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3 November 2008
"Studying the History of Stalinism: Achievments and Current Problems"

Moscow, 5-7 December 2008
Renaissance Olympic Penta Hotel

General Description and Scientific Aims of the Conference:

Leading historical specialists in the history of the Stalinist period from Russia , Europe, the USA , Canada and Japan will be taking part in this conference, which will examine the scientific conceptualisation of the problems of Stalinism and the interaction between scientific historiography and ordinary people’s historical awareness in contemporary Russia.

Political changes in Russia and the resulting partial opening of the archives have made possible substantial progress in the study of the Stalinist period. At the same time the scientific historiography of Stalinism has thrown up a number of controversial problems which demand discussion. The gap between the scientific viewpoint, and the everyday understanding of Stalinism in the public mind is substantial, and appears to be widening.

In Russia ’s mass media and in numerous pseudo-historical publications, the concepts of the Short Course History of the VKP(b) are being revived, or at best, the half-baked, unconvincing arguments of Khrushchev’s de-Stalinisation are being repeated. Unfortunately, when overlaid upon contemporary internal and external political situations, pro-Stalinist propaganda clichés sound very effective.

Recipes for a Russian renaissance through authoritarian modernisation or even a dictatorship are bring peddled, together with propaganda for the historical justification of violence, millions of victims and cleansing through social purges. This socio-political context undoubtedly makes the peculiar scientific problems of history very relevant to the present day, and calls for combined action on the part of responsible historians and social scientists.

Conferences and debates are a traditional and effective way of achieving such combined action and furthering the development of scientific knowledge. It is planned to devote the work of the conference “Studying the History of Stalinism: Achievements and Current Problems” to key (primarily conceptual) problems of the history of the Stalinist era. The work of the conference will be organised into six main sections: the institutions and methods of dictatorship; the political economy of Stalinism; life under a dictatorship (sociocultural aspects); nationalities policies and the ethnic factor; international relations and the second world war; Stalinism and contemporary social consciousness.

For each of these sections it is important to establish:

a) the level of scientific knowledge already attained - by this we mean the gist of the received wisdom on major topics and treatments, and the existence of sources and “archival discoveries” which have major significance, and may even cause us to change our previous views on certain problems; and

b) the existence of controversial questions, debates and lacunae in historical source materials. Taken all together, discussion of these problems will allow us to establish the general state of research on the phenomenon of Stalinism, the presence of generally agreed and also debatable positions, and prospects for the further development of scientific historiography.


Friday 5 December
Plenary Sessions

14.00-15.00 Registration of participants Complimentary coffee

15.00-15.30 Conference opening Welcoming speeches

15.30-16.30 Introductory lectures

Oleg Khlevniuk. Politics. The institutions and methods of Stalin’s dictatorship
Alexander Chubarian. The phenomenon of Stalinism in the European context
Sheila Fitzpatrick. Life under a dictatorship: socio-cultural aspects

16.30-17.00 Coffee break

17.00-18.00 Introductory lectures:

Paul Gregory. The political economy of Stalinism
Valerii Tishkov. Stalinism and the nationalities question
Arsenii Roginskii. Memories of Stalinism

18.00-20.00 Buffet

Saturday 6 December
Section plenaries

Section 1. Politics. The institutions and methods of Stalin’s dictatorship.

We plan to concentrate the work of the section on the discussion of four problem areas. The first is contemporary ideas about Stalin’s revolution and dictatorship, including: social support and social resistance to forced collectivisation and industrialisation; the relationship between politics and economics in the destruction of NEP; and the influence of ideological factors.

The second is the praxis of emergency rule; the role and scope of the Terror; the interaction of the institutions of dictatorship (the party, government departments and punitive agencies); and the interrelationship of political radicalism and “moderation”.

The third is the Stalin factor in the development of dictatorship: the dictator’s role and logic in the determination of tactics and strategies for action; theories of “weak dictatorship” (the influence of his colleagues, the regions, departmental pressure and so on); “inevitability” and the consequences of Stalin’s policies.

