Soviet Mass Culture Propaganda Machine: A Mirror image of Western Media? Part 2 of 3

The Soviet mass culture propaganda machine was filled with images of heroism to motivate the populace during the war and give them great resolve against their enemy. The Soviets relied on stirring rhetoric to burn the zeal for Soviet Russia within the hearts of their citizens. The idea, after all of the revolutions and purges, was to forge a national identity where resentment against the state could be replaced by patriotism against the now common enemy, Germany.

One of the most interesting stories during the period is The Story of a Real Man by Boris Polevoi. The Story is both a narrative of the conflict between the Soviets and the Germans and a testament to the determination of the Soviet fight against their enemy. In the story, a young Soviet pilot is in the air against his German foe; however, he has fallen into an ambush that had been created by other German fighter pilots by sending slower-moving planes in their air to lure away Soviet pilots.[1] The Pilot, Alexei Meresyev, after awhile has realized his mistake and “was so ashamed that he had allowed himself to be tempted by easy prey that he could feel his cheeks burning under his helmet.”[2] At this point, Alexei, being caught in a pincer between German fighters, remembers witnessing the same situation transpire with a German pilot and the humiliation he witnessed with the German pilot’s surrender.[3] Alexei comes to an epiphany, which, of course, is the central message of the story, “Taken prisoner? Never!”[4] Alexie would crash his plane in the Black Forest wounding his feet with limited ability to walk; nonetheless, this state of being was still far superior to surrendering to the Fascists.[5] Alexei would makeshift wrap his feet, “disappointed, but not frightened. It made him push faster…choosing close targets, concentrating his mind upon them” he moved forward.[6]

The story of Alexei Meresyev overall is a perfect example showing the resolve of the Soviet people after the initial Blitzkrieg of the German Reich and culture that resided in the Soviet people that being wounded is a far better state of being than accepting defeat. 

However, after the war the Soviet people would no longer have a present enemy; not unlike what is currently the status of Secular West. The Soviets would have the memory of Germans still burning a zeal in their hearts for Soviet Nationalism as writers attempted fuel this belief—it’s interesting how the memory of the threat of fascism has been transposed on the West after the fall of the Soviet Union.  One writer, Gennady Fish in 1948, would write The Man Who Did the Impossible. It harkened back to the days of the war to illustrate how Materialism in Soviet culture was both superior to others, namely German, and vital to the Soviet war effort.[7] The question that needs to be asked, if there is a lesson to be learned, what is the Secular West trying to juxtapose in its own propaganda machine?

Chaganak Bersiev, a Soviet hero of science, through his actual pseudoscience, would cultivate plants in the manner of Michurin, by nurture not nature.[8] “In 1940, Chaganak got 125 centners of millet per acre from a high-yield plot of 3.25 acres…Seven hundred fifty poods of grain per hectare! That was a world-record millet harvest…To this day nobody under any circumstances has harvested as much grain from a field.”[9] The story would also compare that lands taken by the Germans would be barren and yield no grain.[10]

Mirchurinism would again examine another Scientific saint of Soviet culture, Michurin himself. In fact, in a society that was supposed to be built on pure logic, reason, and science; it’s odd that the Soviets understood the true religious nature of man. In fact, the Soviets were tapping into the second temptation of Christ to persuade the masses with wonders of the world:

6 And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he    hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest        perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [11]

In a story written by V. Lebedev in 1950, schoolchildren would visit Murchurin to see his “garden of wonders.”[12] However, Soviet Culture in post-war is made clear again as Michurin explains prometheism (humanity becoming the new gods) to the children, “Everyone comes here to see miracles, They expect miracles as if I were a wizard. But this is not magic…Everyone can do the same things, maybe even better.”[13] There is no doubt the text is written to reflect the anathema of a pre-materialist word of the church and miracles being compared to the naïve wonder of children wanting miracles. Overall, the war produced saints, heroic soldiers, although their qualities would still breathe the Soviet cause within them; however, after the war, those heroes would be replaced by the hagiography men and women of Science—those who could properly create a materialistic world.

 Is the secular West heading toward the same path? Should we examine the use of such people that are thrust into the public by the media giants? Society needs to be aware that freedom of the press is only a shibboleth of language when media giants are controlled by those of the same ideological principles and not immune to propaganda. In fact, most news is propaganda and appears no different than state-run Soviet publications. The difficulty is that those who have called into the question the specifics of secular American media are silenced with shame tactics and character assassination.

Check out Part One on Soviet ideology known as Prometheanism. 


[1] Boris Polevoi, “The Story of a Real Man,” ed. James von Geldern and  Richard Stites, Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays, and Folklore, 1917-1953 ( Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 417.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 418.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Gennady Fish, “The Man Who Did the Impossible,” ed. James von Geldern and  Richard Stites, Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays, and Folklore, 1917-1953 ( Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 431.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid, 435.

[10] Ibid, 438.

[11] Mt 4:6 DRB

[12] V. Levedev, “Michurin’s Dream,” ed. James von Geldern and  Richard Stites, Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays, and Folklore, 1917-1953 ( Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 453.

[13] Ibid, 455.

7 thoughts on “Soviet Mass Culture Propaganda Machine: A Mirror image of Western Media? Part 2 of 3

  1. The big difference between the Soviets and the US Mainstream Media is that our news elites are not operating under a totalitarian regime. If they did then by assent or fear they could create a similar regime. As it stands now, the Media in the US is nothing more than a cheerleader and mouthpiece for the socialist leaning peoples of this country which, of course, has its largest audience with the Democratic Party and the elites (Hollywood, motion pictures the arts etc.).

    It is, or would be, a more frightening prospect if totalitarianism prevails in the nation and the Constitution is scrapped or redefined in such a way that make them look legitimate. Firearms will have to be confiscated from the people and only the elites could seek employment or privileges offered by State Govt. positions which will be the only ones who will live with the same types of privileges and comforts that most of America enjoys today.

    So yes, they are very much in the mold of the Soviet propagandists but they have only served to divide the nation and if I waged a guess, this will continue and get far worse before it gets better: that is if it gets better. Otherwise, we will be in deep doo doo and we will have to create far many more gulags than the Soviets ever had.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Of course. That is exactly the way the Soviet press operated and all totalitarian regimes in the past operated and assume that is how it will be forever. They choose it because they are believers and hope to be part of the elite hierarchy. If their ideas ever become established, then good luck to them. For if they come to their senses and want to print something different than what the State tells them to print then they will be disappeared.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Nicholas

    I recall Diarmuid McCulloch discussing the use of Orthodox Christianity as a strand of national identity by the state for propaganda purposes during WWII in his “A History of Christianity”, and I saw a little of that during my school days when we studied Russian history.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I studied Russian History, it looked like the evidence was that the Soviets cracked down hard on the Orthodox Church. At times they gave more “freedom” and installed puppet clergy.

      However, I’d say that’s the way the Russian Orthodox are operating now.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Religion in the Soviet Union: What Culture’s Literature Can Explain about its Society. Part 3 of 3 – On the Pilgrim Road

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