“120 priests per 20 workers”: non-proletarian population in the elections of 1920s soviet Russia
The author studies the participation of the non-proletarian urban population in elections during the New Economic Policy in Soviet Russia. The analysis of the urban population’s participation in election campaigns is made referring to a wide range of sources, materials of official statistics, Soviet press, unpublished archival documents kept in Russia’s central and regional archives. An analysis of typical documents of the highest and central Soviet and party bodies (order documents, protocols and resolutions, reports, statements and informational documents) retrieved from the funds of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, All-Russian Central Executive Committee, Central Committee of the Soviet Party as well as sources of personal character (voters’ complaints about election irregularities) enables the author to reconstruct models of electoral behaviour of non-proletarian strata of the population, and the peculiarities of their relations with the authorities during the 1920s. The article introduces previously unstudied materials of the boards of the Politburo and Orgburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks presided by V. M. Molotov (March – July, 1926) which help substantiate the process of political decision-making by the highest party organs as to the non-proletarian strata of the Soviet society in the election process. Additionally, referring to the critical analysis of official statistical data of the first half of the 1920s, the author concludes about the low reliability of data on the number and structure of the urban electorate, which considerably impedes the study of unorganized voters in elections and calls for additional research of the issue. The non-proletarian strata of the population were a numerous and diverse group in the urban electorate of the 1920s, outnumbering the other groups in provincial towns. Aiming for loyal City Soviets (City Councils), they used a number of approaches, e. g. excluded non-proletarian groups from the electorate, increased the number of lishentsy (persons stripped of the right of voting), and introduced differentiated representation norms in favour of workers and Red Army men. Reactions of the non-proletarian public to the political changes varied depending on their background from absenteeism to protesting. The most common forms of protest were refusal to vote for the candidates approved by the authorities, claims of various kinds, and nomination of their own deputies for the Soviets. Though not infrequent per se, such forms of protests were considerably overestimated by the local Soviet and Party representatives, who opposed the expansion of the New Economic Policy and exaggerated the threat coming from the socially alien groups of the Soviet public and their potential seizure of power in the Soviets. Part of the representatives of the non-proletarian population were dissatisfied with the authorities, and the electoral system, but this, however, did not reach the scale of oppositional parties or movements. Open protests were uncommon, with modestly-sized groups of entrepreneurs and craftsmen being relatively united but aiming for integration rather than confrontation with the Soviet political system. The lack of loyalty in city-dwellers during elections was used by the Bolshevik authorities as an important leverage in their fight for the toughening of the political course and the cessation of the New Economic Policy.
Alexopoulos, G. (1997). The Ritual Lament. In Russian History, 24/1–2.
Andreev, V. P. (1990). Rukovodstvo Kommunisticheskoy partiey gorodskimi sovetami RSFSR (1926–1937) [Communist Party’s Management of the Russian SFSR City Soviets (1926–1937)]. 227 p. Tomsk, Izd-vo Tom. un-ta.
Balaban, N. (1926). Novoe v tekhnike vyborov (Opoveshchenie izbirateley putem povestok) [New Techniques in Elections (Notification of Voters through Summons)]. In Vlast′ Sovetov, 1, pp. 2–4.
Chugunov, S. (1925). Kak provodilis′ vybory Sovetov [How Elections of Soviets WereHeld]. In Vlast′ Sovetov, 27, pp. 5–8.
Ergina, N. M. (2011). Sotsial′nyy portret lits, lishennykh izbiratel′nykh prav za svyaz′ s religioznym kul′tom v 1918–1936 gg. na territorii Mordovii [The Social Portrait of Persons Disfranchised because of Their Involvement with the Religious Cult in Mordovia between 1918 and 1936]. In Aktual′nye problemy gumanitarnykh i sotsial′no-ekonomicheskikh nauk, 5, pp. 61– 67.
Fitzpatrick, S. (1993). Ascribing Class: The Construction of Social Identity in Soviet Russia. In Journal of Modern History, 65/4.
Fitzpatrick, S. (1999). Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s. 326 p. Oxford.
Gimpel′son, E. G. (2001). Nep: byla li vozmozhnost′ “vyzhit′”? [The NEP: Was there a Chance to ‘Survive’?]. In NEP v kontekste istoricheskogo razvitiya Rossii XX veka (pp. 39–56). Moscow, Izdatel′skiy tsentr Instituta rossiyskoy istorii RAN.
