Today, I began research on Komsomol participation in collectivization and found this little tidbit in the archive. This is from Komsomol Central Committee member Gerasimov’s report, October 1929:
In Penzen region, there were rumors that a [grain requisitioning] commission arrived to close the church. Or in a similar rumor, the commission arrived to arrest the priest and take him away. A crowd gathered. Or another case, to catch a swindler. A crowd of up to 800 people surrounded the commission and began shouting. They wanted to arrange a samosud. There were shouts of “They attack the peasantry from all sides, let’s beat them all.” True, more than half of [the crowd] was drunk.
RGASPI f. 1M, op.5, d. 24a, l. 22
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By Sean — 11 years ago
I’m currently reading Alexei Yurchak’s fascinating book, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation. Yurchak asks why did the Soviet system’s implosion “seemed so unexpected when it began, and at the same time so unsurprising and fast once it had occurred.” The contains numerous examples of the contradictory nature of Soviet life, where as citizens participated in the ritualized, pro forma ideological discourse, this very discourse allowed them to carve out what they called “normal meaningful life” that went beyond the state’s ideology.
Anyway, I hope to discuss Yurchak’s book in more detail once I finish reading it. What I want to present here is this interesting Komsomol document pictured on the left. The document has been floating around the internet for a while now. Yurchak states that it was published in Novaya gazeta in July 2003, but I didn’t find it in their archive.
Here is a translation:
Workers of the World Unite!
ALL-UNION LENIN COMMUNIST YOUTH LEAGUE NIKOLAEV REGIONAL COMMITTEE OF KOMSOMOL OF UKRAINE.
For internal use only.
To Secretaries of Gorkoms and Raikoms of the Komsomol of Ukraine.
The following is an approximate list of foreign music groups and artists whose repertoires contain ideologically harmful compositions.
This information is recommended for the purpose of intensifying control over the activities of discotheques.
This information must be also provided to all VIA (vocal instrument ensembles) and youth discotheques in the region.
Secretary of the Obkom Komsomol, P. Grishin.
Approximate list of foreign music groups and artists whose repertoires contain ideologically harmful compositions.
Type of Propaganda
1. Sex Pistols
Neofascism, punk, violence
Violence, cult of strong personality, violence, vandalism
9. Iron Maiden
Violence, religious obscurantism
10. Judas Priest
13. Black Sabbath
Violence, religious obscurantism
24. Donna Summer
25. Tina Turner
14. Alice Cooper
26. Junior English (reggae)
Violence, religious mysticism
27. Canned Heat
28. Munich Machine
17. Gengis Khan
30. Van Halen
31. Julio Iglesias
19. Pink Floyd (1983)
Distortion of Soviet foreign policy (‘Soviet aggression in Afghanistan)
33. Depeche Mode
34. Village People
35. Ten CC (10 cc)
20. Talking Heads
Myth of Soviet military threat
Head of the General Department of the Obkom of Komsomol E. Priazhinskaia
10 January 1985
This document is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it shows that Soviet youth were quite in tune to global youth culture. Soviet youth listened to the same metal and punk groups that were popular in the United States and Western Europe. Second, Komsomol moralists and ideologues had similar concerns of their Western counterparts. They were also afraid that rock, punk and metal spread violence, deviance, and sex among its listeners. Still, this list expresses concerns about ideology, specifically what the author’s labels “anticommunism” and “neofascism.” I am not sure what the latter means, but I can guess that it is a synonym for bourgeois ideology.
There are some funny miscategorizations in this list. For example, the Village People are denounced for “violence.” I have no idea where they got that idea. If anything they should have gotten the “homosexuality” label. Also Depeche Mode getting the “violence” label is equally laughable.
I suspect that while the documents shows that Soviet youth were quite hip to global youth culture, Komsomol leaders were not or at least played like they were. My guess this is a generational issue since the age between the Komsomol rank and file and their leaders grew in the postwar period. You could easily have a Komsomol Obkom secretary in his or her thirties, while the rank and file in the teens and twenties.
At any rate, I wanted to offer this document and its translation to readers so they could get a taste of the Soviet past.Post Views: 286
By Sean — 11 years ago
I’m currently writing a chapter about expulsions in the Komsomol. The section I’m writing at the moment concerns denunciations. I thought I would share the following denunciation letter from 37 Komsomols from a cell in Chernishevsky school in Nizhny Novgorod in 1926.
To the Komsomol Bureau.
From the Nizhny Novhorod cell from the Chernishevsky School
We ask the Bureau VLKSM to take immediate measures to liquidate hooliganism which is observed in this cell. At night this cell holds drunken parties (this happened in March) of both sexes, after which the guys badger girls with propositions about a ‘sexual encounter.’ The majority of girls agree, but those who don’t are sent packing from the cell. [Members] from the city raikom come to these evenings and assemble an equal number of boys and girls. Many girls are pregnant and as a result live poorly. This group [that is those who wrote this appeal] of Komsomols left this organization and send you an appeal for the rapid cessation of this hooliganism, to shut down the cell and place its main offenders on trial. We state this summarily so that it will reach you.
