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Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization
This study is the first of its kind: a street-level inside account of what Stalinism meant to the masses of ordinary people who lived it. Stephen Kotkin was the first American in 45 years to be allowed into Magnitogorsk, a city built in response to Stalin's decision to transform the predominantly agricultural nation into a "country of metal." With unique access to previous ...more
Paperback, 639 pages
Published February 27th 1997 by University of California Press
(first published 1995)
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In this book Stephen Kotkin does what might seem impossible. He immerses the reader in the complete world of a Stalinist boomtown in the 1930s. The people in the new city of Magnitogorsk do not come off as Bolshevik caricatures or Soviet myrmidons, but as real humans facing normal and abnormal problems with all the intelligence and grace they can muster. Taking advantage of the full range of published and unpublished Soviet sources, he details what everyday life looked like to people living unde ...more
This is a phenomenal work!! It deserves more than 5 stars. I read this book again while I was doing research on Japanese fascism in 1930s, and it gave me great insight on the problem of 'agency' of ordinary people under a totalitarian state. I really liked the way in which Kotkin deploys the Foucauldian 'subjectivity' analysis yet goes beyond and shows that the state and the people were actually not playing the same game of 'indoctrination vs resistance.' Stalinism was "a way of life" according ...more
A fascinating text that illustrates the project of building a socialist society under Stalinist terms, and how this process was highly experimental and often contradictory. The text suffers from some redundancy, especially in the final chapter, but it is still a worthwhile read that provides an expert analysis of a complicated historical period, all through the microcosm of a planned mining town.
Якщо вам цікаво, як в перші роки СССР створювали міста з нуля - як вербували робітників? в яких умовах вони потім жили? як вели пропаганду в свіжостворених в'язницях? і тд, і тп - то вам сюди. Радше опис фактів, аніж постановка до них якихось цікавих питань, але це вже кому що треба від тексту. (Як можна здогадатися з назви, це на прикладі Магнітогорська.)
A highly detailed yet broadly conceived study of Magnitogorsk, a Soviet steel complex and city created on the steppes of Russia as both a model socialist community and an industrial powerhouse. Kotkin's incredibly thorough research allows him to tell the story of Magnitogorsk from both above - as it was planned, designed, and intended - and from below - how the actual workers and citizens coped with life. Kotkin uses the local study to help explain the broader strokes of Soviet history, and is f ...more
This book made me want to stab myself in the eye with a sewing needle. Kotkin spent 300 some pages saying what he could have said in 100 (it's thick with repetition) and half of the book was also endnotes (300 pages...yes, you read right...)! His main focus was using the city of Magnitogorsk as a case study to prove the theories of other Stalinist historians wrong. I'm not too big on Stalinist history anyway, so perhaps that was a problem as well.
The book takes the building of Magnitogorsk, an industrial city built from scratch, as a way to show how people learned to "speak Bolshevik" and thus both survive within and use the regime; thus it complicates hugely the usual top-down view of the Soviet Union.
Stephen Mark Kotkin is Professor of History and director of the Program in Russian Studies at Princeton University. He specializes in the history of the Soviet Union and has recently begun to research Eurasia more generally.
“The plenum concluded with a tribute dashed off to Stalin in which the participants exclaimed, “we cannot express in words the full force of our love for you,” and pledged their readiness to “meet the enemy.”4 The officials who made this vow of absolute loyalty did not know it then, but as it turned out, they were the enemy.”More quotes…