Deaf in the USSR : Marginality, Community, and Soviet Identity, 1917-1991 2017006013, 2017008102, 9781501713668, 9781501713781, 9781501713798

In Deaf in the USSR, Claire L. Shaw asks what it meant to be deaf in a culture that was founded on a radically utopian,

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Deaf in the USSR : Marginality, Community, and Soviet Identity, 1917-1991
 2017006013, 2017008102, 9781501713668, 9781501713781, 9781501713798

Table of contents :
Note on Transliteration and Terminology
Glossary and Abbreviations
1. Revolutionizing Deafness
2. Making the Deaf Soviet
3. War and Reconstruction
4. The Golden Age
5. Pygmalion
6. Deaf-Soviet Identity in Decline
Bibliography of Primary Sources

Citation preview



M A R GI NA LI TY, CO M M UN I TY, A ND S OV I E T I D E N T I TY, 1917–1991

Cl aire L. Shaw


Publication of this book was made possible, in part, by a grant from the First Book Subvention Program of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Copyright © 2017 by Cornell University All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. For information, address Cornell University Press, Sage House, 512 East State Street, Ithaca, New York 14850. First published 2017 by Cornell University Press Printed in the United States of Amer­i­ca Library of Congress Cataloging-­in-­Publication Data Names: Shaw, Claire L., author. Title: Deaf in the USSR : marginality, community, and   Soviet identity, 1917–1991 / Claire L. Shaw. Description: Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2017. |   Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2017006013 (print) | LCCN 2017008102   (ebook) | ISBN 9781501713668 (cloth : alk. paper) |   ISBN 9781501713781 (epub/mobi) | ISBN   9781501713798 (pdf ) Subjects: LCSH: Deaf culture—­Soviet Union—­History. |   Deaf—­Soviet Union—­Social conditions. | Marginality,   Social—­Soviet Union—­History. | Identity (Psy­chol­ogy)—  ­Soviet Union—­History. | Group identity—­Soviet   Union—­History. Classification: LCC HV2783 .S44 2017 (print) | LCC   HV2783 (ebook) | DDC 305.9/08209470904—­dc23 LC rec­ord available at https://­lccn​.­loc​.­gov​/­2017006013 Cornell University Press strives to use environmentally responsible suppliers and materials to the fullest extent pos­si­ble in the publishing of its books. Such materials include vegetable-­based, low-­VOC inks and acid-­free papers that are recycled, totally chlorine-­free, or partly composed of nonwood fibers. For further information, visit our website at www​.­cornellpress​.­cornell​.­edu. Cover: Deaf workers from the “Paris Commune” factory meet the Stakhanovite Smetanin, 1935. Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

For Ruth, Tony, and Edward

We do our deeds in silence, And our deeds speak for us. —­Deaf Soviet poet Ivan Isaev, 1971

Co nte nts



Note on Transliteration and Terminology


Glossary and Abbreviations


Introduction: The Soviet ­People of Silence 1 1. Revolutionizing Deafness


2. Making the Deaf Soviet


3. War and Reconstruction


4. The Golden Age


5. Pygmalion


6. Deaf-­Soviet Identity in Decline






Bibliography of Primary Sources




A c k n o w l­e d g m e nts

Looking back over my years of work on this proj­ect, I am conscious of the ­g reat many ­people and institutions who have helped me bring Deaf in the USSR to life. This book began at University College London’s School of Slavonic and East Eu­ro­pean Studies, with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and has come to fruition at the University of Bristol, where a generous year of leave soon ­after my appointment helped me access impor­tant new archival materials. In the intervening years, I was the grateful recipient of a Scouloudi Fellowship and a Past and Pres­ent Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research, and was lucky enough to spend three months at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, working with the wonderful Sabine Arnaud. I thank all of ­these institutions for their support. Growing up in the grounds of Mary Hare Grammar School for the Deaf, where my ­father was principal, sparked an enduring interest in the deaf world, one that, as I pursued my studies in Rus­sian language and history, would not let me go. I could not have written this book, however, without the help of ­those who opened the doors of the Rus­sian deaf community to me. Alla Borisovna Slavina was an inspiration to meet: her insistence that Soviet deaf ­people “stepped to the tempo of the March of the Enthusiasts” was instrumental to my early research. Tania Davidenko and Vera Ezhova w ­ ere enthusiastic teachers of Rus­sian Sign Language; I only wish I had more time to practice. As I painstakingly worked my way through piles of VOG documents, the team at V edinom stroiu, including Mariia Evseeva, Iaroslav Pichugin, and Viktors Karepov and Skripov, welcomed me with unfailing warmth, kindness, and cups of tea, even when I accidentally broke their photocopier. Special thanks go to their editor, Viktor Palennyi, who has been an enthusiastic ally throughout this proj­ect, generous with his time and resources and always willing to interrupt his day job to answer obscure questions about Rus­sian deaf history. My doktormutter, Susan Morrissey, has been involved in this proj­ect since its inception. Throughout my PhD, her insightful readings of my work ix


Ac know l­e dgments

pushed me to challenge my ideas and strengthen my arguments, and her support following its completion has never wavered. I am constantly grateful for her guidance and friendship (and that of my doktorschwester, Elisabeth Jahn-­ Morrissey). I thank Polly Jones, Stephen Lovell, and Miriam Dobson for their perceptive reading and their generous advice on how best to revise for publication. I also thank my undergraduate supervisor, Chris Ward, for encouraging me to pursue postgraduate study and for his faith that I could succeed. Many ­others have contributed to this proj­ect by debating ideas, reading drafts, and commenting on papers; thanks in par­tic­u­lar go to Birgit Beumers, Wendy Bracewell, Matthew Brown, Charles Burdett, Pauline Fairclough, Julian Graffy, Simon Huxtable, Matthew Romaniello, Kristin Roth-­Ey, Tricia Starks, Anna Toropova, and Emma Widdis. Over the last few years, it has been a plea­sure to debate the nature of deaf spaces with Mike Gulliver, and this work is all the better for it. At Cornell University Press, Roger Haydon has engaged with my work with enthusiasm and perception; I am also grateful to Erin Davis, Carol Noble, and the two anonymous reviewers for their careful and constructive reading of the manuscript. The support I received as I made my way through the archives and libraries of Rus­sia, Germany, and Britain has made this proj­ect pos­si­ble. I thank the archivists of GARF, particularly Reading Room 2, and TsGA Moskvy; I am also grateful to the staff of the Lenin Library in Moscow and the Rus­sian National Library in St Petersburg for their help. In London, thanks go to the staff of the SSEES library and Action on Hearing Loss library, especially the lovely Dominic Stiles, who gave me the keys to the store cupboard and allowed me to explore the dusty and eclectic Rus­sian collection. As I have grappled with this proj­ect, my friends and fellow researchers have made the good times better and the stresses easier to bear. The residents of St George’s—­Alex Nice, Zbigniew Wojnowski, Camille Muris-­Prime, Hannah Meyer, and Digby Levitt—­were a constant source of support; thanks also to Mary Ankers, Kath Apps, Rhian Atkin, Madeleine Barter, Cat Blinkhorn, Nick Gill, Delphine Grass, Matt Huxham, Eve Leigh, Dragana Obradovic, Debbie Pinfold, Siobhan Shilton, and Rowan Tomlinson for their encouragement and friendship. In Moscow, Marina Galkina, Anna Sokolovskaia, and James, Sveta, and Lily Marson have helped me to find a home away from home. I am also grateful to many generations of the FHC, particularly Seth Bern­stein, for ensuring I would always have friends to meet on a Friday night. The Rus­sian Department at Bristol has been a supportive and inspiring home over the last six years, for which I thank my colleagues Gesine Argent, Mike Basker, Rajendra Chitnis, Ruth Coates, Connor Doak, Natalia Gogolitsyna, Rebecca Gould, Derek and Dorinda Offord, Elena McNeilly, Jana

Ac k n ow l­e d g m e n ts


Nahodilova, and Ilona Velichko. I am grateful to all my School of Modern Languages colleagues—­too many to name h ­ ere, for which I hope they w ­ ill forgive me—­who make it easy to come to work in the morning. I also thank my students, whose searching questions have pushed me to rethink many of my conclusions and whose enthusiasm for Rus­sian and Soviet history is a source of constant inspiration. Last, but by no means least, my thanks go to my parents, Ruth and Tony, and my ­brother Edward, for their endless support and love. They have lived this proj­ect with me for the past ten years, debating ideas, picking me up when I was down, and reminding me that ­there is a world beyond my writing desk. This is as much their achievement as it is mine, and so I dedicate this book to them.

N ote o n Tr a n s l i te r at i o n a n d Te r m i n o lo gy

Rus­sian words have been transliterated according to the Library of Congress scheme and are italicized in the text. The Rus­sian word “deaf-­mute” (glukhonemoi), in adjective and noun form, was in common use for much of the Soviet period. I use the term when translating from original source material; elsewhere, I use the terms “deaf ” (glukhoi), “hard-­of-­hearing” (tugoukhii or slaboslyshchashii), and “hearing” (slyshashii). While it has become commonplace to capitalize the adjective “Deaf ” to refer to t­ hose who see themselves as belonging to a culturally defined deaf community, this has po­liti­cal and historical connotations that do not map easily onto the Soviet experience, and so I do not follow that convention ­here except when referring to key concepts in Deaf studies. The Soviet theoretical framework surrounding disability made the distinction between invalidnost´, denoting a disability of the body, and defekt, which refers to sensory and developmental disorders, including deafness, blindness, and m ­ ental retardation (umstvenno otstalost´). In this work, I translate the term invalid and its derivatives as “disabled,” and defekt as “defect.”


G lo s sa r y a n d A b b r e v i at i o n s

artel work group aktiv group of activists APN Acad­emy of Pedagogical Sciences d. delo, archival file f. fond, archival collection fabkom factory trade ­union committee fizkul´turniki participants in physical culture ­activities FZU Factory-­Plant School GARF State Archive of the Rus­sian Federation internat boarding school Komsomol Communist Union of Young ­People komsomolets (plural komsomol´tsy) member of the Komsomol krai territory likbez club for the liquidation of illiteracy Minpros Ministry of Enlightenment (previously Narkompros) Minsobes Ministry of Social Welfare (previously Narkomsobes) Mintrud Ministry of ­Labor (previously Narkomtrud) Minzdrav Ministry of Health (previously Narkomzdrav) MVD Ministry of Internal Affairs (previously NKVD) Narkompros ­People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment (­later Minpros) Narkomsobes ­People’s Commissariat of Social Welfare (­later Minsobes) Narkomtrud ­People’s Commissariat of ­Labor (­later Mintrud) Narkomzdrav ­People’s Commissariat of Health (­later Minzdrav) NIID Scientific-­Research Institute of Defectology NKVD ­People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (­later MVD) oblast´ region OGPU Joint State Po­liti­cal Directorate (­later subsumed into the NKVD) op. opis, inventory profsoiuz trade ­union xv

xvi G lossar y

and Abbreviat ions

rabfak workers’ faculty at a higher educational establishment raion district RGANI Rus­sian State Archive of Con­temporary History RGASPI Rus­sian State Archive of Social and Po­liti­cal History RSFSR Rus­sian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic SKPTB Specialist Design and Technical Planning Bureau, VOG sovkhoz state collective farm Sovmin Soviet of Ministers (formerly Sovnarkom) Sovnarkom Soviet of ­People’s Deputies (­later Sovmin) SPON Social and ­Legal Protection of Minors (department ­under Narkompros) tekhnikum technical (vocational training) school TMZh Theatre of Sign and Gesture TsIETIN Central Institute for the Examination of Work-­Capability and the Organ­ization of the ­Labor of Disabled ­People TsP Central Directorate of VOG UPM Educational-­ Industrial Workshop, subordinate to VOG (­later UPP) UPP Educational-­Industrial Enterprise, subordinate to VOG (previously UPM) VES V edinom stroiu (In a United Rank) VOG magazine, 1972–­pres­ent VIKO All-­Russian Cooperative Association of Disabled ­People VOG All-­Russian Association of Deaf-­Mutes (1926–1932) ­later All-­Russian Society of Deaf-­Mutes (1932–1959) ­later All-­Russian Society of the Deaf (1959–) vor thief (part of an or­ga­nized crime ­network) VOS All-Russian Society of the Blind VSG All-­Russian Union of Deaf-­Mutes (1917–1920) VSNKh Supreme Soviet of the Economy VTsIK All-­Russian Central Executive Committee VTsSPS All-­Union Central Soviet of Professional (Trades) Unions VUZ Higher Educational Establishment WFD World Federation of the Deaf Zhenotdel ­Women’s Department of the Communist Party


Introduction The Soviet P ­ eople of Silence

Dvoe (The Two, 1965), a short film by the young director Mikhail Bogin, opens in the crowded streets of a nameless Soviet city. A ­music student, Serezha, is walking home from rehearsals at the Conservatory of ­Music when he accidentally bumps into a beautiful young w ­ oman, Natasha. His verbose and witty apologies are met merely by an enigmatic smile in response. She walks on. Intrigued by her beauty—­and her silence— he follows her across town, making a series of fruitless attempts to provoke her into speaking to him. The reason for her reticence eventually becomes clear. On the steps of a theater, she stops to chat with a friend, expressing herself in vibrant sign language. The screen freezes and car brakes squeal. In an instant, Serezha understands: Natasha is deaf. From its opening scenes, Dvoe plunges the viewer into the everyday world of the Soviet deaf community. Natasha is a member of the All-­Russian Society of the Deaf (Vserossiiskoe Obshchestvo Glukhikh, or VOG); a poster for its monthly magazine, Zhizn´ glukhikh (Life of the Deaf  ), adorns the front door of her apartment. By day, she studies acrobatics at the State Circus School. By night, she operates the lights at the Theatre of Sign and Gesture, the professional Soviet deaf theater founded in Moscow in 1957. Natasha communicates in sign language with her deaf friends and with Serezha through lipreading or written Rus­sian on pages torn from a musical score. The film revels in her community’s otherness, hidden in plain sight within the city Serezha thought he 1

2 Introduct ion

knew. Yet at the same time, as Bogin himself was keen to stress, the film also reveals the commonalities between the young Soviet pair. As they get to know each other, Serezha and Natasha discover their mutual interest in the arts, their similar ambitions and experiences. She comes to see his chamber orchestra play; he attends a per­for­mance by the theater. “Above all,” Bogin commented, “we wanted to tell on screen [the story] of the spiritual community of Soviet ­people, of genuine ­human worth.”1 According to con­temporary deaf reviewers, Bogin’s film “vividly and accurately told of our society, which offers p­ eople all possibilities for the highest and fullest development of their creative strengths.”2 Yet despite this positive reading, the film’s depiction of deafness is not without its ambiguities. While the relationship between Natasha and Serezha points to a shared Soviet identity, Natasha and her deaf friends are far from integrated into the wider Soviet community. Their reliance on sign language actively prevents their interaction with hearing p­ eople. The reaction of certain hearing individuals to deaf characters is also telling: in a l­ ater scene, some young men try to get the attention of two of Natasha’s friends (with the same words Serezha used to flirt with Natasha) but, on realizing that the pair are deaf, they turn away in disgust. It is not even clear if any relationship develops between the two central characters. The final scenes show alternating shots of Natasha and Serezha walking separately through a park; ­whether they are walking ­toward or away from each other is a m ­ atter of interpretation. The tension between commonality and difference, belonging and not belonging, in the lives and identities of Soviet deaf p­ eople stands at the heart of this book. Deaf in the USSR explores the history of the deaf community in the Soviet Union from the February Revolution of 1917 to the collapse of the Soviet state in 1991, while situating the experience of deaf ­people within the broader framework of Soviet programs of identity and the fashioning of a par­ tic­ul­ar ideal of Soviet self hood. It narrates the birth and development of a distinct Soviet deaf identity, its flourishing a­ fter the G ­ reat Patriotic War, and its decline during the 1970s. Through the examination of the shifting Soviet understandings of deafness and disability, as they ­were produced and disseminated through a complex matrix of science, ideology, education, and individual and group experiences, the text places deafness—­and disability more broadly—in the center of Soviet history. By asking what it means to be deaf in a culture that is founded on a radically utopian and socialist view of humanity, and how Soviet ideologues reconciled the fallibility of the body with their dreams of a ­f uture society, deafness reveals the tensions and contradictions inherent in the Soviet revolutionary proj­ect.

I n t r o d u c t i o n


This book draws heavi­ly on the history of one institution. First mooted in the heady days following the February Revolution of 1917 and formalized as a branch of the Soviet government in 1926, this institution changed its name over time—­the All-­Russian Association of Deaf-­Mutes (Vserossiiskoe Ob´´edinenie Glukhonemykh, 1926–1932), the All-­Russian Society of Deaf-­ Mutes (Vserossiiskoe Obshchestvo Glukhonemykh, 1932–1959), and the All-­ Russian Society of the Deaf (Vserossiiskoe Obshchestvo Glukhikh, 1959–)—­yet its acronym of VOG, and its central role in Soviet deaf p­ eople’s lives, remained constant. It continues to function, in a dif­fer­ent form, to this day. VOG provided an institutional framework that came to encompass all areas of deaf ­people’s lives, including work placement, living space, social activities, and cultural and educational ser­vices. It represented both a tool of Soviet governance and a locus of deaf grassroots activism and community building; founded and run by deaf ­people, VOG enabled the emergence of a strikingly cohesive form of deaf community identity within the Soviet body politic. The story of Soviet deafness, encapsulated in Natasha’s silence, is one of a distinctive and vibrant community, defined by its experience of the visual and institutionalized in a complex of social clubs, cultural institutions, workshops, and living spaces. Studying the history of VOG thus offers us an impor­tant new perspective on the institutional frameworks of marginality and community within Soviet society. Within ­these institutional structures, this book is fundamentally concerned with deaf ­people and their relationship to the Soviet proj­ect. VOG incorporated a wide variety of individuals and groups defined as deaf—­those deaf from birth and late-­deafened; signing and speaking deaf p­ eople—­alongside hearing pedagogues, bureaucrats, and ­children of deaf parents, who variously engaged with, negotiated, and distanced themselves from prevailing definitions of “deafness” and “sovietness.” By engaging with the narratives of this constellation of Soviet deaf p­ eople, as revealed in institutional archives, deaf journalism, lit­er­a­ture, art, and personal memoirs, this book explores the self-­understanding of deaf citizens as socialist subjects. ­These individuals framed themselves as a community of silence within the Soviet body politic, challenging the perceived marginalization of imperfect individuals that has long defined historical narratives of Soviet disability. At the same time, the ideological frameworks of VOG, and the lives of ­those deaf ­people within it, w ­ ere shot through with identifiably Soviet values, such as collectivism, mutual aid, and a desire to transcend and overcome the imperfect body in the ser­ vice of bigger, social goals. The tension and negotiation between ­these two identities—­deafness and sovietness—is the subject of this book.

4 Introduct ion

Soviet Deafness Deafness, referred to in Soviet scientific parlance as a defect (defekt), took on par­tic­u­lar meanings in the Soviet context.3 Understandings of physical difference became intimately bound up with Bolshevik ideology and the ideals of the communist experiment. From the moment of its creation, the Soviet state represented an ongoing transformative proj­ect, through which the raw ­human material of a backward, peasant country was to be forged anew as a classless, egalitarian, and, ultimately, communist society.4 The individual in this scenario was viewed as plastic, able to be molded into the revolutionary ideal of the New Soviet Person, the rational and collectivist worker in whose name power had been seized.5 While the ideological discourse of the New Soviet Person tended to focus on the ­will and the consciousness of Soviet subjects, the physicality of the Soviet ideal was made abundantly clear in popu­lar culture, embodied in the healthy, muscular workers and plump ­children of Soviet novels, films, posters, and parades.6 Soviet individuals ­were expected to work to remake themselves in the mold of t­hese Soviet heroes. Yet within t­hese utopian dreams it was unclear what to do with individuals seen as physically flawed. Could a disabled or “defective” body embody the Soviet ideal? Soviet deafness provides a revealing win­dow into the dreams and limitations inherent in Soviet practices of molding the self, practices that have since been examined through the lens of biopolitics.7 Drawing on Foucault’s vision of modern statehood as the fostering of the right to life of its citizens, historians such as David Hoffmann and Peter Holquist have explored the interventionist policies of the early Soviet state as part of broader, pan-­European attempts to foster an idealized, healthy body politic. “Far from seeking to subjugate society and obliterate ­people’s sense of self,” writes Hoffman, “Soviet authorities sought to cultivate educated, cultured citizens who would transcend selfish, petty-­bourgeois instincts and contribute willingly to a harmonious social order.”8 Deafness interacted in par­tic­u­lar ways with this proj­ect to develop ideal Soviet subjects, a proj­ect in which deaf ­people ­were included from the earliest years of the revolution. Not in itself incapacitating (or even vis­i­ble), deafness did not preclude physical fitness or ­labor, key aspects of the theoretical makeup of the New Soviet Person. Deafness did not prevent an individual from wielding a hammer or working a metal lathe, nor, as the de­ cades passed, did it impede deaf participation in the symbolic rituals of Soviet life, such as the May Day parades on Red Square. As such, deafness occupied a distinctly liminal category, in contrast to the physically crippled bodies of war veterans which, as Lilya Kaganovsky has shown, subverted the cultural

I n t r o d u c t i o n


fantasy of virile, Stalinist masculinity.9 From their place on the factory floor or on the Stakhanovite honor board,10 deaf bodies easily inserted themselves into the physically healthy vision of the Soviet body politic. Deafness might have been a hidden disability, but it was still ideologically fraught. As an obstacle to communication, deafness represented a challenge to Marxist ideologies of the self, which posited the primacy of community and social interaction in the shaping of individual consciousness. Early Soviet writings on deafness accepted its ideologically problematic nature, yet at the same time they viewed deafness as a social phenomenon, open to intervention by the state and situated within the range of backward ­human characteristics that the new Soviet utopia would easily cure. In framing deafness as the product of an outdated social system, the Soviet regime could claim deaf ­people as integral to the Soviet proj­ect, and deaf ­people themselves could tap into the discourses of self-­transformation that characterized the early years of the revolutionary proj­ect. The utopian potential inherent in the ideal of the New Soviet Person—­that of transforming a flawed, backward individual into the Soviet ideal—­was seen to apply equally to the deaf. In the Soviet context, deafness was seen as an obstacle to be “overcome” through medical, social, and educational means. With the right training, skills, and support, it was argued, the deaf could transcend their defect and become active and useful members of Soviet society. This strain of eschatological thinking was in many ways typical of the first Soviet de­cades. As historian Igal Halfin argues, “Marx conceived the New Man as a promise of the beyond, a subject-­to-be that seeks realization”; as such, the coming of the new society promised the creation of new ­people whose contours—­both physical and ­mental—­had yet to be elaborated.11 The notion that deaf p­ eople could cease to be deaf, e­ ither through medical intervention or the reor­ga­ni­za­tion of society, was thus not out of place in this new conceptual universe.12 This way of thinking left a significant legacy within the Soviet deaf community; the notion of “overcoming” deafness, through a shifting constellation of means, remained central to Soviet deaf identity well into the 1980s. Yet such discourses w ­ ere constantly challenged by the physical and material real­ity of deafness: the number of deaf ­people fluctuated throughout the Soviet period but singularly failed to shrink or to be overcome. Official census figures put the incidence of deafness in 1897 at 124,315 (approximately 9 ­percent of the population of the Rus­sian Empire), and in 1929 at 115,298 (7.8 ­percent of the population of the RSFSR); VOG activists estimated the figures to be much higher, around 200,000 in 1917.13 By 1971, internal VOG figures recorded 169,855 deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the RSFSR, 148,627 of whom ­were over the age of fifteen.14

6 Introduct ion

­These tensions between ideological frameworks and medical realities hint at the complex issue of definition confronting Soviet deaf p­ eople and ­those who study them. What exactly did it mean to be deaf (glukhoi) in the USSR? As Douglas Baynton has argued in the U.S. context, the typical understanding of deafness as “simply a m ­ atter of hearing loss” conceals fundamental complications and nuances: “Physical differences do not carry inherent meanings. They must be interpreted.”15 It is certainly true that a broad definition of deafness as hearing loss or lack (nedostatok), resting on a European-­ descended understanding of deafness as a medical real­ity, is consistently evident in discussions at Soviet state level and among deaf p­ eople themselves.16 This notion of physical lack was refracted by par­tic­u­lar Soviet concerns, however, with deafness at vari­ous moments viewed as a lack of culture, as a form of backwardness, and as a personal tragedy. The perceived impact of this lack also revealed the preoccupations of Soviet educators, activists, and deaf citizens, who invoked shifting understanding of capacity throughout the Soviet period and engaged with emerging notions of equality, agency, support, and welfare. Hearing loss is not the only definition of deafness revealed in this book. Sign language (mimika), in par­tic­u­lar, played an impor­tant role in cementing a sense of deaf identity throughout the Soviet period. The Soviet state had a fluctuating and ambiguous attitude to sign language, in line with most Western states at the time, and did not formally recognize sign as a language in its own right. In response to strong lobbying from VOG, however, the state came to accept sign language as a communicative tool within the deaf community and tacitly facilitated its development as a marker of deaf identity. The presence of state-­funded sign language interpreters in factories, higher education establishments, courts of law, and doctors’ offices beginning in the late 1920s enabled sign to become a common feature of everyday life for deaf p­ eople and pushed deaf p­ eople to learn sign in order to access work and ser­vices. In the 1950s, the development of sign-­language theater as a distinct art form both at an amateur level within the deaf club system and at a professional level in the Theatre of Sign and Gesture, raised its status. Similarly, developments in linguistics, such as the creation of the first sign language dictionary by I. F. Geil´man in 1957, caused sign to be recognized more widely as a language worthy of the name. This narrative of the flourishing of sign language is an impor­tant part of Soviet deaf history, linking the Soviet experience to a broader understanding of deafness as a social identity defined by “established patterns of cultural transmission, and a common language.”17 Strikingly, the attempts to foster sign language through interpreting practice, cultural institutions, and

I n t r o d u c t i o n


linguistic research w ­ ere in practice distinctly Soviet, rather than Rus­sian, revealing the linkages between deaf activists and institutions across the USSR and, ­later, the Eastern Bloc.18 The cele­bration of sign language was not universal, however, and not all t­ hose defined as deaf in this study w ­ ere sign language users. Many deaf ­people, particularly ­those deafened ­later in life, chose not to learn sign; ­others preferred to use written communication or fingerspelling. ­These language attitudes ­were influenced by the thorny question of linguistic definition, with deaf activists and state representatives engaging with sign variously as a minority language, as a modality of oral speech, as a form of everyday practice, and as a marker of “unculturedness.” Soviet concerns about language value thus informed deaf cultural practices. Deafness was also defined by the cultural and social organ­izations ­under the umbrella of VOG that s­ haped the lives of its members. As Christopher Krentz has argued, deaf p­ eople at vari­ous historical moments have expressed the desire to “relocate to places where they could escape prejudice and manage their own affairs.”19 In many re­spects, VOG represented the ultimate realization of this desire—­a deaf-­r un state body that unified deaf grassroots activism and advocated for deaf p­ eople. From its origins in 1917, with the efforts of deaf activists, VOG gradually became an institutional framework that encompassed all areas of deaf ­people’s lives, including work placement, living space, social activities, and cultural and educational ser­vices. Techniques of “concentration,” or the grouping of deaf p­ eople in state industry and educational institutions, similarly fostered a collective deaf identity. This matrix of deaf spaces, in which visual cultural practices predominated, lay at the center of Soviet deaf ­people’s everyday experiences. In accounts of the Soviet period, ­these spaces—­and the personal and emotional ties that exist within them—­predominate; the notion of the deaf community as a surrogate f­ amily is a common theme, with the early years of deaf activism driven by personal connections and the advocacy of certain individuals. Biological families also played a role; unlike in continental Eu­ro­pean and North Amer­i­ca, where policy was more directly influenced by eugenic concerns, the banning of deaf intermarriage was never posited in the USSR.20 Activists referred to it as a “normal occurrence,” with hearing ­children of deaf marriages often entering the deaf community and working as sign language interpreters.21 This personal, immediate experience of the local community laid the groundwork for the emergence of, to use Benedict Anderson’s much-­cited term, an “­imagined community” of Soviet deaf ­people in the ­later years of VOG.22 While it might be tempting to consider the deaf community as a particularly elaborate form of Soviet subculture, its institutional frameworks complicate this picture. As part of the state hierarchy, VOG was an integral part

8 Introduct ion

of the Soviet biopo­liti­cal vision of overcoming and individual transformation. When we discuss the deaf community, it is therefore difficult to divide the Soviet world into easy binaries of deaf and hearing, state and grassroots, us and them.23 Deaf activists in VOG acted as conduits for Soviet ideological values, translating and appropriating official categories of practice in a manner suitable for their deaf constituents. At the same time, their role as agents of the state enabled them to claim the right to advocate on behalf of their deaf comrades, making the case for sign language and deaf cultural specificity in the face of state attempts to integrate deaf ­people into the broader structures of Soviet governance. While not all deaf p­ eople ­were activists, the sheer reach of VOG (which, according to internal figures, included 98.6 ­percent of all Soviet Rus­sian deaf p­ eople by 1978) perpetuated and legitimated the par­tic­u­lar linguistic, cultural, and communal identity of Soviet deaf ­people while tying that identity firmly to the structures and values of the Soviet experiment.24 ­These values shifted over time, from activism and agency to a discourse about benefits (l´goty) and welfare in the aftermath of World War II. The ideological notion of a typical deaf person, to be transformed by social and educational means, was thus belied by the diverse variety of deaf experiences and understanding of deafness u ­ nder the umbrella of VOG. The Soviet deaf community, broadly conceived, united a wide variety of types and ­causes of hearing loss, linguistic practices, and relationships to other deaf ­people and to deaf cultural and social institutions. Within and outside VOG, the terms “deaf ” (glukhoi) and “deaf-­mute” (glukhonemoi) fluctuated, understood at times as markers of inclusion or exclusion within deaf social and cultural circles, or within the ­imagined Soviet body politic. In their fluctuations and politicization, ­these terms became barometers of the emergence and overlapping of distinct deaf and Soviet identities, identities that engaged and informed each other.

