Generation Stalin
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Generation Stalin traces Joseph Stalin's rise as a dominant figure in French political culture from the 1930s through the 1950s. Andrew Sobanet brings to light the crucial role French writers played in building Stalin's cult of personality and in disseminating Stalinist propaganda in the international Communist sphere, including within the USSR. Based on a wide array of sources—literary, cinematic, historical, and archival—Generation Stalin situates in a broad cultural context the work of the most prominent intellectuals affiliated with the French Communist Party, including Goncourt winner Henri Barbusse, Nobel laureate Romain Rolland, renowned poet Paul Eluard, and canonical literary figure Louis Aragon. Generation Stalin arrives at a pivotal moment, with the Stalin cult and elements of Stalinist ideology resurgent in twenty-first-century Russia and authoritarianism on the rise around the world.



1. Henri Barbusse and Stalin's Official Biography

2. Romain Rolland and the Politics of Terror

3. Paul Eluard and Stalin's 70th Birthday

4. Louis Aragon and the Great Patriotic War


Works Cited




Publié par
Date de parution 11 septembre 2018
Nombre de lectures 3
EAN13 9780253038241
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 9 Mo

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This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2018 by Andrew Sobanet
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Cataloging information is available from the Library of Congress.
ISBN 978-0-253-03821-0 (hardback)
ISBN 978-0-253-03822-7 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-253-03825-8 (ebook)
1 2 3 4 5 23 22 21 20 19 18
For Amanda, Audrey, and Mira
1 Henri Barbusse and Stalin s Official Biography
2 Romain Rolland and the Politics of Terror
3 Paul Eluard and Stalin s Seventieth Birthday
4 Louis Aragon and the Great Patriotic War
I could not have completed this book without the support of many family members, friends, and colleagues. This project also benefited from substantial financial support from Georgetown University, in the form of a senior faculty fellowship, two summer academic grants, and competitive grants-in-aid.
I completed a significant portion of the writing and research for this book while serving two terms (2009-15) as chair of the Department of French and Francophone Studies at Georgetown. During that time and after, I received crucial support from Joan Matus, our extraordinary departmental administrator, whose kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity have simply been invaluable to me. I also am deeply grateful to Deborah Lesko Baker for filling in for me as chair on an interim basis, as well as for her leadership and support as my current (and past) department chair. I am very thankful to my former dean, Chester Gillis, for his generous support and mentorship. I would also like to thank my friends and colleagues in the dean s office of Georgetown College, especially Bernie Cook and Sue Lorenson. I am also grateful to Provost Robert Groves, Ali Whitmer, and Cynthia Chance, all of whom supported my sabbatical leave schedule once I completed my terms as chair. Thanks also to John Q. Pierce, Georgetown s eminent registrar, for his kind moral support.
This book benefited from substantial input and helpful readings from a number of my friends and colleagues: Peter Baker, Roger Bensky, Jacques Berlinerblau, James Collins, Sam Di Iorio, Paul Dry, Jean-Max Guieu, Martha Hanna, Amadou Kon , Lawrence D. Kritzman, Susanna Lee, Marcia Morris, Warren Motte, Anne O Neil-Henry, Gerald Prince, Denis Provencher, Kylie Sago, Carole Sargent, Susan Terrio, Alissa Webel, and Paul Young. I am very grateful to each of them for their time, advice, and support. Any errors in the book are my own.
I am also grateful for the valuable feedback I received in the context of various research seminars: the Slavic Studies Seminar (2011) and the War to End All Wars speaker series (2014), both at Georgetown University; the Specters of the Great War conference (2014) and the French Cultural Studies Institute (2015), both at Dartmouth College; and the French Seminar Series at the University of Pennsylvania (2017).
I received assistance from a number of individuals in acquiring and organizing source material for this book. I am grateful to the late Charles Latil, the former president of the Association France-URSS, who generously gave me his own bound copies of the magazine France-URSS , and to Jean-Max Guieu, who put me in touch with him. I am thankful to Igor Vesler, who produced many excellent Russian-to-English translations of archival documents, and to Lillian Clementi, who introduced me to him. I would also like to thank Claude Pennetier, director of the Maitron Dictionnaire biographique du mouvement ouvrier , Mich le Rault at the Fonds Thorez-Vermeersch, Jeannie Bail at Queen Elizabeth II Library of Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Sylvie Figha at the Biblioth que de documentation internationale contemporaine. I am especially grateful to Marion Boulestreau at Cin -Archives and also to the entire image reproduction department at the Biblioth que nationale de France (BNF). Both Cin -Archives and the BNF were extremely helpful as I worked to find high-quality reproductions of archival images. I am also very grateful to my colleagues at Lauinger Library at Georgetown, especially Christine Sawyer and Brenda Bickett, for their assistance in acquiring highly useful source material.
A number of Georgetown students helped me with this project along the way. Special thanks to Nick Albanese and Masha Chilikina-Brown, both of whom helped me navigate and collect material from Russian archives and who, moreover, aided me in selecting which documents to have professionally translated into English. Maximilian Cohen-Casado, Brandon DeLamarter, Emma Doerfler, Sophia Recio, Andrew Tabas, and Robyn Witt also provided helpful research assistance.
I am very thankful to all those at Indiana University Press who helped make this project possible. I am especially grateful to Jennika Baines, who shepherded the manuscript through the review process and also provided very helpful advice as I prepared the text for publication. Kate Schramm provided excellent guidance as I edited the manuscript and searched for high-quality archival images. I am thankful to Carol McGillivray for her help with the copyediting and to Nancy Lightfoot for her sound advice as the project moved through the production process.
I am deeply grateful to friends and family who gave me crucial support along the way: Jim Tipton, Justin Marshall, Lynn Tipton, George O Brien, Jesus Rodriguez, Theodore Fuller, Jessica Sarow, Jackie Shumaker and Mary Harper, Carol and Eric Hansen, Chet Foat and Denise Shumaker Foat, Annette and Douglas Finnegan, and especially Jennifer and Henry R. Sobanet.
The biggest thanks of all go to my wife, Amanda, who supported this book project from beginning to end, and to my daughters, Audrey and Mira, who made the work all the more worthwhile. This book is dedicated to the three of them.
During the time it took to research and write this book, both of my parents passed away-my mother, Diana, in 2011, and my father, Henry, in 2016. The love and support they gave me continue to nourish me every day.

