Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Bringing Stalin back in: Creating a useable past in Putin's Russia
by Nelson, Todd H., Ph.D., Kent State University, 2013, 262; 3618859
Abstract (Summary)

While Joseph Stalin is commonly reviled in the West as a murderous tyrant who committed egregious human rights abuses against millions of his own people, in Russia he is often positively viewed as the symbol of Soviet-era stability and state power. How can there be such a disparity in perspectives? Utilizing an ethnographic approach, extensive interview data, and critical discourse analysis, this study concludes that the political elite in Russia are able to control and manipulate historical discourse about the Stalinist period in order to create a version of the past that bolsters their own political preferences. Appropriating the Stalinist discourse, they minimize or ignore outright crimes of the Soviet period, and instead focus on positive aspects of Stalin's rule, such as leading the Soviet Union to victory in the Second World War. Advancing concepts of 'preventive' and 'comprehensive' co-optation, this study analyzes how the political elite in Russia inhibit the emergence of groups that provide alternate narratives or narratives that contradict the elite-driven discourse, while promoting message-friendly groups that bolster elite preferences. Bringing the resources of the state to bear, the Russian elite are able to co-opt multiple avenues of discourse formulation and dissemination. Elite-sponsored discourse positions Stalin as a symbol of a strong, centralized state that was capable of many achievements, enabling favorable portrayals of Stalin as part of a tradition of harsh rulers in Russian history, along the lines of Peter the Great. Implicitly, this strong state discourse is used to legitimize the return of authoritarianism that Russia has experienced.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Barnes, Andrew, Mazzei, Julie
Commitee: Barnes, Andrew, Bindas, Kenneth, Coy, Patrick, Mazzei, Julie
School: Kent State University
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 75/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science, Russian history
Keywords: Gulag, Memory politics, Political repression, Russia, Stalin, joseph
Publication Number: 3618859
ISBN: 978-1-303-87380-5
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