The Beginning of a Tsar-less Russia

Following the abdication of Nicholas II and Grand Duke Michael turning down the crown which his brother left him, the Duma found themselves with much more power than ever before. With this newfound power the Duma published its goals in Isvestia, a Soviet newspaper at the time, to make clear the plans they had for Russia under the new First Provisional Government.

It first set out to appease the masses by listing off members of its ministers. In doing so they hoped to show that they had trustworthy men leading the country who would not continue down the path that Tsar Nicholas II created. The First Provisional Government then goes on to list what it actually hopes to accomplish with the power they have. A list is formed which includes new socialist ideas such as freedom of speech, the ability to unionize, elimination of the hierarchy that has restricted the rights of peasants, suffrage, and a more unified government police which is held accountable by elections. Besides adopting all of these ideas socialist ideas, there are also goals on the list that show the First Provisional Government’s desire to wipe the slate clean for past political revolutionaries. Its first initiative is immediate amnesty to all people who are involved in various forms of revolution, including violent acts. They want a unified and progressive Russia. Ultimately, the First Provisional Government acts as the first step to the Russia that becomes run completely by the Soviets.


Sputnik Generation and Gender Roles Regarding Interviews

The interviews of Natalia and Gennadii were similar in the way the interviewer approached each question, however also extremely different in terms of the answers provided by both interviewees.  Natalia and Gennadii, though they had different upbringings, were both citizens of the Soviet Union with relatively similar class status in a classless state.

Both Natalia and Gennadii recognized the type of family or social class that was drawn to their town and School No. 42.  Natalia stated that many of the school children had parents who were “of the party or a party official” and the questions asked of her seemed to be much more social and cultural related.  Gennadii’s interview on the other hand seemed extremely political, focusing mainly on questions such as “Can you tell me what you thought of Lenin and Stalin?” or his experience with and opinion on Afghanistan.

I can’t tell if Gennadii’s interview was so different from Natalia’s solely because of gender, however that is what it felt like.  Gennadii’s answers were relatively short compared to Natalia’s. He was also extremely careful with what he said concerning politics, for instance when asked about his views on Lenin he said: “You know, regarding Lenin, I probably can’t say.”  This could have either legitimately been a lack of conviction or it was retreat from a question that seemed too nosey.

These two chapters left me with a few questions regarding how journalists or novelists approached people from the Soviet Union and how they responded.  Did Soviet’s see these interviews as “digging” for information and took offense?  Was it simply the people interviewed for these chapters which made it seem restrictive? Would interviewers purposely take to males for political questions and leave cultural and social issues more to the females?

Prevention of Genocide and Surviving Auschwitz

The United Nations is a organization of worldly governments established to promote co-operation amongst various groups. Created in 1945, following the Second World War, its main purpose was to prevent another one from happening. On December 9, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The various articles in the document serve to established guidelines for governments to follow, ensuring that these mass destructions won’t happen, or are stopped in the right amount of time. The language presented in the document surround strict rules, for a person or persons that disobey the agreed upon guidelines. The documents audience directed and applicable to the general public, with intent to provide information to the public surrounding issues of potential genocide. The general message serves to inform the public with guidelines to how situations of genocide can be handled and prevented.

The second reading Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi, discusses his survival of eleven months in confinement and horrible conditions in Auschwitz. As a twenty-four year old, anti-fascist, Italian Jew, Levi was always willing to put up a fight either with Resistance movements or with opinion, but when in Auschwitz his opinion was silenced. “I give up asking questions and soon slip into a bitter and tense sleep. But it is not rest: I feel myself threatened, besieged, at every moment I am ready to draw myself into a spasm of defence” (38). To some extent Levi presents conditions in Auschwitz as an “every man for himself ordeal”, as “there is a vast category of prisoners, not initially favoured by fate, who fight merely with their own strength to survive” (92). With skilled tactics, Levi and others were able so survive the unpleasant and horrible conditions using skill, smuggling tactics, and good fortune; ultimately and having a bright mindset and willingness to survive and be free.

Discussion Question:

Article 7: “Genocide and the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall not be considered as political crimes for the purpose of extradition.” What if genocide is committed towards a specific political ideology or political party? In relation to Auschwitz, people were transported by the truckload from various parts, how does this specific article compare to the situation?

