Russian History


Mobilization of Society

Concomitant with industrialization and collectivization, society also experienced wide-ranging regimentation. Collective enterprises replaced individualistic efforts across the board. Not only did the regime abolish private farms and businesses, but it collectivized scientific and literary endeavors as well. As the 1930s progressed, the revolutionary experimentation that had characterized many facets of cultural and social life gave way to conservative norms.

Considerations of order and discipline dominated social policy, which became an instrument of the modernization effort. Workers came under strict labor codes demanding punctuality and discipline, and labor unions served as extensions of the industrial ministries. At the same time, higher pay and privileges accrued to productive workers and labor brigades. To provide greater social stability, the state aimed to strengthen the family by restricting divorce and abolishing abortion.

Literature and the arts came under direct party control during the 1930s, with mandatory membership in unions of writers, musicians, and other artists entailing adherence to established standards. After 1934 the party dictated that creative works had to express socialistic spirit through traditional forms. This officially sanctioned doctrine, called "socialist realism," applied to all fields of art. The state repressed works that were stylistically innovative or lacked appropriate content.

The party also subjected science and the liberal arts to its scrutiny. Development of scientific theory in a number of fields had to be based upon the party's understanding of the Marxist dialectic, which derailed serious research in certain disciplines. The party took a more active role in directing work in the social sciences. In the writing of history, the orthodox Marxist interpretation employed in the late 1920s was modified to include nationalistic themes and to stress the role of great leaders to create legitimacy for Stalin's dictatorship.

Education returned to traditional forms as the party discarded the experimental programs of Lunacharskiy after 1929. Admission procedures underwent modification: candidates for higher education now were selected on the basis of their academic records rather than their class origins. Religion suffered from a state policy of increased repression, starting with the closure of numerous churches in 1929. Persecution of clergy was particularly severe during the purges of the late 1930s, when many of the faithful went underground (see The Russian Orthodox Church, ch. 4).