In January 1939, the theater critic V. Blium wrote to Stalin in despair that:

"Socialist patriotism sometimes and in some places is starting to display all the characteristics of racial nationalism... [Our people] don't understand that to beat the enemy fascist, we must under no circumstances use his weapon (racism), but a far superior weapon - internationalist socialism."1

What had provoked such a letter? Soviet society witnessed a major ideological about-face during the mid-to-late 1930s as russocentric etatism superseded earlier internationalist slogans. Nevskii, Peter, Kutuzov and Pushkin had joined Lenin, Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Frunze and Dzerzhinskii in a newly-integrated Soviet pantheon of heroes which aimed to co opt charismatic elements of the tsarist past.2 Blium found this shift - often referred to as the "great retreat"3 - to be a betrayal of Communist ideals.

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Copyright © 2000 Franz Steiner Verlag. This article first appeared in Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 48:3 (2000), 388-406.

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