The fourth is a comparative analysis of Stalin’s dictatorship in the context of the development of European history in the 1930s and 1940s as a whole, and its totalitarian component in particular.

Section leaders: Oleg Khlevniuk (State Archive, RF), Yoram Gorlizki ( Manchester University , UK ).

9.00-9.30 Complimentary coffee

9.30-11.30 Theme: The consolidation of dictatorship. Factors and moving forces.

Chair – Oleg Khlevniuk
Yury Goland. The destruction of NEP: economic, ideological and political preconditions
Lynne Viola. The peasantry as an internal colony: Collectivization and the formation of the Stalinist state
Valerii Vasiliev. Stalin’s revolution in Ukraine . Violence, resistance, conclusions

Discussant – Igor Orlov

11.30-12.00 Coffee break

12.00-13.30 Theme: Mechanisms for the development of dictatorship
Chair – Oleg Leibovich

Sergei Krasilnikov. Social mobilisation in the Stalinist system of power (nature, functions, practices)
Nicolas Werth. Mass repressions of the late 1920s-early 1950s: dimensions and functions
Alain Blum. Departments and departmental interests. The problem of “bureaucratic anarchy”

Discussants – Rudolf Pikhoia, Vladimir Khaustov

13.30-15.00 Lunch

15.00-16.30 Theme: Dictators and dictatorships
Chair – Rudolf Pikhoia

Amir Weiner. Sovereignty, governance and violence: The Soviet system in the European context, 1930s-1950s
Kuromiya Hiroaki. The Stalin factor and the theory of “weak dictatorship”
Yoram Gorlizki. Stalin’s dictatorship in comparative perspective

Discussant – Oleg Leibovich, Lennart Samuelson

16.30-17.00 Coffee break

17.00-18.00 General discussion

Section 2. Stalin’s international policies

The work of this section is based on three thematic and chronological blocs, the first of which is devoted to the views of the Bolshevik leaders, mainly Stalin and his associates, on international problems, and on relations between Soviet Russia and its neighbours in the first post-war decade.

The second bloc examines Stalin’s foreign policy and its relationship to the international communist movement in the face of the growing threat from Germany and Japan .

The final bloc is devoted to the international policies of late Stalinism, key aspects of relations between the USSR and foreign countries, their causes, and the key events of the initial period of the “cold war”.

Section leaders: Andrea Graziosi ( University of Naples , Italy ), Silvio Pons ( University of Rome , Italy ), Aleksander Vatlin ( Moscow State University , Russia ), Mark Kramer ( Harvard University , USA ).

9.00-9.30 Complimentary coffee

9.30-11.30 Round table: The new state power and the surrounding world, 1913-1928
Chair: Mark Kramer

Andrea Graziosi. At the roots of Stalin’s international and imperial policies: dealing with the national question in an imperial context
Silvio Pons. The international analysis of the Bolsheviks and the problem of European revolution
Alexander Vatlin. State interests in internationalistic packaging: the USSR ’s foreign policy and the Comintern in the 1920s
Alexander Pantsov. Stalin and the Chinese question.

11.30-12.00 Coffee break

12.00-13.30 Round table: External threats and the re-birth of the empire, 1929-1945
Chair: Andrea Graziosi

Sabine Dullin. The problem of Western boundaries and Soviet foreign policy in Europe, 1927-1935
Mikhail Narinskii. Stalin’s international policies in the mid 1930s.
Sergei Sluch. Soviet-German relations after the arrival of Hitler in power
Mikhail Meltiukhov. The Soviet Union and Germany : the mutual dependence of foreign policy manoeuvres in the context of the origins of the Second World War
Alexei Filitov. Stalin and Germany in the war years

13.30-15.00 Lunch

15.00-16.30 Round table: Superpower, 1943-1953
Chair - Silvio Pons

Leonid Gibianskii. Stalin and the problem of the formation of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe
Tatiana Volokitina, Galina Murashko. Stalinism in Eastern Europe : the specifics of historical experience
Vladimir Pechatnov. Stalin, the USA and the cold war
David Wolff. Stalin, China and the Third World
Mark Kramer. Stalin and Soviet military policy after World War II.

