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Everyday Stalinism

Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s

Sheila Fitzpatrick

Publication Date - May 2000

ISBN: 9780195050011

312 pages
5-5/16 x 8 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $19.95

A fascinating study of Russian history by a leading expert in the field, illuminating everyday life under Stalin


Here is a pioneering account of everyday life under Stalin, written by a leading authority on modern Russian history. Focusing on the urban population, Fitzpatrick depicts a world of privation, overcrowding, endless lines, and broken homes, in which the regime's promises of future socialist abundance rang hollowly. We read of a government bureaucracy that often turned life into a nightmare, and of how ordinary citizens tried to circumvent it. We also read of the secret police, whose constant surveillance was endemic at this time, and the waves of terror, like the Great Purges of 1937, which periodically cast society into turmoil.


  • A pioneering account of everyday life under Stalin
  • Fitzpatrick depicts a world of privation, overcrowding, endless lines, and broken homes, in which the regime's promises of future socialist abundance rang hollowly

About the Author(s)

Sheila Fitzpatrick teaches modern Russian history at the University of Chicago. A former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and a co-editor of The Journal of Modern History, she is also the author of The Russian Revolution, Stalin's Peasants, and many other books and articles about Russia. She lives in Chicago.


"Fitzpatrick makes subtle use of the press and of police reports that assist in giving us one of the most comprehensive accounts of what it meant to live in Stalin's Russia in the 1930s."--Kirkus Reviews

"A fine work--engrossing, well written, superbly documented, and much needed to boot....[The book's sources] make absolutely fascinating reading....An assiduous scholar, Professor Fitzpatrick seems to have scrutinized every relevant scrap of paper. Her explication is a model of balance and judiciousness....Individual memoirs apart, most histories of this period were written from the top--that is, showing how the policies were shaped and implemented, rather than how they were perceived and experienced by their subjects. It is the latter...that constitutes the major distinction of Fitzpatrick's book."--Abraham Brumberg, The Nation

"The author's rich materials challenge readers to build their own model of Stalin's people, their complicity and resistance."--Wilson Quarterly

"A most welcome addition to the literature on Stalin's Russia....Fitzpatrick has used the entire range of sources available, from familiar memoirs and postwar interview material to contemporary research and an array of archival information....The book is a major contribution to understanding this extraordinary period. Its lucid prose and the inherent interest of its subject matter should make it accessible to undergraduates, as well as to more specialized readers."--CHOICE

"One of the most influential historians of the Soviet period describes what it was like to live under Stalin in the 1930s--the frantic, heroic, tragic decade of collectivization, forced-draft industrialization, and purges, when ordinary Russians struggled to a find a wearable pair of shoes and lined up in subzero weather at two o'clock in the morning in the hope of getting 16 grams of bread....They were years of unimaginable hardship and brutality but also of idealism, a surreal melange that [Fitzpatrick] captures with admirable matter-of-factness."--Foreign Affairs

"A fine crossover book for both upperlevel and introductory courses....Well written."--Roger W. Haughey, Georgetown University

"Everyday Stalinism should prove invaluable for any course on Soviet history. Knowing how a nation's people actually lived, thought, and felt is essential to any real understanding of the past. On this, Fitzpatrick--who has done more than any other scholar to make the complexities of the social history of the Stalin years come alive--delivers as no one else can."--John McCannon, Norwich University

"Casts new light on a hitherto neglected facet of Stalinism: the everyday life of ordinary citizens in the major urban and industrial centers of the USSR... It is a 'fun read' that offers many insights to specialists and students alike."--American Historical Review

Table of Contents


    A Note on Class

    1. The Party is Always Right

    Revolutionary Warriors
    Stalin's Signals
    Bureaucrats and Bosses
    A Girl with Character

    2. Hard Times
    Miseries of Urban Life
    Shopping as a Survival Skill
    Contacts and Connections

    3. Palaces on Monday
    Building a New World
    The Remaking of Man
    Mastering Culture

    4. The Magic Tablecloth
    Images of Abundance
    Marks of Status
    Patrons and Clients

    5. Insulted and Injured
    Deportation and Exile
    Renouncing the Past
    Wearing the Mask

    6. Family Problems
    Absconding Husbands
    The Abortion Law
    The Wives Moment

    7. Conversations and Listeners
    Listening In
    Writing to the Government
    Public Talk
    Talking Back

    8. A Time of Troubles
    The Year of 1937
    Scapegoats and "The Usual Suspects"
    Spreading the Plague
    Living Through the Great Purges