Practicing Stalinism Bolsheviks, Boyars, and the Persistence of Tradition J.Arch Getty

Publication date:
03 Sep 2013
384 pages: 234 x 156 x 26mm
black & white tables

Buy this eBook

Yale eBooks are available in a variety of formats, including Kindle, ePub and ePDF. You can purchase this title from a number of online retailers (see below).

In old Russia, patron/client relations, "clan" politics, and a variety of other informal practices spanned the centuries. Government was understood to be patrimonial and personal rather than legal, and office holding was far less important than proximity to patrons. Working from heretofore unused documents from the Communist archives, J. Arch Getty shows how these political practices and traditions from old Russia have persisted throughout the twentieth-century Soviet Union and down to the present day. Getty examines a number of case studies of political practices in the Stalin era and after. These include cults of personality, the transformation of Old Bolsheviks into noble grandees, the Communist Party's personnel selection system, and the rise of political clans ("family circles") after the 1917 Revolutions. Stalin's conflicts with these clans, and his eventual destruction of them, were key elements of the Great Purges of the 1930s. But although Stalin could destroy the competing clans, he could not destroy the historically embedded patron-client relationship, as a final chapter on political practice under Putin shows.

J. Arch Getty is professor of history at UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles.

“A lively and interesting work, Practicing Stalinism will surely spark historiographical controversy and should be the topic of wide discussion.”—Lynne Viola, author of The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin's Special Settlements

ÒGetty argues that traditional Russian symbols and practices, combined with clientelistic personal rule at all levels, pervaded the Soviet and even post-Soviet political systems. His extensive use of archive sources imparts authenticity and drama to a compelling account of how the past overpowered a regime dedicated to creating the future. An absorbing study.ÓÑGeoffrey Hosking, author ofÊRussia and the Russians: A History

ÒThere hasnÕt been much sign of Russian ÔdemocratizationÕ recently. Perhaps itÕs time to get back to history, Arch GettyÕs new book suggests, and the Ôdeep structuresÕ of patrimonial power that have underpinned Russian elite politics from medieval times up to the present. This richly documented and wide-ranging study has made a compelling case for doing so.ÓÑStephen White, University of Glasgow

ÒA compelling account of the continuities and persistent practices of governance in Russian history that shaped both the way Stalin ruled the Soviet Union as well as how Putin dominates Russia today. Getty deploys his vast knowledge of Stalinism to demonstrate that patrimonial patterns of leadership and popular deference were as much a part of the integrated Soviet system as were the bureaucratic institutional norms of the state.ÓÑRonald Grigor Suny, University of Michigan