Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Perestroika: The Last Attempt to Create the New Soviet Person, 1985-1991

Fri31  Mar12:45pm(15 mins)
Bute Hall
Dr Courtney Doucette


Courtney Doucette1
1 State University of New York at Oswego, USA, United States


The effort to create the new Soviet person is a well-known part of the Soviet project, with a particularly dynamic scholarly literature addressing its place in the Stalin period. However, there have been fewer studies of the new Soviet person following World War Two perhaps because, as John Bushnell put it, the new Soviet person was widely perceived to become “pessimist.” This paper explores the reinvigoration of the new man project during Perestroika. Based on an intellectual-historical reading of high political sources, including speeches, memoirs, diaries of those in the highest ranks of government, I suggest that the effort to create the new Soviet person constituted a central goal of reform policy. This goal remained equally as important as accelerating the economy and remaking political institutions. Its inclusion in reformers’ chief goals also illuminates how late Soviet reform aimed not to transition to capitalism, but to revive socialism. By looking closely at what it meant to become the new Soviet person in the late 1980s, however, we get a clearer sense of how old political goals were revised in the post-war and post-industrial period as neoliberalism flourished in the Cold War West and Soviet reformers sought to make Soviet socialism a humanistic ideology with global appeal.