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

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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. The book's chapters examine 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 in the Great Purges of the 1930s. But although Stalin could destroy the competing clans he could not destroy the historically embedded patron-client relation, 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 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."--Ronald Grigor Suny, University of Michigan--Ronald G. Suny