What did Stalin think of the Armenians?

Soviet Union

Research on the late Soviet Union has seen an upswing over the past two decades. While research on Stalinism dominated in the 1990s, it is now research after 1953. Historians have recovered from the shock of the collapse; they no longer ask about the reasons for the collapse - and why they did not foresee it - but rather why the Soviet Union has apparently worked so well for so long. The master narrative is slowly changing from a decline to a success story - with an abrupt end.

In addition, the time of school education and camp fighting seems to be over. Until 1991 totalitarians who assumed the state and party would completely rule society, and revisionists who ascribed great scope for action and creative power to social groups, were joined in the 1990s by the group of culturalists, who located the engine of history neither in physical violence nor in social groups, but in the discourses. Today, on the other hand, there is an almost happy coexistence of different theories and approaches. In research it is a central concern to give up outdated dichotomies such as Stalinist / reformer, Soviet person / dissident, publicly expressing / thinking privately and to find integral concepts. The new integration also applies to the field of historians themselves. Nobody is now trying to suppress other approaches.

However, a "performative shift" can be observed. The "power of language" is followed by the "power of action": as long as a person went to the parade on May 1st, they supported the system through this action, regardless of what they said or thought about it. Economic history approaches that have long been a shadowy existence have also returned. Finally, reports are increasingly finding their way into historiography. The chance here is to create a "first-hand experience" in addition to dramaturgical effects; the danger is to lose critical distance and analytical power.

Under Khrushchev and Brezhnev

The late Soviet period is largely equated with the rule of Nikita Khrushchev (1953–1964) and Leonid Brezhnev (1964–1982). The historicization has freed both politicians from the blanket judgments from the Cold War era, so that they can be viewed anew in their context. William Taubman's great biography of Khrushchev in 2003 was ahead of its time. [1] The fascination for this apparently contradictory man, who loved to provoke his Western interlocutors, and who was a nightmare for every speechwriter, because he constantly deviated from the manuscript and rumbled and threatened uncontrollably, has produced some works, although gaps remain. [2 ] A rather brief interlude in the historiography was the dispute over the real reasons for Khrushchev's de-Stalinization course and the "secret speech" at the 20th party congress in 1956. The opinion, represented by dissidents and previously unquestioned, that Khrushchev had this from a "movement of the soul "Done out, [3] has meanwhile been condemned as naive: The settlement with Stalin was only a flight forward and a strategy to maintain power. [4] The prevailing opinion, however, is that after Stalin's death most of the party leaders discovered their conscience; Terror and violence no longer corresponded to her image of a modern Soviet state. [5]

If Khrushchev's aim is to wrest him from exoticism, Brezhnev's priority is to remove the label "Stalinist". In fact, Brezhnev was just as little a supporter of Stalin as his predecessor Khrushchev, but after the two coup attempts against Khrushchev thought it advisable to come to terms with the Stalinists. He was neither the driving force behind the invasion of Prague in 1968 nor that in Afghanistan in 1979. [6] It is not about personality profiles, but about the party networks and how the "patrons" rewarded or punished the loyalty of their "clients": Stalin arrested Khrushchev, Brezhnev praised opponents away. [7]

Hardliners and hippies

Not only the party leaders, but also the Soviet people are torn from the black and white thinking of the Cold War. Not all of the party members were Stalinists, nor did the population consist only of supporters of the thaw. Miriam Dobson showed very impressively that society was neither willing to accept the amnestied Gulag prisoners as neighbors and work colleagues, nor the associated revaluation of history. They feared the crime spilling over into their lives from the camps as well as the camp jargon that spread as subversive youth slang. [8] That is why the reaction of many readers of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" in 1962 was so outraged because they saw the crude, vulgar language as an attack on high culture. Dobson has thus refuted all totalitarians who always implied that the death of the tyrant would automatically turn all subjects into enlightened subjects. While there was strong persistence on the one hand, especially with regard to family and moral concepts, [9] they developed on the other stiljagiwho dressed and signed colorful, wild and unadjusted, or even hippies. [10] The answer came from neighborhood brigades and courts, which were imposed by the state and party less than the concerns of the insecure Soviet people. Numerous other works also show how much the de-Stalinization shook old norms and benchmarks and the struggle for a regime of sayings. [11]

There is disagreement over the question of whether the dissidents were "Soviet people" or the direct descendants of the pre-revolutionary intelligentsia. Even if their origins can be found in the Khrushchev period, [12] they only appeared under Brezhnev, when they defended the freedoms obtained after 1953 and revolted against the arrest of dissidents. While some describe them very pathetically as the last heirs and bearers of a vanished culture, [13] others show that the "petitioners", as they called themselves, were part of the Soviet culture and were part of it Soviet jargons used to express their concerns. They argued inside, not outside of the system. [14] As Jelena Bonner is said to have said about her husband Andrei Sakharov: "My husband is a physicist - not a dissident." [15]