Marginality/Sovietness The notion of deaf ­people (and of other disabled ­people in the USSR) as marginalized, pushed aside in the Soviet state’s zeal for social homogenization, remains central to much of the lit­er­a­ture surrounding Soviet disability. As scholars have argued, the assertion that “­there are no invalids in the USSR!” underpinned Soviet state attitudes and led to disabled individuals being “excluded from work places, pushed aside by welfare bureaucracies, failed by medical institutions, and marginalized by wider society.”25 Michael Rasell and Elena Iarskaia-­Smirnova have argued that the state socialist

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l­egacies of “control, segregation and stigma” continue to haunt disabled ­people in postsocialist socie­ties.26 In the strongest articulation of this argument, Maria Galmarini-­Kabala suggests that deaf ­people, alongside other marginalized groups such as unemployed single ­mothers, ­were “always perceived as abnormal” in the Soviet system and thus denied “any real chance at integration.”27 This tale of enforced marginalization is complicated by the experience—­ and indeed the very existence—of the Soviet deaf community. Over the course of the Soviet period a strong deaf identity emerged, institutionalized in the frameworks and organ­izations of VOG, and ­shaped by a visual understanding of the world, but always informed by and in dialogue with Soviet understanding of the self and of society. The diverse cohort of individuals with varying levels of hearing loss became molded into an institutionalized social force, and deafness became not simply a defect but a community, a language, and a lived real­ity imbued with the characteristics of sovietness. ­These two identities—­the Soviet and the deaf—­became intertwined in the revolutionary ferment of 1917, as deaf p­ eople broke the chains of prerevolutionary marginality and claimed agency and in­de­pen­dence. Before 1917, deaf ­people had been equated with the insane or mentally impaired and kept u ­ nder a system of tutelage that curtailed their rights and individual freedoms. In its destruction of the l­egal structures of tsarism, the revolution also enabled the deaf to shake off the bounds of tutelage and claim agency and in­de­pen­dence for themselves. Throughout the Soviet period, this demand for agency proved a defining motif in the history of the deaf. Deaf Soviet subjects insisted time and again on their right to work, to study, to support themselves, and to be in­de­pen­dent (samodeiatel´nye) citizens of the Soviet state. This demand for agency was not simply a question of self-­sufficiency; the deaf actively wrote themselves into the Soviet narrative of overcoming, challenging their defect by seeking to demonstrate that their capabilities matched, and even surpassed ­those of the hearing. T ­ hese claims to agency shifted over time, from a practical focus on industrial skills and basic education to a broader conception of the artistic and educational talents of Soviet deaf ­people (as epitomized by Bogin’s Natasha). In l­abor, education, culture, and social life, deaf citizens publicly rejected their marginal, prerevolutionary identity and claimed equality of capability and opportunity. This rhetorical rejection of marginality was not straightforward, however, and its course reveals the complex interde­pen­dency of marginalization and agency in the USSR. From the very beginning of the Soviet period, deaf ­people insisted that agency and sovietness w ­ ere pos­si­ble only if the deaf joined together to run their own ser­vices and facilitate their own transformation: “The

10 Introduct ion

affairs of deaf mutes are their own,” as one of the early leaders of VOG asserted in 1925.28 This choice to remain together in order to facilitate their own transformation into Soviet citizens thus situates the marginalizing impulse not in the structures of the Soviet state but within the deaf community itself. Indeed, deaf ­people’s insistence on their own institutional frameworks often stood at odds with the Soviet government’s frequent attempts to integrate them into the social and orga­nizational structures of the broader hearing community. This insistence on deaf self-­determination shows both their unwillingness to entrust their fates to the structures of hearing society and governance, and the ultimate ac­cep­tance by the Soviet state of the promise that, by being together as a community, deaf p­ eople would be able to enact their transformation into full-­fledged Soviet citizens. This practical distancing was not without consequences; the lack of contact between VOG and hearing institutions, and between deaf and hearing p­ eople, represented a very real barrier to mutual understanding. While Soviet deaf ­people insisted on their right to be treated equally and empowered to take their place in the Soviet body politic, their innate physical and conceptual difference was never denied. Indeed, the cele­bration of their unique path to socialism rested on the definition and exploration of their deafness. As Brigid O’Keeffe has argued in relation to the Soviet Roma, notions of alterity ­were an integral part of the transformation of the disparate populace of the former Rus­sian Empire into a unified Soviet body politic: “Nationality policy worked as a pliable tool of minority ­peoples’ Soviet self-­ fashioning.”29 Deaf subjects within VOG ­were certainly aware of other categories of difference, at certain times mobilizing categories of minority nationhood, gender, and physical disability to assert their right to self-­ determination. Yet ­these parallels ­were only accepted insofar as they enabled deaf ­people to embrace socialism and become active agents of their own lives. Attempts by the Soviet state to equate the deaf with other disabled groups, such as the blind, ­were resisted; despite attempts by the state to standardize the activities of VOG with ­those of its ­sister organ­ization, the All-­ Russian Society of the Blind (Vserossiiskoe Obshchestvo Slepykh, or VOS), ­there was strikingly ­little ­actual contact between their two constituencies. As the deaf engineer Sergei Usachev explains, “The deaf and the blind, in light of the difficulty in communicating with each other, did not tend to make friends.”30 The claim made by VOG activists in the 1920s that deaf ­people should be considered “deaf in form, socialist in content”—an adaptation of Stalin’s classic formulation to describe ethnic difference within the USSR—­ thus represented less an ac­cep­tance of the deaf as part of a broader marginalized community and more a power­ful rhetorical shift ­toward agency and

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inclusion: like minority nations (narody), deaf ­people’s difference could be recast as a tool of integration, rather than an obstacle to it. The notion that deafness might represent a dif­fer­ent modality of sovietness engages in productive ways with new understandings of Soviet subjectivity. Since the opening of the Soviet archives, Soviet social historians have sought new ways of analyzing the success or failure of the biopo­liti­cal ambitions of the Soviet state, looking to diaries and personal documents as a means of considering the New Soviet Person as a complex pro­cess of self-­realization. ­Those concerned with mapping the contours of the Soviet (and particularly Stalinist) soul have looked to break down the Cold War picture of an assumed liberal self hiding ­under a per­for­mance of loyalty to the Soviet state, instead examining ideology as a productive force that ­shaped individual and collective experiences.31 As Jochen Hellbeck’s seminal work on Soviet diaries argues, “Anyone who wrote himself into the revolutionary narrative acquired a voice as an individual agent belonging to a larger w ­ hole. Moreover in joining the movement individuals w ­ ere encouraged to transform themselves.”32 Indeed, Soviet ideology emerges as a driving force in the development of Soviet deaf identity: Soviet values such as collectivism, initiative, consciousness, and l­ abor ­were key categories used by deaf individuals to conceptualize their own identity. Scholars of Soviet subjectivity have also questioned the degree to which analytical models of the self are perceived as homogeneous and essentialist. As Choi Chatterjee and Karen Petrone point out, “It was pos­si­ble for the Soviet self to possess contradictory sensibilities and exhibit mixed emotions as it negotiated biological needs, interpreted cultural codes, and constructed self-­ definitions in dialogue with state and community precepts.”33 The contested role of biology within this paradigm has begun to receive significant scholarly attention, with historians noting that, while the physical contours of the idealized Soviet body w ­ ere a ubiquitous part of propaganda, “the New Man in the Soviet Union was to approximate the ideal of a total man, which involved the soul as well as the body.”34 Certainly, the deaf experience points to a distinct physical plurality within the Soviet model of the self that opened up opportunities for a variety of sensory and linguistic experiences within the Soviet ideological frame. This stands in stark contrast to Nazi Germany, for example, which viewed essential characteristics such as race and physical disability as grounds for social exclusion, sterilization, and death.35 Indeed, deaf ­people’s evident willingness to “sign Bolshevik”—to adapt Stephen Kotkin’s concept of “speaking Bolshevik,” or “the obligatory language for self-­identification” employed by Soviet individuals—­challenges our understanding of the USSR as a logocentric (and indeed, phonocentric) universe.36

12 Introduct ion

It thus situates this work within a developing field of Soviet sensory history.37 From the metalworker Petr Spiridonov, who signed “life has become more joyous, comrades!” in a newspaper interview in 1936, through the emergence of sign and mime theater in the late 1950s, to the creation of “visual agitation” by VOG in the 1970s, the deaf community found ways to express the values of Soviet ideology through form, color, and the plasticity of the body. While the linking of speech and language to Soviet consciousness was commonplace among theorists of Soviet deafness, who embedded speech training in Soviet deaf education throughout the era, the continued (state-­sponsored) embrace of sign language represented a ­silent, visual challenge to the orality of early Soviet society.38 Equally, in their engagement with sovietness, the deaf community put forward competing frameworks through which to understand their own individual and collective identity. The memory of prerevolutionary disenfranchisement ­shaped the attitudes of deaf activists in the early years of VOG, constraining and directing their engagement with Soviet ideology and the framework of the new revolutionary state. Following World War II, the emerging notion of an international deaf community influenced how Soviet deaf p­ eople engaged with and reacted to state programs of support and welfare. The notion of a hermetically sealed cultural sphere, in which Soviet ideology provided the sole interpretative framework for understanding and expressing selfhood, is thus challenged by the par­tic­u­lar desires and priorities of this minority group. Deaf ­people ­were often selective in their interpretation of what the New Soviet Person should be like or used ideological language to express their desires in opposition to the state, thus revealing areas of tension and ambiguity within Soviet ideology. The existence of a distinct deaf community that engaged Soviet ideology in complex and contradictory ways both challenges notions of Soviet subjectivity and widens our understanding of institutions in the USSR. Following the example of Hannah Arendt, it has become commonplace to argue that Soviet society was “atomized,” that no in­de­pen­dent voluntary organ­izations ­were permitted to exist, nor arenas for the development of civil society.39 According to Simon Finkel, “The overwhelming consensus among leading Bolsheviks . . . ​was that the public sphere in a socialist society should be unitary and univocal.”40 In many ways, the history of VOG represents a stark challenge to this view. In its determination to reach out to and speak for all deaf ­people, its fostering of unique cultural forms and practices, and its role as a hub of self-­sustaining financial and practical support for all deaf ­people, VOG stands out as a particularly well-­developed form of voluntary organ­ization (obshchestvennaia organizatsiia).41 Its continued existence, often in the face of state pres-

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sure to disband, demonstrates its ability to articulate goals that ­were closely intertwined with the wider aims of the Soviet social experiment, yet VOG also allowed space for the articulation of identities and trajectories that ­were specifically deaf. At the same time, the degree to which deaf p­ eople and their institutions actively sought to push the bound­aries of Soviet identity is not always clear. Many deaf activists and citizens did not embrace the notion of linguistic and cultural difference. Instead, they worried that the distinctiveness of their cultural forms would mark them out as dif­fer­ent and threaten their inclusion and agency in Soviet society. Their anx­i­eties highlight the contingencies of Soviet subjectivity, particularly as perceived by ­those who could be seen as “marginal” within Soviet society. Scholars of Soviet subjectivity often stress its contingent and shifting nature; ­there was no manual for sovietness, although Khrushchev’s promulgation of “The Moral Code of the Builder of Communism” (1961) offered a close approximation.42 For the deaf community, however, Soviet identity had instrumental value; it unlocked the agency of a once disenfranchised group. Sovietness was thus discussed within the deaf community as a stable and consistent set of behavioral and cultural values. As such, deaf activists within VOG tended to show a marked conservatism in their embrace of deaf cultural forms, and a desire to codify and pin down the criteria of sovietness and use them to achieve perceived normality. This trend became particularly apparent in the late Soviet period, when the phenomenon of deaf hooliganism and the cultural embrace of sign language equally received a significant backlash from deaf activists, who feared that the vis­i­ble difference of deaf ­people could lead to their rejection and renewed disenfranchisement by society. In situations such as t­ hese, the pragmatic value of Soviet identity was clear: “If they behave in a cultured way [kul´turno], then no one can say anything bad.”43 The history of the deaf community thus challenges our understanding of Soviet identity in par­tic­u­lar ways. The embodied real­ity of deafness determined the engagement of deaf ­people with the broader Soviet proj­ect to remake the individual and society, revealing the opportunities and limitations of self-­transformation. It is difficult to see individuals as plastic when their bodies are not, and this tension is clear throughout the history of the Soviet deaf community. In the physicality of their difference, deaf ­people tested the homogenous ideal of Soviet identity. At the same time, the history of the deaf community reveals the utopian appeal of sovietness as a path to inclusion and normality. Ideology, in this case, was not simply a way of framing and understanding the world; it was a gateway to a sense of belonging, and a chance to overcome the imperfect body through ­labor, consciousness, and behavioral conformity.

14 Introduct ion

Deaf History across the Iron Curtain The intertwining of deaf and Soviet identity paradigms challenges our understanding of Soviet historiography; it also situates this book within current debates in deaf history. Since its emergence in the 1970s, deaf history as a discipline has been poised between scholarship and activism, seeking explic­itly to trace “deaf p­ eople’s oppression by t­hose who hear” in order to overturn that oppression.44 This search for a usable past is indebted to broader shifts within deaf and disability studies as a w ­ hole, which seeks to move the focus away from the desire to cure the differently abled through medical and educational intervention, choosing instead to find new means to challenge the disabling influence of social and cultural frameworks.45 Within this social model of deafness, proponents of deaf history have traced the roots of a distinct Deaf culture—­defined by the use of signed languages, a reliance on the visual, and by a sense of belonging to a community set apart from the hearing world—­ and sought to rec­ord the endurance of that culture in the face of a hearing society that sought, by means of education, technology, and social policy, to deny its very existence. This oppositional reading of hearing oppression and deaf re­sis­tance is a common theme of deaf history; as John Vickrey Van Cleve noted in 1991, “Deaf p­ eople ­were involved actively in trying to shape their own experience. They ­were often thwarted by hearing ­people who controlled wealth and institutions, but they still strug­gled.”46 Since the early 2010s, Deaf studies scholarship has sought to move beyond this activist mode, opening up the history of deaf p­ eople in new places and engaging with other disciplines and methodologies such as geography, sensory history, and visual art.47 Yet the notion of a distinct form of Deaf culture—or “Deaf hood,” to use Paddy Ladd’s term—­and its re­sis­tance in the face of hearing oppression, continues to play out.48 For example, Dirksen Bauman’s theory of “Deaf Gain” asserts that “the biological, social and cultural implications of being deaf are not automatically defined simply by loss but could also be defined by difference, and, in some significant instances, as gain,” and seeks to trace this gain in a variety of cultural and historical moments. 49 Similarly, Deaf studies scholars continue to document historical incidences of “audism,” a term coined by Tom Humphries in 1975 defined as “the notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears.”50 ­These experiences are traced across nations and time periods, with deaf ­people seen to share “global commonalities” of culture and language, a concept referred to by the sign-­language term “deaf-­same.”51

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The shift from medical definitions to the cele­bration of “deaf ­people’s own ontologies (i.e., deaf ways of being in the world)” has had profound implications for the definition and even the terminology of deafness.52 Since the 1970s, Deaf studies scholars have routinely used the “lowercase deaf when referring to the audiological condition of not hearing, and the uppercase Deaf when referring to a par­tic­u­lar group of deaf p­ eople who share a language.”53 Twenty-­ first-­century scholarship, however, has begun to question ­these commonalities of deaf experience and to complicate the notion of a culturally and linguistically defined deaf identity. Echoing debates within Soviet studies, critiques have emerged of the essentialism of the Deaf culture paradigm: “­There is an enormous diversity among deaf ­people. The Deaf hood theory says, though, that deaf ­people are in essence more visually orientated than hearing ­people, and therefore should be sign language-­using ­people.”54 This critique has par­tic­u­lar implications in the global context; as scholars have argued, Deaf hood and Deaf Gain “focus on ways that deaf ­people are the same as each other and they assume that t­ here is one teleological way to be deaf ” around the world, a projection that represents a “new but unconscious cultural imperialism not yet recognized as such.”55 Karen Nakamura, in par­tic­u­lar, has demonstrated that the theory of Deaf culture builds on U.S. models of identity politics, particularly the multicultural frame, which does not easily translate to other cultures and time periods.56 Instead, she argues, deaf identity should be viewed as a “hybrid and intersectional identity,” situated firmly in its social and historical context.57 As such, deaf history is beginning to break new ground in its search for the “many ways to be deaf ” to be found worldwide.58 Soviet deaf identity, or deaf-­sovietness, represents one of t­ hese hybrid and intersectional ways to be deaf. Deaf in the USSR follows in the footsteps of Carol Padden and Tom Humphries’ Deaf in Amer­i­ca and Nakamura’s Deaf in Japan in their focused study of deafness and deaf experiences as nationally specific and contextually contingent. Soviet socialism, with its discourses of equality and social rights, its privileging of productive l­abor, and its utopian notions of individual and collective transformation, provoked new conceptions and experiences of deafness. Through their participation in VOG and their engagement with broader Soviet social structures, deaf p­ eople developed an understanding of their own deafness that was intimately intertwined with prevailing po­liti­cal and cultural ideologies. The experience of deafness in the Soviet context does reveal certain points of commonality with Eu­ro­pean and U.S. models of deaf identity. On the one hand, early Soviet definitions of deafness borrowed heavi­ly from French and German nineteenth-­century traditions of deaf education, which ­were similarly

16 Introduct ion

torn between a belief in the visual power of sign language and a desire to “cure” deaf p­ eople through speech.59 On the other hand, aspects of a distinctly deaf cultural identity can be traced in the Soviet context. As Susan Burch argues, “As in other nations, [Soviet deaf ­people] joined associations of and for the Deaf, communicated with each other in their native language, RSL [Rus­sian Sign Language], actively sought improvements for their community, shared a folklore and other communal values.”60 In fact, seen in ­these terms, Soviet deaf culture would seem to be a much stronger and more distinct phenomenon than its North American equivalent, with the tightly knit institutional frameworks of VOG perpetuating and celebrating the par­tic­u­lar linguistic, cultural, and communal identity of Soviet ­people.61 The fostering of sign language in the 1930s, the emergence and recognition of deaf spaces, and the growth of traditions and cultures in the 1950s all demonstrate the existence of a distinct community, defined by visual cultural forms that marked it out as dif­fer­ent from the broader Soviet collective. Indeed, aspects of the social model of deafness are clearly evident from the earliest years of VOG activism. De­cades before the emergence of this paradigm in Eu­rope and North Amer­i­ca, the theories and practices pertaining to Soviet deaf citizens recognized and sought to overcome the social barrier of their disability.62 As Lev Vygotskii, the influential Soviet theorist of special education, argued in 1924, “The h ­ uman ear and eye are not simply physical organs, but social organs; b­ ecause between a person and the world t­ here also exists the social sphere, which refracts and directs in its own way every­thing which emerges from a person into the world, and from the world into a person.”63 Deaf activists and hearing theorists alike sought to foster and maintain deaf linguistic and cultural traditions, believing them to be a path to deaf integration and participation in the Soviet proj­ect. Systems of compensation, such as the use of sign language interpretation in the workplace, the translation of Marxism-­Leninism into forms of “visual propaganda,” and the recognition of deaf community spaces and traditions framed deafness as a distinct social and linguistic identity and sought to integrate it into the bigger framework of Soviet identity politics. At the same time, the history of the Soviet deaf community reveals certain understandings of deafness and trajectories of deaf activism that do not correspond to their Eu­ro­pean and North American counter­parts. The definition of “deaf ” utilized by VOG is considerably wider and less heterogeneous than that envisioned by Ladd’s Deaf hood: from the profoundly deaf, through the late-­deafened, to the hard of hearing; encompassing a wide range of communicative practices, including signing, speaking, writing, and fingerspelling; engaging actively with discourses of technology and medicine. Deaf

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p­ eople engaged in complex and sometimes unexpected ways with notions of paternalism and welfare, situating themselves, often si­mul­ta­neously, as active agents and grateful recipients of state care. Similarly, the deaf community did not consistently reject the medical real­ity of their deafness, often referring to the tragedy of their lack and turning to science in hope of a cure. ­These complex dynamics emerged and ­were ­shaped by numerous, shifting paradigms of subjectivity and self hood that ­were specific to the Soviet experiment. As such, Soviet deaf identity cannot be seen in terms of a straightforward opposition to the audist majority or in terms of a culturally fostered Deaf Pride (the lack of which has been noted in the Soviet context).64 Deaf p­ eople themselves, as this book demonstrates, engaged in complex ways with the notion of deafness, at times reveling in their unique cultural community and at other times internalizing and applying attitudes that appear, to a Deaf studies eye, highly audist. One can attribute this to the par­tic­u­lar dynamics of Soviet identity politics, in which the practices of the “normative self ” opened spaces for plurality even as it enforced a set of moral, cultural, and behavioral values on its citizens.65 Indeed, the Soviet focus on ­labor as a criterion of normality represented a practical path to liberation. Deaf ­people in VOG gathered together in order to become workers and remake themselves as Soviet, and their Soviet identities reinforced their understanding of their own deafness. At the moments when Soviet deaf p­ eople came into contact with the international deaf community, it is their sense of difference, rather than of deaf-­ same, that predominates. For that reason, the uppercase “Deaf ” is not to be used in this study; while t­ here are useful parallels to be made with Padden and Humphries’ definition, the term has par­tic­u­lar connotations specific to its own historical context that do not easily map onto the Soviet experience.

Overview This book explores the history of the Soviet deaf community from several dif­ fer­ent perspectives and voices. At heart, it is the history of a distinct community, institutionalized in the structures of the All-­Russian Society of the Deaf and explored through their archives. Hence I am deeply indebted to the pioneering work of the deaf historians Alla Borisovna Slavina and Viktor Aleksandrovich Palennyi, who have produced volumes of archival and memoir sources and put together many works on the history of VOG.66 Photo­g raphs and memoirs of early deaf activists have provided a win­dow into the creation and eventful history of VOG as well as the prolific and varied world of deaf journalism. Alongside ­these deaf-­produced sources, this work considers the

18 Introduct ion

repre­sen­ta­tion of deafness in theoretical, po­liti­cal, and cultural works, including Bogin’s Dvoe, which reveal the shifting ways in which the hearing world perceived Soviet deaf lives. At the same time, this is the history of a language and a distinctly visual way of life that, thanks to its ­silent ephemerality, can only be accessed in fragments. The archival sources I use often privilege a certain type of deaf person: educated, literate, often male and oral-­communicating, and po­liti­cally active within VOG. The stories of non-­oral, signing deaf p­ eople, and t­hose who chose not to engage with the transformative politics of VOG are more difficult to pinpoint and often emerge only through the perspective of deaf activists. Similarly, my research focuses predominantly on the ethnically Rus­ sian experience of deaf history, and, within Rus­sia, on the deaf experience in the capitals of Moscow and St. Petersburg, although other cities and republics are included wherever pos­si­ble. While ­there is much more work to be done on the variation in deaf histories within the USSR and the Soviet bloc, I still choose to speak ­here of a broadly defined Soviet deaf identity. As this book shows, the revolutionary activism of deaf p­ eople, and the fostering of deaf cultural and linguistic paradigms, was often conceived as pan-­Soviet in its scope. VOG acted as a model for organ­izations in other republics, and personal links between activists w ­ ere (and remain) an impor­tant part of the deaf community across the Soviet and post-­Soviet space. In its structure, Deaf in the USSR follows the chronological sweep of Soviet history through the prism of the deaf community. By examining the impact of po­liti­cal and social shifts on the lives and identities of deaf p­ eople, it explores the emergence of a distinct and institutionalized community that was Soviet but also distinctly “deaf ” and intertwined with distinct landmarks in VOG’s own history. In its recognition of the chronological discrepancies between the trajectories of the deaf and hearing Soviet communities, the book raises impor­tant questions of periodization and causality. The deaf Thaw, for example, began much earlier than many scholars of hearing society would suggest; the Brezhnev era stagnation and loss of faith in socialism, on the other hand, reached the deaf community significantly ­later. ­These challenges to the established chronology are highlighted throughout the book. Chapter 1 examines the prehistory and foundation of VOG, tracing how tsarist conceptions of deaf p­ eople as objects of state tutelage influenced deaf responses to Soviet power and the ideal of the New Soviet Person ­after the revolutions of 1917. While engagement with Soviet state structures and concepts of identity was seen as an opportunity to avoid marginalization and attain in­de­pen­dence, deaf autonomy was also understood in communal terms, with deaf individuals demanding the right to determine their own individual

I n t r o d u c t i o n


and collective f­ utures. Chapter 2 moves into the “mass politics” of the 1930s, tracing how deaf ­people wrote themselves into the broader transformative proj­ect of Stalin’s ­Great Break, fighting to overcome their own bodies and join the first ranks of the Soviet body politic. At the same time, it examines how the discourse of the purges influenced demands for deaf-­only organ­izations within Soviet social and economic structures, and inflamed fears about t­ hose deaf p­ eople who could not, or would not, conform to the Soviet deaf ideal. Chapter 3 examines the G ­ reat Patriotic War as a decisive break in Soviet deaf history, tracing how the legacy of war provoked new ways of understanding deafness. The postwar period saw a rise in the status of the disabled and, with it, a growing demand for ser­vices and benefits. As a result, VOG as an institution became more power­f ul and more tightly controlled, eventually subsuming all ser­vices for deaf ­people into its purview. The chapter also examines the postwar educational debates on the nature of deafness and its treatment in schools; debates that would shape the structure of deaf education for the remainder of the Soviet period. The remaining chapters examine the institutionalized marginality of deafness in the late Soviet period. Chapter 4 considers the Soviet deaf golden age that emerged in response to Stalin’s denunciation of sign-­language culture on the pages of Pravda in 1950. It traces the successes of deaf industrial, educational, and cultural institutions in this period and shows how deaf ­people understood themselves to embody a distinctive, hybrid “deaf-­soviet” identity. Chapter 5 explores debates about deaf criminality from the late 1950s, showing how the deaf community responded to fears of deaf misbehavior with the imposition of top-­down practices of control. It also discusses the changing role of VOG, from an activist hub to an institutionalized provider of welfare and benefits. Chapter 6 explores the decline of the deaf cultural community, tracing the development of technology, the influence of hearing workers, and the shift in deaf generational attitudes that characterized the ­later years of VOG. The Epilogue concludes by tracing the transformation of VOG through the turbulent years of glasnost and the 1990s, and the emergence of new paradigms—­and the per­sis­tence of old stereotypes—of Rus­sian deaf identity. In its examination of the long view of Soviet deaf history, therefore, this book traces the coming into being of a unique community, the experiences of which illuminate our understanding of deaf history and the Soviet experiment. Soviet ideology rested on the notion of ­human perfectibility; the continued existence of a community of ­people united by their physical “lack” thus represented a challenge to this ideology, one which was consistently renegotiated. At the same time, over the course of the Soviet era, the deaf community

20 Introduct ion

in VOG engaged with ­these ideological tenets in shifting ways, mobilizing them to their own community’s ends, resisting some of their more problematic tendencies, and using them to shape and understand their own individual and collective identity. As such, the history of the Soviet deaf community, in all its contradictions, represents a revealing example of the Soviet experiment in practice.

Ch a p ter  1

Revolutionizing Deafness

In October  1925, the fortnightly newspaper Zhizn´ glukhonemykh (Life of Deaf-­Mutes) published “The Life of the Komsomol,” an article celebrating the fourth anniversary of a deaf communist youth organ­ization in Saratov.1 The article vividly described the party held to celebrate this milestone: the benefits that communism had conferred on deaf ­people ­were palpable in the descriptions of the newly decorated, cozy club, lit by electric lighting and hung with pictures of Lenin and other party leaders. Yet the focus of this article was the Komsomol members themselves. The young deaf ­people pres­ent ­were portrayed as active and cultured, “carry­ing out lively debates among themselves” and discussing the issues of the day. Local Party members gave speeches to enthusiastic applause and, ­after “The Internationale” had been sung in sign language, instructive plays, games, and entertainments continued well into the night. This article, and ­others like it, attested to the early articulation of a model of deaf Soviet self hood. ­These deaf komsomol´tsy clearly embody the traits of the ideal New Soviet Person as it was defined in the early Soviet period: conscious, educated, energetic, and devoted to the cause of building communism.2 Even in this short article, however, it is clear that deaf citizens had not been fully assimilated into ­these revolutionary frameworks of identity. Although much is made of their engagement with the symbols and rituals of Soviet life, ­there is a palpable delight taken in the sense of a deaf community. The few 21

22 Cha pte r  1

hearing p­ eople at the party are clearly at a disadvantage, “separated from the deaf-­mutes by the paucity of their sign language, alternated with lip-­read explanations.”3 While unmistakably Soviet, the model self in this article is equally deaf and is thus both engaged in and distanced from the Soviet drive to remake the individual and society. This chapter examines the development of this complex, hybrid model of deaf Soviet self hood, from the revolutions of 1917 to the foundation of the All-­Russian Association of Deaf-­Mutes (Vserossiiskoe Ob´´edinenie Glukhonemykh, the first incarnation of VOG) in 1926. The story of how this community came to be challenges existing narratives of both deaf and Soviet history. As Susan Burch has shown, practices of national acculturation have historically been destructive for deaf communities. During the attempt to Americanize the deaf community in the late nineteenth ­century, she argues, an “array of experts and kin wanted Deaf ­people to give up their cultural community and to act ‘normal.’ ”4 As a result, gatherings of deaf ­people that foreground the cultural distinctiveness of their community are often framed as inherently subversive to the dominant social order. Soviet historical scholarship has tended to tell a similar story of the negative meanings attached to physical and behavioral “deviance” following the revolution, focusing particularly on the “excisionary vio­lence” that removed such individuals from the nascent Soviet body politic.5 Yet as Choi Chatterjee has explained, “The Bolsheviks . . . ​based their vision of the postrevolutionary state on the inclusion of minority groups, particularly ­women, excluded from the liberal order.”6 The existence of a group of deaf komsomol´tsy, signing proudly at the very heart of the Soviet establishment, thus expands our understanding of the developing frameworks of self hood and difference in the early Soviet period. The creation of this new form of deaf Soviet identity is testament to the seismic shifts in ­legal and conceptual frameworks engendered in this period, which fundamentally revolutionized the ways in which deaf p­ eople sought to define themselves and w ­ ere defined by the state and society. On one level, this transformation was practical: deaf p­ eople could fi­nally shake off the ­legal constrictions of tsarist society, with its structures of tutelage and reliance on charity, and begin to direct and shape their own lives. On a conceptual level, though, this new direction was framed by the shifting conceptions of agency and the self being played out in Soviet society as a ­whole. Deaf individuals engaged with the subjectivizing practices of the early Soviet period, negotiating with Marxist ideology and the language of revolution to define the contours of their path to self-­definition and agency.7 This dialogue with dominant social and cultural frameworks was influenced in no small mea­sure, however,

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by the prerevolutionary experience of deaf p­ eople. The rejection of charity and state tutelage, and the demand, on an individual and a group level, for rights and citizenship, informed and ­shaped the ways in which deaf ­people responded to Soviet notions of subjectivity and social welfare. Sovietness was thus mediated by issues of normality, disability, competence, and the very definition of deafness.

