Davies, S.R., ‘Propaganda and popular opinion in Soviet Russia, 1934-41’
D.Phil completed 1994. Oxford University

Abstract: This thesis brings to light hitherto highly classified material from Russian party and state archives, and addresses several of the many new questions this material raises. It is hoped that the result of this endeavour is an original perspective on Soviet society and on some of the workings of the Soviet system in this period. In particular, Soviet society is shown to be less passive and atomised than some earlier accounts have suggested. From the time of the XVII party congress in 1934, the Soviet regime devoted increasing attention to agitation and propaganda with the aim of moulding the opinions of ordinary people. All forms of public communication acquired a uniformity of both style and content. Although there were fluctuations in the methods, intensity and direction of the propaganda, the essential messages did not change. These messages revolved around the ideas of the cult of Stalin and other leaders and the unity and well-being of the people. It was claimed that the whole Soviet people were unanimous in their support for the vozhd’ and his policies, an image reinforced by mass meetings and parades. This representation of unity reached its apogee in November 1937, when Molotov spoke of the “unity of the Soviet people embodied in the vozhd’, comrade Stalin”. The central question addressed by the thesis was provoked by the apparent disparity between on the one side, this official imagery and, on the other, the everyday life of most ordinary people, one of poverty and, to a certain extent, of oppression.

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