Performing Justice: Agitation Trials in Early Soviet Russia by Elizabeth A. WoodPerforming Justice: Agitation Trials in Early Soviet Russia by Elizabeth A. Wood

Performing Justice: Agitation Trials in Early Soviet Russia

byElizabeth A. Wood

Hardcover | May 17, 2005

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After seizing power in 1917, the Bolshevik regime faced the daunting task of educating and bringing culture to the vast and often illiterate mass of Soviet soldiers, workers, and peasants. As part of this campaign, civilian educators and political instructors in the military developed didactic theatrical fictions performed in workers' and soldiers' clubs in the years from 1919 to 1933. The subjects addressed included politics, religion, agronomy, health, sexuality, and literature. The trials were designed to permit staging by amateurs at low cost, thus engaging the citizenry in their own remaking. In reconstructing the history of the so-called agitation trials and placing them in a rich social context, Elizabeth A. Wood makes a major contribution to rethinking the first decade of Soviet history. Her book traces the arc by which a regime's campaign to educate the masses by entertaining and disciplining them culminated in a policy of brute shaming.Over the course of the 1920s, the nature of the trials changed, and this process is one of the main themes of the later chapters of Wood's book. Rather than humanizing difficult issues, the trials increasingly made their subjects (alcoholics, boys who smoked, truants) into objects of shame and dismissal. By the end of the decade and the early 1930s, the trials had become weapons for enforcing social and political conformity. Their texts were still fictional—indeed, fantastical—but the actors and the verdicts were now all too real.

Elizabeth A. Wood is Associate Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Director of the M.I.T. Program in Women's Studies. She is the author of The Baba and the Comrade: Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia.
Title:Performing Justice: Agitation Trials in Early Soviet RussiaFormat:HardcoverDimensions:312 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.06 inPublished:May 17, 2005Publisher:Cornell University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801442575

ISBN - 13:9780801442575

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Editorial Reviews

"Performing Justice is a fascinating story, skillfully told and extensively researched, of how theater and revolution got mixed up in early Soviet Russia."

- Sheila Fitzpatrick, University of Chicago