Volume 58 Number 1 Abstracts

New Approaches to Old Problems: The Well-Being of the Population of Russia from 1821 to 1910 as Measured by Physical Stature

Boris N. Mironov

This article proposes the use of anthropometric data--here primarily information on the height of male recruits in Russia between 1821 and 1910--to offer a new approach to the question of changes in the economic and social well-being of the population. Using standard statistical techniques and discussing the nature and problems of anthropometric data, the paper suggests a new interpretation of the periodization of the Russian standard of living in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The physical stature of males in Russia increased from 1821 to 1850, then declined from 1851 to 1865--the years leading up to the Great Reforms, and then increased again between 1866 and 1910. An analysis of the factors affecting this improvement suggest that the sources include the growth of production and consumption, changes in family structure, and possibly significant social mobility for the population. Such anthropometric data--albeit in preliminary form here--challenge certain historiographical views, including the idea of a permanent agrarian and social crisis that followed the emancipation of the serfs in 1861.

The Great Leap Upwards: Anthropometric Data and Indicators of Crises and Secular Change in Soviet Welfare Levels, 1880-1960

Stephen G. Wheatcroft

This article explores the nature and problems of Soviet-era data on height in order to examine the uses of anthropometric data for understanding questions of historical change. The article suggests that the Soviet situation combines a trend toward rapid secular improvement in welfare and life expectancy accompanied by massive short-term welfare and mortality crises. Carefully examining the problems and possibilities of statistical data from the Stalin period, Wheatcroft argues that it is not as fundamentally flawed as some scholars suggest, and that it can be used to draw linkages among nutrition, mortality, and height. The trends developed from Soviet data are also compared to worldwide trends. The author concludes that welfare and mortality crises were not the totality of Soviet welfare and demographic experience under Stalin: apart from the crises, there was a rapid secular decline in mortality, a swift transition from relatively short to relatively tall final heights, and from late maturation to early maturation.

Tall Tales: Anthropometric Measures of Well-Being in Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, 1821-1960

Steven L. Hoch

This response to papers by Boris Mironov and Stephen G. Wheatcroft raises a number of methodological problems connected with the use of anthropometric data and questions whether the application of anthropometric methods to available Russian and Soviet data can sustain the conclusions offered by Mironov and Wheatcroft. Hoch cites the undependability of data on final stature, the autonomous role of infectious disease, and the uneven distribution of resources that all complicate interpretations of social welfare based on data on height alone.

On the Biological Standard of Living in Russia and the Soviet Union

John Komlos

Responding to the papers by Boris Mironov and Stephen G. Wheatcroft, this comment places the problems and methods of anthropometric history in a broader European and world context. The insights gained from the anthropometric research program of the last two decades support the argument that the physical stature of a population depended not only on its real income but on its variability and distribution. Thus urban dwellers' height declined in some stages of the industrial revolution while the height (and welfare) of rural populations improved, a finding corroborated by the results presented in Mironov's paper. Komlos interprets the anthropometric data presented by Wheatcroft to argue that the demographic crises of the 1930s were more severe than Wheatcroft acknowledges, and suggests that Soviet welfare measures compare unfavorably with countries of the rest of the world.

Making Sense of the Sensual in Pavel Florenskii's Aesthetics: The Dialectics of Finite Being

Stephen C. Hutchings

Hutchings aims to reconcile Pavel Florenskii's emphasis on the contextual and embodied with his eschatological embrace of final meaning. Even when acknowledging the materially oriented nature of Florenskii's theology, previous accounts have ultimately consigned him to idealism. These accounts derive their understanding of sanctified matter from patristic venerations of Christ's body as a "dwelling place" for divine energy, thus sanctioning a dualism in which spirit assumes precedence over matter. Hutchings argues that Florenskii, however, was influenced by the alternative doctrine of Hypostatic Union according to which Christ serves as the site of a dialectical interaction between human and divine, finite and infinite. This leads Florenskii to a radical redefinition of sensual matter in aesthetic terms; the body's natural mode of being is as creative action directed toward a bounded, resistant world. He thereby furnishes a powerful tool with which to confront the still unchallenged hegemony of rational abstraction in western culture.

The Ambivalence of Authenticity, or How the Moldovan Language Was Made

Charles King

Why do some attempts at nation-building succeed where others fail? In this article, King examines this question through a study of language and cultural policy in a particularly contentious case: the attempt to create a distinct Soviet Moldovan nation in the 1920s and 1930s. The ultimate failure of this radical nation-building project has long been attributed to the "artificiality" of the effort. But the problems of building any national identity from scratch extend far beyond the question of the authenticity of the identity's content. Cultural cadres in the Moldovan republic justified their creation of a new language for the Moldovans on the grounds that the new idiom, based on peasant speech patterns, was more genuine than the French-influenced literary language used in bourgeois Romania. Not only were the cultural reforms ill-planned and haphazardly implemented, however, but the elites who shaped them were also reluctant to adopt a style of speech based on cultural practices they themselves found uncivilized. The limits of an identity's malleability, then, seem to depend more on how seriously elites take the task of cultural construction, rather than the distance between "natural" and "constructed" visions of the nation.

Singing on the Steppes for Stalin: Ivan Pyr'ev and the Kolkhoz Musical in Soviet Cinema

Richard Taylor

In his 1956 Secret Speech, Nikita Khrushchev singled out Soviet filmmakers for their role in supporting Iosif Stalin's personality cult and in varnishing reality through their depiction of Soviet agriculture and life on the kolkhoz. Ivan Pyr'ev's film The Kuban Cossacks has been generally associated with these remarks, and this has prevented a nuanced assessment of Pyr'ev's contribution to Soviet cinema. Taylor attempts to redress the balance by examining, in the context of the doctrine of socialist realism and the demand for a <"cinema for the millions," the development of the kolkhoz musical, a genre that Pyr'ev made his own. Four films are examined in detail: The Wealthy Bride, The Tractor Drivers, The Swineherdess and the Shepherd, and The Kuban Cossacks. Summarizing Pyr'ev's distinctive contribution to Soviet cinema, Taylor concludes that the kolkhoz musical was an act of faith in which audiences were willing to collaborate and that cinema was indeed, in Stalin's words, an illusion that dictated its laws to life itself.

The Rudolf Slansky Affair: New Evidence

Igor Lukes

Through the use of evidence recently found in various archival collections, Lukes exposes the roots of the demotion (September 1951), arrest (November 1951), and execution (December 1952) of Rudolf Slansky, one of the most prominent Stalinists in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Lukes argues that the impetus for a show trial in Prague came from Moscow, whereas the trigger for Slansky's ultimate destruction came from OKAPI, an intelligence organization of Czechoslovak émigré's located at Bensheim, Germany, and operating autonomously under proforma American supervision. The article disproves the central assumption of scholars who have dealt with the topic, namely, that the cause of Slansky's arrest, a letter addressed to him from the west, had been forged by communist intelligence in Prague or Moscow in order to imply Slansky's collusion with the enemy. Newly uncovered evidence allows Lukes to conclude that the letter was part of an authentic effort by OKAPI to facilitate Slansky's escape to the west. The case of Rudolf Slansky represents a Cold War episode in which the competing forces of the east and west worked together in an unintended, yet harmonious manner.