Propaganda in the Soviet Union

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The communist propaganda in the Soviet Union was extensively based on the Marxism-Leninism ideology to promote the Communist Party line. In societies with pervasive censorship, the propaganda was omnipresent and very efficient. It penetrated even social and natural sciences giving rise to various pseudo-scientific theories like Lysenkoism, whereas fields of real knowledge, as genetics, cybernetics, and comparative linguistics were condemned and forbidden as "bourgeois pseudoscience". With "truths repressed, falsehoods in every field were incessantly rubbed in in print, at endless meetings, in school, in mass demonstrations, on the radio" [1].

The main Soviet censorship body, Glavlit, employed seventy thousand full-time staff not only to eliminate any undesirable printed materials, but also "to ensure that the correct ideological spin was put on every published item". Telling anything against the "Party line" was punished by imprisonment. "Today a man only talks freely to his wife – at night, with the blankets pulled over his head", said writer Isaac Babel privately to a trusted friend [1]

According to Robert Conquest, "All in all, unprecedented terror must seem necessary to ideologically motivated attempts to transform society massively and speedily, against its natural possibilities. The accompanying falsifications took place, and on a barely credible scale, in every sphere. Real facts, real statistics, disappeared into the realm of fantasy. History, including the History of the Communist Party, or rather especially the history of the Communist Party, was rewritten. Unpersons disappeared from the official record. A new past, as well as new present, was imposed on the captive minds of the Soviet population, as was, of course, admitted when truth emerged in the late 1980s".[1]

Indoctrination of children

"Comrade Lenin Cleanses the Earth of Filth" by Viktor Deni. November 1920

An important goal of Communist propaganda was to create a new man. Schools and the Communist youth organizations, like Soviet pioneers and Komsomol, served to remove children from the "petty-bourgeois" family and indoctrinate the next generation into the collective way of life. One of schooling theorists stated:

We must make the young into a generation of Communists. Children, like soft wax, are very malleable and they should be moulded into good Communists... We must rescue children from the harmful influence of the family... We must nationalize them. From the earliest days of their little lives, they must find themselves under the beneficient influence of Communist schools... To oblige the mother to give her child to the Soviet state – that is our task." [2].

Indoctrination of children in the cult of "Uncle Lenin" began from the kindergarten. "Lenin's corners", "political shrines for the display of propaganda about the god-like founder of the Soviet state" have been established in all schools [2]. Schools conducted marches, songs and pledges of allegiance to Soviet leadership. One of purposes was to instill in children the idea that they are involved in the World revolution, which is more important than any family ties. Pavlik Morozov who betrayed his father to the secret police NKVD was promoted as a great positive example [2].

Propaganda of extermination

Some historians believe, an important goal of communist propaganda was "to justify political repressions of entire social groups which Marxism considered antagonistic to the class of proletariat"[3], as in decossackization or dekulakization campaigns [1][2]. Richard Pipes wrote: "a major purpose of Communist propaganda was arousing violent political emotions against the regime's enemies."[4]

Soviet poster of the 1920s: The GPU strikes on the head of a "wrecker"

The most effective means to achieve this objective "was the denial of the victim's humanity through the process of dehumanization", "the reduction of real or imaginary enemy to a zoological state".[5]. In particular, Vladimir Lenin called to exterminate enemies "as harmful insects", "lice" and "bloodsuckers".[3]

According to writer and propagandist Maksim Gorky, "Class hatred should be cultivated by an organic revulsion as far as the enemy is concerned. Enemies must be seen as inferior. I believe quite profoundly that the enemy is our inferior, and is a degenerate not only in the physical plane but also in the moral sense".[3]

He also called to use enemy of the people as "human guinea pigs" for human experimentation in the USSR Institute of Experimental Medicine in 1933, which would be "a true service to humanity", according to him [3]. According to The Black Book of Communism, an example of such demonizing animal rhetoric were speeches by state procurator Andrey Vyshinsky during Stalin's show trials. He said about the suspects:[6]

"Shoot these rabid dogs. Death to this gang who hide their ferocious teeth, their eagle claws, from the people! Down with that vulture Trotsky, from whose mouth a bloody venom drips, putrefying the great ideals of Marxism!... Down with these abject animals! Let's put an end once and for all to these miserable hybrids of foxes and pigs, these stinking corpses! Let's exterminate the mad dogs of capitalism, who want to tear to pieces the flower of our new Soviet nation! Let's push the bestial hatred they bear our leaders back down their own throats!"

