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opera, the libretto; for a ¬lm or play, the script).132
It was not only Marxist texts and Party documents that enjoyed a special
status in both Party and state culture of the 1930s. Literature, as the branch of
culture most concerned with texts, was propelled to prominence. Starting from
at least April“May 1932, when the Writers Union was founded to function

Greta Slobin, “The Homecoming of the First Wave: Diaspora and Its Cultural Legacy,” Slavic

Review 60, no. 3 (2001): 515“16.
Andrei Artizov and Oleg Naumov, compilers, Vlast™ i khudozhestvennaia intelligentsia: Doku-

menty TsK RKP (b) “ VKP (b), VChK “ OGPU “ NKVD o kul™turnoi politike 1917“1953 gg.
(Moscow: Mezhdunarodnoi fond “Demokratiia,” 1999).
Mutual Perceptions and Projections 437

as the ¬‚agship of Soviet culture and the term “socialist realism” announced
as the method for Soviet culture, literature provided both the organizational
(the single writers™ union) and the textual models for Soviet culture. Writers
became extremely privileged members of Soviet society, but the state also began
to promote literature in a major way. Within the Party, the Komsomol, and the
military, reading circles were set up that included literary texts in their reading
lists. Other art forms, such as painting and even architecture, became more
discursive in this period, more tied to illustrating narratives that were to be
found in political or literary texts.
This privileging of literature did not just amount to harnessing writers to
turn out propaganda tracts. Both the leadership and the populace at large did
not have a purely instrumentalist attitude to literature. They revered it to such
an extent that one could talk in terms of a cult of literature.
In the 1930s literature enjoyed a semisacral status among a broad spec-
trum of the population, regime stalwarts, and dissidents alike. We might recall
here that most famous line from Mikhail Bulgakov™s novel The Master and
Margarita (written over the course of the thirties), “Manuscripts don™t burn”
(compare Hitler™s dictum that what is on paper blood can blot out). As we
have become particularly aware since the KGB ¬les have become more open,
manuscripts often did “burn” (were destroyed), but a faith in the immortality
of texts is very de¬ning for Soviet culture of the 1930s.
In the 1930s literary models became particularly important for people in
a wide range of positions on the sociological spectrum in forming their sense
of identity. Evidence from recently published diaries of the period shows that
many Russians of the 1930s in their struggle to ¬nd an identity for themselves
at this dif¬cult time modeled themselves on characters or utterances from
This extraordinary veneration of literature was actually quite widespread
throughout Europe at this time (though generally not of the same cult pro-
portions as one saw in the Soviet Union).134 This faith intensi¬ed with the
formation in 1934“5 of the antifascist alliance known as the Popular Front.
Thus to a marked degree the cult of literature was in the Soviet Union at its
most intense during the years when a cult of “Europe” as bulwark against a
“barbaric” fascism was also at its height. In the mid- to late 1930s it was widely
felt that any educated person should have a thorough knowledge of European
literature, both classical and contemporary works. European literature was
stressed in the high school curriculum and an impressive number of literary

One can ¬nd several examples of this in the anthology Intimacy and Terror: Soviet Diaries of

the 1930s, eds. Veronique Garros, Natalia Korenevskaia, and Thomas Lahusen (New York:
The New Press, 1995).
Note, for example, Paul Fussell™s work on British soldiers in the Great War that establishes

how “¬ercely literary” they were (The Great War and Modern Memory [London and New
York: Oxford University Press, 1975], esp. 157“8). See also Marc Fumaroli, “La Coupole”
in Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past. Vol. 2, Traditions (New York: Columbia
University, 1997), 300“4.
Katerina Clark and Karl Schlogel

