Andrei Zhdanov’s Cultural Purification

Andrei Zhdanov

Andrei Zhdanov  joined the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Bolshevik) in 1915. He quickly rose up through the party ranks in Leningrad and was Chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet from 20 July 1938–20 June 1947. The following Video discusses Zhdanov’s party career.

War Time Cultural relaxation

The external pressure of WWII brought about an era of cultural liberalism, where writers, musicians, and filmmakers developed new material relatively free of scrutinization. The following quote from Gregory Freeze supports this claim, “Stalin relaxed ideological controls: the poems, novels, and journalism of the early war years were remarkably free from cant. He also initially put some restraints on the activities of the secret police, and in 1943 permitted the Orthodox Church to re-establish the Patriarchate.” (Freeze pg 391)  Stalin understood that WWII was a war of extinction. He need to sell the war as such and was willing to do so by any means necessary.


Post War Tightening Down

Following the end of WWII, the upper party echelons recognized they needed to strengthen their control over Cultural production. Zhdanov was placed in charge of ensuring cultural outlets supported the direction of the Soviet State. On August 21, 1946, Zhdanov wrote a letter detailing the duty of the Soviet Writer. The letter stated that all written work should glorify the achievements of the soviet state. The Russian people need to know the states accomplishments because the West was trying to pollute soviet culture. Near the middle and end of Zhdanov’s letter, he writes a lot about the West’s slow decay. Zhdanov reassured the Russian people that the West will ultimately fall because they are built upon a corrupt structure. Ultimately, Zhdanov’s tightening down campaign is a success. Soviet writers, artist, and film makers toe the party line.

Cold War Foreshadowing

One of the main tenets of Zhdanov’s campaign was western culture purification. He wanted to eradicate any sense of Western Culture in the soviet state. This is interesting because at the start of Zhdanov’s campaign the soviets and the west were allies fighting the same enemy and working towards a common goal. Zhdanov’s purist of western culture purification demonstrate that the highest levels of party leadership held a fundamental distrust of the west. The party was preparing the country for the Cold War before the Cold War heated up. This leads me to believe the Soviets, like the Americans never truly intended on fostering positive relations after the War. Both sides recognized that fundamental differences, between the two countries, would inevitably pit them against each in the future.


All other sources are cited in the text.




3 thoughts on “Andrei Zhdanov’s Cultural Purification

  1. Great job! I’m glad somebody wrote about this topic. Like you said, the war was a war for survival for the Soviet people so Stalin needed to do everything he could on the homefront. It’s interesting comparing last week’s, or the week before, anti-religious posts to now when the cultural standards were relaxed. Also thanks for going in depth on the postwar/Coldwar cultural issues confronting the Soviet government and people.


  2. Thanks for writing about this! Although your narrative focuses on policy and Zhdanov’s role in particular, it also addresses one of the biggest challenges the regime would face after the War — namely the need to fulfill promises made in wartime. People who fought to defeat Nazi Germany and defend their homeland did so with the understanding that the concessions of the war (restoring the Patriarch, less control of artistic expression) would carry over once peace was at hand. How do you think the Soviet people responded to the postwar clamp down?


  3. I find it really interesting that Stalin decided to relax controls on culture during this time. On one hand it makes sense in terms of giving a morale boost by allowing people to do what they want. However, it seems almost counterintuitive for freedom of expression to be promoted during a war. In most wars throughout history, freedom is the first victim. Additionally, this seems uncharacteristic of Stalin. In almost everything else he was so heavy handed. All in all this was a great post and it raises some interesting questions.


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