The editor of this twelve-essay collection criticizes prior writers on Soviet nonconformism for being journalistic pundits...


DISSENT IN THE U.S.S.R: Politics, Ideologies, and People

The editor of this twelve-essay collection criticizes prior writers on Soviet nonconformism for being journalistic pundits rather than scholars--he promises a structural map of dissenters and their social roots, plus a demonstration that most protesters do not wholly reject the ""system,"" but aim at concessions from it. The individual authors also address themselves to the basic question of why the regime feels compelled to maintain controls, and why the mass of the population apparently possesses no sympathy at all with the dissenters. Frederick C. Barghoom points out that, after Western aid to the counterrevolutionary side in the civil war and the Soviets' World War II isolation and tremendous losses in fighting off the Nazis without a second front, both rulers and ruled are afflicted with what he calls an ""obsession"" with foreign threats as well as a traditional inferiority complex. Other writers occupy themselves with classifying secret and public types of protest; a somewhat uncritical use of sources persists despite the editor's prefatory castigations, but the map is useful for those with a wish to label all groupings, and assign them an ideological tag--it is thought that one third of unauthorized samizdat publications are religious, for example. Naturally the intelligentsia dominate: in protest circles, but Roy Medvedev gives a clearer outline of their alignments in Socialist Democracy (p. 496) than this book provides. A study of ""songs of dissent""--""I see the bronze generalissimo/ Leading the fool's procession""--is followed by some dismal first-hand accounts from George Feifer of the Soviet countercultural ""passive minority,"" which seems to dissent from nothing but thinking. The authors, who also include Howard Biddulph, Walter D. Connor, and Barbara Wolfe Janear, have certainly added to the store of knowledge about Soviet protest mechanisms on the one hand, and nonconformists' tactics on the other hand. The editor refuses to offer a summation of the anthology on the grounds that ""views, however objective and scholarly, tend to become matters of personal ethic and philosophical preference,"" In accordance with this restraint, the book remains relatively sophisticated, extensive, but hesitant and untidy-all grand academic virtues, which however will limit its value for a wider audience.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 1975


Page Count: -

Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1975