New Soviet man

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
1920 propaganda poster: "In order to have more, it is necessary to produce more. In order to produce more, it is necessary to know more."
Image of industrial worker on a 1937 stamp

The New Soviet man or New Soviet person (Russian: новый советский человек novy sovetsky chelovek), as postulated by the ideologists of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was an archetype of a person with specific qualities that were said to be emerging as dominant among all citizens of the Soviet Union, irrespective of the country's cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity, creating a single Soviet people and Soviet nation.[1][2]


From its roots in the mid 19th and early 20th century, proponents of communism have postulated that within the new society of pure communism and the social conditions therein, a New Man and New Woman would develop with qualities reflecting surrounding circumstances of post-scarcity and unprecedented scientific development.[3] For example, Leon Trotsky wrote in 1924 in Literature and Revolution about the "Communist man", "man of the future":[4]

Man will make it his purpose to master his own feelings, to raise his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent, to extend the wires of his will into hidden recesses, and thereby to raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman.

Wilhelm Reich asked in 1933:

Will the new socio-economic system reproduce itself in the structure of the people's character? If so, how? Will his traits be inherited by his children? Will he be a free, self-regulating personality? Will the elements of freedom incorporated into the structure of the personality make any authoritarian forms of government unnecessary?[5]

New Man[edit]

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman commemorated in a Soviet stamp in Socialist realist style.

The Soviet man was to be selfless, learned, healthy, muscular, and enthusiastic in spreading the communist Revolution. Adherence to Marxism–Leninism, and individual behavior consistent with that philosophy's prescriptions, were among the crucial traits expected of the New Soviet man, which required intellectualism and hard discipline.[6] He was not driven by crude impulses of nature but by conscious self-mastery, a belief that required the rejection of both innate personality and the unconscious, which Soviet psychologists therefore rejected.[7]

He treated public property with respect, as if it were his own.[8] He should regard himself as being Soviet (culturally, ethnically, and linguistically) rather than Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, or any of the many other people and cultures found in the USSR.[9]

His work required exertion and austerity, to show the new man triumphing over his base instincts.[10] Alexey Stakhanov's spurious[11][12] record-breaking day in mining coal caused him to be set forth as the exemplar of the "new man" and the members of Stakhanovite movements tried to become Stakhanovites.[13]

This could also be a new woman; Pravda described the Soviet woman as someone who had and could never have existed before.[14] Female Stakhanovites were rarer than male, but a quarter of all trade-union women were designated as "norm-breaking."[15] For the Paris World Fair, Vera Mukhina depicted a momentual sculpture, Worker and Kolkhoz Woman, dressed in work clothing, pressing forward with his hammer and her sickle crossed.[15]

Alexander Zinoviev put forth the satirical argument that a new kind of person was indeed created by the Soviet system, but held that this new man - which they call Homo Sovieticus - was in many ways the opposite of the ideal of the New Soviet man.[16]


Among the major traits of a new Soviet man was selfless collectivism. The selfless new man was willing to sacrifice his life for good causes.[17]

This trait was glorified from the first Soviet days, as exemplified by lines from the poem Vladimir Ilyich Lenin by the Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky:

Who needs a "1"?
The voice of a "1"
is thinner than a squeak.
Who will hear it?
Only the wife...
A "1" is nonsense.
A "1" is zero.

Fictional characters and presentations of contemporary celebrities embodying this model were prominent features of Soviet cultural life, especially at times when fostering the concept of the New Soviet man was given special priority by the government.

Pronatalist policies encouraging women to have many children were justified by the selfishness inherent in limiting the next generation of "new men."[18]

New Soviet Woman[edit]

"What the October Revolution gave to the female worker and peasant". 1920 Soviet propaganda poster. The inscriptions on the buildings read "library", "kindergarten", "school for grown-ups", etc.

In the 1920s and into the Stalinist era the concept of the "New Soviet Woman" served alongside that of the "New Soviet Man." Her roles were vastly different from those of her male counterpart; she was burdened with a complex identity that changed with ideology shifts in the party doctrine toward more conservative notions of the role of the family and the mother in the Soviet system. The New Soviet Woman was a Superwoman who balanced competing responsibilities and took on the burden of multiple roles: Communist citizen, full-time worker, wife and mother.[19]

The New Soviet Person was generally characterized as male. In Soviet propaganda centered on the New Soviet Person, it was standard for men to be depicted as the primary actors, either battling opponents of the Marxist revolution or rebuilding the world. Women, on the other hand, were often portrayed as "backward," passive beneficiaries of the revolution rather than its securers. This was so partly because the proletarian movement was organized and fought by men of the working class.[citation needed] Thus, propaganda often equated male domination with proletariat domination. Although the party leadership claimed the sexes enjoyed equal status under the law, a significant accomplishment in itself, men remained the measure of worth.[20]

This marginalization of women in the newly developing civil order made it difficult for women to find a place among the proletarian class for which the revolution was fought. Regulations during the New Economic Policy period on the extent to which women could work in dangerous conditions, how many hours they could work in a shift and the kinds of special care they received during maternity made many factory owners reluctant to hire women, despite the Commissariat of Labor's requirements that women to be given equal access to employment.[21]

There were gains made in combating illiteracy and promoting education for women during the 1920s. Soviet policy encouraged working-class women to attend school and develop vocational skills. There existed opportunities for women to participate in politics, become party members and vie for elected and administrative positions. Access to the political sphere, however, was extremely limited.[22]

Joseph Stalin's policies on women were more conservative than that of his predecessor Lenin. Because he was concerned with a declining population rate, Stalin de-emphasized the Marxist feminist view of women in society, which, in his view, freed women from patriarchy and capitalism. In keeping with the party line, Stalin reasserted the importance of women in the workforce and female education, primarily literacy, although he began to emphasize the role of mother in a way that differed from more radical notions of the early 1920s.[22]

