Talk: Personality and Propaganda in Late Soviet Publishing

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Talk: Personality and Propaganda in Late Soviet Publishing

Mon, 20 January5 : 00 AM

UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) invites to join a talk with Polly Jones from University College Oxford.

In the Brezhnev era, a true ‘biography boom’ dawned in Soviet publishing, as biographies and biographical series enjoyed unprecedented popularity and prominence in Soviet culture. This paper examines the reasons why biography was able to thrive and innovate in this time of supposed ‘stagnation’, taking as its case study the over 150 biographies published from 1968 to 1990 in the ‘Fiery Revolutionaries’ (Plamennye revolutionary) series, published by Politizdat. It argues that this most conservative and propaganda-focussed Soviet publisher inadvertently created the conditions in which an extraordinarily broad range of writers (including many dissidents and marginal authors) were able to publish experimental and sometimes subversive texts about a wide range of historical ‘revolutionaries’. Responding to distinctively late Soviet pressures to rekindle enthusiasm for revolution, and to the increasingly sophisticated view of selfhood embedded in the doctrine of developed socialism, editors and publishers sought to make political biography emotionally engaging at virtually any cost: one of the outcomes was a large number of texts read as ‘Aesopian’ criticisms of revolution and socialism. The series’ history thus epitomizes the tensions between stagnation and innovation that continued to play out in Soviet political publishing until the Soviet collapse.

The event is free. Holding as a part of the SSEES Russian Studies Seminar Series.

 

 

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