16.30-17.00 Coffee break

17.00-18.00 General discussion

Section 3. Life under a dictatorship: socio-cultural aspects

The social history of Stalinism, like any other form of social history, is a multi-dimensional space. It is of course impossible to convey the full variety of its problem areas within the confines of one day’s work in a conference section. Therefore in planning the work of our section we have followed one guiding principle - to achieve the overall aim of the conference – the systematic understanding of the phenomenon of Stalinism in its various manifestations.

The work of the section is devoted to the following problems:

1. The Soviet socium from the 1920s to the 1950s

2. The symbols and rituals of Stalinism

3. Soviet life: spaces and practices

The social and sociocultural history of Stalinism is a relatively new subject, and it is in a state of active development. The main tendency of research in the last 10-15 years has been the segmentation of the research field, which encompasses the study of many specific aspects: the history of everyday life, gender history, workers’ history, the history of political culture and others.

Another peculiarity of the study of the history of Stalinism is its chronological unevenness, where the main mass of research work has been done on the 1920s and 1930s, while the period of late Stalinism has only relatively recently attracted the attention of historians.

Based on the separate researches and results of this genuinely huge analytical work, we are called upon to create a unified whole – a history of Stalinism. This conference can and must be an important step in that direction.

Section leaders: Elena Zubkova ( Institute of Russian History , RAS, Moscow ), Donald Filzer ( University of East London)

9.00-9.30 Complimentary coffee

9.30-11.30 Theme: The Soviet socium 1920s – 1950s
Chair – Elena Zubkova

Donald Filzer. Soviet society as a sociocultural phenomenon: personality and class
Corinna Kur-Korolev. The “new Soviet man” project and mechanisms of social engineering
Beate Fieseler. The problem of marginalized and “superfluous” people in Soviet history

Discussant – Jochen Hellbek

11.30-12.00 Coffee break

12.00-13.30 Theme: Symbols and rituals of Stalinism
Chair – Donald Filzer

Benno Ennker. The cult of the “leader” as a sociocultural project of the Stalin era
Alexander Livshin. Soviet propaganda and mass consciousness
Malte Rolf. Mass Festivals and Symbols of Stalinism.

Discussant – Andrei Sokolov

13.30-15.00 Lunch

15.00-16.30 Theme: Soviet life: Spaces and practices
Chair – Elena Zubkova

Tamara Kondrateva. Distribution as an instrument of governance
Elena Osokina. Strategies of survival in the context of Soviet everyday life
Natalia Lebina. Private life: the limits of freedom
Katharina Kucher. Mastering leisure. Spaces of recreation under Stalinism

Discussant – Sergei Zhuravlev

16.30-17.00 Coffee break

17.00-18.00 General discussion

Section 4. The political economy of Stalinism

The work of this section reflects economic aspects of Stalinism. It consists of three subsections. The first examines the mechanisms of Stalinist economics and their links with the party and the politics of repression, as implemented under Stalin’s leadership. The second subsection concentrates on the various dimensions of Stalin’s industrialisation, including the role of the GULAG. The subject of the third subsection is Stalin’s agrarian policy, including an examination of its social basis; the “Bukharin alternative”; the processes of collectivisation; and the famines in the Soviet countryside of 1932/33.

