War, Evacuation, and the Exercise of Power
The Center, Periphery, and Kirov’s Pedagogical Institute, 1941–1952
Lexington Books 2012
Larry Holmes’ book, which first appeared in English in 2012, was released in Russian this year. In War, Evacuation, and the Exercise of Power: The Center, Periphery, and Kirov’s Pedagogical Institute, 1941–1952 (Lexington Books, 2012), Holmes uses the case study of the Pedagogical Institute during the war years to explore power relationships in the institute and between local/ regional power and central power in Moscow. The Pedagogical Institute was forced to evacuate to the small provincial town of Iarnask to make room for the People’s Commissariat of Forest Industry (Narkomles) and workers from the Commissariat of Aviation Industry, which had been evacuated from Moscow, in buildings in Kirov. Coming from Moscow the Commissariats, particularly Narkomles, were given priority in the allocation of resources and the Pedagogical Institution was squeezed out. In a similar manner, evacuated academics, mainly non communist professors from Leningrad and other large cities were also given priority in resource allocation in Iaransk, receiving much higher food rations than the Pedagogical Institutes staff, which primarily consisted of senior teachers, who were party members. Upon returning to Kirov at the end of the war, the Pedagogical institute was met with utter destruction of its property. Narkomles had allowed the heating to freeze clogged and destroyed the sewage system and burned the wood floors for heat. With the blessing and support of the city and regional party and state organizations the Pedagogical Institute campaigned against Narkomles seeking compensation for its destroyed property. While not entirely successful, the Pedagogical Institutes appeals to the central Committee and particularly Kosygin meant that Narkomles had to provide recompense for the destroyed property. Holmes highlights these fault lines that developed within the Pedagogical institution and between different tiers of Soviet power, noting that the business of governance in the USSR was far messier and more complicated that the traditional to down command style model ascribed to the USSR. Regional authorities could successfully challenge central institutions as long as they did not question the system.
Larry and I discuss not just the book but the translation process and the reception of his work in Russia, where his book is very different from the traditional Soviet and Russian triumphalist narratives that focus on the front and citizens pulling together to beat the Nazis. Russian editions of his book are available in hardback in over 20 libraries in Russia including Hertzen Library in Kirov and the Lenin Library in Moscow. Larry is a bit of a Luddite with no website or social media but welcomes comments and questions about his work at his email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Samantha Lomb is an Assistant Professor at Vyatka State University in Kirov, Russia. Her research focuses on daily life, local politics and political participation in the Stalinist 1930s. Her book, Stalin’s Constitution: Soviet Participatory Politics and the Discussion of the Draft 1936 Constitution, is now available online. Her research can be viewed here.