Scholarly & Social Meeting Crime and Punishment in the Post-Stalinist Soviet Union
We are pleased to announce the second lecture of this semester in the series "History Department Scholarly & Social Meeting" taking place next Tuesday, October 15th, in Hanák Room, at 17:30.
Alfred J. Rieber will give a lecture on:
Crime and Punishment in the Post-Stalinist Soviet Union
“The problems of violence still remain very obscure.” Sorel
Out of this vast and complex subject, this paper selects two themes. First that the period of massive, overt and physical state violence we associate with Stalinism ended with the death of the chief perpetrator but left a cruel legacy that haunted his successors and the population at large to the end of communist rule. Second, in seeking to free themselves from the burden of the recent past, the ruling elite, that is the leaders of the state and party institutions adopted policies aimed at separating Stalin from the Marxist-Leninist tradition, restoring “socialist legality” without surrendering a monopoly of the coercive instruments of governance, decentralizing authority without encouraging separatism and resurrecting the Utopian project of a commune state. But the leadership was often hesitant, divided and even confused in pursuing these aims. This too is part of the picture. Moreover, they were also confronted with the problem of insufficient resources and the great difficulty of producing a discourse which in Bourdieu’s terms would re-define the cultural field within a habitas of mental dispositions that had been shaped under Stalinist rule. The result was a roiling mix of impulsive, partial, often contradictory initiatives ( I hesitate even to use the term “reform”) together with blockages, retreats and repudiations (similarly I avoid the term “counter-reform”). The result, oddly enough, was a society in which physical violence both state-imposed and popular decreased while other aspects of social malaise, petty criminality, corruption and a decay of civic responsibility increased.
Alfred J. Rieber, University Research Professor