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The Reinterpretation of Razin and Pugachev in the Early Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin Die Umdeutung von Razin und Pugačev in der Sowjetunion unter Lenin und Stalin

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The image of Stepan Razin and Emelian Pugachev, leaders of Cossack uprisings during the 17th and 18th centuries, was positively reassessed during the early Soviet period. Numerous novels, poems, sculptures, films and musical dramas dealt with these figures. Under the old regime they had been considered enemies, at least from the perspective of state officialdom, but, in the context of Bolshevik power, they were now reinterpreted.

This article investigates how Razin and Pugachev were represented during the first decades of the Soviet Union, the qualities that were ascribed to them, the social-political messages they transmitted and the ways in which meanings were ascribed to them with the aim of rendering them suitable figures that could be identified with Soviet society.

The dramatic increase in interest in these figures after 1917 had precursors in the period following 1905. New guidelines were then formulated by Lenin in 1919: He interpreted Razin and Pugachev as leaders of "peasants' wars" and inserted them in a long prehistory of the October Revolution. Nevertheless, during the 1920s the representations did not follow one common line and the variance remained remarkable. During the 1930s, in the context of the "patriotic turn", Razin and Pugachev experienced a heroization as "folk heroes". This required their taming and cultivation, because the pantheon of Stalinist heroes was not a place for stubborn, uncivilized illiterates.
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Language: German

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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  • The Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas ("East European History") present the discipline in its entire breadth; for thematically focused articles the emphasis lies on the territory of the former Russian Empire and the former Soviet Union. A double-blind review process with international experts ensures adherence to the annals' recognized high quality standards. An extensive section devoted to reviews informs the reader about current trends in German and international research. In addition, the editorial board publishes an electronic review supplement under the title jgo.e-reviews at
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