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Média, informations et émotions

The “Soviet Way of Life” as a Way of Feeling

Emotion and Influence on Soviet Central Television in the Brezhnev Era
Le « mode de vie soviétique » en tant que manière de sentir : émotion et influence sur la télévision centrale soviétique sous Brežnev
Christine Evans
p. 543-569

Résumés

Cet article décrit l’émergence du « mode de vie socialiste » en tant que catégorie majeure dans la propagande soviétique à la fin des années 1960 et pendant les années 1970, catégorie qui place au premier plan les qualités émotionnelles et spirituelles, caractéristiques essentielles de la nouvelle personne soviétique et de la civilisation socialiste soviétique à l’ère du « socialisme avancé ». Alors que les recherches récentes mettent l’accent sur l’importance des promesses matérielles faites à la population soviétique à l’époque poststalinienne, le cas de la Télévision centrale suggère la centralité des attraits affectifs et moraux des émissions soviétiques. En regardant la programmation d’« émissions émotion » de la Télévision centrale et Ot vsei duši, le talk show mélodramatique de Valentina Leont´eva, show télévisé le plus représentatif du « mode de vie socialiste » et de l’émotivité de l’ère brejnévienne, l’article démontre comment le contrôle affectif, incluant la création et la préservation d’un climat de bonne humeur chez les téléspectateurs soviétiques, est devenu l’une des stratégies mobilisatrices les plus importantes. Au centre des nouvelles « structures de sentiment » subventionnées par l’État et produites pour ce show et pour d’autres shows télévisés de l’époque brejnévienne (et toujours très présents dans les médias publics contemporains) se trouvaient des rôles féminins fortement genrés, une intense surveillance de l’État, le souvenir de souffrances collectives situées dans un passé héroïque et un nationalisme pan‑slave circonscrit.

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  • 1 Viktor Khelemendik, “Vtoroe otkrytie [A Second revelation],” Zhurnalist, N° 6 (June, 1971) : 16. I (...)

1In June 1971, an article by the young writer and media scholar Viktor Khelemendik described an example of a recent, successful collaboration between Central Television and the Communist Party newspaper, Pravda. On March 8, International Women’s Day, Pravda published an article about an Ivanovo textile worker and 24th Party Congress Delegate, Zoia Pavlovna Pukhova. The article offered a conventional political biography of Pukhova, emphasizing the “sources of her character,” and “the strengthening and development of the glorious traditions of Ivanovo proletarians.”1 That same evening, however, Pravda’s article about Pukhova was reinforced by a television essay focusing on the same heroine’s “spiritual states” as she moved through each aspect of her day :

Excited and solemn during an initiation ceremony for new worker graduates from the technical school ; merry and carefree while cross country skiing ; businesslike, together, and yet somehow elated when she calmly and lightly approaches the factory equipment and, with astonishing beauty and femininity, touches the flowing threads ; satisfied, simply happy in the store when she looks at her factory’s production ; concerned, focused in the factory supervisor’s office, where she has come to solve a problem at work.

  • 2 Ibid., 17. Khelemendik’s account of experiencing a television portrait of a model worker bears a ce (...)

2This array of “moods” and “states” crossing the screen, Khelemendik concluded, “drew out viewers’ sympathy,” enhancing the “analytical power of the printed word with the “emotionality of the aural and visual image.”2

  • 3 On the socialist “way of life” see Alfred B. Evans, Soviet Marxism‑Leninism : The Decline of an Ide (...)
  • 4 Evans, Soviet Marxism‑Leninism : The Decline of an Ideology, 132‑133. On the connection between eth (...)

3Khelemendik’s emphasis on television’s special ability to convey and evoke emotions reflected a broader shift in Soviet propaganda during the late 1960s and 1970s toward emotional and spiritual qualities as the defining feature of both the new Soviet person and of Soviet socialist civilization as a whole. This shift was embodied by the concept of the “socialist way of life,” a term that was central to Soviet ideology and propaganda during the 1970s.3 At the Twenty Fifth Party Congress in 1976, Leonid Brezhnev himself defined the “socialist way of life” primarily in ethical and emotional terms as “an atmosphere of genuine collectivism and comradeship, solidarity, the friendship of all the nations and peoples of our country, which grows stronger from day to day, and moral health which makes us strong and steadfast.”4 Articulated in response to the political disappointments of the late 1960s as well as the economic reversals of the mid‑1970s, the concept of the “socialist way of life” allowed the Soviet Communist Party to refocus its competition with the West not on material conditions and standards of living, but on qualities that were far more difficult to measure directly—morals, values, and emotional, interpersonal, or ethical “atmospheres.”

  • 5 On the political, technological, and aesthetic debates about television in the Soviet Union, see Kr (...)
  • 6 The notion that emotions offered a higher form of evidence than speech about inner states was not, (...)
  • 7 On this problem in the early years of Soviet television, see also Simon Huxtable, “The Problem of P (...)
  • 8 On the anxiety about television technology and its place in the home in the Soviet context, see Rot (...)
  • 9 See for example “Godovoi obzor pisem telezritelei za 1968 g. [Annual survey of television viewers’ (...)
  • 10 See for example, “Stenogramma II otchetno‑vybornoi partiinoi konferentsii goskom SM SSSR po radiove (...)

4Over the course of the 1960s and early 1970s, the “socialist way of life” in the Soviet Union thus came to be defined primarily in terms of emotion—the Soviet way of life became a way of feeling. Within this larger transformation, television played a central role in promoting the affective qualities that, propagandists claimed, defined Soviet life under “developed socialism.” Television took on this role partly in response to a specifically (though not exclusively) televisual problem—the problem of making the nature of the Soviet person and of Soviet life visible (and thus persuasive) to viewers.5 In an environment in which other forms of visual or linguistic evidence were seen as discredited or worn out in the fifty years since 1917, emotions, and the personal ethical qualities and attitudes toward Soviet life they revealed, seemed to offer the most convincing evidence of the superiority of the Soviet “way of life.”6 Yet these feelings, and the beliefs and values they reflected, were problematically locked up and hidden away, inside model people who became awkward when placed before a television camera. (This was a universal problem, but one that was intensified by the Stalinist legacy of fear and the traditionally high stakes of misspeaking on the Soviet airwaves). Moreover, many of the most emotionally rich experiences of Soviet life were now taking place inside new private apartments.7 Television, with its combination of central control and domestic setting, offered an ideal medium for revealing intimate feelings and connecting them with public messages, and, conversely, bringing the Soviet state into private spaces.8 In internal discussions within Central Television and published debates in professional journals, as well as in viewer letters that mirrored this language, “emotionality” [appearing as the desirable qualities of “emotsional´nost´” or “dushevnost´” or the positive adverbs “emotsional´no” and “dushevno”] was understood as a key component of engaging, persuasive television programs.9 At the same time, the most salient negative quality for television programming, as for attitudes toward Soviet life more generally, was not anti‑Soviet sentiment, but “indifference” [ravnodushie].10 The first part of this article documents the multiple, often contradictory, approaches to television’s emotional influence developed by Central Television staff and their audience from the late 1960s onward.

  • 11 See for example excerpts from viewer letters in “Obzor pisem telezritelei za 1972 g. [Survey of tel (...)
  • 12 On Leont´eva’s emotional persona as an example of model late Soviet subjectivity, see Huxtable, “Th (...)
  • 13 Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (New York : Oxford University Press, 1977), 132‑134. Thank (...)

5The second part examines the show that most exemplified Central Television’s new focus on emotion from the 1970s : a melodramatic talk show called Ot vsei dushi [With All my Heart], hosted by the legendary female Central Television hostess, Valentina Leont´eva. First aired in the summer of 1972, Ot vsei dushi was powerfully associated, both in internal discussions and in viewer letters, with both “emotionality” [emotsional´nost´] and with portraying the “Soviet way of life.”11 The show’s central purpose was to evoke emotions, on screen and among viewers, and, most crucially, link those emotions with state myths and goals, relying heavily on Leont´eva’s own highly emotional performance, a festive atmosphere that linked individual lives and life‑cycle rituals to the state, and close scrutiny of featured people and communities.12 By examining Ot vsei dushi, as well as the discourse surrounding its production and reception, we can see the emergence of a new, still fluid, set of social experiences and styles in the late 1960s and 70s—what the literary and cultural critic Raymond Williams called “structures of feeling”—that have remained quite central in contemporary Russian media culture.13

The sources of the “socialist way of life”

  • 14 Evans, Soviet Marxism‑Leninism : The Decline of an Ideology, 141‑143.
  • 15 Ibid., 141. However, Tony Shaw and Denise Youngblood identify an era of what they call “positive le (...)
  • 16 The GDR show Gumbert describes, entitled With Open Hearts, seems so close in format to Ot vsei dush (...)
  • 17 Bren, The Greengrocer and his TV, 207.

6The development of the concept of a “socialist way of life” whose chief distinguishing features were affective and moral took place in the specific circumstances of the late 1960s and 1970s. As Alfred B. Evans has argued, Brezhnev’s official endorsement of the concept in 1976 came several years after the declaration that “developed socialism” had been realized and shortly after the poor harvest and shortfalls in the production of consumer goods of 1975.14 However, Soviet ideologists, ritual specialists, and journalists had begun to develop the concept from the late 1960s onward.15 There were many precedents elsewhere in the Eastern bloc as well. As Heather Gumbert has shown, from the early 1960s GDR television was creating shows designed to “emotionalize” the GDR, offering viewers a “socialist ‘dreamworld’” that was defined by both material rewards for subordination to Party authority and by a more abstract appreciation of regular people who fulfilled their duty and built warm interpersonal relationships under German socialism.16 Paulina Bren, in turn, has documented how the concept emerged on Czechoslovak television after 1968, as part of a “normalization” that was based not on “capitalist‑style consumerism” but on “the means to pursue a more qualitative socialist lifestyle,” predicated on “self‑realization.”17

  • 18 Victoria Smolkin‑Rothrock, “Ticket to the Soviet Soul : Science, Religion and the Spiritual Crisis (...)
  • 19 Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 18‑19. For an engaging account of one aspect of the French response, se (...)
  • 20 Bren, The Greengrocer and his TV, 148‑149. For a critique of an oversimplified distinction between (...)

7As Gumbert and Bren both argue, the “socialist way of life” thus offered socialist countries a way to redefine competition with the West away from the less promising arena of consumer lifestyles. But the “socialist way of life” also had at least two other related dimensions. The first was the growing recognition of the need for a secular form of Soviet spirituality that could offer a meaningful alternative to religious belief and reinvigorate increasingly hollow public ceremonies.18 At the same time, the articulation of a “socialist way of life” suggests that Soviet Cold War culture shared many features with Western European reactions to capitalist modernity and its close cousin, Americanization. In Western Europe too, state‑owned television services were a key battleground for preserving and defending old, inherited “ways of life” against the onslaught of global, Americanizing modernity.19 At the same time, as Paulina Bren argues, by shifting the political into the (ostensibly) private sphere of personal relationships, interpersonal ethics, and emotion, the “socialist way of life” was part of a broader shift, embracing the United States as well, toward the privatization of politics during the 1970s and 1980s.20

  • 21 Matthew Lenoe, Closer to the Masses : Stalinist Culture, Social Revolution, and Soviet Newspapers ( (...)
  • 22 Peter Holquist, “‘Information Is the Alpha and Omega of Our Work’ : Bolshevik Surveillance in Its P (...)
  • 23 I take this definition of “mood” from Jonathan Flatley, Affective Mapping : Melancholia and the Pol (...)
  • 24 Jonathan Flatley, “How a Revolutionary Countermood is Made,” New Literary History, 43 (2012) : 503‑ (...)
  • 25 Rolf, Soviet Mass Festivals, 45.
  • 26 Karen Petrone, Life has Become More Joyous, Comrades : Celebrations in the Time of Stalin (Blooming (...)

