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The Soviet Family during the Great Terror, 1935-1941

Author(s): Robert W. Thurston


Source: Soviet Studies, Vol. 43, No. 3 (1991), pp. 553-574
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/152521
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SOVIET STUDIES, Vol. 43, No. 3, 1991, 553-574

The Soviet Family During the Great


Terror, 1935-1941

ROBERT W. THURSTON

LIKE so MUCH in the social history of the era, the Soviet family under Sta
remained more an object of controversy than of extensive research.
literature on the family during the period commonly designated the
Terror', roughly 1935-39, essentially takes two approaches. One emph
government policies after 1934 that strengthened the family through stric
on divorce, abortion and responsibility for children, all part of the
increasing conservatism.1 The other approach stresses the terror of th
Writers focusing on repression frequently suggest that one goal of the ma
was to destroy all types of loyalty or trust except dedication to the state: th
could not permit any human attachments which might stand above the
the leadership or divert people's energy and attention from the tasks selec
them. This end, such writers argue, is vital for 'totalitarian' systems, in pa
the Stalinist regime.2
Several prominent authors maintain that a high degree of success was ach
in this direction by the late 1930s. The Soviet people became a 'scrap
humanity';3 it was possible to have 'only one kind of relationship: tha
citizen directly to the person of the dictator himself', a kind of 'bonda
'led to the undercutting and eventual severance of all viable connectin
between the citizens'.4 Yet writers making such claims have not util
materials which permit profound study of the family. Are such assessmen
family's condition justified, or was the story considerably more comp
examination of the family during the Great Terror, when presumably
pressure on domestic life was strongest, ought to provide an answer which
illuminate the whole Stalinist period.
Did the regime set out to destroy family and friendship and to 'atomise'
or was it more important to the state to support parental authority? What
impact of massive arrests, occurring especially in 1937-38, on the Sovie
For the purposes of this inquiry, 'terror' is defined as large-scale arr
innocent people; the question of its intent as policy vis-a-vis personal
ships, or even whether it constituted a policy in that sphere, remain
explored here.5
To probe these issues for the 1930s, it is necessary to examine the comple
both the regime's policies towards the family and society's response
Theories of totalitarianism are not particularly useful in this endeav

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554 ROBERT W. THURSTON

Soviet Communist Party did have 'totalitarian' goals in the sense that it wish
mould society and achieve a millenarian ideal. However, ambivalence and
existed on what that ideal was and how to reach it. This article will outline the
range of policy and practice towards the family from 1935 to 1941 and the
diversity of popular response to words and events. For the first section, sources
include periodical articles and editorials, speeches and family handbooks of the
period; for the second section, evidence is taken mostly from memoirs and
interviews in the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System, conducted in
1950-5 1.6
A few statistics and observations on the nature of the Soviet family in the 1930s
will provide background for the discussion of policy directed towards domestic life.
The forces of change acting upon the family between 1917 and 1941 were immense.
Industrialisation and urbanisation of course developed rapidly after the late 1920s.
According to Frank Lorimer's calculations, the urban dwellers of the USSR in 1926
comprised 17.9% of the total population; by 1939 the figure had reached 32.8%. The
absolute increase of urban residents over this period was about 29.6 million, of
which approximately 23 million were rural migrants to the towns.7 These people
experienced many of the changes typical in such transfers in Western society:
disorientation, decline in religious faith, and the need to adjust concepts of time and
discipline, for example. Among the positive aspects of this migration are more
freedom to select mates and a possible corresponding increase in affection within
marriage.8 There were also important new opportunities to gain education,
exposure to the arts and culture, and upward social mobility.9 The changes
produced for the family by movement to towns were profound, yet it must be borne
in mind that this trend had been under way since 1861 at the latest, so that by the
1930s at least the Slavic peasants of the USSR had had a long period to adjust to
urbanisation, particularly through the flow of information back to the villages.10
At the same time, a number of important traditional patterns persisted within
Soviet families. Sexism pervaded relationships, especially in rural areas and
among Asian peoples.11 Family structure continued to follow old pathways as it
varied widely from rural to urban settings and in different regions and ethnic
groups. In the 1920s women tended to marry considerably earlier in the Caucasus
and Soviet Asia than in European Russia, just as they had in 1897 (see Table 1).
Thus, up to World War II, and in fact considerably beyond it, families from the
Caucasus and Asian regions of the USSR tended to have younger mothers and
probably more grandmothers at hand. Hence traditional ways must have been
passed down even more regularly in these areas than among the Russians or
Ukrainians, for example.
Social standing also affected age of marriage in 1926, judging by data from large
Russian cities. For example, 34.7% of workers' wives in Moscow had married
between the ages of 15 and 19, while only 18.3% of the wives of 'higher white
collar employees [sluzhashchie]' in Leningrad had married at the same age.12
As one would expect, family size also varied by nationality, rural or urban
setting, level of education, and occupation. In 1939 the average size of Soviet
families in rural areas was 4.3 members, while in the cities it was 3.6. The
birthrate fell steadily after 1926,13 faster in the countryside (see Table 2).

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THE FAMILY DURING THE GREAT TERROR 555

TABLE 1

PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN MARRIED, BY REGION OR ETHNIC GROUP

Regions, 1897
Ages 15-16 Ages 17-19

European Russian 0.8 20.9


Caucasus 18.7 52.6
Central Asia 27.5 64.2
Ethnic groups, 1926, ages 1
Russians 15 Armenians 55.2
Georgians 28.7 Kirghiz 86.2

Source: A. G. Volkov, ed., Demografichesk


Statistika, 1979), pp. 10, 15.

TABLE 2

BIRTHRATE PER 1000 POPULATION

Urban Rural

1926 34.7 45.6


1935 24.6 32.2

Source: V. Ts. Urlanis, Rozhd


zhitel'nost' zhizni v SSSR (M
dat, 1963), p. 65.

However, the birthrate rose


example, it reached an estimated
change was due to government
In a 'selective investigation' of
1929 and 1933, the impact of
striking (see Table 3).

TABLE 3

SOCIAL GROUP AND BIRTH RATE

'Social production Group' % of Working Number of Births per


Mothers 1000 Years of
Married Life

All workers 35.4 191


in textiles 90 180
in metallurgy 15.2 201
Employees (white collar) 52 124
Engineering-technical
personnel 23.2 118

Source: Demograficheskoe razvitie

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556 ROBERT W. THURSTON

By 1939 64.9% of all families had only four or fewer members;15 urba
and the pressures of work and low standards of living had already comb
shrink family size.
These are some key indicators of trends and differences in Soviet f
patterns from 1917-or 1861-to 1941. In setting policy aimed directly at
shaping the family, officials eventually had to come to grips with this picture,
conditioned as it was more by long-standing factors and economic development
than by any desires the regime had to reorder personal existence.
Early Bolshevik zeal to change society frequently led Soviet fiction and film of
the 1920s to play down the importance of the family as an institution. The film
Bed and Sofa (also called Third Meshchanskaya), 1927, tells the story of a migrant
to overcrowded Moscow who moves into the room of an old friend and his wife.
Soon the newcomer becomes the de facto husband and his friend has to sleep on
the sofa. Eventually the wife, pregnant but unsure about which man is the father,
leaves them both.l6 No one laments the breakup of the marriage(s).
Fedor Gladkov's widely read and officially praised novel Cement, 1925, places
political commitment high above marriage and children. In the story, a central
character's political activism is the cause of the death of her daughter. The mother
realises that the child is dying from lack of attention, but the parent cannot and
will not resist the lure of her new role. After the girl's death she is quickly
forgotten.17
A handbook on 'character education' dating from about 1931 sums up the early,
radical view of the family's future:

Parents will rear and educate not only their children but the children of the whole
commune; they will see not only their own children, but a large group of them among
whom theirs will be but a part.18