Deafness before October The revolutionary upheavals of 1917 proved a watershed for deaf p­ eople both in the promotion of new frameworks of self and society and in the rhe­toric of liberation from the strictures of tsarist society. For the deaf in par­tic­u­lar, revolution entailed a challenge to the dominant set of ­legal and conceptual understandings of deafness that had developed across Eu­rope and beyond during the eigh­teenth and nineteenth centuries. Drawing on Enlightenment discourses of the “interrelations between language, mind and h ­ uman civilization,” teachers of the deaf in this period had tended to view deaf ­people as akin to savages, cut off from the civilizing effects of language and requiring active intervention in order to enable them to develop rational thought and moral understanding.8 Rus­sian views of deafness ­were similarly embedded in ­these narratives, as evident in the first Russian-­language work on deaf education, Viktor Fleri’s Deaf-­Mutes (Glukhonemye), published in 1835: “What is life [for a deaf-­mute] if he has to eke it out without participation in any of the trea­sures of the word, that most miraculous monument to the w ­ ill of man and the employment of his capabilities? The word alone can console his faithless and troubled mind; it is through the word that his soul ­will be able to strive to reach the unshakeable foundations of life-­infusing faith and strength-­ giving hope.”9 The correspondences between Rus­sian and Eu­ro­pean (and l­ater U.S.) narratives of deafness are perhaps unsurprising. Throughout the nineteenth ­century, Rus­sian proponents of deaf education looked to Eu­rope as a model. The first school for the deaf in Rus­sia was formed ­after a chance meeting between the Empress Mariia Fedorovna and a young deaf boy, Aleksandr Meller, in Pavlovsk Park in 1804. Concerned for his education, the empress sent abroad for “one of the more famous professors, in order to establish a school for deaf-­mutes in Petersburg.”10 She corresponded at length with the foremost French specialist of the day, the head of the Paris Institute of Deaf-­ Mutes, the Abbé Sicard, eventually persuading him to send one of his disciples, a certain Jean-­Baptiste Jauffret, to lead the school, beginning in 1810.11 The

24 Cha pte r  1

links between deaf education in St. Petersburg and the capitals of Eu­rope continued throughout the nineteenth c­ entury. Successive directors of the school came to Rus­sia from abroad, bringing their own theories of deafness and deaf education with them; textbooks on deaf education w ­ ere translated into Rus­sian from French, German, and En­glish; and Rus­sian state representatives ­were routinely sent to observe the newest techniques of deaf education in France, Germany, and Switzerland. Theories of deaf education w ­ ere disseminated across the developing network of Rus­sian deaf schools, including the Arnol´do-­Tretiakov School in Moscow, founded by a St.  Petersburg School gradu­ate, I. K. Arnol´d, in 1860, and schools in Kharkov, Novocherkassk, Tsaritsyno, and Vitebsk.12 Thanks to ­these growing international networks of deaf education, Rus­ sia was also implicated in the “war of methods” that raged in the nineteenth ­century.13 This debate pitted the manualists, who argued for the use of sign language—­the ­mother tongue of deaf ­people—in deaf education, against the oralists, who believed that oral speech and lipreading alone could enable deaf ­people to fully develop their m ­ ental capacities and take their place in society. While early proponents of deaf education had universally promoted manual signs as a valuable form of linguistic communication, one that granted deaf ­people access to higher forms of knowledge and religious truth, by the end of the nineteenth c­ entury sign language was increasingly viewed as a barrier to integration and education that condemned the deaf to a life as “foreigners in their own land.”14 For the most part, Rus­sian educators explic­itly charted a ­middle course between t­hese two poles, acknowledging that while sign language should not be a goal of deaf education, it could certainly be a useful tool.15 However, following the infamous Congress of Milan in 1880, at which an international group of hearing educators deci­ded to implement the oral method across Eu­rope, Rus­sian deaf schools made the transition to oralism, citing the perennial Rus­sian desire “not to lag ­behind other countries.”16 This framing of the deaf as savages and the decision to move away from the use of sign language in deaf education has been widely interpreted in Deaf studies scholarship as an act of silencing and disablement, one that has had far-­reaching consequences for the history of deaf communities worldwide.17 It is certainly true that this view of deafness had troubling effects for Rus­sian deaf ­people, particularly in terms of their ­legal status in society. Beginning in 1833, deaf individuals ­were governed by Article 381 of the State ­Legal Code, which equated deaf-­mutes with the insane and stipulated that they be held ­under guardianship u ­ ntil the age of twenty-­one, and thereafter only registered as legally capable (pravosposobnye) ­after being examined by a so-­called expert to prove ­mental competence.18 This quality was mea­sured primarily by a grasp

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of the Rus­sian language: the individuals in question ­were required to demonstrate that they could “freely express their thoughts” in order to have the right to “direct and dispose of their property with all ­others of majority.”19 They would have to read the relevant ­legal acts aloud, affirm that they reflected their ­will, and sign their name. The onus was therefore on deaf individuals to prove their own competence through oral speech and literacy in order to become in­de­pen­dent citizens in the eyes of the law. It should not be assumed, however, that this disenfranchisement had curtailed all forms of deaf social and cultural agency. Schools for the deaf may have perpetuated a vision of deaf p­ eople as objects of charity and educational intervention, but they also provided them with a platform for the development of new forms of activity and a growing sense of identity as a distinct cultural community.20 In the first instance, education provided a path out of de­pen­ dency. According to a subclause of Article 381, gradu­ates of both the St. Petersburg and the Arnol´do-­Tretiakov Schools w ­ ere not required to undertake the usual examination to prove ­legal competence and could instead immediately enter government ser­vice as a civil servant (chinovnik) of the ­fourteenth rank.21 Of the seven pupils to gradu­ate from the St. Petersburg School in 1870, for example, five ­were admitted to state ser­vice.22 ­Others, having been granted ­legal in­de­pen­dence, entered private ser­vice, worked as artists or engravers, or ran their own businesses.23 The St. Petersburg School built its own handicraft workshops in 1865, with the goal “to teach the poor deaf-­mute some form of craft, [and] in this way to put into his hand the means to support himself ­after he leaves the school and lives in­de­pen­dently.”24 Educational establishments thus sought to help their pupils achieve some form of social in­de­pen­dence and integration into hearing society. The push for individual autonomy was complemented by a growing sense of deaf community developing within ­these schools. This community was fostered through the use of sign language and the development of visually-­ mediated deaf spaces in the interstices of deaf school life. In her memoir, Agrippina Kalugina, a pupil of the Arnol´do-­Tretiakov School in the early twentieth ­century, explains that her school experiences accustomed her to the par­tic­u­lar linguistic traditions of the deaf world, which offered her a means to overcome isolation and despair: “I wanted to learn to ‘speak with my hands.’ Masha Okunova, a girl with thick freckles and a kind, round face, taught me sign language patiently, day by day. New friends appeared: I began to run, play, and laugh again.”25 Many pupils chose to remain as teachers a­ fter graduation, devoting themselves to educating further generations of deaf c­ hildren. Even outside the schools, social links between former pupils remained strong. As a St. Petersburg School report remarked in 1907, “Young deaf-­mutes, upon leaving

26 Cha pte r  1

their schools, are . . . ​unable to ignore their reminiscences and renounce their spirit of comradeship even a­ fter many years; they retain the desire to associate with their comrades, with p­ eople who share their views and educational habits.”26 Along with providing an education, therefore, deaf schools enabled a nascent deaf cultural community to take shape. Following graduation, t­ hese ties of friendship and sociability continued to manifest themselves informally, as in the “deaf-­mute lane” (pereulok glukhonemykh) in Astrakhan, so named ­because groups of deaf ­people with links to the nearby school would congregate t­ here to chat in sign language.27 Soon, ­these deaf social groupings took on a more formal character. In 1888, Fedor Aleksandrovich Bukhmeier, a state advisor and gradu­ate of the St. Petersburg School, formed the St. Petersburg Society for the Care of Deaf-­ Mutes (Sankt-­Peterburgskoe Obshchestvo popecheniia o glukhonemykh), whose membership consisted almost exclusively of deaf gradu­ates and current staff of the school. The state-­registered society sought to support other deaf p­ eople, practically and financially, and to “assist closer relations between deaf-­mutes for the attainment of the opportunity to spend their f­ ree time with the highest pos­si­ble use and variety.”28 To that end, a club, “small in size, and with an exceptional ­family character” was established, alongside a shelter and workshop for unemployed deaf school gradu­ates, followed in 1897 by a shelter for deaf c­hildren.29 Activities w ­ ere funded by the St.  Petersburg Society’s membership fees, and an annual thousand-­ruble subsidy from the St. Petersburg Executive Committee. In t­ hese early years, state-­directed charitable activity and the nascent deaf organ­izations developed concurrently, with some deaf individuals working in government posts and participating in deaf socie­ties, and strong ­family ties influencing policy in both forums. For example, the first Moscow-­based deaf society was headed by A. V. Shlippe, the deaf son of a state advisor whose ­brother, F. V. Shlippe, was the chairman of the local zemstvo board (21). This concurrence of aims was evident in 1901, when the St. Petersburg Society voted to dissolve itself and hand its funds over to a newly established state body, the Imperial Highness Mariia Fedorovna Trust for Deaf-­Mutes (Popechitel´stvo Gosudarnyi Imperatritsy Marii Fedorovny o glukhonemykh), which sought to centralize and standardize education for deaf ­children (15). However, new deaf organ­izations continued to be registered, including the St. Petersburg Society of Deaf-­Mutes in 1904, and to declare themselves to be the true representatives of the “very urgent and just desires” of deaf ­people.30 Over time, t­hese socie­ties began to frame their activities as a reaction against the “charitable and educational” attitude of the state ­toward deaf ­people and explic­itly to engender a system of mutual aid through their policies of work

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placements, loans, and leisure activities.31 Charity thus gave way to group autonomy and the desire for deaf ­people to act on behalf of their peers. As deaf socie­ties established a space for the deaf to create communities, to become socially active, and to help ­others like themselves, they began to undermine the social framework of tutelage surrounding the deaf. In the model of the voluntary association, identified by Joseph Bradley as a constituent part of the civil society that began to emerge during the last de­cades of the tsarist regime, members of the society lobbied government ministries for the right to build workshops, shelters, and schools, and demanded state subsidies and revenue from church collections.32 Such activities challenged the traditional ste­reo­type of deaf p­ eople as mentally incapable or as passive recipients of charity. Bodies such as the St. Petersburg Society w ­ ere established on the initiative of deaf p­ eople and run by them. Yet the creation of a forum for public engagement and action by educated deaf p­ eople only served to highlight the tutelary status of the majority. Increasingly, members of t­ hese socie­ ties began to express concern about the divide between the developing deaf elite and the deaf masses. In 1895–1896, a study was conducted u ­ nder the direction of Fedor Andreevich Rau, a German teacher who had become the director of the Arnol´do-­Tretiakov School in Moscow in 1892. The results showed that, of 1,404 deaf ­people in the Tula province, 1,198 lived with and ­were supported by their families. Of the 206 who supported themselves, the majority ­were unskilled workers, with a few cobblers and carpenters. While 38.8  ­percent of the men w ­ ere married, only 2  ­percent of the w ­ omen had husbands and ­there ­were no marriages between deaf p­ eople. For deaf society members, such facts only served to underline the necessity not only of developing ties between the deaf as a group but of challenging the ­legal restrictions that prevented deaf ­people from helping themselves.33 The revolutionary upheavals of the early twentieth c­ entury gave new impetus to this debate. Rus­sia at the turn of the ­century was in the grip of fundamental social and po­liti­cal transformation. In a predominantly peasant economy, the rapid state-­sponsored industrialization drive of the 1890s had created an increasingly radicalized working class, which chafed against the constraints of authoritarian rule and called for personal and social liberation. Grassroots worker organ­izations ­were informed by the writings of Karl Marx and the agitation of underground revolutionary parties, including Lenin’s Bolsheviks, which provided a language of class consciousness and militant internationalism through which to understand the everyday hardships and injustices of the Rus­sian imperial city.34 This upsurge in popu­lar protest was met with intransigence by Tsar Nicholas II, who dismissed calls for representative government as “senseless dreams.”35 The crisis of World War I only served to

28 Cha pte r  1

intensify this social polarization.36 In February 1917, a demonstration on International W ­ omen’s Day in St. Petersburg, then known as Petrograd, became a general strike that overthrew three centuries of Romanov rule. A period of dual power ensued, with authority contested by the Provisional Government and a loose co­ali­tion of workers’ and soldiers’ organ­izations, known as soviets. In October 1917, u ­ nder Lenin’s direction, the Bolshevik Party seized power and established the foundations of a socialist state. The rhe­toric of liberation that characterized the workers’ movement was echoed in the activities of deaf organ­izations. Shortly ­after the February Revolution, a decision was made to or­ga­nize the All-­Russian Congress of Deaf-­ Mutes, to be held in Moscow in July of that year. The congress was envisaged as a catalyst to debate the position of deaf ­people in Rus­sia as a ­whole, and to or­ga­nize the All-­Russian Union of Deaf-­Mutes (Vserossiiskii Soiuz Glukhonemykh, or VSG) to coordinate activities on a national scale. The orga­nizational meetings, and the pamphlets written to publicize the event, demonstrate the impact of revolutionary rhe­toric on the deaf. At a mass meeting held in St. Petersburg on March 18, 1917, Evgenii Efremovich Zhuromskii, a deaf gradu­ate of the St. Petersburg School and a teacher of dactylology (fingerspelling), explained the significance of the proposed ­union: Away, ancient yoke! U ­ nder the weight of ancient slavery, the suffering deaf-­mutes have endured [pereterpeli] privation, humiliation and insult. We ­will shake off the bonds of slavery and renew our lives ourselves. . . . ​ Comrades, remember that the Union is an organ of strug­gle for existence. Remember that the Union is the defense of your rights and interests. The more deaf-­mutes in the Union, the better and more true w ­ ill be the work! Herein lies the pledge of success and happiness.37 The desire for autonomy was thus reconfigured as a fight for individual and group rights in the face of centuries of oppression and hardship. With this rhe­ toric, the deaf implicitly equated themselves with the downtrodden masses liberated by revolution. By virtue of their tutelary status and lack of rights, deaf p­ eople asserted, they too ­were deeply invested in the strug­gle for po­liti­ cal recognition and autonomy.38 This equation with the revolutionary masses also impacted the manner in which deaf p­ eople sought to claim autonomy. In the context of the revolutionary movement, which had gained po­liti­cal power and recognition through its unity and mass nature, the need for a unified organ­ ization to speak for the interests of deaf ­people was invested with new urgency. In the pamphlet “An Appeal to Deaf-­Mutes,” the newly formed Moscow Committee of Deaf-­Mutes assured their readers that “now is not the time for

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each to speak for himself. Only a group of ­people, united in a ­union, ­will now have meaning, strength, and authority.”39 This emphasis on rights, however, only served to underline the limitations placed by state tutelage on deaf p­ eople and the divergence between the expectations of deaf p­ eople and the assumptions made by the state and society about their role in society. In the weeks before the All-­Russian Congress of Deaf-­Mutes, the Provisional Government ­under Kerensky promulgated a draft of the Law on Elections to the Constituent Assembly, which contained the clause “deaf-­mutes are not included in the electoral role and ­will not participate in elections.”40 This denial of the right to vote, not just to the legally disenfranchised but to all deaf p­ eople, provoked considerable outrage. The Moscow Committee of Deaf-­Mutes held protests outside the Provisional Government’s headquarters, matched by similar protests in Petrograd. In the face of such a strong reaction, the Provisional Government revised its position. On the first day of the congress, July 17, 1917, an answer was received from the minister, F. F. Kokoshkin, informing delegates that the final edition of the law would read: “­Those recognized as mad or insane ­under the established ­legal order, and likewise deaf-­mutes ­under ­legal guardianship, ­will not participate in the elections.”41 As a result, the question of l­egal rights was officially removed from the congress’s agenda. However, the new wording merely brought the focus back to the prob­lem of tutelage and underlined the problematic disjunction between the categories and conceptions prescribed by the state and the real­ity of deaf ­people’s lives. During the course of the All-­Russian Congress of Deaf-­Mutes, held in Moscow from July 17 to July 22, 1917 and uniting forty delegates from around the country, debates focused on the continuing prob­lem of tutelage and the means by which deaf individuals could bypass ­legal restrictions and prove their ­legal competence. The congress coincided with the July Days, a series of violent protests against the Provisional Government in Petrograd; while comparatively peaceful, the activists pres­ent used the opportunity to demonstrate the urgency of their call for change. Delegates called for changes to the way in which l­ egal competence was conferred in order to grant deaf ­people greater control over the pro­cess; to ensure, for example, that the so-­called experts who conducted the examination w ­ ere familiar with deafness or at the very least ­were accompanied by a deaf representative. They also proposed that gradu­ates of deaf schools and t­ hose in ser­vice (sluzhashchie) should be granted automatic l­egal rights without examination. Other demands, such as the right of illiterate deaf ­people to sign-­language interpretation in a court of law, sought to ameliorate the effects of l­egal disenfranchisement.42 Beyond this, the vital role of education

30 Cha pte r  1

and skills in widening the scope of social autonomy was reinforced: a reform of deaf education was proposed to include a greater range of skills so “the student should be granted access not only to physical but also to m ­ ental ­labor” (71). Yet, in the absence of fundamental l­egal reforms, none of t­ hese mea­sures could solve the prob­lem of tutelage. Deaf activists could only seek to alleviate its most limiting effects. The congress, therefore, manifested certain preoccupations that had been developing over several de­cades. The first, a demand for autonomy, had shifted from a general desire for in­de­pen­dence from tutelage and the achievement of agency to a demand for ­legal rights and citizenship. The second, the construction of a distinct group identity as deaf ­people, had become not just a goal but a tool in the achievement of that autonomy. As a deaf activist from Petrograd, Aleksandr Iakovlevich Udal´, suggested, “­There is no need to state that a cause of our unenviable ­legal position is . . . ​our ‘scatteredness’ among the rest of humanity and our lack of organ­ization into a w ­ hole, complete [kom43 plektnoe] society.” In the context of the revolutionary upheavals of 1917, the congress and the resulting VSG represented an opportunity to seize revolutionary momentum and demand rights alongside other oppressed minorities. This notion of oppression did give rise to a certain amount of antihearing rhe­toric: Udal´ talked scathingly of “normal” p­ eople (normal´nye), who “believed and still believe that they have a right to exploit their deaf-­mute ­brothers in humanity.”44 This reference to the malicious exploitation of deaf ­people by the hearing, ­whether justified or not, served to create a rhetorical “other” against whom the deaf community could define themselves and further reinforced the view that only as a group could the deaf represent their own interests. The revolutionary period, therefore, was both liberating and constraining for the deaf: the rhe­toric of freedom engendered by the February Revolution validated their own strug­gles for autonomy even as this freedom was still legally denied them. On the eve of the October Revolution, the All-­ Russian Union of Deaf-­Mutes set out their demands for equality with a sense of revolutionary urgency.

New Laws, New Concepts With the October Revolution of 1917, it seemed that the liberation promised by the February Revolution had been fi­nally achieved. Both the wave of initial decrees produced by the Bolshevik government and the July 10, 1918 constitution declared the conferral of civil rights and “genuine freedom” on all working ­peoples of the new revolutionary state, including ­those with

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disabilities. The right to elect and to be elected was granted to t­ hose laborers and soldiers “who have been to any degree incapacitated.”45 In late 1918, Zhuromskii, by now a prominent member of the VSG, was elected to the Petersburg Provincial Soviet.46 A year l­ater, a decree published by the Soviet of ­People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom) set out the state’s intention to integrate the education of deaf c­ hildren into the state system and allow deaf adults to work alongside the hearing in “­those branches of industry, where deafness does not prevent the completion of l­abor responsibilities.”47 One profoundly deaf man, Aleksei Valerianovich Mezhekov, even found work as a departmental man­ag­er in the Soviet secret police, the OGPU.48 It would seem that, in breaking the shackles of “oppression and arbitrary rule” that had bound the proletariat, the revolution had also broken the l­egal shackles of tutelage that had bound the deaf.49 Yet, as Trotskii once remarked in relation to the “­woman question,” instituting po­liti­cal equality was s­ imple. It was a far more complex ­matter to establish the shift in attitudes and social conditions necessary for ­actual equality to emerge.50 As such, the first years of the revolution saw widespread experimentation, on both a theoretical and a practical level, to determine the position of deaf p­ eople within the new ideological frameworks of self and society promoted by the Bolsheviks. This utopian dreaming about deafness took place within a series of bigger discussions about child development, language, and education.51 As Craig Brandist has shown, theoretical debates in the early revolutionary period took place “in the context of widespread concern over the large number of physically and mentally traumatized persons, especially ­children, following the humanitarian catastrophes of the 1914–1918 World War and the 1918–1921 Civil War.”52 Within this broader theorizing, deafness was singled out as a significant testing ground for new socialist understandings of language, society, and the self. The first significant pronouncements on the meaning of deafness in the new Soviet system took place at the Second Rus­sian Congress on the Social and L ­ egal Protection of Minors (Sotsial´no-­Pravovaia Okhrana Nesovershennoletnykh, or SPON), held in Moscow in 1924. This conference was established u ­ nder the guidance of Lenin’s ­widow, Nadezhda Krupskaia, but the discussions ­were dominated by the ­lawyer, scientist, and revolutionary psychologist Lev Semenovich Vygotskii. While Vygotskii is best known in the West as a developmental psychologist, his fame in Soviet Rus­sia derived primarily from his work on “defectology,” (defektologiia), a scientific term coined in the early twentieth c­ entury to refer to the treatment of developmental disabilities such as deafness, blindness, and m ­ ental backwardness (umstvenno otstalost´).53 ­Under Vygotskii’s guidance, the participants of the SPON conference produced a handbook, Questions on the Education of Blind, Deaf-­Mute

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and Mentally-­Backward ­Children, which included a long introduction from Vygotskii in which he set out his par­tic­u­lar theory of ­these three defects.54 Vygotskii’s writing framed a defect as a social rather than physical prob­lem, drawing on the ideas of Karl Marx, the behaviorist psychologists Vladimir Bekhterev and Ivan Pavlov, and the widespread debates about the individual and society that characterized the Soviet 1920s. The early Soviet Union was a society with a transformative mission: to turn the supposedly dark and backward peasant masses into New Soviet ­People, rational, collectivist individuals who would build and ultimately inhabit the socialist society of tomorrow. Such individuals would be forged primarily through social interaction. As Marx had suggested, “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness.”55 As such, the engagement by individuals in social life would enable them to transcend their old identities and become new. As David Hoffmann puts it, “The Soviet system promoted an illiberal subjectivity, in which private life was eradicated and individuals reached their full h ­ uman potential through participation in social life.”56 In this light, hearing loss had significant consequences that set it apart from other disabilities. Vygotskii saw deaf p­ eople’s lack of hearing and, by extension, speech, as a direct challenge to Marx’s understanding of the individual as ­shaped by communication. Whereas blindness was a sensory lack that could be compensated by other means—­“blindness, as a psychological fact, is by no means a disaster”—­deafness had more far-­reaching and troubling ramifications. According to Vygotskii, deafness “turns out to be the most tragic of disabilities, ­because it isolates a person from all interaction with ­people. It deprives him of speech, it cuts him off from social experience.”57 At first glance, Vygotskii’s work appears to conform to a classically oralist vision of deafness, in which a deaf person would have to master lipreading and oral speech in order to gain agency and in­de­pen­dence in society. Indeed, Vygotskii’s work was peppered with quotations from German proponents of the oral method. While he recognized sign as the “natu­ral language of deaf-­mutes” and stressed that it would be wrong to ban it entirely (something of a radical statement following the Congress of Milan), he ultimately dismissed it as a “poor and limited language” that condemned deaf p­ eople to life in a narrow social sphere and did not allow for the development of abstract or conceptual thought.58 Oral speech might be “endlessly difficult” for the deaf child but it was significantly more valuable: “Speech is not simply a tool of communication, but a tool of thought; our consciousness develops, for the most part, with the help of speech and emerges from our social sphere.”59

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It is impor­tant to note, however, that debates about orality w ­ ere not limited to the deaf at this point; the very notion of speech and language was in transition in the early Soviet de­cades. As Michael Gorham and Stephen Lovell have traced, the new, po­liti­cally charged public sphere placed a par­tic­u­lar emphasis on the ability to speak well.60 Lovell, in par­tic­ul­ar, has focused on the negative connotations attached to the term “mute”: “A ‘tongue-­tied society’ [obshchestvennoe kosnoiazychie] was the undesirable legacy of an old regime that had kept most ­people mute.”61 In this light, it is not surprising that Vygotskii would insist that “to teach a deaf-­mute to speak means not only to give him the opportunity to communicate with o ­ thers but to develop in him consciousness, thought, and self-­consciousness. It is a question of returning him to humanity.”62 The notion of the articulate speaking subject was not the only model of self hood pres­ent in the early Soviet ideological landscape, however. Early Soviet society also valorized the in­de­pen­dent worker, liberated from cap­i­tal­ ist oppression by revolution and able to overcome personal obstacles through the ­will and the transformative power of l­abor. As Diane Koenker explains, workers in the early revolutionary period “symbolized the ethos of Soviet socialism.”63 This veneration of the worker changed the significance of deafness. As Vygotskii himself suggested, deafness was not in itself an obstacle to ­labor: “As a l­abor apparatus, as a h ­ uman machine, the body of a deaf-­mute barely differs from the body of a normal person and, consequently, a deaf person retains all the fullness of physical possibilities, bodily development, the acquisition of skills and ­labor abilities.”64 In this sense, the impact of deafness could be described as liminal: to be deaf in a workers’ state was not to be disabled at all. As such, deafness was both the most tragic of disabilities and the happiest of disabilities, as deaf p­ eople’s lack of hearing did not impact on their ability to become workers. Vygotskii’s view of so-­called defects was thus inherently utopian. Although he confessed that it was unlikely that medicine would soon be able to eradicate all instances of deafness, blindness, and m ­ ental backwardness, the changing nature of society in the revolutionary state, and the power of education, would ensure that the meaning of t­hese conditions changed from a personal and physical tragedy to a mere obstacle on the road to normal selfhood. This utopian vision set out the contours of the Soviet conceptualization of deafness, which was to remain influential in a variety of ways ­until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Deafness was seen as a complex defect that fundamentally affected the place of a deaf individual in society, yet through the compensatory power of spoken language and acquisition of l­ abor skills, a deaf individual could overcome their deafness and become an ideal Soviet

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citizen. As Vygotskii concluded, “If we create a country where deaf and blind ­people find their place in life, where blindness [and, by extension, deafness] ­will not automatically signify a lack, then blindness [and deafness] ­will not be a defect. . . . ​To overcome defect, that is the central and fundamental idea.”65 Deafness thus represented an experimental canvas on which educational theorists could explore the limits of Soviet society’s ability to remake the individual. For the deaf community, of course, ­these utopian, theoretical discourses had practical implications. Even as Vygotskii’s theories put forward a speculative picture of the ­future utopian state of deaf education and social life, deaf and hearing activists in the early revolutionary years set about devising a program for the creation of Soviet deaf citizens. They accepted aspects of Vygotskii’s paradigm, rejected o ­ thers, and played with notions of revolutionary self hood in an attempt to define the nature of the new society and the role of the deaf within it. They also used new Soviet frameworks of identity to mount a fierce defense of the deaf community, its spaces, and its language. The de­ cade following 1917 was consequently characterized by experimentation, by both deaf p­ eople and the state, in establishing how the deaf w ­ ere to function within the new ideological framework of self and society promoted by the Bolsheviks. This period of experimentation proceeded in two distinct stages. The VSG continued to function through the revolution, attempting to guide deaf activities on a national scale ­until economic and state pressures forced its closure in 1920. Between 1920 and 1926, provision for deaf ­people was transferred to the state and split between several branches of the ­People’s Commissariat. Concurrently, however, a burst of grassroots organ­ization by deaf p­ eople in the provinces led to calls for a new central body to guide deaf activities. Several abortive attempts to form such a body, such as the short-­lived Deaf-­Mute Section ­under the umbrella of the All-­Russian Cooperative Association of Disabled ­People (VIKO) and a proposed deaf-­mute council within the All-­Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK), culminated in the founding of the All-­Russian Association of Deaf-­Mutes (VOG) in June 1926. Throughout this period of experimentation, the shifting ways in which the deaf acted and, crucially, sought to frame their actions, demonstrated the dialogue between deaf organ­ization and the frameworks of socialist identity. Within this new conceptual world, the deaf began to engage with and mea­ sure themselves against certain aspects of this ideal. The most immediate of ­these engagements was with the notion of l­abor. The 1919 constitution of the RSFSR asserted that “he who does not work, neither s­ hall he eat!”66 In this spirit, members of the VSG established organ­izations in Petrograd and Moscow in 1918 with the explicit intention of providing l­abor training to un-

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employed deaf individuals. The Moscow House of Deaf-­Mutes included workshops in carpentry and the production of ladies’ shoes and stockings.67 Petrograd’s equivalent House of ­Labor and Education of Deaf-­Mutes trained members to knit, sew, make boots, and work with wood and metal (31). This emphasis on l­abor had the immediate practical goal of supporting the deaf financially: in 1924, an article in Zhizn´ glukhonemykh stated that “the House of Deaf-­Mutes is not a factory, nor an enterprise, with the goal of making a profit, rather it is an institution with the task of giving p­ eople, who have come in search of a piece of bread, the opportunity to earn that piece not in the form of alms, but through honest ­labor” (33). For the deaf, this ability to support themselves in­de­pen­dently was in itself a significant achievement of autonomy in practice. The social in­de­pen­dence that they had so urgently demanded before the revolution could be achieved, it seemed, through the acquisition of basic ­labor skills. This emphasis on ­labor as a means to achieve agency demonstrated the interrelation of the conceptual vision of the Soviet individual and the par­tic­u­ lar goals of the deaf community. On the surface, the enterprises established by the VSG ­were nothing new: prerevolutionary deaf schools and clubs had promoted handicrafts as a way to achieve practical in­de­pen­dence in the face of ­legal disenfranchisement. Yet the symbolic role of the worker as a central facet of the Soviet self had reconfigured the role of ­labor in deaf organ­ization. By finding work in industry, deaf p­ eople ­were able to support themselves and si­mul­ta­neously prove themselves worthy of inclusion within Soviet society. This belief was central to the declaration during the Second All-­Russian Congress of Deaf-­Mutes in 1920 that “the Workers’ and Peasants’ government alone can offer the deaf-­mute the possibility to feel himself a person and a citizen.”68 The path to equality still represented an individual challenge of transformation; as the VSG workshops demonstrated, the acquisition of skills was central to finding work in industry and thus becoming a laborer. However, unlike the prerevolutionary emphasis on literacy, the immediate consequences of deafness no longer functioned as an obstacle: ­legal (or m ­ ental) competence (pravosposobnost´) had given way to work ability (trudosposobnost´) as a marker of inclusion. In promoting ­labor as a path to autonomy, deaf organ­izations thus recognized that the paradigm of normality had shifted and that deaf individuals needed to engage with the new conceptual framework to achieve social in­de­ pen­dence. Within this practical striving for autonomy, the deaf situated themselves within the broader Soviet utopian narrative of transformation from the dark prerevolutionary masses to the enlightened proletariat of the Soviet state. Over the course of a de­cade, this emphasis on the transformative power

