Life Has Become More Joyous, Comrades

Life Has Become More Joyous, Comrades

Celebrations in the Time of Stalin
Karen Petrone
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/1/2000
Format: cloth 280 pages, 22 b&w photos, 1 maps, 1 bibliog., 1 index
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-33768-9
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Life Has Become More Joyous, Comrades
Celebrations in the Time of Stalin
Karen Petrone

A lively investigation of the official and unofficial meanings of Stalinist celebrations.

"An impressive and highly readable book that . . . casts a clear and disturbing light on the relationship of Stalinist mythology, state power, popular participation, and the unending complexities of social and cultural survival mechanisms and daily life." —Richard Stites

In the Soviet Union in the 1930s, public celebrations flourished while Stalinist repression intensified. What explains this coincidence of terror and celebration? Using popular media and drawing extensively on documents from previously inaccessible Soviet archives, Karen Petrone demonstrates that to dismiss Soviet celebrations as mere diversion is to lose a valuable opportunity for understanding how the Soviet system operated. As the state attempted to mobilize citizens to participate in the project to create New Soviet men and women, celebration culture became more than a means to distract a population suffering from poverty and deprivation. The planning and execution of celebrations reflected the Soviet intelligentsia’s efforts to bring social and cultural enlightenment to the people. Physical culture demonstrations, celebrations of Arctic and aviation exploits, the Pushkin Centennial of 1937 and the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution, and the celebration of New Year’s Day were opportunities for the Soviet leadership to fuse traditional prerevolutionary values and practices with socialist ideology in an effort to educate its citizens and build support for the state and its policies. However, official celebrations were often appropriated by citizens for purposes that were unanticipated and unsanctioned by the state. Through celebrations, Soviet citizens created hybrid identities and defined their places in the emerging Stalinist hierarchy, allowing them to uphold the Soviet order while arrests and executions were rampant. This rich look at celebrations reveals the complex dialogues and negotiations between citizens and leaders in the endeavor to create Soviet culture.

Karen Petrone is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Kentucky.

Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies—Alexander Rabinowitch and William G. Rosenberg, editors

Interpreting Soviet Celebrations
Part 1: Soviet Popular Culture and Mass Mobilization
Parading the Nation: Demonstrations and the Construction of Soviet Identities
Imagining the Motherland: The Celebration of Soviet Aviation and Polar Exploits
Fir Trees and Carnivals: The Celebration of Soviet New Year’s Day
Part 2: The Intelligentsia and Soviet Enlightenment
A Double-edged Discourse on Freedom: The Pushkin Centennial of 1937
Anniversary of Turmoil: The Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution
Celebrating Civic Participation: The Stalin Constitution and Elections as Rituals of Democracy
Celebrations and Power

Author Bio

Karen Petrone is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Kentucky.


"This is a sophisticated and accessible study of the use of mass celebrations by the Stalin Regime in the mid to late 1930s. These celebrations followed the massive disruptions and privations of the First Five-Year Plan and peaked at the height of the Stalin purges. Some celebrations were designed to mobilize the masses and engage them in Soviet popular culture (New Year's fir tree, parades); other celebrations focused on high culture and politics and were directed more to the intelligentsia and the Party (the Pushkin Centennial, The Stalin Constitution). Petrone looks not only at the discourse and goals of the celebrations, but at how they actually played out. She contrasts their impact in Moscow and the provinces, urban and rural areas, and among the Russians and the non-Russian nationalities. To what extent, she asks, did fear generated by the purges help or hinder the cadre in organizing and carrying out orders from the center? To what degree did the discourse of celebration awaken political consciousness among the masses and allow for subtle dissent? This book is based on extensive archival research and a rich collection of published primary and secondary sources. Recommended for college, university, research, and public libraries." —E. M. Despalatovic, Connecticut College, Choice , July 2001

"[T]his rich book makes a significant contribution to the historiography of the Stalin era. . . .as I read about the celebrations of Arctic explorers, the pages seemed to turn themselves. The book deserves a broad audience of specialists in Russian and Soviet history, as well as those interested in cultural transformation, popular culture, and state-society relations." —
Canadian American Slavic Studies

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