Gurvich, S. M. & Kokotov, N. A. (Eds.). (1926). Vybory v Sovety RSFSR v 1925–1926 gg. [Elections to the Russian SFSR Soviets between 1925 and 1926]. Part 1. Gorodskie sovety, sel′skie sovety, vols′′ezdy, volispolkomy. Statistichesky sbornik. 256 p. Moscow, Izd-vo NKVD.
Itogi vyborov v Sovety RSFSR v 1929 g. [Soviets Election Results in the Russian SFSR in 1929]. (1930). Iss. II. Vybory v gorodskie sovety. Statisticheskiy sbornik. 153 p. Moscow, Izd-vo “Vlast′ Sovetov”.
Krasil′nikov, S. A., Salamatova, M. S. & Ushakova, S. A. (2010). Korni ili shchepki. Krest′yanskaya sem′ya na spetsposelenii v Zapadnoy Sibiri v 1930-kh – nachale 1950-kh gg. [Roots or Chips. Peasant Family in a Special Settlement in Western Siberia between the 1930s – Early 1950s]. (2nd ed.). 360 p. Moscow, ROSSPEN, Fond Pervogo Prezidenta Rossii B. N. El′tsina.
Lepeshkin, A. I. (1966). Sovety – vlast′ trudyashchikhsya (1917–1936 gg.) [Soviets – The Power of Toiling Masses]. 575 p. Moscow, Yurid. lit-ra.
Marginaly v sotsiume. Marginaly kak sotsium. Sibir’ (1920-e – 1930-e gody) [Marginal People in a Society. Marginal People as a Society. Siberia (1920s – 1930s)]. (2004). 456 p.Novosibirsk, Sibirskiy khronograf.
Na gorodskom uchastke klassovoy bor′by [In the City as a Place for Class Struggle]. (1929). In Vlast′ Sovetov, 14, pp. 10–11.
Ofitserova, N. V. (2014). Apatiya kak zhiznennaya strategiya gorodskogo naseleniya na vyborakh vo vtoroy polovine 1920-kh gg. [Apathy as an Urban Population’s Life Strategy in the Elections of the 2nd Half of the 1920s]. In Vlast′, 5, pp. 145–148.
Pavlyuchenkov, S. A. (2008). “Orden mechenostsev”: partiya i vlast′ posle revolyutsii. 1917–1929 gg. [The Order of the Brothers of the Sword: The Party and Authorities after the Revolution. 1917–1929]. 463 p. Moscow, Sobranie.
Petrishcheva, N. S. (2013). Samaya ser′eznaya politicheskaya kampaniya: istorichesky opyt organizatsii i provedeniya izbiratel′nykh kampany v Kurskoy gubernii vo vtoroy polovine 1920-kh gg. [The Most Serious Political Campaign: The History of Election Campaigns in Kursk Governorate in the 2nd Half of the 1920s]. In Teoriya i praktika obshchestvennogo razvitiya, 11, pp. 330–333.
Serokurova, L. A. (2010). Politiko-pravovye aspekty lisheniya izbiratel′nykh prav grazhdan Krymskoy ASSR v 1920-e gg. [Political and Legal Aspects of Disfranchisement in the Crimean ASSR during the 1920s]. In Vestnik MGU. Ser. “Istoriya”, 1, pp. 76–84.
Sorokin, A. (1929). Rabota s neorganizovannymi izbiratelyami [Work with Unorganized Voters]. In Vlast’ Sovetov, 6, pp. 9–11.
Sukharev, A. A. (2014). Sostav Tyumenskogo gorodskogo Soveta v gody nepa [The Structure of the Tyument City Soviet during the New Economic Policy]. In Kazanskaya nauka, 9, pp. 43–50.
Tyutyunik, M. V. (2009). Fenomen sovetskikh izbiratel′nykh kampany 1921–1924 gg. (opyt Dona i Kubani) [The Phenomenon of Soviet Election Campaigns of 1921–1924]. In Nauka i shkola, 6, pp. 65–69.
Valuev, D. V. (2012). Lishentsy v sisteme sotsial′nykh otnosheniy (1918–1936 gg.) (na materialakh Smolenskoy gubernii i Zapadnoy oblasti) [Lishentsy in the System of Social Relations (1918–1936)]. 155 p. Smolensk, Madzhenta.
Vsesoyuznaya perepis′ naseleniya 1926 goda [The All-Union Census of 1926]. (1928). Vol. 9. 378 p. Moscow, Izdanie TsSU Soyuza SSR.