A Thaw that would not refreeze

After the death of Stalin, the Soviet Union did not know what to do. The years of repression and cleansing left the population of Russia fearful and questioning the new leadership. There was something that came out of the death of Stalin: The age of the Thaw began.


The Thaw started in 1953. With the publication of “Il’ia Ehrenburg’s THE THAW,” a new age started in the Russian population. This time period from 1953 until 1964 was known as the Khrushchev thaw. This was a time a fewer repressions and a more liberal political life (though still very strict). These were the first steps in an effort to change the Stalinist tendencies that formed during the beginning of the Soviet Union.


With the death of Stalin arose many new anti-communist movements which began during this period. The Communist Party handled these protests with just as much force as before. The destalinist movement was leading to more political liberalization than they wanted to see. The party became actively resistant to this movement though the continued tightening down of the Soviet Union.


The irony of all of this, it that the book that sparked this thaw was largely written to “honor the tenets of Stalinist culture,” according to von Geldern. Though the book did not show Soviet culture in the same magnificent light as many other publications, it was not written to degrade the benefits of soviet society. The Soviet culture flourished through the time of the thaw. There were romantic films and music made. This thaw was irreversible.


There was another ironic thing that happened during the Thaw. The political regime did not change at all. Though the partial destalinization was a step towards a better life, many did not see it. The repressions of the intelligensia continued as well as the destruction of churches. The Thaw was just a new era that the people of Russia saw which sparked hope for a life with more freedoms. Many thought that the death of Stalin would bring more change, but the Communist Party still had their hold on the Soviet Union.

Work Cited:


Treblemakers in a national cause

When you hear about a singing revolution, what comes to mind? A group of people making a statement or an entire nation standing up for liberty? A little country that no one heard of (and still doesn’t know about) had a peaceful revolution against the Soviet Union.


Estonia is the northern most Baltic state. Estonia declared its independence from Russia in 1918 when the Russian Revolution has crippled Russian power. The United States among many other countries recognized Estonia’s independence and guided Estonia into a democratic political system. The hope for peace and independence faded with the beginning of the Second World War. The Soviet Union took over Estonia in 1940 and from there the country was a war zone with both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union fighting for land. After the end of World War II, the Soviet Union maintained control over Estonia.


The first celebration to Estonian culture was in 1869 in Tartu (the second largest city in Estonia). The Estonian people had great nationalism and held on to that through the many occupations and wars that their country endured. The song festivals happened every five years. These festivals were a way for the people of Estonia to rejoice in their nationalism and individuality. The only time when there were no song festivals was during the Second World War. The song festivals continue in 1947, though Estonia was still occupied by the Soviet Union.

crowds at the festival

The song festivals continued to occur through Soviet occupation because the Soviet Union thought that it would be a good was to show the happiness and joy in the Soviet Union. The choir was not allowed to sing the original Estonian national anthem, but a rewritten version about the Soviet Union. The song festival was the only thing that kept Estonia nationalism alive during Soviet occupation. During the song festival of 1988, the choir sang the original Estonian national anthem. This was the beginning of the Singing Revolution. Estonia was the only country in the Soviet Union to have a peaceful revolution. In 1991, the Soviet Union recognized Estonia has a independent nation.


Today the song festival is a national event. There was a stage erected for the thousands of singers that come to preform for their country. People for all over the world come to see the spectacular performance. I was fortunate enough to study in Estonia for two months this summer and attend the song festival. There is a heart-warming feeling that you get when you hear the choir sing. I didn’t understand the language at all, but you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself. Being at the song festival is an awe inspiring moment. At the song festival this summer, one million people came to hear the choir sing and participate in the festivities. The population of Estonia is 1.3 million. That means that 77% of the population showed up to participate and experience the performance. It is incredible to think about.


The finale was the best part of the performance in my opinion!! Check it out
Song Festival Finale

Work Cited:


Великая чистка

Boris Efimov: Ezhov’s Iron Glove (1937)

The travesty that befell Russia from 1936 until 1939 (some argue longer) was brought about by a paranoid tyrant. When Stalin came to power he was fearful of others he had shared power with taking it from him. So he started the “purge” of power from the party. He cut down anyone that had the opportunity or ability to rival his power.

The Great Purge or the Great Terror coincided with the forced collectivization. These two events raked up the death toll to tens of millions. There was an order given by Stalin to kill or capture all criminals or anti-Soviet activists. This order was carried out by Stalin’s dogs, the NKVD. Stalin later added to the order that all families of these people could be captured or killed by association. Russians were terrified because they didn’t know who they would blame or what lies the NKVD heard and believed.

The leader of the NKVD, Ezhov, set quotas for the number of arrests, exiles, and executions. The numbers that he set were greatly exceeded. The power that the NKVD had was staggering and they abused it often. But as the party became cleansed, Stalin found that the people who were a threat was the military officers. The military had the ability to stage a coup and throw Stalin from power. So, he turned his cleansing techniques towards the military, exiling or executing half of the officers.


As Stalin slowly made his way towards every are that could oppose his power, he found himself looking back towards the organization that was fulfilling his wishes. He suspected the NKVD of having the ability to stage a coup. And with the information that the organization had about the Great Purge, they were too dangerous. So, Stalin purged the NKVD of high ranking officers and former officers that had any information.

There have been estimations of how many actually died during the time of the Great Purge. Estimations that I have found have said anywhere from 10 million to 19 million people died from execution, labor camps, prison, or arrests. Most of these people being men. The survival rate was estimated to be around 3 percent. 3 percent of the population did not have to fear being taken or killed.


Stalin created a submissive population and eradicated all opposition that could be possible. He was an iconic figure. Many people loved and feared him and mourned for his death. But no one questioned or spoke up about the Russian holocaust that ensued prior to the Second World War. Stalin had the ultimate control, though it failed him, as he lie dying by himself with everyone too scared of him to disobey his orders and enter his room.

Video: Stalin: Inside the Terror

Work Cited: