In 1999's Everyday Stalinism, historian Sheila Fitzpatrick rejects the common practice of simplistically treating the Soviet Union as a totalitarian government that tightly controlled its citizens. She takes advantage of vast archives that were released after the Cold War to examine Soviet society "from below" - looking at how ordinary citizens coped with shortages and the general sense of fear created by the state. Despite government efforts to mold its citizens into perfect reflections of communist ideology, in practice everyday people found ways to live everyday lives. Their coping mechanisms played an important role in how major events unfolded, including forced industrialization and the Great Purge, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed by the state.
Fitzpatrick's influence on our modern understanding of Soviet society goes beyond her own works. Everyday Stalinism has inspired younger historians to dig deeper into Soviet social life, exploring the mindset of average citizens as they tried to lead ordinary lives in what were undoubtedly extraordinary times.
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