The tightly knit family was an anachronism which would wither away under
communism.
Official indifference or outright hostility to close family ties continued in the
form of great attention to the infamous case of Pavlik Morozov. This peasant boy
had denounced his father as a kulak supporter in 1932 and died at the hands of
enraged relatives for his effort. His informing and martyrdom now made him a
great symbol of proper children's attitudes. In addition, those who see a Stalinist
drive to destroy the family sometimes cite two laws as evidence. The first, adopted
on 8 June 1934, stated that the closest relatives of anyone in military service who
fled abroad could be subject to internal deportation, even if they had not known of
their relative's intention.'9 The second, approved on 7 April 1935, decreed that
children as young as 12 could be subject to 'all measures of criminal punishment',
including the death penalty, for stealing, violent acts, murder or attempted
murder.20
In the meantime, serious problems had developed in Soviet family life, due in
part to the early ease of divorce and abortion. The number of divorces rose three
times between 1924 and 1927. Judging by many newspaper reports, men fre-
quently took advantage of easy divorce and left their wives at the first sign of
pregnancy. Scattered statistics on abortion reveal an alarming trend: for example,

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THE FAMILY DURING THE GREAT TERROR 557

by 1930 there were 175 000 legal abortions in Moscow alone; in 1934 t
abortions far exceeded the 57 000 births in the city.21 Certainly some sig
portion of these trends stemmed from the dislocation produced by migra
The regime was probably particularly worried about this situation in th
the-declining birth rate, population losses during collectivisation, and
the famine of 1932-33. In 1935 it began to make the process of divo
more difficult, first by requiring the fact that a marriage was termin
marked in one's passport. Then a law of June 1936 set increasing
payments for succeeding divorces.22 It appears that these actions wer
popular, as three-quarters of the Harvard respondents approved of the ne
Abortion came under fire in the press early in 1936. But the population
so fearful of the regime that it would meekly accept a ban on abortion; n
party ask it to. A foreign visitor reported that people discussed the
frequently as they talked about the weather in England.24 According to A
Weissberg, himself arrested in March 1937, a 'free discussion' of the
place in numerous meetings in 1936. Party members expressed opinion
against abortion, and 'the women in particular came forward and vi
condemned the proposed law'.25 In published letters on this subject w
one professor, raised objections that outlawing abortions and forcing
bear children might result in forcing them out of higher education and t
force, hampering their political activity, and overloading the already
creche system.26
The government went ahead anyway, and on the same day as the ne
law appeared, it forbade abortions.27 Concern about population growth
overrode any desire of the leadership to accommodate women.28 As
abortions in Leningrad oblast', to cite one example, dropped from 23
third quarter of 1935 to 50 in the same period of 1936. Comparing bir
city of Moscow for the same two quarters, the increase was from 1
32 632.29 However, the new laws did not mark an absolute drive by the st
family stability, as unregistered marriages were still permitted, and thes
dissolved with no difficulty. The 'Great Retreat' of the mid-1930s, away f
radical positions of the previous decade, was only partial in regard to
Yet certainly some retreat did take place, and a new image of wome
family became prominent in every aspect of Soviet propaganda and cultur
middle of the decade. Stalin himself lent his personal prestige, name,
relatives to the campaign for a strong family. This sort of personal in
was extremely rare and perhaps unique for the Father of his People, w
limited his own role in public to commentaries and handshakes. Now
regularly in novels as a father figure,30 Stalin appeared in the Kremlin wit
offspring, while in many photographs he looked deeply affectionat
children.31
The drive to bolster the image of the family continued in 1936 by ident
happy, traditional home life with new heroes and other leading figur
known Stakhanovite workers tickled their sturdy children in magazin
while the loftiest achievers of the day, the pilots, rode in parades with th
May 1936 a conference of wives of industrial executives met in the K

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558 ROBERT W. THURSTON

the regime leaders appeared and registered their approval of the wom
initiatives in such areas as teaching workers how to use silverware and
flowers in dormitories.33 It is difficult to imagine a more saccharine or far-r
endorsement of family values and stability. The message was obvious: i
and the celebrities of the USSR felt so strongly about family, so should ever
else.
Parental authority acquired new prominence at about the same time an
to displace the older image of state-minded children. For example, parents b
legally responsible for the actions of their offspring in June 1935,34 a chang
certainly implies that children must obey. This law closely followed th
April 1935 authorising the death penalty for any criminal over the age of 1
two statutes' different thrusts, considered against the backdrop of th
glorification of married life, indicate that as yet there was no attempt to d
the family. Discussions of the April 1935 law in the leading legal journa
explained policy to jurists across the country, stressed that its intention
strengthen family life by deterring parents and other adults from enticing c
into crime. The law provided stiff penalties for adults guilty of this act.35
same year the courts began to protect the family more widely than bef
instance in regard to bigamy, marital obligations and the rights of unre
wives.36
The Komsomol, for ages 15 to 26, now promoted strong familial bon
book entitled For Love and Happiness in Our Family, published in 1936.
work was essentially a response to the issues raised by a distraught young w
in a letter she wrote to the Komosomol newspaper, Komsomol'skaya Pr
September 1934. Her husband, an active member of the league, had left all c
their child to her. He was often out on political work in the evenings or
night. The child fell ill and died. The letter writer posed the question
Komsomol member, especially an active one, marry?'38 After her story
in the newspaper, the editors received almost 1000 letters in response.39
For Love and Happiness in Our Family made it perfectly clear that p
commitment should never be allowed to destroy a family. In May 1936
mol'skaya Pravda reiterated and extended the same point. A letter to th
related the case of a female member, Galkina. She had married a man w
father had been shot in 1917 for counter-revolutionary activity. Learning th
local Komsomol secretary forced Galkina to choose between her husband
Komsomol. She made what most Western accounts would deem the only
for the Komsomol, even though she loved her husband and they had a b
not only divorced the man, she forbade him to write to her. After she mov
another area and entered a university, the child died.40
The editors of Komsomol'skaya Pravda replied that the husband shoul
presented no problem, since he was a product of Soviet schools; his worl
had nothing in common with his father's.

The secretary... destroyed the family.... The Soviet system, based on collectiv
and collective happiness, does not destroy, but on the contrary, intends the deve
and happiness of each individual personality.

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THE FAMILY DURING THE GREAT TERROR 559

The secretary had 'committed a crime before society and the state'. His
was overdeveloped, and he had not understood that individual and family
happiness was to enjoy high priority.41 In the span of 11 years, Cement's attitude
towards politics and the family was rejected and reversed.
Approved endorsements and support for love continued into the height of the
'Great Terror' and beyond. S. Ya. Vol'fson published The Family and Marriage in
their Historical Development in 1937, by all accounts the worst year for arrests.
Vol'fson maintained that 'socialist society not only does not destroy individual
love but, on the contrary, presents new possibilities for this feeling that are
unknown in class society'.42 He found support for this position in the Marxist
classics, which defended the individual's rights vis-a-vis the state. Marx himself
was somewhat ambivalent, arguing that 'relations between the sexes in socialist
society are a private matter, but only insofar as they are not directed against the
social order'. However, Engels had written that 'relations between the sexes will be
a private affair that will concern only the interested parties and in which society
cannot interfere'.43 Vol'fson did not quote any passages from the founding fathers
illustrating their belief that the family would wither away under communism.
Paralleling the new emphasis of the mid- 1 930s on personal affection within the
family, published messages on the role of parents shifted by 1935 to advocate
according them general respect and a strong hand in raising children. In June of
that year Komsomol'skaya Pravda promoted family loyalty in a leading editorial
headed 'Filial Duty'. 'Respect for elders and care for parents are a component of
communist morality', the paper intoned. Parents deserved respect as Soviet
citizens, as 'elders who helped us be happy, as people who raised us'. The Kom-
somol promised to denounce those who were 'rude in relation to their parents,
who forget elementary filial duty', as engaging in conduct that is 'uncommunist,
foreign to our society'.44 This was a threat which the members had to take very
seriously indeed.
There was one important caveat in 'filial duty'. 'Of course', the same editorial
remarked, 'we are not speaking of those cases when parents are people foreign [in
spirit] or hostile to socialist society'. Yet such cases were exceptional: 'the problem
of 'fathers and children' has ended among us; all generations of the country are
building socialist society hand in hand, by common efforts'.45
Disturbing notes remained, however. The story of Pavlik Morozov was retold in
the mid-1930s, though often in significantly new ways. He still appeared as a hero-
youth who had unmasked traitors to the cause of socialism, but sometimes the fact
that his target was his father was not mentioned.46 In two treatments the father is
featured but is depicted not simply or even primarily as a political enemy; he has
become a personal failure, a thoroughly disgusting individual. Sergei Eizenshtein's
unreleased film Bezhin Lug (1936-37) which borrowed only in small measure
from Turgenev's story, makes the father out to be a 'mongrel' who beats his wife to
death. Rather than a conscious supporter of kulaks, he is a pathetic alcoholic.
Pavlik (Stepok in the film) does not make his denunciation on screen; he informs
on his father 'as if in general', so that the beast is caught by 'ricochet'.47 The thrust
of Eizenshtein's treatment may have contributed to the decision not to release it,48
yet a book published the next year continues in much the same vein. This work,

