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The Building of BAM and Late Soviet Socialism
Heralded by Soviet propaganda as the “Path to the Future,” the Baikal-Amur Mainline Railway (BAM) represented the hopes and dreams of Brezhnev and the Communist Party elite. Begun in 1974, and spanning approximately 2,000 miles after twenty-nine years of construction, the BAM project was intended to showcase the national unity, determination, skill, technology, and industrial might that Soviet socialism claimed to embody. More pragmatically, the Soviet leadership envisioned the BAM railway as a trade route to the Pacific, where markets for Soviet timber and petroleum would open up, and as an engine for the development of Siberia. Despite these aspirations and the massive commitment of economic resources on its behalf, BAM proved to be a boondoggle-a symbol of late communism's dysfunctionality-and a cruel joke to many ordinary Soviet citizens. In reality, BAM was woefully bereft of quality materials and construction, and victimized by poor planning and an inferior workforce. Today, the railway is fully complete, but remains a symbol of the profligate spending and inefficiency that characterized the Brezhnev years. Christopher J. Ward provides a groundbreaking social history of the BAM railway project. He examines the recruitment of hundreds of thousands of workers from the diverse republics of the USSR and other socialist countries, and his extensive archival research and interviews with numerous project workers provide an inside look at the daily life of the BAM workforce. We see firsthand the disorganization, empty promises, dire living and working conditions, environmental damage, and acts of crime, segregation, and discrimination that constituted daily life during the project's construction. Thus, perhaps, we also see the final irony of BAM: that the most lasting legacy of this misguided effort to build Soviet socialism is to shed historical light on the profound ills afflicting a society in terminal decline.
The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe
Despite the Holocaust’s profound impact on the history of Eastern Europe, the communist regimes successfully repressed public discourse about and memory of this tragedy. Since the collapse of communism in 1989, however, this has changed. Not only has a wealth of archival sources become available, but there have also been oral history projects and interviews recording the testimonies of eyewitnesses who experienced the Holocaust as children and young adults. Recent political, social, and cultural developments have facilitated a more nuanced and complex understanding of the continuities and discontinuities in representations of the Holocaust. People are beginning to realize the significant role that memory of Holocaust plays in contemporary discussions of national identity in Eastern Europe.
This volume of original essays explores the memory of the Holocaust and the Jewish past in postcommunist Eastern Europe. Devoting space to every postcommunist country, the essays in Bringing the Dark Past to Light explore how the memory of the “dark pasts” of Eastern European nations is being recollected and reworked. In addition, it examines how this memory shapes the collective identities and the social identity of ethnic and national minorities. Memory of the Holocaust has practical implications regarding the current development of national cultures and international relationships.
In the summer of 1915, the Central Powers launched an offensive on the Eastern Front that they hoped would decide the war. It did not, of course. In June 1916, an Allied army under the command of Aleksei A. Brusilov decimated the Central Powers' gains of 1915. Brusilov's success brought Romania into the war, extinguished the offensive ability of the Habsburg armies, and forced Austria-Hungary into military dependence on and political subservience to Germany. The results were astonishing in military terms, but the political consequences were perhaps even more significant. More than any other action, the Brusilov Offensive brought the Habsburg Empire to the brink of a separate peace, while creating conditions for revolution within the Russian Imperial Army. Timothy C. Dowling tells the story of this important but little-known battle in the military and political history of the Eastern Front.
The Socialist Revolutionaries and the Bolshevik Dictatorship, 1918–1923
The Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) were the largest political party in Russia in the crucial revolutionary year of 1917. Heirs to the legacy of the People’s Will movement, the SRs were unabashed proponents of peasant rebellion and revolutionary terror, emphasizing the socialist transformation of the countryside and a democratic system of government. They offered a compelling, but still socialist, alternative to the Bolsheviks, yet by the early 1920s their party was shattered and its members were branded as enemies of the revolution. In 1922, SR leaders became the first fellow socialists to be condemned by the Bolsheviks as “counterrevolutionaries” in the prototypical Soviet show trial. In Captives of the Revolution, Scott B. Smith presents both a convincing account of the defeat of the SRs and a deeper analysis of the significance of the political dynamics of the civil war for Soviet history. Once the SRs decided to fight the Bolsheviks in 1918, they faced a series of nearly impossible political dilemmas. At the same time, the Bolsheviks undermined the SRs by appropriating the rhetoric of class struggle and painting a simplistic picture of Reds versus Whites in the civil war, a rhetorical dominance that they converted into victory over the SRs and any alternative to Bolshevik dictatorship. The SRs became a bona fide threat to national security and enemies of the people—a characterization that proved so successful that it became an archetype to be used repeatedly by the Soviet leadership against any political opponents, even those from within the Bolshevik party itself. Smith reveals a more complex and nuanced picture of the postrevolutionary struggle for power in Russia than we have ever seen before and demonstrates that the civil war—and in particular the struggle with the SRs—was the key formative experience of the Bolshevik party and the Soviet state.