My apartment, my car

Khrushchev and Brezhnev declared raising the extremely low standard of living to be the first task of the state or the general line of the party. It was a nationwide poverty reduction program. In addition, Khrushchev promised all Soviet people their own prefabricated apartment, [16] Brezhnev a car to work on, drive to the dacha and chase after deficit products. [17] Here, too, it can be argued whether this was done out of calculation, in order to pacify the population with a "small deal" - consumption for loyalty - or because for both of them alleviating the need was an affair of the heart. [18] Both increased the pension and the minimum wage and ensured that the state did not only pay the farm workers in kind for the first time. [19] Media consumption, television, the importance of which was not understood by the party leaders for a long time, who read live speeches endlessly without looking up, radio and the reference to rock'n'roll music from the West are also in the focus of historians * moved inside. [20]

With the question "Dissident or consumer?" The generation issue is always negotiated: Those who think differently were the children of the builders of the USSR, mostly born in the 1930s, and thus the second Soviet generation. Around 1950 they gave birth to the "Sputnik generation" or "baby boomers" who are considered to be rather "apolitical"; they were mainly concerned with a good education and their careers. [21] Their children, the fourth generation, count as "cynical conformists" or "consumer generation", who cared neither about communism nor its reform, nor a good education, but who were entirely committed to material values; the party narrative and the festive rituals were just empty shells for them. [22]

Research on farmers, on the other hand, is still in its infancy, and little is known about their everyday life and reality after 1953. [23] It is also astonishing how little has been published so far about Khrushchev's new land campaign, with which, from 1954, especially in Kazakhstan, with appropriate propaganda support, barren land was transformed into productive arable land. [24] It is almost unexplored that farmers * were not entitled to an inland passport until 1974 and were therefore officially not allowed to leave their villages. As Brezhnev put it: "Socialism has not yet arrived in the village." [25]

New economic history

The USSR was based on a technical utopia and in the end collapsed with it. Although the era of large construction sites ebbed with Stalin's death, [26] Brezhnev at least tried one last time to build on the - supposed - enthusiasm of the 1930s with the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline. [27] Even if the time of the major projects fell into the Stalin era, economic history is just beginning to flourish for the 1960s to 1980s. While Anna Krylova diagnosed in 2016 that cultural history was to blame for historians * having lost sight of economic history, [28] others see more of an opportunity to merge the two and to write a story that is less numbers and statistics than economic methods and puts human action in the foreground. The thesis of Oscar Sanchez-Sibony on "red globalization" was groundbreaking, according to which the USSR always sought trade with the West, even under Stalin, and the markets were always intertwined. [29] With this in mind, numerous studies have been carried out on the negotiations surrounding the export of "red" gas and oil. [30] A work on Moscow's "capitalist bankers" who lived in the West in order to get the money for trading there is also very informative. [31]

There is still no exhaustive study of the state planning authority Gosplan, which was responsible not only for the five-year plans, but also for the distribution of resources throughout the USSR. Their aim was to use reliable data and statistics from the republics and regions to develop scientific production and economic plans that were both realistic and tailored to requirements. It was no secret that the reality was completely different: data and statistics were falsified, resources were often only allocated on paper, but not in practice, which is why those responsible procured what they needed via their own networks; the needs of the population were ultimately on a completely different sheet. And so the Gosplan authority is not just a super authority that can hardly be grasped; there is also the risk of overlooking the much more fundamental networks and practices in researching their institutions. So this story remains a desideratum for the time being. A study by Alexandra Oberländer, according to which the currency reform in 1961 led to the ruble being replaced by chicken eggs in many regions, shows that business in the USSR was neither "scientifically" nor according to plan, nor was it needs-based Eggs. [32]

Beyond Moscow

It was and is a problem of historiography that it concentrates heavily on the two metropolises - besides Moscow and St. Petersburg - but hardly on the republics. While that changed significantly for the time of Stalinism, it is only slowly changing for the time after 1953. But especially in the past few years, research has concentrated on what de-Stalinization and sovietization meant for the Central Asian republics or in the Caucasus and how "socialism" has been translated into national categories, in some cases very successfully. [33] Interethnic coexistence also comes to the fore: be it the Central Asian migrant workers who looked for happiness in the two metropolises, but found themselves there as second-class people, [34] be it interethnic marriages that the state is the ideal of Friendship between peoples was propagated, but in practice it revealed deeply rooted prejudices about ethnic characteristics and affiliations. [35]

In addition, the transnational relations of the Soviet people are also targeted. This is due to the insight that after Stalin the USSR did not live as isolated as the West often believed. As Rosa Magnusdottir noted, the pre-war attraction the USSR had on the West was gone. In order to prove to the West that it was still a worthy project, living examples were needed - "citizen diplomacy". [36] This began with the import of films, novels and dreams, [37] continued with actual trips at home and abroad, [38] reached a climax with the World Youth Day in Moscow in 1957, when capitalist young people were invited for the first time To marvel at the Soviet Union, [39] and resulted in several organizations which, in the sense of the "internationalism" newly discovered under Khrushchev, were intended to serve the exchange with foreign countries and, of course, the propagation of Soviet progress. [40] The foreign correspondents accredited in Moscow also acted as mediators between the worlds. [41]

