Narratives Of Exclusion In The Discourse Of The Great Terror In The USSR

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Booth 62
Oral Presentation
Vladimir PAPERNI , Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of Haifa, Nesher, Israel
The Great Terror in the USSR of the mid-1930s was actually an implementation of a social engineering strategy aiming at exclusion of certain social, political, and ethnic groups by means of their extermination or isolation. This strategy was based on and partially produced by a very specific ideological discourse. Its key element was a semi-fictional image of the ideal Soviet society enclosed within multiple real and symbolic borders that various "bad" and "enemy" "elements" were constantly trying to trespass.  Identification/production of the above-mentioned "elements" was realized within the framework of the discourse of the Great Terror by means of the complex of narratives of exclusion. In my presentation, I will focus on three main components of this complex:

1)      Narratives about traitors, spies, and other "foreign agents" actually or potentially trespassing real or symbolic external borders of the Soviet space. These were used for excluding foreigners-emigrants, certain national minorities, Russian re-immigrants, Soviet diplomats and spies; people who contacted foreigners or simply spoke foreign languages, etc. 

2)      Narratives about saboteurs, "socially dangerous elements", and anti-Soviet conspirers, terrorists, and propagandists acting from beyond the symbolic borders of the ideal Soviet social, political and ideological structure. These were used for excluding “kulaks”, criminals, tramps, "bourgeois" engineers and scientists, openly religious people, former members of the long-defunct Russian political parties, former members of oppositional groups within the Bolshevik party, suspended officers of the secret police, and others.     

3)      Narratives about "monsters" and "scum of the earth", who trespassed all sorts of symbolic borders. These were used for excluding suspended high-rank Bolshevist party leaders, both opponents and proponents of Stalin. Narratives of this type were built in the framework of the special ideological meta-narrative based upon archaic mythological imaging of witches and shape-shifters – apparently innocent creatures that turn out to be demons.