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The Zhdanovshchina

In the cultural sphere the ideological struggle against the West was intensified through Zhdanov's policies as Stalin's chief of ideology. It is by his name (the Zhdanovshchina) that the official clampdown against Western ('anti-Soviet') tendencies in all the arts and sciences became known.

The Zhdanovshchina had its origins in the military victory of 1945. Pride in the Soviet victory went hand in hand with the promotion of the USSR's cultural and political superiority (by which the regime really meant the superiority of the Russians, who were described by Stalin as the most important group in the Soviet Union). In a speech on the anniversary of the October Revolution in 1946 Zhdanov declared:

'Our literature, reflecting a system many times superior to any bourgeois democratic order, a culture many times higher than any bourgeois culture, has the right to teach other people a new, universal, human morality.'

Stalin called for iron discipline to purge all Western elements in cultural affairs. In August 1946 the Central Committee criticized two journals for publishing the works of the Leningrad writers Mikhail Zoshchenko and Anna Akhmatova.

EXTRACT: Orlando Figes, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia (Penguin, 2007), p. 492.

The attacks against Akhmatova and Zoshchenko were soon followed by a series of repressive measures against 'anti-Soviet elements' in all the arts and sciences. The State Museum of Modern Western Art was closed down. A campaign against 'formalism' and other 'decadent Western influences' in Soviet music led to the official blacklisting of several composers (including Shostakovich, Khachaturian and Prokofiev) charged with writing music that was 'alien to the Soviet people and its artistic taste.' In January 1947, the Politburo issued a decree against a History of European Philosophy (1946) by G.F. Aleksandrov, the head of Agitprop (the Central Committee's Department of Agitation and Propaganda), accusing the book of having undervalued the Russian contribution to the Western philosophical tradition. Alexandrov was soon removed from his post. Six months later, in July 1947, the Central Committee published an ominous letter censuring the scientists Nina Kliueva and her husband Grigorii Roskin for 'obeisances and servility before foreign and reactionary bourgeois Western culture unworthy of our people.' The scientists had been accused of giving information about their cancer research to the Americans during a tour of the USA in 1946. On their return they were dragged before an 'honour court,' a newly-founded institution to examine acts of an anti-patriotic nature in the Soviet establishment, where they were made to answer hostile questions before 800 spectators.

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