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560 ROBERT W. THURSTON

whose subtitle indicates it was intended for leaders of Young Pioneer


ments, describes a father who drank heavily, left his family without f
regularly beat his wife.49 Thus, in these versions the son's act loses mu
political significance, since the emphasis is shifted to personal human d
Political relaxation regarding blood and marriage ties continued to pr
though sometimes haltingly, in 1935-36. If the family backgrounds o
people were socially 'wrong', by December 1935 this no longer counted
them, at least officially. In an exchange clearly staged to publicise the new o
Stalin spoke a few weighty words at a conference in Moscow. A young c
operator told the assembly that 'although I am the son of a kulak, I wi
honourably for the cause of the workers and peasants and for the construct
socialism [applause]'. Stalin then interjected, 'the son is not responsible
father'.50 Consideration of parents' social origin was subsequently abolis
factor in entrance to higher education, the Komsomol, the Pioneers and the
unions.51
A similar decline in emphasis on politics in children's lives now appe
Where in 1932 the Komsomol had called for 'heightening the ideological-
level' of young children by organising meetings and discussions of poli
them,52 in 1934 the message was the opposite. The Central Committee of th
then denounced 'the overloading of pupils and pioneers with social-po
tasks'. Studying current party decisions and Marxist political theory was to
in elementary schools, while in secondary schools 'overloading' would n
tolerated.53 In May 1935 Vozhatyi, the magazine for Pioneer leaders, informed
them that the 'first demand' of summer camps was to 'create an attractive,
engaging life' for the children. Boring reports 'are completely unbearable in our
camps'; leaders should get children into nature.54
Although the political education of children hardly ended, it certainly decreased
in relative importance. On 1 January 1936 the traditional figure of Grandfather
Frost made his joyful re-entry into the nurseries of Khar'kov. In that year 'toys,
dolls, fairy-tales-all of which had previously been banished-reappeared, to-
gether with childish fun and laughter'.55 On the other side of the ledger, in one
group Pioneers played a 'Pavlik Morozov' game in the same year. They went
about finding bodies and arresting the victims' grandparents and cousin.56
However, the general trend of 1935-36 regarding the family was clear. Contrary
to the spirit of the 1920s, advice to the public began explicitly to prefer private to
public upbringing. In mid-1936 Vozhatyi advised a father not to put his trouble-
some son into a 'closed' children's home, a corrective institution for juvenile
offenders. Parents had to raise their offspring, and the article did not even
mention a role for the Pioneers or the school.57 Writing in the same journal a year
later, Nadezhda Krupskaya called the parents and other family members the
'natural upbringers' (vospitateli) of children. She paid only scant attention to the
role of the school and none to the Pioneers.58 A major work on the family
published in 1937 recommended that a couple with only one child adopt another
from a state institution and raise it as their own.59
The strong family was the necessary prerequisite for achieving social stability
and increasing productivity, which became two chief domestic goals by 1935.

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THE FAMILY DURING THE GREAT TERROR 561

Very high rates of labour turnover, well above 100% a year in some i
could be reduced by encouraging workers to settle down and raise f
Productivity would rise as a direct result of the new stability and because
would feel a greater obligation to provide for their families.60 Certainly
of obedience to the Father of his People, Stalin, had much greater me
paralleled familial deference children had learned at home. Jean Bodin had
in the 16th century that 'children who stand in little awe of their parents,
even less fear of the wrath of God, readily set at defiance the auth
magistrates'.61 Substituting Stalin for God, the importance of this concep
for the 1930s. Beyond such concerns, the country seemed simply to b
about the way people grew up, a part of the general easing of tension in 1
This trend was also reflected in developments like the end of rationing, t
attacks on 'bourgeois specialists', lower growth targets, and new, mo
collective farm procedures.62
However, then the massive arrests of 1937 began. Now advice and direct
the family changed, though not completely. For a time, the press aban
theme of 'filial duty' in favour of complete loyalty to the state. In Febru
writer proclaimed in Komsomol'skaya Pravda that 'youth should pre
feeling of hatred for enemies of the people, the feeling of wholehearted
to the motherland and of resoluteness to defend it to the last drop of blo
All discussion of respect for parents disappeared. However, it must be not
these messages contained no mention of Pavlik Morozov and made n
suggestion that betraying one's parents was a good thing. The trend in
the family that had arisen in 1935-36 was severely strained but not a
Nor did the established dualism in regard to the family disappear d
darkest days of the Terror. It permeated the most important work of this
the family, Anton Makarenko's A Book for Parents, published in 1937. On
hand, he repeatedly stressed the idea that parents and the whole fami
responsibilities to the state. Parents should ask, 'Have I been a Bolshe
family life?' Parental authority is 'only the reflection of social authority'
enko did not mention Pavlik Morozov but appeared to have him in mind w
wrote, 'I... very much like young lads who trust Soviet rule so much that
carried away and do not want to trust even their own mothers'.64 On
hand, Makarenko asserted that 'authority must be embodied in the
themselves'. This would produce 'complete order and the necessary def
obedience' within the family.65
If the press dropped references to respect for parents, emphasis on stren
the family continued to be a major theme in other published works throu
Great Terror. In September 1936 N. V. Krylenko, then Commissar o
argued that 'there must be strengthening of the family in the socialist ep
normal form of producing people and as a tool for raising the new
Krylenko specifically inveighed against 'transferring all care for raising c
the state'; rather, he endorsed raising them by the family 'with the h
state'.66
Krylenko was arrested and executed in 1938, though his demise had noth
do with family issues.67 A book published the next year then denounced

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562 ROBERT W. THURSTON

supposedly advocating, along with Trotsky and Bukharin, the 'witherin


the family' under socialism.68 However, his critic expounded views a
identical to Krylenko's real outlook: the 1939 work began by urg
strengthening of the new, socialist family in the USSR'.69 This book
remark Stalin had made in 1923:

the female workers and peasants are mothers, the educators [vospitatel'nitsami] of our
youth-the future of our country. They can cripple the soul of a child or can give us youth
healthy in spirit, capable of moving our country forward.70

Thus at the end of the Terror the country's highest authority also endorsed
parents' role as primary in upbringing. As quoted, Stalin did not refer to any right
of the state to intervene.
Taking the messages of the 1930s altogether, the Soviet family was to be
substantially different from the Western one in its principles and role in society.
However, certain features of that era may be found in contemporary Western
family life.71 Today, government interference in the family is recognised as
necessary in the USA and elsewhere in the West when parental behaviour does not
meet socially established standards. In California and other American states, for
example, teachers, nurses, and other people in regular contact with children are
required to inform police of suspected child abuse. An investigation follows.
The difference between this sort of practice and Soviet life in the 1930s, one
might generally suppose, is that Westerners are not urged to be nor are they
interested in informing on political views, whereas that concern was paramount in
the USSR. Yet there have been times when the parallels were closer. Informing
against communists or 'fellow travellers' became a glorious civic duty in America
during the McCarthy era; in 1951 the city of Pittsburgh proclaimed Matt Cvetic
Day in honour of a hero-informer, and in 1952 the city of Denver officially
applauded Morris Appleman for his similar status.72 Family ties suffered: the
starlet wife of Robert Adrian Scott, a writer and producer blacklisted in Holly-
wood, left him in 1947 when he refused to inform on acquaintances to the
infamous House Un-American Activities Committee.73 This departure from what
are considered traditional American mores occurred at a time of paranoia and
unease about the international situation.74
Perceptions that serious crime is occurring in a society can cause citizens to
abandon traditional beliefs. Dismay within the United States over illegal drugs led
68% of the respondents in a recent poll to agree that children of people who use
such substances should report their parents to police.75 In this case and during the
McCarthy era, the American public has put perceived needs of society above
family loyalty.
Of course, the major American political parties have no programme to mould
the family in any particular direction; they have no 'totalitarian' goals in this
regard. One essential difference between the Stalinist and American approaches to
the family is that in the United States concerted campaigns involving the media,
speeches and the arts are impossible. Nor do government bodies advise people
that their familial behaviour is un-American. However, politicians do speak
endlessly about family values and display their own loving relatives in an effort to