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of l­abor was enshrined in legislation and in the rhe­toric of Soviet deaf activists and state bodies. In 1925, the Deaf-­Mute Section ­under VIKO published a circular to promote new legislation on the organ­ization of deaf ­labor artels (work teams).69 This document set out a concrete model of deaf l­ abor organ­ ization: a­ fter carry­ing out a census (uchet) of deaf individuals in the area, representatives of the Deaf-­Mute Section ­were to establish a plan of ­labor cooperation and to or­ga­nize artels on that basis.70 With the proceeds, the section would or­ga­nize clubs and cultural activities, and, where necessary, provide ­legal help for deaf p­ eople. On this basis, deaf l­abor associations ­were established on a wide scale in the mid-1920s. Associations in Saratov, Kursk, Penza, Rostov on the Don, Ivanovo Vosnesensk, and Voronezh ­were established, all with the explicit goal of furthering work placement (trudovoe ustroistvo) for their members.71 According to the deputy commissar for social welfare, I. K. Ksenofontov, t­hese artels would provide the “most correct and true path to their organ­ization, autonomy [samodeiatel´nost´], and the improvement of their material position,” and would enable deaf p­ eople to transform themselves from a disor­ga­nized mass into Soviet workers.72 ­Labor therefore represented the opportunity not just of emancipation but of self-­transformation. In an echo of the utopian rhe­toric of the time, deaf ­people ­were considered able to overcome their disability, in effect to become “normal” (normal´nye) by learning ­labor skills. This could be seen in theoretical discussions of the benefits conferred by Soviet society on the deaf. In an article from 1925, for example, D. Riol´f suggested that through work “physiological disability is disappearing, giving way to the healthy flow of ­labor energy, inculcating psychological equality in all sensations.”73 Through ­labor, the deaf could become equal. This utopian idea was borne out in the orga­nizational texts and decrees produced by deaf organ­izations and the state. In a set of resolutions on the development of work for the blind and deaf, the All-­Russian Congress of Provincial Social Welfare Departments stated that “on the question of the welfare of the blind [and, by extension, the deaf], the Soviet government proceeds from the position that a blind person is not a disabled person, in need of charity; a blind person is just as capable of work as a healthy seeing person, only in need of special preparation.”74 In their organ­izations and activities, therefore, deaf ­people engaged with the Soviet proj­ect to transform the individual and society. L ­ abor was refracted through the prism of Soviet ideology, situating deaf organ­ization within the utopian rhe­toric of liberation. This interaction, however, was driven by the par­tic­u­lar needs of the deaf: to overcome the disabling effects of their deafness and to gain individual and group autonomy. In their engagement with the po­liti­cal structures of Bolshevism, this dialogue between belief in the

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utopian potential of socialism and the par­tic­u­lar desires of the deaf was equally brought to the fore. The first deaf-­mute cell of the Communist Party was established in Moscow on August 14, 1920; ­later that year, students training in the workshops belonging to the Arnol´do-­Tretiakov School established a deaf cell of the Komsomol and elected the young typesetter Kanakin as its secretary. This Party activity was also framed in terms of individual and collective transformation. The Bulletin of the Conference of Deaf-­Mutes, published to coincide with the Conference of Active Deaf Workers in 1921, announced that “all conscious deaf-­mutes must in their turn take an active part in the propaganda of the ideas and views of the Soviet government among their backward [temnye] deaf-­mute comrades, enlightening them in their clubs and organ­izing them in strong nuclei, in order that, at the first call by the Soviet government, they ­will fight [stat´ grud´iu] to defend her.”75 In the context of the Rus­sian Civil War, emphasis on the defense of the revolution formed a central part of Party activities. On the fifth anniversary of the deaf Party cell, members described its foundation as a response to the civil war: deaf members wanted to join the Party in order to go to the Polish front and “fight the Whites.”76 Yet this desire to defend the revolution was also presented as a means for the deaf to symbolically integrate themselves into the Soviet collective and to safeguard the gains made by deaf p­ eople since the revolution. For Sof  ´ia Lychkina, the common-­law wife of VOG´s first chairman, Pavel Alekseevich Savel´ev, her coming to the Party was a significant event as an individual and as a deaf ­woman: “They accepted me into the Party unanimously. ­After the meeting my Party colleagues surrounded me, congratulating me, patting me on the back in a friendly manner, no longer stern judges but kind friends with whom I would march from now on in the united ranks of the party. I became the first female communist among all the deaf w ­ omen of Moscow.”77 Savel´ev would ­later write that deaf ­people hoped to fight in the civil war “on the one hand, in order to prove the devotion [to deaf p­ eople] of the Soviet government, which, regardless of the contingencies existing in tsarist Rus­sia, had given deaf-­mutes full rights on an equal basis with workers, and, on the other hand, to defend the victory of October together with hearing ­people.”78 Inclusion within the Party structures was thus a way to consolidate and propagandize the achievements of deaf ­people ­under Soviet power. Indeed, despite this masculine emphasis on military preparedness, the inclusion of Sof ´ia Lychkina in the Communist Party bears witness to the increased opportunities for w ­ omen in the early Soviet period. VOG activists positioned themselves as part of the same emancipatory movement that included ­women, using similar language of equality and agency to claim their

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place in Soviet society; at the same time, the deaf ­women found themselves at the heart of the developing institutional structures of the Soviet deaf community. From Lychkina, who began by teaching literacy at the House of Deaf-­Mutes and went on to or­ga­nize deaf female activists—­her “red neckerchiefs”—in Moscow, to Agrippina Kalugina, who became a correspondent for Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, deaf ­women took their place alongside their male counter­parts to shape the contours of the Soviet deaf community.79 Like their male colleagues, t­ hese deaf female activists underlined the importance of practical mea­sures to achieve agency and in­de­pen­dence; as Lychkina noted, “Our first concern was the ­labor training and work placement of deaf-­mute w ­ omen 80 who did not have a trade, as well as teaching them to read.” ­Labor and po­ liti­cal engagement thus represented a practical means for deaf p­ eople of both sexes to achieve in­de­pen­dence and a symbolic means of inclusion in the Soviet body politic. This overt aligning of the deaf community with the conceptual models of socialism was not always straightforward, however, revealing the complex legacy of disenfranchisement and oralism. In their engagement with issues of language and education, Soviet deaf activists used the frameworks of Soviet self hood to push their own agenda and defend the nascent deaf cultural identity that had formed before 1917. Deaf socie­ties in this period overtly promoted the education and cultural enlightenment of their members in the Soviet mold; from the outset, the Petrograd and Moscow organ­izations held lectures, literacy classes, and cultural eve­nings with a strong ideological bent. According to Viktor Palennyi, the lectures of the Petrograd House of L ­ abor and Education w ­ ere initially received with some impatience: the audience “whistled, stamped their feet, and threw frozen potatoes at the lecturers.”81 It can be presumed that members soon got used to ­these events as they played a consistent role in the activities of the deaf club. Yet despite this commitment to education, deaf activists showed a par­tic­u­lar and sometimes ambivalent attitude to the broader Soviet ideal of promoting a rational, enlightened consciousness, which reflected specific concerns about deafness and the role of language in the promotion of deaf autonomy. In the early years of deaf clubs, general education, or an abstract idea of enlightenment, was rejected in f­avor of specific goals to achieve integration and in­de­pen­dence within hearing society. In 1921, Udal´ looked back at the founding of the Petrograd organ­ization: We needed to create a type of establishment that was in no way reminiscent of the prerevolutionary “godly” enterprise. . . . ​The task was to find a means to give illiterate and so-­called backward deaf-­mutes access

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to literacy, or, at the very least, to search out means and methods to strengthen the development of their emotional life and the widening of their ­mental capabilities with the goal, ­after such preliminary preparation, of giving them the possibility of access to social preparation, access to social life, and, in addition, helping them to master to the maximum the ability to work.82 The two imperatives—to engage with Soviet transformational practices and to promote the in­de­pen­dence of the deaf community—­were not necessarily at odds with each other. For example, deaf engagement with the fight against illiteracy transformed a wide-­ranging Soviet campaign into a practical tool of deaf emancipation. Clubs for the liquidation of illiteracy, or likbezy, formed part of a countrywide program instigated by Lenin in 1919.83 For deaf ­people, the prob­lem of illiteracy was particularly acute. ­Because the majority had not been taught to speak, written Rus­sian represented a key method of communication with the hearing. The extremely high level of illiteracy among provincial deaf individuals thus presented an obstacle to ­labor: without the ability to read instructions, a deaf person could not communicate with line man­ag­ ers and colleagues or study a trade in technical college. The involvement of deaf socie­ties with the likbez program was thus enthusiastic, and the VSG even sent its chairman, Sergei Ivanovich Sokolov, to head the deaf-­mute section of the central likbez administration.84 By promoting literacy, the deaf community built new paths to liberation and in­de­pen­dence. This privileging of ­labor over broader educational goals also allowed deaf ­people to challenge the primacy of oral speech, pushing back against the authority of educators and the state to determine their linguistic identity. In 1921, deaf activists met with state representatives to discuss the formation of a new national organ­ization for the deaf. In a clash over deaf education, deaf representatives argued strongly against the use of the oral method in schools, suggesting that it took far too long (six to seven years) to teach speech, time that could be better spent imparting basic literacy and ­labor skills through the medium of sign language.85 This was not yet a positive case for sign; the urgency of the need for autonomy, they suggested, made the rejection of oral speech a necessary sacrifice in f­avor of the primacy of l­abor training. Yet in arguing against oral speech, ­these deaf activists publicly rejected one of the central facets of the early vision of Soviet deaf overcoming. This argument, described by Savel´ev as a “fundamental divergence of opinions” with state educators, was initially unsuccessful: the P ­ eople’s Commissariat of Enlightenment (Narkompros) confirmed its support of the oral method ­later in the meeting.86 However, the argument exposed the continued deaf resentment of the

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prerevolutionary emphasis on spoken Rus­sian as the sole means to gain ­legal autonomy and laid the groundwork for a defense of sign on Soviet terms. By stressing the importance of l­abor, the deaf could achieve autonomy on their own terms and in their own linguistic and cultural spaces. In their engagement with Soviet ideals, therefore, the deaf displayed complex motivations. On the one hand, the Soviet regime was presented as a utopian opportunity for the deaf to overcome their disability and integrate themselves into society. On the other, the prerevolutionary drive for autonomy and in­de­pen­dence led deaf p­ eople to privilege certain facets of the New Soviet Person over ­others and to negotiate—­sometimes literally, as in the case of meetings between deaf activists and state officials—­over the ways in which they functioned within Soviet society. For the most part, ­these negotiations ­were easily resolved. On occasion, however, the divergent views between what the deaf expected from the new social structures and what the state proposed caused latent tensions to break into the open.

Negotiating Deaf Identity The tensions between competing visions of deafness and deaf organ­ization can be seen in the closure of the first national deaf society, the VSG, in 1920. In a decree published by Sovnarkom in December 1919, followed by a similar decree in 1920, the state declared that the needs of deaf p­ eople would be met by three government departments: c­ hildren up to the age of three by the ­People’s Commissariat of Health (Narkomzdrav); c­ hildren from three to fifteen by the ­People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment; and adults incapable of work by the ­People’s Commissariat of Social Welfare (Narkomsobes). Adults capable of work would undergo training ­under Narkompros.87 In light of ­these provisions, which sought to integrate deaf ­people into the structures of Soviet governance, the state began to refuse to register local deaf organ­izations and to actively campaign for the closure of the VSG. This drive to close deaf organ­izations formed part of a general trend in the lead-up to the Tenth Party Congress of 1921 to close down in­de­pen­dent proletarian or revolutionary organ­izations.88 Attacks on the VSG, as exemplified in an article from Izvestiia in 1920, echoed the rhe­toric of the day in criticizing the organ­ization, which was “created in the era of Kerenskii and is now unnecessary ballast.”89 This challenge to deaf organ­ization, however, highlighted the divergent views of autonomy and organ­ization on the part of the state and the deaf. For the state, an autonomous deaf organ­ization represented an obstacle to the integration and transformation of deaf individuals into Soviet

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citizens. For the deaf, however, the deaf collective embodied in the VSG represented their best chance to achieve this transformation: “Deaf-­mutes, on the strength of the awareness of their isolation from other citizens, and as a result of the difficulty in communication with them, on all questions require uniting in Unions.”90 In other words, they had to be deaf first, in order to ultimately become Soviet.91 The closure of the VSG, announced on the final day of the Second All-­ Russian Congress of Deaf-­Mutes was not solely the result of state pressure. As a report of its activities from 1917 to 1920 makes clear, the chaos of the civil war and a chronic lack of funds had made the continuation of VSG activities on a national scale almost impossible.92 Nevertheless, it provoked a furious response, most notably from the Petrograd department of the VSG, headed by Maria Sergeevna Mintslova-­Piotrovskaia. On her initiative, members of the VSG signed a petition declaring that they “protest categorically against all attempts to violate our ­will, which is directed ­toward the collective cooperation with the authorities of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic. We protest against the attempts to force onto us and onto our Union the remnants of a gendarme ideology, according to which an association of f­ree citizens is harmful and unnecessary to the state.”93 For Mintslova-­Piotrovskaia, the actions of the state w ­ ere not intended to help deaf p­ eople; on the contrary, they ­were indicative of the state’s fear of deaf self-­determination. While the activities of the Petrograd department could not save the u ­ nion, the incident generated considerable debate on the nature of deaf organ­ization and of state involvement with deaf ­people. The debates around the closure of the VSG and subsequent attempts to form a central orga­nizational body for deaf ­people enabled the deaf community to articulate the relationship between deafness and sovietness. On the one hand, this debate focused on the perceived misunderstanding of deaf ­people by the hearing, fighting back against the state’s adoption of a tutelary role ­toward the deaf and its continued use of the term “disabled” to refer to deaf ­people. On the other, deaf activists expressed a positive desire to create supportive institutions to enable deaf ­people to attain the goal of inclusion within Soviet society. In their discussions, members of the VSG echoed much of the prerevolutionary rhe­toric of liberation from oppression and the rejection of guardianship. This was perhaps inevitable: the VSG had retained its core membership since the congress of July 1917, and as such, a mere three years since the revolution, the memory of tsarist tutelage remained fresh. One such activist was the ex-­chairman of the VSG, Sergei Ivanovich Sokolov. Born in 1888 in Kamyshin, Saratov Province, Sokolov was a typical example of the educated prerevolutionary deaf or­ga­nizer. Educated

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at the Arnol´do-­Tretiakov School in Moscow, he worked as an accountant before becoming actively involved in the Moscow Deaf Society. Sokolov was a constant presence at the deaf club on Ulanskii Lane in Moscow, often giving impromptu sign-­language readings of Rus­sian lit­er­a­ture. According to Kalugina, “The initiative for all significant events of the Society was his.”94 In the aftermath of the closure of the VSG, Sokolov produced a document, “­Theses on the Question of the Position and Association of Deaf-­ Mutes,” in which he argued the need for deaf organ­izations to facilitate the development of deaf individuals. Sokolov focused at length on the misunderstanding of the deaf by the hearing, especially t­hose who “have been bureaucratized” (obiurokrativshchie) and who therefore had a scornful attitude ­toward deaf p­ eople. Should they happen to meet an “abnormally developed deaf-­mute,” they believed e­ very deaf person to be the same: “This results in a misunderstanding on the part of the state in their attitudes to deaf-­mutes.” This misunderstanding had an effect on state provision for deaf ­people: Sokolov complains that “the general opinion regards deaf-­mutes as ­people who can only be dealt with by [the ­People’s Commissariat of] Social Welfare, and in ­these cases conscious and work-­capable deaf-­mutes are refused work among normal ­people [normal´nye].”95 The heart of Sokolov’s complaint, it seems, was the state’s tendency to regard the deaf as disabled rather than as work-­capable ­people. This complaint was borne out in government legislation. The Sovnarkom decrees of 1919 and 1921 had made a distinction between deaf ­people capable of education and ­labor, and t­ hose “incapable of education, weak-­minded, adult and child ­idiots, and groups of backward deaf-­mutes,” who w ­ ere to be given over to Narkomsobes, the ­People’s Commissariat of Social Welfare.96 Similarly, an explanatory note produced by the trades ­union in 1925, detailing methods of working with deaf ­people, stated that “deaf-­mutes, as a result of their physical lack, which complicates their communication with the hearing, their m ­ ental and professional education, have a dif­fer­ent psy­chol­ogy, a lower cultural and professional level, and therefore must be transferred into groups with the disabled with a lowered work ability.”97 This tendency to regard certain deaf ­people as backward and incapable was deeply reminiscent of tsarist attitudes. Its presence in state legislation was thus vociferously challenged. As Udal´ argued at a meeting of representatives of deaf socie­ties and state bodies in 1921, the division of deaf ­people into capable and backward groups was impracticable: “It is not specified which deaf-­ mutes should be counted in this ‘backward group’ and which not. The result of this lack of specificity [nedogorovennost´] for deaf-­mutes making a living from their own ­labor is not hard to imagine.”98 As Udal’s words demonstrate, how-

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ever, deaf rejection of this label was now framed in the language of Soviet identity politics: defining deaf ­people as backward and incapable denied them the chance to “make a living from their own l­abor” and thus to become an integrated part of the Soviet working masses. In a similar manner, Sokolov rejects the definition of “disability” [invalidnost´] using the class language of the 1920s, arguing that deaf ­people without the ability to ­labor ­were forced into “parasitism”: sponging off the Soviet state.99 According to Sokolov’s “­Theses,” the significant point was w ­ hether the deaf should be defined as disabled or as a distinct social and cultural minority with the potential to overcome their physical lack and become integral members of the body politic. At this par­tic­u­lar historical moment, this debate had a significant corollary in the discussion of the place of national minorities in the newly founded USSR. As Terry Martin has shown, the early Soviet state represented an “affirmative action empire” in which the minority nations of the former Rus­sian empire w ­ ere granted linguistic and cultural rights in an attempt to draw them into the broader proj­ect of creating a unitary Soviet state.100 This parallel was a useful one for the deaf community; in their defense of their own linguistic and cultural traditions, the deaf aligned their priorities with ­those of minority ethnic groups. Stalin’s neat phrase that ­these ethnic minorities ­were “national in form, socialist in content” had the result of drawing them into the broader Soviet community, thus glossing the problematic distinction between being other and being Soviet. For the deaf, who had long been considered dif­fer­ent from hearing Rus­sian society, this example of successful hybridity was significant. From a deaf perspective, too, the idea of nationhood had weight. During the deaf-­mute banquets in Paris in the mid-­nineteenth ­century, deaf representatives such as Jean-­Ferdinand Berthier had “posited the concept of the ‘deaf-­ mute nation,’ consisting of 23,000 fellow French citizens, and argued for direct election and repre­sen­ta­tion.”101 Traces of Soviet deaf nationhood are pres­ent in Sokolov’s “­Theses”: he argues that “the interests of deaf-­mutes are more clear and dearer to the hearts of deaf-­mutes and t­ hose normal ­people who work and live in their world,” and concludes that “­these conditions in several details are similar to the conditions of foreigners, who know only their ­mother tongue.”102 Deaf ­people, in this reading, w ­ ere not disabled and in need of welfare but simply foreigners, capable of learning the dominant language and breaking down the “Chinese wall” that divided them from normal society. This comparison with other linguistic minorities thus pointed to the search for new definitions of deafness that did not negate individual and collective agency. By rejecting the state’s attempt to define the deaf as disabled, and by claiming deafness as a form of cultural and linguistic difference akin to ethnic

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minority, deaf activists made the case to keep the affairs of deaf ­people in their own hands and in their own spaces. In the Bulletin of the All-­Russian Conference of Deaf-­Mutes, Udal´ argues that deaf-­run enterprises are necessary “in light of the numerical predominance of hearing p­ eople, who on top of every­ thing ­else have entirely vague impressions of deaf-­mutes and deaf-­muteness, and are therefore inclined to foist their norms and models on deaf-­mutes, not considering to what extent t­hese norms suit deaf-­mutes.”103 However, the closure of the VSG, and the failure to establish a new national deaf body in the mid-1920s, demonstrated definitively that provision for the deaf was to be kept firmly in the hands of the state. From the state’s perspective, the integration of deaf affairs into Soviet governmental structures was not an attempt to deny deaf agency. In fact, provision for marginal and disenfranchised p­ eoples was central to the Soviet state’s self-­image. As Juliane Fürst suggests, the care of marginal members of society “was supposed to right the wrongs of the tsarist regime, and at the same time to signal to the cap­it­al­ist world the moral and social superiority of the Soviet system.”104 In their dealings with the deaf, state organs confirmed their intention to provide “material and orga­nizational help from outside” to the deaf community, in order to help deaf p­ eople attain “their own earnings and stand on the same cultural level of development as the speaking.”105 A raft of decrees by Narkomsobes and similar agencies promised education and welfare provision for the “defective members of the ­family of workers” during the early 1920s.106 For the deaf, this provision, with its emphasis on welfare and financial support, seemed merely to return them to a system of guardianship not dissimilar to that of the tsarist era. In 1921, in a meeting held between deaf activists and state representatives to discuss the formation of an orga­nizational body u ­ nder VTsIK, debates repeatedly returned to the state’s denial of their agency. “Why do the representatives of the P ­ eople’s Commissariats wish to keep this affair in their hands?” asked Mezhekov, the deaf OGPU worker from the Kursk region. “They d­ on’t trust us. We can work, we have sufficient strength; in this affair we must do the work ourselves.”107 Udal´ complained that “they talk to us as if we ­were ­children.”108 The discussion touched on concrete areas of policy on which the state and deaf activists differed, such as the disagreement over sign language and the need for specialized ­labor training. However, at the end of the meeting, the head of the Moscow School, F. A. Rau, conclusively rejected the proposal for a special department: “I ­don’t doubt that you deaf-­mutes have heads that work well, but the P ­ eople’s Commissariats must control this work. . . . ​A separate department is not necessary.”109

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It is impor­tant to note that, despite repeated failures to establish a centralized, deaf-­run state body, the development of deaf cultural and work spaces continued apace in this period. Alongside the myriad l­ abor associations established across Rus­sia, the early 1920s saw the creation of deaf social clubs, deaf branches of the Communist Party, and deaf cultural and educational circles in such far-­fl ung places as Saratov, Kursk, Ivanovo-­Vosnesensk, Ufa, Penza, Rostov on Don, Voronezh, Kazan´, Astrakhan, and Chita.110 For deaf p­ eople in this era, such spaces became a focal point in their lives and identities. However, the position of ­these organ­izations remained fragile, subject to arbitrary closure and a chronic lack of premises and funding. In Moscow, for example, deaf artels ­were routinely closed due to lack of state support, leaving machinery lying idle and deaf p­ eople without employment.111 In Sverdlovsk, the loss of the deaf or­ga­nizer at the local club led to a three-­year hiatus in activities.112 Indeed, many of the gains made by deaf ­people in this period ­were not due to the force of their arguments but to the sympathy and personal involvement of ­those in power. One such example was the case of Antonina Nikitina, the wife of activist A. Ia. Udal´, who petitioned Nadezhda Krupskaia in person for new books for the Moscow deaf club: ­ here w T ­ ere very few books in the library, t­ hose that we had w ­ ere old, and the only magazine was the prerevolutionary “Niva.” I thought about it and deci­ded to go to Narkompros, to Krupskaia, and ask for some new books. Nadezhda Konstantinovna read the note from the club and started to ask me questions: how long had I been unable to hear, what had caused my deafness, my profession and where I worked, how our club worked. . . . ​Within a few days, our library received so many new books that at first we lost our heads, not knowing where to put them.113 The necessary spaces for ­these new clubs ­were also often achieved through personal persuasion; E. A. Smirnova, a­ fter sustained lobbying of the Petrograd City Executive Committee, acquired the former palace of ­Grand Prince Mikhail on the banks of the Neva for the Petrograd House of ­Labor and Enlightenment of Deaf-­Mutes, premises which are still in the hands of the deaf community ­today.114 In this re­spect, the personal nature of the early deaf organ­izations, in which deaf members lobbied their ­family connections for rights and privileges, was perpetuated. By denying the deaf the opportunity to or­ga­nize themselves as a group and determine their own provision, the state was seen to be setting up a new system of tutelage and disenfranchisement, albeit ­under a new ideological guise. Looking back, Savel´ev comments: “This was the second ­mistake made by deaf-­mutes: to allow hearing p­ eople into their world and not show them that

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they can themselves work in­de­pen­dently, without the need for guardianship.”115 Within this continued rhe­toric of autonomy and the rejection of tutelage, therefore, Soviet attempts at social welfare and philanthropy, although ideologically established as a rejection of the bourgeois charity of tsarist times, was seen by the deaf to be a dif­fer­ent mode of the same disabling system. This strong re­sis­tance to charity on the part of the deaf was recognized as a danger by the state: in an article in Izvestiia in November 1925, P ­ eople’s Commissar of Social Welfare N. A. Miliutin argued that an organ­ization dealing with the deaf “cannot by its very character have a flavor of philanthropic aid ­toward deaf-­mutes, even if this is on the part of the organ­ization, and not individuals. In addition, the reasonable resolution of the prob­lem of the welfare of the disabled, including deaf-­mutes, lies solely in the plane of the development of their in­de­pen­dence and initiative.”116 Yet in adding that “deaf-­ mutes must not stand aside from the social movement of the disabled masses,” the commissar merely reinforced the state’s tendency to align the deaf with the “disabled masses,” rather than the masses in general. For the deaf, this remained a denial of their agency. It would be tempting to interpret this as a moment of deaf re­sis­tance to an overbearing Soviet state. But as their interaction with the Soviet transformative proj­ect demonstrates, the deaf did not reject the utopian potential of the Soviet system. Even at the official closure of the VSG, its members declared: “All p­ eople must be in one Union, called Communist Society, and not separated from each other by fences with the name of such and such a ­union. . . . ​Protect deaf-­mutes—­from whom? The laws of the Soviet republic are just as equal for us as for hearing ­people.” It was a case, they argued, of all for one and one for all in the new Soviet order.117 In demanding autonomy, collective identity, and self-­determination, they invoked the revolutionary spirit of 1917 for support, and employed Bolshevik and revolutionary rhe­toric to advance their claims, thus demonstrating the hybridity of their deaf and Soviet identities. In the concluding report of the Second All-­Russian Congress, ­after the closure of the VSG, the committee claimed that “if Marxist theory states that ‘the emancipation of the proletariat is the work of the proletariat,’ then we say ‘the re­nais­sance of deaf-­mutes and their awakening to consciously creative life is work for the hands of deaf-­mutes themselves.’ ”118 The revolutionary anthem of 1917, “The Internationale,” was called on to reinforce t­ hese claims: “No one ­will grant us deliverance/ Neither god, nor tsar, nor hero/ We ­will win our liberation/ With our own hands.”119 In their push for a central, deaf-­run organ­ization, therefore, the deaf claimed the revolutionary banner in opposition to the state and insisted on the liberation promised in 1917. Their language supported Soviet goals: to trans-

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form the deaf into po­liti­cally conscious and active workers who engaged fully in the Soviet body politic. Yet they insisted that such transformation was only pos­si­ble on their own terms, and ­under their own organ­ization. As Savel´ev argued, “The affairs of deaf-­mutes are their own [delo glukhonemykh, est´ delo ikh samykh].”120 In the buildup to the creation of VOG, the pages of Zhizn´ glukhonemykh ­were used to agitate for widespread initiatives on the part of deaf ­people: “Or­ga­nize yourselves locally, establish links with each other, maintain close links with the central organ­ization, as only by means of organ­ization and mutual effort by local and central organ­izations ­will it be pos­si­ble to carry out work to develop culturally, educate and find work for deaf-­mutes.”121

VOG On June 23, 1926, the deputy chairman of Sovnarkom, A. P. Smirnov, published his “Position on the All-­Russian Association of Deaf-­Mutes,” setting out the details of a proposed national deaf organ­ization ­under the ­People’s Commissariat of Social Welfare. As Smirnov explained, the changing situation in the USSR since the closure of the VSG had reignited the question of a deaf organ­ ization among the Soviet state organs. With the conclusion of the civil war and the beginning of the New Economic Policy, “the position of deaf-­mutes abruptly began to change, and not for the better”: Deaf-­mutes, being less spiritually, physically, and materially prepared, turned out to be more helpless and less adaptable to the putting together of new skills, such as the new forms of economic life. . . . ​Houses of ­Labor lost their primary significance, and deaf-­mutes became per­sis­tent clients of the ­Labor Exchange, which, taking their defectiveness into account, refused to register them and put them to work, sending them instead to the organs of Social Welfare.122 ­ ecause deaf p­ eople ­were guaranteed social support if they could not find a B job, the failure of deaf p­ eople to find work was thus placing a strain on public finances. As a result, an organ­ization was needed at the republican level to or­ ga­nize the “po­liti­cal development [vospitanie] and education of deaf-­mutes, their work placement and material support.”123 As the archival rec­ords of the ensuing debates shows, not all state bodies ­were in ­favor of this change. The Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate argued that a separate organ­ization would only waste state funds, and that the capability of deaf ­people to work meant that they should be “integrated into the

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general network of disability cooperatives” (40ob). The P ­ eople’s Commissariat of Education was concerned that this new body might interfere in the education of deaf c­ hildren; it approved the proposal on the condition that the proposed organ­ization would not be permitted to teach deaf c­ hildren or adults (although it would be permitted to financially support schools for the deaf ) (85–86). However, the fundamental opposition to a deaf-­run organ­ization that had predominated in the 1920s appeared to have been overcome: the proposal stated confidently that the “organ­ization of deaf-­mutes is built on the foundations of the ­free development of individual initiative and in­de­pen­dence of deaf-­mute cadres on the question of their cultural development, professional education, medical support, and also mutual aid, with the cooperation of the organs of state power” (64). Following the foundation of the analogous All-­ Russian Society of the Blind (Vserossiiskoe Obshchestvo Slepykh, or VOS) in 1924, a pre­ce­dent for such a body had already been set.124 As a result, the weight of state opinion—­including the approval of Sovnarkom and the NKVD—­fell ­behind VOG.125 Smirnov’s “Position,” which he had drafted with the involvement of Savel´ev and the Leningrad-­based deaf activist Erik Mikhailovich Tot´mianin, declared that “the All-­Russian Association of Deaf-­Mutes (VOG) is a social organ­ization that fulfils its tasks and goals through the work placement of deaf-­mutes in all branches of industry accessible to them, uniting them in artels, cooperatives [tovarishchestva], communes and other such collectives on the basis of autonomy, mutual aid, and individual initiative.”126 The proposed organ­ization would have a wide remit, including carry­ing out a national census of deaf ­people, training deaf p­ eople in ­labor skills and finding them work, participating in education and political-­cultural work, establishing activities to promote the cure and prevention of deafness, and working to regulate the l­egal position of the deaf in the Soviet system. As had been the case with the Deaf-­ Mute Section, VOG was to function ­under the administration (and bud­get) of the P ­ eople’s Commissariat for Social Welfare, thus tying the fate of Soviet deaf ­people to the structures of the nascent Soviet welfare state. However, as deaf ­people had demanded for so many years, the proposed body spanned the activities of all the ­People’s Commissariats which dealt with deafness, uniting them u ­ nder one, deaf-­controlled organ­ization. Smirnov’s “Position” portrayed the creation of VOG as the inevitable culmination of a developing sense of Soviet deaf identity. Yet in many ways, the organ­ization pointed to the legacy of prerevolutionary deaf organ­izations. Membership was limited to deaf ­people (by birth and late-­deafened) and ­those hearing ­people who worked closely with the deaf, who w ­ ere permitted to make up no more than 25 ­percent of the organ­ization. VOG functioned as a

