With the Revolution of 1917, the culture of Russia began a transformation towards a theme of communism thanks to the victory of the Bolsheviks. With the rise of communism came a rise in the power of the state and their ability to control various aspects of life, including culture. One might believe that under a prospectively communist regime culture would be viewed as a source of rebellion and opposition, and therefore need to be eradicated. This however, was not the case, and the Bolsheviks soon began the transformation of culture in Russia during this time period. It was changed from something that was by the people and for the people to something that was by the state for the people. The Bolsheviks began to transform culture into something that was used to help further their cause. The official name for this was agitprop; a way for the communists to spread their ideals through culture. These various methods included movies, posters, newspapers, plays, and even a traveling propaganda train.
The Sevpechat train was a was a Bolshevik agitprop train. It was “Armed with public speakers, writers, stores of books and pamphlets, even printing presses”(1). These trains traveled across the country to remote locations including Siberia in order to spread the Bolshevik agenda.These trains resembled old carnival trains in that they were covered in paintings and decorations in order to attract people to their cause. One they came to a village around the railroad tracks they would stop and hand out various forms of information and then talk about their cause. “During its trip the train circulated books, papers, and pamphlets worth more than a half-million rubles, distributed free more than 150,000 proclamations and leaflets, posted more than 15,000 posters, and supplied 556 organizations with various publications. About 90,000 workers, peasants, and soldiers from the Red Army attended the lectures, meetings, and conferences; about sixty lectures were organized on all sorts of burning questions”(1). The Sevpechat train was widely successful, bringing the communist ideas towards the country side and thus beginning a cultural change that would last almost the rest of the century.
The Bolsheviks believed that everyone in Russia should know about and support the communist cause, not just people in the cities. This was especially important because the poor peasant from the countryside had a tendency to support the communist ideals. This propaganda train was one of their main methods for garnering support of the masses. However the Bolsheviks were also working on other creative methods to spread their cause to the masses. For instance, a newspaper during the time stated, “At the present time, five more trains of this kind are being organized, also boats for a similar purpose on the Volga and its tributaries, and motor trucks which will make it possible to reach places where neither railroads nor waterways are available”(1).
1. A Soviet Report on Agitprop Trains(1920). http://alphahistory.com/russianrevolution/soviet-report-agitprop-trains-1920/