Policing Stalin's Socialism


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Repression and Social Order in the Soviet Union, 1924-1953

David R. Shearer

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Policing Stalin’s Socialism is one of the first books to emphasize the importance of social order repression by Stalin’s Soviet regime in contrast to the traditional emphasis of historians on political repression. Based on extensive examination of new archival materials, David Shearer finds that most repression during the Stalinist dictatorship of the 1930s was against marginal social groups such as petty criminals, deviant youth, sectarians, and the unemployed and unproductive.


It was because Soviet leaders regarded social disorder as more of a danger to the state than political opposition that they instituted a new form of class war to defend themselves against this perceived threat. Despite the combined work of the political and civil police the efforts to cleanse society failed; this failure set the stage for the massive purges that decimated the country in the late 1930s.

David Shearer is Associate Professor of History at the University of Delaware.

“This is a pioneering work that radically revises traditional understandings of Stalin's terror of 1937–38. Based on a meticulous reconstruction of the dynamics and periodization of police campaigns of repression in the 1930s, Shearer demonstrates how social policing in the form of public-order campaigns determined the contour of the terror. State security and public order merged in the hunt for enemies, resulting in the massive social engineering of Soviet society. This is a major new conceptualization based on an unrivaled mastery of the sources.”—Lynne Viola, University of Toronto

‘An original and impressive book, showing in detail the origin and development of the vast state-within-a-state that was Stalin’s policing system.’

"In [this] pioneering book on repression and social order under Stalin, David R. Shearer argues that in prioritizing political repression, most histories have overlooked repression aimed at imposing social order, which was in continuous use since at least the 1920s."--Marc Jansen, Slavic Review
ISBN: 9780300149258
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
536 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
17 b/w in 10-page gallery
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