Cold War

Research on the Cold War is and will remain central. [42] A more recent phenomenon, however, is that it is no longer seen as a purely political confrontation and nuclear arms race, but as a phenomenon that was reflected in all social spheres. The two political systems acted like two magnetic poles, between which each particle had to involuntarily align. The prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater, who danced Swan Lake in New York, made just as much her contribution to the system competition as did Jurij Gagarin when he flew into space in 1961. [43] In addition to studies on the relevant crises, conflicts and proxy wars, broad research has therefore developed into the cultural and social effects of the Cold War and its manifestations beyond the industrialized world.

It is considered certain that Khrushchev was driven by a huge inferiority complex and that each of his foreign policy actions also aimed to be recognized by the USA as a superpower with equal rights. Brezhnev, on the other hand, was accepted by the West as a strong, equal partner after the invasion of Prague in 1968 and the promulgation of the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine. Both, however, made efforts to underline their world power status by making as many "developing countries" or states in the Global South as their partners their partners and wooing them with their success story from an agricultural to an industrial state on the one hand and with economic aid and weapons on the other. [44] Research in recent years has shown that, despite the asymmetrical balance of power, Moscow tended to be the weaker: The urge to profile itself as a superpower on a par with the United States was so great that Khrushchev and Brezhnev were literally blackmailed and obliged to perform exceeded their resources. [45] The ongoing debate as to whether the disarmament efforts of Khrushchev from 1955 to 1959, Brezhnev's 1969 to 1975, and finally Mikhail Gorbachev's emerged from a genuine desire for change or were only due to economic predicament, feeds from these observations of "imperial overstretching". [46] Ultimately, this question can only be answered ideologically: As long as documents do not appear in which the Politburo formulates that it was forced to make disarmament efforts, which is not to be expected, the question of whether the engine of history can be found in the economy remains a philosophical question or localized in a person's worldview, or not both go hand in hand anyway. While the political scientists are (d) concerned with the question of "who" was to blame for the Cold War - the USSR because of its aggressive ideology (traditionally), the USA because with the bomb they put the USSR on the defensive (revisionist ), or both, because they were subject to misperceptions and misunderstandings (post-revisionist) - historians usually prefer to ask "how" something came about. Increasingly, not only are cultural and discursive differences classified as "hard facts", [47] but emotions and feelings are also analyzed as relevant for decision-making. [48] The biographers of Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev agree: it was not the economy, but the desire to change the world that drove their protagonists.

Disaster and crisis

With the history of the environment, the history of disasters has also established itself. [49] There were two disasters that took place independently of perestroika and glasnost, but only developed their explosive power within this framework: The Chernobyl reactor catastrophe in April 1986 destroyed the technical utopia of the controllability of the elements, the earthquake in Armenia in 1988 the illusion of Welfare state. Even if Kate Brown can show in her fabulous book that, compared to Western states, the USSR went to great lengths to save its population and the attempt to cover up the extent of the disaster was in no way the result of Soviet secrecy, but in the interests of the globally active nuclear lobby happened, [50] the explosion not only blew up the reactor roof, but also parts of the foundation of the USSR. [51] The devastating earthquake in Armenia in December 1988 only developed its explosive political power as a result of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, on the one hand, and the new media coverage under the sign of glasnost, on the other. Nevertheless, both catastrophes only acted as a fire accelerator, in no way as a cause of the end of the USSR.

The question of why the USSR collapsed has, as indicated, pale in the meantime from its astonishing functionality and thus the dispute "crisis or suicide" has moved into the background. According to the first view, the USSR had delegitimized itself: Marxism-Leninism had degenerated into a backdrop; [53] it could not keep pace with the USA economically, the arms race had brought it to the brink of ruin, and the nationality conflicts that flared up took place The rest to deal the ailing colossus the fatal blow. [54] After that, the disintegration of the multinational empire was a "catching up development" that ended the "simultaneity of the non-simultaneous". [55] Sometimes a macro-historical framework is sought and the history of Russia is pressed into three modernization cycles: from Peter I to 1856 Russia caught up militarily, until 1970 industrially, and then electronically it failed. [56] Such prominent experts as the Gorbachev specialist Archie Brown and Stephen Kotkin contradict this. [57] Both pointedly advocate the "suicide thesis" and deny the crisis: the economy was bad, but it was going, the "military-industrial complex" devoured huge resources, but that also applied to the USA, and the population was in the Soviet Union established in modest prosperity. It was only the new Secretary General who had shaken the pillars of the regime so fundamentally that he caused it to collapse willy-nilly brought about. "Leninism committed suicide and nothing took its place," [58] said Kotkin. The historicization of the perestroika period is only just beginning and will certainly not only provide a more complex picture of these years, but also push the idea of ​​historical inevitability further into the background.