'The relaunch of the Soviet project, 1945-1964'
UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies
14-16 September 2006
Convenors: Geoffrey Hosking (SSEES), Polly Jones (SSEES), Susan Morrissey
(SSEES), Miriam Dobson (Sheffield), Juliane Furst (Oxford)
Victory in 1945 and then Stalin's death in 1953 compelled Soviet leaders and - to some extent - ordinary Soviet citizens to reassess their past and to re-imagine their future. Despite many differences, the post-war era (1945-53) and the Khrushchev era (1953-64) thus shared a sense of urgency and ambition. Consequently, it is necessary to consider elements of continuity as well as change, of ideas as well as practices, across the period 1945-64.
This conference, which marks the 50th anniversary of one of the key moments in this process - Khrushchev's Secret Speech - seeks to explore these different visions of past and future. As recently opened Soviet archives have propelled an unprecedented scholarly engagement with this period, it has now become possible to research a wide range of issues: the development of party policy, its practical implementation, and the ways these were experienced and understood by the Soviet people. We seek papers addressing any of the themes outlined below.
The tasks facing the Soviet Union in 1945 bore little resemblance to those of 1941. On the one hand, the Soviet Union had won a great victory and would shortly acquire an outer empire in Central and Eastern Europe as well as an ally in Communist China. As a superpower, the USSR aspired to equality with the USA and soon engaged in 'cold war' with it. With party theorists beginning to plan for the Soviet bloc's progression towards the next stage on the revolutionary timeline, they promised the coming transition from
socialism to full-blown communism. On the other hand, however, this glorious projection of Russian-Soviet imperial supremacy occurred at a time of enormous material and social hardship for ordinary people. Once again, they were mobilized for a super-human effort of all-out industrialization, and the human costs of the war were papered over in the rhetoric of victory.
Conducted within an atmosphere of xenophobia and fear, the huge task of reconstruction - accompanied by wide-spread shortages and hunger - placed significant strain upon the population.
The contradictions and hardships of the post-war era left important legacies after 1953, when Soviet leaders once again began to reassess the past and to re-imagine the future. By denouncing some of Stalin's crimes, Khrushchev tried to draw a line between the Stalinist past and the Leninist present and thereby to re-launch the Communist project. One of his aims was to find a means to rule the country without relying upon indiscriminate terror. However, Khrushchev was not only reassessing the past but also imagining a
future: the new party programme thus promised a whole range of benefits for the population. Returning to the idea that Communism was imminent, he now dared to put a date on its creation, promising it could be built by 1980. To pursue this vision, he launched a range of welfare projects and urged greater civic participation in a variety of spheres. This attempt to revitalize the Soviet project was also intended to transform the relationship between party and people. Yet the tensions and challenges bequeathed by late Stalinism did not make the process of reform a simple one.
This conference invites papers that explore not only the ideological and political ambitions of the Soviet state in the period 1945-64 but also the social and cultural history of these projects as they were implemented on the ground.
Please submit paper proposals of between 200 and 300 words to
firstname.lastname@example.org by 10 January 2006. Decisions on paper proposals will be communicated by the end of January 2006.
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