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self-­contained deaf interest group, not unlike prerevolutionary voluntary associations such as the St. Petersburg Society. Or­gan­i­za­tion­ally, VOG retained the traditions of the voluntary association, with an official charter, approved by Sovnarkom in September  1926, and a demo­cratically elected council and president. Delegates voted unanimously for their president, Pavel Aleksandrovich Savel´ev, by holding up their hands and making his sign name, trifles (pustiaki), with their right palm facing forward and their left hand forming a fist around their right thumb.127 Although the old traditions persisted, the creation of VOG also attested to the dramatic shift in deaf identity—­and the scope of deaf social and cultural organ­ization—­over the previous nine years. The approval of the VOG charter coincided with the Third All-­Russian Congress of Deaf-­Mutes (­later known as the First Congress of VOG), which opened on September 25, 1926 in Moscow. The congress was attended by deaf delegates from across the country, alongside representatives from the Central Committee and the P ­ eople’s Commissars of Social Welfare and Education. As evidence of the growing public awareness of deaf organ­ization, the congress was covered by local and international newspapers, and the proceedings w ­ ere filmed and shown in cinemas across Moscow, a­ fter which, as Kalugina noted, “unknown p­ eople on the tram would tell me, with signs or in writing, that they had seen me on the screen.” She described the significance of the event: “Before us—­those ­people deprived of hearing—­opened a new, substantial [soderzhatel´naia] and happy

Figure 1.  Presidium of the First Congress of VOG, 1926. Third and fifth from left: Pavel Savel´ev and Sergei Sokolov. Far right: Agrippina Kalugina. Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

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life, a life which we had to build ourselves, with our own hands. Our Society was henceforth an organ­ization, uniting in one w ­ hole the multitudinous ­unions, clubs, and ‘houses of deaf-­mutes’ which had sprung up since 1912 in the small and large cities of our country. For this reason, our organ­ization was called the ‘All-­Russian Association of Deaf-­Mutes.’ ”128 At the Third Congress, it became clear that the old guard of deaf activists had begun to cede their position to a new generation of Soviet deaf p­ eople. This could be clearly seen in the election of Savel´ev over his old friend and mentor, Sokolov. Savel´ev had been born into a peasant f­amily in the village of Andreevka, Saratov province.129 He was not born deaf, but at the age of eight had fallen through the ice while skating, contracted meningitis, and lost his hearing. As a result, he could speak well, read, and write. When Savel´ev was thirteen, his ­father had taken him to Saratov and found him a position as an apprentice metalworker. He did not have any contact with the deaf community u ­ ntil around 1910, when, while standing in a queue for cigarettes, he met Sokolov, who introduced him to the local deaf society. Having learned sign with some difficulty, he moved to Moscow in early 1920 and became actively involved with the House of Deaf-­Mutes before forming the first deaf-­ mute cell of the Communist Party. Thus, while Sokolov was of the old, elite circle of deaf activists, Savel´ev was a skilled worker from a poor background, much closer to the proletarian Soviet ideal. The list of delegates from this conference also demonstrated this shift: whereas at the All-­Russian Congress of Deaf-­Mutes in 1917 the majority of delegates w ­ ere gradu­ates of the local schools in state or private ser­vice, the delegate list for the 1926 congress includes metalworkers, boot makers, seamstresses, and machine operators.130 The delegate information forms also show how working on behalf of the deaf community had become more prestigious: one delegate, G. P. Vaganov, listed his profession as “deaf-­mute activist.” With the creation of VOG, therefore, deaf ­people’s strug­gle for their own autonomous organ­ization was fi­nally successful, and the role of VOG within the broader transformative proj­ect of Soviet society was enshrined in legislation. However, the debates during the first VOG congress showed that not all deaf activists ­were ­behind the new organ­ization. Again, it was the delegates from Petrograd (now Leningrad) who w ­ ere most vocal in their opposition. For Mintslova-­Piotrovskaia, the prob­lem centered on the fact that, with the creation of VOG, ­those local organ­izations set up ­under the Deaf-­Mute Section would necessarily be liquidated: “We expended so much energy on creating local organ­izations, and for what? . . . ​As if VOG can instantly give as much as is needed even for our House of Deaf-­Mute Enlightenment in Leningrad, or for the salaries of VOG workers?”131 According to Zhuromskii, the creation

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of VOG would only serve to undermine efforts at integration, as he “considers Savel´ev’s report unsatisfactory, and VOG dangerous for deaf-­mutes: they ­will fire deaf-­mute laborers from their jobs, alleging that they have their VOG to look ­after them.”132 Having a separate organ­ization for deaf ­people, he argued, would only reinforce the impression that they needed special treatment and care. He proposed that VOG should only take as members ­those deaf individuals who could not work, and therefore needed welfare protection, while leaving qualified deaf workers within the state system. Indeed, the question of where a national body for deaf ­people should sit within the state apparatus had long troubled some deaf activists: Kalugina recounts fierce debates taking place on this point ­after the closure of the VSG in 1920.133 At that time, Savel´ev had bemoaned the m ­ istake that led many state representatives to assume that “for deaf-­mutes ­there is only one road: to the Social Welfare office.”134 However, by 1926, Savel´ev ­wholeheartedly supported the foundation of a deaf organ­ization within Narkomsobes, seeing it as the resolution of deaf strug­gles for autonomy: “VOG includes all facets of the lives of deaf-­mutes—­that is what we need.”135 Following fierce debates, the position of Zhuromskii and Mintslova-­Piotrovskaia was overwhelmingly rejected by delegates, and VOG’s charter was submitted to Narkomsobes, which approved it on October 19, 1926.136 In the concluding remarks of the congress, the significance of VOG in the fight for deaf in­de­pen­dence was definitively stated: “With the formation of VOG, deaf-­mutes have been given ­every possibility to build their own lives and demonstrate autonomy.”137

Conclusion The period between the revolutions of 1917 and the creation of VOG in 1926 saw a reconceptualization of deafness in the Soviet context and a discovery of alternate models of self hood informed by Soviet ideology, which s­ haped the ways in which deaf ­people functioned within society. This shift was not unproblematic. Deaf organ­ization and engagement with notions of Soviet identity was fundamentally s­ haped by the prerevolutionary experience of deaf ­people. Re­sis­tance to tsarist structures of charity and tutelage ­shaped deaf responses to Soviet notions of welfare and humaneness. The legacy of oralism informed deaf engagement with education and underpinned calls for linguistic and cultural rights. Similarly, the desire for autonomy and in­de­pen­dence led to the privileging of the Soviet notions of ­labor and initiative, and the use of proletarian rhe­toric and frameworks of national identity to support calls for equality. The creation of VOG, with its strong emphasis on ­labor and its

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structures of deaf control, gave this uneasy balance between Soviet integration and a distinct deaf cultural identity concrete form. Situating themselves firmly within the Soviet transformative proj­ect to remake the individual and society, deaf individuals had asserted their right to govern themselves. Even with the creation of VOG, however, ­these changes affected a very narrow group of deaf ­people. The pro­g ress described so vividly in the Saratov deaf Komsomol had been experienced by a very small number of urban deaf individuals. By the mid-1920s, deaf activists had begun to turn their attention to ­those individuals not yet served by deaf organ­izations. In the same year as the foundation of VOG, the All-­Union Population Census of the USSR counted 112,000 deaf-­mutes, with 78,400 in the RSFSR alone.138 Estimates by deaf organ­izations put the figure significantly higher, at 250,000.139 Articles in Zhizn´ glukhonemykh discussed the plight of the 98 ­percent of deaf ­people living in the country with no access to education, training, or a deaf community: “Deaf-­ mutes are illiterate, scattered in ones and twos in all settlements, without trade, the poorest of the poor, beggarly shepherds and farm-­hands.”140 Despite advances in urban centers, in both attitudes and practical organ­ization, for deaf peasants, the revolution had passed them by. The creation of VOG thus represented a moment of potential, rather than of resolution. It would be in the subsequent de­cade, as VOG began to involve deaf individuals on a mass level, that the possibilities of deaf autonomous organ­ization and the contours of Soviet deaf identity would be fully explored. Yet in 1926, within the limited circles of deaf organ­ization, VOG was seen to represent the best opportunity for the deaf to fulfil the promise of October and work together for their common liberation: from tutelage, from charity, and from the social impact of their hearing loss.

Ch a p ter  2

Making the Deaf Soviet

Among the columns of Soviet athletes making up the 1933 May Day parade in Moscow, one group stood out. Dressed in orange T-­shirts and navy blue shorts, u ­ nder a banner emblazoned with the word “Deaf-­Mutes” ( glukhonemye), 350 deaf sportsmen and w ­ omen marched in “enigmatic silence” ­toward Red Square. As they approached Lenin’s mausoleum and saluted the Soviet leaders atop the structure, ­these deaf sportsmen and ­women ( fizkul´turniki) symbolically claimed their place among the ranks of the Soviet masses. As Zhizn´ glukhonemykh commented, “With their cheerful appearance, the deaf-­mutes testified to their readiness to fight alongside the working class of the USSR for the general line of the party and its leader, comrade Stalin.”1 With their enthusiastic participation in the mass cele­brations that characterized Soviet life ­under Stalin, deaf ­people bore witness to their own transformation from backward, illiterate disabled ­people to the “first ranks” of the Soviet industrial working class. This shift in deaf identity was framed by the fundamental social changes ushered in by Stalin’s “revolution from above.”2 The creation of an industrial economy in a predominantly peasant country entailed a ­wholesale reshaping of society, as the diverse populace of the old regime was refashioned into the technically and po­liti­cally literate vanguard of the Soviet working class. The experience of the deaf community in this period both echoed the tropes of and borrowed techniques from this “cultural 53

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Figure 2.  May Day Parade, 1933. The banner reads “Deaf-­Mutes.” Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

revolution”; the utopian goal of “overcoming deaf-­muteness” and integrating deaf p­ eople into the heights of Soviet industry was tackled through forward planning and the setting of ambitious targets.3 Conceived in ­these terms, forging the deaf masses into ideal Soviet citizens became the ultimate Soviet proj­ect. The issue of deaf inclusion into the Soviet body politic illuminates ongoing historiographical debates about the 1930s, which have seen historians question the long-­prevailing view that Rus­sia’s cultural revolution saw the utopian dreams of a pluralist, equal polity forestalled by Stalin’s increasingly reactionary dictatorship. Instead, they argue, the 1930s represented a new moment of utopianism and modernity, albeit in an illiberal, statist, and increasingly violent mode.4 The deaf community represents a useful prism through which to interrogate the tensions and limitations of this new utopianism. Certainly, the utopian visions of individual and collective transformation that characterized the early revolutionary period remained key to the refashioning of deaf identities in this period. The inclusion of deaf ­people in the dreams of a socialist ­f uture, and the continued existence of a voluntary deaf organ­ization into the 1930s (despite the disbanding of other social institutions, such as the ­Women’s Department of the Communist Party, the Zhenotdel) demonstrates the continued validity of utopian dreams of an inclusive and equal society. Indeed,

Mak ing t h e D e a f S ovi e t


the revolutionary notions of plurality and equality would be signed into Soviet legislation in the widely celebrated Stalin constitution of 1936.5 Yet the transformation of the deaf raised certain questions that threatened to undermine its utopian overtones. T ­ hese questions ­were initially orga­ nizational in nature, as deaf and hearing alike sought to find institutional structures and systems of ser­vice provision that could best support deaf p­ eople. The desire to create “social and cultural unity” in the 1930s, however, established a set of norms, be­hav­iors, and social practices that could not help but mark the deaf as “other.”6 The ideological imperative to “work on the self,” to overcome character flaws and become ideal New Soviet P ­ eople was made difficult by the obstacles of communication and integration that deaf ­people faced. As Lilia Kaganovsky has shown, the fallibility of the body was an obstacle that Soviet disabled ­people w ­ ere encouraged to overcome—­the maimed and disabled body conceived as a “physical site for spiritual transformation”—­ yet the realities of hearing loss continued to limit deaf ­people’s lives and opportunities.7 Similarly, the desire of VOG activists to identify themselves and their community as both deaf and Soviet was rendered problematic by the increasingly homogenous model of Soviet identity promoted in Soviet culture and public life. For t­ hose outside the deaf community, and even for some on the inside, this continued insistence on a distinct deaf identity raised troubling questions: could the deaf r­ eally be integrated into Soviet society? Did they even want to be? This chapter examines the events of the 1930s, as deaf organ­ization moved from the limited grassroots activity of the 1920s into the politics of mass participation that characterized the early Stalin era. Through their engagement in the industrial and po­liti­cal life of the country, Soviet deaf ­people strove to march alongside their hearing comrades ­toward the ultimate goal of a communist society, advertising their Soviet and deaf identities as equally valuable and worthy of cele­bration. This overt cele­bration of deaf-­muteness was striking at a time when other countries—­not least Nazi Germany—­were taking steps to consign deaf p­ eople to eugenicist oblivion. As the enthusiasm of the first five-­year plans gave way to the fear and vio­lence of the purges, however, faith in the ability of the deaf to integrate into Soviet society, on the part of both the deaf and the hearing, was sorely shaken. In 1937, the most violent year of Stalin’s purges, two significant events rocked the deaf community: the “deaf-­mute affair” in Leningrad, which culminated in the NKVD execution of thirty-­five deaf ­people for espionage, and the so-­called Buslaevshchina, an internal VOG dispute that saw one deaf activist, Nikolai Alekseevich Buslaev, expelled from the organ­ization for insisting that the deaf should not

56 Cha pte r  2

be institutionally isolated from the broader Soviet collective. Both of t­hese purges, although demonstrably dif­fer­ent in scale and direction, reveal the tensions between the ideal Soviet transformation of the deaf and the complex real­ity of its implementation in practice.

Techniques of Transformation In the context of Stalin’s first five-­year plan (1928–1932), a period of intense social and economic transformation that became known as the “­Great Break” (velikii perelom), the need to transform deaf ­people from the “backward disabled” into productive members of the Soviet masses was considered particularly urgent. At the end of the 1920s, according to information compiled by the newly formed VOG, the majority of deaf ­people stood outside the structures of Soviet economic and social life. Figures for the first quarter of 1927 show that only 3,526 of an estimated 80,000 deaf p­ eople in the RSFSR ­were members of the organ­ization. Of ­those, 608 worked in a branch of state or cooperative industry, 1,002 in VOG workshops, and 1,460 in rural handicraft workshops; 483 ­were unemployed.8 A mere seventy-­four ­were members of the Communist Party.9 The rest w ­ ere illiterate, unemployed, and living in isolation throughout the villages of the RSFSR. Members of VOG and ­those state bodies that dealt with the deaf thus faced the task of transforming this predominantly illiterate, atomized group of deaf individuals into collectively minded members of the Soviet working masses. The deaf community was not the only “backward” group that troubled Soviet policy-­makers in this period. As Jochen Hellbeck has shown, much of the workforce during the ­Great Break was made up of former peasants, who ­were conceived of by the state as “ ‘old ­human material,’ weighed down by the forces of tradition, superstition, and narrow egotism” and who needed to be remade in order for the new socialist world to come into being.10 The rhetorical construction of peasants as backward and workers as enlightened was an impor­tant tool in mobilizing Soviet citizens to participate in the subjectivizing policies promoted by the Soviet state.11 Choi Chatterjee has traced the use of “traditional social and cultural stigma surrounding Rus­sian ­women” to reinforce the modernization policies of the first five-­ year plan, which celebrated “the transformation of the illiterate, uncultured and counter-­revolutionary Rus­sian ­woman.”12 Discussions of deaf p­ eople in the early 1930s drew implicit parallels with peasants and w ­ omen; VOG activists and state representatives alike referred to deaf p­ eople as “backward” (otstalye), “dark” (temnye), and “scattered” (rastsyplennye), requiring the inter-

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vention of state bodies and deaf activists to transform themselves into Soviet citizens.13 To that end, over the course of the first five-­year plan, VOG and other state bodies published a succession of documents setting out methods to acculturate the deaf in the mold of the New Soviet Person. In the first instance, members of VOG sought to identify deaf individuals (a pro­cess referred to as uchet, or “census”) and convince them to join the newly established VOG (okhvat, or “inclusion”).14 Membership of VOG was not automatic: a deaf (or hearing) individual had to choose to join and pay both a joining fee and a yearly membership fee. In urban centers, where the tradition of deaf organ­ization was already well established, the pro­cess of drawing deaf p­ eople into VOG was relatively ­simple. Deaf grassroots organ­izations established in the 1920s w ­ ere converted into departments of VOG and used their existing links within the deaf community to involve local deaf p­ eople in their work.15 Finding the large numbers of rural deaf p­ eople proved harder. In the countryside, VOG activists worked alongside the Peasant Committees of Mutual-­Aid and the organs of the ­People’s Commissariat of Social Welfare (Narkomsobes).16 In the absence of official data on the number and location of deaf ­people, workers had to rely on information gleaned through word of mouth and the occasional letter of enquiry from relatives to Zhizn´ glukhonemykh.17 The bureaucratic chaos of the G ­ reat Break combined with linguistic issues specific to the deaf community to make this task particularly difficult. The high rate of job turnover among Narkomsobes workers caused real prob­lems; VOG activists frequently complained that t­ hese workers had ­little or no knowledge of the needs and requirements of the deaf, and that the majority did not even know sign language.18 However, even members of VOG found communication to be difficult, as deaf p­ eople in the countryside usually communicated through some form of “home sign,” which VOG activists found hard to comprehend.19 In addition, the scatteredness of ­these rural deaf individuals made it hard to establish a form of VOG organ­ization in the countryside that could successfully unite them; with distances of hundreds of kilo­meters between villages, trying to establish a local deaf club often seemed futile. Over the course of the late 1920s and early 1930s, VOG activists developed a set of strategies to combat ­these prob­lems. In order to identify rural deaf ­people and draw them into VOG, the Central Soviet, its ruling body, sent established members of the organ­ization into the countryside to make personal contact with local deaf ­people. Viktor Palennyi rec­ords one such example: in 1932, a certain Valentina Kovaleva was sent from Leningrad to Pskov to head the local branch of VOG established ­there. On her arrival, she set about contacting local regional and agricultural soviets to request information on the

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deaf p­ eople in the area. Having established the location of deaf individuals, she visited many of them in person, speaking to their relatives when communication was difficult and persuading them of the benefits of joining VOG. This technique was evidently successful: before her arrival, the Pskov branch of VOG recorded a total of 55 members; through her efforts, the number quickly ­rose to 270.20 Kovaleva clearly approached her work with enthusiasm, but o ­ thers w ­ ere less e­ ager. During the Second All-­Russian Congress of Deaf-­Mutes in 1929, N. N. Minakov, a delegate from Rostov on the Don, insisted that “the strictest mea­sures must be taken against the reluctance of certain activists to go out to the provinces to work, even as far as to exclude them from the party and from VOG.”21 Minakov’s proposal was ultimately rejected, though the practice was kept up throughout the 1930s on a voluntary basis. Prominent activists of the 1920s ­were instrumental in establishing VOG organ­izations in the regions; Antonina Danilovna, wife of Aleksandr Udal´, moved frequently, spending time in Bukhara and chairing VOG organ­izations in Orenburg and Tula.22 Pavel Savel´ev personally made regular trips to locations throughout the RSFSR, once breaking off his holiday to chase down deaf ­people in remote locations.23 With such perseverance, the number of VOG members began to rise, from 5,143 in 1929 to 16,198 in January 1932, and reaching 39,000 by 1937.24 The considerable efforts by deaf activists to locate rural deaf ­people did not in itself solve the prob­lem of their socialist transformation. With such huge distances separating their tiny rural residences, it was impossible to establish a deaf organ­ization along the lines of t­ hose found in urban centers, in which ­labor training and po­liti­cal education could be easily provided. As such, in a move reminiscent of the more benign aspects of the collectivization drive, VOG activists attempted to “concentrate” groups of deaf ­people in the countryside through a system of rural “rally-­conferences” (slety-­konferentsii).25 The purpose of t­ hese rallies, according to Savel´ev, was “the establishment of a vital link [zhivaia sviaz´] to the deaf-­mutes of the countryside, the study of each, individually, from the point of view of his po­liti­cal literacy, his potential to be assigned to study . . . ​or to work.” The rallies could then be used to provide specific ser­vices for the deaf, such as “­legal consultation, medical assistance, placement in studies, work e­ tc.,” making use of links with local state organ­izations such as the Peasant Committees of Mutual Aid and the Machine Tractor Stations.26 The VOG department in the Central-­Volga krai was the first to make such events a central part of their work, carry­ing out rallies in six regions in the early 1930s and thereby establishing links with 180 villa­gers.27 For unemployed, illiterate, rural deaf ­people, a twice-­yearly gathering in a regional town was not sufficient to overcome the combined obstacles of deaf-

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ness and rural isolation. As a Zhizn´ glukhonemykh article pointed out: “The life of t­hese unfortunates is truly pitiful. The vast majority of them live ‘on charity’ [iz milosti] with their relatives, and for their ­labor (and they work no less than the hearing) they receive only a subsistence and ragged clothes [da plokhuiu odezhonku].”28 A more serious change was necessary to lift ­these ­people out of their dire situation. As a result, VOG began to look to the more traditional locus of early Stalinist transformation: the factory. By involving the deaf in ­labor on a mass scale, and grouping them together in order to provide the ser­vices necessary to help them, VOG members believed that the forging of the new deaf person could be more easily achieved. Initially, VOG workers and government officials looked to develop the system of small-­scale, deaf-­only artels and workshops that had been established in the 1920s, which, according to a speech made by Savel´ev at the Second All-­ Russian Congress, would allow the deaf to “[stand] together with all adults in the general cooperative ranks and [begin] to fulfil the ­great plan of Il´ich, which he bequeathed a­ fter his death.”29 The majority of ­these artels ­were handicraft based: according to figures for the RSFSR from 1927, ­there ­were sixteen sewing and leatherwork artels, seven bread-­making artels, and six printing shops.30 In addition to ­these, a small number of deaf-­only Soviet farms (sovkhozy) ­were created by VOG following Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture ­after 1928.31 As the pace of Soviet industrialization picked up, both the VOG leadership and state departments began to change their tactics to include deaf p­ eople in the large-­scale industrial proj­ects that characterized the first five-­year plan. A joint circular, published in 1929 by the Supreme Soviet of the Economy (VSNKh) and the ­People’s Commissariat of L ­ abor (Narkomtrud), set out the procedures for the hiring of deaf p­ eople by state industrial enterprises: t­ hose deaf ­people who had previously worked in industry or who had the necessary ­labor skills, “taking into account their social position and property [sotsial´no-­ imushchestvennoe polozhenie],” could be accepted for work.32 A proposed system of putevki, or l­abor vouchers, similar to ­those issued to unemployed hearing workers by the ­Labor Exchange, would be issued by VOG and certified by the ­Labor Department, to be presented to prospective employers as proof of an individual’s eligibility to work. In 1930, VOG and Narkomtrud published a further instruction that refined this system, establishing concrete links between VOG and certain factories and setting out mea­sures rationally to plan deaf job allocation throughout the RSFSR.33 As a result of ­these mea­sures, by the Third All-­Russian Congress in 1931 a qualitative change had taken place in the membership of VOG. Of approximately 14,000 members, over 6,000 w ­ ere working in general industry, many in the “gigantic” construction proj­ects of the five-­year plan, such as Moscow’s

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Elektrozavod, and the Cheliabinsk and Sta­lin­grad tractor factories.34 In the majority of cases, the involvement of deaf workers with ­these ­g reat construction proj­ects began on a modest scale, with groups of four or five hired as unskilled laborers (chernorabochie) to work on the construction of the huge factory complexes.35 As the factories went on line the deaf workers moved inside, training on the job and ultimately achieving the status of skilled workers.36 Traditions of hiring the deaf in t­ hese factories soon became established, and by 1933, groups of over a hundred deaf ­people could be found working in concentrated groups in several enterprises, including Elektrozavod and Rostov on the Don’s Rostsel´mash.37 The speed with which deaf workers entered the Soviet factory was in part testament to the urgent need for a skilled workforce to carry out the industrial transformation of the USSR; the widespread l­abor shortage from 1930 onward worked to draw in laborers from a number of traditionally marginalized groups, including w ­ omen.38 Similar trends in the hiring of deaf workers have been documented in other countries; as Kati Morton has shown, the Goodyear tire factory in Akron, Ohio, “actively recruited deaf workers during World War I,” and retained them a­ fter the war.39 The U.S. experience showed the hiring of deaf l­abor to be inherently precarious, however, dependent on employers recognizing the value of a deaf workforce and choosing to retain it even in times of economic hardship.40 The decision by VOG and Narkomtrud to institutionalize the hiring of deaf workers at a national level was thus a striking innovation, making it pos­si­ble to “register and assign deaf ­people to work in industry” in a systematic fashion.41 It spoke not only to the Soviet state’s commitment to supporting disabled p­ eople (VOG’s ­sister organ­ization, the All-­Russian Society of the Blind, was similarly empowered to place blind p­ eople in industry in this period, although with less success) but also to the belief in the transformative power of ­labor, which would enable deaf ­people to become “conscious and active builders of a classless socialist society.”42 The hiring of deaf workers in state industry did not always proceed on an equal basis with that of the hearing. The 1929 circular by VSNKh and Narkomtrud included a par­tic­u­lar caveat: that the hiring of deaf ­people should be carried out on the basis of a “concrete list of positions for which a deaf-­mute’s ­labor can be accepted, and also a list of positions that may not be taken on the strength of the necessity of hearing or the threat of the loss of sight.”43 In other words, t­here was a perception that deaf p­ eople could perform some jobs, but not o ­ thers.44 On occasion, however, deafness could be an asset. From the early 1930s, efforts w ­ ere made to use the l­abor of deaf p­ eople in certain jobs which, as Lewis Siegelbaum has shown, threatened the hearing of ordi-

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nary workers due to high noise levels.45 Placing groups of deaf workers in the “noisy shop,” a designation that covered the majority of workshops involving heavy machinery, including boiler rooms and foundries, was a­ dopted as policy by VOG and the central administration of the trades ­union (VTsSPS) in 1931.46 This “rational” (or “Deaf Gain”) approach to hiring policy coexisted harmoniously with VOG’s policy of concentrating the deaf in the workplace, with brigades of deaf ­people, sometimes several hundred strong, to be found working together in the noisiest parts of the Soviet factory throughout the 1930s.47 By the early 1930s, the use of deaf ­labor in state factories had become widespread, with VOG acting as a type of job center, placing individuals in suitable factories. For ­those seeking work in state industry, however, it was not always enough to show a willingness to work. The majority of deaf workers ­were also required to demonstrate skills and literacy to be accepted to into the factory.48 In light of this, VOG and Narkomsobes made the decision in 1929 to reform the system of VOG enterprises, turning existing workshops and artels into educational-­industrial workshops (uchebno-­proizvoditelnye masterskie, or UPMs). Deaf adults and school leavers could enter t­ hese workshops and receive the training necessary to master technical work and the use of specialist machinery (as well as basic literacy) in order to make the transition to state enterprises. By 1931, the VOG system had a total of 75 UPMs, in which 2,424 individuals ­were working and 827 studying.49 Over the course of the 1930s, many groups of deaf individuals successfully made the leap from studying at the UPM to working in state factories.50 Like their hearing counter­parts, however, the deaf had also begun to make the transition from a narrow focus on practical literacy and skills to a desire to be included in the most prestigious worker education programs of the cultural revolution: workers’ faculties (rabfaki) and higher educational institutes (vysshie uchebnye zavedeniia, or VUZy). As Gail W. Lapidus has pointed out, education during the cultural revolution was expected to “serve as a channel of social mobility for previously disadvantaged groups, undermining traditional hierarchical and ascriptive patterns of social organ­ization and facilitating the creation of an egalitarian community.”51 At the Second All-­ Russian Congress, E. N. Mokhonov, a delegate from the Crimea, complained to ­People’s Commissar of Enlightenment A. V. Lunacharskii about the lack of educational opportunities for deaf ­people: “Now, among speaking ­people, ­there are rabfaki, VUZy, technical schools, they go to schools of ballet and drawing, are supplied with millions in funds, and deaf-­mutes are supplied with nothing.” “Why,” he asked, “­can’t we or­ga­nize groups in rabfaki and VUZy to work with interpreters? They ­will not admit us—­deaf-­mutes are not allowed [glukhonemym nel’zia].” In response, Lunacharskii promised that, if a group

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of deaf ­people could be or­ga­nized to work with an interpreter, he would personally find a rabfak to take them.52 On this basis, a group of eigh­teen students entered the Bukharin rabfak in Moscow in September 1930. By 1931, one of their number, M. L. Shorin, could proudly tell the Third All-­Russian Congress that deaf students ­were studying in all faculties: “It has become an everyday occurrence, not an exception.”53 All eigh­teen of the original class graduated and went on to study at the VUZ. In September 1931, twenty-­six students entered the Rykov rabfak in Leningrad.54 In addition to the deaf workers studying in hearing rabfaki, 1931 also saw over a hundred deaf p­ eople begin their studies at the Frunze Professional-­ Technical School, a newly opened higher educational establishment for disabled ­people in Leningrad.55 Following this initial watershed, groups of deaf students studying with interpreters became commonplace in many hearing rabfaki and VUZy, and soon spread to other forms of worker education, such as the system of factory-­plant apprenticeships (fabrichno-­zavodskoe uchenichestvo, or FZU). According to a report by Zhizn´ glukhonemykh in 1933, ­these students would “provide qualified cadres for socialist industry,” which represented the “urgent task of VOG” in the run-up to the Seventeenth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1934.56 By the time the first five-­year plan drew to a close, therefore, the basic contours of the deaf community’s path to transformation, and VOG’s role within it, had been drawn. On September 26, 1932, VOG formally changed its name from the All-­Russian Association of Deaf-­Mutes to the All-­Russian Society of Deaf-­Mutes (Vserossiiskoe Obshchestvo Glukhonemykh). According to the “Position on the All-­Russian Society of Deaf-­Mutes,” published by VOG and approved by the Soviet of P ­ eople’s Commissars to coincide with this renaming, VOG had certain “fundamental tasks”: the “exposure, census and unification” of deaf ­people in VOG, the carry­ing out of cultural-­educational work, and the raising of their level of po­liti­cal and technical understanding. The or­ga­nized transformation of VOG members into industrial workers was stressed: “The industrial training and retraining of deaf-­mutes and ­those who have become deaf or mute, both in specialized educational-­industrial workshops, the professional-­technical schools and tekhnikumy of the P ­ eople’s Commissariat of Social Welfare, and in general state educational establishments of all types,” was to be followed by the “planned placement of deaf-­mutes . . . ​ in work in state and cooperative enterprises.”57 ­These aims formed the basis of VOG’s work throughout the 1930s. Their achievement was, in practice, a ­little more ad hoc and fragmentary than the talk of plans suggested: although attempts w ­ ere made to establish a general VOG plan along the lines of the five-­year plan, the nature of VOG planning was usually confined to individual