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THE FAMILY DURING THE GREAT TERROR 563

woo voters. Politics and family are intertwined on this side of the w
though certainly American national and local governments have not
internal family affairs to be a legitimate object of their concern-ex
perceived crises.
To reiterate a point, the Soviet state was moving in the direction
interference, in the sense of decreasing its political concerns regarding th
by about 1935. The possibility exists that whatever assaults on fami
occurred between then and 1941 were rooted, like McCarthyism in the
perception of grave internal and foreign threats. It is necessary to recall
period was filled with well-founded fears of international developme
mere 15 or so years had passed since the end of the Civil War, a devasting
which had fissured the nation in many ways, breeding lasting distrust an
In this context, how did the Soviet people react to the influences and
they received on the family and to the Terror as it affected personal rela

Any official indoctrination of Soviet citizens from 1917 into the per
Great Terror was ambivalent and incomplete. Since the children growing
1930s were raised by adults whose consciousness had largely formed
Old Regime, the factors shaping youngsters' attitudes in general we
Instead of concentrating exclusively on Regierungspolitik, it is necessary
Grossmutterpolitik and other influences as well. Had the state operate
wish but to create a completely new Soviet person, its first order of busi
logically have been to liquidate the grandmothers.
The dilemma of growing up under the influence of opposing world
acute for many Soviet citizens. 'The child is torn between two forces
completely contradictory explanations. In school he is told there is no God
home grandmother says "there is"', recalled a girl born in 1918.76 Confus
the communist faithful, too; icons sometimes hung in the homes of
members of the party, for instance near the city of Kuibyshev in early 1
about the same time, several party members were expelled in a nearby
'conducting religious rites'.78 Children absorbed the tension of their envir
about what constituted a good family and a proper worldview. In the
Nadezhda Ulanovskaya's young daughter asked her mother, 'Whom
love more -Stalin or [our] parents?'79
What happened within the family when the older generation's views con
with the party's? Opinions among ex-Soviet citizens about what this schis
to them were mixed. When pressed by an interviewer to say what he
more, the information at school or at home, a Mordvin man replied, 'Natu
believed my parents more'.80 However, a Russian male born in 1915
middle class and faced with a similar difference between home and t
world stated simply that 'the school influenced me more than the fa
eventually joined the NKVD.81
Soviet people who lived through the 1930s fairly frequently noted that
their families discussed the regime and its policies quite openly.82 A
introduced into their lives by repression was not enough to still their ton

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564 ROBERT W. THURSTON

Soviet system did not begin to break such families or to indoctrinate th


complete allegiance.
What happened if a child revealed family beliefs to the authorities? T
several examples that show official reaction could be rather mild. A Uk
male born in 1923 recalled that in 1937-38, the worst years of terror, his te
told the pupils that they should take away their parents' icons. When the ch
demanded that their parents take down the images, some did and some
these last were clearly not fully terrorised. The teacher asked the children w
happened, and 'when some child would report that his parents had refused t
off these icons the teacher would go to their house and take them off'
entirely possible that the teacher was trying to protect such families from
zealous officials.
In another case a schoolboy frequently argued with his mother about religion.
When he told his teacher about his mother's belief, the man merely replied that 'at
the time of the Tsar it was advantageous to believe and the people who grew up
then all believed. However, that was all deceit'.84 No further sort of pressure on
parents was mentioned in these or similar stories.85
How often did replicas of Pavlik Morozov, ostensibly so aware of what he was
doing, spring up? Some ex-Soviet citizens acknowledged falling under the spell of
Pavlik's disturbing tale. In 1939 a 13-year-old girl found a letter to her father that
made her believe he was involved in a conspiratorial organisation, and she wanted
to tell the NKVD. Although she loved her father very much, she 'thought I would
have to do this because this was a sacrifice for the soviets. Because this was the
greatest thing I could do for my ideas'.86
Even so, in none of the sources used for this study did a child actually denounce
a parent. 'It is not at all typical', said a Jewish male born into an 'upper
intellectual' family in 1919.87 A Russian male born the next year, whose father was
a school teacher, gave a different opinion: 'In the Soviet Union the father and the
mother... cannot tell you to do this or to do that'. His mother, however, used to
beat him with a switch-which she kept behind the icon. She 'swore at me and the
regime, but mother never feared that I would say anything to anybody. We were
not against each other'.88 Despite claims to the contrary by some respondents,89
parental authority was by no means destroyed. This outcome was in line with the
wishes of Stalin, Makarenko and other spokespersons for the regime.
Children did not widely become tattlers, either, judging by several cases. In
1935 Mikhail Molochko reluctantly told a Pioneer leader about a drinking party,
only to find his erstwhile friends spit on him.90 Galina Vishnevskaya earned
respect from her schoolmates in 1936 when she did not reveal which one had
almost put her eye out with a slingshot.91 Vozhatyi even referred to telling tales as
a 'habit of the capitalist school' in 1935,92 a charge hardly likely to induce children
to reveal others' misdeeds.
If day-to-day government policy and practice failed to undermine the family,
did not the Great Terror do that and more? Police behaviour regarding the family
was in fact considerably more complex than has usually been depicted. Some
reports suggest deliberate state action to shatter the family. Spouses and immedi-
ate relatives of these arrested were also frequently incarcerated; they fell into a

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THE FAMILY DURING THE GREAT TERROR 565

special category, 'member of the family of a traitor to the motherla


Russian man of aristocratic background born in 1903 claimed that 'near
insk an entire division of a camp was populated' by such relatives94 E
Ginzburg's father and mother followed her into arrest in 1937, apparently
of her.95 According to some accounts, the NKVD tried to obliterate all
feeling in the children of those arrested. Sylviya Korytnaya, placed in a chi
home (detdom) after her parents' arrest in 1937, was taught to despise a
them.96 In these cases the NKVD reportedly swept up relatives without
them any chance to distance themselves from the original victims.
However, as with so much in Soviet life, no consistent practice existed on
points. Other children were not pressed to renounce their arrested pare
example, after Klavdiya Nazaretyan's arrest, her aunt found her niece
through the police and received permission to raise him. Somewhat la
NKVD informed the aunt that it had located her grandniece and that s
take the girl home, too.91 Obviously these successful searches could not hav
conducted without cooperation from the authorities. Of course, the gov
had created the tragedies that necessitated such child-hunts in the first pla
Rather than arresting relatives, officials occasionally brought great and su
ful pressure to bear on them in order to force renunciations or divorces of t
already in custody.98 Some survivors believed that the practice of arr
victims' relatives was reserved for the families of 'big party people'.99 This
to Evgeniya Ginzburg's case; her husband was a member of the oblast
committee in Kazan'. F. Beck and W. Godin, the pseudonyms of two m
spent substantial time in Soviet prisons in the 1930s, specifically denied
NKVD tried to get offspring of prisoners

into its power except in a few cases of children of highly placed officials. Relat
kindhearted neighbours were able in most cases to look after the children, a
NKVD officials who carried out the arrests were often helpful in finding
accommodation.100

The police were not automatically unsympathetic to children or to their feelings


about arrested parents. Indeed, many times the NKVD had more than adequate
pretexts to destroy a family by Stalinist lights but did not. Raisa Orlova describes a
case in 1937 in which a district party committee warned a young man not to marry
a daughter of Grigorii Grinko, a defendant in one of the Moscow trials. The
couple married anyway, with no discernible effect on the man's career; he was not
arrested.101
Had the regime set out to ruin the family during the Terror and had it acted
coldly and intelligently in that direction, it would never have penalised relatives
for family members' 'crimes'. It would merely have required some public
denunciation and then allowed the children in particular full opportunities. That
would have made family disloyalty the price of success and state approval.
However, as shown, that was not a firm policy.
If the Terror did aim to crush the family, the assault was short-lived in any
event. Whether or not 'there was an order issued' in early 1938 that required
reinstatement of anyone fired because of a relative's arrest, as one respondent in

