Hail the Motherland! Death to the Nemetskie!

Memorial Obelisk at Park Pobedy, Moscow

The Great Patriotic War victory is one that is constantly on display in Moscow and other Russian cities. Between the many memorial park installations, the main museum in Moscow, and the newest war monument in St. Petersburg, people can feel a sense of Russian pride from the victory throughout the vast country. This Russian pride came at a huge cost to the population and morale of Soviets in the 1940s. Nikita Bogoslovsky and Vladimir Agatov produced a song named “Dark Night” in 1943 to symbolize the family struggle during the Great Patriotic War. The lyrics are:

Dark is the night, only bullets careen across the steppe,             
On the wires the wind plays its song, while the stars glitter dimly.           
I know, my love, you don't sleep in the dark of the night. And you secretly wipe your tears back near the baby's cradle. 

Oh how I love the deep regions of your gentle eyes.
How I long to press my lip upon those eyes.
Dark is the night, and it keeps up, my love, far apart,
The perilous steppe, wreathed in black, stretches out between us.

My faith in you, oh beloved friend of my heart,
Is a faith that has saved me from death by an enemy's bullet.
Life is a joy - I can face mortal battle and know,
Know that you'll greet me with love, whatever should happen.

These lyrics mirror the thoughts of millions of soldiers, who had families at home and were not sure if they would survive the war. It also provides an emotional element to a war fought with heavy machinery and caustic ideologies. Bogoslovsky was criticized for his work because many believed it romanticized the war. However, if a reader thinks deeper than the words themselves, they can determine that this ideology was realistic, and applied to all factions of the war. Soviet soldiers fought to protect their families at home and save their country from the German onslaught. This resolve helped them win the war. Many believed the Soviets to be the craziest army during WWII because they lost an immense amount of soldiers, yet never gave up and were unperturbed by their massive losses. This determination, combined with the phenomenal strategies employed to reserve weaponry and mount campaigns, allowed the Soviets to protect their homeland, while capturing other territories simultaneously. Nazi Germany was the true world enemy at this time, and this message did not resonate stronger in any other part of the world, than in the Soviet Union. Fascism never matched Communist ideologies, and German hatred for Slavic populations further aggrandized the anger Soviets held towards Nazi Germany.

While Bogoslovsky’s song is a softer touch on a brutal war effort, its underlying symbolism truly defined a time period filled with horror and death.

The following video provides a beautiful rendition of the song as it was meant to be sung. 





Geldern, James Von, and Richard Stites. Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays, and Folklore, 1917-1953. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995. 377-78. Print.

Legend of a Demonic General

Voroshilov in Military Garb
Voroshilov in Military Garb

Stalin and Molotov were two of the cruelest individuals in the Soviet Union, but Kliment Voroshilov was equally as cruel, albeit much more understated in his work. Voroshilov played the role of “chief henchman” for Stalin, and supported many of his initiatives during the Great Purges. Trotsky famously said about him, “The life of Voroshilov illustrates the career of a worker-revolutionist, with its leadership in strikes, underground work, imprisonment, and exile…”(Spartacus-Educational). This is a great example of how he was viewed by outsiders who criticized his many executioner decisions and his support of Stalin’s vicious purges. Ironically, a short narrative was written in 1939 called “The Legend of Voroshilov”, which explains his greatness and can be considered quintessential Soviet propaganda.

This narrative portrays Voroshilov to be a god-like figure because everybody, with whom he comes into contact, later becomes famous or successful. The first person to attain greatness was a pregnant woman, who he first reprimanded for joining him on a labor-intensive journey, but later compassionately loads the woman into his cart to ride home. The next day, the woman gave birth to a very healthy child. Next, the narrative describes Voroshilov with the following: “He was always on his feet, clean-shaven and neat. He would call a meeting and report so clearly that everything he said is remembered even now. You fought with more courage because you knew what you were shedding your blood for in the steppes”(Geldern 320). Finally, the narrative explains a scene where he dangerously rode towards the enemy to save a child, then escapes unscathed and gives the child to a local woman for care. The child and locals were apparently saved from enemy harm because Voroshilov told the woman “try to get a goat”(321). While he may have been a valiant leader, he had many moral faults which led to the execution and exile for hundreds of his compatriots.

Voroshilov’s work in the execution of “insubordinate” military officials mirrored the exiled of over 175,000 citizens by Joseph Stalin in the late 1930s. While Voroshilov’s targets were much higher ranking than other political dissidents, they still were incorrectly accused of tyrannical charges. The Great Purges were characterized by obscure crimes and torn families, and this warlord under Stalin’s control assisted in its planning and execution.

-Alex M.




Geldern, James Von, and Richard Stites. Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays, and Folklore, 1917-1953. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995. Print.

Stalin’s Shock Worker Cruise

51hOc+KnG-L._SY355_Shock workers in the Soviet Union are the equivalent of “employees-of-the-month” in the United States. Exemplary workers who truly portray the corporate culture and go out of their way to help the organization. In 1930, 257 of these shock workers were given the opportunity to cruise around Western Europe and view “the West” mentality about life, on the dime of their employers. The objective of this cruise was to show the Soviet workers the failures of capitalism. One of Stalin’s goals during the First Five Year Plan was to increase industrialization The timing of this cruise was perfect to portray the failure of capitalist ways, since most of Europe was dealing with the latter part of the Great Depression. Mass Culture in Soviet Russia did a great job discussing this cruise and had multiple worker recordings of their experience. The final recording stated “We were silent all the way, oppressed by what we had seen”(163). This was a perfect statement to sum up the sights these workers had seen in Hamburg, Germany. If I had seen the worker slums and class differences the shock workers witnessed in Hamburg, I probably would join the Communist Party as well. Many specific problems were highlighted by the workers from this cruise.

The immense unemployment hit the workers right off the bat. They noticed shops with no customers, and random people on the streets midday. One worker, V. Shilin, said “It was not Sunday and there was no strike on, and yet – the great warehouses stood empty and silent as if frozen”(159). Empty warehouses epitomized the struggle in Western Europe at this time, while Soviet Russia was not dealing with such issues. Stalin’s First Five Year Plan’s industrialization goal made work plentiful, and warehouses were cranking out goods at full capacity. The shock workers seeing failing warehouses probably gave them the belief that capitalism was at the center of the problems. Capitalist tendencies did cause the financial issues to spread widely, but prior to the crisis, the growth of capitalist countries was much higher than Soviet Russia because of their ability to trade. The other problem came from the gaps in class structure noticed by the Soviet workers. 

A. Salov descriptively wrote, “It was terrible to see workers living like this. Rickety houses, ready to tumble down any minute. An awful stench, mingled with the odor of carbolic acid, came from them. Poverty peered from every crack”(161). What he and the others saw was the true failure of the state to help assist their own people in living a healthy life. Stalin and Soviet Russia provided for all citizens and allowed them to enjoy life with those around them. These poor Germans worked to create wealth, but never got to see it. While this is sad to hear, the same occurred later in the Soviet Union when infrastructure began to fail and food shortages were a daily occurrence. Capitalist countries dealt with these waves of poverty, but always came out ahead because of the market economies controlling business.

Overall, the workers cruise around Europe worked exactly to plan for those in the Communist party, because the workers saw the failures of Capitalism first hand, and immediately began to appreciate the government care in their own countries. Stalin’s First Five Year Plan greatly improved industrialization in Soviet Russia, albeit with certain qualms. On paper, his work looked good, but lying deep beneath the gorgeous surface were structural issues that were bound to destroy the country. These issues didn’t materialize for another sixty years, but at least the workers appreciated the government support in 1930.


– Alex M.