8The emergence of emotion at the center of Soviet ideology in the late 1960s and 1970s likewise represented a change in degree, not a radical break from early Soviet theories of political and aesthetic influence. Emotion and mood had always occupied an important place in Soviet approaches to mass media and persuasion. Matthew Lenoe has described Lenin’s familiar distinction, in early Soviet practice, between “propaganda,” which aimed to educate and persuade via reasoned argumentation, and “agitation,” which sought to mobilize via emotion.21 Mood [nastroenie] was also a very important concept for the Soviet state from the Civil War years onward. As Peter Holquist has demonstrated, popular “mood” was an important object of surveillance from 1917, not with the aim of learning about and responding to popular opinion, but of transforming and reshaping Soviet citizens into new Soviet men.22 Moods mattered because moods serve as interpretive lenses, “shared, affective atmospheres,” via which Soviet people “interpreted and responded to their world.”23 Instilling the proper mood among Soviet people, using the mass media, was thus essential to the larger project of building communism and the new Soviet man. Lenin wrote, for example, of creating a “revolutionary mood” among workers via underground newspapers.24 Stalin also attributed great importance to “mood” as a political variable and objective.25 His famous 1935 speech, proclaiming that “life has become better, comrades, life has become happier,” immediately went on to explain that, when people are happy, work also proceeded more quickly. The wide‑reaching media campaign that followed to disseminate this idea likewise sought to promote a popular mood of optimism and joy intended to facilitate greater economic productivity and the construction of socialism.26

  • 27 On postwar emotions, see Catherine Merridale, Night of Stone : Death and Memory in Twentieth-Centur (...)
  • 28 For the classic account of postwar materialism, see Vera Dunham, In Stalin’s Time : Middleclass Val (...)
  • 29 See Polly Jones, “Breaking the Silence : Iurii Bondarev’s Quietness between the ‘Sincerity’ and ‘Ci (...)

9The Second World War and the political and cultural “thaw” after Stalin’s death substantially altered the circumstances in which this inherited understanding of the role of media in reshaping moods was applied. Post‑war Soviet culture increasingly offered space for private emotions and relationships, recognizing the experience of grief and loss following the death and disruptions of Terror and War, and acknowledging that private feelings and experiences could differ from those of the group.27 The war likewise helped legitimize popular demands for increased leisure time and pleasure‑giving cultural products with which to fill it.28 At the same time, artists and writers sought a new culture that could revitalize the revolutionary project and undo the distortions of Stalinism. This new culture was to be characterized by qualities like sincerity and honesty that invoked the ostensibly greater authenticity of emotion relative to speech or thought.29

  • 30 Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 223‑261 ; Zubok, Zhivago’s Children, 140‑149 ; see also Thomas Wolfe, G (...)
  • 31 Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 185, 201. See also Kirsten Bönker, “‘Dear television workers…’ : TV con (...)

10As Kristin Roth‑Ey and Vladislav Zubok have demonstrated, Central Television was deeply involved in the search, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, for cultural sincerity, immediacy, and transparency.30 As Roth‑Ey points out, however, many viewers also understood television primarily as a source of pleasure‑giving entertainment in the home.31 In response to these two, potentially rival interpretations of television’s main task, Central Television developed two, partially contradictory, approaches to viewer emotions. Both of these approaches proposed to act on viewers’ emotions and alter their moods in order to mobilize them, but via different, potentially contradictory pathways—either by generating pleasure that was intended to increase work productivity indirectly, or by modeling and evoking specific emotions meant to link viewers affectively to both a shared past and a compelling present.

Television’s two pathways to emotional influence : the good mood and the TV portrait

  • 32 As Roth‑Ey has argued, Soviet cultural and political authorities were quite uncomfortable the idea (...)
  • 33 Gosudarstvennogo Komiteta SM SSSR po televideniiu i radioveshchaniiu, Partkom [State Committee of t (...)
  • 34 Gosudarstvennogo Komiteta SM SSSR po televideniiu i radioveshchaniiu, Partkom, “Stenogramma IX otch (...)

11The first of these two approaches, evident from the mid‑1950s at least and becoming very widespread within Central Television by the early 1970s, focused on the creation of a vaguely defined “good mood” [khoroshoe nastroenie] among viewers, a mood that was closely linked, in Central Television’s internal documents, not with the goal of pacifying viewers, but with the goal of increasing individuals’ economic productivity. The chief means for creating good moods was, naturally, the provision of pleasure‑giving entertainment during leisure time.32 This objective was not, however, limited to programs produced by the most entertainment‑focused programming desks, such as the literary and dramatic programs desk or the musical programs desk. Instead, as one 1972 statement by Central Television’s Communist Party aktiv suggested, every Central Television program, regardless of genre, should be designed to “strengthen the positive working and moral atmosphere that has developed in our country, [and] reinforce the mood of cheer, optimism, and energy and, at the same time, contribute to positive leisure for Soviet people.”33 Conversely, as Viktor Turbin, chief director of Central Television’s literary‑dramatic program desk, noted “whatever correct thoughts [a program] contains, if it is boring to listen and watch, that means it is turned off… in just half an hour we can ruin the mood of a good half the Soviet Union, i.e. tens of millions of people.”34

  • 35 As Ellen Mickiewicz has documented, letter writers belonged to the Communist Party in far higher pe (...)
  • 36 For more on “emotion talk” see Peter Heelas, “Emotion Talk across Cultures,” in R. Harre, ed., The (...)

12This discourse of good mood creation was widely adopted by viewers who wrote in to Central Television following the broadcast of popular entertainment programs. These viewers, typically older and more politically active than the Soviet television audience as a whole, indicated their support for this equation between television pleasure and workplace productivity, confirming that shows they had enjoyed had created a “good mood” that would last, they sometimes stressed, into the following work day.35 This kind of “emotion talk” spread widely because it perfectly suited viewers who wished to use their television sets primarily for pleasure and leisure.36 The undefined contents of the “good mood” produced made it possible for any enjoyable show to be presented as contributing to serious political and economic objectives. For those more politically active viewers who wrote in to Central Television, “good moods” were very much about entertainment genres, including musical programs, game shows, and serial films.

  • 37 On emotion and the problem of personality on Soviet television in the 1950s and 60s, see Huxtable, (...)
  • 38 For this in early debates about television, see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 236‑245. On the rehabil (...)

13Central Television’s second major form of “emotion talk” developed among producers of news and documentary programs, and was more complicated and problematic. Emerging during the late 1950s and early 60s, it proposed influencing viewers emotionally in a specific, directed way, by exposing the nature of Soviet people and reality. This process of revelation was to provide evidence of the transformation of Soviet life since 1917 and of the superiority of that life relative to life in the West.37 Central to this set of discussions was the belief that television could offer viewers penetrating “new vision” [novoe zrenie], a term that echoed the ambitions of the revolutionary avant‑garde.38 Television’s penetrating gaze would make visible the revolutionary qualities of Soviet life and exceptional Soviet people, a group that was defined, from the late 1950s, more broadly than during the Stalin cult, and included the artistic and journalistic intelligentsia as well as model workers and collective farmers.

  • 39 Vladimir Sappak, Televidenie i my : chetyre besedy [Television and us : four conversations] (M. : I (...)
  • 40 Subsequent critics noted that Sappak’s account of television’s power in fact depended on Sappak’s o (...)

14In the extreme version of this view, articulated by the theater critic Vladimir Sappak in the late 1950s, the television camera made this kind of visual penetration possible almost without recourse to mediation by the cameraman—no editing, no scripting, simply the transmission of “living life” [zhivaia zhizn´]—a term Sappak borrowed from Dziga Vertov.39 Reflecting the heightened revolutionary expectations of the late 1950s and early 1960s (especially among Central Television’s “optimists” and “enthusiasts”), and modeling his imagined viewers’ responses on his own genuinely elated encounter with early Soviet television, Sappak expected viewers’ emotions to follow naturally from this nearly unmediated encounter between televised “reality” and viewer, with very little guidance needed from television producers themselves.40 But Sappak’s confidence about the ease with which Central Television’s documentary and news programs could produce appropriate and powerful emotional responses from viewers quickly proved unwarranted. In practice, Central Television staff, especially those who performed on camera as journalists, quickly realized that moving viewers emotionally required an enormous amount of talent, training, and skill on the part of on‑camera staff. Despite their political and aesthetic ambitions, Central Television’s news and documentary programs were often boring, static, and formulaic, as Central Television staff and Party officials noted with growing concern by the mid‑1960s.

  • 41 “Stenogramma II otchetno‑vybornoi partiinoi konferentsii goskom SM SSSR po radioveshchaniiu i telev (...)
  • 42 Comments by Nikolai Biriukov, “Stenogramma zasedanii televizionnoi sektsii vsesoiuznogo soveshchani (...)

15As optimism about Soviet achievements relative to the West faded, the problem of these boring, formulaic news and documentary programs emerged especially starkly. By the second half of the 1960s, Central Television’s journalists and Party leadership began to speak about the need for television “counterpropaganda,” that would reach across genres and include not only Soviet accomplishments and the presentation of “our wonderful people” but also “our way of life” presented “passionately.”41 The Soviet “way of life,” in turn, was understood primarily as something best captured through the portrayal of Soviet people, albeit not statically, but, as one speaker put it at a conference on the problems of radio and television news, “in motion,” not as a “chain of frozen portraits,” but a “live reflection of our work [nashikh del] and the people who accomplish it.”42

  • 43 Of course, this emphasis on the person as the chief subject of art extends back to the 19th century (...)
  • 44 On the encounter between television staff, enthusiast rhetoric about liveness, and the limitations (...)
  • 45 See Huxtable, “The Problem of Personality.” This problem was not at all exclusive to Soviet televis (...)

16This emphasis on portraiture in television’s propaganda of the Soviet “way of life” placed television in a long tradition of Soviet arts that focused on the representation of the “new Soviet person,” visually or in literature.43 But by the late 1960s, the perceived great need for, and the difficulty of creating, successful television portraits also had other causes. The first was the criticism, since the Thaw, of verbal and visual clichés of Stalin‑era culture—shtamp language and imagery of Soviet workplaces. Portraits were understood to be more interesting and persuasive than familiar, worn‑out images of combines in the field and machines on the factory floor. People, interviewed in a studio, were also a far less risky subject than “living life” and the unpredictable broadcast of street scenes and crowds, which, as Roth‑Ey has shown, offered too much risk and very little reward to television staff.44 Shots of Soviet everyday life lacked adequate ideological content and compared poorly, in terms of the material conditions they revealed, with images of life in the West, which were increasingly available on Soviet television and movie screens in the late 1960s. Yet television portraits of model people posed serious problems of their own, the most significant of which was that many otherwise admirable workers and farmers looked and sounded—at least to their intelligentsia interlocutors at Central Television—awkward, reticent, and ineloquent on screen.45

“Today, a boring program… is a defective product” : emotion as solution to boredom

17A series of articles and speeches in the late 1960s and early 1970s thus described a crisis : the most convincing evidence for the superiority of Soviet life was to be found in Soviet people themselves, but this evidence was extraordinarily difficult to convey visually—the superiority of Soviet life was effectively hidden inside people whose appearance on screen was less than impressive—at least from the perspective of Central Television’s urban, educated staff—even as Soviet viewers gained greater access to foreign radio broadcasts. As Viktor Turbin, the Chief Editor of literary‑dramatic programs, put it in a 1974 Gosteleradio Party conference,

  • 46 “Stenogramma IX otchetno‑vyborochnoi partiinoi konferentsii [Transcript of the 9th general party co (...)