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566 ROBERT W. THURSTON

the Harvard Project maintained he had received,102 arrests of and pres


family members declined from then on, along with the Terror in general.10
When the ultimate disaster came and arrests of family members or f
occurred, how did people react? Which side of their training did they
Numerous first-hand accounts of the period repeat the notion that rep
frequently destroyed family life and all personal feelings. Dmitrii Panin des
the results this way: 'The weight of the growing terror meant that ev
closest friends might slam the door in one's face'.104 Andrei Manchur f
'even with your best friend you could not say a free word'.105 The situa
'destroying the family', a respondent in the Harvard Project believed.106
As noted, Westerners have frequently accepted such statements and consid
that, one way or another, the Terror effectively broke ties of family and fri
Yet a deeper look into the sources, even into a number that make this claim
not support it. The evidence shows that more typically family feeling r
strong in the face of arrest. Wives were often determined to learn the fate
men, to remain loyal, and to help. When General A. I. Kork was arrested
1937, his wife ran after him shouting, 'I will never believe it! Don't forget,
never believe anything bad about you!'107 Margarete Buber-Neumann fo
'Amongst the wives of the arrested men were some who did not stand b
unfortunate husbands and run from prison to prison until they had
them'. 108
Lidiya Shatunovskaya insisted that relatives often broke with families of those
arrested, but her memoirs contain the account of the extensive search by Klavdiya
Nazaretyan's aunt for her niece's children.109 Boris Pasternak continued to send
letters full of affection and sympathy to Nina Tabidze, wife of an arrested writer,
from 1935 to 1941.110 When Valentina Bodgan's brother-in-law was arrested in
1936, his wife and father gathered materials in support of his case and petitioned
for his release.11 No arrests occurred in these and similar cases.'12
The argument has been made many times that the Terror often drove people to
deep hatred of the state, an assessment linked in turn to the poor performance and
surrenders of the Soviet Army early in World War II.113 However, even at the
height of the repressions, the detention of family members did not necessarily
evoke such hatred. Wolfgang Leonhard and 10 or so of his young friends believed
that their arrested parents were innocent, but that led none of the offspring 'into
opposition against the system'. They continued to believe that the Terror was
necessary because real enemies were about, but that unfortunate mistakes had
been made.'14
This idea surfaces with some frequency in memoirs. Belief in the necessity to
catch enemies even led family members to accept the arrest of their own as right.
Evgeniya Ginzburg tells of a dedicated communist woman who repudiated her
husband, though she loved him, upon his arrest in the autumn of 1935. Ginzburg
was convinced of the woman's sincerity, which stemmed from her devotion 'to the
ideals of her militant youth'.115 Because of his beliefs, Anatoli Granovsky rejected
a companion: 'Volodya Kotov was my friend. He was my friend until his father
was arrested. After that it was impossible; things could not be as they had been. A
traitor's son-it was impossible, you understand'.116 Many Soviet citizens, those

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THE FAMILY DURING THE GREAT TERROR 567

who believed in the first place that the Terror was necessary, may have shu
the family and friends of those arrested out of conviction. Fear and cal
were undoubtedly frequent factors in severing relations, but sincere belief
taint of 'enemies' cannot be discounted.

Official Soviet ambivalence towards the family existed from the mid-1930s on; the
Terror did not significantly alter that fact. Dualism appeared even in the divorce
law of 1936, which still permitted unregistered marriage. The authorities certainly
attacked whole families in some cases, and the NKVD sometimes insisted that
relatives denounce those arrested, imprisoned other family members, and sent
children to camps or special homes. These actions can be interpreted as an assault
on the family as an institution, but in other instances the authorities did not follow
these practices, which dominated the scene only for a short period in any case.
Laws, statements and policies designed to strengthen the family continued to be
prominent during and after the Great Terror.
Policy aside, if it is true that everyone or at least every family felt the Terror,117
the impact on the family would obviously have been great indeed. The question of
the number arrested in the late 1930s is extremely vexed; the range of estimates
known to me is from less than one million, by extrapolation, to more than 18.8
million.118 The impressionistic evidence given here tends to support estimates
towards the lower end of the range, which also fit better with the work of
professional Western demographers on changes in the Soviet population between
1926 and 1939.119 If the number arrested had been as high as 7 or 8 million, a
common guess, reports of extreme stress in personal ties would have been much
more widespread.
Yet many Soviet citizens were quite emphatic about the positive meaning that
family and friendship had for them throughout the Great Terror. 'Everything
depends on friendship', said a Kalmyk born in 1922. 'In our kolkhoz we were
congenial. We did not denounce each other'.120 A psychiatrist worked with a group
in Kiev from 1927 to 1940; no arrests occurred among its members. 'In this
collective there were party and non-party people, and we all were very close to
each other. It was the work that brought them together'.12 A woman born in 1920
told an interviewer that 'our family was never disrupted in any way'.122 Love and
marriage could and sometimes did flourish.'23 Although the data do not reveal
why, the general questionnaire given to respondents in the Harvard Project
showed that they often believed their families had grown closer under Soviet rule:
42% of the ordinary workers and 58% of the intelligentsia questioned, for
example, felt that way.124
The Terror had a limited impact on the family and friendship. The arrests by no
means affected all families. Even among those who were touched by repression,
weakening of familial ties sometimes occurred because of the conviction that real
guilt was involved. None of this is meant to imply that a great deal of tragedy did
not exist for individuals and their families; it did. However, family life in general
and society as a whole were not shattered. Trust, friendship and warm family ties
continued for many Soviet citizens, quite probably the majority.125 Society most
certainly did not become a 'scrap heap of humanity'; nor was it 'atomised'.

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568 ROBERT W. THURSTON

'Enemies of the people' and the strong family could exist as separate ph
mena; trouble for the family occurred when the two crossed paths, but that d
happen frequently enough to put the principle or existence of the close-knit f
at risk. For the many who believed in Stalin and the Soviet system, perha
majority,126 family life had the opportunity to proceed confidently.
If destruction of that life was its goal, the Soviet government certainly did
act logically. A regime determined to destroy something does not usually
expend a great deal of effort to strengthen it. Moreover, by 1935-36 the stali
state had moved substantially away from a 'totalitarian' approach to the f
and towards a contemporary Western model. Finally, whatever scale the terro
1937-38 really assumed, the erratic nature of policy and practice towar
family suggests that in that sphere the repressions were not the rational culm
tion of any policy developments.
The regime neither aimed nor wished to destroy the family in general;
evidence does not indicate a 'totalitarian' need to do so, and powerful argu
militated against such a goal. Ambivalence characterised the overall appro
the family, for the leadership could desire uncompromising loyalty to itse
also see that the price to be paid in terms of social ills was much too hi
practice, social concerns generally overrode more purely political ones. The str
family could not only exist through the worst years of Stalinism, it could retai
endorsement and support of the state.

Miami University, Oxford, OH

I would like to note my appreciation to the following for their comments or support for
research involved in producing this article: Margaret Ziolkowski, Allan Winkler, Jack Kirby,
Russian Research Center of Harvard University, the Hoover Institution, and the Internatio
Research and Exchanges Board, with funds provided by the National Endowment for the
Humanities and the United States Information Agency. Of course, the views expressed here are
entirely my own.
1 See Gail W. Lapidus, Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social
Change (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978), pp. 112, 113; Richard Stites, The
Women's Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism 1860-1930
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978), pp. 385-391; and Nicholas S. Timasheff, The
Great Retreat: The Growth and Decline of Communism in Russia (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1946),
pp. 195-203.
2 For example, Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin's Purges of the Thirties (New
York: Macmillan, 1968), p. 279; and Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, new edition
(New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1966), pp. 323-324.
3 Harrison Salisbury, 'Foreword', in Ruth Turkow Kaminska, I Don't Want to Be Brave
Any More (Washington, DC: New Republic Books, 1978), p. xii.
4 Vera Dunham, In Stalin's Time: Middleclass Values in Soviet Fiction (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 25.
5 For definitions of political terror which argue that it has been used to frighten
populations into acquiescence to unpopular regimes, see Carl J. Friedrich & Zbigniew K.
Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, 2nd edition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1965), p. 169; and Alexander Dallin & George W. Breslauer, Political Terror in
Communist Systems (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1970), p. 5.
6 The Harvard project was conducted for the United States Air Force. Interviews took