The French Revolution and its Impacts

Throughout class this week, we have looked the French Revolution and how the revolution shaped French culture and politics.  Yet before looking at how the revolution shaped this new France, one must understand the reasons why people started to believe in the revolution in the first place.  One of these reasons was Maximilien Robespierre, author of The Cult of the Supreme Being.  In this piece, Robespierre justifies the revolution for he claims that the Supreme Being “did not create kings to devour the human race” (Robespierre 1), which was what the Crown was doing to the native French people.  Furthermore, Robespierre claims, “O generous People, would you triumph over all your enemies? Practice justice, and render the Divinity the only worship worthy of Him,” (Robespierre 1) and “Frenchmen, you war against kings; you are therefore worthy to honor Divinity,” (Robespierre 1).  Here, Robespierre is trying to fire up the native peoples and explain to them that the Supreme Being would want them to overthrow the King, for if they did they would be found “worthy to honor divinity.”  Lastly, Robespierre does a tremendous job because he is purposefully ambiguous by never mentioning God; for he appeals to both believers (for they think the Supreme being is God) and atheists (for he claims that all people are meant to help one another).  By appealing to both believers and non-believers, Robespierre is able to unite the people of France through his work, firing everyone up about fighting back against the Crown.

Once the revolution was under way, the French experienced many changes involving their culture and politics.  In order to change their culture, frenchmen and women deemed it necessary to eliminate their past and start over.  In order to eliminate their past, one can argue that they took extreme measures.  For instance, children would not be named Louis, Henry or Francis, for those represented old France and the evil rule known as the Crown (this can be seen as both cultural and political change).  Continuing this pattern, the French eliminated bishops, kings and queens as chess pieces and playing cards; for it brought them back to the Crown and their rule.  Furthermore, the French changed their salutations all together and vowed to never say the words, “obedient and humble servant,” for the believed that they were not subject to the King and his rule anymore.  While these actions may be considered somewhat radical of the French, it was deemed necessary for the fact that they have lived under the Crown for so long and this was a way in which they could start over, forgetting about their troubled past with the Crown.

By What Modes? Politicism Under Stalin and Hitler

In traditional examinations of the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin, the singular point of focus is the complete domination that the two leaders exerted over their people. However, one particular that is often left out of the comparison is how the regimes functioned in conjunction with the respective parties of the two states. Similar arguments are found in Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals – a comparison of Roosevelt, Hitler, and Mussolini’s state-building practices – and Yoran Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen’s article “The Political (Dis)Orders of Stalinism and National Socialism”, an in-depth look at the striking differences between the Nazis and the Soviets. In both pieces is made the argument that Hitler used his image and position as Führer to propel his policies forward, though Gorlizki and Mommson go even further, arguing that while Nazi control was exerted legally through the state, Soviet power built itself from the bottom up by means of a party bent on “wholesale restructuring of domestic state and society”. ((Gorlizki, Yoram and Hans Mommsen. “The Political (Dis)Orders of Stalinism and National Socialism.” In Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared, edited by Michael Geyer and Sheila Fitzpatrick, 41-86. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. p. 44))

In Stalinist Russia, the Soviet party dominated policies of the state. Through bureaucratic reformation and extremely tailored individual appointments, Stalin was able to unify the purposes of his party with the ideology it was founded on in order to create a totalitarian state. By 1930, he was confident enough to publicly imply that certain governmental positions existed only to perpetuate the aims of the party. ((Ibid., 51.)) Gorlizki and Mommsen explain that this dynamic developed in such a manner due to the revolutionary climate at the time of the Soviet rise to power; as such, the party ideology came first, and by Stalin’s skillfull administrative practices, the government was reformatted around it. ((Ibid., 64.))

The Nazis, however, came into power under very different circumstances. There existed already a well-established and firmly authoritative government in 1933 when the party took over; it was simply a means of maneuvering legally in order to secure the power to facilitate party operations. This process reached a peak with the death of President von Hindenburg; Hitler assumed the position of Head of State, thus “constitutionally [reinforcing]” his power and policies. ((Ibid., 55.)) However, Hitler had not the bureaucratic finesse of Stalin, and as such most of his power came directly from his own image. Presenting himself as the “incarnated soul of the people”, Hitler moved his people to action not through the subjugation of politics to ideology but by imposing his persona on every man, woman, and child in Germany. ((Shivelbusch, Wolfgang. Three New Deals. New York: Picador, 2006, p. 52.)) For the Nazis, there was no reconstruction of social order, because a social order already existed; there was simply a mass movement spurred by a charismatic figure and a politically secure ruling party.

NOW Statement of Purpose

Three major points:

– This organization, made up of both men and women, want to create a society that holds women in the same regards as men. They want to bring women into “mainstream America” and allow them to have the same privileges and responsibilities that men enjoy. This will all be done in order to ensure that women are able to have truly equal partnership with men.

– This group’s logic is being uncovered as technology “has reduced most of the productive chores that women once performed.” Therefore, women are not needed as much in the home and can expand their responsibilities to the workplace. They are now able to use their intelligence and ingenuity to help out the workforce instead of it being “wasted” in daily household chores.

– This group wants women to take a stand for themselves on a much more basic level. They want them to reject the long-standing idea that women are inferior to men while demanding representation in political, business and other influential circles.