Soviet propaganda abroad

1939, Residents of a small town in former Eastern Poland (now Western Belarus) attend a meeting to greet the arrival of the Red Army during the Soviet invasion of Poland. The Russian text reads "Long Live the great theory of Marx, Engels, Lenin-Stalin" and contains a spelling error. Such manifestations were not spontaneous, but usually organized by activists of Communist Party of Poland.[7]

CIA estimated in 1980s that the budget of Soviet propaganda abroad was between 3.5-4.0 billion dollars.[8]

Propaganda abroad was partly conducted by Soviet intelligence agencies. GRU alone spent more than $1 billion for propaganda and peace movements against Vietnam War, which was a "hugely successful campaign and well worth the cost", according to GRU defector Stanislav Lunev [9]. He claimed that "the GRU and the KGB helped to fund just about every antiwar movement and organization in America and abroad".[9]

According to Oleg Kalugin, "the Soviet intelligence was really unparalleled. ... The KGB programs -- which would run all sorts of congresses, peace congresses, youth congresses, festivals, women's movements, trade union movements, campaigns against U.S. missiles in Europe, campaigns against neutron weapons, allegations that AIDS ... was invented by the CIA ... all sorts of forgeries and faked material -- [were] targeted at politicians, the academic community, at the public at large." [10]

Soviet-run movements pretended to have little or no ties with the USSR, often seen as noncommunist (or allied to such groups), but in fact were controlled by USSR.[11] Most members and supporters, called "useful idiots" did not realize the fact that they were unwilling instruments of Soviet propaganda.[11][12] The organizations aimed at convincing well-meaning but naive Westerners to support Soviet overt or covert goals.[13] A witness in a US congressional hearing on Soviet cover activity described the goals of such organizations as the: "spread Soviet propaganda themes and create false impression of public support for the foreign policies of Soviet Union."[12]

Much of the activity of the Soviet-run peace movements was supervised by the World Peace Council.[11][12] Other important front organizations included the World Federation of Trade Unions, the World Federation of Democratic Youth, and the International Union of Students.[12] Somewhat less important front organizations included: Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organization, Christian Peace Conference, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Federation of Resistance Movements, International Institute for Peace, International Organization of Journalists, Women's International Democratic Federation and World Federation of Scientific Workers.[14] There were also numerous smaller organizations, affiliated with the above fronts.[13][15]

Those organizations received (total) more than 100 million dollars from USSR every year.[11]

Propaganda against the United States included the following actions [16]:

Image of the Soviet Union abroad

An important goal of Soviet propaganda was to maintain the progressive image of the Soviet Union abroad, as an ideal for all workers of the world. Tarek Heggy, a liberal Egyptian thinker, in his book "Culture, Civilization, and Humanity" demonstrates the success of Soviet propaganda to maintain this idealistic image with the help of two quotations of André Gide before:[17]

...and after his visit to the Soviet Union:

Other goals included combating the belief that USSR pursues adversarial policies and blurring the East-West distinction.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Robert Conquest Reflections on a Ravaged Century (2000) ISBN 0-393-04818-7, page 101-111
  2. ^ a b c d Orlando Figes The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia, 2007, ISBN 0-08050-7461-9, pages 20-31.
  3. ^ a b c d Nicolas Werth, Karel Bartošek, Jean-Louis Panné, Jean-Louis Margolin, Andrzej Paczkowski, Stéphane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, Harvard University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-674-07608-7
  4. ^ Richard Pipes (1993) "Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime", p. 309.
  5. ^ Black Book, page 749.
  6. ^ Black Book, page 750.
  7. ^ ‹See Tfd›(in Polish) Marek Wierzbicki, Stosunki polsko-białoruskie pod okupacją sowiecką (1939–1941). „Białoruskie Zeszyty Historyczne" (НА СТАРОНКАХ КАМУНІКАТУ, Biełaruski histaryczny zbornik) 20 (2003), p. 186–188. Retrieved 16 July 2007.
  8. ^ a b Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.75
  9. ^ a b Stanislav Lunev. Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89526-390-4
  10. ^ Interview of Oleg Kalugin on CNN
  11. ^ a b c d Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.79
  12. ^ a b c d Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.84
  13. ^ a b Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.86
  14. ^ Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.80-81
  15. ^ Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.82-83
  16. ^ Mitrokhin, Vasili, Christopher Andrew (2000). The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West. Gardners Books. ISBN 0-14-028487-7.
  17. ^ André Gide as quoted by T. Heggy in his book Culture, Civilization, and Humanity (2003) ISBN 0-7146-5554-6

External links