Liberal Discourse

  • Olga Velikanova


In the wide range of opinions voiced in 1936, the comments supporting democratic, civic, moderate, conciliatory, tolerant values and appreciating individual rights are close to our understanding of liberal values. In this chapter, I argue that the concern of many citizens about individual and civil rights, the effective work of the soviets, election reform, and the rule of law, as well as their political engagement, illustrates the existence, within Stalinist society, of a liberal political subculture with democratic elements. It is the democratic character of the constitution that inspired these “liberal” voices and allowed them to be heard. The discussion of the constitution for the first time educated a new Soviet generation in the language of civil rights. Widespread skepticism about fair elections demonstrates a regard for rational and critical thinking in the popular mind and the distance that many individuals managed to keep from the state.


  1. Alexopoulos, Golfo. 1997. “The Ritual Lament: A Narrative of Appeal in the 1920s and 1930s.” Russian History 24 (1–2): 117–29.Google Scholar
  2. ———. 2006. “Soviet Citizenship, More or Less: Rights, Emotions, and States of Civic Belonging.” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 7 (3): 487–528.Google Scholar
  3. Almond, Gabriel A., and Sidney Verba. 1965. The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  4. Beetham, David. 1985. Max Weber and the Theory of Modern Politics. Cambridge, UK: Polity.Google Scholar
  5. Berelowitch, Alexei, and Victor Danilov, eds. 2012. Sovetskaia derevnia glazami VChK-OGPU-NKVD: Dokumenty i materialy. Vol. 4. Moscow: ROSSPEN.Google Scholar
  6. Brandenberger, David. 2011. Propaganda State in Crisis. Soviet Ideology, Indoctrination and Terror Under Stalin, 1928–1941. New Heaven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  7. British Foreign Office—Russia Correspondence, 1781–1945. 1975. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources.Google Scholar
  8. Burbank, Jane. 2004. Russian Peasants Go to Court: Legal Culture in the Countryside, 1905–1917. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Chudakov, Alexander. 2012. Lozhitsia mgla na starye stupeni. Moscow: Vremia.Google Scholar
  10. Clark, Katerina. 1998. Petersburg: Crucible of Cultural Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Danilov, Viktor, Roberta Manning, and Lynne Viola. 1999. Vol. 2; 2002. Vol. 4. Tragediia sovestskoi derevni: kollektivizatsiia I raskulachivanie: Dokumenty i materialy. Moscow: ROSSPEN.Google Scholar
  12. Dobkin, A. I. 1992. “Lishentsy, 1918–1936.” In Zvenia: Istoricheskii al’manakh. Vol. 2, 600–10. Moscow: Feniks-Atheneum.Google Scholar
  13. Dobrenko, E. A., Jesse Savage, and Gust Olson. 2004. “Socialism as Will and Representation, or What Legacy Are We Rejecting?” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 5 (4): 675–708.Google Scholar
  14. Dubin, Boris. 2010. “The Worth of Life and the Limits of Law: Russian Opinions on the Death Penalty, Russian Laws, and the System of Justice.” Russian Social Sciences Review 51 (3): 69–88.Google Scholar
  15. Figes, Orlando, and Boris Kolonitsky. 1999. Interpreting the Russian Revolution: The Language and Symbols of 1917. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Fitzpatrick, Sheila. 1994. Stalin’s Peasants: Resistance and Survival in the Russian Village After Collectivization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. ———. 1999. Everyday Stalinism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. ———. 2005. Tear Off the Masks! Identity and Imposture in Twentieth-Century Russia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Garros, Véronique, Natalia Korenevskaya, and Thomas Lahusen. 1997. Intimacy and Terror: Soviet Diaries of the 1930s. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  20. Geldern, James von, and Lewis Siegelbaum. 1935. “The Second Kolkhoz Charter.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed September 22, 2017.
  21. Getty, A. 1991. “State and Society Under Stalin: Constitutions and Elections in the 1930s.” Slavic Review 50 (1): 18–35.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 2013a. Practicing Stalinism: Bolsheviks, Boyars, and the Persistence of Tradition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  23. ———. 2013b. “Pre-election Fever: The Origins of the 1937 Mass Operations.” In The Anatomy of Terror. Political Violence Under Stalin, edited by J. Harris, 216–35. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Gibson, James I., and Raymond M. Duch. 1993. “Emerging Democratic Values in Soviet Political Culture.” In Public Opinion and Regime Change: The New Politics of Post-Soviet Societies, edited by Arthur H. Miller, William M. Reisinger, and Vicki L. Hesli. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
  25. Goldman, Wendy Z. 2007. Terror and Democracy in the Age of Stalin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Gosudarstvenny Arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (GARF) [State Archives of Russian Federation].Google Scholar
  27. Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. Harvard College Library Digital Collection.
  28. Hoffmann, David L. 2003. Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917–1941. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Ivnitsky, N. A. 2004. Sud’ba raskulachennukh v SSSR. Moscow: Sobranie.Google Scholar
