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Title: Teaching Russian classics in secondary school under Stalin (1936-1941)
Author: Malinovskaya, Olga
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 7273
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis contributes to existing discussions of Soviet subjectivity by considering how the efforts of the Party leadership and state agencies to shape personal and collective identities were mediated by the teaching of Russian classics to teenagers. It concentrates in particular on the history of literature course provided by Soviet schools for the upper years. The study addresses the following questions: (1) How was literary expression employed to instigate children's emotions and create interpretive habits as a way of inculcating a Soviet worldview? (2) What immediate effects did the methods have on teenagers? (3) What were the long-term effects of this type of indoctrination? Answering these questions required close reading of material produced by official authorities, such as methodological programmes, teachers' aids, professional journals, and textbooks for class instruction, and also of material produced by those at the receiving end of Stalinist literary instruction, including both sources contemporary to the period under scrutiny (i.e. diaries written between 1936-1941), and later autobiographical material (memoirs, oral history). I argue that for many teenagers growing up during this period, indoctrination in the classroom blurred the boundary between reality and fiction, and provided a moral compass to navigate their social environment, to judge others as well as themselves along prescribed lines, and model their lives on the precepts and slogans of the characters and authors they encountered, particularly the 19th-century radical democrats. Retrospective accounts - interviews, memoirs, and written responses to questions - expose the durability of the moral and ethical lessons derived from Russian classics and reveal the enduring Soviet emotional complex formed by this literary instruction. Investigating the impacts of the study of Russian classics on Soviet recipients, particularly from elite groups such as the city intelligentsia, my discussion highlights the political traction of the literary in, for instance, forming feelings of group belonging and strong emotional responses to differing views. I conclude with a discussion of the relation of this to long-term political effects, including the re-appraisal, in the twenty-first century, of Stalin-era teaching methodology as an effective way of instilling patriotic sentiments in students, and the legacy of Soviet perceptions and practices in the expression of personal and collective identities in the post-Soviet period.
Supervisor: Kelly, Catriona Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Education and state--Soviet Union--History ; Russian literature--Study and teaching--Soviet Union ; Communist education--Soviet Union--History ; Communism and education--Soviet Union--History