Wildfire: Rumor and Peasant Resistance to Collectivization

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Title: Wildfire: Rumor and Peasant Resistance to Collectivization
Author: Johnson, Anthony W.
Advisors: Dr. Gerald D. Surh, Committee Chair
Abstract: This thesis is a general examination of rumors in the Soviet Union during the very turbulent period of collectivization. While this thesis examines the upheaval in Russia prior to collectivization in order to show how the rumors were grounded in reality, it specifically deals with the confusion in the countryside just prior to and during 'the great offensive' of wholesale collectivization [sploshnaya collectivizatsiia] in the Soviet countryside. This thesis also attempts to address rumor not as a means of carrying peasant ideology, but as a form of peasant resistance to collectivization. These rumors, whether containing aspects of a coming apocalypse, the faltering morals in the village, imminent invasion from foreign powers, or a return to a long-abolished social institution, were symbolic representation of the hopes and fears which the peasants kept in the back of their minds during the brief relaxation of the New Economic Policy. While the fears were buried in the peasant consciousness, one needed only to scratch the surface in order to reveal these general themes, and the catastrophic upheaval of wholesale collectivization again brought these fears up to the surface. Will this thesis convince everyone of the correctness of the ideas presented? Hardly. However, the ideas represented herein deserve attention. They are worth considering because in examining the composition of rumors during the period of collectivization one can see what the peasants feared in the coming of the collective farms. Rumors of the coming apocalypse, the deterioration of the moral economy of the countryside, and the resurrection of the institution of serfdom reflect peasant fears of a world that some could not comprehend and that others believed they understood all too well. These rumors were a social construction and a social logic that was an attempt at presenting a narrative that the peasants lacked. In the midst of this lack of narrative, almost any construction, no matter how far-fetched in retrospect, took root in the peasant psyche and flourished in this atmosphere of upheaval. But the upheaval and the rumors that began circulating during that time contain very real peasant fears based upon their experiences. Another important factor driving this study is an attempt to understand this social construct in terms of what other scholars have not fully considered: rumor purely as a form of resistance to an unwanted policy. The only pioneering work done on rumors during collectivization places rumor in the position of an ideology of resistance as opposed to a form of resistance in itself, albeit a very weak form. To get at the root of hopes and fears is to understand rumor as a form of resistance. Aversion, distaste, or speaking out against an institution is rarely done blindly. In fact, resistance tends to be very specific in nature. Allowing for this specificity, one can look at the rumors as a reflection of fear or hope in the face of menacing change imposed from above. If I can convince just one, then I have done my job. I hope to convince more.
Date: 2004-06-19
Degree: MA
Discipline: History
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/1332

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