On the Historical Circumstances of “Sovietness”

Socio-economic Aspects of Life in the Former Soviet Union

Essay, 2015

14 Pages, Grade: 92


Norah Sloane

The Circumstances of “Sovietness” and the March of Red Progress

The Soviet Union emerged out of a utopian vision of a fabricated “shelter” for the workers of the world. Built on the skewed and butchered words of Marx and Engels, empire born revolutionaries in the early twentieth century organized and printed countless newspapers pumped full of their hate of imperialism, capitalism, and inequity. They mustered the strength to remove the Tsars in the midst of the world’s first grand war toppling the autocratic regime that ruled from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific and from the Arctic Ocean to the Black and Caspian Seas. The work of these fringe extremists, of these intellectual middle-class men, these self-proclaimed emancipators, set the stage for decades of social abuse upon millions of people. Unlike the forthcoming genocidal catastrophes from the Ottomans and Nazis, the developing Soviet Union fabricated systemic social devastation that enslaved nearly all its people to the whims of an oligarchy of communist party members driven by a distorted ideal for a future that was always nearly around the bend. The vision for the Soviet Union, as painted by Lenin, and subsequently painted over and framed up by Stalin, was one of a uniform state free of the burdens of choice. The lands and peoples under the Soviet legislative body existed stripped of sovereignty, freedom, expression, and volition. Stalin intended to rip the past out of people to formulate his vision for the future. All peoples, regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender were to be stripped of their cultural backgrounds, their religious roots, their familial affinities, and their geographically embedded social positions. The Soviet people were a new breed birthed into an age of collective destruction. Communities and their timeless histories were inked over with the deep crimson of the flags of the Red Army.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics emerged into the world after months of development, struggle, sacrifice, and pain. It was not until the leadership of Joseph Stalin within the one-party state that the true nature of the soviet ideal society took shape. The “Man of Steel” struck the world around him like a hammer and upon his ascendance into premiership terrorized each religious, social, and ethnic group into near oblivion. Stalin arbitrarily and without any remorse harassed, persecuted, and attacked everyone. Power and paranoia became the paint brush for Soviet existence. The portrait of “Sovietness” became one of broken people. The years of cross-continental assault left the newly formed republics of the USSR in ruin. Peoples’ dejection became the social norm. Across villages, towns, and cities, the continuity of life suffered a paradigm shift towards abjectness and despondency. Hope, if it ever had existed for the individual before the Soviet Union, was lost to the striking force of Stalin and his militarized NKVD. And so was shaped the ideal Soviet: dejected, hopeless, and rid of all individual motivation. Once the individual is lost, his only outlet and purpose for existence is family. If family is subjugated to arbitrary dissolution, the next turn is to community to find purpose. Unfortunately, communities are torn, battered, and threatened. Religion, as a channel, is repressed and those existing within its doctrines are oppressed. Subsequently, those born into the Soviet system, or reaching maturity therein, under Stalin’s reign emerge into a world only dominated by one party permeating all levels of life. Ultimately, after 1930, the Soviet people were hammered into submissive shells where “motherland” became more important than “mother”:

[The Soviet ideal] is an individual who has agreed to demonstrate his willingness to sacrifice himself for the sake of “the future of the country,” “the Motherland,” “the Party,” the “people,” and similar ideological substitutes for the leadership, not because he believes in these incantations, but because he does not think it is useful to go against the flow…he sees no alternative to this state of things either in the present or future.1

The portrait of “Sovietness” was carried forth from Stalin’s reign and into daily existence thereafter. Nikita Khrushchev, successor to Stalin’s emotionally diluted society, changed little in terms of practice. The institutions, as they had been established under Stalin, fostered important leverage over Soviet human capital. The transition from authoritarian to authoritarian solidified the social condition of the population. The harsh lifestyle and living conditions under the Tsar, which were subsequently exasperated by the October Revolution and the Civil Wars, became embedded into the newly developed Soviet cultural continuity.

The strength of government authority and influence dissipated away from the Kremlin like the waves of a pebble in a lake. Distance defined depth of political clout. The Baltic States, as an example, sustained stricter economic and social puppeteering in comparison to the states past the Urals and into the Caucuses. Although the Kremlin was not short on providing sweeping legislative or executive economic decisions for the Soviet republics, the delivery of resolutions suffered exponential delays farther out from the head of the state. Stalin’s infamous and draconian Five-Year Plans were the mold for all subsequent executive orders transmitted from the walls of the Kremlin. Under his leadership and his successors, industry and manufacturing were the vision of the Soviet “telos.” Growth was the mantra of the entire economy as development and expansion were the only two options. There was no room to stagnate or lower any yields as government authorities sought to show the world the potential of the worker’s revolution. Officials, intending to establish an image of utopian prosperity and social comfort, pursued higher and higher quotas from manufacturers and farmers. Year after year, as expectations went up, managers in different facilities across nearly all industries and farmers throughout the Soviet Union could not match the anticipated output for the national projected growth. The generations following the introduction of the Five-Year Plan structure adapted to the slaving numbers game of the top-level officials and their bureaucratic mafia. Incapable of producing to the expected quotas, fraud became sustenance.

To the standard Soviet, bureaucracy was the foundation for being. Life did not exist unless otherwise sanctioned by the pen to paper motion of the rank and file bureaucrats. The government, the economy, the social structure, and overall the transcendent meta-concepts that affirm any state and cultural continuity, were interwoven into a complex system of almost militarized order. Members of the state’s communist party served as the human gears oiled into the immense Soviet machine. The sweeping orders and commands as beckoned by the Supreme Soviet were unquestionably espoused by these victims of the trans-generational dejection. These bureaucrats, theses lower level party member of the Soviet Union, these governmental Mafiosi, functioned as the striking force for the ruling Soviet oligarchy. Their work, vested by the Kremlin’s command, called for arbitrary enforcement of production, manufacturing, and farming quotas throughout the Republics. Within the demoralizing Soviet social landscape, where the everyday worker was the poor, overworked, under paid, dejected, dispirited individual drone for communism, the discovery of alleviation through governmental work became the catalyst for expressing discontent. Although employed under the precepts of propagating the vision of the Stalinist ideal, the men and women working through the various departments and agencies of the state were granted a compromising level of power. Entrusted to audit and report on infractions, fraud, surplus, and deficit in manufacturing, production, and farming, these individuals would use their position to further their personal status. Lining their pockets with rubles, the growth of bureaucracy and the employment of the unfortunately unideal became the rubicon for Soviet disaster. Order, as intended by Stalin and dutifully enforced by the Supreme Soviet for decades, continually fell short as a rift developed between the elites in the top tiers of the drastically precipitous social hierarchy and the victims of Stalin’s social subjugation in the wider lower rung of order. The Soviet Union, via their bureaucratic enforcers, crumbled into an economic oblivion as bribery, theft, and bartering was adopted as the archaic fiscal policy for the world superpower.


1 Gudkov, Lev. "Conditions Necessary for the Reproduction of "Soviet Man." Sociological Research 49, no. 6 (November 2010): 53

Excerpt out of 14 pages


On the Historical Circumstances of “Sovietness”
Socio-economic Aspects of Life in the Former Soviet Union
San Francisco State University
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
historical, circumstances, sovietness”, socio-economic, aspects, life, former, soviet, union
Quote paper
Norah Sloane (Author), 2015, On the Historical Circumstances of “Sovietness”, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/454668


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: On the Historical Circumstances of “Sovietness”

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free