Thursday, March 22, 2007

Stalin's lieutenant

Finished reading Kes Boterbloem's The Life and Times of Andrei Zhdanov 1896-1948. Always useful to read books that remind you of how bad communism was in practice. The most educated of Stalin's close associates Zhdanov comes across an ordinary climber which makes his willing and dutifully enthusiastic participation in the crimes of the period noteworthy. Mass executions are an entirely routine form signing process. As ideological hatchet man he was embarrassed by Lysenkoism because his son Iurii was a party official and a scientist but died before the worst of the Lysenko episode. I saw some parallels to contemporary conservatism in the ideological debates of high Stalinism; 1) an emphasis of 'culture', seen in terms of a very stereotypical middle-class respectability with realist and banal tastes in arts; 2) concern with reforming the school curriculum to emphasise a positive historical evaluation of the national past; 3) competing groups of ideological hatchet men who contested for Stalin's favour such as Mark Mitin and Pavel Yudin; 4)perhaps most of all Lysenkoism so similar to the organised critics of the global warming concerns.



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