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Tear Off the Masks!:
Identity and Imposture in Twentieth-Century Russia
Sheila Fitzpatrick

Paperback | 2005 | $39.95 | £32.95 | ISBN: 9780691122458
352 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 10 halftones.
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When revolutions happen, they change the rules of everyday life--both the codified rules concerning the social and legal classifications of citizens and the unwritten rules about how individuals present themselves to others. This occurred in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, which laid the foundations of the Soviet state, and again in 1991, when that state collapsed. Tear Off the Masks! is about the remaking of identities in these times of upheaval. Sheila Fitzpatrick here brings together in a single volume years of distinguished work on how individuals literally constructed their autobiographies, defended them under challenge, attempted to edit the "file-selves" created by bureaucratic identity documentation, and denounced others for "masking" their true social identities.

Marxist class-identity labels--"worker," "peasant," "intelligentsia," "bourgeois"--were of crucial importance to the Soviet state in the 1920s and 1930s, but it turned out that the determination of a person's class was much more complicated than anyone expected. This in turn left considerable scope for individual creativity and manipulation. Outright imposters, both criminal and political, also make their appearance in this book. The final chapter describes how, after decades of struggle to construct good Soviet socialist personae, Russians had to struggle to make themselves fit for the new, post-Soviet world in the 1990s--by "de-Sovietizing" themselves.

Engaging in style and replete with colorful detail and characters drawn from a wealth of sources, Tear Off the Masks! offers unique insight into the elusive forms of self-presentation, masking, and unmasking that made up Soviet citizenship and continue to resonate in the post-Soviet world.


"Sheila Fitzpatrick's work has defined social history of the Soviet period: it is the reference against which others are measured and to which they react."--J. Arch Getty, Slavic Review


"What makes Tear off the Masks! so appealing and why the pieces work so well together is that they cover a broad range of experiences associated with what it meant to be a Soviet citizen. Certainly, it will be a boon to the field to have the book available for courses. Tear off the Masks! is so appealingly written, full of wit and occasional humor, that it could serve as a model of the historian's craft. What we get is a phenomenal, nearly unparalleled depth of research combined with a transparency about research methods that invites the reader into this particular(ly skilled) historian's laboratory."--Lewis Siegelbaum, Michigan State University, author of Stalinism as a Way of Life

"Tear off the Masks! will be indispensable to students of Soviet history and valuable to scholars as well. Not only does it make available to the reader pioneering writings on important subjects such as defining class in the Soviet era and the institutional operations of Soviet patronage, alongside new work, but it is held together by focus on one important theme: 'the pragmatics of Soviet identity,' as it might be called. Fitzpatrick gives a vivid, sympathetic, and often entertaining picture of Soviet citizens surviving (barely) the class war (or, conversely, clawing their way up the ladder when circumstances allowed), and engaged in battles for existence of a different kind in the 1930s and 1940s."--Catriona Kelly, University of Oxford, author of Refining Russia

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
Preface and Acknowledgments xi
CHAPTER ONE: Becoming Soviet 3
PART I. Class Identities 27
CHAPTER TWO: The Bolshevik Invention of Class 29
CHAPTER THREE: Class Identities in NEP Society 51
CHAPTER FOUR: Class and Soslovie 71
PART II. Lives 89
CHAPTER FIVE: Lives under Fire 91
CHAPTER SIX: The Two Faces of Anastasia 102
CHAPTER SEVEN: Story of a Peasant Striver 114
CHAPTER EIGHT: Women’s Lives 125
PART III. Appeals 153
CHAPTER NINE: Supplicants and Citizens 155
CHAPTER TEN: Patrons and Clients 182
PART IV. Denunciations 203
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Signals from Below 205
CHAPTER TWELVE: Wives’ Tales 240
PART V. Impostures 263
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: The World of Ostap Bender 265
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The Con Man as Jew 282
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Becoming Post-Soviet 303
Selected Further reading 319
Index 323

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Sheila Fitzpatrick:

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