Propaganda in the Soviet Union

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If you have seen the TV series Master i Margarita by Vladimir Bortko, you may remember the scene in which Koroviev opens Woland's show at the Variety Theatre. Behind him is pending a large banner stating Пятилетку в 4 года [Pyatiletku v 4 goda] or Five-Year Plan in Four Years. This is a typical example of the propaganda which the Soviets expertly maintained. Despite the fact that the five years plans always failed, the Soviets advocated in 1937 that «the country had caught up with the rest of the world and would soon leave them behind». Across the country Parks of Culture and Rest were built in which citizens could enjoy a good time under the guidance of specially trained leisure organizers. The images of those activities were used in numerous propaganda films to show that people in 1938 were able to live carefree, while the Great Terror was going into its most horrible period.

In 1902 already, Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) had discussed the value of revolutionary propaganda in his book What Is To Be Done? In 1910, his observer in Baku, Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), was already leading a complete propaganda department. After the triumph of the October Revolution in 1917, they created the Отдел агитации и пропаганды [Otdel agitatsiyi propagandy] or Department of Agitation and Propaganda in the Central Committee. Its abbreviation агитпроп [agitprop] became notorious, and the department controlled all information media.

The propaganda in the Soviet Union did everything to promote the ideology of the Party, it was everywhere and, combined with the far-reaching censorship of the Главное управление по делам литературы и издательств (Главлит) [Glavnoe upravlenie po delam literatury i izdatelstv] (Glavlit) or General Directorate for literary and publishing affairs, it was very efficient. They disguised or denied policy failures, blew up small achievements to huge successes, or simply invented non-existent achievements at the political, economic, scientific and social level. The propaganda machine rewrote history more than once, especially the story of the Communist Party itself. It faked pictures, made unpersons disappear and created role models, who were set to the people as examples of ideal citizens.

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