W E ALL, THE PEASANTS OF Grigny, wish a happy birthday and a long life to Generalissimo Stalin, who freed us with his victory. 1 So said an anonymous Frenchman in a 1949 cinematic tribute to Joseph Stalin on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. The mythical image of Stalin as a military genius-the savior of France and of all the peoples of Europe during the Second World War-was at the core of the French Communist Party s belief system in the early Cold War period. The party saw the fatherland ( la patrie ) as guarded under the watchful eye of Stalin, the world s sole bulwark against fascism and imperialism. 2 In the universe of the French Communist Party (PCF), those myths counterbalanced the idea, promoted by Charles de Gaulle, of a French nation in control of its own dramatic and historic destiny. 3 It was to Stalin-not to a unified eternal France supported by admirable allies, as the Gaullist vision would have it-that the French owed their freedom. 4
There is, of course, a grain of truth to the PCF myth of Stalin as the savior of France, as the eastern front was instrumental to the Nazi defeat. Still, the notion that it was Stalin, through his victory, who saved the French fatherland is a distortion representative of prevailing PCF discourse from the Stalinist era. The idea of Stalin as an exceptional military leader-he took the grandiose title of Generalissimo after the Allied victory in 1945-had been integral to the Soviet leader s cult of personality since the late 1920s and early 1930s. 5 It was a politically expedient myth, one that could be mobilized in accordance with shifting currents in world affairs. In late 1949, it served to marginalize the wartime accomplishments of Anglo-American forces at a moment when both the newly signed NATO agreement and the presence of US troops in France were disparaged in the PCF press. Furthermore, that the praise for Stalin s prowess came from the mouth of a French peasant implied that the origins of affection for the Soviet leader were local, deep, and even natural in the French context. It was an idea the poet Paul Eluard promoted by writing the script for the quasi-documentary film in honor of Stalin- L Homme que nous aimons le plus (The man we love the most)-in which those affectionate words were spoken. As Eluard himself stated as the narrator of that same film, Without Stalin s heart, without his intense reason, the wheat would not grow for us today. Those who grow the wheat know this. 6 Indeed, there was a particular form of nationalism, another eternal France distinct from de Gaulle s-rooted in a specific understanding of French culture, French history, and even the French soil-that existed alongside the Stalinist internationalism promoted by the PCF from the mid-1930s through the early 1950s.
Eluard s formulations do not readily mesh with received ideas about the poet, who is conventionally known as one of the most notable names in surrealism. That incomplete understanding of Eluard s career and legacy endures in part because literary historiography and criticism are nearly uni

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