Rise of the Stalinist Superiority Complex

Michael David-Fox

in Showcasing the Great Experiment

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199794577
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932245 | DOI:
Rise of the Stalinist Superiority Complex

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This chapter traces Soviet cultural diplomacy through three radically divergent periods: the mid-1930s height of the Popular Front, the Great Terror and show trials from 1936–38, and the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939–41. Although the Soviet system for receiving foreigners that had emerged in the 1920s was not fundamentally reworked in the 1930s, prewar Stalinism was marked by sea-shifts in ideology and attitudes toward the outside world. The first was the rise of a “superiority complex,” in which virtually everything Soviet was deemed the best in the world, at least officially. The second was a decisive internal Soviet tilt, underway already at the height of European anti-fascism in the mid-1930s, away from the optimistic Soviet quest to engage and dominate Western cultural politics in favor of “vigilance,” ideological xenophobia, and the hunt for hidden enemies. During the Great Terror, international contacts that had previously brought prestige to Soviet cultural mediators suddenly became the grounds for mass physical annihilation as VOKS and Soviet international organizations were decimated; during the Pact period of Soviet cultural diplomacy, reduced to a shadow of its former self, became largely a matter of sending symbolic signals to the Nazis.

Keywords: Popular Front; Great Terror; show trials; Nazi-Soviet Pact; vigilance; anti-fascism; xenophobia; superiority; cultural diplomacy; VOKS

Chapter.  12325 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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