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THE FAMILY DURING THE GREAT TERROR 569

place largely in displaced persons camps in West Germany, although a few took
York. There were A schedule interviews, which were life stories, and B schedule inte
were sessions on specialised topics. This material will be cited here as HP, the numbe
the interviewee, A or B, volume, and page numbers. Short biographical data from
period will also be provided, if available, using the designations given in the A seri
interviews were translated into occasionally awkward English.
7 Frank Lorimer, The Population of the Soviet Union: History and Prospec
League of Nations, 1946), pp. 32, 147, and 149.
8 Peter N. Stearns, European Society in Upheaval: Social History since 1750
edition (New York: Macmillan, 1975), pp. 160-170.
9 On education and upward social mobility, see Sheila Fitzpatrick, Education
Mobility in the Soviet Union 1921-1934 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
10 On rural-urban migration and its effects on people before 1917, see Rob
Johnson, Peasant and Proletarian: The Working Class of Moscow in the Late Ninete
(New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1979); Joseph Bradley, Jr.,
Muscovite:Urbanization in Late Imperial Russia (Berkeley, CA: University of Cali
1985); and Robert W. Thurston, Liberal City, Conservative State: Moscow and Ru
Crisis, 1906-1914 (New York; Oxford University Press, 1987).
11 Gregory J. Massell, The Surrogate Proletariat: Moslem Women and Revo
Strategies in Soviet Central Asia, 1919-1929 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
and Moshe Lewin, The Making of the Soviet System: Essays in the Social History of
Russia (New York: Pantheon, 1985), pp. 83-85.
12 A. G. Volkov, ed., Demograficheskoe razvitie sem'i (Moscow: Statistika, 1979), p. 159.
13 See the table on the falling birthrate among workers' families in Lewis H. Siegelbaum,
Stakhanovism and the Politics of Productivity in the USSR, 1935-1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1988), p. 215.
14 Lorimer, pp. 130, 131.
15 V. Ts. Urlanis, Rozhdaemost' i prodolzhitel'nost' zhizni v SSSR (Moscow: Gosstatizdat,
1963), p. 71.
16 See Jay Leyda, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film, 3rd ed. (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1983), pp. 215, 216, for a description of the film.
17 Fyodor Vasilievich Gladkov, Cement [1925], translated by A. S. Arthur & C. Ashleigh
(New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980). For a discussion of other Soviet literature of the 1920s which
disdained the family, see Marcelline Judith Hutton, 'Russian and Soviet Women, 1897-1939:
Dreams, Struggles, and Nightmares', PhD Dissertation, University of Iowa, 1986, pp. 158, 159,
165, 192.
18 V. Hanchin, 'The Communistic Education of Young Pioneers', in William Clark Trow,
ed., Character Education in Soviet Russia, foreword by George S. Counts, translations by Paul D.
Kalachov (Ann Arbor, MI: Ann Arbor Press, 1934), p. 38; and see the similar statements given in
H. Kent Geiger, The Family in Soviet Russia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968),
pp. 45, 72.
19 The law is in Sobranie zakonov i rasporyazhenii raboche-krest'yanskogo pravitel'stva
(hereafter Sob. zakonov), 33,4 July 1934, item 255, pp. 464, 465. For the claim that this and other
laws were part of Stalin's plan to terrorise the nation, see Alexander Orlov, The Secret History of
Stalin's Crimes (New York: Random House, 1953), pp. 38 and 228. Geiger, p. 125, writes of the
'hostage laws', a phrase which could lend itself to the same interpretation.
20 Sob. zakonov, 19, 28 April 1935, item 155, 262.
21 See Stites, pp. 369-371 and 385; Timasheff, p. 196; and Geiger, pp. 61-71.
22 Kodeks zakonov o brake, sem'e i opeke (Moscow: OGIZ, 1936), pp. 38-50.
23 Geiger, p. 99.
24 E. M. Delafield, I Visit the Soviets: The Provincial Lady in Russia (New York: Harper and
Brothers, 1937, reprint Chicago, IL: Academy, 1985), pp. 69-70.
25 Alexander Weissberg, The Accused (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1952), p. 521.
26 Samples of these and other opinions bearing on the debate may be found in Rudolf
Schlesinger, ed., Changing Attitudes in Soviet Russia: The Family in the U.S.S.R. (London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1949), pp. 251-269; and see a letter from a woman engineer opposing
an absolute ban on abortions in Tikhookeanskaya zvezda (Khabarovsk), 18 June 1936, p. 3.
Similar letters are mentioned in Hutton, p. 243.
27 Kodeks zakonov o brake, pp. 38-41.
28 See the article by Aron Solts, a high official in the state procuracy, in Trud, 27 April 1936,
p. 3, where he denounced abortion and proclaimed that 'we need people'.

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570 ROBERT W. THURSTON

29 M. Levi, 'Godovschina istoricheskogo dekreta', Voprosy profdivzheniya, 13, July


pp. 18, 19.
30 Katerina Clark, The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual (Chicago, IL: The Univer
Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 127-129.
31 See for example, Pravda, 3 August 1935, p. 1; Vozhatyi, no. 8, 1936, p. 3; no. 11,
13.
32 Siegelbaum, Stakhanovism..., pp. 226 and 237-242; V. Chkalov, Moya zhizn'prinadle-
zhit rodine. Stat'i i rechi (Moscow: DOSAAF, 1954), pp.81, 87; and Pravda, 2 August 1935, p. 1.
33 Siegelbaum, p.241; and Schlesinger, ed., pp. 235-250.
34 Sob. zakonov, 32, June 1935, item 252, pp. 473-477.
35 Sovetskaya yustitsiya (hereafter Syu) 1, January 1936, pp. 24, 25; 5, February 1936, p. 21;
and 5, 15 April 1937, p. 25. In two of the three points it makes regarding the law, the last article
emphasises that the statute is directed towards combating lack of supervision by parents.
36 Nikolai Krylenko, 'Sotsializm i sem'ya', Bol'shevik, 18, 15 September 1936, pp. 74-76.
37 Za lyubov' i schast'e v nashei sem'e (Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya, 1936).
38 Ibid. pp. 7, 8.
39 S. Ya. Vol'fson, Sem'ya i brak v ikh istoricheskom razvitii (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe
sotsial'no-ekonomicheskoe izdatel'stvo, 1937), p. 220.
40 The dead babies in these accounts, considering the well known appearance of one to
illustrate a different point in Cement, may have been powerful but fictional symbols. If so, their
presence underscores their importance as indications of desired behaviour.
41 Komsomol'skaya Pravda (hereafter K Pravda), 28 May 1936, p. 3.
42 Vol'fson, p. 212.
43 Ibid. pp. 233, 234. Vol'fson also quoted August Bebel as being in favour of non-
interference by the state in private life.
44 Kpravda, 6 June 1936, p. 1. Emphasis in the original.
4S Ibid. emphasis in the original. Timasheff, p. 202, quotes Pravda, 4 August 1936 as saying
that 'one must respect and love his parents, even if they are old-fashioned and do not like the
Komsomol'. However, I could not locate the quotation in the original.
46 Mikhail Nikolaev, Detdom. Literaturnaya zapis' (New York: Russica, 1985), p. 91;
Vozhatyi, 11, 1935, p. 22.
47 Oleg Kovalov, 'Simvoly vremeni', Iskusstvo kino, 1, 1988, p. 84.
48 Ibid. pp. 84-90.
49 E. Smirnov, Pavlik Morozov: v pomoshch' pionervozhatomu (Moscow: Molodaya Gvar-
diya, 1938), p. 9; Vitalii Georgevich Gubarev, Syn. Povest' o slavnom pionere Pavlike Morozove
(Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya, 1940), p. 41. In the second book, the father is accorded no
political consciousness; he sells false documents to kulaks.
50 Pravda, 2 December 1935, p. 3. That the policy was an important change by the central
authorities was underlined by the fact that, according to the speaker, local authorities had not
wanted to send him to Moscow as a delegate. Ya. A. Yakovlev, head of the Agricultural
Department of the Central Committee, had then intervened and 'summoned me as the best
combine operator'.
51 Nikolay Ivanov, 'The Training of Soviet Engineers', in George L. Kline, ed., Soviet
Education (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957), p. 173; Vozhatyi, 5, 1936, p. 3; Khronika
VTsSPS, V, p. 50; and Syu, 24, 22 August 1936, p. 21.
52 Smena Komsomola: dokumenty, vospominaniya, materialy po istorii Vsesoyuznoi pioner-
skoi organizatsii imeni Lenina, 1917-1962 qq. (Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya, 1964), p. 172.
53 Dokumenty TsK KPSS i TsK VLKSM o rabote Vsesoyuznoi pionerskoi organizatsii imeni
V. I. Lenina, izd. 3-ee (Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya, 1970), p. 40.
54 Vozhatyi, 5, 1935, p. 2; a similar warning appeared the next year in K Pravda, 29 May
1936, p. 1.
55 Nina M. Sorochenko, 'Pre-School Education in the USSR', in Kline, ed., pp. 6 and 15, 16.
56 Vozhatyi, 5, 1936, pp. 40-42.
57 Ibid. 7, 1936, pp. 59, 60.
58 Ibid. 8-9, 1937, p. 6.
59 Anton Makarenko, Kniga dlya roditelei (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel'stvo "Khu-
dozhestvennaya literatura", 1937), p. 138. This work is available in English as The Collective
Family: A Handbook for Russian Parents, trans. Robert Daglish (Garden City, NY: Anchor
Books, 1967).
60 Geiger, p. 327; and Merle Fainsod, How Russia is Ruled, revised edition (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), pp. 110-112.

