The history of propaganda in the Soviet Union is intimately tied to the history of the Communist party of that country. The best overview can be found in a superior general history of Soviet and post-Soviet affairs that takes into account the most recent western scholarship is Ronald G. Suny, The Soviet Experiment: Russia, The USSR and The Successor States. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). A much less fair-minded survey that grinds its ideological axe hard is Martin E. Malia, The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia (New York: Free Press, 1994). A worthy survey that pays special attention to propaganda issues is Peter Kenez, A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to the End (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Kenez wrote one of the single most insightful books on the mass cultural education mission rooted in the ideological outlook that Bolsheviks brought with them into political power. Peter Kenez, The Birth of the Propaganda State: Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).
For many years the standard history of the CPSU was, Leonard B. Schapiro, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (New York: Random House, 1971) revelations coming out of the Kremlin archives have dated this book, but many still base their understanding on its pillars. For some of the new avenues of understanding. Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshakov, Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996). From the bottom of society up the most important work coming out, in great profusion is that of Sheila Fitzpatrick. Her recent, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930's (New York, 1999) is especially valuable and insightful. Fitzpatrick started out (under the above mentioned Schapiro and the great pioneer of Soviet history E.H. Carr) writing about culture making in the early Soviet period, a subject tied closely to propagandizing. Her The Commissariat of Enlightenment: Soviet Organization of Education and the Arts Under Lunacharsky, October 1917-1921 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970) remains a good source for tracing the complex strands of early Bolshevik policy. Fitzpatrick's provocative essays, collected in The Cultural Front: Power and Culture in Revolutionary Russia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992) makes stimulating reading.
For obvious reasons there is not a great deal of web related materials on Soviet propaganda. A useful collection of Soviet political posters can be viewed on Russian Archives online
Other guides to Stalinist poster art and political art:
A general resource on political agitation is:
Important works that open the way to see the multiplicity of strands at work in Soviet society and Soviet history are: James von Geldern and Richard Stites (eds.) Mass Culture in Soviet Russia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995). This reader contains material often difficult for non-Russian readers to find. It is a whole education in Soviet mind sets and culture in and of itself. It builds on the important study: Richard Stites, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).
A terrific work that shows just how Stalinist values distorted realities is: David Kind, The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 1997). A good introduction to the under appreciated world of Soviet photography is: Margarita Tupitsyn, The Soviet Photograph 1924-1937 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.
For more on the photographic history of the Soviet Union look at the Russian Archive Online (RAO) project on this site.
A reliable political science study of the late Soviet propaganda apparatus is:
Thomas F. Remington, The Authority of Truth: Ideology and Communication in the Soviet Union (Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press, 1988). More readable and more central to understanding the experience of Soviet citizens is: Angus Roxburgh, Pravda: Inside the Soviet News Machine (New York: 1987).
Many will find Vladimir Pozner's autobiography, parting with Illusions (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1988) a useful, if tangled mirror of propaganda realities.
Some insights come from a now dated work: Martin Ebon, The Soviet Propaganda Machine (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1987).
The best insights into Stalin come from Robert C. Tucker, Stalin as a Revolutionary 1879-1929: A Study in History and Personality (New York: W.W. Norton, 1973); Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928-1941 (New York: W.W.Norton, 1990). Also important is: Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990) and his Stalin and the Kirov Murder (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989) as well as vital, Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888-1938 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973). Everyone who writes about this period depends on the work of: Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989).
Always fascinating yet tinged with self-justification as well of the bombastic overstatement that made him so much fun to follow is the memoir that Nikita Khrushchev tape recorded (on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder). The tapes were then smuggled to the west and translated by the current Assistant Secretary of State, Strobe Talbot. Khrushchev Remembers (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 1970) and Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament translated and edited by Strobe Talbot (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1974).
Some may draw insight from Scott Shane, Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the Soviet Union (New York: Ivan R. Dee, 1994) and Jack Matlock, Autopsy of an Empire (New York: Random House, 1995); Archie Brown, The Gorbachev Factor (New York: Oxford, 1996).
There is a significant body of writing, almost all outdated, on techniques of Soviet propaganda. Much of this is extremely tendentious. The political agendas that drive many of these works are usually obvious. Such book are useful for colorful stories as well as symptomatic examples of Cold War culture, left and right. See for examples, Marian Leighton, Soviet Propaganda as a Foreign Policy Tool (New York: Freedom House, 1991); Lyman B. Kirpatrick, Jr. and Howland H. Sargeant, Soviet Political Warfare Techniques; Espionage and Propaganda in the 1970s. (New York, National Strategy Information Center, 1972).Suzanne Labin, The Techniques of Soviet Propaganda A Study presented by the Subcommitee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act. 90th Congress, 1st Session (Washington: U.S.Government Printing Office, 1967); Jack Rosenblatt, Soviet Propaganda and the Physician's Peace Movement (Toronto: Mackenzie Institution, 1988). Clive Rose, The Soviet Propaganda Network (New York: St.Martin's Press, 1988), Ladislav Bittman, The New Image Maker: Soviet Propaganda and Disinformation Under Gorbachev (Boston: Boston University Program on Disinformation, 1987).
© 1999 Abamedia, unless otherwise indicated.