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Showcasing the Great ExperimentCultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921–1941$
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Michael David-Fox

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199794577

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199794577.001.0001

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Gorky’s Gulag

Gorky’s Gulag

(p.142) 4 Gorky’s Gulag
Showcasing the Great Experiment

Michael David-Fox

Oxford University Press

This chapter establishes how the writer Maxim Gorky's return to the Soviet Union from European exile in 1928 to become a chief architect of Stalinist culture was a watershed in the history of the Soviet reception of foreign visitors. Making a tour around the USSR modeled on those of foreign visitors, Gorky made a distinct contribution to the rise of Socialist Realism, both in the sense of the dominant aesthetic doctrine and as a key mode of Stalin-era ideology as a whole. With his visit to the Solovetskii Camp of Special Designation (SLON, or Solovki), the model camp of the nascent GULAG, it also established new norms for the depiction of forced labor as humane reeducation. The chapter probes a range of previously unknown links among Gorky's famous visit to Solovki, his patronage of the Stalin era's dominant pedagogue, Anton Makarenko, and his ties to the head of the secret police, Genrikh Iagoda. The chapter examines in detail how these links affected the history of some of the most internationally celebrated Soviet destinations for foreign visitors: the secret police-sponsored communes for creating “new people” out of juvenile delinquents, chief among them the OGPU/NKVD Children's Labor Commune at Bolshevo.

Keywords:   Maxim Gorky, Solovki, GULAG, Anton Makarenko, Socialist Realism, NKVD, Genrikh Iagoda, reeducation, Bolshevo Commune, new people

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