Our viewer is now flooded with a powerful stream of information, as the expression now goes, the airwaves are open above him [nad nim otkryt efir]. In order to direct his thinking in the needed direction, we need to touch his heart. And in order to touch his heart, we need each program to be emotionally infectious [emotsional´no zarazitel´na]. Every one. Take the example of news. The simplest kind of news program : a person on camera or an interview. It can be infectious, or it can be boring…Today, a boring program… is a defective product.”46

  • 47 Roth‑Ey has made the crucial point that, by the early 1960s, Central Television staff had put their (...)

18This crisis was intensified by the fact that, from the late 1960s onward, Central Television’s onscreen staff came under increasing pressure to feature non‑elites on camera, rather than relying on their eloquent and camera‑ready friends from the Moscow artistic intelligentsia, as had been their frequent habit during the 1960s.47 Sergei Lapin, the new Chair of the State Committee for Television and Radio‑Broadcasting starting in April 1970, urged Central Television staff to return to a time when

  • 48 “Doklad i stenogrammy vystuplenii v preniiakh na sobranii partiinogo aktiva ob itogakh iiul´skogo ( (...)

even the leading actors of the country could envy the fame of [a working class hero like] Pasha Angelina or Mariia Demchenko… Our press and radio at some point lost the ability to create fame for the best people of the country, the true heroes, those who create material wealth, those who feed, dress, shoe, and arm the country.48

  • 49 See for example, “Stenogrammy zasedaniia sektsii telereportazha vsesoiuznogo tvorcheskogo soveshcha (...)
  • 50 Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 267‑268.
  • 51 “Stenogramma zasedanii televizionnoi sektsii vsesoiuznogo soveshchaniia po problemam radio i telein (...)
  • 52 Elena Gal´perina, “Iskusstvo emotsional´nogo obnazheniia mysli [The art of revealing thought throug (...)

19Television staff had also come under increasing criticism, in the second half of the 1960s, for relying too heavily on an earlier solution they had come up with for the problem of boring television portraits and reports : substituting their own model personalities for those of reticent interview subjects. Since the late 1950s, television staff had taken the problem of boring and static programming as a question of professional development, emphasizing, in seminars and conferences throughout the 1960s, how on‑camera personnel could successfully engage and persuade viewers via their own highly personal and emotional performance.49 The ability to provide this kind of personality‑based performance was central to the emerging distinction Roth‑Ey has documented, by the mid 1960s, between the predominantly female diktory (newsreaders and program announcers) and the predominantly male vedushchie, program hosts whose masculine authority and experience permitted them to speak in their own words and play a more interpretive role.50 In 1966, at another professional conference on the “problems of radio and television news,” Nikolai Biriukov, the chief editor of Central Television’s news desk, argued that the vedushchii, unlike the humble diktor, “expands the boundaries of the written text, brings to the broadcast his own emotional relationship [emphasis added], his own view, his own understanding of things.”51 Elena Galperina, an influential editor in the Youth Desk, characterized the ideal television personality as having the minimum possible “neutrality [and] indifference” and maximum “party‑mindedness,” which she defined not in terms of “knowledge” but rather as a highly emotional “relationship to everything socially significant.”52 Still, although reliance on a professional vedushchii’s emotional performance would remain a central part of Central Television’s solution to the problem of boring news and documentary programs, by the end of the decade, it was no longer sufficient on its own.

20The need to feature people who lacked fluency on television generated a flurry of suggestions about the ways in which television might warm up these challenging new guests. While some commentators suggested that television hosts improve their skills as interlocutors or meet with guests in advance of filming, there were more radical proposals. “What can we do,” one Central Television journalist asked,

  • 53 L. Dmitriev, “Dokumental´noe iskusstvo. IV. Chelovek televideniia [Documentary art. IV. The person (...)
  • 54 Ibid., l. 19‑20. An article by Sergei Muratov, one of the creators of KVN, suggests that hidden cam (...)

so that we don’t create a fearful mood, interfere with [the process of] self‑revelation, drown out the hero with all of our turmoil and rumpus, the frightening eyes of the television camera… wouldn’t it be most logical to change this setting ?53
Let’s hide all the microphones, he proposed, …let there be a comfortable and cozy room, where behind the walls cameras will be hidden… let there be no blinding lights… and let the person who finds himself in this “studio” not know that at least three lenses are following his every move, that his words are being captured by sensitive microphones.54

  • 55 On the importance of a tiny elite audience in shaping Soviet television, see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime (...)

21What exactly was to be revealed by this process of self‑revelation, enabled by intense surveillance, and how would it be communicated to viewers by television ? Once again, emotion offered a way to communicate with viewers and to describe desired viewer responses. Television, critics and journalists argued, should transform viewers via a personal, emotional, even spiritual revelation. How precisely this process of revelation worked was not clearly theorized, often relying on metaphors, as in Turbin’s reference to emotional “infectiousness,” that naturalized or otherwise obscured the process of emotional influence or transmission. This lack of interest in the concrete pathways of emotional influence on viewers reflected the confidence of Ot vsei dushi’s producers that they could evaluate their own programs objectively, particularly given the positive feedback they received from a small set of loyal, older viewers and from Gosteleradio’s leadership.55 Nonetheless, creating emotional “infectiousness” certainly required programming that put emotional narratives and performances at center stage.

22It was in this context that, in 1972, Central Television’s Youth Desk created Ot vsei dushi. In press coverage surrounding the program’s earliest broadcasts, in viewer letters, and in Leont´eva’s own writings and statements, Ot vsei dushi was powerfully associated with the promotion of the “Soviet way of life” and with evoking emotions. As one Comrade Karpoukhov from Kiev put it after the show’s second broadcast from the village of Timanovki in Ukraine

  • 56 “Obzor pisem telezritelei za 1972 g. [Survey of television viewers’ letters for 1972],” GARF, f. 69 (...)

I cannot find the words to adequately describe the strength of this show’s emotional impact. You proved, vividly [nagliadno] and convincingly, that the most valuable capital in our country is people and their deeds [chelovek i ego delo].56

  • 57 See for example Lapin’s comments on working class heroes in “Doklad i stenogrammy vystuplenii v pre (...)
  • 58 On Central Television as “court tv” and the Lapin era , see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 211‑222.

23At the same time, Ot vsei dushi offered a response to pressure from above to feature more workers and collective farmers, signaling that the Youth Desk was moving in a more conservative direction after the decline and eventual cancellation of the student sketch comedy program, KVN.57 With Leont´eva as its talented hostess, beloved by older viewers and Party leaders alike, affectively and emotionally rich, but ideologically orthodox, Ot vsei dushi was an enormous success with its most important audience, Central Television’s Party leadership and members of the Central Committee. The show enjoyed enormous resources, even by the standards of Lapin’s well‑funded era.58

Ot vsei dushi : a Soviet “talk show” ?

  • 59 Stephen Hutchings and Natalya Rulyova, Television and Culture in Putin’s Russia : Remote Control, B (...)
  • 60 Bernard Timberg, Television Talk : A History of the Television Talk Show (Austin : University of Te (...)
  • 61 Ibid., 3‑4.
  • 62 Jane M. Shattuc, The Talking Cure : TV Talk Shows and Women (New York : Routledge, 1997), 3‑9.
  • 63 While some variety and social‑political programs, such as Little Blue Flame (Goluboi ogonek) or Ser (...)
  • 64 See for example Kathleen S. Lowney, Baring Our Souls : TV Talk Shows and the Religion of Recovery, (...)

24Central to Ot vsei dushi’s approach was its talk‑focused format, which closely resembled what is known in the United States and on post‑Soviet Russian television, as a “talk show” [tok shou]. Television talk shows are everywhere a fluid, mutable genre, ideally suited to mediating between public and private.59 As Bernard Timberg has pointed out, the broadest definition of the genre includes any show that is “entirely structured around the act of conversation.”60 These shows also typically feature a powerful, charismatic host who controls both the conversations that constitute the show and the show’s production and promotion.61 In the U.S. context, the term “talk show” most frequently evokes another, more specific sub‑genre of talk television, what Jane Shattuc calls the “issue‑oriented daytime talk show,” which engages its audience as participants and imagines that audience as predominantly female.62 Ot vsei dushi, with its participatory studio audience and foregrounding of female voices and intimate relationships, was arguably the only Central Television program that had any connection to this second, feminized sub‑genre of talk show.63 Ot vsei dushi’s focus on bringing about a personal transformation in its viewers also connected the show closely to US talk shows, which, as scholars have noted, draw on popular evangelical traditions, particularly the conversion narrative.64

  • 65 The administrative and economic organization of its production were, of course, very different from (...)
  • 66 Valerie A. Kivelson and Joan Neuberger, Picturing Russia : Explorations in Visual Culture (New Have (...)

25Although Ot vsei dushi resembled talk formats in the capitalist world, it also differed from them in important ways.65 Ot vsei dushi’s broadcasts were not organized around conflict or controversial issues, unlike its contemporary American counterparts. On Ot vsei dushi all suffering and conflict were removed to the (heroic) past. While talk shows were typically broadcast every day or at least weekly and in the daytime in the United States, Ot vsei dushi was broadcast infrequently, approximately once a month, in a prime evening slot. This schedule reflected both the show’s status as a special occasion, and, more broadly, Soviet television’s lack of a significant ideological or practical interest in influencing women working in the home. Ot vsei dushi’s producers aimed to attract an audience that was both male and female. Although the pleasures of consumption were occasionally promoted on the show, this was only one focus of the program, and was not present in every broadcast. Also distinctive on the show was the prominent role of the Soviet state in rewarding individual citizens and facilitating communal ties. Furthermore, talk shows in the U.S. often focused on the conversion of the shows’ participants, through therapy or the disciplining of working class people by middle class experts. On Ot vsei dushi everyone who was selected for presentation to the audience was, in effect, already a saint. Revelation and conversion were thus essential to the show, but intended to primarily affect the audience, both in the hall and at home. In this, the show reflected what Val Kivelson and Joan Neuberger have identified as a recurring motif in Russian culture, using “the experience of viewing as an engine of historical or eschatological transformation.”66

  • 67 On the need for a transnational approach to the study of socialist television, see Timothy Havens, (...)
  • 68 Cited in Lofton, Oprah : Gospel of an Icon, 4.
  • 69 Aniko Imre argues that the broader genre of “reality television” was created first by socialist tel (...)
  • 70 On the distinctiveness of the post‑Soviet tok shou, see Hutchings and Rulyova, Television and Cultu (...)
  • 71 Ibid., 94.

26We should, therefore, see this exceptional, Soviet television talk show as the product of both broader, transnational trends and specific, national cultural and political processes.67 Soviet television genres did not develop in isolation (from the West or from other socialist countries in Eastern Europe), nor is the post‑Soviet colonization of the Russian screen by imitations of Western talk genres the only possible story. In the mid‑1990s, Oprah Winfrey reoriented her eponymous talk show to, in her words, “use television to transform people’s lives, to make viewers see themselves differently, and to bring happiness and a sense of fulfillment into every home.”68 As a feminized, melodramatic talk show that aimed to uplift viewers and transform their lives via emotional narratives, Ot vsei dushi in fact preceded and foreshadowed these changes in The Oprah Winfrey Show.69 The post‑Soviet tok shou offers a similarly complex story about both transnational influence and continuity with socialist television.70 Ot vsei dushi was an important precedent for the explosion, after 1991, of talk and reality shows on post‑Soviet television, including shows that likewise feature highly emotional stories of past sacrifice and suffering, and build a national community by “linking past with present and centre with periphery.”71

Evoking emotions on Ot vsei dushi : festivity, femininity, and surveillance

27As the most prominent example of Central Television’s affective turn in the 1970s, Ot vsei dushi helps us see how Central Television’s producers tried to solve the problem outlined above that a “socialist way of life” defined by the ethical and emotional qualities of regular people was enormously difficult to convey televisually. In the show’s efforts to convey and evoke emotions, three strategies emerged especially clearly : first, an emphasis on festivity and rituals ; second, a focus on women and their feminine, affective labor ; and third, the use of television cameras and other means of surveillance to expose and, in turn, elicit emotional reactions.

