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Soviet Mass Festivals, 1917–1991

Malte Rolf

Publication Year: 2013

English translation of a study of the highly organized public mass celebrations to glorify the state/party/leader of authoritarian regimes in the 20th century, which originated in and enjoyed their longest run in the Soviet Union.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Front Cover

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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

Remarks on Transcription, Transliteration, and Quotations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-16

Shortly before the May 1 celebrations in 1941, Georgi Dimitrov, secretary-general of the Comintern, wrote in his diary, “Participating in demonstrations is an important political act and not a mere formality.”1 He expected Moscow’s entire adult population, except for the ill, to show up for the procession. This official expectation well...

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1. Festival Culture in the Russian Empire

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pp. 17-30

“To save time, I had decided . . . to stay just five days in the Russian Capital; but unfortunately we arrived at the beginning of a long chain of . . . holidays and had only four of ten days to take care of our matters.”1 In 1885, George Kennan wrote these lines in his diary while traveling from St. Petersburg to Siberia. Late nineteenth-century Russian society took holidays seriously....

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2. Inventing Soviet Festivals

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pp. 31-63

The history of official Bolshevik mass celebrations begins on May 1, 1918. On the first big red-letter day following the takeover of power in October 1917, the Bolsheviks demonstrated who was the new master in both Moscow and St. Petersburg and announced their official and exclusive claim to the symbols and celebrations of the revolutionary movement. The First of May was not a new holiday for the labor...

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3. Staging Soviet Celebrations

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pp. 64-93

The composer Richard Wagner, in an essay on art of the future, outlined a concept of artwork that makes use of many forms, as in the combination of poetry, dance, and music to create a higher synthesis.1 In this view, not individual artists but the people as a community are the creators of art, a process that Wagner called the “synthesis and cooperation of all artists.”2 The result is artwork of the future in two ...

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4. Celebrating Soviet Festivals

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pp. 94-154

Soviet celebrations staged the ideal of new Soviet reality in time and space, producing choreographed patterns of social hierarchy. Festivities were to follow nationwide standards designed in Moscow. They represented the future world worth working for and were part of the effort of doing so. But how, as a cultural practice and irrespective of the political theory, were celebrations actually organized in the ...

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5. Comparing Soviet Celebrations

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pp. 155-179

In recent years, both research and the media have taken a closer look at “European dictatorships,” particularly since it has become common knowledge that we can compare things without implying that they are somehow equal. Exhibitions and photography books have put images of the celebrations of totalitarian regimes side by side.1 At first glance, the similarity in aesthetics is striking, as in, for instance, ...

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6. Transforming Soviet Festival Culture

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pp. 180-204

The history of festivities is a matter of a longue durée. Profound changes in the festive landscape of a country happen over long periods of time and often do not depend on political breaks in history. The transformations of festival culture occur at their own pace, rather than in lockstep with political developments.1 Karl Schlögel once said that Bolsheviks come and go, but the Russian prazdnik remains.2 And yet,...


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pp. 205-210


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pp. 211-258


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pp. 259-312


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pp. 313-324

Back Cover

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pp. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780822978688
E-ISBN-10: 0822978687
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822962397
Print-ISBN-10: 082296239X

Page Count: 460
Illustrations: 27 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867739535
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Soviet Mass Festivals, 1917–1991

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Festivals -- Soviet Union -- History -- 20th century.
  • Popular culture -- Soviet Union -- History -- 20th century.
  • Soviet Union -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
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