Zhdanovism

After WWII ended and the Soviet regime was victorious, they quickly realized that they had a problem.  Multitudes of former soldiers, refugees and citizens were no longer isolated from Western ideals or standards of living.  For Stalin and Andrei Zhdanov, this was a problem that needed to be immediately addressed and corrected before Western influence gained further ground and potentially undermined the regime.[1]  Numerous writers and publishers were criticized for falling under the influence of the Western bourgeois.[2]  Zhdanov published a report demanding that Russian writers be guided by politics and the party in order to maintain and preserve the country’s revolutionary spirit.[3]  Contrary to the spirit of many Western writers, Zhdanov demanded that art could not be ‘art for art’s sake.’[4]  Instead, writing was to play a pivotal role in the social life and development of the Russian people, and therefore had to be aligned with party ideologies, policies and politics.[5]  The fact that Stalin announced that writers were ‘engineers of human souls’ meant that Russian writers and publishers had a responsibility not only to the party, but to the Russian people as well.[6]  Mistakes and ideological blunders had to be corrected immediately, and no perceived weakness would be tolerated.[7]

For Stalin and Zhdanov alike, the victory in war had strengthened the position of socialism on the world stage, and that strength needed to be preserved and enhanced internationally as Russia rebuilt.[8]  Soviet literature, therefore, not only had to refute the false accusations made against socialism on an international stage, it had to attach the western bourgeois culture that stood against it as well to demonstrate socialism’ superiority.[9]  The purpose of literature, therefore, under the policy of Zhdanov was to educate people – nationally and internationally – on the ideologies inherent in socialism by utilizing socialist realism, which would allow no weakness in socialism to be expressed.[10]  The impact it would have on writers would be tremendous.  It not only told them what to write, but how to write it, and failure to do so could result in censorship or worse.  They had to strictly adhere to the party line, which was not fixed but changeable depending on circumstances.  They had to be continually up to date or risk publishing something that was already outdated by the time it reached the press.

[1] Robert V. Daniels (editor), A Documentary History of Communism in Russia, (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1993), 235.

[2] Daniels, A Documentary History, 235.

[3] Daniels, A Documentary History, 236.

[4] Daniels, A Documentary History, 236.

[5] Daniels, A Documentary History, 236.

[6] Daniels, A Documentary History, 236.

[7] Daniels, A Documentary History, 236.

[8] Daniels, A Documentary History, 236.

[9] Daniels, A Documentary History, 236.

[10] Daniels, A Documentary History, 237.

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