Terror and Democracy in the Age of Stalin: The Social Dynamics of Repression

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Terror and Democracy in Stalin's Russia is the first book devoted exclusively to popular participation in the “Great Terror,” a period in which millions of people were arrested, interrogated, shot, and sent to labor camps. In the unions and the factories, repression was accompanied by a mass campaign for democracy. Party leaders urged workers to criticize and remove corrupt and negligent officials. Workers, shop foremen, local Party members, and union leaders adopted the slogans of repression and used them, often against each other, to redress long-standing grievances. Using new, formerly secret archival sources, Terror and Democracy in Stalin's Russia shows how ordinary people moved in clear stages toward madness and self-destruction. Wendy Z. Goldman is a professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University. She is author of Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936 (Cambridge, 1993), winner of the Berkshire Conference Book Award, as well as Women at the Gates: Gender and Industry in Stalin's Russia (Cambridge, 2002).

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“More than any study I know, Goldman’s book brings dramatically to life the day to day reality of the Stalinist Terror. Her accounts of factory meetings are so vivid that you think you are actually there, listening to real people debating, arguing, and betraying one another. Even more important, the book will force us all to rethink our understanding of Stalinism and the dynamics of state repression. This book is a remarkable achievement.”
– Donald Filtzer, University of East London

“This is an important study not only for Soviet historians but for historians interested in labor history, social history, and modern Europe. It will also be of interest to political scientists and sociologists interested in political violence, popular mobilization, and populist components of terror. Goldman captures the complexity of the 1930s, and her book elegantly tells a story that, like real life, is not easy to tell. Avoiding simplistic approaches, she provides a realistic account characterized by confusion, unintended consequences, shifting alliances, and chaos. In doing so, she makes extensive and skillful use of heretofore unexploited and inaccessible archival collections. She uses these unique documents to tell the story of terror and populist ‘democracy’ in the party organizations and factories of Moscow.”
- J. Arch Getty, Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles

“What does it mean to live inside the Great Terror? Wendy Goldman's richly detailed study adds a new important dimension to our debates on the nature of Stalin's dictatorship in general and on mechanics of the terror in particular.”
- Oleg Khlevniuk, author of The History of the Gulag: From Collectivization to the Great Terror

“In a vivid, analytical narrative Wendy Goldman explores the paradox of Stalin's paroxysm of terror of the late 1930s and the rhetoric – as well as practices – of democracy that accompanied it. Rather than simply a top-down policy of repression or the spontaneous eruption of resentment and revenge from below, the Great Purges are shown to have metastasized from a campaign against party oppositionists into mass arrests and killings of activists, kulaks, and workers. Democratic slogans, even multi-candidate secret ballot elections, were employed to mobilize the rank-and-file in an effort to expel old leaders and ‘revive’ petrified bureaucratic institutions. Professor Goldman gives us the most compelling account to date of how victims and victimizers unwittingly collaborated and consequently destroyed hundreds of thousands of their countrymen and fatally wounded the first ‘socialist’ experiment.”
-Ronald Grigor Suny, Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of Social and Political History, The University of Michigan, and Professor Emeritus of Political Science and History, The University of Chicago

"This important, readable book sheds light on a critical phase in Soviet history."
Brian Bonhomme, Youngstown State University, The Russian Review

"[The] book, which has the great merit of reminding readers that there was an important social dimension to the Terror, is convincingly argued and abounds in many vivid details. It will be of value to anyone interested in the Stalin years, in particular the institutionalization of the Terror, labour history, popular mobilization, and political violence."
Canadian Journal of History, J.-Guy Lalande, St. Francis Xavier University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521866149
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2007
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Wendy Z. Goldman is the author of Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936 (Cambridge, 1993), winner of the Berkshire Conference Book Award, as well as Women at the Gates: Gender and Industry in Stalin's Russia (Cambridge, 2002). She has published numerous articles on Soviet social and political life and serves as the director of an exchange between Carnegie Mellon University and Russian State University for the Humanities. She has received grants from the Social Science Research Council, the International Research and Exchanges Board, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Council for East European and Eurasian Research. She has served on the editorial boards of Social Science History, Gender and History, and International Labor and Working Class History.

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Table of Contents

1. The social crisis of industrialization; 2. From murder to mass conspiracy; 3. Mobilizing mass support for repression; 4. The campaign for Union democracy; 5. Victims and perpetrators: the organizational dynamics of terror; 6. Rituals of repression in the factories.

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