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  • Terminologiia vlasti: Sovetskie politicheskie terminy v istoriko-kul´turnom kontekste [The Terminology of Power: Soviet Political Terms in Historical-Cultural Context]
  • Michael S. Gorham
David Markovich Fel´dman , Terminologiia vlasti: Sovetskie politicheskie terminy v istoriko-kul´turnom kontekste [The Terminology of Power: Soviet Political Terms in Historical-Cultural Context] . 486 pp. Moscow : Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi gumanitarnyi universitet , 2006. ISBN 5728108238.

Contrary to the broader historical scope implied by its title, Terminologiia vlasti focuses on a handful of ideological keywords of the Khrushchev era, all of which emerged as markers of a new political order in Khrushchev's pivotal speech to the 20th Party Congress in February 1956: kul´t lichnosti (personality cult) , reabilitatsiia (rehabilitation) , repressiia (repression) , and revoliutsionnaia/sotsialisticheskaia zakonnost´ (revolutionary/socialist rule of law). 1 In keeping with the "history of concepts" scholarly tradition to which he declares passing allegiance in his introduction, Fel´dman subjects each to a meticulous analysis—part etymological, part historical, and part cultural—in most cases stretching back in time to classical and early modern European usages. One resounding success of the study lies in the author's convincing evidence that each term had a relatively long and complicated history and each, through its adoption into the Khrushchev-era propaganda repertoire, acquired a new semantic connotation that spoke directly to Khrushchev's need and desire to establish a new source of authority and legitimacy. 2 [End Page 270]

Fel´dman begins Part 1 by tracing the origins of lichnost´ back to German Romanticism, Nietzsche, and the notion of Personenkultus and up through Russian populists, offering an excellent etymological contextualization for the positive use of kul´t lichnosti in Stalin's Short Course . He then analyzes the meetings and drafts that preceded the 20th Party Congress, arguing that it was Georgii Malenkov who first proposed adopting kollektivnoe rukovodstvo (collective leadership) as the ideological antonym that would distinguish Khrushchev's new style of leadership from that of his predecessor. In Part 2, Fel´dman argues that the non-legal status of the term reabilitatsiia clearly marked it politically as a propaganda tool for allowing leaders before and after Stalin's death a means of ceasing ongoing legal procedures with which they did not agree and pursuing those within the Ministry of Internal Affairs responsible for earlier unjust accusations.

Fel´dman devotes 142 pages to the long and complicated history of repressiia in Part 3, documenting its positive use, in the Jacobin tradition, as a justification for the "emergency" measures required during the "Red Terror," its re-adoption by Stalin in 1930 as a means of spurring economic growth and "suppressing class enemies," and its second rehabilitation by Khrushchev in the 1956 speech, where it acquired the new connotation of the "illegal means of establishing and preserving the regime of 'the Stalin personality cult'" (260). Among the more convincing sections, this essay nicely explains an apparent contradiction emanating from the Khrushchev speech that became codified in party discourse through the Gorbachev era—namely the idea of "illegal repression" (which presumes the possibility of "legal" repression). Part 4 offers a 160-page history of the related notions of revoliutsionnaia zakonnost´ and sotsialisticheskaia zakonnost´ , terms that, after following a long and often contradictory etymological path, eventually come to connote, in Khrushchev's ideological worldview, no more and no less than the political order that had been established by Lenin, violated by Stalin's personality cult, and restored under Khrushchev's "collective leadership."

The book will be of most interest to students of 20th-century Russian political culture for its painstaking tracking of the evolution of the selected keywords, particularly through the course of the Soviet era (straight through to the 1980s in most cases). By virtue of the sheer bulk of supporting evidence presented, Fel´dman forcefully illustrates his main thesis—that these (and presumably all) political keywords are introduced and disseminated essentially as tools of propaganda and as such carry meanings that extend [End Page 271] beyond their more "neutral" or innocent dictionary definition. In the wake of a century of scholarship from the likes of Bakhtin, Voloshinov, Foucault, and Bourdieu, the argument itself is certainly not original. But this is the first time it has been...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-5000
Print ISSN
1531-023x
Pages
pp. 270-273
Launched on MUSE
2008-03-10
Open Access
No
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