Why haven’t women brought these point up before? They could’ve fought for more rights in the earlier half of the century – they didn’t have to wait some forty odd years to make a stand for themselves on this front.

What is the most important step for women in this document? Is it their “necessary” involvement in politics? More prevalence in the business community? Their want to be educated just as much as men are?


At this point there was no defined civil rights organization for women. During this period there were many civil rights groups popping up for minorities and smaller delegations, but there hadn’t been one specifically for women. Shocking.

What is Fascism?

1) Political: Highly efficient but unilateral. Mussolini’s Fascism highly contrasts common democracy because it dismisses the ethical philosophy that the majority is always right due to it being the most beneficial for the greater good. Although decisions that are non-consensual to demographic representation are often interpreted as inherently chaotic, this type of government can accomplish its political agendas more efficiently due to less required processes.

2) Economic: The opposite of Marxian Socialism. The economic ideology of Mussolini’s original fascism revolves around the individuals motives for “heroism” rather than materialism. Therefore, workers who embrace this principle will discard their desire of upward class mobility and replace it with the intent to work for the power of the State, as “Fascism believes in…actions influenced by no economic motive.” This can potentially serve as a powerful incentive for production due to laborers impression that greatness is achieved through effort rather than status.

3) Military: Expansionist. Mussolini believed what marked a powerful nation was its momentum, and there was no better way to achieve this than through expansion and imperial prowess.

How did Fascism manifest itself given the cultural and political history of Italy? Would Fascism have arisen had Italy played a larger military role in World War I?

It is easy to understand why American’s view of Fascism is dark. “The pursuit of happiness” is an American phrase that is embedded in our Declaration of Independence, while fascism regards happiness as a “myth.”

French politics and culture

The arrival of a new political philosophy in France which resulted from the revolution and the changes in France’s popular culture in the 1790s were heavily interrelated. Nearly every aspect of France’s new influx of culture was influenced by the contempt for the old French monarchy. The people made concerted efforts to move as far away from the oppression of the previous regime as possible and into an era of reason and rationality. Deism grew vastly in popularity, at least partially to repudiate the monarchy’s claim of divine right rule, by which a king could exercise his power by claiming to have been administered it by God himself. Deism proclaimed a separation between God and humans, that God created humans and then left them to their own devices, which directly contradicted the claim of divine right rule. In addition to their religion, the French made many other attempts to erase any evidence of the past monarchy. In chess and card games the kings and queens were discarded and forgotten; street names were altered if they contained any reference to the monarchy; and old festivals and flags were replaced. The old calendar was completely revamped in favor of a more logical date-keeping system, with 10 day weeks and holidays like Reason Day and Genius Day. These drastic changes in French culture were caused primarily out of a desire to leave behind the forced acquiescence imposed by the monarchy and into a society where reason, rationality, and justice held supreme. As the political system and ideologies changed, so did the culture of the French people, proving the profound interconnectedness of the two.

Bread and Wine

Pietro Spina going incognito as a priest named San Paolo is most likely directly reflective of how Ignazio Silone felt as an anti-fascist socialist living in fascist Italy in the 1930s. In order to further his revolutionary socialist agenda, Spina sneaks back into Italy after fifteen years of being in exile, and refuses to return abroad, despite the access of ideological freedom which accompanies him there. An atheist himself, Spina becomes frustrated with the strong catholic sentiments and superstitious thinking which are the roots of the though processes of the peasants which he is trying to influence. During his journey, San Paolo falls madly in love with a girl named Christiana. “Dan Paolo took no notice of what Bianchina was saying because he was enchanted by Christina. A girl like this at Pietrasecca? He could not believe his eyes”. (80) This puts Don Paolo in a pickle, being that he is supposed to be a spiritual leader and Christina is most likely refraining herself from allowing to have feelings for him, although they may be present.


A part of the book which I found interesting was when Don Paolo goes to visit his friend Uliva, who’s morale is so low, and is so apathetic, he carelessly spits on the floor of his house as he wastes away. Uliva, a former cell mate and Don Paolo discuss their current thoughts about politics and life. Uliva is more interested in condescendingly criticizing Don Paolo’s optimism about the revolution than anything else, claiming his hopes are out of blind naivety. “I’ve seen you engaged in a kind of chivalrous contest with lie or, if you prefer it, with the creator…it requires a naivete that I lack. (172) I think it shows a lot about Don Paolo’s drive to stay optimistic about what he believes in as a communist trying to help the revolutionary cause, especially when he sees his former friend who used to share the same thoughts in such a state of disrepair.

How did the citizens of Italy view fascism in the 1930’s? Was the majority behind Mussolini? If the publics thoughts on him shifted dramatically, when did it and what was the event or events that caused it?