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This chapter tells a convoluted story, or rather stories, spanning five decades and a spectrum of leadership ranging from Joseph Stalin's absolute dictatorship to Valentin Rasputin's technocracy. It depicts a society where politics and culture have until quite recently been intimately, indeed inextricably, intertwined, and where the imperatives of one frequently conflicted with the essence of the other. Even in today's post-Soviet Russia, where artists grope to find a secure footing in the rubble of the old cultural landscape, the nexus of politics and culture has not entirely disappeared. Leonid Brezhnev's reign curtailed much of the dynamism characteristic of the Thaw, whose suppressed energies re-emerged during Gorbachev's five years of perestroika and glasnost'. Throughout the Thaw, and well into the Brezhnev years, the Second World War became a touchstone of Soviet culture, in part because it represented the single unifying experience of a history otherwise bloody with political and ideological divisions.