“Positive” Propaganda: Socialist Realism and the Affect Gap in 1930s Uzbekistan

Friday, January 5, 2018: 1:50 PM
Diplomat Ballroom (Omni Shoreham)
Claire Roosien, University of Chicago
In this paper, I examine Soviet agitation and propaganda (agitprop) workers’ efforts to garner public support for state policy in Uzbekistan. Despite their control of the mass media and the state’s monopoly on violence, regime-sponsored cultural actors articulated a deep anxiety that their message was not connecting with the public. At times, they even seemed convinced that “agitation” and “propaganda” from mullahs, kulaks, and local capitalists (bais) were gaining more mass support than they could. Drawing on archival documents, this paper shows that agitprop workers found bai-kulak agitation so threatening because of its capacity to mobilize mass affect. Through close readings of Soviet Uzbek poetry, I conclude that pro-Soviet Uzbek cultural actors attempted to bridge the “affect gap” by producing positive images that would resonate with the local population. This effort ultimately led to the locally specific development of Socialist Realism in Uzbekistan.