The article shows that in 1953–1956, Nikita Khrushchev and other members of the KPSU Central Committee tried to regulate ideological and aesthetic diversity in Soviet literature. During these years, horizontal connections began to resume between writers and critics who held different views, but shared hopes for the regeneration of literature. This process of spontaneous social organization became especially intense in the period between the Twentieth Congress of the KPSU and the suppression of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. The article offers a contextualized interpretation of a previously unknown archival document – minutes of the meeting of the Bureau of the Section for the Literature of Children and Youth of the Soviet Writers’ Union (December 7, 1956). The minutes provide a telling snapshot of the expectations and hopes of both conservative and conformist groups of Soviet writers. They show that these were not only “liberals” but also their opponents in the section who in 1956 considered some form of institutionalization of the competition between those more conservative and those more critical toward the regime groups in Soviet literature. Yet, institutional diversification took another path.
Aware of the revolutionary role of the Petőfi Circle organized by writers in Hungary, Khrushchev and other party leaders were determined to establish firm control over the literary sphere in the Soviet Union. Hence any independent initiative was immediately classified negatively as a subversive “group.” In the Soviet political rhetoric of the 1930s–1950s, this word stigmatized any spontaneous associations. The label was actively used during the 1957 discussion of the Literary Moscow almanac, and the following June 1957, the KPSU Central Committee’s plenum that exposed the “anti-party group” of Malenkov, Kaganovich, Molotov, and Shepilov. To be able to control the excessively “liberal” organization of Moscow writers in the situation of an intensified struggle for power among the Soviet leadership, in 1957–1958 Khrushchev initiated the creation of the Union of Russian Writers (RSFSR Writers’ Union) led by Russian ethnonationalists. This move forced them into strategic alliance with Stalinists of the old establishment, and thus turned the potentially dangerous collision between Stalinists and anti-Stalinists into a polemic between pro-imperial nationalists and “liberals.” With some modification, this conflict continued to the end of the Soviet period.