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discreet targets.58 However ad hoc the organ­ization, by 1937 VOG could report that, of 39,000 members, approximately 17,000 w ­ ere working in state industry, 9,000 ­ were working in industrial cooperatives, and 18,000 ­ were studying.59 The decision to move from the deaf-­only artels and disability cooperatives of the 1920s to the large-­scale industrial shops of state industry was in part a pragmatic one. Deaf-­only artels in the 1920s suffered from orga­nizational isolation; neither within the system of disability cooperatives nor industrial organ­ izations within the trades ­union, they had few sources of ready credit and their man­ag­ers found it very difficult to procure raw materials or achieve any degree of profitability.60 A decision in 1928 to hand the artel system over to the All-­Russian Cooperative Association of Disabled ­People (Vserossiiskoe kooperativnoe ob”edinenie invalidov, or VIKO) did ­little to improve ­matters. According to reports from Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, deaf workers soon began to be pushed out of the transferred artels: “They hired a lot of healthy ­people, kicked the deaf-­mutes off the machines and made them make buttonholes, sew on buttons, and seated speaking workers at the deaf workers’ machines.”61 Deaf members of t­ hese artels had lower wages than their hearing workmates and no social insurance in case of injury in the workplace.62 By contrast, ­those in state industry ­were automatically granted membership in the trades u ­ nion, with all of its associated benefits, and the concentrations of deaf individuals in the “noisy shops” of large factories made it pos­si­ble for VOG to establish factory-­based cells that ­were easily accessible and well attended.63 If placing the deaf in state industry was a practical choice, it was also a deeply symbolic one. As Stephen Kotkin has suggested, “Work served as both the instrument and mea­sure of normality” during this period of intense social transformation.64 If the hiring of deaf workers in blue collar jobs in the United States and Japan was seen to demonstrate their limited opportunities (Nakamura argues that “it was virtually impossible to get a white-­collar job” in Japan before World War II), the status conferred on workers in the USSR transformed the symbolic meaning of t­ hese manual professions.65 By showing themselves able to work alongside their hearing comrades, the deaf could demonstrate their “normality” by their ability to integrate into the Soviet working masses. As the Deputy P ­ eople’s Commissar for Social Welfare Samsonov commented in 1929, the task of VOG and the Soviet state was “to accustom the deaf-­mute masses to the construction of our Soviet Republic; that is, to accustom deaf-­mutes to ­labor, on an equal footing with the healthy, in all forms of industry.” According to Samsonov, the excellent results produced by the deaf w ­ ere ample proof of their equality: “Already in the Red Capital more than a thousand proletarian deaf-­mutes work side-­by-­side with the speaking

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Figure 3.  The Electric Works, Moscow. The shirtless laborer is Mikhail Gurov. Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

and the hearing, and their salary, work discipline, and industrial l­abor are no lower, and in some cases higher, than the speaking and the hearing.”66 The inclusion of the deaf in industry, therefore, was seen as proof that “­there are no fortresses a Bolshevik cannot storm,” even if the Bolshevik happened to be deaf and the fortress happened to be the “gigantic towers of the factory-­fortress Elektrozavod, the child of the first five-­year plan.”67 Having stormed the fortress, t­hese deaf Bolsheviks then had the opportunity to become truly Soviet through their experiences within the factory. In 1934, Zhizn´ glukhonemykh published an article about Mikhail Gurov, a blacksmith at Elektrozavod. For ten years, the article explained, “he worked as a hammerer in a disability artel, where only one ­thing was asked of him: physical strength and a precise strike.” Once he had found work at Elektrozavod, however, “he encountered new demands. He was asked to study, to become conscious, to grow.” By raising his qualifications, studying mathe­matics, technical drawing, and po­liti­cal literacy, he was able to become a blacksmith in his own right, a valued member of the factory. In the words of a party worker, “We need more Leninists like Gurov.”68 The experience of the factory thus forged the deaf in the Soviet mold, and provided them with a means to claim their inclusion among the laboring masses.69 Yet, as Deputy Commissar Samsonov had hinted, with the instigation of the first five-­year plan, equality for equality’s sake had ceased to be the ulti-

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mate goal. In the context of breakneck industrialization, new attitudes ­toward ­labor ­were being fostered that placed pressure on workers to exceed their norms and to beat the rec­ords of their peers. This phenomenon was initially known as “shock work” (udarnyi trud), a system in which brigades of workers would issue written challenges to each other to beat existing rec­ords in speed and volume of production. This competitive attitude to l­ abor gained a figurehead in the person of Aleksei Stakhanov, a Donbas miner who, in a record-­breaking shift on the night of August 30, 1935, mined 102 tons of coal, exceeding his quota fourteen times over.70 In the aftermath of this feat, workers ­were encouraged to become “Stakhanovites” by exceeding their ever-­increasing production quotas and surpassing the rec­ords of other workers. In this context, it was no longer enough for the deaf to demonstrate their equality. In order to prove their worth, they now had to excel. Deaf workers ­were encouraged to participate in shock work and Stakhanovism throughout the 1930s. As one of the slogans of the VOG electoral campaign of 1931 declared, “The lack of hearing and speech must not serve as an obstacle to being in the first ranks of shock workers.”71 Similarly, VTsSPS made it their goal, in a decree of March 8, 1933, to “get deaf-­mutes involved in shock work.”72 Stories began to surface of individuals such as Sergei Rodionov, a deaf metalwork assembler at the state Liuberetskii Factory who gained the title of shock worker by fulfilling his yearly plan by 127  ­percent, or Alla Paramonova, a deaf car-­fitter at the Gor’kii Factory who or­ga­nized an uninterrupted shift and fulfilled her quota by 130 ­percent.73 The significance of ­these achievements was clearly spelled out: Sergei guarded his shock-­worker ticket “like a banner, like a document, attesting to the deaf-­mute’s usefulness to this ­g reat country” and was permitted to lead his brigade during the November 7 demonstrations; Alla’s name was hung proudly on the wall. Shock work was not confined to industrial workers: in 1931, groups of students from the Rykov and Bukharin rabfaki announced that they “declared themselves to be shock [students].”74 The students w ­ ere not only competing among themselves; the Bukharin rabfak was also in competition with “normal hearing rabfaki.” According to their representative, Mikhail Shorin, the deaf students ­were “not only not lagging b­ ehind, in many subjects we are ahead of [the hearing].”75 This ability to excel was considered all the more significant in light of the perceived backwardness of the deaf before their Stalinist transformation took place. As the VTsSPS decree of 1933 declared, the deaf, “in their masses, on the strength of their specific characteristics [spetsificheskie osobennosti], are the most backward group of workers.”76 Overcoming this backwardness and entering the first ranks of the Soviet masses thus suggested a transformative leap that surpassed that of the average, hearing worker. This narrative trope, from

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Figure 4.  Deaf workers from the “Paris Commune” factory meet the Stakhanovite Smetanin (seated at center), 1935. Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

backwardness to first ranks, is repeated again and again in meetings, articles, and documents: “Deaf-­mutes have for a long time been able to show that their social importance is very high, that they are in no way backward, and sometimes they even surpass normal p­ eople.”77 Again, the status conferred on the deaf by this overcoming of backward roots was reminiscent of the Stalinist cele­bration of the socialist transformation of “uncultured” peasant w ­ omen: to paraphrase Chatterjee, the conversion of the deaf person to a civic subject “constituted a revolution of unique social dimensions.”78 This overcoming was not merely attributed to the efforts of deaf individuals: it was seen as a direct result of the opportunities for individual growth provided by the Soviet regime. In 1936, Molodoi Stalinets (The Young Stalinist), the newspaper of the Saratov Komsomol, told the story of Petr Spiridonov, a deaf man from the Volga region who found success as a Stakhanovite safe-­ maker in Saratov. Spiridonov, the article made clear, had suffered a most tragic loss in becoming deaf: “Fate played an evil trick on him: she deprived Petr of voice and speech. . . . ​She doomed Petr to a wretched existence.”79 Yet while this defect would have been devastating in other circumstances, “Petr had the advantage that he lived in the land of socialism, the land that takes care of a person like a ­mother.” Having traveled to Saratov from his trans-­Volga village, Petr found work in the VOG UPM, learned l­abor skills, and became literate.

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He mastered complex metalwork techniques and soon became Stakhanovite, leading the best brigade in the factory. As this article makes clear, this transformation was down to Petr’s hard work—­“his inexhaustible per­sis­tence, all his amazing diligence”—­and was a uniquely Soviet success story. Without the opportunities afforded by the Soviet state, such as the chance to study literacy and l­ abor skills at the UPM, Petr would have been condemned to a life surrounded by “general shame and scorn”: “But . . . ​it happened differently.” The author recorded a lively conversation with Petr, conducted through a sign-­language interpreter, in which Petr described the benefits he enjoyed as a successful industrial worker, benefits he attributed to the beneficent role of the state (and, by extension, Stalin): “And in conclusion, the Brigadier-­Stakhanovite, with special expressiveness, gesticulated: ‘Life has become better, life has become more joyous.’ Having made sure that we understood him, he headed for his brigade in the depths of the workshop, from where the clatter and clang of metal could be heard.” By “signing Bolshevik” in this way, citing Stalin’s famous speech to the Stakhanovite conference of 1935, Petr linked his success to the general pro­g ress of the Soviet ­people as a ­whole, a pro­g ress clearly attributed to the generosity of its leader.80 By 1936, the tenth anniversary of VOG’s creation and the year of the new Stalin constitution of the USSR, the deaf could claim a ­g reat transformative victory. Historians have pointed to the Stalin constitution as a watershed moment for all Soviet citizens, at which full rights and responsibilities w ­ ere explic­ itly conferred on social groups who had, following the revolution, been disenfranchised.81 For the deaf, however, this legislation was seen as merely putting an official stamp on a pro­cess that had been ongoing since 1917. Their own socialist proj­ect—­their inclusion in the ranks of the Soviet working masses—­had, for significant numbers of deaf p­ eople, been achieved. In a letter to Stalin, composed in honor of VOG’s anniversary, the Central Soviet declared that “at the pres­ent time among the deaf-­mutes included in our organ­ization t­ here is not one unemployed. ­Every deaf-­mute capable of work has the opportunity to become a qualified worker, to receive a general and professional education, to stand in the first ranks of Stakhanovites, the distinguished ­people of our socialist motherland, and to live a happy life, of which the working deaf-­mutes of t­ hose countries in which capitalism reigns dream unrealizable dreams.”82 This inclusion was not confined to industrial ­labor: deaf p­ eople ­were active members of the Communist Party, marched in parades and demonstrations, collected funds for w ­ omen and ­children caught in the Spanish Civil War, and worked to make their living space “cultured.”83 Yet despite this narrative of literal and symbolic inclusion, the picture of the deaf

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community in the 1930s was somewhat more contradictory and fragmented. In the eyes of many deaf ­people and ­those who worked with them, the path to transformation was a difficult one. In a dominant narrative of successful sovietization, what happened to ­those who strug­gled?

Deafness as Obstacle While the 1930s saw the creation of a dominant narrative in which deaf p­ eople transformed themselves from isolated, backward individuals to exceptional members of the Soviet collective, the real­ity was more complex. As the deaf fought to enter the factory and the classroom, their deafness represented a unique obstacle that threatened to hinder their Soviet transformation. This obstacle was practical in nature, yet over the course of the 1930s its effects ­were interpreted in increasingly po­liti­cal and ideological ways. In a period defined not only by aspiration and utopian pro­g ress but also by social fears and po­liti­ cal stigma, deafness began to take on new and more troubling meanings. In the first instance, deaf ­people contended with what Carol Padden and Tom Humphries describe as the “prob­lem of voice:” they found it consistently difficult to communicate effectively with the hearing.84 Despite the promotion of literacy by VOG and Narkompros, the statistics had not improved greatly: in 1925, 51 ­percent of the general population and 10.5 ­percent of deaf ­people ­were literate, yet by 1933, while 90 ­percent of the general population ­were literate, the figure for the deaf had only risen to 15 ­percent.85 Similarly, even with advances in the education of deaf ­children, the designation “deaf-­mute” was the reflection of a lived real­ity in the 1930s: deaf individuals—­especially adults—­were not expected to be able to speak.86 This communicative isolation caused many prob­lems, both symbolic and literal, as deaf p­ eople attempted to enter the workplace. In many cases, t­ hese prob­lems ­were at the level of small, everyday misunderstandings. A 1933 VTsSPS report listed several such examples: a deaf worker named Novikov was short-­changed on his pay packet and was unable to communicate with the factory accountant in order to resolve the prob­lem. In this instance, the trade ­union representative stepped in and the shortfall was quickly made up. Yet ­these small misunderstandings could prove devastating: one deaf laborer was late for work ­after losing his factory pass, was unable to explain what had happened, and was subsequently fired for absenteeism. In another case, a deaf sweeper was reassigned to a post he was not physically capable of holding: “In response, without comprehending, he nodded his head, which the administration took as a sign of assent. When he was placed in his new work

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he fi­nally understood and refused the post, in light of his inability to carry out heavy physical l­abor due to his state of health, at which the administration made the decision to fire him for shirking his work [kak za otkaz ot raboty].”87 It appears that such incidents w ­ ere commonplace, and the trades u ­ nion noted the resultant high turnover of deaf workers in industry. While misunderstandings in the workplace could be overcome through the intervention of trades u ­ nion representatives and VOG interpreters, some prob­lems caused by deafness proved more fundamental. In 1931, Mikhail Shorin, one of the first rabfak students, published a fictionalized account of their strug­gles to be accepted. Following Lunacharskii’s commitment to help deaf students find a place to study, a del­e­ga­tion of deaf students, accompanied by a VOG interpreter, had approached a series of rabfaki to enquire about places. ­After the deputy head of the Pokrovskii rabfak refused to take the deaf group, he was summoned to Narkompros to explain himself. Through an interpreter, Shorin witnessed him shouting at the Narkompros deputy: “Do you think this is an alms­house? I have enough torment with the national minorities, and now you want to hang ­these deaf-­mutes around my neck! Which of the teachers do you think w ­ ill agree to work with them? It’s hard ­labor [katorga]! No, leave me out of ­these experiments!”88 In this instance, unlike the early 1920s, invoking a comparison between the deaf and national minorities worked against the interests of deaf p­ eople. It was only a­ fter Savel´ev went to see Comrade Kovaneva, the member of Narkomsobes known by the deaf community as “Mamasha” for her “warm attention to their needs,” that a place was found for them in the Bukharin rabfak, thus proving that personal connections w ­ ere still necessary to ensure fair treatment for deaf ­people.89 Even when their places ­were confirmed, ­these deaf students found their deafness a bigger obstacle than they had expected. Much emphasis in t­hese courses was placed on “in­de­pen­dent study with a book,” which “demanded . . . ​ of the deaf student a far greater expenditure of time.”90 For t­ hose deaf individuals just beginning to master literacy, reliance on the written word in ­these classes represented an obstacle that many could not easily overcome. As the report concluded, “All of this has placed deaf-­mute students in a particularly difficult position, as a result of which at the pres­ent time a series of students have been obliged to abandon their studies.”91 Even the decision to teach the deaf in groups and use sign-­language interpreters did not always make the educational pro­cess easier. With students from a variety of educational and ­family backgrounds, a variety of communication methods was evident: “In our classes students differ. One reads lips and does not know fingerspelling or sign language. Another does not lipread but knows fingerspelling and sign language, a third only knows sign language. ­There are ­those who come from

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rural areas with their peculiarities, with their nonspeak. It is natu­ral that in one and the same class they do not understand each other.”92 As a result, while deaf ­people ­were seen to be able to learn practical skills with ease, it was increasingly recognized that they found higher education, with its emphasis on theory, difficult to master.93 Even with practical skills, deafness still caused prob­lems. In the 1930s, as Kotkin points out, it was not enough to be a skilled laborer: “The leadership was no less concerned about workers’ po­liti­cal attitudes and allegiance. New workers had to be taught how to work, and all workers had to be taught how properly to understand the po­liti­cal significance of their work.”94 The life of the factory in the 1930s thus encompassed much more than just the pro­cess of ­labor: cultural activities, po­liti­cal activism, leisure, and education ­were all carried out within the factory walls. In many cases, difficulties in communication caused the deaf to be excluded from t­ hese activities. At the 8 March Factory, the factory committee “announced that they ­were not in a position to carry out such work ­because they ­didn’t know how to talk to deaf-­mutes.”95 While many deaf workers did try to attend the workers’ clubs with their hearing colleagues, their inability to grasp what was being discussed meant that most did not stay long: “We have a good club in the print shop but we never go ­there, b­ ecause special conditions are not created for us ­there. We feel ourselves to be isolated t­ here and prefer to go to our own club.”96 As a result, the majority of deaf p­ eople chose to return to the VOG cell, which, according to B. A. Mikhailov, a teacher from the Frunze Professional School, was failing in its duty to po­liti­cally educate deaf individuals. Of 30,000 VOG members in 1931, Mikhailov stated, only 25 ­percent ­were involved in any kind of cultural work: “This means that 75 ­percent of deaf-­mutes ­will stand outside po­liti­cal life, outside society, w ­ ill remain illiterate.”97 For many deaf p­ eople, therefore, their sensory lack, and its resultant communicative isolation, proved a concrete obstacle to becoming Soviet in the fullest sense: not just a laborer, but a highly educated, po­liti­cally conscious individual. For VOG and the trades ­union, the task of the 1930s was to find ways to overcome this obstacle. Yet at vari­ous points during this transformative period the question was raised: could this obstacle be overcome at all, or did deafness in fact prevent an individual from becoming Soviet? This troubling question was foreshadowed by Lunacharskii in his speech to the Second All-­Russian Congress in January 1929: “As an individual, the deaf-­mute, in his entire organism, can be good and responsive to the highest degree. In other conditions he could have been a better socialist than all t­ hose around him. But, by birth, he was deprived of that immediate ­thing that nature gives ­every person, the possibility to hear another’s speech and to use speech oneself.” Without that

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speech, Lunacharskii argued, “it is as if [the deaf-­mute] falls from the living cloth of society.”98 This isolation was viewed by Lunacharskii in strictly social terms, drawing on the theories of Vygotskii, whom he quoted at length. However, Lunacharskii tempered the utopianism of Vygotskii’s theories with undertones of social and ideological concern. The Soviet state, he argued, “fights above all against individualism [and] . . . ​wants to achieve it so that ­people unite, merge with each other, understand each other and help each other.” As a consequence of their defect, however, a deaf person would be unable to “extend t­ hose telegraph lines that are speech between ­people” and thus remained po­liti­cally suspect. The parallels between deafness and po­liti­cal fallibility ­were made clear: “In this business, in our fight against muteness, I see a sort of sign, a symbol of our general b­ attle against h ­ uman unresponsiveness. . . . ​He who thinks only of himself is deaf. He who does not unite in a single thought and action with his ­brother ­people is deaf.”99 Being deaf, ­whether literally or meta­phor­ically, could not coexist with being a good Soviet citizen. In stark contrast to the positive narratives put forward by deaf Stakhanovites, Lunacharskii’s description of the plight of deaf ­people cast doubt on their capacity to transform. For Lunacharskii, the only potential path to inclusion and was that of oralism, “when, taking a deaf-­mute from childhood, we give him the ability to understand speech directly from the lips of the speaker, and when he himself, not hearing even his own speech, clearly and fully articulates his thoughts, so that if one ­didn’t know that he was deaf, one would not realize.” Yet this “fight against muteness” would not necessarily enable the deaf to become Soviet: “We must act, so that if nature provides (and of course, it ­will provide) born deaf-­mutes, we must educate them so that they can hear another’s speech and speak themselves, like real p­ eople [kak zhivye liudi].” Addressing the congress directly, he concluded: “I wish from my heart that you not only begin to master real speech, to a greater extent than now, but also that, as a result of this, you are able to fully master the ­g reat ideas of our teacher Lenin and that you turn out to be our fellow travelers in the g­ reat ­battle with that h ­ uman deafness and muteness which, to this point, has made ­people not b­ rothers but enemies.”100 In deaf accounts of this conference, Lunacharskii’s speech was received with “wild applause”; as Agrippina Kalugina noted, his speech was not formal; instead he “spoke to us with striking simplicity, from the heart and with humanity [po-­chelovecheski].”101 Yet to any historian of this troubled period, Lunacharskii’s words sound a note of alarm. In his eyes, while education could “bring a deaf-­mute close to [being] a real person,” it could not completely overcome the isolation that distanced the deaf from the Soviet collective. The

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deaf could be nothing more than fellow travelers in the march t­ oward communism. One might argue that the practical impact of Lunacharskii’s words was limited; Lunacharskii’s influence in the Soviet leadership was waning when he gave this speech, and he would be ousted from his position as head of Narkompros by Stalin within eight months of the congress.102 Yet despite his removal, echoes of the correlation he drew between deafness and antisovietness persisted throughout the 1930s, as deaf and hearing alike grappled with understanding the difficulties faced by deaf p­ eople as they attempted to transform. One such example was the controversy surrounding the activities of deaf postcard sellers in the railway stations of Rus­sia’s major cities. The selling of postcards, which often featured photo­g raphs of city sights or a line drawing of the deaf-­mute alphabet, was a tradition stretching back to before the revolution, when local deaf clubs would sell charity cards to raise money for their activities. Such activities w ­ ere also common in the United States.103 Yet in the context of the Soviet 1930s, the presence of deaf postcard sellers was problematic. As Savel´ev commented, “It is a source of shame for deaf-­mutes that in the f­ourteenth year of the revolution they travel the railways, selling, ­etc. In order that this stops, I request that, if you notice ­these travelers, you throw them out and hand them over to the police, so that such an outrage ceases.”104 For t­ hose illiterate deaf p­ eople who did not succeed in making the transition to industry, such work represented a much-­needed means of subsistence. In 1936, when the Stalin constitution paved the way for the rehabilitation of certain “alien” social groups and be­hav­iors, the activity was legalized.105 Yet for VOG activists, deaf postcard sellers merely reinforced the correlation between the backward state of the illiterate deaf and the antisoviet activities of traders and speculators, the specter of which had carried over from the end of the NEP era: “Only inveterate loafers, lovers of ‘easy profits,’ go in for such begging.”106 It is worth noting that this campaign against antisoviet be­hav­ior was being carried out within VOG itself and demonstrated an attempt by self-­defined Soviet deaf individuals to eliminate the last vestiges of the old, backward deaf. In this re­spect, trends inside the deaf community mirrored broader social practices.107 The fight against deaf postcard sellers represented another facet of the “backwardness to first ranks” narrative, in which illiterate deaf individuals merely required some training and po­liti­cal education to see the error of their ways and become good Stakhanovites. Discussions about ­these individuals also hinted at fears that deaf p­ eople, by virtue of their lack of education and social isolation, could be easily corrupted by more sinister antisoviet ele­ ments: “Often, ­behind ordinary postcard-­sellers, ­those straightforward work-

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ers, stands a more power­ful figure, calmly taking a cut from his ‘agents’ without risk to himself.”108 Elsewhere, the perceived tendency of deaf ­people to turn to crime was emphasized. An editorial in Zhizn´ glukhonemykh in 1935 lamented the rise of “hooliganism” among deaf ­people. The administrative organs and the justice system, it argued, “ ‘let them go in peace,’ saying, a deaf-­mute is a defective person, not completely of sound mind, what can you expect of him?”109 This article made clear that such an “allowance for deafness” was unacceptable and that such a “throwback to tsarist legislation . . . ​should be decisively rejected.” The perception that deaf p­ eople w ­ ere more inclined to antisoviet be­hav­ior, however, remained strong.110 In the light of t­ hese fears, many began to argue that the only truly Soviet way to overcome deafness was to eliminate it entirely, through medical prophylaxis. In his speech to the congress, Lunacharskii had announced, to loud applause, that “we must act, so that in some ten years, or fifteen at the most, ­there ­will be no more deaf-­mutes.”111 This aspiration was shared by many in the deaf community, not least Savel´ev, who told a plenum of the VOG Central Soviet that “yes, we have achieved many ­things, yes, we have caught up with the hearing fighters of the Five-­Year Plan. But comrades, if you ask any one of us, for example myself, Savel´ev, if he wants to be and remain deaf-­ mute, then Savel´ev would answer no, I ­don’t want to. We want to fight deaf-­ muteness, we want to make it so that in the second Five-­Year Plan the ­causes of deaf-­muteness are pulled out by the roots.”112 To that end, from 1930 onward, VOG began to or­ga­nize a yearly three-­day event known as Beregi slukh! (Take Care of Your Hearing!), the aim of which was “chiefly, propaganda of the prophylaxis of deaf-­muteness in order that society produces, not defective descendants, but completely healthy fighters and builders of communism.”113 During each three-­day event, VOG members, with the help of Narkomzdrav, put up posters, produced brochures and special newspapers, held lectures and discussions, and collected funds for the work of the society. The prevention of deafness was particularly urgent in the 1930s. Few concrete statistics exist, but it appears that approximately half the deaf adults in this period w ­ ere not born deaf but rather deafened by epidemic illness or accident.114 Diseases such as scarlet fever, typhus, and meningitis frequently led to complications of the ear and some degree of deafness, especially in young ­children.115 Similarly, as the decision to place deaf workers in the “noisy shop” attested, state bodies at the time ­were acutely concerned about the long-­term hearing damage caused by the noise of industrial machinery.116 In order to combat ­these threats to hearing, the activities of Beregi slukh! had a twofold aim: to educate hearing workers about the dangers of noise pollution and epidemic illness and to fight to make more specialist doctors available.117 During

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the lifetime of Beregi slukh!, which ran yearly from 1930 to 1937, over 46,400 lectures w ­ ere held and 7,900,000 brochures, leaflets, and posters printed.118 Beregi slukh! helped to raise significant sums of money for VOG activities; from 1930 to 1933 over five thousand rubles in donations ­were collected.119 Yet ­these events ­were deeply contradictory. Palennyi points to the irony of making the prevention of deafness the task of VOG: “Let the state itself take care of the health of its citizens; oh no, ­people already deprived of hearing must ‘ring the bell’ in order to ‘mobilize the ­people to fight against epidemic illnesses which cause deafness.’ ”120 During Beregi slukh! deaf p­ eople ­were obliged to perpetuate the notion that deafness was a relic of the past and that the deaf had no place in Soviet society: as one slogan from 1931 put it, “We lose our hearing as a result of our ignorance and unculturedness. Sanitary education through the explanation of the ­causes and cures of deaf-­muteness is on the agenda of VOG work.”121 The dominant utopian narrative of deaf transformation was thus consistently undermined by references—­foreshadowed by Lunacharskii—to the deaf as criminals, hooligans, and uncultured relics of the prerevolutionary era. ­These undercurrents of suspicion came into the open in the context of Stalin’s terror. Deaf p­ eople, especially t­ hose in industry, had long been subjected to routine administrative purges, and many of t­hose who came before the factory purge committees in the early 1930s passed the test with flying colors. Mikhail Gurov, for example, the blacksmith and shock worker from Elektrozavod, had been called before the purge committee in 1934. His reputation as a hard worker and a good party member, however, was enough to convince the committee: “When, during the purge of the factory party collective, Gurov was called, and when he calmly approached the ­table ­behind which sat the commission, a thousand pairs of working hands together applauded him. That said it all.”122 In 1937, however, VOG was shaken by an event that decimated one of its most successful organ­izations: the purge of the Leningrad oblast´ branch of VOG, known as the “deaf-­mute affair” (delo glukhonemykh). Sources for this event are difficult to access, yet thanks to research conducted by the deaf historian D. L. Ginzburgskii, a con­temporary of ­those involved, and the hearing historian A. Ia. Razumov, the facts of the deaf-­mute affair have become known.123 Between August and November 1937, fifty-­four members of the Leningrad oblast´ branch w ­ ere arrested by the NKVD on charges of “participation in an anti-­Soviet, fascist terrorist organ­ization, created by an agent of the Gestapo, Albert Blum, among the deaf-­mutes of Leningrad.”124 Postcards bearing the image of Adolf Hitler had been found in a flat shared by Albert Blum, a deaf German immigrant, and the deaf Leningrader A. S. Stadnikov. The subsequent investigation had implicated the elites of the Lenin-

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grad deaf community, including Tot´mianin, the chairman of the VOG branch, and Mintslova-­Piotrovskaia, a founding member of VOG and former chairwoman of the Leningrad House of Enlightenment. ­After prolonged interrogation, thirty-­five of ­those arrested ­were condemned to death by shooting, a sentence which was carried out on December 24, 1937.125 The remaining nineteen w ­ ere sentenced to ten years’ convict ­labor, but w ­ ere released in 1940. ­Those shot w ­ ere posthumously rehabilitated in 1956.126 The deaf-­mute affair reveals a complex set of ­factors that brought suspicion to bear on the deaf community. An in­de­pen­dently run (albeit state-­ sponsored) organ­ization, whose members communicated in a language the NKVD ­were unable to understand, would have been hard-­pressed to avoid suspicion in t­ hose paranoid times. Indeed, the accusation that deaf Leningraders had conspired with a German fascist spy was difficult to refute definitively. Albert Blum, along with a few other members of a German workers’ organ­ ization, had arrived in Leningrad in the late 1920s and been welcomed with open arms. In the context of the Nazi law of July 1933, which introduced the sterilization of the congenitally deaf in Germany, it was seen to be ever more imperative to demonstrate brotherly solidarity with t­hese deaf immigrants; Blum and ­others ­were found jobs in VOG enterprises, enthusiastically joining in the cultural and social life of the organ­ization.127 Yet this positive attitude ­toward the German refugees had soured by 1937, when the threat of war made association with t­ hose of German origin po­liti­cally suspect. While this par­tic­u­lar group of deaf p­ eople raised par­tic­u­lar suspicions, in other ways the deaf-­mute affair was simply another example of the precariousness of life in 1937 and the participation of ordinary p­ eople in the horrifying events that unfolded. According to Ginzburgskii, the purge began as a result of an internal VOG crackdown on deaf postcard sellers on Leningrad’s railway network. Tot’mianin, one of the ultimate victims of the purge, had informed the NKVD “as an honest communist” that members of VOG ­were selling postcards at the railway station and that they should be arrested as “per­sis­tent speculators.”128 As such, the internal dynamics of VOG replicated ­those of other Soviet institutions; as Wendy Goldman points out, “The terror in the Soviet Union was directed internally in ritualized exposures and expulsions that affected e­ very workplace and institution.”129 The “smoking gun” in this case was also not unique to the deaf community. When ­these individuals w ­ ere arrested and searched, among the piles of postcards ­were found several images of Hitler, “standard enclosures from the cartons of German cigarettes smoked by Blum.”130 Such a combination of speculation and fascist memorabilia was more than enough to start the machine of arrest and denunciation.