Politics in Central Asia
In the post-Soviet era, democracy has made little progress in Central Asia. Chaos, Violence, Dynasty presents a compelling explanation for this through a comparison of the divergent political courses taken by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan in the wake of Soviet rule. While the Soviet legacy is crucial to understanding the varying outcomes in these countries, Eric McGlinchey also examines the economics, religion, politics, foreign investment, and ethnic composition of these nations for insights into their relative strengths and weaknesses today. Soviet rule and influence in the region was inconsistent. Thus, their manipulation of the politics of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in the late 1980s solidified the role of local elites, while in Kyrgyzstan Moscow looked away as leadership crumbled during the ethnic riots of 1990. Today, Kyrgyzstan is the poorest and most politically unstable country in the region, thanks to a small, corrupt, and fractured political elite. In Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov maintains power through the brutal suppression of disaffected Muslims, who are nevertheless rising in numbers and influence. In Kazakhstan, a political machine fueled by oil wealth and patronage underlies the greatest economic equity in the region, and far less political violence. This timely study concludes with a call for a more realistic and flexible view of the authoritarian systems in the region, if there is to be any potential benefit from foreign engagement with the nations of Central Asia and similar political systems globally.
Joseph II and the ‘Five Princesses,’ 1765-1790
In late eighteenth-century Vienna a remarkable coterie of five aristocratic women, popularly known as the “five princesses,” achieved social preeminence and acclaim as close associates of the reforming Habsburg Emperor Joseph II. They were Princess Maria Josepha Clary (1728–1801); Princess Maria Sidonia Kinsky (1729–1815); Princess Maria Leopoldine Liechtenstein (1733–1809); Countess, subsequently Princess, Maria Leopoldine Kaunitz (1741–1795); and Princess Maria Eleonore Liechtenstein (1745–1812). The group assumed a stable form by 1772, by which time Joseph II and two of his closest male associates, Field Marshal Franz Moritz Lacy and Count Franz Xavier Orsini-Rosenberg, had become accepted members of the circle as well. During the Viennese social season, members of the group made their way several times each week to the inner city palace of one of the “Dames,” as members of the group called themselves. During the summer months, when the women dispersed to visit country estates in Bohemia and Moravia or to travel, group members corresponded regularly. These were exciting, restless years in the Habsburg monarchy, as reforms were implemented to help the monarchy withstand threats to its stability and international stature from without and within. With assured access to the emperor and his closest advisors, the Dames enjoyed both a unique view of events and a chance to participate in public affairs (albeit informally and discreetly) as steadfast, acknowledged friends of the emperor. Through analysis of the correspondence of these women and of the published and unpublished commentaries of their contemporaries, this study scrutinizes the activities of this select group of women during the co-regency period (1765–1780) when Joseph shared responsibility with his mother, Maria Theresia, and during Joseph’s decade as sole ruler (1780–1790) after Maria Theresia’s death—years during which the women enjoyed their special position.
Right-Bank Ukraine and the Invention of a Russian Nation
In Children of Rus’, Faith Hillis recovers an all but forgotten chapter in the history of the tsarist empire and its southwestern borderlands. The right bank, or west side, of the Dnieper River—which today is located at the heart of the independent state of Ukraine—was one of the Russian empire’s last territorial acquisitions, annexed only in the late eighteenth century. Yet over the course of the long nineteenth century, this newly acquired region nearly a thousand miles from Moscow and St. Petersburg generated a powerful Russian nationalist movement. Claiming to restore the ancient customs of the East Slavs, the southwest’s Russian nationalists sought to empower the ordinary Orthodox residents of the borderlands and to diminish the influence of their non-Orthodox minorities.
Right-bank Ukraine would seem unlikely terrain to nourish a Russian nationalist imagination. It was among the empire’s most diverse corners, with few of its residents speaking Russian as their native language or identifying with the culture of the Great Russian interior. Nevertheless, as Hillis shows, by the late nineteenth century, Russian nationalists had established a strong foothold in the southwest’s culture and educated society; in the first decade of the twentieth, they secured a leading role in local mass politics. By 1910, with help from sympathetic officials in St. Petersburg, right-bank activists expanded their sights beyond the borderlands, hoping to spread their nationalizing agenda across the empire.
Exploring why and how the empire’s southwestern borderlands produced its most organized and politically successful Russian nationalist movement, Hillis puts forth a bold new interpretation of state-society relations under tsarism as she reconstructs the role that a peripheral region played in attempting to define the essential characteristics of the Russian people and their state.
Fathers and Sons in Soviet and Post-Soviet Film
This wide-ranging collection investigates the father/son dynamic in post-Stalinist Soviet cinema and its Russian successor. Contributors analyze complex patterns of identification, disavowal, and displacement in films by such diverse directors as Khutsiev, Motyl', Tarkovsky, Balabanov, Sokurov, Todorovskii, Mashkov, and Bekmambetov. Several chapters focus on the difficulties of fulfilling the paternal function, while others show how vertical and horizontal male bonds are repeatedly strained by the pressure of redefining an embattled masculinity in a shifting political landscape.