Section leaders: Leonid Borodkin (MGU) and Paul Gregory ( Houston University , USA )

9.00-9.30 Complimentary coffee

9.30-11.30 Theme: The political economy of Stalinism
Chair – Leonid Borodkin

Paul Gregory. Soviet economic transformations and repression (The Great Terror and other periods of repression)
David Schirer. Forms and Consequences of Stalinist Police Repression.
Evgenia Belova. Economics of the Soviet Communist party and stability of the Soviet regime: Party budgets, 1939-1965

Discussant – Vladimir Mau

11.30-12.00 Coffee break

12.00-13.30 Theme: Stalin’s industrialisation
Chair – Paul Gregory

Leonid Borodkin. The GULAG as an instrument of forced industrialisation
Mark Harrison. Stalin and the Economics of War
Andrei Markevich. Stalin’s surveillance system: the collection of information and monitoring as an instrument of governance

Discussant – Simon Ertz

13.30-15.00 Lunch

15.00-16.30 Theme: Stalin’s agrarian policies
Chair – Viktor Kondrashin

Sergei Esikov. The “Bukharin alternative” to Stalin’s agrarian policy
Hioroshi Okuda. Rural communists and rural youth in the second half of the 1920s: the social basis of Stalinism in the Soviet village
Nonna Tarkhova. The Red Army and Stalin’s collectivisation
Valerii Yurchenkov. Stalinist agrarian policy in the Volga national republics: the general and the particular Viktor Kondrashin. The famine of 1932- 1933 in the USSR – the tragedy of the Soviet countryside and the result of Stalinism’s agrarian policies.

Discussant – Gennadii Kornilov

16.30-17.00 Coffee break

17.00-18.00 General discussion

Section 5. Stalinism and the nationality question

The work of the section will concentrate on three problem areas. The first is modern perceptions of the nature of a multi-ethnic state: the continuity between the Russian empire and the USSR, the peculiarities of the Soviet empire, the role of ethno-social constructivism and innovation, archaism and utopianism – in Stalin’s empire building, and the role and logic of the “theoretician” on ethnic questions in the determination of strategies and tactics for action.

The second concerns citizenship and ethnicity in Stalin’s empire, emergency and modernising practices, their interrelation and interaction, and their influence on the formation of the identity of the modern citizen.

The third area concerns aspects of primary source materials and historiography: new readings and new approaches.

Section leaders: Tamara Krasovitskaia ( Institute of Russian History , RAS, Russia ), Yuri Slezkine ( Berkeley , USA ).

9.00-9.30 Complimentary coffee

9.30-11.30 Theme: The nature of Stalin’s multi-ethnic state: comparative aspects
Chair – Tamara Krasovitskaia

Boris Ilizarov. Social constructivism: innovation, archaism and utopianism in Stalin’s empire building. Distinctive features of the Soviet empire
Ronald Suny. Empire and nation-building: tsarism and Stalinism
Peter Blitstein. Was the Stalinist state a colonial empire?

Discussant – Yuri Slezkine

11.30-12.00 Coffee break

12.00-13.30 Theme: Citizenship and ethnicity in the history of Stalin’s state
Chair – Yuri Slezkine

Leokadia Drobizheva. Civil identity: the aftermath of Stalin’s legacy in stereotypical thinking and behaviour
Juliette Cadiot. From Lists of Groups to Individuals: Ethnic identification in the Russian Empire and under Stalin
Adrienne Edgar. Gender, Nationality, and Modernity in Stalinist Central Asia

Discussant – Terry Martin

13.30-15.00 Lunch

15.00-16.30 Theme: Stalin’s empire in the Soviet past and the Russian present
Chair – Yuri Slezkine

Liudmila Gatagova. Soviet ethnic policies as a reflection of Stalin’s “empiremania”: new sources and new interpretations (1930s-1940s).
Murat Karaketov. Stalin’s influence on the evaluation of the deportations of USSR nationalities in post-Soviet research
Khamitbi Mamsirov. The modernisation of the Northern Caucasus in the context of Stalin’s nationality policies and post-Soviet historiography
Vitali Skalaban. Stalin and the state system in Byelorussia in 1917-1945. Texts and contexts.

