A map shows the Soviet Union from 1928 to 1941.
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Stalin used terror and labor camps to control the huge, multinational Soviet Union. In which part of the Soviet Union was the heaviest concentration of Gulag labor camps?

Censoring the Arts

At first, the Bolshevik Revolution had meant greater freedom for Soviet artists and writers. Under Stalin, however, the heavy hand of state control also gripped the arts. The government controlled what books were published, what music was heard, and which works of art were displayed. Stalin required artists and writers to follow a style called socialist realism. Its goal was to show Soviet life in a positive light. Artists and writers could criticize the bourgeois past, but their overall message had to promote hope in the socialist future. Popular themes for socialist realist artists were peasants, workers, and heroes of the revolution—and, of course, Stalin.

Artists who ignored socialist realism guidelines could not get materials, work space, or jobs. Writers, artists, and composers also faced government persecution. The Jewish poet Osip Mandelstam, for example, was imprisoned, tortured, and exiled for composing a satirical verse about Stalin. Out of fear for his wife's safety, Mandelstam finally submitted to threats and wrote an “Ode to Stalin.” Boris Pasternak, who would later win fame for his novel Doctor Zhivago, was afraid to publish anything at all during the Stalin years. Rather than write in the favored style of socialist realism, he translated foreign literary works instead.

Despite restrictions, some Soviet writers produced magnificent works whose themes reflected the history and culture of Stalinist Russia. Yevgeny Zamyatin's classic anti-Utopian novel We became well known outside of the Soviet Union, but was not published in his home country until 1989. The novel depicts a nightmare future in which people go by numbers, not names, and the “One State” controls people's thoughts.

And Quiet Flows the Don, by Mikhail Sholokhov, passed the censor. The novel tells the story of a man who spends years fighting in World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the civil war. Sholokhov later won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Russification of the Republics

Yet another way Stalin controlled the cultural life of the Soviet Union was by promoting a policy of russification, or imposing Russian culture on the diverse Soviet empire. During the Soviet era, the U.S.S.R. came to include 15 separate republics. Russia, or the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, was the largest and dominant republic. The others, such as Uzbek and the Ukraine, had their own languages, historical traditions, and cultures.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments