Stalinism as a Way of Life

A Narrative in Documents

Edited by Lewis Siegelbaum and Andrei Sokolov; Translated by Thomas Hoisington and Steven Shabad; Documents Compiled by Ludmila Kosheleva, Larisa Rogovaia, Lewis Siegelbaum, Andrei Sokolov, Vladimir Telpukhovsky, and Sergei Zhuravlev

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“Maybe some people are shy about writing, but I will write the real truth. . . . Is it really possible that people at the newspaper haven’t heard this. . . that we don’t want to be on the kolkhoz [collective farm], we work and work, and there’s nothing to eat. Really, how can we live?”—a farmer’s letter, 1936, from Stalinism as a Way of Life
What was life like for ordinary Russian citizens in the 1930s? How did they feel about socialism and the acts committed in its name? This unique book provides English-speaking readers with the responses of those who experienced firsthand the events of the middle-Stalinist period. The book contains 157 documents—mostly letters to authorities from Soviet citizens, but also reports compiled by the secret police and Communist Party functionaries, internal government and party memoranda, and correspondence among party officials. Selected from recently opened Soviet archives, these previously unknown documents illuminate in new ways both the complex social roots of Stalinism and the texture of daily life during a highly traumatic decade of Soviet history.
Accompanied by introductory and linking commentary, the documents are organized around such themes as the impact of terror on the citizenry, the childhood experience, the countryside after collectivization, and the role of cadres that were directed to “decide everything.” In their own words, peasants and workers, intellectuals and the uneducated, adults and children, men and women, Russians and people from other national groups tell their stories. Their writings reveal how individual lives influenced—and were affected by—the larger events of Soviet history.

Lewis Siegelbaum is professor and chairman of the Department of History at Michigan State University. Andrei Sokolov is main researcher and department head of the Institute of Russian History at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

A full set of the documents are available on the Stalin Digital Archive website in Russian and English.Edited by Lewis Siegelbaum and Andrei Sokolov; Translated by Thomas Hoisington and Steven Shabad; Documents Compiled by Ludmila Kosheleva, Larisa Rogovaia, Lewis Siegelbaum, Andrei Sokolov, Vladimir Telpukhovsky, and Sergei Zhuravlev; Text preparation and Commentary by Lewis Siegelbaum, Andrei Sokolov, and Sergei Zhuravlev

"This is a first-rate edition of and commentary on significant documents from the Stalinist 1930’s. Stalinism as a Way of Life offers a deep look into society, providing a rounded, complex picture of the U.S.S.R. in a turbulent decade."— Ronald Grigor Suny, Department of Political Science, The University of Chicago

“These documents are fascinating, giving us a window into the everyday life of people caught in a social revolution and a repressive machine.”—Ronald Grigor Suny, University of Chicago


“This eclectic collection of 157 documents, mainly letters, from victims, perpetrators, and participants in Stalin’s effort to transform Russia and its associated lands and peoples into a Marxist society in the 1930s was compiled by a team of Russian scholars. . . . These extremely valuable documents from the Russian archives provide a new look at the level of Soviet dementia and inhumanity. They also reveal the all too human tendency to commit evil and to survive in the face of evil.”—Choice

“Siegelbaum provides an excellent introduction as well as informative commentary throughout the book. . . . Siegelbaum and Sokolov’s book effectively illuminates how Soviet citizens sought to survive in the 1930s by creating a way of life under Stalinism.”—Harold J. Goldberg, History

“[Siegelbaum and Solokov] have collaborated in collecting and editing a volume of archival correspondence that will add significantly to our understanding of the social history of the Soviet Union during the decade of the 1930s.”—David Costello, Journal of Military History

“A salutary exposure of scarifying material that until now has lain concealed in the archives.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Siegelbaum and Sokolov have given us a treasure trove of great usefulness to historians of Stalinist Russia. . . . Strongly recommended for academic libraries and as a valuable source for students of communism and Soviet history.”—Library Journal

“A ground-breaking study of the collective psychology of the alienated Bolshevik elite which led directly to the policies of the Great Purges.”—Oliver Ready, New Statesman

“This remarkable collection of documents from the Soviet Union in the 1930s provides a wide-angle lens on the decade’s dizzying events. Through citizens’ letters to newspapers and party officials, the reader is made aware of the confused and often contradictory nature of Russian politics and society under Stalin. . . . By complicating the one-dimensional account of a country terrorized into submissiveness, [Siegelbaum and Sokolov] have performed a worthwhile service.”—Leonard Benardo, New York Times Book Review

“The range of human experience and the multiplicity of voices in the primary documents translated in Stalinism as a Way of Life make this volume an extremely valuable contribution to the study of Stalinism. . . . [It] is particularly appealing because it gives readers who might not know Russian access to the complex and perilous world in which Soviet citizens lived in the 1930s.”—Slavic Review

"This book is a rich introduction to a fascinating world; it gives many ordinary people a voice. . . . This book will be an important resource for researchers and students alike."—Philip Boobbyer, The Historian

“This latest collection from the Yale Annals of Communism series represents another triumph. . . . The authors succeed not only in presenting a remarkable picture of the mentalities and behaviors that Stalinism produced, but also the ways in which these mentalities in turn perpetuated Stalinism.”—Virginia Quarterly Review

"This collection is not only a source of documents indispensable for scholars who study society and politics of the early years of the USSR, but also a fair read for people interested in the social dynamics of the post-Soviet Russian state."—Bozena, Karwowska, The Sarmatian Review

Chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2001 by Choice Magazine
ISBN: 9780300084801
Publication Date: October 11, 2000
480 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
6 b/w illus.
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