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THE FAMILY DURING THE GREAT TERROR 571

61 Jean Bodin, Six Books from the Commonwealth, abridged and translated by M
(New York: Macmillan, 1935), p. 13.
62 J. Arch Getty in his Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Par
dered, 1933-1938, pp. 58-91 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), argu
was no general rise in tension from late 1934 to 1936. I support his findings with ev
memoirs and other sources in my 'Fear and Belief in the USSR's "Great Terror":
Arrest, 1935-1939', Slavic Review, 45, 2, 1986. This is contrary to the views of write
Rigby, Communist Party Membership in the U.S.S.R., 1917-1967 (Princeton, NJ
University Press, 1968), pp. 200, 201, 210. On the new charter for collective farms an
see Roberta T. Manning, 'Government in the Soviet Countryside in the Stalinist
Case of Belyi Raion in 1937', The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European
1984, pp. 59 and passim.
63 K. Pravda, 3 February 1937, p. 1; and see a similar statement in ibid. 27 Octo
p. 1.
64 Makarenko, pp. 9, 26, 27, 35.
65 Ibid. pp. 83, 139, 140, 201, 202.
66 Krylenko, p. 73.
67 See Syu, 2-3, 20 February 1938, p. 8, on Krylenko's downfall. At that time he
was accused only of spending too little time on his work, neglecting the training of people's
justices, and spending too much time on tourism, mountain climbing and chess. His arrest was
clearly related to the general winnowing of high officials and not to his expressed views on the
family.
68 V. I. Svetlov, Brak i sem'ya pri kapitalizme i sotsializme (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe
sotsial'no-ekonomicheskoe izdatel'stvo, 1939), p. 5.
69 Ibid. p. 4.
70 Ibid. p. 136.
71 Urie Bronfenbrenner, 'The Changing Soviet Family', in Donald R. Brown, ed., The Role
and Status of Women in the Soviet Union (New York: Teachers' College Press, 1968), p. 103.
72 Victor S. Navasky, Naming Names (New York: Viking, 1980), p. 12.
73 Ibid. p. 81.
74 However, there is also a long tradition of informing in America, reaching back to the
Puritans. See Yasuhide Kawashima, Puritan Justice and the Indian: White Man's Law in
Massachusetts, 1630-1763 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1986), pp. 78, 208. See
also the American Code of Ethics for Government Service, Public Law 96-303, passed
unanimously by the Congress in June, 1980 and signed by the president in July. It reads, in part;
'Any person in government service should I. Put loyalty to the highest moral principles and to
country above loyalty to persons, party, or government department'.
75 The Wall Street Journal, 25 September 1986, p. 64.
76 HP No. 59, A, Vol. 5, p. 25, a Russian female chemist born about 1918 into a 'superior
intellectual' family. No. 17, A, vol. 2, p. 49, a Russian male lawyer with a pre-revolutionary
university education, remarked that his children experienced 'constant collision' between home
and school.
77 Kommunist (Kuibyshev), 3-4, February 1937, p. 67.
78 Ibid. 7, April 1937, p. 14.
79 Nadezhda and Maiya Ulanovskie, Istoriya odnoi sem'i (New York: Chalidze, 1982),
p. 302.
80 HP No. 191, A. vol. 14, p. 23, a Mordvin male tractor driver born about 1925 into a
family of 'poor-average' peasants. There is a very similar statement by no. 13, A. vol. 2, p. 28, a
Russian male factory worker born about 1918 into a family of 'poor-middle' peasants. And see
also no. 2, A, vol. 1, p. 17, a Russian male born about 1925 whose parents were well-off peasants;
and no. 323, A, vol. 16, a male Ukrainian born about 1917, a doctor; his family were also well-off
peasants.
81 HP no. 147, A, vol. 12, pp. 45-46. This Russian male, who was born about 1915, a
professional army officer and then an NKVD operative, came from the pre-revolutionary middle
class.
82 See, among others, HP no. 27, A, vol. 3, pp. 28, 29; a Russian male collective farmer born
about 1924. His family consisted of 'poor to well-to-do' peasants. No. 20, A, vol. 2, p. 28. This
respondent was a Russian male skilled worker from a peasant family, born about 1919. No. 153,
A, vol. 12, p. 17, a Russian male student in a technical school, born around 1927 into a worker's
family. No. 334, A, vol. 17, pp. 45, 46, a skilled male Russian worker born about 1917. His father
was a tsarist officer.

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572 ROBERT W. THURSTON

83 HP no. 121, A, vol. 9, p. 12, a male Ukrainian worker born about 1933 into a w
family.
84 HP no. 60, A, vol. 5, pp. 17, 18. This respondent was a male who said he was a Russian
but spoke with a Ukrainian accent. He was a 'disadvantaged worker' born into a well-off peasant
family about 1923.
85 HP no. 27, A, vol. 3, p. 38; and no. 119, A, vol. 9, p. 17. This was a Russian male mason
born into a family of well-off peasants about 1923. A Russian female assistant bookkeeper born
about 1920, whose father was a government employee, told a similar story: no. 51, A, vol. 5, p. 23
In this case teachers did try, but apparently not very hard, to persuade the mother to stop religious
teaching of the daughter. 'My mother had a very firm character', the daughter recalled, and
nothing changed.
86- HP no. 258, A, vol. 14, p. 7; a female born about 1926 whose father was Polish, her
mother Russian. Both were artists.
87 HP no. 335, A, vol. 17, pp. 30, 31; a Jewish male doctor born about 1919 into a family of
the 'upper intelligentsia'.
88 HP no. 111, A, vol. 9, pp. 42-45. This Russian male school teacher was born about 1920
to a family that was middle class before the revolution.
89 For example, see HP no. 40, A, vol. 4, p. 14, a Ukrainian or Russian male born around
1900, a pre-revolutionary university graduate who served as head of a research institute. And see
no. 131, A, vol. 10, p. 66, a Russian male sports teacher and institute director who was born about
1911 into a family of poor-average peasants. However, he reported that his own family was close.
90 Mikhail Molochko, 'Zhil-byl mal'chishka: iz dnevnikov Mikhaila Molochko', Neman, 4,
1962, p. 14.
91 Galina Vishnevskaya, Galina: A Russian Story (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1985),
p. 16.
92 Vozhatyi, 5, 1935, p. 24.
93 According to Vladimir Andreyev, Gamailis and Other Tales from Stalin's Russia,
translated by Fred P. Berry (Chicago, IL: Henry Regnery, 1963), p. 150, in 1937 the government
adopted a law specifying eight- to 1 0-year sentences for close relatives of males who had been shot
for anti-state crimes. Andreyev (a pseudonym) claims to have been a former lieutenant colonel in
the 'operational forces' of the NKVD; p. 239. For an example of this type of arrest, see 'Zheny',
Moskovskie novosti, 47, 20 November 1988, p. 16.
94 HP no. 136, B, vol. 1 part 2, p. 8. This Russian male NKVD officer was born around
1903. His family was noble and apparently highly placed, for he enrolled in the tsarist cadet corps.
His father was an army officer.
95 Eugenia Semenovna Ginzburg, Journey into the Whirlwind, translated by Paul Stevenson
& Max Hayward (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967), p. 245.
96 Aleksandr M. Nekrich, Otreshis' ot strakha; vospominaniya istorika (London: Overseas
Publication Interchange, 1979), p. 24.
97 Lidiya Shatunovskaya, Zhizn' v Kremle (New York: Chalidze, 1982), pp. 105-107.
98 For instance, Kaminksa p. 64; however, the woman Kaminska mentioned as an example
of someone subjected to such pressure did not divorce her husband. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn,
The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, translated by
Thomas P. Whitney, 2 vols. (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), p. 77, reports wives arrested in
1940 for failure to denounce their arrested husbands.
99 HP no. 25, A, vol. 3, p. 22. This was a Don Cossack male born about 1918 who attended a
military-diplomatic institute from 1936 to 1941. His father was a wealthy doctor before the
revolution. Vasilii Grossman lived through this period. In his novel Forever Flowing, translated
by Thomas P. Whitney (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), p. 132, he wrote: 'And the more
famous the "enemy of the people" who had perished, the wider was the circle of women who
departed in his wake on the path to camp: the wife, the former wife, the very first wife of all,
sisters, secretaries, daughters, women friends of this wife, daughters from his first marriage'. The
Soviet scholar V. Zemskov claims to have seen data from a 'civil archive' which indicate that in
1939 there were 13 172 people in the GULAG system who had been arrested as members of
traitors' families: 'Arkhipelag GULAG glazami pistatel'ya i statistika', Argumety ifakty, 45, 1989,
p. 5.
100 F. Beck & W. Godin, Russian Purge and the Extraction of Confession, translated by Eric
Mosbacher & David Porter (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1951), p. 51.
101 Raisa Orlova, Memoirs, translated by Samual Cioran (New York: Random House, 1983),
pp. 98, 99. Victor Herman, an American living in the USSR, was arrested in 1937, but his
relatives were not incarcerated. See his Coming Out of the Ice: An Unexpected Life (New York:

