‘Hey, Guberniyas, Raise your Anchors!’: Land Development in Bolshevik Mythology

Oleg Gorbachev


This article focuses on the role that land development played in the views and projects of Vladimir Lenin and his supporters and analyses how these ideal concepts were affected by real-life challenges, that is, how the exalted romantic vision of the early post-revolutionary period was later replaced by a more pragmatic neo-imperialist approach. Throughout the early Soviet period (until the early 1930s), there were three main mythologemes which determined the Bolsheviks’ attitude to the territory they had come to possess: the “World Revolution”, “self-determination of nations”, and the “Communist society”. The Bolsheviks believed that the first two concepts corresponded mostly to tactics while the last one was concerned with strategy. After the Bolsheviks’ plans for a world revolution were ruined, they concentrated on a transition from tactical to strategic principles applied to developing the land of the former Russian Empire wherein, until 1923, the nation-building project had played a key role in the way the Bolsheviks had chosen to develop their land. As in the case of the “World Revolution” ideologeme, the “self-determination of nations” gradually transformed from a practical issue into one of propagandist clichés when the Bolsheviks realised that it was impossible to fully achieve the proclaimed ideological goals. Aiming to build a Communist society in Russia, the Bolshevik government prioritised industrialisation and urbanisation, following Marx’s views and some nineteenth-century utopian theories. Both of the two approaches to zoning – economic and national – were well grounded ideologically but in the end it was the third, administrative approach which prevailed. Interestingly enough, it was not so much socialist but imperial in its nature. Before the mid-1920s, all ideological doctrines related to land development had been revised and readjusted. The Bolsheviks did not completely reject their old ideal concepts but instead adjusted and used them for propagandist purposes to exert more direct, Stalinist-type control.


early Soviet society; territorial development; Soviet ideology; social engineering


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2017.3.244


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