  • 72 Ot vsei dushi. Kaluzhskie vstrechi [From the bottom of my heart. Meetings in Kaluga] (1975). Viewed (...)

28Ot vsei dushi was expressly created as a new form of festivity that could be replicated beyond the television screen by local communities—this was already an established practice with other popular shows, and the show’s organizers received and responded to requests for help in replicating the program’s format in their town, factory, or collective farm. The show was easy to reproduce on the stage of any local house of culture, because the television program itself was always set on such stages. Filmed in a different village or town for each broadcast, Ot vsei dushi was a community celebration in which Leont´eva described the personalities, travails, and accomplishments of individuals and groups, emphasizing communal ties and generous acts that bound the participants together. The show’s festive atmosphere was signaled not only by the gathering of the community together in an auditorium, but by the lavish resources the show enjoyed and displayed—funding for travel and months of local interviews and research for each broadcast, as much as two hours of choice air time on Central Television, and the distribution of fabulous prizes to participants, from new tractors to new apartments (something that was generally not permitted on other programs that lacked Ot vsei dushi’s directly political messages and working class, provincial subjects). Like a religious service, the show also frequently employed sentimental music and imagery—pastoral scenes, close‑ups of flickering candles—to create an intimate, emotional atmosphere.72

  • 73 Rolf, Soviet Mass Festivals, 3. For more on Soviet rituals in the post‑Stalin era, see Victoria Smo (...)
  • 74 For more on the connections between television and festivity, see Christine Evans, Between Truth an (...)
  • 75 Rolf, Soviet Mass Festivals, 192‑193.
  • 76 Ibid., 192.

29These aspects of Ot vsei dushi reflect the central role television played in the late Soviet festive system. As Malte Rolf has noted, the Soviet Union was not only a “propaganda state” but also a “staging dictatorship,” which, from 1917, staged festivities in order “not only to spread ideas but to make them become a reality.”73 Connecting their work to that of the post‑revolutionary avant‑garde, Central Television’s enthusiasts in the late 1950s saw their new technology as an ideal means for bringing a new, post‑Stalin order, characterized by sincerity and spontaneous popular participation, into being through mass festivity. Television’s special contribution to the existing system of Soviet holidays was its ability to bridge the growing division between public and private domestic spaces, providing a tangible connection between intimate festivities in the home and public celebrations in Red Square and elsewhere on major state holidays.74 This was especially important by the late Soviet period, when, as Rolf has argued, celebrations were intended to hold Soviet society together “in a system that was threatening to fall apart at a time when, even in the eyes of propagandists, ideology had begun to lose its capacity to integrate.”75 Even more important, therefore, than its high‑stakes live broadcasts of parades in Red Square, was Central Television’s additional holiday programming that intentionally downplayed explicit references to state ideology and instead sought to make the Soviet way of life “into something that could be experienced.”76

  • 77 Smolkin‑Rothrock, “Ticket to the Soviet Soul : Science, Religion and the Spiritual Crisis of Late S (...)
  • 78 Rolf, Soviet Mass Festivals, 190.

30Although Central Television’s producers had abandoned explicit ideological messages in most holiday programming in this period, Ot vsei dushi’s broadcasts of the 1970s and 80s suggest that Central Television’s producers and leadership were not content to understand the Soviet way of life solely in terms of the creation of a vague “good mood” that did not include a specific affective politics—a “passionate” relationship to Soviet reality and its political and ideological underpinnings. Central Television was thus part of a broader search, uniting ritual specialists, propagandists, and media producers, for a meaningful way to link deeply personal feelings and experiences with the Soviet system that ostensibly had made them possible. In the process, as Victoria Smolkin‑Rothrock has argued, the Soviet state and Communist ideology in the Brezhnev era came “to be discussed in spiritual terms.”77 Central Television thus actively sought to address the problem of the hollowing out of public festive occasions and their replacement by a festive culture limited to the home and family.78

  • 79 On the evolution of lifecycle rituals in the post‑Stalin period see Victoria Smolkin‑Rothrock, “Pro (...)
  • 80 Video available online at http://tv‑80.ru/informacionnye/ot‑vsey‑dushi/. Last accessed October 5, 2 (...)

31In order to connect public and private emotions, Ot vsei dushi frequently referred to and incorporated Soviet life cycle rituals –weddings, departure for and return from military service, and the first day of school– all of which were a special focus for Soviet ritual specialists in the late 1960s and 70s.79 Where possible, these rituals were incorporated into the evening’s performance. One 1974 broadcast, from the Liuban sovkhoz in Belarus, featured a surprise for a set of parents whose son, a valued tractor driver, was finishing his military service.80 Leont’eva called the parents on stage, and then informed them that their son, whose praises she had just sung and who had also been praised by a sovkhoz authority figure just moments before, was returning from the military that very night. The son entered the auditorium to applause, and Leont´eva gave him the keys to a new tractor, which he went outside to try out, followed by the television camera. The same episode also featured several married couples—one set of newlyweds in the audience, one elderly couple celebrating their platinum wedding anniversary, and one couple still in their wedding regalia that marched down the aisle up to the stage.

32The relationship between these new Soviet rituals and older life cycle rituals was likewise foregrounded in this particular episode, perhaps because of this broadcast’s setting in a rural community, where the presence of older, folk and religious rituals was presumed to be strong. Leont´eva skillfully suggested the way that progressive, socialist rituals had naturally displaced older religious ones, eliminating the latter’s religious meaning while retaining them as charming folk traditions. Immediately after the tractor driver son returned from examining his new tractor, Leont´eva told his mother that she had learned of a tradition the Liuban sovkhoz had of greeting sons returning from the army with elaborately decorated cakes. Of course, since this son’s return was a surprise, his mother had not been able to prepare a cake. So, Leont´eva explained, other villagers had made two for her, in the traditional shapes of a hedgehog and a basket of mushrooms. The mother was then invited to present the cakes to her son. Notably, this folk custom, emphasizing the relationship between mother and son, took place only after the son had received and examined his new tractor, courtesy of the state—the hedgehog cake looked touching, but quite humble by comparison (and the mother had not, of course, been allowed to make it herself). This moment was typical of the show’s consistent promotion of intimate ties that extended beyond the family ; Ot vsei dushi always showed the state as clearly superior to the family as the most important source of personal meaning and identity for Soviet people.

Fig. 1 – A modern young bride and groom walk down the aisle on a 1974 broadcast of Ot vsei dushi.

Fig. 1 – A modern young bride and groom walk down the aisle on a 1974 broadcast of Ot vsei dushi.

Screenshot from video available here: http://tv-80.ru/​informacionnye/​ot-vsey-dushi/​

33Even more striking was the way that Leont´eva incorporated pre‑Soviet wedding traditions in her interactions with the show’s featured married couples. After the new couple processed down the aisle, Leont´eva invited the woman from the elderly, platinum anniversary couple on stage and asked her what they sang, what was wished to the new couple during her wedding (which took place in 1904, if this was truly their 70th wedding anniversary). In order to respond, the elderly woman, Emilia Frantsovna, had to inquire—is the wedding beginning or ending ? As her question suggested, the songs she remembered had specific ritual significance and had to be sung at a particular point in the ceremony. Leont´eva responded, however, by laughing, and telling her she can decide herself, because “it is all the same to us.”

  • 81 Victoria Smolkin‑Rothrock, forthcoming book manuscript.

34Yet Leont´eva did not simply trivialize traditional ritual forms on Ot vsei dushi. If she sometimes pointedly stripped them of some of their old meaning and interpolated the state in the relationships they celebrated, she also promoted them to a broader audience, much as Soviet ritual workers sought to identify local traditions that might be adopted more broadly, into new, synthetic, all‑Union rituals.81 Television thus served a role similar to that of Pravda’s peredovoe column, promoting best practices for broad emulation, only in the realm of spirituality and emotion, rather than economic production and organization.

35Yet Ot vsei dushi did not only highlight and promote local traditions that might be worthy of emulation. It offered entire affective models by revealing the ethical and emotional lives of its subjects. Ot vsei dushi’s most obvious strategy for making emotions visible was the show’s melodramatic narration. The show frequently touched on moments of past difficulty and perseverance. One story, from the 1974 Liuban sovkhoz episode, began with the introduction of an amateur horticulturalist from outside Moscow, seated onstage next to a bouquet and a small flowering bush in a pot. She explained that she had named the plant, a new hybrid she had developed, “kindness” in honor of a woman in the sovkhoz. Leont´eva then went on to tell the story of how this woman, Sonia, served as the village bathhouse worker during the hard years after the war. Leont´eva described how, committed to her work, she carried 500 buckets of water twice a week, even in winter, when the buckets froze to her hands. She even, viewers learned, carried the sick and the elderly to the bath house so that they could bathe. This was not all—since the war she had become known as one of the kindest people in the sovkhoz ; her willingness to give advice and comfort had become proverbial in her community.

  • 82 Leont´eva names M. Krasnianskaia, V. Tuliakova, K. Proshutinskaia, Z. Vasil´eva, and G. Sverchevska (...)
  • 83 I thank Antje Kley of Friedrich‑Alexander‑Universität Erlangen‑Nürnberg, for pointing this out in h (...)
  • 84 On socialist soaps and serials, see Bren, The Greengrocer and his TV, 112‑200 ; Elena Prokhorova, “ (...)
  • 85 Imre, “Television for socialist women,” 253‑255.

36As this episode suggests, women’s lives and work were at the center of Ot vsei dushi. The show had many different authors, but the group that Leont´eva named as the most frequent and successful authors were all female.82 This did not, however, imply that the show’s content departed from the conservative gender norms of Soviet society. Leont´eva dwells on Sonia’s wartime heroism, but her heroic actions and admirable qualities all fit easily within conventionally feminine, caregiving roles. Even her reward is highly feminized ; rather than being rewarded with a valuable prize like a tractor, she is simply acknowledged. An attractive flower is named in her honor, but after a quality she embodies, not even with her own name. Ot vsei dushi put women’s roles as emotional mediators at the heart of the “socialist way of life” because of their ability to connect people and bring private emotions into public spaces ; it instrumentalized their femininity in the service of the state.83 In this sense the show had much in common with the socialist soap operas of the Eastern bloc that Bren, Anikó Imre, and others have described.84 Despite the visibility and prominence that Ot vsei dushi gave women, however, its effect seems unlikely to have been liberating. Rather, by praising their enormous sacrifices, endurance, and, especially, affective labor within their families and communities, Ot vsei dushi also helped prepare Soviet women for the “double burden” of the Brezhnev era and, as Imre has argued in the case of socialist soaps in Czechoslovakia and Hungary, for the postfeminist neoliberalism of the post‑Soviet period.85

  • 86 Sappak, Televidenie i my, 48
  • 87 Leont´eva, Ob´´iasnenie v liubvi, 1.
  • 88 This anecdote has circulated widely, including in a 2008 documentary film, “Pamiati Teti Vali [In r (...)

