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In Search of Soviet Salvation: Young People Write to the Stalinist Authorities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2006

St John's College, Oxford, OX1 3JP;
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Letters have always been an important medium between rulers and subjects in the Soviet Union and Russia. This article looks at letters from young people to Soviet party officials, newspapers and youth organizations, using them as texts in their own right rather than as sources for the events they describe. A close and detailed analysis of the letters' language, structure and style reveals the subjective universe of their authors and the function of letters both in the personal life of their writers and in the Soviet system overall. Particular attention is paid to letters that employ confessionary narratives. The eschatological trajectory of other Soviet autobiographical texts, which chart the inevitable progress from an unenlightened state to ideological conviction, is reversed in these letters, leading the reader from a happy Soviet life to a point of confusion and ideological doubt. While the crises, which are at the heart of these letters, reveal the difficulties of young people in making sense of the Soviet world around them, they also demonstrate the extent to which young people's norms, values and language were infused by Bolshevik thought. The process of letter writing was thus both an affirmation of the system and a testimony to its failings.

Research Article
Cambridge University Press 2006


Juliane Fürst is a Junior Research Fellow at St John's College, Oxford. She has published several articles on youth and youth culture in the postwar Soviet Union and is currently completing a book entitled Stalin's Last Generation: Youth, Culture, and Identity 1945–1956.