Text (English) | Audio (Russian)
|Propaganda poster for the 1937 election|
From the early 1930s the Soviet Union's calculated and systematic leadership cult was in full swing. Official ideology proclaimed the achievement of socialism to be at hand and a modification of the political superstructure in the form of expanded socialist democracy was deemed by the party officialdom to be the order of the day. Competetive races were strongly hinted at. Even the Great Stalin would run for office, it was declared. This is not to say that Stalin's race would be anything other than a formulaic pre-ordained vote of confidence, a plan made readily apparent when it was announced that Stalin had been nominated by each of the 3,346 electoral districts as their desired deputy. As Stalin could stand for election in only one precinct, the central Moscow district, already deemed to be the "Stalin Electoral District," was chosen, for reasons which seem apparent.
During the first part of December, the top leaders of the Soviet state had each made their own public speeches in the nation's capital as part of the electoral festivities. On Saturday night, December 11, 1937, it was at last the supreme leader's turn. A "special meeting" was held in the ornate Bolshoi Theater with Nikita Sergeivich Khrushchev, head of the Moscow party organization, serving as chairman. Preliminary speeches of nomination were made by two factory workers, a doctor, a teacher, and a housewife while top party leaders sat in the audience and applauded these modest oratorical efforts by these chosen representatives of the masses.1 Called to the rostrum to speak by Khrushchev, Stalin was met by an extended ovation punctuated by what seems to have been premeditated shouts of adulation. Clad in his trademarked khaki tunic, Stalin delivered a rather sedate and at times folksy 25 minute address to the carefully selected throng of "electors," a speech interrupted some 30 times by applause. The speech was almost certainly broadcast by radio and was recorded and reproduced as a set of five 78 rpm records. The text of this "Speech Delivered at a Meeting of Voters of the Stalin Electoral Area" was quickly published in Moscow in pamphlet form. An English translation soon followed, produced by the main state publishing house under the imprint of the "Co-operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the USSR."
Yet, further publication of the 1937 Election Speech remained extremely sporadic. The speech was not included in any edition of Stalin's selected works, nor in Stalin's collected works.2 Indeed, Stalin's 1937 election speech was only officially published in English by either the Soviet government or the Anglo-American communist movement one other time, as the second part of a Moscow-issued booklet headed by Stalin's 1946 electoral speech. The text of this later edition was expurgated to conveniently omit Stalin's tip of the hat to Nikolai Ezhov, former head of the secret police who was shot as an "enemy of the people" on Feb. 4, 1940, after 300 days of investigative incarceration. Scholars should be advised that it does it necessarily follow that this "misstep" in Stalin's 1937 oration was the cause of the omission of this speech from the definitive 11th Russian Edition of Stalin's selected works in 1939.
Notes prepared by
May 22, 2007
1. Pravda, Dec. 12, 1937, cited in Robert McNeal, Stalin: Man and Ruler. (Washington Square, NY: New York University Press, 1988), pg. 208.
2. Stalin's selected works was variously titled in English as Problems of Leninism, Leninism, and Selected Writings and was based on the 1939 "11th Russian Edition" and reissued numerous times from 1940 through 1954. Stalin's (very incomplete) Sochineniia/Works project was abruptly terminated in Russian in 1952 and in English translation in 1955, halting with volume 13, covering material published through January 1934.