works appeared in Russian translation, principally French and German works,
but also works of English, Italian, and Spanish literature.
This emphasis on the French and German occurred in part because a new
European cultural axis was in effect promoted in the antifascist movement,
one that transcended old antagonisms. Hence two novels in particular, the
French writer Romain Rolland™s Jean Christophe (a ten-book epic novel that
appeared between 1904 and 1912), in which the protagonist, a German musi-
cian, moves back and forth from Germany to France, and the German writer
Heinrich Mann™s Henri Quatre (Part I 1935, Part II 1938), which extols the
virtues of a sixteenth-century French king, who championed humanist values,
were promoted for Soviet readers and used by writers as models in their own
work (perhaps not coincidentally, both authors were also prominent in the
antifascist movement). Another factor was that the antifascist movement and
the Germanophone emigr´ intellectual community were centered in Paris. But
there was also a distinct element of Eurocentrism abroad observed, for example,
in accounts of the Spanish Civil War where authors tended less to foreground
as the enemy actual Spanish Falangists than the non-European troops from
Africa deployed by Franco and Mussolini, and the “barbaric” German bomber
The pattern that we have been adducing here was, however, less strongly
felt in the late 1930s. For a start, as mentioned, the majority of the prominent
Soviet formulators of the image of Nazism perished in the purges and show
trials (e.g., Karl Radek, Nikolai Bukharin, and Mikhail Koltsov). Thereafter,
cruder and more caricatured images of Nazi Germany appeared in the Soviet
press. Additionally, well before Republican Spain fell at the end of March 1939
(an event anticipated for some months), the Popular Front fell apart, and the
Soviet government became progressively less invested in “Europe.” Already the
volume of translated literature by European authors had signi¬cantly dimin-
ished, and such journals as Arkhitektura za rubezhom (Architecture Abroad),
that reviewed the latest developments in the West, ceased publication in 1937-8.
By the end of the 1930s, also, most of the intellectual leaders of the antifascist
emigration had moved on from Europe to New York or Hollywood. In the
Soviet press there was a corresponding increased emphasis on American affairs
and a deemphasis on European ones.

soviet nazi imagery after the molotov-ribbentrop
pact of 1939
The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed in August 1939, and thereafter the
negative portraits of Nazi Germany essentially disappeared in the press. One
is struck, however, by the virtual absence of positive portraits, and also by a
lingering nostalgia among Soviet intellectuals for the ethos of the Republican
cause in the Spanish Civil War. This nostalgia was particularly felt in annual
commemorations of the death of Mate Zalka, the Hungarian writer who, as
General Lukacs, was a military commander of an International Brigade and
Mutual Perceptions and Projections 439

was killed in combat. But also a new, young generation of writers emerged
(e.g., Pavel Kogan and Konstantin Simonov) who effectively became bards
of Soviet expansionism in the wake of the pact but identi¬ed the military
engagements against the Japanese in the Far East, and in Western Ukraine,
the Baltic countries, and above all Finland, with carrying the ethos of the
Republican cause in the Spanish war forward into new engagements.
Until the late 1930s, however, the theme of territorial expansion was one
of the principal areas where there was an asymmetry between the Soviet image
of Nazi Germany and the Nazi account of the Soviet Union. As Karl Schlogel ¨
brings out above, “space” was a central preoccupation of the Nazis in writing
about the Soviet Union. Evident already in Mein Kampf, the Nazis consistently
emphasized Soviet/Russian topography (the great expanses with their potential
as Lebensraum) and the country™s climate, while the physical reality of Nazi
Germany played almost no role in Soviet accounts of it, which, as mentioned
previously, focused on terror, oppression, the class basis of support, and above
all the Nazi threat to “culture” and “Europe” (but Europe conceived less as
a physical reality than as an entity de¬ned by its ethos and the culture it
This pattern became less marked in Soviet rhetoric of the late 1930s, partic-
ularly after the German invasion on 22 June 1941. Then the Nazi hunger for
territorial conquest was represented as their de¬ning attribute, and they were
now recurrently referred to as “cannibals” (liudoedy, kanibaly), a term that
both conveyed how the Nazis were rapaciously devouring (Soviet) territory and
referred to what would be called today their ethnic cleansing of “the Slavs”
(the Nazis™ racist policy toward the Jews was less emphasized).135 Already by
1938 in such texts as Sergei Eisenstein™s ¬lm Alexander Nevsky, released that
year to mark the 7 November anniversary, Germans (as in this case represented
in the Teutonic Knights who under the eponymous Alexander had in the thir-
teenth century been thwarted in their attempt to capture territory in northeast
Russia) were seen as would-be ravagers and conquerors of Russian lands. In
Eisenstein™s ¬lm, their distorted bodies and their brutal murder of blond Rus-
sian babies testify to a warped and pathological inner self. The ¬lm™s implied
message of centuries-old German hunger for Russian territory and of ethnic
abuse was frequently reiterated in Soviet articles published after the invasion,
often by reference to this historical precedent.136
Not all accounts of Nazi Germany and its people re¬‚ect this increasing
Russocentrism, which many have remarked on in Soviet culture of the late
1930s. Lingering in intellectuals™ responses to the invasion, and especially those

E.g., Aleksei Tol™stoi, “Kto takoi Gitler i chego on dobivaetsia,” Izvestiia, 7 July 1941; V.

