Sean Thoel

Sean Thoel

University of New Hampshire

History and Russian


Mentors: Dr. Cathy A. Frierson, Department of History and Dr. Ronald D. LeBlanc, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Socialist Industrialization: Engineering Soviet Mythology Through the Arts and Sciences During the Early Stalin Era, 1928-1941

I propose to study Socialist Realist literature, the advancements of Soviet engineering, and their respective roles in the industrialization of the Soviet Union in the early Stalin era (1928-1941).  During this time period, Soviet engineers constructed massively overstated display projects, designed not only to meet the goals of Stalin’s Five-Year Plans, but also to over-fulfill them with hopes of appeasing the leader.  Socialist Realism played a key role in promoting Soviet political ideology through the publication of production novels written to mythologize the industrialization effort.  The administration of the arts and sciences by an increasingly centralized Soviet bureaucracy fostered cooperation between the two fields.  Scholarly research has shown that Soviet oversight of the arts and sciences of the period followed similar patterns.  In both fields, the Soviet state built upon prerevolutionary traditions, infused the fields with Marxist-Leninist ideology, and established physical connections between them in order to achieve Stalin’s industrialization goals.  Naturally enough, a great deal of scholarly research treats the development of Soviet science and literature as individual, separate phenomena.  Consequently, a systematic study of the relationship between Soviet science and literature during Stalin’s industrialization initiative of the 1920s and 1930s has great potential to enhance our basic understanding of the shaping of the Soviet Union.  Through an analysis of Socialist Realist production novels, memoirs and official records of Soviet engineering projects, as well as existing scholarly research and critical commentary on these sources, I intend to examine the synergy between the two disciplines and the role that this interdependence has played in shaping the Soviet Union.  By undertaking this research project, I hope to show that the relationship between Soviet literature and science during this period served not only to mythologize Soviet industrial achievements, but also to establish Stalin’s legacy and promote the Soviet myth.


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