The triumph of distrust: the Russian revolution and Soviet society
Emeritus Professor of Russian History, School of Slavonic & East European Studies, University College London
'The Russian revolution and subsequent civil war undermined or destroyed most of the symbolic systems and institutions which had (imperfectly) sustained social solidarity in Tsarist Russia. The Marxist-Leninist ideology and Communist Party institutions which replaced them encouraged an outlook which was both millennarian and apocalyptic. They generated a narrative which projected a dualistic world of absolute good and absolute evil. They required total trust or total distrust. This dualism reached its terrible apogee in Stalin's terror of the 1930s. Even though the extreme forms of the terror were subsequently eased, and although Khrushchev tried to rule by recreating trust in the party by different means, Soviet society remained marked by the dualism inherited from Lenin and Stalin. The dichotomy of trust/distrust remained a fundamental feature of the Soviet system right up to its end.'
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