37The most prominent feminine mediator on the program was, of course, Leont´eva, whose own highly emotional performance enhanced the power of the show’s melodramatic narratives. Leont´eva’s skill at expressing intimate emotions in official contexts was noted by critics and viewers from her early years as a newsreader in the late 1950s. Writing in 1960, Vladimir Sappak described the experience of watching her smile as follows : “it’s as if a curtain has lifted, everything “official” flies away and a moment arrives of interior, lyrical contact between screen and viewer.”86 More than forty years later, Vladimir Putin, in an official birthday greeting to Leont´eva, mentioned the intimate qualities that distinguished her public persona : “honesty,” “kindness” and “charm.” Leont´eva, Putin continued, was more than a TV host, she was a “warm‑hearted, trustworthy companion.”87 Sappak’s and Putin’s language emphasized the way that Leont´eva’s public image was founded on the blurring of public and private. Indeed, her life story has come to be told as a violation of boundaries between private and public emotions : a post‑Soviet documentary film and many articles in the press have focused on her divorce—she said, in post‑Soviet interviews, that she was “married to television”—and her tragic estrangement from her son, who supposedly refused to watch her nightly program for children, Goodnight Little Ones [Spokoinoi nochi malyshi], because she was not his, but “everyone’s mama.”88 Leont´eva herself encouraged this perception that her personal life was entirely devoted to television and, thus, to the state ; her 1986 memoir about her television career, published the year that Ot vsei dushi was canceled, was entitled “A Declaration of Love” [Ob´´iasnenie v liubvi].

  • 89 In the show’s 22nd broadcast, in the revolutionary anniversary year 1977 (and also the show’s fifth (...)

38The revelation of Leont´eva’s own personality thus substituted to some extent for those of her subjects, but Ot vsei dushi also went beyond Leont´eva’s performance (and the featured people’s own, often terse, verbal responses to her) to reveal the inner qualities of the show’s subjects. The show’s script was based, after all, on extraordinary knowledge of the featured community and its people. The show served as a testament to the administrative, as well as aesthetic, power of television to penetrate into the personal lives of its subjects. Each broadcast was based on months of detailed research into the backgrounds of hundreds of community members: for the same 1974 episode described above, Leont´eva announced that her “creative group” (as her staff were known) had examined the records of 1 500 library patrons in the featured sovkhoz, in order to select the “best reader.” In other words, the fact that the community in question had been placed under extraordinary scrutiny was not simply implicit—Leont´eva explicitly emphasized it, helping to establish her authority to judge the people in question (albeit always positively). There may have been no hidden cameras, as Khelemendik had proposed, but extreme penetration into personal lives was central to the program.89

  • 90 On “zhizn´ v rasplokh,” see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 236‑237.
  • 91 Leont´eva, Ob´´iasneniia v liubvi, 11‑12. On Zhdi menia see Hutchings and Rulyova, Television and C (...)
  • 92 Leont´eva, Ob´´iasneniia v liubvi, 35.

39Yet the idea of the hidden camera was not so distant either. Ot vsei dushi’s cameramen often collaborated with Leont´eva’s narration to capture featured individuals (in the audience and on stage) “unawares”—v rasplokh, as early television enthusiasts might have put it, borrowing once again from Vertov).90 Like post‑Soviet talk shows such as Zhdi menia (Wait for me), Ot vsei dushi often sought to surprise its subjects, capturing their reactions on camera as they realized that the person Leont’eva had begun to describe was them, or carefully engineering onstage reunions, between veterans who had fought together, for example, ensuring that their meeting on stage was truly the first time they encountered one another.91 Leont´eva emphasized that the team used “the strictest conspiratorial methods” to ensure that the emotional reactions these reunions elicited were genuine and unrehearsed.92

40The reactions of audience members, captured by cameras positioned above the audience, were also central to the show’s emotional effect, as Leont´eva saw it. Viewers often complained about Central Television’s habit of showing the audience during concerts and game shows, but on Ot vsei dushi, Leont´eva argued, these shots were essential.

  • 93 Ibid., 51.

On our show, emotions reach the viewers from both the stage and the hall, and it is not always clear from which source [the emotions] are most intense.93

41Leont´eva likewise delighted in televising the process by which the audience in the hall’s emotions changed over time. Describing the show’s legendary first broadcast, from the village of Timanovka in Vinnytsiia oblast´ of the Ukrainian SSR, Leont´eva recounts how

they didn’t turn down the lights in the hall, so I could easily see the front row’s reactions. The women were seated, looking guarded, hiding their impatience. You could read in their eyes, “how long is she going to drag on ? It’s time to start the concert.”

42Leont´eva began her performance, asking the audience members to name their teacher, and then asking everyone who had been her student to stand. She then called the teacher on stage to meet past pupils whom Leont´eva had invited to return to the village.

  • 94 Ibid., 32‑33.

The stage, the television cameras—everything was forgotten ! People greeted one another. The women in the front row took off their scarves, unbuttoned their coats. They became more beautiful before my eyes.94

  • 95 Ibid., 88.
  • 96 Ibid., 43.
  • 97 Ibid., 42.

43The frequency of tears on the show, among audience members and featured persons alike, was so great that Leont´eva felt obliged to address it in her memoir, in an odd passage written as a debate between Leont´eva and her own, internal critic, who “accused” her of “squeezing out tears” from viewers [vy vyzhimaete slezy u zritelei].95 Leont´eva admitted that tears were very frequent on the show, among the audience, the featured guests, and, she learned from letters to the show, among viewers at home. Even she, she reported, had to work very hard to hold back her tears. For Leont´eva, these authentic emotions, evoked in response to reunions between friends and loved ones, to stories of sacrifice and endurance, and to memories of past suffering, had a clear political meaning. In a lengthy passage on the satire of Arkadii Raikin, Leont´eva described how Raikin took aim at the contemporary petty bourgeois [meshchanin], a category that was, she argued, no longer social, but moral, characterized by a base “way of life,” an “ignoble philosophy” and, most revealingly, “nasty little emotions” [gaden´kie emotsii].96 It was precisely their inappropriate emotional reactions, particularly to social prestige, that revealed the contemporary meshchanin, Leont´eva argued.97 Leont´eva’s defense of Ot vsei dushi’s powerful emotional effects returned to the language of Thaw, which elevated sincerity, authenticated by genuine, politically meaningful emotions—these were tears, she acknowledged, of both joy and grief, but above all they were honest.

  • 98 Ibid.

To squeeze out tears [she argued] would mean being dishonest with someone, to abuse his trust, be false toward him. You can accuse me of anything you like, just not a lack of sincerity !98

Emotions, not words or social categories, were essential to both revealing and promoting the proper affective relationship to Soviet life and to authenticating the truthfulness of that relationship.

Conclusion : perestroika and the limits of Ot vsei dushi’s affective community

  • 99 Leont´eva, Ob´´iasneniie v liubvi, 2nd ed, “Mastera iskusstv—molodezhi” series (M. : Molodaia Gvard (...)
  • 100 The show’s older audience was apparent from the response to its first broadcasts. See for example G (...)

44Despite Leont´eva’s insistence on Ot vsei dushi’s emotional honesty, it was canceled in 1986, just at the moment when honesty and the exploration of traumatic pasts became the dominant theme of the Soviet mass media. The revelations of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika exposed the limits of both Ot vsei dushi’s “honesty” and of the emotional community it imagined. A Declaration of Love’s second edition, published in 1988, included a new postscript, in which Leont´eva expressed shame at one of the show’s typical lies—the omission, in response to warnings from the show’s censors, of the fact that a featured heroic Soviet veteran had been imprisoned during the war not only by the Nazi German state, but by his own government as well.99 By 1988 Leont´eva likewise acknowledged the specific, generational nature of the show’s audience—although the show had always evoked delight among some audience members, those were, as viewer letter reports noted, always older viewers.100

  • 101 The one exception appears to have been a broadcast from the Estonian SSR in 1973. See the Gostelera (...)
  • 102 For example, the “Novokuznetskie vstrechi” broadcast in 1984 including a brief ceremony in which pa (...)
  • 103 On “the Friendship of the Peoples,” see Terry Martin, Affirmative Action Empire : Nations and Natio (...)

45Ot vsei dushi’s imagined, emotional community had one additional, and very striking, limitation : the show was set almost exclusively in the Russian, Belorussian, and Ukrainian Soviet republics.101 Non‑Slavic local peoples did appear in some episodes, but they generally spoke even less than their Slavic counterparts, and people from non‑Slavic SSRs were often presented, as on many of Central Television’s holiday programs, as honorable, but visiting, guests, who often had no speaking lines at all.102 Questions of national identity were raised quite explicitly in the 1974 Liuban’ episode, during which a well‑known Belorussian actor appeared on the show speaking Belorussian. This highly unusual presentation of a language other than Russian on a premier Central Television show was made acceptable by the fact that the actor was playing the role of a folk hero of Belorussian literature, Nesterka. The trickster Nesterka, a character safely located in the distant past, then engaged the audience by asking riddles of the sovkhoz’s “best reader,” a young boy, who responds to Nesterka’s tests by fluently reciting Pushkin and Lermontov. Ot vsei dushi thus followed the familiar strategy of the “friendship of the peoples,” which removed cultural and linguistic difference into the safe realms of folklore and the past.103

  • 104 Video of the promotional spots employing this phrase are available at https://www.youtube.com/watch (...)
  • 105 Hutchings and Rulyova, Television and Culture in Putin’s Russia, 94.
  • 106 The broadcasts of this updated version were likewise focused on work collectives, featured Moscow i (...)
  • 107 On Putin and WWII, see Elizabeth Wood, “Performing Memory : Vladimir Putin and the Celebration of W (...)

46Yet despite these apparent limitations, and the association of the show and of Leont´eva herself with the heavy‑handed officiousness [ofitsioz] of the Brezhnev era, Ot vsei dushi’s story did not really end in 1986. Post‑Soviet Russian state and commercial television has remained committed to both the provision of “good moods” and more direct strategies of emotional modeling and influence. Pleasurable entertainment at holiday times remains a central feature of Putin‑era Russian broadcasting. Since at least 2007, the STS channel has jokingly renamed February 23, the post‑Soviet military holiday “Fatherland Defenders’ Day” (formerly Soviet Army Day), “Good Mood Defenders’ Day,” as a way of promoting its popular entertainment programming during the holiday.104 Likewise, Ot vsei dushi’s directed, state‑oriented approach to emotions has lived on in the many post‑Soviet talk shows that likewise emphasize emotional reunions and construct a national community that transcends temporal and geographic boundaries.105 The show itself was briefly revived on the “TV‑Tsentr” channel, under the name “Ot vsei dushi. Dvadtsat´ let spustia [With All My Heart. Twenty Years Later],” in 2007.106 The new structures of feeling Ot vsei dushi articulated have proved extraordinarily relevant to post‑Soviet life, particularly after Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in 2000. Ot vsei dushi’s awkwardly pan‑East Slavic nationalism and embrace of surveillance and control are strikingly central features of Putin’s political and cultural policies. Putin’s emphasis on the Great Patriotic war as both a shared experience of sacrifice and a source of contemporary moral and spiritual values is likewise well known.107 These resemblances are more than coincidental. Ot vsei dushi was conceived in a moment of both tight censorship and ideological uncertainty, in which emotions offered a way to mobilize and unify in the absence of a convincing, overarching ideology. In other words a moment not unlike the present, or the beginning of the present era.

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Notes

1 Viktor Khelemendik, “Vtoroe otkrytie [A Second revelation],” Zhurnalist, N° 6 (June, 1971) : 16. I would like to thank the participants in and organizers of the panel “Life‑worlds of Late Soviet Socialism” at the ASEEES annual convention 2013 in Boston, MA and the conference “Television in Europe beyond the Iron Curtain – National and Transnational Perspectives since the 1950s”, Friedrich‑Alexander‑Universität Erlangen‑Nürnberg, December 5‑7, 2013 for their incisive comments on an early version of this article.