Grossman, “Korichnevye klopy,” Izvestiia, 13 July 1941; Mikh. Osipov, “Fashistskie vyrodki “
zakliatye vragi russkogo naroda,” Izvestiia, 18 July 1941; I. Bachelis, “Kanibaly,” Izvestiia,
19 July 1941; D. Gustinich, “Fashistskie izvergi istrebliaiut slavianskie narody,” Izvestiia, 30
July 1941.
E.g., K. Demidov, “Germanskii fashizm “ v strakhe pered slavianstvom,” Izvestiia, 15 July

Katerina Clark and Karl Schlogel

of Ilya Ehrenburg, one of the few early formulators of the Soviet image of Nazi
Germany to have survived the purges and who during the war emerged as the
leading provider of anti-Nazi missives for the Soviet press, were a nostalgia for
the dream of “Europe” and an outrage at the rape of Europe at the hands of the
Nazis. A central obsession of his essays (and ¬ction) from these years was the
fall of Paris, the putative cultural center of Europe and cradle of revolutionary
values, to the jackbooted (cultural) in¬del.137

At ¬rst glance, the juxtaposition at the Paris International Exposition of the
two pavilions, one from Nazi Germany and the other from Stalin™s Russia, each
with its marked aesthetics of power, would suggest a kind of symmetry between
the two projects, and by extension between their respective countries™ culture
systems. But features common to the two pavilions “ especially monumentalism
and propaganda “ are shared by the architecture of other nations from that
time, including that of their hosts, Popular Front France. Taking the symmetry
of the iconography of power to be seen in these two pavilions as a point of
departure for analyzing each country™s image of its own system and that of its
rival is, as we hope we have shown, inadequate to account for these images™
complexity and even asymmetry. For a start, each country™s culture generated a
multiplicity of images or interpretations “ from sentimental and nostalgic ideas
of Russia and Germany, respectively, to radicalized and primitivized images
that are based on an ideology of cultural and even racist supremacy. Some
of them were contradictory, such as the obsessive image of the other state
as an enemy system coupled with the more romantic idea of “the other” “
“Russian soul” and “German culture” “ as allegedly oppressed in the enemy
state. Another striking feature is the impact that emigr´ communities had (by
providing information and interpretations) on the images of their own countries
formed by those countries™ “enemies.” Clearly, however, the Nazi German and
Stalinist Russian images of each other were based to a large extent on cultural
patterns and clich´ s generated long before the Nazis took power, long before
“Stalin™s time,” and are deeply rooted in pre-Nazi German and pre-Stalinist
Russian culture. The traditional images were, however, refracted through some
of the de¬ning features of Nazism and Stalinism, respectively. One sees this
in the obvious difference between the nationalistic and racist ideology and
rhetoric of Nazi Germany concerning Russia, and the universalistic rhetoric of
Stalin™s Russia about Nazi Germany, the one more expressed in an ideology
of race and blood, the other more in a rhetoric of (book-centered) culture. But
both purport to be ¬ghting not just for their own systems, but in defense of the
Occident (Abendland) and European civilization: Nazi Germany with its vision
of a racially de¬ned Europe pent against Bolshevism, Stalin™s Russia presenting

E.g., I. Erenburg, “Chas natsi,” Trud, 25 April 1941. See also his novel, The Fall of Paris

(Padenie Parizha), begun in 1940 and completed in 1941.
Mutual Perceptions and Projections 441

itself as a defender of civilization against Nazi barbarism. Both systems were
engaged in a struggle for hegemony over Europe “ cultural and military. But
a productive course for further analysis might be not the differences or the
contrasts between the two culture systems and their images of each other but
rather the exchange and transfer of culture and ideas that took place in a
context de¬ned by the crisis of interwar Europe.
Works Cited

Archive of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Research on War Consequences, Vienna
Bundesarchiv Berlin (BA-B)
Bundesarchiv (Militarisches Zwischenarchiv) Potsdam
Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv, Freiburg (BAMA)
Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv noveishei istorii Azerbaidzhanskoi Respubliki (GANI)
Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (GARF)
Harvard Interview Project on the Soviet Social System, Cambridge, MA
Hoover Institution Archive, Stanford, CA
Landesarchiv Berlin (LAB)
National Archive, Washington, DC
Public Record Of¬ce, London (PRO)
Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv literatury i iskusstva (RGALI)
Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv sotsial™noi i politicheskoi istorii (RGASPI)
Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyj arkhiv ekonomiki (RGAE)
Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv (RGIA)
Tsentral™nyj arkhiv goroda Moskvy (TsMAM)

Newspapers and Periodicals
AGfV Mitteilungen
Berliner Morgenpost
Berliner Tageblatt
Deutsche Zentral-Zeitung
Front nauki i tekhniki
Gigiena i zdorov™e
Illustrierter Beobachter
Internationale Literatur
Krasnaia zvezda


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