Spatial dimensions of Soviet repressions in the 1930s : the House of Writers (Kharkiv, Ukraine)

Bertelsen, Olga (2013) Spatial dimensions of Soviet repressions in the 1930s : the House of Writers (Kharkiv, Ukraine). PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This study examines spatial dimensions of state violence against the Ukrainian intelligentsia in the 1930s, and the creation of a place of surveillance, the famous House of Writers (Budynok Slovo), an apartment building that was conceived by an association of writers “Slovo” in Kharkiv. This building fashioned an important identity for Ukrainian intellectuals, which was altered under state pressure and the fear of being exterminated. Their creative art was gradually transformed into the art of living and surviving under the terror, a feature of a regimented society. The study explores the writers’ behavior during arrests and interrogation, and examines the Soviet secret police’s tactics employed in interrogation rooms.

The narrative considers the space of politics that brought the perpetrators of terror and their victims closer to each other, eventually forcing them to share the same place. Within this space and place they became interchangeable and interchanged, and ultimately were physically eliminated. Importantly, the research illuminates the multiethnic composition of the building’s residents: among them were cultural figures of Ukrainian, Russian and Jewish origins. Their individual histories and contributions to Ukrainian culture demonstrate the vector of Stalin’s terror which targeted not Ukrainian ethnicity as such but instead was directed against the development of Ukrainian national identity and Ukrainian statehood that were perceived as a challenge to the center’s control and as harbingers of separatism.

The study also reveals that the state launched the course of counter-Ukrainization in 1926 and disintegrated the Ukrainian intellectual community through mass repressive operations which the secret police began to apply from 1929. The study also demonstrates that, together with people, the state purposefully exterminated national cultural artifacts—journals, books, art and sculpture, burying human ideas which have never been and will never be consummated. The purpose was to explain how the elimination of most prominent Ukrainian intellectuals was organized, rationalized and politicized. During the period of one decade, the terror tore a hole in the fabric of Ukrainian culture that may never be mended.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Baron, N.
Sharipova, L.
Subjects: D History - General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 13390
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2013 08:50
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 17:01

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