Discussant – Tamara Krasovitskaia

16.30-17.00 Coffee break

17.00-18.00 General discussion

Section 6. Memories of Stalinism

In this section we plan to concentrate on the discussion of three problem areas:

The most important of these is the formation of the cultural memory of Stalinism. The discussion should be not so much about the cataloguing and general evaluation of today’s memories of political repression, but rather: what historical, social and cultural function these instances of memory should serve today? An important question in connection with this is the possibilities and limitations of the creation of virtual memory, its contemporary language and its means of delivery. In this context we should state that it is essential to create an effective cultural memory which addresses not only the older generation (witnesses and participants) but also the younger generation: what moral and ethical meaning should be conveyed by those elements of cultural memory such as monuments, symbols, rituals etc.

Another important aspect is the problem of our relationship to the legacy of Stalinism; the question must be asked – where is the boundary between propaganda and cultural legacy?; what should be preserved, and in what form, and what should disappear? Is it permissible today to pose the question of the universalisation of this memory throughout the whole postcommunist world? What is the place of the memory of Stalinism in Europe as a political and cultural phenomenon?

A second important problem area is concerned with the problems of the “politics of memory”. This section is devoted to problems of the functioning of memories about Stalin in the post soviet space, and in the countries of Eastern Europe . This necessitates a trans-generational analysis and the posing of the question: does there exist, in any form, a collective memory of Stalinism? How are the old myths about the Soviet past being revived? Or are they being replaced by a newer, much more aggressive mythology? Does a European memory of Stalinism exist?

One key question is: is it possible to form a national identity in Russia on the basis of the negative image of the Stalinist past?

The third problem area is the biographical aspect of the memory of Stalinism. In this context we should mention the view of the history of Stalinism through the images as witnessed by the chief actors of the period. The problem of the formation of these images, and the changes that they undergo in the minds of the public, is closely linked to the problems of memory.

Section leaders: Irina Shcherbakova (Memorial International, Russia ), Arseny Roginskii (Memorial International, Russia ), Sergei Mironenko (State Archive of the Russian Federation ).

9.00-9.30 Complimentary coffee

9.30-11.30 Round table: Memories of Stalinism – the biographical context
Chair – Sergei Mironenko Nanci Adler. The Particularities of Research on the Biographies of Victims of Stalinism

Marianne Birtler. Biography and fate against the background of a totalitarian archive
Nikita Petrov. The difficulties of working on the biographies of the leaders of the NKVD-MVD
Nikita Okhotin. The evolution of the Stalinist historical pantheon
Jana Howlett. Stalin in the electronic mass media

11.30-12.00 Coffee break

12.00-13.30 Round table: Memory and Monuments. Cultural memory and Stalinism
Chair – Aleksandr Daniel

Volkhard Knigge. Cultural memory and traumatic experience of the past
Anne Kaminski. Stalinism’s monuments. The European context
Ekaterina Dyogot. The cultural legacy of Stalinism
Andrei Portnov. Problems of the universalisation of the memory of Stalinism
Irina Fliege. Visualisation of the memory of the Great Terror

13.30-15.00 Lunch

15.00-16.30 Round table: The politics of memory
Chair – Irina Shcherbakova

Boris Dubin. The memory of Stalinism and the generations of the Russian Federation
Piotr Mitzner
Daniil Dondurei. The Stalinist epoch and media policies
Nikita Sokolov. New concepts and old myths. The image of the Stalinist past in school textbooks
Maria Feretti. Memory and forgetting. The memory of Stalin in the RF and in Europe

16.30-17.00 Coffee break

17.00-18.00 General discussion

Sunday 7 December
Plenary sessions

9.00-10.00 Complimentary coffee

10.00-11.30 Summaries of the results of proceedings in the six sessions, by the leader(s) of each section

11.30-12.00 Coffee break

12.00-14.00 Final summing-up and discussion from the podium:

The significance and relevance of the present-day scientific study of Stalinism

14.00-15.00 Coffee and farewell

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