Leibovich O. L. Confession, preaching and revelations at party meetings, 1936–1938 (.pdf)


The paper analyses the status of party meetings during the Great Terror (1936–1938) on the basis of archival materials. According to the author's hypothesis, confession, preaching and revelations at party meetings were a model of terror practices of 1936–1938. Party meetings, which have preserved the statutory form, radically changed their function: from the tool of normalization they have turned into an instrument of political self-destruction. The whole campaign took place among people who were only superficially affected by the new Bolshevik culture, its symbols and values. Party meetings turned to the field of hunting enemies of the people within the party. Varying scenarios of the power can be found in their political narrative. The language of party meetings and the language of investigation documents of the time show a far-reaching similarity: in vocabulary, topics, and moral judgements. That was a universal language of power. The primacy of the party language is a strong evidence of maintaining leadership of the CPSU (b) in the Great Terror. There was a renewal of political language with expressive vocabulary and with renaming events and actions (for example, participation in opposition – a crime against the party; conciliation – double-dealing; lack of self-criticism – sycophancy, etc.). New terror discourse, repeated in the fractures and collapses of arrayed social ties, put party members in a border existential situation: to be witnesses and accomplices of the destruction of the collective past and, ulti-mately, their own identity, or to put obstacles to that pernicious process.


Key words: Great Terror of 1936–1938, CPSU (b), party meetings, language of power.


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