The Great Patriotic War was clearly a crucial moment in Soviet and 20th century history. It forged the Soviet Union as nation state rather than revolutionary citadel. During the Brezhnev years a 'cult' of the war eclipsed the 'Great October Socialist Revolution' itself as regime legitimating mythology. Yet the war years have been largely neglected in Western historiography on Stalinism. Even the most recent studies of the Stalin period generally stop short at the war. This focus undoubtedly reflects the view that the 1920s and 1930s were the 'formative and enduring moments' for the Soviet Union. The result has been that the war itself has been treated as an epilogue to the 1930s or a mere hiatus in the story of Stalinism. How could Stalin's draconian state mobilise such large numbers of Soviet citizens who were willing to lay down their lives in its defence on the front line or on the home front? Even some of Stalin's political prisoners volunteered for the front. These phenomena suggest that large numbers of the Soviet populace activeiy identified with the Soviet party-state. The question is why? Were they fighting despite state repression, because of state repression, because they had internalised the ruling discourse or some combination of these? Were they fighting for the party, the material benefits of socialism, the Russian 'motherland', self-preservation, for Stalin himself? Or were they fighting out of fear of punishment, against Nazism, for revenge? At best this paper offers tentative answers to some of these questions. And it has a limited focus: the Moscow home front, from June to December 1941. But shifting our focus from the 1930s to the war years radically recasts the fundamental questions being asked about Stalinism and society. Identification with the state, rather than resistance to it, becomes the starting point for analysis.
13th Biennial Conference of the Australasian Association for European History. Writing Europe's Pasts: Proceedings of the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the Australasian Association for European History (Auckland, New Zealand 9 July, 2001) p. 325-336