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 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?

Russian in Form, Soviet in Content

I found the influence the Soviet Union had on the music of different nationalities of its member states to be very interesting in “National in Form, Socialist in Content,” especially when Frolova-Walker compares this to the relatively uninterested stance taken by the Russian Empire who for the most part (with exceptions in Ukraine and Finland) did not interfere with language and religion of its inhabitants incorporated into the empire. Frolova-Walker states that “Constructing a national musical culture
was, like the building of a gigantic dam, a matter of concern for the whole
country” (Frolova-Walker, 336). Does this large Soviet impact on national music make the Soviets hypocritical and violate the self-determination ideals of Soviet Nationalities Policy? Does it aid or hinder the Soviets in their creation and modification of the nation art?

The article discusses the Russification imposed onto the Soviet nationalities. In my opinion, the focus on opera seems like a popular Russian art form nationalities were subjected to create. The article reads “Since musical nationalism in the Soviet republics was dependent on the model of nineteenth-century Russia, these states were expected to inaugurate their era of national art music with opera” (Frolova-Walker, 339). Furthermore, with drawing inspiration from western art being off limits, these nationalities seemed to have been forced to draw from Russian art. However, it is explained that many of the the urban elites and others in theses Soviet Nationalities believed the pathway to modernization and westernization was through Russian culture. The example of Azerbaijan is used. The article explains the view of workers in Azerbaijan, stating “the workers of the oil industry and the railways suddenly developed a vigorous appetite for ‘real opera’: ‘We need new Azerbaijani operas,’ they wrote, along with such slogans as ‘Cultured modern opera or nothing,’ and even ‘Ban the old mugam opera’ and ‘Turk opera must go, along with the Arabic alphabet and the yashmak [veil]!'” (Frolova-Walker, 340). So, it appears that Russification while being mandatory was not always despised, and in this case welcomed. In your opinion, does Russification seem like more of a choice or obligation? What effect does this Russification have on the Art in the Soviet Union, and in your opinion does it benefit or negatively effect the Soviet Union as a whole?

The constraints imposed upon composers was an interesting piece of this article. Stalin had created the outline of what soviet Opera would be. The article states

“Stalin’s speech on opera emphasized three points: the subject matter was to be socialist, a realist musical language bearing the imprint of its national origins was to be adopted, and a new breed of hero was to be drawn from contemporary Soviet Life… ‘Our new operas must above all include these four elements: Soviet subject matter, narodnost’ [“nationality,” or “people-ness”], realism, and the mastery of symphonic development.'”

(Frolova-Walker, 363)

However these constraints proved difficult for many artist to abide by. The article states that ” too much of the national element could be criticized as bourgeois nationalism, too much realism was bourgeois naturalism, and too much symphonic development was bourgeois formalism”(Frolova-Walker, 363). It is explained that these constraints created an art which “was to be familiar in form and anodyne in content” (Frolova-Walker, 368). Do these restrictions hinder development of Soviet art? Does it aid the Soviets by creating conformity between these nationalities? If both, does one outcome outweigh the other?

Inconsistency of Soviet Ideology

It seems as though though throughout this course the Soviets most often paint conflicts as class struggles, even when in reality the conflict may not have to do with class at all. An example of this is the Chust incident described in today’s reading. Northrop explains how “soviet analyst explained what happened in Chust through the prism of class conflict (Northrop, 148). “When the Chust affair was shoehorned into a class-based analytical scheme, it no longer signified broad-based popular resistance to the hujum or against Soviet power” (Northrop, 149). Northrop explains that the affair was more of a religious conflict and a response to soviet power that illustrated the fact that many people opposed Soviet rule. So, my question is how does this misinterpretation effect Soviet officials and policy makers residing over Uzbek?

Soviet Motive in Central Asia

Northrop describes in Chapter 1 the view European Imperialists had on Central Asia. Northrop uses a quote from Hungarian scholar Arminius Vambery to describe this, “‘In a country where pillage and murder, anarchy and lawlessness, are the rule, not the exception, a sovereign has to maintain his authority by inspiring his subjects with the utmost dread and almost superstitious terror for his person…'” (page 35). It seems as though early soviets had a similar disdain for Uzbek culture. Northrop describes the soviet perspective, writing “If anyone in Central Asia had to change, it was clear who it would be: European practices were the (modern) model to which (backward, primitive) Uzbeks had to adjust” (page 59). Northrop then goes on the explain the reasons for this view, describing the terrible effects poor hygiene and isolation in harems has on the women of the area and citing a study that found “more than 45% of local women (9,772 of 21,626) to be seriously ill” (page 61). So, my question is, from the soviet point of view, is there an obligation to try to change the culture (if so to what extent) or would that be somewhat imperialistic and imposing their culture on a less developed people?

The Soviets and the Jadids

The Jadid intellectuals and the Soviets shared common ground on their disdain for European imperialism. Likewise, both parties share the goal of modernizing central Asia. A quote from Stalin is included in the text stating the desire to “‘raise the level of the backwards people,… to enlist the toiling masses… in the building of the Soviet State, [and] to do away with all disabilities … that prevent the peoples of the East… from emancipating themselves from the survivals of medievalism and national oppression'” (page 153). the text also expresses the view of the Jadids, that “the path to salvation lies through enlightenment, education, and moral rectitude…” (153). However, the text explains that the Jadid view of exploitation was focused on imperialism, while the Soviet was on class. Furthermore, the Jadid’s Islamic beliefs seem to conflict with the aniti religious view of the Soviets. So, my question is was the ideology of the Jadids compatible with the Soviets?

The Great Purges

The causes for arrests The Great Purges from 1937-39 seem to go from targeting political resistance to persecuting minorities deemed as threatening to the state. Brown describes the ‘album’ method in which the NKVD searched through “records from schools, collective farms, party cells, labor unions and military service,” which identified people by their nationality, in order to find suitable candidates for arrest. (Brown, 158). Brown later explains how the USSR weakened its ideological base by the massive arrests under false pretense (Brown, 167). However, the USSR was able to accomplish its goals of consolidation power and creating fixed national identities. My question is did the USSR hurt itself more than it benefited from the oppression of national minorities and what Brown says Stalin called ‘spy mania,’ or did the purges help the USSR more in the long run?