2 Ibid., 17. Khelemendik’s account of experiencing a television portrait of a model worker bears a certain resemblance to the ways that artists, critics, and regular viewers described creating or experiencing portraits of Stalin. As Jan Plamper has demonstrated, there too, detailed visual attention to Stalin’s face yielded enormous political meaning, some of which was conveyed via emotional expression—Stalin’s “calm confidence,” for example. See Jan Plamper, The Stalin Cult : A Study in the Alchemy of Power, The Yale‑Hoover Series on Stalin, Stalinism, and the Cold War (New Haven : Yale University Press, 2012), 88, 112‑116.

3 On the socialist “way of life” see Alfred B. Evans, Soviet Marxism‑Leninism : The Decline of an Ideology (Westport, CT : Praeger, 1993), 132‑143 ; Tony Shaw and Denise Youngblood, Cinematic Cold War : The American and Soviet Struggle for Hearts and Minds (Lawrence : University of Kansas Press, 2010), 47‑50, 112‑124. See also Paulina Bren, The Greengrocer and his TV : The Culture of Communism after the 1968 Prague Spring (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2010), 207 ; Neringa Klumbyte, “Soviet Ethical Citizenship : Morality, the State, and Laughter in Late Soviet Lithuania,” in Neringa Klumbyte and Gulnaz Sharafutdinova, eds., Soviet Society in the Era of Late Socialism, 1964‑1985 (Lanham, MD : Lexington Books, 2013), 92. For more on the centrality of morality and ethics in the Khrushchev era see Deborah Field, Private Life and Communist Morality in Khrushchev’s Russia (New York : Peter Lang, 2007). On emotions and moral complexity in late Soviet literature see Polly Jones, “Fiery Exchanges and Heated Debates : the emotions of reader response to late Soviet historical literature,” conference paper presented at the ASEEES annual meeting in Boston, MA, November 23, 2013.

4 Evans, Soviet Marxism‑Leninism : The Decline of an Ideology, 132‑133. On the connection between ethics and emotions in pre‑Revolutionary Russian intelligentsia thought, see Victoria Frede, “Radicals and Feelings. The 1860s,” in Mark Steinberg and Valeria Sobol, eds, Interpreting Emotions in Russia and Eastern Europe (DeKalb, IL : Northern Illinois University Press, 2011).

5 On the political, technological, and aesthetic debates about television in the Soviet Union, see Kristin Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time : How the Soviet Union Built the Media Empire that Lost the Cultural Cold War (Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press, 2011), especially 176‑280. For an overview of socialist television in Eastern Europe, particularly entertainment genres see Sabina Mihelj, “Television Entertainment in Socialist Eastern Europe. Between Cold War Politics and Global Developments,” in Imre, Havens, and Lustyik, eds, Popular Television in Eastern Europe During and Since Socialism, Routledge Advances in Internationalizing Media Studies, ed. Daya Thussu (New York : Routledge, 2013).

6 The notion that emotions offered a higher form of evidence than speech about inner states was not, of course, original to this period. As Glennys Young has shown, from 1936 Soviet party tribunals “interpreted emotions as a way of diagnosing the underlying political essence of the self.” See Glennys Young, “Bolsheviks and Emotional Hermaneutics. The Great Purges, Bukharin, and the February‑March Plenum of 1937,” in Steinberg and Sobol, eds, Interpreting Emotions in Russia and Eastern Europe, 132.

7 On this problem in the early years of Soviet television, see also Simon Huxtable, “The Problem of Personality on Soviet Television, 1950s‑1960s,” View : Journal of European History and Culture, 3, 5 (2012) : 119‑130. On private apartments see Steven E. Harris, Communism on Tomorrow Street : Mass Housing and Everyday Life after Stalin (Baltimore : Woodrow Wilson Center/Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).

8 On the anxiety about television technology and its place in the home in the Soviet context, see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 199‑208. On the problematic question of “privatization” of political life in the 1960s and 1970s, see Sabina Mihelj, “The Politics of Privatization. Television Entertainment and the Yugoslav Sixties,” in Anne E. Gorsuch and Diane Koenker, eds, The Socialist Sixties : Crossing Borders in the Second World (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 2013) ; and Kirsten Bönker, “Depoliticalisation of the Private Life ? Reflections on
Private Practices and the Political in the Late Soviet Union,” in Willibald Steinmetz, Ingrid Gilcher‑Holtey, and Heinz‑Gerhard Haupt, eds., Writing Political History Today (Frankfurt : Campus Verlag, 2013).

9 See for example “Godovoi obzor pisem telezritelei za 1968 g. [Annual survey of television viewers’ letters for 1968],” GARF (Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii – State archive of the Russian Federation) f. 6903, op. 10, d. 79, l. 21 ; “Obzor pisem telezritelei [Survey of television viewers’ letters],” August 1973, GARF, f. 6903, op. 36, d. 22, l. 40‑41 ; “Obzor pisem telezritelei za Sentiabr´ 1976 [Survey of television viewers’ letters for September 1976]” GARF, f. 6903, op. 36, d. 62, l. 3. On the meaning and history of “dushevnost´” see Mikhail Epshtein, “O dushevnosti,” in Zvezda, 8 (2006), accessed online via Zhurnalnyi zal, http://magazines.russ.ru/zvezda/2006/8/epsg.html

10 See for example, “Stenogramma II otchetno‑vybornoi partiinoi konferentsii goskom SM SSSR po radioveshchanie i televidenie [Transcript of the second electoral and reporting party conference of the State Committee of the Soviet of Ministers for radiobroadcasting and television],” March 31, 1964, OKhDOPIM (Otdel khraneniia dokumentov obshchestvenno‑politicheskoi istorii Moskvy – Division for the preservation of documents on the social‑political history of Moscow), f. 2930, op. 1, d. 144, l. 142 ; “Godovoi obzor pisem telezritelei za 1968 g.” GARF, f. 6903, op. 10, d. 79, l. 10. Central Television also addressed the perceived social problem of ravnodushie in its programming in the early 1970s. See for example, “Protokol No. 28 zasedaniia Goskomiteta ot 21 oktiabria 1971 g., [Protocol No. 28 of the State Committee meeting of 21 October 1971]” GARF, f. 6903, op. 32, d. 13, l. 33. Soviet atheist activists also discovered “indifference” as a problem when they began to conduct sociological research about religious belief. See Victoria Smolkin, “Sviato mesto pusto ne byvaet : ateisticheskoe vospitanie v Sovetskom Soiuze, 1964‑1968 [A sacred space is never empty : atheist education in the Soviet Union, 1964‑1968],” Neprikosnovennyi zapas, 3, 65 (2009). For reactions to “indifference” as a problem and threat, see Tara Zahra, Kidnapped Souls : National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948 (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2008).

11 See for example excerpts from viewer letters in “Obzor pisem telezritelei za 1972 g. [Survey of television viewer letters for 1972],” GARF, f. 6903, op. 36, d. 2, l. 60 and “Materialy k zasedaniiam kollegii (povestki dnia, doklady, spravki i dr.) [Materials for meetings of the board (agendas, speeches, reference materials etc.],” GARF, f. 6903, op. 32, d. 493, l. 147. See also quotations from producers and viewers in “Ot vsei dushi” Televidenie i radioveshchanie 1 (January 1973), 1‑3.

12 On Leont´eva’s emotional persona as an example of model late Soviet subjectivity, see Huxtable, “The Problem of Personality on Soviet Television, 1950s‑1960s,” 130. As I argue below, the precise pathways by which emotional influence was to take place were never clearly specified, but relied on the assumed power and authenticity of emotion as distinct from and prior to reason. A great deal of recent historical and literary critical writing has lately attempted to engage the concept of emotion. Within Russian studies, see Steinberg and Sobol, eds, Interpreting Emotions in Russia and Eastern Europe ; Jan Plamper et al, eds, Rossiiskaia Imperiia Chuvstv : podkhody k kul´turnoi istorii emotsii [Russian Empire of Feelings : approaches to the cultural history of emotions] (M. : Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2010) ; and a special issue on “Emotional Turn ? Feelings in Russian History and Culture,” ed. Jan Plamper, Slavic Review, 68, 2 (2009) : 229‑334. See also Ilya Vinnitsky’s review article, “Zagovor chuvstv, ili Russkaia istoriia na ‘emotsional´nom povorote.’ Obzor rabot po istorii emotsii [Conspiracy of feelings, or Russian history in the “affective turn.” Review of work in the history of emotions],” Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 117, 5 (2012), available at http://www.nlobooks.ru/node/2639#_ftn21. For this article, my objective is not to assess whether Soviet Central Television’s approach to emotion was or was not effective in influencing viewers in the ways intended, or to contribute to theoretical debates about the actual workings of emotion in relation to ideology and political persuasion. Instead, I want to demonstrate that emotions were seen as an essential part of television’s power to influence and to give one account of how and why emotion became important to ideas about television’s influence precisely at this historical moment.

13 Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (New York : Oxford University Press, 1977), 132‑134. Thanks to Lars Lundgren and the other participants in the conference “Television in Europe beyond the Iron Curtain – National and Transnational Perspectives since the 1950s,” Friedrich‑Alexander‑Universität Erlangen‑Nürnberg, December 5‑7, 2013 for suggesting that I incorporate this concept.

14 Evans, Soviet Marxism‑Leninism : The Decline of an Ideology, 141‑143.

15 Ibid., 141. However, Tony Shaw and Denise Youngblood identify an era of what they call “positive legitimation” in Cold War film that stretches from 1953‑1978, and builds on the traditions of Stalinist‑era cinema featuring the Soviet good life. Shaw and Youngblood, Cinematic Cold War, 47‑50,112‑124.

16 The GDR show Gumbert describes, entitled With Open Hearts, seems so close in format to Ot vsei dushi as to be a direct influence on the later Soviet program, but I have not found acknowledgment of this in Soviet memoir accounts. Heather Gumbert, Envisioning Socialism : Television and the Cold War in the German Democratic Republic (Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 2014), 148‑152.

17 Bren, The Greengrocer and his TV, 207.

18 Victoria Smolkin‑Rothrock, “Ticket to the Soviet Soul : Science, Religion and the Spiritual Crisis of Late Soviet Atheism, The Russian Review, 73 (April 2014) : 171‑197. See also Malte Rolf, Soviet Mass Festivals, 1917‑1991, trans. Cynthia Klohr (Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013), 188‑193.

19 Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 18‑19. For an engaging account of one aspect of the French response, see Tamara Chaplin, Turning on the Mind : French Philosophers on Television (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2007).

20 Bren, The Greengrocer and his TV, 148‑149. For a critique of an oversimplified distinction between “public” and “private” in the socialist context, see Mihelj, “The Politics of Privatization,” and Bönker, “Depoliticalisation of the Private Life ?”

21 Matthew Lenoe, Closer to the Masses : Stalinist Culture, Social Revolution, and Soviet Newspapers (Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 2004), 27‑29.

22 Peter Holquist, “‘Information Is the Alpha and Omega of Our Work’ : Bolshevik Surveillance in Its Pan‑European Context,” The journal of modern history (1997) : 415‑450.

23 I take this definition of “mood” from Jonathan Flatley, Affective Mapping : Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism (Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 2008), 12, 19‑24.

24 Jonathan Flatley, “How a Revolutionary Countermood is Made,” New Literary History, 43 (2012) : 503‑525, 504.

25 Rolf, Soviet Mass Festivals, 45.

26 Karen Petrone, Life has Become More Joyous, Comrades : Celebrations in the Time of Stalin (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 2000), 6.

