Hiding Social Origins in Everyday Practices of the Population of Urban Soviet Ukrainian Cities (1929-1939)
Nani GogokhiaLuhansk Taras Shevchenko National University
September 25, 2012
Center for Urban History, Lviv
The conditions of Soviet collectivization and industrialization and the emergence of the totalitarian system created a cataclysm that broke the customary framework of everyday life and demanded the creation of new strategies of survival, variants of adaptation, stereotypes of behavior. The Bolshevik ideology split society, making use of the binary opposition of "laboring" і "non-laboring" classes. The authorities transformed terms like "non-laboring classes" into negative clichés to mark certain members of society as potential enemies. A great number of people, marked as members of society alien to the proletariat, faced a serious problem of survival in 1930s Ukraine, and this problem has yet to be fully researched. It is not a secret that one potential survival strategy, used by Ukrainian society in the conditions of totalitarianism, involved concealing one's social status and escaping from the authorities by moving to one of the large industrial cities. These cities needed workers and it was possible to "lose oneself" in the crowd. But there remains a little-studied question: how did the average person manage, who found themselves all alone in a struggle with the authorities for their own survival-- or could one count on one's secret being kept in the conditions of vigilant observation, verification, purges and denunciations? The careful study of various sources– materials from purge commissions, information reports from the obkom about the appearance of "socially-alien" class elements in various enterprises, state institutions and offices, memoirs and oral testimony—allows the recreation of a complex picture of the existence of a great number of people with "suspect biographies" in totalitarian society. The scale of hiding social background by the population of the republic demonstrates the failure of the totalitarian Stalinist government to establish total control over society even having placed the "unreliables" under strict control.
The presentation will analyze the characteristics of the social situation faced by the population of the UkrSSR from 1929-1939 and articulate the reasons, methods and consequences of hiding the facts of one's own biography (especially information about family connections) by the inhabitants of the Soviet Ukrainian republic.
Сover Image: Near the gramophone. 1934