Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Social Order and Marginal Groups in the Soviet Union

The cultural foundations for strategies of integration and practices of exclusion between the 1940s and 1960s

Prof. Dr. Elena Zubkova


This research project focuses on the cultural foundations for the treatment of marginalized social groups in the context of a development of integration strategies. Against the backdrop of the present debate about the cultures of identity and mechanisms of integration in a multi-cultural space, the experiences of state socialism (the Soviet Union) in this area allow an identification of continuities and deviations that manifestly raise questions regarding the cultural-historical roots of present conflicts. The project centers on the postwar period—from the end of World War II until the mid-1960s. Both Stalin’s polarizing and repressive policies and the ravages of war had created a society constructed of “drifting sand,” which is to say a society in which millions of people were uprooted, deprived of rights, criminalized, and marginalized. The chief subject of this research is composed of social groups such as the following: impoverished people and beggars, prostitutes, neglected children, wandering Sinti and Roma, homeless people, alcoholics, and (released) criminals.

The cultural patterns essentially stamping social order and identity formation (and identity ascription) in the USSR were anchored by means of the approach taken towards these groups by state and society. These cultural patterns, which have until now hardly been researched, stand at the project’s forefront.