27 On postwar emotions, see Catherine Merridale, Night of Stone : Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia (New York : Penguin, 2002) ; on the Thaw and sincerity see Elena Zubkova, Russia After the War : Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957 (New York : M.E. Sharpe, 1998) ; Vladislav Zubok, Zhivago’s Children : The Last Russian Intelligentsia (Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 2009). See also the essays in Polly Jones, ed., The Dilemmas of De-stalinization : Negotiating cultural and social change in the Khrushchev era, BASEES/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies (Abingdon : Routledge, 2006) and Eleonor Gilburd and Denis Kozlov, The Thaw : Soviet Society and Culture during the 1950s and 1960s (Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 2013).

28 For the classic account of postwar materialism, see Vera Dunham, In Stalin’s Time : Middleclass Values in Soviet Fiction, 2nd ed (Durham : Duke University Press, 1990). For this dynamic in relation to Soviet television, see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 200‑201.

29 See Polly Jones, “Breaking the Silence : Iurii Bondarev’s Quietness between the ‘Sincerity’ and ‘Civic Emotion’ of the Thaw,” in Steinberg and Sobol, eds., Interpreting Emotions, 152‑176. On pre‑Revolutionary connections between mass media, sincerity, and strong feelings, see Anna Fishzon, “The Operatics of Everyday Life, or, How Authenticity was Defined in Late Imperial Russia,” Slavic Review, 4 (Winter 2011) : 795‑818.

30 Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 223‑261 ; Zubok, Zhivago’s Children, 140‑149 ; see also Thomas Wolfe, Governing Soviet Journalism : the Press and the Socialist Person After Stalin (Bloomington, IN : Indiana University Press, 2005).

31 Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 185, 201. See also Kirsten Bönker, “‘Dear television workers…’ : TV consumption and political communication in the late Soviet Union,” in this issue.

32 As Roth‑Ey has argued, Soviet cultural and political authorities were quite uncomfortable the idea of a Soviet “couch potato.” Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 201.

33 Gosudarstvennogo Komiteta SM SSSR po televideniiu i radioveshchaniiu, Partkom [State Committee of the Soviet of Ministers for television and radio broadcasting, Party committee], “Stenogrammy sobranii partiinogo aktiva [Transcripts of meetings of the Party aktiv],” January 12, 1972, OKhDOPIM, f. 2930, op. 2, d. 234, l. 49.

34 Gosudarstvennogo Komiteta SM SSSR po televideniiu i radioveshchaniiu, Partkom, “Stenogramma IX otchetno‑vyborochnoi partiinoi konferentsii [Transcript of the 9th general party conference],” November 27, 1974, OKhDOPIM, f. 2930, op. 2, d. 635, l. 49.

35 As Ellen Mickiewicz has documented, letter writers belonged to the Communist Party in far higher percentages than the Soviet population as a whole. See Mickiewicz, Media and the Russian Public, 121. For examples of this kind of letter, see “Obzor pisem telezritelei Ianvar´ 1973 g. [Survey of television viewers’ letters for January 1973]” January 1973, GARF, f. 6903, op. 36, d. 15, l. 64 ; Gosudarstvennyi komitet soveta ministrov SSSR po televideniiu i radio-veshchaniiu, otdel pisem Tsentral´nogo televideniia, “Obzor pisem telezritelei, [Survey of television viewers’ letters]” 1975 January, GARF, f. 6903, op. 36, d. 40, l. 73. For more on Soviet letter‑writing practices see Denis Kozlov, “‘I have not read, but I will say’ : Soviet Literary Audiences and Changing Ideas of Social Membership, 1958‑66,” Kritika, 7, 3 (2006) : 557‑597 ; see also Sheila Fitzpatrick, “Supplicants and Citizens : Public Letter‑Writing in Soviet Russia in the 1930s,” Slavic Review, 55, 1 (1996) :78.

36 For more on “emotion talk” see Peter Heelas, “Emotion Talk across Cultures,” in R. Harre, ed., The Social Construction of Emotions (Oxford, 1986), cited in Polly Jones, “Breaking the Silence,” 154.

37 On emotion and the problem of personality on Soviet television in the 1950s and 60s, see Huxtable, “Problem of Personality.”

38 For this in early debates about television, see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 236‑245. On the rehabilitation of the avant‑garde during the Thaw, see Stephen Bittner, The Many Lives of Khrushchev’s Thaw : Experience and Memory on Moscow’s Arbat (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2008), 105‑140. On “novoe zrenie” and the avant garde, see Katerina Clark, Petersburg : Crucible of Cultural Revolution (Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1995), 30‑38.

39 Vladimir Sappak, Televidenie i my : chetyre besedy [Television and us : four conversations] (M. : Iskusstvo, 1963), 50. For more on the connection between television enthusiasm and Vertov, see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 236, 244‑245. Vertov himself was presumably drawing on pre‑Revolutionary discussions of “living life” in Dostoevskii and in pre‑Revolutionary literary criticism of his work.

40 Subsequent critics noted that Sappak’s account of television’s power in fact depended on Sappak’s own “aesthetically and socially active vision,” rather than being a feature of the technology itself. See Iu. Bogomolov, “Sud´ba kontseptsii priamogo TV [The fate of the concept of live TV]” in Vl. Borev and S. Furtseva, eds., V zerkale kritiki : Iz istorii izucheniia khudozhestvennykh vozmozhnostei massovoi kommunikatsii [In criticism’s mirror : From the history of the study of mass communications’ artistic possibilities] (M. : Iskusstvo, 1985), 118.

41 “Stenogramma II otchetno‑vybornoi partiinoi konferentsii goskom SM SSSR po radioveshchaniiu i televideniiu [Transcript of the second general party conference of the state committee of the Soviet of Ministers for radio broadcasting and television],” March 31, 1964, OKhDOPIM, f. 2930, op. 1, d. 144, l. 17.

42 Comments by Nikolai Biriukov, “Stenogramma zasedanii televizionnoi sektsii vsesoiuznogo soveshchaniia po problemam radio i teleinformatsii g. Moskva, 23‑26 Nov. 1966 [Transcript of the meetings of the television section of the all‑Union conference on problems of radio and television news in Moscow, 23‑26 November 1966],” GARF, f. 6903, op. 1, d. 105, l. 10‑11.

43 Of course, this emphasis on the person as the chief subject of art extends back to the 19th century Russian intelligentsia ; Leont´eva recalls being given a medal inscribed with a famous quotation from Belinskii, that “for art there is no more noble or honorable subject than man.” Valentina Leont´eva, Ob´´iasneniie v liubvi [Declaration of love] (M. – SPb. : ACT/Sova, 2007), 74.

44 On the encounter between television staff, enthusiast rhetoric about liveness, and the limitations of Soviet broadcasting, see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 230‑261.

45 See Huxtable, “The Problem of Personality.” This problem was not at all exclusive to Soviet television. As John Corner has argued, Western discussions of television have suffered from a pervasive confusion between two meanings and projects described by the word “realism”—the project of being “like the real” and the project of being “about the real.” The conflict between these two forms of realism was especially problematic in the Soviet context, where socialist realism in art further intertwined these two, often contradictory, realist projects. See John Corner, “Criticism as Sociology : Reading the Media,” in Corner, Studying Media : Problems of Theory and Method (Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press, 1998), 70.

46 “Stenogramma IX otchetno‑vyborochnoi partiinoi konferentsii [Transcript of the 9th general party conference],” OKhDOPIM, f. 2930, op. 2, d. 635, l. 48‑49.

47 Roth‑Ey has made the crucial point that, by the early 1960s, Central Television staff had put their own cultural authority at the center of television’s aesthetic and political projects. Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 263‑273.

48 “Doklad i stenogrammy vystuplenii v preniiakh na sobranii partiinogo aktiva ob itogakh iiul´skogo (1970 g) plenuma TsK KPSS [Report and transcripts of statements during the discussion at the Party aktiv meeting on the findings of the July (1970) plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union],” July 28, 1970, OKhDOPIM, f. 2930, op. 1, d. 1097, l. 18.

49 See for example, “Stenogrammy zasedaniia sektsii telereportazha vsesoiuznogo tvorcheskogo soveshchaniia po voprosam reportazha v radioveshchanii i televidenii [Transcripts of meetings of the television reportage section of the all‑union creative conference on questions of reportage in radio broadcasting and television],” March 1‑2, 1961, GARF, f. 6903, op. 1, d. 712. This was far from a new debate for Soviet broadcasting. Stephen Lovell has traced very similar debates among Soviet radio broadcasters about the appropriate style of broadcast speech in the pre‑television era. See Stephen Lovell, “Broadcasting Bolshevik : The Radio Voice
of Soviet Culture, 1920s‑1950s,” Journal of Contemporary History 48, 1 : 89.

50 Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 267‑268.

51 “Stenogramma zasedanii televizionnoi sektsii vsesoiuznogo soveshchaniia po problemam radio i teleinformatsii g. Moskva, 23‑26 Nov. 1966, [Transcript of the television section meeting of the all‑Union conference on problems of radio‑ and television news in Moscow, 23‑26 Nov. 1966],” GARF, f. 6903, op. 1, d. 905, l. 18.

52 Elena Gal´perina, “Iskusstvo emotsional´nogo obnazheniia mysli [The art of revealing thought through emotion],” Sovetskoe radio i televidenie, No. 3 (March, 1970) : 33.

53 L. Dmitriev, “Dokumental´noe iskusstvo. IV. Chelovek televideniia [Documentary art. IV. The person of television],” Sovetskoe radio i televidenie, No. 8 (August 1967), 19.

54 Ibid., l. 19‑20. An article by Sergei Muratov, one of the creators of KVN, suggests that hidden cameras were actually used on the provincial level at least once. Sergei Muratov, “Razmaskirovannyi mir […],” Zhurnalist No. 4 (April 1968), 27.

55 On the importance of a tiny elite audience in shaping Soviet television, see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 211‑222, 279.

56 “Obzor pisem telezritelei za 1972 g. [Survey of television viewers’ letters for 1972],” GARF, f. 6903, op. 36, d. 2, l. 60.

57 See for example Lapin’s comments on working class heroes in “Doklad i stenogrammy vystuplenii v preniiakh na sobranii partiinogo aktiva ob itogakh iiul´skogo (1970 g) plenuma TsK KPSS [Report and transcripts of statements during the discussion at the Party aktiv meeting on the findings of the July (1970) plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union],” July 28, 1970, OKhDOPIM, f. 2930, op. 1, d. 1097, l. 18. Lapin explicitly mentioned Ot vsei dushi as part of Central Television’s response to criticism of its youth programming from the Moscow City Committee of the Communist Party, contrasting the show with KVN. See “Stenogrammy sobranii partiinogo aktiva 15 noiabria 1972 g. [Transcripts of the Party aktiv meeting of 15 November 1972],” OKhDOPIM, f. 2930, op. 2, d. 234, l. 142.

58 On Central Television as “court tv” and the Lapin era , see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 211‑222.

59 Stephen Hutchings and Natalya Rulyova, Television and Culture in Putin’s Russia : Remote Control, BASEES/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies, Richard Sakwa, ed. (Abingdon, UK : Routledge, 2009), 91‑95.

60 Bernard Timberg, Television Talk : A History of the Television Talk Show (Austin : University of Texas Press, 2002), 3.

61 Ibid., 3‑4.

62 Jane M. Shattuc, The Talking Cure : TV Talk Shows and Women (New York : Routledge, 1997), 3‑9.

63 While some variety and social‑political programs, such as Little Blue Flame (Goluboi ogonek) or Sergei Smirnov’s Feat (Podvig) had featured informal talk, this was usually limited either to cultural celebrities ; audience voices were generally heard only via their letters, read aloud by celebrity hosts.

