Zoom Link for Remote Classes!

Here is the Zoom link you should use when we are meeting remotely. It is a “recurring meeting” link, so it will always be the same. Just click it when it’s time for class to start, and you will be magically transported to the wonderful world of HIS 315:


*We will be remote for all classes in Week 1-2 and all Wednesdays this semester. So far, we are planning to meet in hybrid mode (with some of you face to face with me in the classroom) on Mondays starting in Week 3. This is subject to change, as are so many things this semester. I will let you know about any changes as soon as I possibly can.

EDIT: As of Week 5, we will be remote for the rest of the semester.

The Perception of the Death of Stalin; Mourning In Such a Way as to Continue the Soviet Union?

At the beginning of chapter eight Paul Stronski discusses Stalin’s death and more specifically the aftermath of his death. Citizens of Moscow were literally killing each other in order to pay their respects to their former leader. A man who is responsible for incredibly horrible acts, yet was the leader of the Soviet Union for so many years and spearheaded growth in the “nation”. He was the leader and with his death worry among the citizens of Moscow seemed to be very prevalent. However, in areas were Stalin’s body was not kept mourning seemed to be great but less dramatic than Moscow. But, mourning still seemed great and important. Thus it seems as if the mourning of Stalin was important in order for the Soviet Union to continue. So much so that it almost seems suspicious in areas where people are not “Russian”. But, many letters were written about the death of Stalin and mourning was happening. Stronski states, “Individual or institutional letters from the Uzbeck capital [in regards to Stalin’s death] most frequently were signed by people with Slavic last names or by Uzbeks who chose to write in Russian […]” (Stronski, 206). Moreover, the author makes a strong case that mourning from Uzbek citizens is real and honest. In an area that is decidedly “‘Sovietized'” do they act as a role model for how non-Russian Soviet areas should be reacting to Stalin’s death? Is it truly important for a strategic and grand mourning period of Stalin’s death to move the Soviet Union into the future? Why is it important?

Undeveloped Industrial Tashkent

Like we talked about like in last class, we see the Soviet Union building other things or stuff that is not necessary to build. In last class we saw them building wider roads which meant destroying residential homes. This quote yet again shows, Stalin and the Soviet Union using old pre-war buildings to re-industrialize the country. I see many things wrong about this, for one this is not going to help or benefit the people of Tashkent. Secondly, wouldn’t it make more sense for the Soviet Union to invest in schools and training places? If you think about it the, Stalin is only hurting himself and the quality of the regime. The quality of work will not be the same as it was before the War. In the Long run, this would solve lots of headaches for when Uzbeks needed to be trained. I think it would have been beneficial for the Soviet Union to invest time snd money, so that workers are well educated so that they don’t have to worry about wasting more time to train them.

“Training new Uzbek workers was not an easy task in the late 1940s. Tashkent was transformed into an industrial center, but, as previously mentioned, its schools, universities, and training institutes lost their facili-ties, equipment, and best teachers during the war. In the postwar years, the pressing need to keep production going meant that buildings were not re-turned to their original use. Postwar schools were both crowded and un-evenly distributed throughout the city.”

MLA (Modern Language Assoc.)
Paul Stronski. Tashkent : Forging a Soviet City, 1930–1966. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010.

APA (American Psychological Assoc.)
Paul Stronski. (2010). Tashkent : Forging a Soviet City, 1930–1966. University of Pittsburgh Press.

Symbolism in Architecture and Sovietization

In the second half of chapter 6, I found the symbolism used by the Soviets in Tashkent interesting. Firstly was the large use of water in the administrative center of Tashkent. Stronski states that “such extensive use of water was meant to impress Tashkenters and foreign visitors from equally parched colonial areas and convince them of the ability of socialism to promote modernization” (Stronski, 161). Secondly was the strength and longevity of the buildings, in particular to resist earthquakes. On page 163 we read that “It was unacceptable for it to crumble from seismic movement, like so many other structures; it needed to last for centuries,” followed by on page 164 “A collapse of the Supreme Soviet building or the Lenin Monument would send the wrong message to Tashkenters and, in fact, the entire world. Soviet technology needed to control and reorder, not merely with-stand, the power of nature” (Stronski, 163-64). Thirdly we have the usage of asphalt throughout Tashkent. Stronski tells us “a marker of the urban lifestyle, asphalt was a public indicator of the Soviet system’s success in converting an agricultural society into an industrial and urban state” (Stronski, 171). In your opinions, were the Soviets effective with their use of symbolism in Tashkent? Did it help create a sense of a new Soviet city?