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­After the arrests, the par­tic­u­lar communicative issues faced by the deaf arrestees ­were exploited by members of the NKVD during the pro­cess of interrogation and confession. Excepting Tot´mianin and P. T. Byshkevich, a twenty-­five-­year-­old deaf man from Gatchin, all of t­ hose arrested w ­ ere deaf from birth or early childhood (and, by extension, mute).131 Of the thirty-­five shot, only fourteen w ­ ere literate. According to Viktor Palennyi, the NKVD relied on three interpreters, A. N. Perlova, T. D. Simonova, and L. L. Ignatenko, who had worked with the Leningrad VOG branch for many years. ­These ­women w ­ ere used to question t­ hose arrested on behalf of the NKVD and to persuade them to sign written transcripts of what they had “said” on the understanding that they would be subsequently released.132 The exploitation of the communicative difficulties of deaf ­people to extract false confessions was perhaps not surprising in the context of the purges, but it is indicative of the precarious position of deaf ­people in this period. It is impor­tant to stress the difference between the deaf-­mute affair and the deaf experience of the Holocaust, in which deafness as a medical fact was enough to justify the sterilization and murder of deaf Germans.133 In the context of the mass executions of the late 1930s, the fact that ­there exists only one documented case of the or­ga­nized repression of a group of deaf ­people suggests that deafness was not in itself seen as grounds for arrest and execution. Palennyi does cite anecdotal evidence of other arrests during this period: “Veterans of the Society remembered that so-­and-so was arrested ­because, referring to Stalin, instead of using the sign ‘moustaches’ [usy] or ‘steel’ [stal´], they used the sign ‘to pull the trigger’ [nazhimat´ na kurok].”134 Such arrests, however, seem representative of the hyper-­vigilance of the period, especially with regard to anecdotal references to Stalin. The deaf-­mute affair was officially brought to an end in 1940 by Lavrentii Beriia, the head of the secret police from 1938. Beriia, it tran­spired, had a deaf ­sister, and “this circumstance evidently played a role” in the subsequent release of the twenty prisoners.135 Tot´mianin was granted a retrial in 1940, but the proceedings ­were curtailed by the start of World War II; nothing more is known about his fate.136 In 1939, all t­ hose who had participated in the arrest and interrogation of the deaf prisoners, including the three interpreters, w ­ ere also arrested and sentenced to death.137 Throughout the 1930s, therefore, the utopian rhe­toric of the transformation of deaf p­ eople into model Soviet citizens was tempered by the difficulties they faced on entering school and the workplace, and by the interpretation placed on t­ hese difficulties by the state and Soviet society. T ­ hese f­actors, despite the extraordinary events of 1937, did not curtail deaf transformation: for many, the obstacles caused by deafness merely made it necessary to work

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harder in order for the deaf to be fully integrated into the Soviet masses. As Savel´ev announced in 1939, “We cannot accept that our deaf-­mutes are at the  tail end of the victorious pro­cession of workers t­oward communism. Deaf-­mutes need to catch up.”138 Yet a third dynamic at play further complicated this picture. For certain deaf p­ eople, transformation and integration remained secondary to the goal of creating a distinct community that was Soviet, but first and foremost deaf.

Deafness as Identity In their engagement with the transformative proj­ect of the 1930s, deaf members of VOG w ­ ere caught between the imperative to work ­toward the broader goals of socialist construction in the Soviet Union and the more limited need for the construction of their own organ­ization. The work undertaken over this period to locate rural deaf individuals and draw them into the industrial life of the Soviet state had the secondary function of developing VOG as an institution: while in January 1929, VOG had 8,624 members, 64 local departments, and 29 social clubs and so-­called red corners (factory-­based clubs for cultural and po­liti­cal education), by the tenth anniversary of VOG in 1936 ­there ­were over 30,000 members, 400 departments, and 228 clubs and red corners.139 At the Third All-­Russian Congress, members had announced that “the foundation stone w ­ ill be laid for the close collaboration of all united deaf-­mutes of the USSR on an orga­nizational basis.”140 Over the next few years, VOG established the concrete lines of this organ­ization. A localized administration developed, with regional departments in major cities and regional centers across the RSFSR and other republics of the Soviet Union. Man­ag­ers and workers of ­these local departments made up the VOG congress, held ­every two years, which elected a Central Soviet to establish the general line of VOG’s activities.141 Decisions of the Central Soviet ­were scrutinized by the Central Inspection Committee, also elected by the congress, and both bodies made a yearly report on their activities to the ­People’s Commissariat of Social Welfare, to which institution VOG remained subordinate.142 The simultaneous transformation of VOG and its members had the result of rhetorically tying deaf p­ eople to their organ­ization. VOG existed to serve deaf p­ eople and facilitate their transformation and inclusion in Soviet life, and the fruits of this inclusion reflected on VOG as an institution. As Savel´ev put it in his speech to the Third Congress, “If before, two years ago or so, about 1,200 ­were working in general industry, then now 7,000 p­ eople are working. You ­will remember how at the Second Congress you said that we, deaf-­mutes,

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need to have our own deaf-­mute intelligent­sia, to open a department at the Bukharin rabfak, and t­ oday, comrades, we can say that we have two departments in the rabfak and our rabfakovtsy study ­there.”143 The successes of “our” deaf-­mute individuals, in industry and in education, thus reflected on the deaf-­mute collective as embodied by VOG. Yet as the transformation of the 1930s progressed, the links between deaf ­people and VOG began to weaken. The VOG leadership had anticipated that ­those deaf individuals who had entered the rabfaki and VUZy would become a true deaf-­mute intelligent­sia and would return, educated, into the ranks of VOG to transform new generations of deaf ­people. The VUZ thus represented the source “from which VOG ­will receive its red specialists.”144 In real­ity, however, almost all ­those who successfully completed the VUZ courses made the decision to find jobs in industry.145 Without them, VOG’s activities w ­ ere seriously compromised. This issue was discussed at length at the Third Congress: “Where do we get our cadres from, in order to send workers to the regions?”146 Referencing the parallel with peasant w ­ omen, they bemoaned the fact that, without a deaf elite “the baby [illiterate peasant ­women] make do.”147 The lack of qualified cadres was not the only prob­lem facing VOG in this period. As an organ­ization, its activities w ­ ere diverse, encompassing work placement, industrial education, cultural and leisure activities, sport, and ­legal and medical advice. Its sources of funding ­were thus also disparate: Narkomsobes provided money for cultural work and the likbezy, the UPMs w ­ ere funded by VIKO, educational work was funded by Narkompros, and Beregi slukh! by Narkomzdrav.148 It proved particularly difficult for VOG to obtain the necessary funds from relevant departments: in 1929, the VOG plenum noted that VIKO had not provided any money for the deaf artels it had taken over, and the Second Congress complained that t­ here was not enough money from Narkomsobes for job allocation and training.149 By 1935, as Palennyi has shown, VOG clubs ­were in dire financial straits: “VOG collected funds for the support of ‘their’ clubs from the profsoiuzy, disability cooperatives, and departments of popu­lar education [narodnoe obrazovanie]. It still was not enough.”150 Prob­ lems ­were also encountered when making arrangements with the P ­ eople’s Commissariat of Trade to supply raw materials to the UPMs. As a result of ­these difficulties, by the mid-1930s, VOG members had begun to recognize the urgent need to reform the organ­ization. This call for reform did not involve VOG alone. As the industrialization drive had progressed and deaf workers had entered the factory, the burden of providing ser­vices for deaf p­ eople had shifted onto other worker organ­izations, in par­tic­u­lar the trades ­union (VTsSPS). In 1931, the VTsSPS secretariat had published its first “Decree on Work among Members of the Union of Deaf-­

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Mutes,” which proposed, in collaboration with VOG, expanding the number of deaf ­people in industry, establish factory-­based deaf clubs that would enable deaf ­people to participate in the “industrial life of the enterprise,” and encourage literacy and cultural activities among the deaf.151 In 1932, VTsSPS established a new position of “instructor for work among deaf-­mutes,” for which the Central Soviet of VOG put forward one of its most energetic workers, Nikolai Alekseevich Buslaev. Over the course of the next few years, the secretariat of VTsSPS proposed taking over more and more of the activities previously conducted by VOG, such as likbez work, technical education and ­labor training, propaganda, and po­liti­cal education.152 In 1933, the newspaper Zhizn´ glukhonemykh was relaunched ­under VTsSPS, with Buslaev as editor, and in its first issue made the orga­nizational shift clear: “The task of VOG is not to stand in for the trades ­union or the cooperatives, but to help the trades ­union and the cooperatives to or­ga­nize the ser­vice of deaf-­mutes.”153 The change of institutional focus mirrored changes in the social identity of deaf ­people. As an article from 1931 made clear, “If even during the period of the New Economic Policy the deaf-­mute was considered disabled, then in 1931 . . . ​the figure of the deaf-­mute shock worker, catching up and overtaking his hearing comrades . . . ​has come to the fore.”154 As deaf ­people ceased to be considered disabled and became industrial workers, it made sense for them to no longer be grouped together with their “comrades in misfortune,” but instead to be included with the wider mass of industrial workers, a shift that would have the added advantage of solving VOG’s chronic funding prob­ lems.155 On that basis, Buslaev, among ­others, began to argue that the activities and organ­ization of VOG should be fundamentally reduced and its provision of ser­vices handed over to VTsSPS. VOG, Buslaev suggested, should confine itself to working with rural and as yet unor­ga­nized deaf-­mutes in order to attract “new deaf-­mute cadres to the factory” and to organ­izing “mass sanitary-­educational work in enterprises, for prophylaxis and the fight against diseases of the ear.” Once in industry, deaf workers should be served by VTsSPS, the only organ­ization able to “realize the po­liti­cal management of the mass movement of the proletariat.”156 Buslaev’s comments, however rationally argued, unleashed a storm of protest within VOG. At a particularly lively meeting of the Central Soviet (now renamed the Central Directorate, or TsP) on December 29, 1935, Buslaev’s attack on VOG was debated. His criticisms of VOG’s work—­that it was not meeting its targets for inclusion, that p­ eople ­were leaving VOG for the trades ­union, that VOG clubs w ­ ere poorly funded and managed—­were challenged point for point. Yet it was the perception that Buslaev favored the limitation, or perhaps even the abolition, of VOG that caused the most violent reaction:

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“Comrade Buslaev, I think that you need to stop this disgraceful attitude t­ oward VOG. We need VOG. Without VOG, nothing can be done. We need the profsoiuzy. Without the profsoiuzy nothing can be done. We need to coordinate our work. . . . ​Every­body, as they say, needs a slap on the wrist.”157 In its defense, Savel´ev aligned VOG with other workers’ organ­izations: “For now, we have a dictatorship of the proletariat, mass organ­izations of the proletariat, trade ­unions, soviets, cooperatives, the Komsomol, plus a multitude of mass unifications of workers—­these are necessary. Necessary.”158 This passionate defense of VOG’s activities is unsurprising in light of the experience of the 1930s. Attempts to transfer ser­vices for deaf p­ eople to other government bodies had proved to be a resounding failure. In 1929, the transfer of VOG artels to VIKO had led to the bankruptcy and closure of many enterprises; their subsequent incorporation into the Narkomsobes system in January 1933 had resulted in such orga­nizational chaos that salaries had not been paid.159 In March 1935, the All-­Russian Conference of Social Welfare Workers decreed that, “for the purpose of eliminating the excessive demarcation of functions within the Social Welfare system,” VOG’s regional departments should be liquidated, to be replaced by a system of voluntary workers ­under Narkomsobes.160 Over the following months, 390 VOG workers in the region ­were fired and 92 VOG departments liquidated. The result was chaos. The abolition of VOG’s paid aktiv in the regions “entail[ed] the flight of the fired aktiv from nonindustrial and sparsely populated regions into industrial centers and cities to find work, as the work offered to them in red corners [could] not support them materially: this means that the common masses of deaf-­mutes in the stated regional centers [­were] left without ser­vice or management.” Regional Social Welfare inspectors ­were unable to carry out cultural and educational work among deaf p­ eople “in light of the sharp turnover [of workers], the constant workload of all manner of campaigns and mobilizations, and, most importantly, the fact that they ­don’t know the deaf-­mute language, sign.”161 In the eyes of many deaf activists, the chaotic liquidation of approximately half of VOG’s orga­nizational structure had conclusively proved that “we need VOG. Without VOG, nothing can be done.”162 The passionate defense of VOG was not merely a question of practicalities, however, but also a question of identity. Members of the TsP dwelled particularly on Buslaev’s point that the “difference between deaf-­mutes and the speaking [should be] erased”: “How are we to understand this? The difference between deaf-­mutes and speaking workers was erased in October 1917; you and I received equal rights to vote, to work, e­ tc. Perhaps Comrade Buslaev is implying the abolition of differences

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in communication. Then he needs to say so. To erase the differences in communication is very hard, ­because you hear and I do not, and it is hard for me to communicate with the speaking.”163 While keen to establish economic and cultural equality between the deaf and the hearing, therefore, deaf members of VOG w ­ ere clearly reluctant to subsume their identity as deaf p­ eople into the broader identity of the Soviet collective. While the transformative pro­cess of the 1930s was intended to integrate the deaf into Soviet society, it had also had the paradoxical effect of strengthening the nascent deaf community identity that had developed in the 1920s. The decision to “concentrate” deaf ­people in industry, teach them in small groups, and provide them with sign-­language interpreters, had encouraged deaf p­ eople to band together. This community identity was intimately bound up with language; although state policy (and some deaf ­people) considered sign language to be inferior to spoken and written Rus­ sian, the immediate needs of industrialization had caused that language to be increasingly institutionalized. Deaf ­people coming from the countryside to the towns ­were taught sign language first, in order to allow them to enter the factories and learn ­labor skills: “If a person comes from the countryside, it is necessary to teach him sign language first, so that he knows city sign.”164 Interpreters ­were provided for all encounters with the hearing community, including visits to the doctor.165 Sign language at this point was far from stable or universally accepted; as Shorin explains in his account of life in the deaf rabfak, “Over time [sign language] is changing: old gesture-­words are d­ ying out, as new ones come in to replace them.” Yet regardless of its developing nature, sign remained the fundamental language of the deaf masses.166 Symbolic integration was therefore accompanied by a growing sense of a deaf community united by a common language but distanced from the hearing world. Deaf accounts of the 1930s give a vivid description of this community in practice. Looking back from the perspective of the 1960s, Agrippina Kalugina tells of the frequent gatherings of deaf ­people in the flat she shared with her husband, OGPU worker A. V. Mezhekov: “We continued the discussions that began in the congresses or plenums of VOG. We often argued fiercely, but the arguments passed peacefully over a cup of tea or a light dinner with a glass of wine.”167 She continues: “A deaf person, having met another like himself, ­will never simply pass him by; the shared fate, the barriers in our communication with normal hearing p­ eople invisibly knit us, the deaf, together, and we have always striven and ­will always strive for a society of t­ hose like ourselves.”168 For many, working on behalf of deaf ­people reinforced this

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sense of belonging. Nina Chistoserdova, who had lost her hearing at the age of seven, describes her induction into the deaf world as the culmination of a difficult personal journey: “I was called by the deputy Regional Commissar for Social Welfare, who said ‘­There’s a directive from the center: open a ­children’s center and deaf-­mute society. Put down your dishes and do something real.’ From that moment I was with the deaf-­mutes and for the deaf-­mutes.”169 ­These personal ties within the deaf world often resulted in marriage: Shorin commented that “deaf-­mutes, you know, only marry among themselves.”170 This type of alternative social space was not unusual during the cultural revolution. David Hoffman argues that, despite attempts to inculcate proletarian culture among workers, peasant communities, “largely isolated from the central city, helped perpetuate peasant beliefs, values, and modes of be­hav­ ior.”171 What is dif­fer­ent in the deaf case is that this was not an established culture transplanted into the city but a culture in the making; the majority of deaf individuals w ­ ere being inducted into deaf culture at the same time as they ­were transforming themselves into ideal Soviet selves. Shorin’s account, for example, shows the deaf rabfak members assimilating working class culture through the medium of sign language, and using it to insist on their identities as equal workers. A key symbolic moment of inclusion for new members was their “christening” (or “Octobering,” in Soviet parlance) with sign names. Shorin, referred to by his sign name of scar throughout the narrative, explains that sign names combined both tradition and Soviet pro­g ress: “The tradition of giving sign names to deaf-­mutes has existed since time immemorial . . . ​provoked by the need to distinguish a person from the masses. . . . ​If sign names help even us, literate ­people, to save time, then illiterate deaf ­people surely cannot do without them.”172 While ­these accounts emphasized the Soviet nature of this deaf identity, the insistence on the uniqueness of the deaf community caused a certain amount of concern in both deaf and hearing circles. Indeed, the parallel with national minorities that had facilitated deaf activism in the 1920s was not sitting as comfortably with some VOG members as before, particularly in light of the growing Russo-­centrism of the mid-1930s.173 At the Fourth Plenum of the VOG Soviet, Savel´ev again “drew a parallel between a nation [natsiia] and VOG, although he admitted that VOG was not a nation,” and invoked the term “deaf in form, socialist in content.”174 In response, a “voice from the floor” cried out that “special conditions do not imply a separate culture [Spetsificheskie usloviia ne est´ osobaia kul´tura]! We deaf ­people are divided among ourselves by nationality and are obliged to familiarize ourselves with the culture which

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exists in each nation, not to create our own culture.”175 In 1935, local VOG man­ag­er E. Mokhonov wrote that “deaf-­mutes have lost touch with life; having locked themselves up in their club, in their own circle, they avoid and ignore the speaking, having created their own nation, so to speak, and even developed their own form of deaf-­mute chauvinism.”176 This reluctance to consider deafness as a distinct identity is perhaps to be expected; indeed, the deaf-­ mute affair of 1937 can be seen as compelling evidence of the potentially lethal consequences of being dif­fer­ent. Attempts by VOG members to frame the significant achievements of deaf ­people in the 1930s as the result of the par­tic­u­lar Soviet deaf identity that they shared ­were met with similar skepticism by hearing government representatives. In 1936, Sergei Antonovich Pavlenko received the state medal “For L ­ abor Excellence” and was named in the newspaper Izvestiia. Members of the local VOG organ­ization in Voronezh ­were upset that the newspaper did not mention that Pavlenko was deaf: “Let every­one know that a deaf-­mute has been given such an award, alongside every­one ­else.”177 Local deaf activist A. Vanshtein and Savel´ev appealed to Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin, then secretary of VTsIK, who responded: “I understand your feeling of pride in your comrade. But think: should you take pride in a physical defect? What would happen if, next to each name we put in brackets: deaf, blind ­etc.?” Vanshtein recalled leaving the meeting with an “apology for having disturbed him with such a trivial question. We both left feeling confused.”178 The sense of pride in the hybrid deaf-­Soviet identity that was being developed clearly stood in opposition to the integrating zeal of state representatives. Regardless of ­these broader concerns, VOG and the deaf community continued to stress their identity as the deaf-­mute masses (glukhonemaia massa); an identity that was not seen as being at odds with the broader goal of becoming Soviet p­ eople. Indeed, in practical terms, the insistence on their difference continued to give deaf p­ eople considerable social power. Deaf ­people needed to be VOG members in order to be placed in the factories, and state organs continued to offer support to deaf ­people in light of their special circumstances. Grouping the deaf together was consistently framed in collective terms: “The deaf-­mute proletariat, by virtue of their physical lack, are always drawn ­toward mutual unification and collectivism.”179 VOG leaders stressed that the broad goals of their organ­ization ­were the same as ­those of Soviet society as a ­whole; that is, the transformation of society and the transition to communism: “It is absolutely natu­ral that we must not have some sort of special general line of VOG; on the contrary, VOG must walk, as must all other organ­izations, along the path that is drawn by the Party.”180

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For some members of VOG—­particularly the late-­deafened—­this developing sense of deaf identity was uncomfortable. As Beregi slukh! highlights, a significant proportion of VOG’s members had lost their hearing in adulthood as a result of illness or accident, ­after they had mastered spoken Rus­sian. This contingent of late-­deafened ­people had proved invaluable in the early years of VOG: they liaised between VOG and state departments, using their language skills to overcome the communicative difficulties that hampered VOG’s work.181 Yet many of ­these individuals ­were unwilling to work for VOG, choosing instead to find better-­paid and more prestigious jobs elsewhere.182 They w ­ ere similarly reluctant to identify themselves socially as deaf-­mute and to learn sign language: “The late-­deafened ­can’t communicate with deaf-­mutes. This is shameful.”183 As an article from 1931 explained, t­hese lipreaders (gubisty, a term used pejoratively), w ­ ere engaged in a “covert b­ attle” with the organ­ization of deaf-­mutes: “The lipreaders propose to get rid of sign language, to get rid of the fin­ger alphabet in special situations and in everyday life, to carry out social work, and to socialize among themselves solely through the medium of oral speech. In conclusion they promise heaven: ‘we ­will enter hearing society.’  .  .  . ​­These ‘alchemists’ who seek the phi­los­o­pher’s stone of healing ignore the call of the masses.”184 In this analy­sis, being a lipreader rather than a deaf-­mute was ultimately an antisoviet act. The privileging of a deaf-­mute identity and the denigration of the late-­ deafened came to the fore in the debates over the reform of ser­vices for deaf ­people. The desire to transfer VOG’s duties to other hearing state organ­izations and out of the hands of deaf p­ eople was considered unacceptable by the vast majority of VOG members for practical as well as symbolic reasons. The backlash against ­these proposals was directed personally at Buslaev. Born in 1906 in Astrakhan, Buslaev had lost his hearing at the age of fourteen as a result of meningitis. A former pupil of the Arnol´do-­Tretiakov School (­later the first Moscow Institute of Deaf-­Mutes), he trained to be a typesetter before entering the Frunze Professional-­Technical School in 1925. In 1926 he began working for VOG first as an orga­nizational instructor and l­ ater as a member of the VOG Soviet. He retained this post when, in 1932, he became the first “instructor for work among deaf-­mutes” in VTsSPS, carry­ing out this work with considerable efficiency and notable success: the concentration of deaf p­ eople in industry, the inclusion of deaf p­ eople in factory-­based schools and the opening of the first deaf health resort in Gelendzhik w ­ ere largely due to his efforts.185 Buslaev’s continued advocacy of the downsizing of VOG, however, made him numerous enemies among the VOG leadership. On one par­tic­u­lar occasion, in a fit of rage, the Orenburg-­based activist Udal´ called Buslaev a “Trotskyist,” a slur for which Udal´ was formally reprimanded.186

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In the context of the purges, however, Buslaev’s reluctance to toe the VOG line was imbued with new po­liti­cal meaning. On August 14, 1937, a special eve­ning session of the VOG party group was held to discuss his conduct.187 The charges against Buslaev w ­ ere twofold: first that Buslaev, on behalf of the VTsSPS, had been illegally distributing passes (putevki) to the deaf health resort in Gelendzhik, and second that he had been using Zhizn´ glukhonemykh and other forums to “prematurely sing the funeral song of VOG.”188 ­After a heated debate, the party group deci­ded to expel Buslaev from the VOG Soviet for “violation of party discipline” and recommend that VTsSPS replace him as an instructor.189 The archival transcript of this meeting demonstrates the dif­fer­ent facets of identity that ­were bound up in the term “deaf-­mute.” On the one hand, Buslaev questioned the idea of deaf ­people as disabled individuals, requiring par­tic­u­lar care. According to Romanchuk, a member of the party group, “Buslaev believes that deaf-­mutes are not disabled, that they are equal to physically healthy ­people. Is that ­really so? I believe that deaf-­muteness is the most negative type of disability.”190 Buslaev’s suggestion that “VOG ­isn’t necessary” was thus seen as denying the par­tic­u­lar needs of this disabled group.191 On the other hand, in his criticisms of VOG, Buslaev was seen to set himself apart from the cultural community of deaf p­ eople. At the vari­ous meetings involving Buslaev, archival notes make clear that he was contributing to the discussion in spoken Rus­sian, which was then being interpreted into sign for the benefit of the deaf ­people pres­ent.192 Savel´ev, one of Buslaev’s sternest critics, consistently referred to him as outside the deaf community: “As a VTsSPS instructor, comrade Buslaev does not want to work with the collective. . . . ​­There are the deaf-­mute masses, which Buslaev does not want to take into consideration.” Lychkina was even more cutting: “He is no friend of deaf-­mutes.”193 ­These par­tic­u­lar criticisms had been raised with Buslaev before, but by 1937 his supposed distance from the deaf community had taken on new meaning. Criticisms of his position became couched in the language of the purges, with his arguments interpreted as “a line against VOG.” (l. 76) Lychkina again raised the specter of Trotskyism: “I was surprised that in a previous plenum Udal´ was reprimanded for calling Buslaev a Trotskyist. And why should he not say that, if what Buslaev is putting into practice looks like the Trotskyist line?” (l. 75 ob) Udal´ took this even further: “Like all Trotskyists, Buslaev conceals his true face, plays a double game, says one t­hing and does another. That’s a fact. . . . ​In his head he has a dif­fer­ent plan, to carry out his destructive propaganda against VOG from within the very masses of deaf-­mutes. Why? In order to fulfil his plan to throw off the only drive [privod] that links our deaf-­mute

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masses to the party, and that is the plan of an e­ nemy. Buslaev is not a Communist, he’s an ­enemy” (l. 78 ob). By arguing for the integration of deaf ser­ vices into the trades u ­ nion, therefore, Buslaev had shown himself to be an ­enemy of deaf ­people and perhaps even an “­enemy of the ­people.” In the face of ­these charges, however, Buslaev remained unrepentant. He refused to be judged by the VOG party group, announcing that “you cannot punish me for my work along the VTsSPS line” (l. 86). In response to this recalcitrance, the party group made the decision to expel Buslaev from the TsP and from VOG. The report of their decision echoed the classic tropes of purge discourse: “Comrade Buslaev, abusing his position in society (member of the VOG Central Soviet) and in ser­vice (editor in chief of Zhizn´ glukhonemykh and instructor of VTsSPS), has committed in his activities a ­whole series of acts [postupki] directed at the slanderous attack against the VOG TsP. . . . ​Opposing the Society and, in addition, not revealing his ‘principal’ line, Comrade Buslaev has caused obvious disor­ga­ni­za­tion in the work of VOG” (l. 90). Despite the severity of ­these charges, Buslaev’s punishment was relatively mild. He was ejected from the Central Soviet and from VOG, but his position in VTsSPS was never put in serious jeopardy, and the threats of party group members to “convey our conclusions to the party organs, not only of the Palace of ­Labor, but even further” came to nothing (l. 78 ob). Given what had happened in Leningrad, this leniency is surprising. In fact, ­after a brief period in the wilderness, Buslaev was reinstated as a member of the VOG leadership on September 21, 1941, and continued to serve the deaf community diligently and successfully ­until his death in 1998 (l. 90).194 Regardless of its outcome, the Buslaevshchina demonstrated that by 1937 it was no longer acceptable in deaf circles to advocate for the integration of deaf ­people into the state system. The par­tic­u­lar needs of the deaf community, and their developing identity as a social group, made it imperative that they be served by VOG alone. This was not seen as a rejection of the Soviet proj­ect or an attempt to isolate the deaf from the broader collective; on the contrary, members made it clear that VOG was their direct line to the party and their only hope of becoming truly Soviet. Yet the decision to privilege VOG as the representative body of the deaf community was to decisively shape the history of deaf p­ eople for the remainder of the Soviet period. Over the next few years, VOG would regain control of ­those ser­vices and orga­nizational functions that had passed to other state departments and become not only the sole provider of ser­vices for the deaf but also the locus of their institutional identity. This pro­cess was helped in no small mea­sure by the violent rupture of World War II, which placed acute pressures on central state departments and moved the issue of provision for the disabled to center stage.

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Conclusion In their discussion of the changes wrought among deaf p­ eople since the revolution, deaf writers of the 1930s often cited Ivan Turgenev’s short story Mumu. The hero of this tale, the deaf-­mute porter Gerasim, is held up as an example of the poor existence of deaf ­people in tsarist Rus­sia: “The dumb, gloomy and serf-­like peasant-­g iant . . . ​has become the model in Rus­sian lit­er­a­ture of the universally recognized deaf-­mute ‘type.’ ”195 Yet the fundamental transformation of self and society engendered not only by the revolution but by Stalin’s five-­year plans consigned this “type” to history. The “new hero of deaf-­mute society” was the Stakhanovite, who demonstrated the capacity of deaf p­ eople to integrate into society and to excel. Lit­er­a­ture of the new era would reflect the ­g reat change wrought in deaf ­people and showcase their potential to the world at large. The period of Stalin’s industrialization and the five-­year plans did indeed bring about the w ­ holesale transformation of the lives of tens of thousands of deaf p­ eople. Systems put in place by VOG and other state organs allowed for the systematic identification and inclusion of deaf p­ eople in the developing frameworks of deaf organ­ization and facilitated their entry into the gigantic factories of the new industrial age. For many, this transformation was fundamentally liberating: sign language interpretation and ­labor training freed them from the constraints of their “defect” and allowed them to showcase their talents to the world at large. For ­others, the transformation proved hard to accomplish. The utopian rhe­toric of “overcoming” was undermined by painful individual strug­gles that raised doubts about the ability of deaf ­people to integrate into Soviet society. Not only that—­the institutionalization of a separate deaf community and the privileging of a unique deaf-­mute identity served to further divorce the deaf-­mute masses from the masses at large. The march of the deaf fizkul´turniki who opened this chapter clearly demonstrates this tension between inclusion and exclusion; although in step with their hearing compatriots, they still chose to carry a banner that advertised their “deaf-­mute” identity to the world. Soviet deaf p­ eople ­were thus deeply invested in their own Soviet transformation, but that transformative pro­cess, and the institutions in which it took place, kept them at a distance from the hearing.

Ch a p ter  3

War and Reconstruction

On June 22, 1941, the war photographer Evgenii Anan´evich Khaldei captured the scene as anxious Muscovites listened to the announcement that Hitler’s forces had invaded the Soviet Union. To the left in the photo­g raph, raising her hand to her face, is the deaf ­woman Nina Borisovna Zvorykina. Years ­later she remembered the moment: The radio was broadcasting, every­one stood in silence with worried f­ aces and, although I could not hear, the worry transmitted itself even to me. I still did not understand what was happening, but I was immediately afraid for my son. Zina d­ idn’t know sign language, so she whispered it all to me, clearly articulating the words. “Molotov is speaking,” she said, “Hitler has deceived us.” And then: “War! Kiev has already been bombed.” I was terribly frightened: What would become of us all; I, a deaf ­woman, and now with a son?1 Zvorkina’s fears ­were justified. The ­Great Patriotic War was a violent rupture in the history of Soviet society in general and of the Soviet deaf community in par­tic­u­lar. The deaf, and the institutional structures that surrounded them, ­were displaced and fragmented by the events of 1941–1945, and the ongoing pro­cess of individual transformation and Sovietization begun during the 1930s was put on hold. In the aftermath of war, the need for reconstruction was para88

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Figure 5.  “First Day of War, 22 June 1941.” Evgenii Khaldei. Reproduced with the permission of Anna Khaldei.

mount. Even before hostilities had ceased, VOG and the Soviet state w ­ ere working to reestablish the networks of education, l­ abor training, and cultural and social life that had surrounded the deaf before the war. Yet the postwar period did not merely see the recreation of the Soviet deaf community as it had been before Hitler’s invasion. The legacy of war, in par­ tic­ul­ar the large numbers of disabled and deafened veterans who returned from the front, raised the status of disability. The rehabilitation of disabled individuals and their return to active l­abor was transformed from a marginal concern of the disabled community to the imperative need for Soviet society to reconstruct a healthy body politic. As such, the profiles of institutions dealing with disabled p­ eople, such as VOG and its s­ ister organ­ization VOS, w ­ ere raised during the first postwar de­cade. At the same time, the theories and methods of deaf rehabilitation ­were subject to renewed debate. In the field of education in par­tic­u­lar, the question of what deafness ­really was and how it could successfully be overcome became the subject of intense argument as rival theoretical organ­izations fought for control over deaf schools. In a rare occurrence, this debate about the nature and treatment of deafness spilled onto

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the pages of central Soviet newspapers, as society began to grapple publicly with the issue of disability. The experience of the deaf community illuminates the tension noted by historians between the contradictory postwar impulses to reconstruct and reinvent the USSR.2 The desire for a “return to normalcy” in the aftermath of victory, to use Sheila Fitzpatrick’s phrase, had par­tic­u­lar resonance (and complexity) for a community that had long grappled with overcoming marginality and otherness and finding its place in society. Indeed, the physical devastation of war encouraged the state and VOG alike to strengthen existing institutional frameworks and prioritize tried and tested paths to citizenship and inclusion, including ­labor rehabilitation and po­liti­cal education. At the same time, the war provoked a number of changes to Soviet society, including new forms of social interaction and a new implied relationship between self and society that impacted the deaf experience.3 Deaf ­people sat at the nexus of a number of impor­tant postwar shifts, including a call for increased state welfare support for a suffering populace, the rise of a new materiality in the face of postwar shortages, and the expression of new conflicts in the sphere of Soviet science.4 As VOG’s place in the postwar landscape was strengthened, a changing concept of the “normal” complicated the notion of deaf identity that had developed in the 1920s and 1930s, opening spaces for new ways of seeing and treating deafness.

