Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 April 2011
A mature socialism?
Stalin's death removed the charismatic principal of what had become the keystone of the Soviet metanarrative and that which had mediated the diverse strands of Soviet symbolism, and thereby given them a degree of coherence. With him gone, it was not clear how the tensions between these symbolic elements of the metanarrative could be resolved. One potential answer was to treat Stalin the way Lenin initially had been treated, viz. to emphasise his writings and his actions as the indelible guide to the future against which all must be measured. But this approach was eschewed from the outset. Although Stalin was buried with full pomp and ceremony in what became the Lenin-Stalin Mausoleum on Red Square, in the days after his death there was a dramatic shift away from the imagery of the vozhd; his picture, his words, and references to him were no longer everywhere in the Soviet public sphere, as they had been during his life. The charismatic legitimation that formerly had been vested in the figure of the vozhd was now the subject of an attempt to shift it onto the party. This was reflected in the announcement of Stalin's death, which declared that the ‘peoples of our country unite even more closely in our great fraternal family, under the tested leadership of the Communist Party created and fostered by Lenin and Stalin.’ It also referred to ‘the teachings of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin’.