  30. Izmozik, Vladlen S. 1996. “Voices from the Twenties: Private Correspondence Intercepted by the OGPU.” Russian Review 55 (2): 287–308.Google Scholar
  31. Khaustov, V., and L. Samuelson. 2010. Stalin, NKVD i repressii, 1936–1938 gg. Moscow: ROSSPEN.Google Scholar
  32. Khlevniuk, Oleg. 2010. Khoziain: Stalin i utyerzhdenie stalinskoi diktatury. Moscow: ROSSPEN.Google Scholar
  33. Klimin, I. I. 2007. Rossiiskoe krest’ianstvo v gody novoi ekonomicheskoi politiki (1921–1927). Vol. 1. Saint-Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo Politekhnicheskogo universiteta.Google Scholar
  34. Krassil’nikov, Sergei. 1998. Na izlomah sotsial’noi struktury: Marginaly v poslerevolutsionnom rossiiskom obschestve (1917– konets 1930-h godov). Novosibirsk: NGU.Google Scholar
  35. Krukova, Svetlana, ed. 2001. Krestianskie istorii. Moscow: ROSSPEN.Google Scholar
  36. Krylova, Anna. 2000. “The Tenacious Liberal Subject in Soviet Studies.” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 1 (1): 119–46.Google Scholar
  37. Kulakov, A. A., V. V. Smirnov, and L. P. Kolodnikova, eds. 2005. Obshchestvo I vlast’: Rossiiskaia provintsiai. Vol. 2. Moscow: Institute Rossiiskoi Istorii RAN.Google Scholar
  38. Kurliandsky, Igor. 2011. Stalin, Vlast’, Religia. Moscow: Kuchkovo Pole.Google Scholar
  39. Laursen, Eric. 2007. “Bad Words Are Not Allowed! Language and Transformation in Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog.” Slavic and East European Journal 51 (3): 491–513.Google Scholar
  40. Livshin, A. Y., I. B. Orlov, and O. V. Khlevniuk, eds. 2002. Pis’ma vo Vlast’, 1928–1939. Moscow: ROSSPEN.Google Scholar
  41. Lukin, Alexander. 2000. The Political Culture of the Russian “Democrats”. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Male, Donald J. 1971. Russian Peasant Organization Before Collectivization: A Study of Commune and Gathering, 1925–1930. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Meerovich, M. 2008. Nakazanie Zhilischem: Zhilischnaia politika v SSSR kak sredstvo upravleniia liud’mi (1917–1937 gody). Moscow: ROSSPEN.Google Scholar
  44. Orlov, I. B., and E. O. Dolgova. 2008. Politicheskaia kul’tura rossiian v XX veke: Preemstvennost’ I razryvy. Sergiev Posad: SPGI.Google Scholar
  45. Pavlova, I. V. 2003. “1937. Vybory kak mistifikatsia, terror kak real’nost’.” Voprosy Istorii 10: 19–37.Google Scholar
  46. Pokrovsky, N. N., V. P. Danilov, S. A. Krassil’nikov, and L. Viola, eds. 2006. Politburo and Krestianstvo: Vysylka, Spetsposelenie, 1930–1940. Vol. 2. Moscow: ROSSPEN.Google Scholar
  47. Prishvin, M. M. 2010. Diaries, 1936–1937. Saint-Petersburg: Rostok.Google Scholar
  48. Reynolds, Dale. 1984. U. S. Military Intelligence Reports: Soviet Union, 1919–1941. Frederick, MD: University Publications of America.Google Scholar
  49. Rittersporn, Gábor. 2014. Anguish, Anger, and Folkways in Soviet Russia. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
  50. Rossiisky Gosudarstvenny Archiv Sotsial’noi Politicheskoi Istorii (RGASPI) [Russian State Archives of Social and Political History].Google Scholar
  51. RSFSR Constitution. 1918. Marxists Internet Archive. Accessed November 23, 2015.
  52. Selischev, A. M. 1928. Yazyk revolutsionnoi epokhi: Iz nabliudenii nad russkim yazykom (1917–1926). Moscow: Rabotnik Prosvescheniia.Google Scholar
  53. Shaporina, Liubov’. 2012. Dnevnik. Vol. 1. Moscow: NLO.Google Scholar
  54. ———. 2017. Dnevnik. Vol. 2. Moscow: NLO.Google Scholar
  55. Smith, S. A. 1998. “The Social Meaning of Swearing: Workers and Bad Language in Late Imperial and Early Soviet Russia.” Past and Present 160 (1): 167–202.Google Scholar
  56. ———. 2002. The Russian Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Sokolov, Andrei, ed. 1998. Obschestvo i vlast’. 1930e gody. Moscow: ROSSPEN.Google Scholar
  58. Solomon, Peter H. 1996. Soviet Criminal Justice Under Stalin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Stalin, I. V. 1947. Doklad o proekte konstitutsii SSSR. Moscow: OGIZ.Google Scholar
  60. Taylor, Charles. 1989. Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Tikhomirov, Alexey. 2013. “The Regime of Forced Trust: Making and Breaking Emotional Bonds Between People and State in Soviet Russia, 1917–1941.” Slavonic and East European Review 91 (1): 117–8.Google Scholar
  62. Tsentral’ny Gosudarstvenny Arkhiv Istoriko–politicheskikh Dokumentov Sankt-Peterburga (TsGAIPD SPb) [Central State Archives of Historical–Political Documents in Saint-Petersburg].Google Scholar
  63. Tsentral’ny Gosudarstvenny Arkhiv Kinofotofonodokumentov Sankt-Peterburga (TsGAKFFD SPb) [Central State Archives of Documentary Films, Photographs, and Sound Recordings of Saint-Petersburg].Google Scholar
  64. Velikanova, Olga. 2013. Popular Perceptions of Soviet Politics in the 1920s: Disenchantment of the Dreamers. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  65. Viola, Lynne. 2007. The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Yekelchyk, Serhy. 2014. Stalin’s Citizens: Everyday Politics in the Wake of Total War. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Zorkaia, Natalia. 2010. “‘Nostalgia for the Past’, or What Lessons Young People Could Have Learned and Did Learn.” Russian Social Science Review 51 (2): 4–31.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA

Personalised recommendations