The Thaw: Soviet Society and Culture during the 1950s and 1960s

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The period from Stalin’s death in 1953 to the end of the 1960s marked a crucial epoch in Soviet history. Though not overtly revolutionary, this era produced significant shifts in policies, ideas, language, artistic practices, daily behaviours, and material life. It was also during this time that social, cultural, and intellectual processes in the USSR began to parallel those in the West (and particularly in Europe) as never before.

This volume examines in fascinating detail the various facets of Soviet life during the 1950s and 1960s, a period termed the ‘Thaw.’ Featuring innovative research by historical, literary, and film scholars from across the world, this book helps to answer fundamental questions about the nature and ultimate fortune of the Soviet order – both in its internal dynamics and in its long-term and global perspectives.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice Magazine, vol 51:06:2014 - W.B. Whisenhunt
‘Kozlov and Gilburd have edited a fine new collection of essays on the Thaw era in Soviet history… All of these essays provide readers with a sophisticated understanding of the culture during this era.’
Slavonic & East European Review vol 92:04:2014 - S.J. Huxtable
‘The book makes a crucial contribution to scholarly understanding of the Soviet Union after 1953… Kozlov and Gilburd’s introduction alone makes the book a must read…the volume will surely become a standard reference for scholars and students alike.’
Slavic Review vol 73:04:2014 - Mark B. Smith
‘The University of Toronto Press has done a very efficient job of producing a book that is a pleasure to handle…. It must be recommended to undergraduates and graduate students enrolled in Soviet history courses.’
The Russian Review vol 74:01:2015 - Carmen Scheide
‘The book sets new standards for understanding the multiple developments during ‘The Thaw’, opens new manifold discussions, and gives the interested readers ideas for further research areas.’
Miriam Dobson

“A very pioneering work in an emerging field of study, The Thaw makes a major contribution to the social and cultural history of the late Soviet period. The essays in this volume are consistently of a high standard, presenting state-of-the-art research on a dynamic period that is only now receiving its due attention.”

Charters Wynn

“Successfully bringing together some of the most significant new work on the Thaw, this volume greatly expands our understanding of a pivotal period in Soviet history.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442644601
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
  • Publication date: 4/15/2013
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Denis Kozlov is an associate professor in the Department of History and the Department of Russian Studies at Dalhousie University.

Eleonory Gilburd is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Chicago.

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Table of Contents

Figures and Tables

Archival Abbreviations


1 Denis Kozlov (Dalhousie University) and Eleonory Gilburd (New York University)
The Thaw as an Event in Russian History

2 Katerina Clark (Yale University)
'Wait for Me and I Shall Return': The Early Thaw as a Reprise of Late Thirties Culture?

3 Marc Elie (CNRS-EHESS)
Khrushchev's Gulag: The Soviet Penitentiary System after Stalin's Death, 1953-1964

4 Alan Barenberg (Texas Tech University)
From Prisoners to Citizens? Ex-Prisoners in Vorkuta during the Thaw

5 Denis Kozlov
Remembering and Explaining the Terror during the Thaw: Soviet Readers of Ehrenburg and Solzhenitsyn in the 1960s

6 Polly Jones (University of Oxford)
The Personal and the Political: Opposition to the "Thaw" and the Politics of Literary Identity in the 1950s and 1960s


7 Michaela Pohl (Vassar College)
From White Grave to Tselinograd to Astana: The Virgin Lands Opening, Khrushchev's Forgotten First Reform

8 Amir Weiner (Stanford University)
The Empires Pay a Visit: Gulag Returnees, East European Rebellions, and Soviet Frontier Politics

9 Eleonory Gilburd (New York University)
The Revival of Soviet Internationalism in the Mid- to Late 1950s

10 Larissa Zakharova (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)
Soviet Fashion in the 1950s–1960s: Regimentation, Western Influences, and Consumption Strategies

11 Oksana Bulgakowa (Johannes Gutenberg University)
Cine-Weathers: Soviet Thaw Cinema in the International Context

12 Sheila Fitzpatrick (University of Chicago)
The Thaw in Retrospect

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