64 See for example Kathleen S. Lowney, Baring Our Souls : TV Talk Shows and the Religion of Recovery, Social Problems and Social Issues Seres, ed. Joel Best (New York : Aldine de Gruyter, 1999) and Kathryn Lofton, Oprah : Gospel of an Icon (Berkeley : University of California Press, 2011).

65 The administrative and economic organization of its production were, of course, very different from that of U.S. talk shows. For more on the objectives and institutional structure of Soviet television see Ellen Mickiewicz, Split Signals : Television and Politics in the Soviet Union (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1988), 27‑29 ; and Reino Paasilinna, Glasnost´ and Soviet Television : a study of the Soviet mass media and its role in society from 1985‑1991 (Helsinki : YLE Finnish Broadcasting Co, 1995), 37‑45. From the perspective of viewers, television ownership was a mass phenomenon by the early 1970s. In 1965 there were 24 television sets per 100 families in the Soviet Union ; by 1970, there was one set for every two families, or about 35 million sets total. By 1975, there were over 55 million television sets in the Soviet Union with another 6.5 million being produced annually See B.A. Miasoedov, Strana Chitaet, Slushaet, Smotrit (statisticheskii obzor) [The Country Reads, Listens, and Watches (statistical survey)], Statistika dlia vsekh series (M. : Finansy i Statistika, 1982), 64, 70 ; Ellen Mickiewicz, Media and the Russian Public (New York : Praeger, 1981), 18‑19.

66 Valerie A. Kivelson and Joan Neuberger, Picturing Russia : Explorations in Visual Culture (New Haven : Yale University Press, 2008).

67 On the need for a transnational approach to the study of socialist television, see Timothy Havens, Aniko Imre, and Katalin Lustyik, “Introduction,” and in Imre, Havens, and Lustyik, eds., Popular Television in Eastern Europe During and Since Socialism.

68 Cited in Lofton, Oprah : Gospel of an Icon, 4.

69 Aniko Imre argues that the broader genre of “reality television” was created first by socialist television. See Aniko Imre, Television Socialism (forthcoming, Duke University Press) ; Sabina Mihelj makes a similar point about the socialist origins of the idea of the active media consumer. Sabina Mihelj, “Audience History as a History of Ideas : The ‘Active Audience’ of the Socialist Sixties,” forthcoming in European Journal of Communications, 29 (2014).

70 On the distinctiveness of the post‑Soviet tok shou, see Hutchings and Rulyova, Television and Culture in Putin’s Russia, 89‑113.

71 Ibid., 94.

72 Ot vsei dushi. Kaluzhskie vstrechi [From the bottom of my heart. Meetings in Kaluga] (1975). Viewed at the Russian Ministry of Communications State Television and Radio Archive (Gosteleradiofond) November 10, 2006.

73 Rolf, Soviet Mass Festivals, 3. For more on Soviet rituals in the post‑Stalin era, see Victoria Smolkin‑Rothrock, “‘A Sacred Space is Never Empty’ : Soviet Atheism, 1954‑1971” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California Berkeley, 2010) ; Christel Lane’s The Rites of Rulers. Ritual in Industrial Society : The Soviet Case (New York : Cambridge University Press, 1981), Christopher Binns, “The Changing Face of Power : Revolution and Accommodation in the Soviet Ceremonial System,” Part I, Man, New Series 14, 4 (1979) : 585‑606 ; and Part II, Man, New Series 15, 1 (1980) : 170‑187 ; Nina Tumarkin, Lenin Lives : The Lenin Cult in Soviet Russia (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1983) and The Living and the Dead : The Rise and the Fall of the Cult of World War II in Russia (New York : Basic Books, 1994).

74 For more on the connections between television and festivity, see Christine Evans, Between Truth and Time : A History of Soviet Central Television (New Haven : Yale University Press, forthcoming 2016).

75 Rolf, Soviet Mass Festivals, 192‑193.

76 Ibid., 192.

77 Smolkin‑Rothrock, “Ticket to the Soviet Soul : Science, Religion and the Spiritual Crisis of Late Soviet Atheism,” 171‑197, 176.

78 Rolf, Soviet Mass Festivals, 190.

79 On the evolution of lifecycle rituals in the post‑Stalin period see Victoria Smolkin‑Rothrock, “Problema ‘obyknovennoi’ sovetskoi smerti : Material´noe i dukhovnoe v ateisticheskoi kosmologii [The Problem with the ‘Ordinary’ Soviet Death : Material and Spiritual in Atheist Cosmology],” Gosudarstvo, religiia i tserkov´ v Rossii i za rubezhom [State, Religion, and Church in Russia and Abroad], no. 30, 3‑4 (2012) : 429‑462.

80 Video available online at http://tv‑80.ru/informacionnye/ot‑vsey‑dushi/. Last accessed October 5, 2015.

81 Victoria Smolkin‑Rothrock, forthcoming book manuscript.

82 Leont´eva names M. Krasnianskaia, V. Tuliakova, K. Proshutinskaia, Z. Vasil´eva, and G. Sverchevskaia. Ob´´iasneniie v liubvi, 48.

83 I thank Antje Kley of Friedrich‑Alexander‑Universität Erlangen‑Nürnberg, for pointing this out in her response to my paper in Erlangen in December 2013.

84 On socialist soaps and serials, see Bren, The Greengrocer and his TV, 112‑200 ; Elena Prokhorova, “Fragmented Mythologies : Soviet TV miniseries of the 1970s” (PhD dissertation : University of Pittsburgh, 2003) ; Anikó Imre, “Television for socialist women,” Screen 54, 2 (Summer 2013) : 249‑255 and “Adventures in Early Socialist Television Edutainment,” in Imre, Havens, and Lustyik eds, Popular Television in Eastern Europe During and Since Socialism. Jakub Machek, “The Counter Lady as a female prototype : prime time popular culture in 1970s and 1980s Czechoslovakia,” Media Research : Croation Journal for Journalism and Media, 16, 1 (2010) ; Katja Kochanowski, Sascha Trültzsch and Reinhold Viehoff, “An Evening with Friends and Enemies : Political Indoctrination in Popular East German Family Series,” and Ferenc Hammer, “Coy Utopia : Politics in the First Hungarian TV Soap,” both in Imre, Havens, and Lustyik eds, Popular Television in Eastern Europe.

85 Imre, “Television for socialist women,” 253‑255.

86 Sappak, Televidenie i my, 48

87 Leont´eva, Ob´´iasnenie v liubvi, 1.

88 This anecdote has circulated widely, including in a 2008 documentary film, “Pamiati Teti Vali [In remembrance of Aunt Valia],” available at https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v =tS3fegpH9gA. Last accessed April 7, 2014.

89 In the show’s 22nd broadcast, in the revolutionary anniversary year 1977 (and also the show’s fifth anniversary year), Leont´eva opened a broadcast in Moscow, featuring an audience of past guests of the show by talking about how she was usually very nervous before each broadcast, because she would be talking about and meeting people “whom I had never seen, with whom I was not acquainted, but about whom I knew a great deal.” Ot vsei dushi “Iubileinye vstrechi [Anniversary meetings],” 1977, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v =xOozLM8O5W0 (last accessed April 8, 2014).

90 On “zhizn´ v rasplokh,” see Roth‑Ey, Moscow Prime Time, 236‑237.

91 Leont´eva, Ob´´iasneniia v liubvi, 11‑12. On Zhdi menia see Hutchings and Rulyova, Television and Culture in Putin’s Russia, 77, 94, 96. Zhdi menia draws its title from a famous 1941 poem by Konstantin Simonov, evoking the long history of suffering and intimate relationships as cultural motifs reaching back, as Katerina Clark argues, into the late 1930s. See Katerina Clark “Wait for Me and I Shall Return ? The Early Thaw as a Reprise of Late 30s Culture ? in Gilburd and Kozlov, The Thaw : Soviet Society and Culture during the 1950s and 1960s, 85‑108.

92 Leont´eva, Ob´´iasneniia v liubvi, 35.

93 Ibid., 51.

94 Ibid., 32‑33.

95 Ibid., 88.

96 Ibid., 43.

97 Ibid., 42.

98 Ibid.

99 Leont´eva, Ob´´iasneniie v liubvi, 2nd ed, “Mastera iskusstv—molodezhi” series (M. : Molodaia Gvardiia, 1988), 213. The show did occasionally hint at traumatic Soviet pasts, without acknowledging them directly, but clearly enough that attentive viewers would understand. One example was a 1984 broadcast from a steel plant in Novokuznetsk, which featured a woman, with the symbolic name “Metallina,” whose parents had helped build the plant and who had been born, Leont´eva claimed, at the moment of its completion. She had, however, grown up elsewhere and had never been to the factory since leaving in infancy. The reasons for this sudden departure from the scene of her parents’ great achievement were never explained. Metallina was quickly dispatched from the stage on an audio tour of the factory, recorded for her by the workers there. Viewers were left to draw their own conclusions about why a family might have suddenly left a Stalinist construction site in the 1930s, never to return. Ot vsei dushi, “Novokuznetskie vstrechi,” 1984. Accessed via etvnet.com (paid internet television service).

100 The show’s older audience was apparent from the response to its first broadcasts. See for example GARF, f. 6903, op. 36, d. 2, l. 60. These older viewers seem to have seen the show as an ideal expression of the kinds of messages they felt young people sorely needed precisely because they did not already embrace them. See for example quotations from viewer letters in “Obzor pisem telezritelei Noiabr´ 1972 g.” GARF, f. 6903, op. 36, d. 13, l. 4‑5 ; two of which emphasize the show’s importance as a lesson or example for young people.

101 The one exception appears to have been a broadcast from the Estonian SSR in 1973. See the Gosteleradiofond catalog, available at http://gtrf.ru/product?q=От%20всей%20души

102 For example, the “Novokuznetskie vstrechi” broadcast in 1984 including a brief ceremony in which participants in a smelting competition appeared on stage. Participants from the Uzbek, Kazakh, and Lithuanian SSRs were introduced and said a few heavily accented and visibly memorized words in Russian, then left the stage.

103 On “the Friendship of the Peoples,” see Terry Martin, Affirmative Action Empire : Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923‑1939 (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2001), 432‑461.

104 Video of the promotional spots employing this phrase are available at https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v =yTqZ31v7B0E (last accessed October 5, 2015).

105 Hutchings and Rulyova, Television and Culture in Putin’s Russia, 94.

106 The broadcasts of this updated version were likewise focused on work collectives, featured Moscow institutions like the metro, MGSU (Moscow State University of Civil Engineering), and others.

107 On Putin and WWII, see Elizabeth Wood, “Performing Memory : Vladimir Putin and the Celebration of WWII in Russia,” The Soviet and Post‑Soviet Review, 38 (2011) 172–200. On the cult of WWII and its uses, see Tumarkin, The Living and the Dead ; Serguei Oushakine, “Emotional Blueprints. War Songs as an Affective Medium, in Steinberg and Sobol, eds., Interpreting Emotions.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – A modern young bride and groom walk down the aisle on a 1974 broadcast of Ot vsei dushi.
Légende Screenshot from video available here: http://tv-80.ru/​informacionnye/​ot-vsey-dushi/​
URL http://journals.openedition.org/monderusse/docannexe/image/8201/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 520k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Christine Evans, « The “Soviet Way of Life” as a Way of Feeling »Cahiers du monde russe, 56/2-3 | 2015, 543-569.

Référence électronique

Christine Evans, « The “Soviet Way of Life” as a Way of Feeling »Cahiers du monde russe [En ligne], 56/2-3 | 2015, mis en ligne le 17 novembre 2019, consulté le 25 octobre 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/monderusse/8201; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/monderusse.8201

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Auteur

Christine Evans

University of Wisconsin‑Milwaukee, evansce@uwm.edu

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Droits d’auteur

© École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris.

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