We learn in the beginning of chapter 8 of the mourning of Stalin in Tashkent. On page 202 it reads “Mourning was a multiethnic endeavor centered at the heart of the Soviet city but spreading outward to include all sections of the Uzbek capital” (Stronski, 202). Further more, we learn that compared to the rest of the Uzbek SSR, Tashkent has far more Central Asians able to use the Russian language, evident in the letters expressing morning after the death of Stalin. Stronski states that “Tashkent was clearly becoming more “Soviet,” while the rest of the Uzbek SSR trailed behind” (Stronski, 208). However, we see later that even after the death of Stalin many Uzbeks in Tashkent had not desire to live in apartments which the Soviets desired them to, many feeling unwelcomed. Furthermore, we see “The post-Stalin era saw an increase in resentment among Uzbek residents of the city who felt that they were being pushed out of their native town by Russian immigrants and Soviet architects who wanted to destroy their homes and cover their yards with pavement” (Stronski, 225). Was the Stalin regime effective in their goals of bring together and Sovietizing the people of Tashkent, and if so to what level? Was Stalin more effective than Khrushchev in incorporating the Asian people of Tashkent as Soviet citizens?

Soviet Recognition in Uzbekistan Planning

In Chapter 6, I found it interesting how Soviet influence and urban planning was rewarded and commemorated in Tashkent. Our discussion last class on Soviet monuments in Uzbekistan (as well as the larger Soviet Union) made me think more about how the Soviets explicitly interjected their culture and icons upon the other nations it governed through monuments and commemoration. Similar in thought, in Chapter 6 I noted the building of the Navoi Opera and Ballet Theater which was regarded as a great success in Soviet Uzbek urban planning (165). This building was magnificently built but allowed the Uzbeks to take great pride in its building because it was more representative of their culture and utilized Uzbek materials (165). It was a source of Uzbek cultural and ethnic pride. However, when commending the building of the theater, the Russian architects garnered the most recognition. The text states, “in analyzing who received the awards, one must recognize that Shchusev, the Russian architect who designed the building and oversaw its construction using Soviet technology, garnered the most praise, while his Uzbek counterparts were seen as craftsmen, skilled in handicrafts but not holding commanding positions as construction engineers or architects. The Soviet pecking order, with Russian technical experts above Uzbek handicraft laborers, is apparent again in the history of this prize-winning building” (168). Overall, I thought it was interesting and incredibly disappointing to almost belittle or view the work of Uzbeks as lesser, especially when the building was built in their country and meant to celebrate their culture. I was wondering the class’s thoughts on this and how it ties to our earlier discussion on Soviet monuments in Uzbekistan.  

Tashkent, a city asleep

The development of Tashkent was the greatest urbanization effort undertaken by Soviet leadership. This development was manifested in civil programs to increase the basic living standards of living in the city. This was done through strenuous actions of moving industry to Tashkent to protect Soviet manufacturing. The result of these actions turned Tashkent from an old city to maxing its industrial potential. Something interesting to evaluate is the Soviet interests of urbanizing Tashkent. Party officials often blamed Uzbeks for missing development quotas set by Soviet authority. “Uzbek people were identified as promoting ethnic animosities throughout Central Asia and fostering rapidly declining standards of living and food shortages.” (Stronski 52) This statement contests the concept that the Soviets wished to ‘modernize’ Central Asians. So what were the party’s interests in developing Tashkent? Were Soviet intentions purely strategic and Tashkent represented the best location for industrial relocation? Or did officials believe in establishing a forepost of Soviet intentions and creating a model communist city?

