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The Last Soviet Dreamer: Conversations with Leonid Potemkin

A public lecture by JOCHEN HELLBECK, Rutgers University, History

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Duration: 48:42

Soviet diaries from the 1930s offer striking insights into the personal and inner dimensions of the Bolshevik revolution. In contrast to popular belief that Soviet citizens sought to cultivate a private existence in contradistinction to the totalitarian communist ideology, many of those who kept diaries during the Stalin period used them to instill their personal lives with the values of the unfolding revolution. They dreamed the Soviet dream, a dream that promised fulfillment in the act of making history and joining the vanguard of humanity. Leonid Potemkin, a student of geology in the 1930s and an avid diarist, survives to the present day. Video interviews with Potemkin conducted in 2004 and 2005 address the memory of the Stalin era today and the continued commitments on the part of a surviving diarist from that age. The interviews also showcase the epistemological and ethical problems that accrue from the investigation of intimate personal accounts in the presence of their surviving author.
Jochen Hellbeck is an Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University.  He is the author of Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary under Stalin(Harvard University Press, 2006), and the co-editor of Autobiographical Practices in Russia (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004). His research focuses on autobiographical accounts and people’s self-understandings in historical perspective.

Center for European and Eurasian Studies