Aliens, Citizens, and the Soviet State, 1926–1936
"I served not in defense of the bourgeois order, but only for a crumb of bread since I was burdened with five small children."
"From 1923 to 1925 I worked as a musician but later my earnings weren't steady and I quickly stopped. Without an income to live on, I was drawn to the nonlaboring path."
"As a man almost completely illiterate and therefore not prepared for any kind of work, I was forced to return to my craft as a barber."
"I am as ignorant as a pipe."
Golfo Alexopoulos focuses on the lishentsy ("outcasts") of the interwar USSR to reveal the defining features of alien and citizen identities under Stalin's rule. Although portrayed as "bourgeois elements," lishentsy actually included a wide variety of people, including prostitutes, gamblers, tax evaders, embezzlers, and ethnic minorities, in particular, Jews. The poor, the weak, and the elderly were frequent targets of disenfranchisement, singled out by officials looking to conserve scarce resources or satisfy their superiors with long lists of discovered enemies.
Alexopoulos draws heavily on an untapped resource: an archive in western Siberia that contains over 100,000 individual petitions for reinstatement. Her analysis of these and many other documents concerning "class aliens" shows how Bolshevik leaders defined the body politic and how individuals experienced the Soviet state. Personal narratives with which individuals successfully appealed to officials for reinstatement allow an unusual view into the lives of "outcasts." From Kremlin leaders to marked aliens, many participated in identifying insiders and outsiders and challenging the terms of membership in Stalin's new society.