The 1959 Liriki-Fiziki Debate: Going Public With the Private?

  • Susan Costanzo


“ [A] person’s spiritual side depends to a significant degree on how he spends his free time … [P]rogress in the sphere of the hard sciences [and] technology and ignorance of social problems lead society to decay or catastrophe.”1 In spite of very recent achievements in the Soviet space program and less recent exhortations that glorified work and personal sacrifice in order to build the fledgling Soviet state and industry, writer Il’ia Ehrenburg’s remark in a September 1959 Komsomol’skaia pravda article caused no outrage. On the contrary, editors embraced his ideas as a catalyst for public discussion.


Personal Relationship Private Life Private Sphere Emotional Life Public Behavior 
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  1. 7.
    Catriona Kelly, Refining Russia. Advice Literature, Polite Culture, and Gender from Catherine to Yeltsin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 354–355.Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    See Susan E. Reid, “Cold War in the Kitchen: Gender and the De-Stalinization of Consumer Taste in the Soviet Union under Khrushchev,” Slavic Review, 61, 2 (2002), 211–251; Katerina Gerasimova, “Public Privacy in the Communal Apartment,” in Socialist Spaces: Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc, ed. David Crowley and Susan E. Reid (Oxford: Berg, 2002), 207–230; Steven Harris, “Moving to the Separate Apartment: Building, Distributing, Furnishing, and Living in Urban Housing in Soviet Russia, 1950s–1960s.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 2003. See also articles by Reid and Harris in this volume.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 16.
    Cited in Gayle Durham Hollander, Soviet Political Indoctrination: Developments in Mass Media and Propaganda Since Stalin (New York: Praeger, 1972), 110.Google Scholar
  4. 27.
    For an analysis of a similar tension between Soviet readers and official expectations in the post-Stalin era, see Stephen Lovell, The Russian Reading Revolution: Print Culture in the Soviet and Post-Soviet Era (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000), 45–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 42.
    Il’ia Ehrenburg, Liudi, gody, zhizn’. Tom tretii, kniga sed’maia (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1990), 367–368.Google Scholar
  6. 61.
    Vladimir Shlapentokh refers to this process as “privatization,” but his work focuses primarily on the Brezhnev era. See Vladimir Shlapentokh, Public and Private Life of the Soviet People: Changing Values in Post-Stalin Russia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 14.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lewis H. Siegelbaum 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Costanzo

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