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THE FAMILY DURING THE GREAT TERROR 573

Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1979). Nina Kosterina, Dnevnik Niny Kosterinoi (Moscow: Det-
skaya literatura, 1964), had a father and an uncle who were arrested, but another uncle and her
mother were not touched.
102 HP no. 375, B, vol. 5; no biographical data available.
103 Arrests of relatives did not stop entirely; see 'The Daughters of the Arbat', Moscow News,
1, 1988, p. 13. These five girls, arrested in June 1939, were all daughters of high officals jailed
earlier.
104 Dmitri Panin, The Notebooks of Sologdin, translated by John Moore (New York:
Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1976), p. 15.
105 Andrei Manchur, 'Pochemu ya ne vozvrashchayus' v SSSR', David Dalin [sic)] file,
Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture, Columbia University,
p. 2.
106 HP No. 18, A, vol. 2, p. 47. This was a Russian male bookkeeper probably born some time
between 1905 and 1916; his parents were poor-middle peasants.
107 Shatunovskaya, p. 96.
108 Margarete Buber (Neumann), Under Two Dictators, translated by Edward Fitzgerald
(London: Victor Gollancz, 1949), pp. 6, 14; my emphasis.
109 Shatunovskaya, pp. 104, 105; Orlova, p. 88, notes that dozens of Komsomol members
denounced arrested relatives in 1937.
110 Boris Pasternak, Letters to Georgian Friends, translated, with introduction and notes by
David Magarshak (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968), pp. 57-88.
1 Valentina Bogdan, Mimikriya v SSSR: Vospominaniya inzhenera 1935-1940 godov
(Frankfurt: Avtor, 1982), p. 33.
112 Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov's relatives who had been hiding him from police were not
arrested when he was in 1940; see his Memuary (Frankfurt: Posev, 1983), pp. 574-597. And see
HP no. 385, A, vol. 19, pp. 48, 98. This respondent's wife, a party member, refused to divorce him
after his arrest but was not touched.
113 See, for example, Conquest pp. 489, 491, and Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, A History of
Russia, 4th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 525.
114 Wolfgang Leonhard, Child of the Revolution, translated by C. M. Woodhouse (Chicago,
IL: Henry Regnery, 1967), pp. 51, 52.
115 Ginzburg, p. 18; HP No. 85, A, vol. 6, pp. 25, 26; This was a Russian female schoolgirl,
born about 1925, whose father was a poor-to-average peasant and whose mother was from the
gentry. Raisa Orlova would have accepted even her own fathers' arrest; Memoirs..., p. 63.
116 Anatoli Granovsky, I Was an NKVD Agent (New York: Devin-Adair, 1962), p. 32.
117 This claim is made in Adam B. Ulam, Stalin: The Man and his Era (New York: Viking,
1973), p. 409; Conquest, p. 317; and Geiger, pp. 122, 123.
118 George F. Kennan, Soviet Foreign Policy 1917-1941 (Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand,
1960), p. 89, has written that 'tens of thousands were killed', a figure that would certainly imply an
arrest total of less than 1 million. Anton Antonov-Ovseenko, The Time of Stalin: Portrait of a
Tyranny, translated by George Saunders, with an introduction by Stephen F. Cohen (New York:
Harper & Row, 1981), p. 212, contains the estimate of more than 18.8 million. Conquest, pp. 527,
532, gives a 'highly conservative' estimate of 7 million arrested from January 1937 to December
1938 and 9 million in prisons and camps by the latter date. S. G. Wheatcroft offers much lower
estimates than Dallin et al. in his 'On Assessing the Size of Forced Concentration Camp Labour in
the Soviet Union, 1929-1956', Soviet Studies, 33, 2, 1981, pp. 265-295, and 'Towards a
Thorough Analysis of Soviet Forced Labour Statistics', Soviet Studies, 35, 2, 1983, pp. 223-237.
In the article 'Arkhipelag GULAG.. .', p. 5, the figures of 839 000 total prisoners in the prison
and camp system in 1936 and 1 344 408 in 1940 are cited. Of these 12.6% in the first year and
33.1% in the second had been arrested for 'counter-revolutionary crimes'. At present this is as
close as we have to official Soviet data on the numbers caught up in the Terror.
119 Barbara Anderson & Brian Silver, 'Demographic Analysis and Population Catastrophes
in the USSR', Slavic Review, 44, 3, 1985, p. 528, who find that the probable range of excess deaths
from 1926 to 1939 was between 0.5 and 5.5 million people. See also Lorimer, pp. 133-137, for a
similar total.
120 HP no. 23, A, vol. 3, p. 12, a Kalmyk supervisor of animal breeding on several collective
farms, born about 1912 into a family of poor-average peasants.
121 HP no. 139, A, vol. 11, p. 5. The respondent was a female Russian psychiatrist whose
family was middle class before the Revolution. She was born about 1886. Also see the statement
by a Russian man from the same sort of social group, a watchmaker born about 1904: HP no. 167,
A, vol. 13, p. 4.

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574 ROBERT W. THURSTON

122 HP no. 51, A, vol. 5, p. 23; a Russian schoolgi


assistant bookkeeper. No. 125, A, vol. 10, p. 25; a Ru
father was an army officer in both the Red and tsaris
123 This occurred, for instance, in the cases of Orl
Nikolaevna Ozerova, interview with her in Moscow, 1
Eugenia Hanfmann & Helen Beier, Six Russian Me
Christopher Publishing House, 1976), pp. 46, 47.
124 Raymond Bauer & Alex Inkeles, The Soviet Cit
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959),
reported that their families had grown closer, while 4
farm peasants indicated the same. The percentage rep
ranged from 7% among the intelligentsia to 30% amo
125 In addition, close personal ties and trust betw
bookkeepers were essential. They all had to finagle
authorities above in order to appear, at least, to fulf
Factory and Manager in the USSR, (Cambridge, MA: H
54, 221.
126 Egor Yakovlev, 'Litsa i maski', Moskovskie novosti, 38, 18 September 1988, p. 3, suggests
that belief in enemies, usually the obverse of faith in Stalin and the system, was vast. See also HP
no. 41, A, vol. 4, a female Russian nurse born about 1924 into a family of 'rank and file
intellectuals'; no. 166, A, vol. 13, a Russian male teacher born about 1907 whose family also
comprised such intellectuals; Thurston, especially pp. 226, 233, 234; and 60 Minutes [transcript],
XXII, 21 (New York: CBS News, 1990), pp. 7,8.

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