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Article

Confessing to Leviathan: The mass practice of writing autobiographies in the USSR

Slavic Review. 2017. Vol. 76. No. 4. P. 1027-1047.
Translator: T. Rollings.

Yury Zaretskiy’s article examines the mass practice of composing formal autobiographies by Soviet citizens. The major part of the study covers the period from the 1950s to the 1980s when the Soviet records management protocol requested this type of document from individuals belonging to different social groups and of different occupations. Yury Zaretskiy reviews the concrete social circumstances in which the narrative structure of formal autobiographies was fashioned before moving on to argue that their final addressee was the Soviet state, that their content changed in line with political and ideological changes in the USSR, that the practice of writing them had much in common with Christian confession, and that the spread of this practice among millions of people functioned as a mechanism of subjectification aimed at “making them Soviet.”