Soviet versus Czarist perspective

I found it interesting that the Russian Empire took a much less invasive role on the lives of the people they deemed themselves to be colonial overlords of. Stronski tells us that their objective was to create an example of “civilization” for the indigenes people to follow, writing that the Czarists “believed that the Muslim residents of these territories would quickly recognize the ‘superiority’ of Russian rule and follow Russian colonizers into ‘modernity’ after seeing European technology and culture on display in the new city of Tashkent” (Stronski, 19). We find out that the Soviets took a much larger interest on the everyday life of the people they resided over. However, similarly to the previous regime they wanted to create an example of modernity for the people of Central Asia. Stronski writes “Soviet propaganda hailed Tashkent as the “beacon” of Soviet power in the East that would light the socialist path to prosperity for neighboring peoples of Asia” (Stronski, 40). Similarly, the Soviets use a European example for their new ‘beacon,’ this being Moscow. But, we learn that Moscow its self was heavily modernized by the Soviets, and the prerevolutionary city was criticized by the new regime. So, my question to everyone is does the desire to model Tashkent off of Moscow illustrate a Russian/European centric attitude of the Soviet Government, or is the decision based more on the desire to modernize? Furthermore, does the usage of Moscow rather than another modern city significant?

Art or Home: Is this a different type of cultural construction?

Although the Gorispolkom officially promoted the construction of apartment buildings for citizens in need of shelter, the state put a higher priority on monumental structures, worthy of an international power, as the means to show its “care” for the people. After the horror and hardship of war, the public areas of the Soviet city architecturally and rhetorically needed to evoke the bright future of a victorious state that had defeated fascism and was prepared to take the revolution around the globe (146).

In our reading for today, I found this quote from chapter six to be very peculiar. From what we have learned about Soviet culture over the course of the semester, I think it is safe to say there is always a base belief in functional utility, i.e. the collective farm as way to serve the community. Of course, positive propaganda has always played a role in developments, but there seems to be a survivalist aspect to the whole matter. I feel like this quote shows a deviation from this principal: they are prioritizing art over housing. Does this seem odd to anyone else?

Modernization in Tashkent

I really enjoyed the chapters on urban planning and the revitalization of Tashkent. Its interesting to read how the Soviet Union launched a campaign to modernize the city to make it a hub for Soviet Central Asia. The text states, “Soviet propaganda hailed Tashkent as the “beacon” of Soviet power in the East that would light the socialist path to prosperity for neighboring peoples of Asia” (40) and “Russian imperial planners sculpted a new European city in the Central Asian desert and hoped that this achievement would entice Muslim Central Asians to join the “modern world.” Those who did not become convinced of European superiority could be left behind in the premodern conditions of Old Tashkent” (44). Both of these quotes encompass the purpose of the modernization plan, however I wonder if it was a worthwhile project for the Soviets to take on and if the early modernization was actually successful. 

Display of Imperialism or Celebration of Diversity?

The readings for today touched on the role of music, theater, and opera in the larger Soviet Union regions and how their culture reflected their larger identity and place in Soviet society. I find it interesting how the various nationalities mentioned in the readings went to Moscow to demonstrate their culture and identity and how their music flourished and changed because of this. For example, the text states, “Three hundred Kazak actors, dancers, musicians, poets and writers descended upon Moscow for the festival starting on 17 May 1936. Artists from the Kazak State Musical Theatre and the National Orchestra of the Kazak Philharmonic, as well as popular writers and singers, composed the delegation from Kazakstan” (191). In the reading on Armenian music the author argues, “the level of education was improved, orchestras were established and financially supported, and the arrangement of concerts flourished. However, the effect of Soviet cultural policy on folk music led to a dramatic transformation of not only the music, but of virtually everything to do with this music, from the folk musician’s education and the transmission of songs to the context of performance and the way folk musicians were regarded” (153). It seems like the displays of culture and art was a positive action, however one quote caught my eye from one of the readings. Rouland argued that the Dekada “legitimized Soviet imperial aggression” (190). I thought this was an interesting perspective and was wondering how the class felt. 

Armenian Influence on others

Something I never understood was, the Soviet Union and Stalin at times altered or changed a cultures way or nationality. This come from Kazahks changing their lifestyle, putting minorities in another nationalist spot of their own. The list could go on and on, but where I don’t get is they let the majority of art and theatre stay the same with minor tweaks and fixes. Why is art and music so important to the success of the Soviet Regime? Can we pick apart why this is a thing within the country? “This fitted in well with the socialist ideology of equality among nations, and the advancement of the culture of the people so that they were as sophisticated as the bourgeoisie.“ (Page 152 Chapter 8)

MLA (Modern Language Assoc.)
Neil Edmunds. Soviet Music and Society Under Lenin and Stalin : The Baton and Sickle. Routledge, 2004.

APA (American Psychological Assoc.)
Neil Edmunds. (2004). Soviet Music and Society Under Lenin and Stalin : The Baton and Sickle. Routledge.