In the mid-to-late 1930s, Soviet society witnessed a major ideological about-face as party propaganda and mass culture assumed an increasingly patriotic, Russo-centric orientation. Heroes, imagery, and legends from the Russian national past were deployed to bolster the legitimacy of the Soviet state and provide a complement to the reigning Marxist-Leninist ideology, then in a trend threatening to eclipse the stress on revolutionary class consciousness that had characterized the Soviet experiment for nearly two decades.

This shift away from proletarian internationalism toward Russo-centric etatism has been a source of considerable scholarly controversy. Some have linked this phenomenon to nationalist sympathies within the party hierarchy, while others attribute it to the Stalinist elite’s revision of its Marxist principles, the eroding prospects for world revolution, and the imminent threat of war. I have argued elsewhere that these themes emerged during the mid-to-late 1930s within the context of the decade’s increasingly populist ideological orientation.1 Difficulties associated with grain requisitioning, the War Scare of 1927, and the First Five-Year Plan slowly led party ideologists to conclude that their long-standing emphasis on abstract materialism and proletarian internationalism was hamstringing efforts to mobilize Soviet society for industrialization and war. Searching for a more populist rallying call, Stalin and his inner circle eventually conceded that a new emphasis on Russo-centric etatism would be the most effective way to promote state building and societal loyalty to the regime.

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Copyright © 2006 Wiener Slawistischer Almanach. This book chapter first appeared in The Imprints of Terror: The Rhetoric of Violence and the Violence of Rhetoric in Modern Russian Culture.

Edited by: Mark Lipovetsky, Sven Spieker and Anna Brodsky.

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