One of the most interesting elements of the Soviet era, in my opinion, is how they completely created a new way of life for their people. It was not just a change in power or government or economy, but a change in everything. As I talked about in my last post, it was important for culture to be revolutionized for the country as a whole to be revolutionized – similarly, society had to be changed as well.
According to Seventeen Moments, “the ultimate goal of socialist society was to create a new person…whose entire consciousness was shaped by the socialist environment.” They created this socialist environment in several ways, such as creating institutions and spaces that could accommodate the new Socialist man, whose personal life would be intertwined with his work life (Seventeen Moments). In “Thoughts, Cares, and Deeds of Workers,” a product of the worker correspondent movement that gave workers a more direct voice, Zhiga explains how the factory owned barracks for its employees. “Every worker joining the factory settled there if he couldn’t find an apartment, and lived there a year or two–until he proved his loyalty to the owner.” This is a prime example of how personal and work lives were combined into one; people literally lived where they worked (“Thoughts, Cares, and Deeds of Workers“). This probably allowed factory owners to instill certain values (particularly, strong socialist values) in their workers because they were always able to keep a close eye on them.Communal Kitchen
Education was also used to create a new socialist society. While the Bolsheviks knew they could enact laws to change popular consciousness to a certain extent, they knew it would not be enough. Educating the masses, especially women and ethnic groups, could help do the trick though (Freeze 330). Literacy programs were enacted and people were taught how to be good Soviet citizens. In Thoughts, Cares, and Deeds of Workers, one female worker explains that in the evenings, they have antireligious lectures, lessons on maternity, and a “circle for liquidating illiteracy, with sixty people registered.”
An evolution in gender roles was also quite revolutionary in developing new socialist attitudes. Marriage was removed from the control of the state and became more readily available and women became equal citizens (Freeze 332). Abortion was also legalized – the Bolsheviks hoped that even with the right to terminate a pregnancy, Soviet women would “recognize the social obligation of child-bearing” (Freeze 333). Gender roles are exemplified in the film “Bed and Sofa.” For example, Liuda, one of the main characters, almost exercises her right to get an abortion (but ends up not going through with it). At the end of the film, she completely leaves the two men she had been living with, one being her husband and one his friend that she had also had a relationship with. This could symbolize women’s empowerment in the new socialist state. In the past, women were dependent on their husbands; Liuda never could have left and expected to survive on her own. With gender roles redefined, the Bolsheviks could encourage a more equal society for its citizens.
The new socialist order took years to develop, but the Bolsheviks definitely started off strong in the 20s with their reforms and transformations of social institutions. In their quest to create the “Soviet man,” they effectively created a new Soviet society, and vice versa.
Bed and Sofa image retrieved from: http://blog.lulusvintage.com/2008/02/bed-and-sofa-ch.html
Communal Kitchen image retrieved from: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1929byt&Year=1929&navi=byYear
von Geldern, James. “New Way of Life.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1929byt&Year=1929
Zhiga, Ivan. “Thoughts, Cares, and Deeds of Workers.” 1929. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1929zhiga1&SubjectID=1929byt&Year=1929