.  During the 1930s, Hitler and the Nazis goals were to banish the Jews from Germany.  By the end of World War II, they were exterminating them.  At the same time Nazi Germany was being demonized, the United States and its capitalist system was also demonized for its racism and inequality.  During the first half of the 20th century, racism in the United States had been wide spread.  Black people in particular, were demonized for being different.  As a result, they were segregated for being different.  In the Soviet Union, these differences and intolerances were not supposed to exist.  During the last scene of the film, the black child was taken away from the man looking like Hitler by the crowd.  The crowd then took in this child as someone who was no different than them.  They celebrated the fact that he was someone who could become a great Soviet worker.  They did not care whether he was white or black.  The child, according to the Soviet Union, could experience all the benefits of working in a classless society.

On a different note, what do you think the idea of a circus represents in the Soviet Union?  Does it try to emphasis the importance of a Soviet worker being fit for work?  Or does the circus represent something vastly different?


The book, WE, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, was about a Mathmatician who fell in love with a Women in a state which had no freedoms and life was bounded by working for the collective.  In the book, people wore the same clothes, marched the same way, given similar names(D-503) and were expected to work at maximum strength.

This book struck me in several ways. The setting struck me in that it reminded me of the early years of the Soviet Union where the state had promoted the goal of working for a common goal: a state rid of exploitation and class division. This state promoted a sense of sameness where no one would deviate away from the collective.  Anyone who would did deviate from these ideals would be seen as an enemy of the state.  In the book, We, D-503 meets a woman named I-330, who doesn’t believe in the rules of the system.  In Record Six, she stated that “to be original means to somehow stand out from others.  Consequently, being original is to violate equality…” ((Yevgeny Zamyatin. We. Translated by Natasha Randall. New York: Modern Library, 2006, 27))  This struck me because in the Soviet Union, everyone worked for the collective.  Everyone worked hard to accomplish goals as one.  No one was able to create or accomplish things no their own.  As I-330 puts it, the very fabric of originality would violate the very ideals of equality both in the book and in the Soviet Union.

In a way, this book paints a picture of how life in the Soviet Union following the Revolutions of 1917 and the Civil War were supposed to be.  The Communist party strove for a society  where individuals like I-330 were harmful to society and the people would work collectively to help push the state forward.



Nicholas II and Abdication

Change!  In the statements made on March 15, 1917, Nicholas II realized that the pressures from the people of Russia had reached a boiling point.  He felt that he had one option, to abdicate the thrown and leave it to his brother.  He stated “We have recognized that it is for the good of the country that we should abdicate the Crown of the Russian State and lay down the Supreme Power.  Not wishing to separate ourselves from our beloved son, we bequeath our heritage to our brother, the Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich…” ((Nicholas II abdication speech, March 15, 1917)).  Nicholas II’s statement about abdicating the thrown were important for several reasons.  First, he recognized the fact that people knew he could not keep the Russian state floating.  Years before his abdication, he had lead Russia into one debacle after another.  Internationally, he had Russia’s backwardness exposed when Russia was humiliated in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905.  Years later, Russia was exposed again with culminating defeats in World War I.  Domestically, he failed to solve the food shortages and failed to respond to calls for reforms from the Russian people.  Second, he placed more emphasis on the Russian state keeping a Tsardom than listening to the demands of the Russian people.   Nicholas II believed that the only change the Russian state needed to make was to have a different leader in charge.  However, the decision to transfer power to his brother only added fuel to the coming revolution, along with his past history of refusing to make reforms for the benefit of the Russian people.  Had he really cared about the Russian people, he would have created reforms which would have allowed for the people to have a say in decision making.  Do you think there was a point of no return for Nicholas II?  And if so, when did he cross that point in which he, and the idea of Tsardom were doomed?  Or was Nicholas II doomed as a result of previous Tsars?


Violence in Warfare.  Mark Edele and Michael Geyers chapter focused on the type of warfare that occurred on the Eastern front in World War II.  They discussed how both of these sides introduced a type of warfare that did not involve “virtue and honor” but rather it involved such ideas as radicalization and barbarization. ((Edele, Mark and Michael Geyer. “States of Exception” in Beyond Totalitarianism. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2009.  345))   These two authors look at how this front evolved from a simple war into an all out struggle for domination.

Radicalization and Barbarization are two terms that really struck me in this chapter.  Radicalization, to these authors meant that the two countries amped up the war by getting either the government or the people more involved in the conflict.  For the Nazis, it was promote the fundamental idea that the opposing side presented a threat to their country and had to be stopped through warfare.   For the Soviet Union, it was to mobilize its population to oppose the threat presented by the Nazis.  This radicalization, as stated by the two authors was the escalation of the war through “hate propaganda, word of mouth, and experience.” ((Edele, Mark and Michael Geyer. “States of Exception” in Beyond Totalitarianism. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2009.  350)) The state would use tools to mobilize its own population to fight more aggressively against the other side.  The authors would argue that as a result of these tools used on the population, the radicalization, or amping up of war would result in Barbarization.   Edele and Geyer believed that Barbarization meant that the opposing side had to be destroyed completely.  In other words, “each side fights until one side is utterly and completely subjugated, incapable of renewing itself on its own devices.”  ((Edele, Mark and Michael Geyer. “States of Exception” in Beyond Totalitarianism. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2009.  350))

The fundamental ideas of radicalization and barbarization to describe the Eastern front made sense to me because of how the Nazis and Hitler had justified invading the Soviet Union and likewise with the Soviet Union mobilizing to defend the homeland.   In the nature of warfare, if one side escalates a conflict, the other side would be in its nature to respond to that escalation.   In the Nazis and Soviet cases, each side believed that they were fighting for something, which in turn would have created more motivation .  For the Nazis, they felt that the Soviet Union was valuable and easily conquerable. They wanted “control of the Russian space and its resources” which they felt would have  “made Germany invulnerable.” ((Edele, Mark and Michael Geyer. “States of Exception” in Beyond Totalitarianism. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2009. 352))  For Germany, this was the radicalization of the war.  On the Soviet side, the radicalization of the war was to defend their homeland from a threat who wanted to stop at nothing to crush the socialist society and capture their resources.   In a sense, the radicalization of two polarizing countries led to a barbarization of a war, a war in which two countries used all means necessary to try and conquer the other.

Do you agree with the authors use of Radicalization and Barbarization?  Do you think there is a relationship between the two based off the interpretations of the authors?  Finally, although I am no fan of the term “inevitability”, do you think the scale of violence used on the eastern front was inevitable considering the polarizing differences between the two sides?

A Time of Troubles

Surveillance and Terror.  These two terms were used in Sheila Fitzpatricks chapter, A Time of Troubles, as a way of discussing the Great Purges of 1937 and 1938.   In this Chapter, Fitzpatrick explored the many ways the Great Terror took hold of the Soviet State and how it spread throughout the state.

The one part of Sheila Fitzpatrick chapter that really stood out to me was her section on how the Great Terror Spread.  Fitzpatrick noted that there were several ways that the Great Purge spread.  The first was through the “NKDVs practice of interrogation, in which arrested ‘enemies of the people’ would be forced to write confessions naming their conspiratorial associates.”  ((Fitzpatrick, Sheila. “Surveillance and Terror” in Everyday Stalinism; Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, 205-206.))  If people found themselves in hot water, whether it was true or not, were forced to write down names of who helped them commit crimes, even if their ‘associates’ actually existed or not.  This seemed really interesting to me because it seemed like the state was just as interested in weeding out potential enemies than actual enemies.   The states main weapon, in the case of spreading the terror and finding enemies, was the use of fear.  The fear of violence, the fear of being sent to Gulags greatly impacted peoples decisions to write down names or tell the state who is an enemy.  People were afraid that if they didn’t cough up names, they themselves could have ended up in the Gulag and possibly end up dead.

Within Fitzpatricks section of how the Great Purge spread, the example of how children were used in the process of finding enemies was really interesting.  She stated that children thought “catching spies seemed like Great Sport.”  ((Fitzpatrick, Sheila. “Surveillance and Terror” in Everyday Stalinism; Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, 207.))  She used an example of a girl named Lena who was on a bus coming back from camp and overheard a man speak in German about “rails” and “Signal”. ((Fitzpatrick, Sheila. “Surveillance and Terror” in Everyday Stalinism; Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, 207.))   This example that Fitzpatrick used was really fascinating to me, but it was also a reminder that children in the Soviet Union were a key component of the states future in the eyes of the party.  As Fitzpatrick noted with this example, the minds and behaviors of children were incredibly important and helpful to the state.  Not only could the state change their minds through indoctrination, but they could also use these children as spies within homes, within camps, and within schools to rat out enemies of the state.  What really intrigues me is why children saw this as a sport?  What kind of images or stories would the state use on children to help them see a connection between ‘sport’ and ‘catching spies?’  If there were any rare cases of intelligent children who could see beyond this propaganda game that the State was playing on the children, what do you think might have happened to them?