Shiela Fitzpatrick: Everyday Stalinism


p.8 People understand and remember their lives in terms of stories. These stories make sense out of the scattered data of ordinary life, providing a context, imposing a pattern that shows where one has come from and where one is going. In practice, most people internaize stories that are common property in a given society at a particular time. The purpose of this section is to introduce some of the “common property” stories through which Soviet Union citizens understood their individual and collective lives.

p.221 The antithesis of “us”and “them” was basic to Soviet subaltern mentality in the 1930s. “They” were the people who ran things, the people at the top, the ones with power and privilege. “We” were the ones at the bottom, little people without power or privilege whom “they” push around, exploited, deceived, betrayed.

p.234 This is not to say that Stalin’s regime was without support from its citizens. Active support came from the young, the privileged, office-holders and party members, beneficiaries of affirmative action policies, and favored groups like Stakhanovites. Of course, the young are perhaps the most interesting category…assimilated Soviet values, associating them with a rejection of all that was boring, corrupt, unprincipled, old, and routine, and identified, often passionately and enthusiastically, with Soviet ideals. This was the cohort that, as Solzhenitsyn put it, had grown up under Soviet power and regarded the revolution as “ours”. Even young people who had experienced stigmatization on the grounds of their social origin often shared this “Soviet” orientation of their more fortunate peers.

p.227 This book has described a wide range of practices of everyday life in Stalin’s Russia.. It was life in which outward conformity to ideology and ritual mattered, but personal ties mattered even more. It was a life of random disasters and of manifold daily irritations and inconveniences, from the hours wasted in queues and lack of privacy in communal apartments to the endless bureaucratic rudeness and red tape and the abolition, in the cause of productivity and atheism, of a common day of rest. There were fearful things that affected Soviet life and visions that uplifted it, but mostly it was a hard operator, a time-server, a freeloader, a mouther of slogans, and much more. But above all, he was a survivor.

from Shiela Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times:Soviet Russia in the 1930s. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999

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