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Concessions and Repression

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Stalin’s leadership responded to the new public attitudes with a combination of concessions and repression. On the one hand, it strove to create a semblance of some democratization: soviets at all levels resumed their regular work, and congresses of public, cultural, and professional organizations were reconvened after periods of prolonged inactivity. 


In 1948 the First Congress of Composers was held; in 1949 the Congress of Trade Unions was convened after an interval of seventeen years and the Congress of the Young Communist League for the first time in thirteen years. Positive developments took place in education, science, and culture. New universities and research centers were set up, and academies of science were founded in Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Estonia. In 1952 compulsory education was extended to seven years for all Soviet children, and a network of evening schools was set up for young people in jobs. Soviet television began its regular broadcasts. 

In 1952 the Nineteenth Party Congress made the decision to rename the All-Union Communist Party of the Bolsheviks as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). This was a symbolic gesture that consigned to history the words Bolshevik and Bolshevik Party, associated in the popular consciousness with the years of Stalinist repression. The purge of political vocabulary also involved the terms people’s commissar and people’s commissariat, replaced by the more conventional minister and ministry.

However, the state-sponsored democratization was only skin-deep. Intimidation and repression remained the regime’s main instruments of ruling society. In the late 1940s a new purge was under way disguised as the campaign against “cosmopolitism” and “cringing to the West.” It was used to fan anti-Western attitudes and anti-Semitism, mirroring, to some extent, the anti-Communist hysteria that gripped the United States at about the same time. Stalin’s equivalent of a “witch-hunt,” however, had a far more ambitious aim of reimposing comprehensive ideological and political control over society. It was an attempt to resuscitate the “enemy image,” which had faded somewhat during the war, and to provide ideological justification for a new spiral of terror. Until Stalin’s death in 1953, state repression remained at an intolerable level, extending to various social, professional, and ethnic groups, including the party leadership itself, the intellectual community, and the Jews.

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Stalin's Legacy


Soviet Russia

Understanding the Soviet Period
Russian Political Culture
Soviet Ideology
The Soviet System
Soviet Nationalities
The Economic Structure
The Socialist Experiment
"Great Leap" to Socialism
The USSR in World War II
Stalin's Legacy
Brezhnev's Stagnation
The Economy in Crisis
Political Reform
The USSR's Collapse

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