For this reason we ask that a commission be rapidly sent to investigate this incident.
This appeal was written by a group of 37 Komsomol members.
May 27, 1926Post Views: 125
By Sean — 10 years ago
Third Congresses seem to have great significance in the history of Russia’s pro-state youth organizations. The 3rd Komsomol Congress held in 1920 steered the organization away from Civil War to socialist construction. It was there that Lenin gave his famous “The Tasks of the Youth Leagues” speech that urged that young communists must “learn communism.” Lenin said,
“I must say that the tasks of the youth in general, and of the Young Communist Leagues and all other organisations in particular, might be summed up in a single word: learn. . . The teaching, training and education of the youth must proceed from the material that has been left to us by the old society. We can build communism only on the basis of the totality of knowledge, organisations and institutions, only by using the stock of human forces and means that have been left to us by the old society.”
In this sense perhaps Nashi’s 3rd Congress may be considered a historical echo of the Komsomol’s. The Congress, which was held 25 December at the Russian Academy of Sciences, began the process of plotting Nashi’s post-Putin future. The first important outcome of the Congress was the announcement that Nikita Borovikov will take over the organization’s reins from Vasilli Yakemenko, who heads the government’s State Commission on Youth Affairs. Readers will remember that it was Borovikov who won the mock competition at Nashi’s camp Seliger. In September, I translated an interview with him from Kommersant.
The second important outcome was what Borovikov spelled out as Nashi new slogan, “10=5”. What does “10=5” mean? It means that the task of Nashi over the next 10 years is to make Russia the 5th most powerful country in the world in economics, culture, and social development. “There is an enormous amount of work ahead,” Nashi GenSek Borovikov told the delegates. “In the coming years the internal and foreign political situation will become even more heated. This demands a serious program from us that will defend our status as a strong and independent Russia within the state as well as in the international arena. We are positive that our colossal experience and love for our Motherland will allow us to make a considerable contribution to the future formation of Russia as leaders in the 21st century.”
By what Borovikov means by the internal and foreign situation becoming more heated, all one has to do is turn to Nashi’s well worn formula. The Nashisty argue that Russia despite its success and supposed stability is besieged from within and without. Within by what Borovikov calls “fascists in disguise”–a Nashi metonym for liberals, Other Russiaists, National Bolsheviks and other “radicals”–and shadowy forces emanating from the US State Department and British Foreign Office. If the myth of a “new Cold War” serves American pundits as fodder for proclaiming Putin’s Russia as “neo-Soviet,” Cold War rhetoric allows Nashi use “fascism” as political venom against the Russian state’s real or imagined enemies. “We’re here to protect the sovereignty of our country,” said Zaur Aminov, a 20-year-old economics student and Nashi Commissar told the LA Times as if that sovereignty is under threat. And who is the source of this threat the LA Times wondered? “The American State Department,” Aminov answered.
It’s also no surprise that the Nashi’s version of Lenin’s “learn, learn, learn” is being coordinated by chief Kremlin ideologist Vladislav Surkov. Surkov was on hand to guide his creation along his preconceived ideological path. He whipped up delegates’ enthusiasm with, “Here are people gathered who are not indifferent to the future of our country. It seems to me that people who have respect for themselves have an inseparable connection to respect for their country.” It’s clear that for Surkov this “inseparable connection” is mediated with a heavy dose of xenophobia, conspiracy theories, and political hyperbole.
How will Nashi carry out their “10=5” Plan? The third significant outcome to Nashi’s 3rd Congress was, again not unlike the Komsomol’s of year’s past, its consolidation and restructuring for the future. As abraximov explains on ZheZhe’s resident anti-Nashi blog, Nashi added 10 programs, or really structures to its organization:
Student Alternative (StAl’)
Small Towns (a kind of “face the countryside” campaign which now includes 120 towns in 17 regions)
Lessons in Friendship
Cadres for the Modernization of the Country
Mishki (Nashi’s Young Pioneers)
Our Army (I assuming this isn’t the Kiss Army)
Voluntary Youth Militia
Youth Business School
As abraximov rightly suggests, isn’t this move be a step away for Nashi as a “movement”? True, Nashi’s additional structures will surely enable its future bureaucratization. But will this spell the death of its dynamism? In the next few years will we no longer hear statements from a pierced lip Russian teenage devs like: “My boyfriend was a member, and I joined him for one of the actions and I thought it was cool.”? Only time will tell.
Nashi may be entering on to the slippery slope of bureaucratism. At the same time its saving grace might be in its slick branding. All one has to do is take a look at its website to get a taste of this. Amid its bright red backgrounds are nestled a potpourri of multimedia, news, and resources. To help mold the Nashi brand, they now even have their own clothing line called Shapovlova. Given Nashi’s penchant for Russian “patriotism” I’m surprised to find it written in Latin script. Perhaps it is this molding of style that will keep Nashi cool with the kids.
There has been some speculation whether Nashi would outlast its role as Putin worshipers. With the 3rd Congress, it’s clear that they are looking well into the future.Post Views: 128