For Fatherland, For Culture: State, Intelligentsia and Evacuated Culture in Russia's Regions, 1941-1945
Megowan, Erina Therese
This dissertation examines the evacuation of the Soviet Union’s elite cultural institutions and intelligentsia from Moscow and Leningrad to Russian and Central Asian regional centers during World War II. The evacuations and accompanying mobilization of culture shaped the Soviet regions into the postwar period while holding lasting consequences for the relationships between state and intelligentsia and for the intelligentsia as a group. I argue that the evacuation of culture came to play a key role in the waging of total war. Evacuated cultural institutions led massive mobilization campaigns that would have been difficult to substitute, dependent as they were on the participation of elite Soviet artists, actors and writers. Soviet culture and its most elite producers functioned as a privileged form of propaganda for the regime during the war, and the intelligentsia worked to extend this propaganda’s influence as far as possible. I evaluate how the evacuations shaped the relationship of regional Soviet communities to Soviet culture and analyze the adjustment that the sudden arrival of such prestigious representatives of the “center” required – during the war the clear-cut boundaries between center and periphery had suddenly become blurred. The wartime campaign to bring culture to the masses resulted in increased cultural expectations and further clarified hierarchies in the regions, where traces of the evacuations continued influencing regional cities and residents culturally and materially in the postwar period. Finally, the success of the evacuations and the ensuing mobilization effort required the intelligentsia’s active participation at a moment when the Soviet state could not enforce it; the Soviet intelligentsia rallied round the state during the war, but their participation was motivated by self-interest in a variety of forms as well as loyalty. Its willingness to assist the state gave it powerful leverage in extracting privileges and benefits from the state during and after the war. This research furthers our understanding of the importance of the Soviet home front in World War II and sheds new light on both the role of culture in large-scale mobilizations and the relationship of the intelligentsia to totalitarian regimes, particularly in moments of crisis.
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