The "withering away" of the family was no longer a goal of economic and political progress. The new party line was that the family, like the state, was to grow stronger with the full realization of socialism. Massive propaganda campaigns linked the joys of motherhood with the benefits of Soviet power.[22] Soviet ideology began to argue that women's public roles were compatible with her roles as wife and mother. In fact, that the two reinforced one another and were both necessary for real womanhood.[23]

The New Soviet Woman differed greatly from the conceptions of revolutionaries preceding the 1930s. Instead of being freed from domestic concerns, she was bound to them. Though she now filled the role of man's peer in the workplace, she was also obligated to devote herself to being his helpmate in the home.[19] One of the primary roles of the New Soviet Woman was that of mother. This role became of great importance in the wake of population decline beginning in the 1920s. War and revolution had decimated the population. Legislation legalizing abortions and the increasing use of contraception—though still not that widespread—in the 1920s also contributed to the lower population numbers as women began to work more and give birth less.[24]

As a means to combat that trend, propaganda placed a new emphasis on the female's role as the perpetuator of the Communist regime in their ability to produce the next class of healthy workers, a policy called pronatalism. Propaganda presented pronatalism, a means to encourage women to bear children, in different ways to urban working-class women and to rural peasant women. Propaganda designed for an urban audience linked healthy female sexuality with reproduction while medical information to peasant women positioned conception as the purpose of sexual intercourse.[24]

During the 1920s and into the Stalinist era, Soviet policy forced women to curtail their professional aspirations in order to fulfill their dual role as worker and housewife. Competing requirements of family life limited female occupational mobility. Women managed the role strain experienced during the Stalinist era by either a restriction of professional aspirations or by limiting family size. Despite pitfalls, unprecedented opportunities were available to lower-class women during this time. Women now had a voice in debates and the Zhenotdel, the women's section of the Central Committee from 1919 to 1930, made strides during its operation to increase political, social and economic agency of Soviet women.[25]


Historian Stephen Wheatcroft states that Soviet peasantry were subject to cultural destruction in the creation of the New Soviet man.[26]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Kheveshi M. An Explanatory Dictionary of the Ideological and Political Terms of the Soviet Period (Хевеши М.А. Толковый словарь идеологических и политических терминов советского периода.) Moscow, Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya (2002) ISBN 5-7133-1147-3 (in Russian)
  • Herschel and Edith Alt, The New Soviet Man. His Upbringing and Character Development, New York: Bookman Associates, Inc., 1964 (from a review: "The aim of the Alts' study was to portray the impact upon the character of the individual of the entire Soviet system, of which child rearing and education are a part.")
  • Steiner, Evgeny. Avant-garde and Construction of the New Man (Штейнер Е.С. Авангард и построение Нового Человека). Moscow: New Literary Observer, 2002. (The English version of this book was published under the title Stories for Little Comrades. Seattle & London: University of Washington Press, 1999).


  1. ^ Nikolay Ustryalov, From NEP to Soviet Socialism (1934) (text online) (in Russian)[page needed]
  2. ^ Geller, Mikhail (1988). Cogs in the wheel : the formation of Soviet man. New York: Knopf. ISBN 9780394569260.
  3. ^ Compare: Berdyayev, Nikolai Aleksandrovich (1937). The Origin of Russian Communism. Ann Arbor paperbacks for the study of communism and Marxism. University of Michigan Press (published 1960). p. 182. ISBN 9780472060344. Retrieved 2015-06-12. [...] communism claims to have created not only the new society but also the new man. They talk a great deal in Soviet Russia about the new man, about a new spiritual make-up. Foreigners who have visited Soviet Russia are also fond of talking about it [...]
  4. ^ "Ch. 8 Revolutionary and Socialist Art". 2007-01-06. Retrieved 2012-08-18.
  5. ^ Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Chapter 8, Masses and the State[page needed]
  6. ^ B. R. Myers, The Cleanest Race, p 81 ISBN 9781933633916
  7. ^ Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p258 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  8. ^ "1917-1987: Unsuccessful and Tragic Attempt to Create a “New Man” Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine"
  9. ^ "Glossary -- Soviet Union". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 13 December 2000.
  10. ^ B. R. Myers, The Cleanest Race, p 86 ISBN 9781933633916
  11. ^ Schmemann, Serge (31 August 1985). "In Soviet, Eager Beaver's Legend Works Overtime". The New York Times. p. 2.
  12. ^ Komsomolskaya Pravda, October 15, 1988
  13. ^ Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p258-9 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  14. ^ Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p259 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  15. ^ a b Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p260 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  16. ^ "Soviet-era satirist Zinovyev dies". BBC News. 2006-05-10.
  17. ^ Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p301 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  18. ^ Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p257 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  19. ^ a b Barbara Evans Clements, Daughters of the Revolution: A History of Women in the U.S.S.R. (Illinois: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1994), 73.
  20. ^ Barbara Alpern Engel, Women in Russia: 1700-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 150.
  21. ^ Barbara Alpern Engel, Women in Russia: 1700-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 153.
  22. ^ a b c Gail Warshofsky Lapidus, Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change (University of California Press, 1978), 112.
  23. ^ Gail Warshofsky Lapidus, Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change (University of California Press, 1978), 115.
  24. ^ a b Barbara Alpern Engel, Women in Russia: 1700-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 161.
  25. ^ Barbara Alpern Engel, Women in Russia: 1700-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 165.
  26. ^ The Complexity of the Kazakh Famine: Food Problems and Faulty Perceptions Stephen G. Wheatcroft