Communication, Mobility and Control in the Soviet Union after World War II

  • Larissa Zakharova


Letters, postcards or telegrams are expressions of people’s mobility, marking the roads of travelling and migration. They are ‘meta-migratory or para-migratory materials communicated between individuals finding themselves in remote places’ (Hasan-Rokem 2009: 510–11). Mobility intensifies communications at-a-distance, as moving material artefacts or ‘de-materializing’ connections via telephone assure ‘imagined presence’ and reorganize social relationships. As Urry (2007: 157) argues: ‘mobility systems are not to be viewed as bounded and autonomous but in part depend upon how forms of travel presuppose and, on occasions, bring into being modes of communication and new forms of organization at-a-distance’ (Urry 2007: 157). The physical mobility of individuals is accompanied by the movement of a letter or a card in the opposite direction, symbolizing the social or family attachment of individuals to the place they left. Thus, due to physical mobility and modes of communication, social relations are not located in place but constituted through circulating entities (Urry 2007: 46). But what happens when political control intervenes with mobility and the means of communication? According to Castells (2010: 36): ‘Diffusion of information technology, both of machines and of the know-how, could hardly take place in a society where the control of information was critical to the legitimacy of the state, and to the control of the population.’


Post Office Central Committee Telephone Line Telephone Network Telephone Conversation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, B (1983) Imagined communities: reflections on the origins and spread of nationalism. New York: Verso.Google Scholar
  2. Bauman, Z (1991) Modernity and the Holocaust, 2nd edn, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Campana, A, Dufaud, G and Tournon, S (2009) Les déportations en héritage. Les peuples réprimés du Caucase et de Crimée hier et aujourd’hui, Rennes: PUR.Google Scholar
  4. Castells, M (2010) The information age: economy, society and culture. End of millenium. Vol. III 2nd edn, Cambridge Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  5. Figes, O (2012) Just write me word: a true story of love and survival in the Gulag, London: Metropolitan Books.Google Scholar
  6. Gorsuch, A and Koenker, D P (eds) (2006) Turizm: the Russian and East European tourist under capitalism and socialism, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Gorsuch, A (2011) All this is your world: Soviet tourism at home and abroad after Stalin, Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Griesse, M (2011) Communiquer, juger et agir sous Staline. La personne prise entre ses liens avec les proches et son rapport au système politico-idéologique, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  9. Hasan-Rokem, G (2009) ‘Jews as postcards, or postcards as Jews: mobility as a modern genre’, Jewish Quarterly Review 99 (4): 505–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hellbeck, J (2006) Revolution on my mind. Writing a diary under Stalin, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Holquist, P (1997) ‘“Information is the alpha and omega of our work”: Bolshevik surveillance in its pan-European context’, The Journal of Modern History 69 (3): 415–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Holquist, P (2002) Making war, forging revolution. Russia’s continium of crisis, 1914–1921, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Jobert, V (2005) Russkaia sem’ia v vodovorote velikogo pereloma. 155 pisem iz SSSR v Man’chzhuriiu, 1927–29 gg, Saint-Petersburg: Nestor-Istoriia.Google Scholar
  14. Jobert, V (2009) Russkaia sem’ia ‘dans la tourmente déchainée…’: pis’ma O. A. Tolstoi-Voeikovoi, 1927–1930 gg, Saint-Petersburg: Nestor-Istoriia.Google Scholar
  15. Kelly, C (2009) ‘O reshetkakh i gruppakh : alternativnyy vzgliad na “otkrytye” i “zakrytye” obshchestva’, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie 100 (6): 45–54.Google Scholar
  16. Kotkin, S (1997) Magnetic mountain: Stalinism as a civilization, Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  17. Krylova, A (2000) ‘The tenacious liberal subject in Soviet Studies’, Kritika: explorations in Russian and Eurasian history, 1 (1): 119–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Manley, R (2009) To the Tashkent station: evacuation and survival in the Soviet Union at war, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Östman, J O (2004) ‘The postcard as media’, Text: Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse 24 (3): 423–42.Google Scholar
  20. Pohl, M (2004) ‘Women and girls in the virgin lands’, in M Iliç, S E Reid and L Attwood (eds) Women in the Khrushchev era, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 52–74.Google Scholar
  21. Pohl, M (2007) ‘“The planet of 100 languages”: ethnic relations and Soviet identity in the virgin lands’, in N Breyfogle, A Schrader and W Sunderland (eds) Peopling the Russian periphery: borderland colonization in Eurasian history, London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Psurtsev, N D (ed.) (1967) Razvitie sviazi v SSSR, Moscow: Sviaz’.Google Scholar
  23. Rosenfeldt, N E (2009) The ‘special’ world. Stalin’s power apparatus and the Soviet system’s secret structures of communication, Vol. 2, Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen.Google Scholar
  24. Urry, J (2007) Mobilities, Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  25. Vishnevskiy, A A (1960) Razvitie sviazi v SSSR, Moscow: Vysshaia partiinaia shkola. Google Scholar
  26. Yurchak, A (2005) Everything was forever until it was no more. The last Soviet generation, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Larissa Zakharova 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Larissa Zakharova

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations