Can You Be Poor and Not Proletarian? Disenfranchisement in a Moscow Neighborhood in the 1920s and 1930s

By Nathalie Moine

The Bolsheviks established the deprivation of voting rights very swiftly, removing from the voting population those who were not wanted in Soviet society. Complex criteria were used: among those excluded were representatives of the tsarist regime, priests and monks, but also all those whose kind and amount of income was viewed as a residue of capitalism. This discriminatory policy was at its height when the N.E.P. was abandoned. This article draws upon a database, collected by Russian researchers, of disenfranchised persons petitioning for their rehabilitation. This case study shows the big gap between the abstract categories of political discourse and the characteristics of those who were supposed to embody them. Petitions show how these people had to use official values and categories in order to describe their own experience. The way local authorities reexamined the files of petitioners demonstrates the importance they gave to their own perceptions of individual situations.

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