Drawing on newly-opened Soviet archives, especially the letters of complaint and petition with which peasants deluged the Soviet authorities in the 1930s, Stalin's Peasants analyses peasants' strategies of resistance and survival in the new world of the collectivized village. Stalin's Peasants is a story of struggle between transformationally-minded Communists and traditionally-minded peasants over the terms of collectivization: a struggle of opposing practices, not a struggle in which either side clearly articulated its position. But it is also a story about the impact of collectivization on the internal social relations and culture of the village, exploring questions of authority and leadership, feuds, denunciations, rumors, and changes in religious observance. For the first time, it is possible to see the real people behind the facade of the "Potemkin village" created by Soviet propagandists. In the Potemkin village, happy peasants clustered around a kolkhoz (collective farm) tractor, praising Stalin and promising to produce more grain as a patriotic duty.
In the real Russian village of the 1930s, as we learn from Soviet political police reports, sullen and hungry peasants described collectivization as a "second serfdom," cursed all Communists, and blamed Stalin personally for their plight. Sheila Fitzpatrick's work is truly a landmark in studies of the Stalinist period-a richly-documented social history told from the traumatic experiences of the long-suffering underclass of peasants. Anyone interested in Soviet and Russian history, peasant studies, or social history will appreciate this major contribution to our understanding of life in Stalin's Russia.
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(234mm x 154mm x 27mm)
Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
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US Kirkus Review »
Scholarly and poignant account of conditions in Russia's collective farms in the 30's. In an attempt to obtain ever higher grain quotas and stamp out private enterprise, Stalin forced millions of peasants into the collective farm (kolkhoz) system - with catastrophic effects in both human and economic terms. Drawing on recently opened Soviet archives, including reports of the secret police, and her own vast reading of the newspapers of rural Russia, Fitzpatrick pieces together the picture of how collectivization worked in the lives of local communities and individuals. We learn the various ways in which people reacted to the closing of the churches and the liquidation of the more prosperous peasant class (the kulaks), how peasants were cajoled into the kolkhoz and the effects of expulsion from it, how the officials behaved, how the roles of women varied, how local handicrafts came to be replaced by factory products, and much more. We meet heroes of Soviet labor (udarniks and stakhaovites) like Sasha Angelina, who promised Stalin she would plough 1,200 hectares with her tractor, and combine operator Maria Demchenko, whose photograph with Stalin in 1936 entitled "The Flowering Soviet Ukraine" became one of the notable icons of the period. The author describes the almost religious cult of Stalin and the idealized "Potemkin Village," but she shows that in reality the peasants hated Stalin and considered collectivization a second serfdom: those who could not depart for the cities hoped for deliverance by a counter-revolution or even foreign invasion. Fitzpatrick makes her account vivid with quotations of first-person experiences, but she resists the temptation to oversimplify the issues. A glossary explains Soviet terms and acronyms. Highly detailed - a must for students of Soviet, or social, history. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Sheila Fitzpatrick
Sheila Fitzpatrick is Bernadotte E. Schmitt Professor of History at the University of Chicago. She is the author or editor of numerous books including The Cultural Front: Power and Culture in Revolutionary Russia (1992).