The Deaf Experience of War Histories of deaf communities in ­those countries touched by World War II have tended to view the conflict as a watershed moment in the development of deaf identity and rights. The eugenics movement, which represented the dominant frame through which deafness had been understood in Western Eu­ rope and the United States in the early twentieth ­century, was discredited by the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime.5 In the United States, as described by Padden and Humphries, the acute need for l­abor in war industries led to a boom in deaf employment and fostered the development of deaf clubs and communities.6 In the aftermath of war, as Leila Monaghan argues, new ways of thinking about deafness developed, in which nurture was prioritized over nature, and new technologies began to provide solutions to old prob­lems of communication and integration.7 At the same time, international responses to the issues facing deaf communities ­were fostered by organ­izations such as the World Federation of the Deaf, founded in 1951. ­These shifts are seen to have laid the groundwork for an upsurge in civil rights activism and the defense of sign language and deaf culture beginning in the 1960s.

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In the Soviet context, the experience of World War II represented a dif­fer­ent kind of turning point, one that si­mul­ta­neously reinforced and undermined the deaf identity that had been developing since the revolution. At a time when individual commitment to the Soviet cause was demonstrated by an eagerness to “staunchly defend the Motherland,” the deaf ­were, for the most part, confined to the home front. Despite their enthusiastic participation in prewar military training programs, deaf p­ eople ­were not permitted to serve in the Red Army.8 The desire to fight appears to have remained strong, however: many hard-­of-­ hearing and late-­deafened individuals managed to conceal their deafness from the army medical commissions and find their way to the front, including Ivan Andreevich Zav´ialov, who served as a member of the 639th ­rifle division and was wounded in combat on the Briansk front.9 The vast majority of deaf ­people, however, did not have the necessary language skills to persuade (or deceive) the medical commissar. While some found other ways to fight, such as joining partisan units in the occupied territories, most ­were forced to remain in the rear. Deaf ­people might have been unable to fight on the frontlines, but in the context of total war they soon found other ways to participate, seeking to

Figure 6.  Leningrad partisans A. Levanovich, Z. Shchu­lepova, and K. Frolov. Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

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reclaim their place in Soviet society through that core component of Soviet ideology: their participation in l­abor. In August 1941, at the House of Unions in Moscow, a citywide meeting of deaf ­people and state representatives was held to discuss how best to aid the war effort. The participants published a resolution: “At this terrible hour, when our Motherland is in mortal danger, our duty is to increase tenfold our efforts in our work. We are exempt from military duty and must show all the more selflessness and per­sis­tence in l­ abor, conscious that e­ very component produced above the plan is a blow to the ­enemy.”10 In response, deaf ­people threw themselves into the work of supplying goods to frontline troops. ­Under the slogan “All for the Front, All for Victory!” they formed “front brigades” in armaments industries and labored to raise production levels. ­These efforts took the same form as prewar ­labor initiatives, seeking to overfulfill planned targets through shock work and Stakhanovism. Many deaf ­people ­were awarded state ­orders and medals for their ­labor during the war: 169 of the 183 deaf workers at the Vladimir Il´ich Factory ­were Stakhanovites by 1944, and the lathe-­turner Kabanov was presented with the Order of Lenin in recognition of his war­time efforts.11 The experience of war did much to cement the par­tic­u­lar deaf identity of the 1920s and 1930s, defined by industrial ­labor and commitment to the Soviet cause but also by a distinct deaf community. The evacuation of large numbers of deaf ­people from the occupied zone, as part of the mass evacuation of Soviet factories from Eu­ro­pean Rus­sia to beyond the Urals, facilitated the urbanization and concentration of deaf p­ eople in new deaf spaces in the East. Through the combined efforts of VOG activists, VTsSPS, and the evacuation points (evakopunkty), deaf p­ eople ­were moved east and placed in industry. Representatives of the local VOG departments maintained a constant presence at the railway stations, greeting evacuated deaf individuals and directing them to factories and hostels. Nikolai Buslaev was a key figure in this war­time concentration effort; sent to the Cheliabinsk Tractor Factory on the ­orders of VTsSPS, he used his prewar experience to place deaf ­people in jobs, amalgamating the deaf workforces from Leningrad’s Kirov Factory and Kharkov’s Diesel Motor Factory in the workshops of “Tankograd.” As a result, by the war’s end over twenty thousand deaf p­ eople ­were working in industry, of whom five thousand w ­ ere members of deaf brigades in evacuated 12 factories in the Urals. Deaf engagement in the war was not confined to l­abor. Throughout the war, VOG continued to unite deaf ­people in local deaf clubs and provide cultural and social ser­vices. Many of ­these ser­vices sought to prepare the deaf for the practical realities of war. For example, the Leningrad House of Enlightenment held classes on the use of firearms in case the city was invaded, and

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several city-­based VOG organ­izations taught their members basic defense drills in case of air or gas attack. In addition, through their club activities, VOG sought to ensure that the deaf community understood the purpose and po­ liti­cal significance of the war. The Moscow VOG club or­ga­nized lectures, discussion circles, and readings of lit­er­a­ture and news reports to keep over 350 deaf members informed of the b­ attles in pro­g ress.13 The fourteen members of the Moscow Drama Collective performed antifascist plays almost daily ­until the end of the war.14 Local deaf clubs also held collections of funds to help the war effort, an activity which had begun during the late 1930s. VOG, for instance, funded the building of a tank, “Vogovets,” and a squadron of airplanes, as well as made pres­ents of money and books to individual soldiers.15 Memoirs of the war years emphasize the importance of the deaf community as a source of support. V. Krasovskii, a member of the Astrakhan branch of VOG, tells of the regular club events that helped him through the trauma of war: It was always busy in the courtyard of the club. I was sixteen years old at the time. We chatted excitedly in sign language. The news was very varied. Deaf ­people have always been marked out by their inexhaustible wit: war reports, anecdotes, and jokes passed from hand to hand, tragic war stories ­were closely interweaved with comic tales. True stories, tall tales, oral histories of famous deaf ­people: all of ­these w ­ ere amusing and in­ter­est­ing in t­hose troubled war years. It was precisely by letting off steam like this that we found a way not only to survive but also to help the country to win. It is good that we know how to laugh at our physical lack; t­ here is moral strength in that, the strength of an internal health (sila dushevnogo zdorov´ia).16 In Krasovskii’s account, the war both cemented a sense of deaf community identity and provided support to enable deaf ­people to prove their sovietness and to fight, in dif­fer­ent ways, for the defense of their nation. This entwining of the deaf and the Soviet is a common theme in deaf writing from the war years. As a poem by the leading VOG member I. K. Labunskii, the “March of the Deaf-­Mute Stakhanovites,” declares, “A deaf-­mute cannot be a soldier/ But he may beat the e­ nemy with his ­labor!”17 At the same time, the war proved deeply traumatic for the deaf community. It is difficult to estimate the number of civilian deaf casualties; prewar rec­ords of deaf ­people ­were far from complete and data on deaf casualties was not collected by any central body. Anecdotal evidence suggests, however, that casualties w ­ ere numerous. According to a VOG report from 1945, many (especially Jews) died in the occupied zones “at the hands of the fascists,” and

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883 VOG members perished in Leningrad.18 The deaf peasant Fedor Shul´zhennikov was shot to death b­ ecause he could not answer the questions put to him by German officers.19 Another deaf man, an industrial worker from Bezhitsk, had his eyes put out ­after being accused of espionage.20 Nine members of VOG w ­ ere killed in Rostov on the Don, and the chairman of the Stavropol krai department of VOG was shot alongside his wife and three c­ hildren.21 VOG membership, which could prove indicative of wider trends in the deaf community, sharply dropped from 46,404 in 1941, to 21,757 in 1943.22 The drop in VOG membership should also be attributed to the chaotic nature of the evacuation pro­cess. While some semblance of order could be found in the organ­ization of ­labor brigades in the Urals, the majority of deaf ­people found evacuation to be a confused and chaotic experience. The deaf communities of major cities w ­ ere divided up and sent to dif­fer­ent locations, often with no idea of what was waiting for them on arrival.23 ­Little attempt was made to direct deaf ­people to places where their ­labor was needed or to keep track of where they w ­ ere g­ oing. A ­ fter the war, the VOG activist I. B. Dubovitskii from Zlatoust took Savel´ev to task for his lack of planning and control during the occupation: “It was necessary to direct deaf-­mutes. A workforce was needed. But t­ here was no organ­ization [organizovannost´], they fled to Tashkent, to the countryside, and we had no manpower.” As a result, argued Dubovitskii, at the end of the war “many deaf-­mutes came to us. They ­were louts [bezobrazniki], hooligans, thieves, murderers, drunkards. From Smolensk, Ukraine, ­etc. During the war they went to Alma-­Ata, Saratov, Tashkent, they d­ idn’t want to work in the factories.”24 Amid the chaos, local organs of VOG lost track of their members: from Leningrad “over a thousand left, it is not known where to.”25 This loss of control was unsurprising in light of the damage caused to the VOG system by the war. While the Moscow City Club and the regional organ­ izations in the Urals had continued to function, the wider network of clubs and local organ­izations was all but destroyed. The number of VOG organ­ izations in the regions dropped from 461 in 1941 to 200 in 1943, and VOG primary organ­izations fell from 730 to 286. In the occupied zones, club buildings ­were flattened and property was stolen.26 Imminent danger of Nazi attack provoked the closure of some clubs, such as the Leningrad House of Enlightenment, which was suspended by order of the Leningrad ispolkom on June 1, 1942.27 Frequently, the needs of the deaf ­were subordinated to the greater needs of the war effort. Deaf clubs w ­ ere closed by order of local state bodies in order to use the premises as “organs of the war office.” For example, a two-­story VOG building in Kuibyshev, built by the local VOG depart-

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ment before the war, was taken over by a driving school, and the club building in Kirov was commandeered by the regional bureau of Zagotskot (the state body in charge of livestock).28 The chaos in local organ­izations was mirrored in the VOG leadership. During the first few years of war, the work of the TsP ground to a halt. In the winter of 1941–1942, with Moscow u ­ nder attack, many of its members fled in­de­pen­dently to safety: the chief accountant Fedot´ev traveled with his ­family to Sverdlovsk, and the deputy chairman Krylov was evacuated with his ­family to the city of Molotov. Only nine VOG members, including Savel´ev, remained in the city.29 As a result, the plenum of the TsP, which before the war was held yearly to discuss questions of planning and organ­ ization, did not meet again u ­ ntil September 1943.30 The lack of centralized management had an immediate impact on the work of VOG as a w ­ hole: as Dubovitskii commented, “During the war every­one scattered and d­ idn’t know what to do. For something . . . ​was lacking in VOG—­g reat responsibility.”31 As Dubovitskii’s words suggest, the lack of direct responsibility within VOG for deaf ­people’s care during war­time was a point of serious complaint in its aftermath. This destruction not only had an impact on the existing deaf community. As Beate Fieseler points out, “The war left not only 27 million dead, but also millions of w ­ idows, orphans and invalids.” Approximately 2.5 million soldiers ­were discharged as disabled [invalidy] by war’s end, a figure which represented about 7.46 ­percent of the entire Red Army.32 Among ­these disabled ­people ­were approximately three thousand men who had suffered permanent hearing loss as a result of combat.33 Most of ­these men ­were rank-­and-­file soldiers, though several hundred w ­ ere from the officer corps. In addition to their deafness, the majority ­were also physically disabled. Of the 1,649 deafened veterans who w ­ ere in contact with VOG in 1947, only 188 men ­were classified as having a group III disability, signifying a “loss or impairment of one limb or organ” (the standard classification of a deaf individual), whereas 934 ­were group II (loss of more than one organ, able to work only in special conditions), and 470 ­were group I (severely disabled and unable to work).34 This group of individuals was thus extremely varied in terms of their social background, the extent of their disability, and the nature of the ser­vices they required to aid their return to civilian life. The experience of war thus added a small but significant minority group to the Soviet deaf community: newly deafened veterans. For ­these men, the loss of their hearing and their transition to the status of disabled represented an end to the lives they had had before the war. As the veteran N. M. Parkhomenko explained in 1946, “Participating in the ­battle for the defense

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of Sta­lin­g rad, I received a severe concussion and lost my hearing. I thought that it was all over for me.”35 This sense of dislocation was magnified by the scatteredness of t­ hese newly deafened men: approximately 80 ­percent lived in the countryside, far from the focal points of the Soviet deaf community. Deafened veterans w ­ ere thus suspended between two states: no longer members of the “healthy” body politic, they had yet to be integrated into the deaf community. Beyond the front brigades and VOG club activities, therefore, ­there was a secondary deaf experience of war, one that represented alienation from the Soviet collective. With the lives of deaf p­ eople so intimately bound up in the deaf community fostered by VOG, the disintegration of the VOG apparatus within the first few years of war had severed the links that bound deaf individuals to each other and to the Soviet body politic as a w ­ hole. Given the central role of ­labor in the Soviet identity of deaf ­people, the results of this fragmentation—in par­tic­u­lar the phenomenon of deaf hooligans roaming the countryside—­appeared to negate the transformative efforts of the 1930s. The newest members of the deaf community, the deafened veterans of the conflict, w ­ ere similarly alienated from Soviet society as they strug­gled to come to terms with their disability. As the German advance was halted and reversed and the Soviet Union began to reconstruct its shattered infrastructure, therefore, the need to rebuild the ranks of VOG was paramount.

Reconstruction or Reinvention? The Soviet response to the upheavals of war began long before hostilities had ceased. Among the deaf, reconstruction began as early as 1942. As cities ­were liberated from the German occupation, members of the VOG aktiv began to return and reestablish their local organ­izations. In January 1942, the chairman of the Kaluga city department of VOG set up a sewing workshop on October Street to replace the UPM on Kirov Street that had been bombed during the invasion.36 In the Voronezh oblast´, the VOG department resumed its work on March 27, 1943, electing a new chairman and finding new premises for their club and workshop.37 New departments of VOG ­were established in areas that had seen an influx of deaf evacuees during the war, such as the Novgorod oblast´ department of VOG, founded in Borovich in 1944.38 This reconstruction was swift and or­ga­nized: by 1946, VOG could claim that, except in the territory of Kalinigrad, the prewar network of city, oblast´, and republican departments had been reestablished.39

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In the aftermath of war, VOG was viewed by deaf activists and the Soviet state alike as a key tool in the rehabilitation of deaf p­ eople.40 The task of drawing deaf ­people into the work of constructing a socialist society was, of course, not new: from the revolution on, the Soviet state had declared its intention to “return to working life each person who has dropped out of the working track [kazhdogo vybitogo iz trudovoi kolei].”41 ­After the war, however, the physical damage inflicted on the Soviet population invested this task with new significance. If before the war, as Fieseler says, “The reintegration of disabled p­ eople into the working pro­cess (trudoustroistvo) [had] gained enormous priority in all institutions charged with social welfare,” the princi­ple fi­nally “achieved mass application during and a­fter the Second World War when millions of ill or wounded demobilized soldiers returned from the battlefield.”42 The return of the disabled to working life thus represented a vital step in the reconstruction of Soviet society in the aftermath of war; as such, VOG’s activities w ­ ere invested with a new urgency and status. In accordance with decrees by Minsobes (formerly Narkomsobes), increased priority was directed at ­those newly deafened by the conflict.43 Members of the VOG aktiv visited injured soldiers in the hospital, providing them with moral support, teaching them the fin­ger alphabet and basic sign language, and helping to find them jobs in industry. In June 1943, on the initiative of Savel´ev, the brochure “Instruction for the Deafened Disabled of the Patriotic War” was published, containing details of Soviet laws applicable to the deaf, the addresses of hearing-­aid workshops, a copy of the fin­ger alphabet, and information on VOG and the availability of l­ abor education through the society.44 In a similar article, published in Kirov in 1947, deafened veterans w ­ ere informed that “the loss of hearing must not plunge you into despair. Deafness is a grave physical lack, but it does not prevent a person from living a full, working life [polnotsennaia trudovaia zhizn´] in a socialist society and being a useful member of our society. The All-­Russian Society of Deaf-­Mutes ­will help you to obtain a qualification or requalification, to find a use for your strengths and abilities, to help you enter into the life of the collective.”45 Through publications and hospital visits, VOG members sought to draw individual veterans into VOG and return them to the social and industrial life of the country. In light of the need to reintegrate disabled veterans into the workplace, however, such positive propaganda was not considered sufficient. VOG was ordered by Minsobes proactively to “take charge” of all deafened veterans and assist their restoration to productive health.46 As such, in 1944, VOG began a personal census of deafened veterans, carried out by thirty-­nine local departments of VOG.47 The census was to establish the level of disability of individual veterans, their educational background, their ability

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to work, and their need for treatment, training, work placement, and the like. With this information, it was hoped, VOG would be able to direct its work more quickly and effectively. This method of working with deafened veterans had mixed results. The census was initially carried out by sending questionnaire cards to veterans’ homes, with instructions to return the information to the local department of VOG. In many cases, veterans w ­ ere reluctant to admit openly that they had been deafened, choosing instead to “keep quiet about their condition.” As a result, the data collected by VOG was far from complete: in Voronezh oblast´, for example, of the 105 individuals identified by the state as having been deafened by war, only 13 w ­ ere counted by VOG. Only 417 came forward in total in the RSFSR.48 Another attempt was made to collect information in 1946, with considerably more success: 1,649 of the 2,926 deafened veterans provided their details to members of the VOG aktiv who visited them in person. According to the data, 23 w ­ ere in need of work placement, 206 of some form of industrial education, 39 of general educational training (including literacy), 185 of medical treatment (lechenie), and 213 of material assistance.49 This knowledge may have been useful, but it was not a guarantee of VOG’s success in integrating deafened individuals into the society and persuading them to accept their new identity as deaf. The 1946 census data showed that 73.3 ­percent of t­hose deafened veterans interviewed had hearing families, and 79.5 ­percent had returned to their prewar place of residence in the countryside.50 As a result, it was extremely difficult to implement the same techniques of work placement and education that had been used by VOG in the 1930s, which had relied primarily on the urbanization of deaf p­ eople and their integration into distinct deaf communities. Many deafened veterans proved extremely reluctant to engage with VOG at all, refusing to become involved with the deaf community and rejecting opportunities for education and work placement among the deaf. In 1944, VOG identified a group of deafened veterans who had completed their middle-­school education before the war and offered them the chance to study as a group in the local tekhnikum. Of the eigh­teen approached, only three expressed an interest.51 By January 1947, a VOG report noted, only 994 deafened veterans had joined VOG.52 The case of late-­deafened veterans shows the ambiguity of deaf identity that had persisted since the 1930s, despite the positive propaganda of deaf achievements. While the notion of deaf community cohesion as a path to sovietness was broadly accepted by VOG members and state organs alike, t­ hose who had become physically deaf as a result of war trauma often found the task of becoming culturally deaf too much to bear. Agrippina Kalugina tells the story of a tank captain who had lost his hearing a­ fter being pulled from

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his burning vehicle; following the war he had been recruited as an accountant by the Central Directorate of VOG. His wife had left him—­“the cold-­hearted egoist had no need for a disabled husband”—­and he was bringing up his young son alone. Kalugina recounts that “we rarely saw a smile on the face of our new comrade, who was taking his disability hard, although we tried to help him with every­thing: we taught him fingerspelling, chatted to him, drew him into our comradely circle.” The psychological trauma of his injury proved too much, however, and he made the decision to leave VOG and return to his native village, to be looked ­after by his hearing ­family.53 If many deafened veterans w ­ ere reluctant to identify as deaf and engage with the deaf community through VOG, the postwar period did see some veterans taking advantage of the opportunity to become se­nior figures in deaf society. The vast majority of deafened veterans w ­ ere literate and retained good speech, and ­were thus able to perform a valuable role liaising between VOG and state departments. As a result, they ­were quickly able to secure appointments to se­nior positions in the VOG apparatus. By 1947, fifty-­six deafened veterans ­were working for VOG as man­ag­ers: five ­were chairmen of oblast´ or krai departments of VOG, and six w ­ ere directors of UPMs. Seven war veterans ­were members of the Central Directorate.54 The special status awarded to deafened veterans of the Patriotic War went some way to neutralizing the animosity usually felt t­ oward late-­deafened members of VOG. During the Fifth Congress of VOG ( June 30 through August 2, 1951), members debated the candidacy of A. Ia. Vostrikov, the chairman of the Astrakhan department of VOG, for membership in the VOG plenum. At the beginning of the discussion, a “voice from the crowd” shouted out that “he d­ oesn’t know sign language; how w ­ ill he help the work of the plenum?” ­After having established that Vostrikov had fought in the b­ attle of Sta­lin­g rad, however, the mood changed. “He was a participant of the b­ attles near Sta­lin­g rad! He deci­ded the fate of the Motherland! He has to stay.”55 While the strug­gles of veterans to accept their deafness somewhat undermined the cohesion of Soviet deaf identity at this point, the decision to entrust the rehabilitation of deafened veterans to VOG demonstrates the degree to which state bodies such as Minsobes had come to accept that “the affairs of deaf mutes are their own.” As such, the importance accorded to the rehabilitation of the war disabled elevated the status of VOG as an institution and placed renewed emphasis on its work, not just with deafened veterans but with all deaf p­ eople. In the postwar years, the state began to place new demands on VOG to continue to establish the community of Soviet-­minded, laboring deaf ­people that had begun to emerge in the late 1930s. On May 16, 1945, Minsobes charged

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VOG with carry­ing out a census of all deaf p­ eople in the RSFSR.56 By 1947, the partially completed census had uncovered a total of 82,600 deaf ­people in Soviet Rus­sia, of which 20,279 ­were VOG members and 31,589 worked in some form of industry or agriculture.57 On the basis of ­these figures, Minsobes began to set ambitious targets for VOG membership and work placement.58 In 1948, for example, Minsobes stipulated that by 1949, VOG membership should reach 56,000, or 70 ­percent of the total number of deaf p­ eople in the RSFSR.59 The discussions surrounding ­these tasks show the continued influence of the model of deaf transformation established during Stalin’s “revolution from above,” during which deaf ­people sought to forge themselves as Soviet through ­labor, education, and po­liti­cal literacy. As the experience of the war had shown, vast numbers of deaf p­ eople ­were able to work to extremely high standards and levels of productivity, a tradition that continued ­after 1945. In 1947, VOG rec­ords showed that 25,200 deaf p­ eople w ­ ere working in industry and 26,600 in state agriculture, with 15,000 holding the title of Stakhanovite.60 Yet the transformative pro­cess begun in the 1930s was far from complete, and the obstacles, though familiar, had been magnified by war. The conflict had disrupted the education of over 15,000 ­children, many of whom, by war’s end, had reached the age of fourteen and w ­ ere thus no longer eligible for places in the state’s network of special schools.61 Similarly, VOG’s system of likbezy, or literacy classes, had ceased to function during the war. In 1946, 31,300 deaf ­people ­were still illiterate and lacking the necessary skills to enter state industry.62 Despite attempts in the 1930s to draw deaf individuals into the cities, over half of ­those included in the VOG census still lived in the countryside, which made t­hese individuals particularly hard to serve.63 In addition, VOG also had to deal with ­those homeless, hooligan youths (besprizornye) described by Dubovitskii at the Fourth Congress, many of whom w ­ ere being directed to VOG by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) for work placement and training.64 The rehabilitation of deaf individuals and their inclusion into Soviet l­abor appeared fraught with difficulties. Yet, as a VOG report from 1947 declared, “Our organ­ization must not retreat in the face of difficulties, but fight them, overcome them.” In the postwar years, the VOG aktiv continued to apply themselves to the task of transformation. Deaf individuals continued to be placed in state industry, disability cooperatives, and state farms (sovkhozy). If the number of individuals placed in work in 1942—­the “year of crisis”—­was 1,722, by 1946, that number had risen to 5,332. Similarly, in 1946, 1,659 individuals ­were completing their professional education in factory schools and VOG UPMs. Rally conferences (slety-­konferentsii) continued to be held in the

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countryside to unite rural deaf individuals and draw them into the work of VOG.65 Despite t­ hese efforts, however, the targets set by Minsobes for VOG membership ­were not being met. In the immediate postwar years, the VOG Central Directorate had anticipated a steady growth in VOG members, but “the absolute growth of Society members is lower in 1946 than in 1945 by 1,000 ­people . . . ​and 1945 was worse than 1944.”66 The difficulties faced by VOG ­were not simply the result of the chaotic nature of postwar reconstruction, although that is an impor­tant part of the story. The history of VOG in the postwar period shows the organ­ization caught between the impulse to reconstruct and reinvent its work. Failure to draw deaf ­people into VOG at a steady rate was blamed squarely on “the weakening of the mass-­organizational work of relevant departments.”67 Yet the decision by many deaf p­ eople to refuse to join VOG, or to allow their membership to lapse, could also be interpreted as the result of a new understanding of the role of VOG in the postwar period. The change in status of disabled ­people contributed to an emerging new conception of social welfare, one that emphasized the passive reception of benefits and ser­vices alongside the established values of agency and l­abor rehabilitation. As Mark Edele describes it, disabled war veterans functioned in the late 1940s as a form of “entitlement community” united by a “widely shared sense that the enormity of the war­time sacrifice entitled soldiers to special treatment by the society they had defended.”68 In this vein, the deaf community also began to invoke the notion of war­time sacrifice in order to demand support and privileges from the state. In 1948, for example, the deaf activist S. Ivanov wrote in Pravda to bemoan the lack of subtitled films available for deaf ­people: “We must remember ­those defenders of the Motherland, to whom the war brought such grief as the loss of hearing.”69 This notion of special treatment and rewards was conceptualized in particularly materialist terms. Karl Qualls notes that material rewards ­were central to the Soviet state’s postwar conception of care: “Accommodating the population’s material needs, even when implementation was flawed, was essential in maintaining a focus on social ideals and the promised, but always elusive, glorious ­future.”70 The Red Army’s push to Berlin in the last months of war, which enabled frontline troops (frontoviki) to experience firsthand the quality of life in Eastern Eu­rope, had also focused attention on living standards, as Soviet p­ eople actively opposed the continued privations of rationing and lack of suitable housing.71 This materialist expectation began to be evident in the relationship between VOG and its members. Deaf individuals no longer simply demanded the ability to support themselves through work—­they now also desired a better quality of life, material assistance, and “privileges” (l´goty).

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Indeed, while ­these demands ­were most often associated with disabled veterans (as Ivanov’s article shows), the expectation that the deaf should receive some form of material compensation was equally acknowledged by ­those whose deafness had preceded the war. Four years ­after victory was declared, for example, a VOG report noted that “deaf-­mutes from rural areas are extremely reluctant to become members of the society; this is motivated by the lack of any kind of benefits and privileges for members.”72 In the years following the war, VOG reports began to rec­ord an increase in the provision of “everyday social ser­vices” (sotsial´no bytovoe obsluzhivanie). ­These ser­vices ­were initially intended to facilitate the return to normalcy ­after the upheavals of war: in 1944, for example, the society spent considerable funds to ensure that local clubs and workshops ­were equipped to survive the winter, providing money to restore hostels and replenish stocks of firewood, alongside a total of 12,000 meters of cotton fabric, 7,000 towels, and about 3,000 pairs of socks.73 By 1946, however, the par­ameters of what constituted social ser­vice had widened considerably. The report of the VOG Central Directorate for that year noted the variety of work carried out: VOG organ­izations spent 276,800 rubles in one-­off grants to deaf individuals to fund re-­evacuation, treatment, and the acquisition of necessary clothing to return to work; negotiated with local trade departments to help members acquire flats or places in dormitories (obshchezhitii); provided interpreters and ­legal advice; placed the hearing c­ hildren of deaf adults in nurseries; and or­ga­ nized places for deaf ­people at rest homes and sanatoria.74 The desire to provide increased ser­vices to deaf individuals had been first mooted by the VTsSPS, in a decree of February 27, 1946 entitled “On the improvement of the work of professional organ­izations in the ser­vice [obsluzhivanie] of deaf-­mute and deaf blue-­and white-­collar workers, and also the disabled of the Patriotic War.”75 This document repeated many of the ideas of the VTsSPS decree of 1931, including the concentration of deaf ­people in industrial brigades and the provision of ­labor education.76 In addition to this, the new decree focused on the provision of social ser­vices for deaf ­people, such as the allocation of separate rooms in factories for VOG clubs; the guarantee of living space, with “necessary help [for deaf ­people] to or­ga­nize their ser­vices, in canteens, shops, and laundries, placing ­children into nurseries, crèches, and pioneer camps”; a bud­get of 200,500 rubles to or­ga­nize afterschool ser­vices for deaf c­ hildren; the provision of sports equipment; the organ­ization of cultural and theatrical activities; and the creation of new sanatoria for deaf ­people.77 Although instigated by the VTsSPS, the notion of providing wide-­ranging, everyday ser­vices for deaf ­people was brought to fruition by VOG. In many

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ways, this was the result of the failure of VTsSPS to fulfil the terms of their decree. VOG members had joined VTsSPS representatives in inspecting the condition of deaf ser­vices in state factories, and their report from 1949 noted, for example, that in the Volodarskii Sewing Factory, “the factory commissioner [fabkom] ­doesn’t even know how many deaf-­mutes ­there are in the factory. Deaf-­mutes complain that no attention is paid to them: despite their Stakhanovite work, not one worker has received any incentives and the fabkom has not given them passes [putevki] to rest homes or sanatoria.”78 As a minority group among the mass of workers served by the VTsSPS, the deaf had to fight for their rights to specialized ser­vices. In VOG, by contrast, their needs could be placed center stage. The amount of money devoted to everyday social ser­ vices thus increased rapidly. In 1948, 322,000 rubles w ­ ere spent on material grants to deaf individuals and families in need, and a vast 3,005,200 rubles on cultural and educational ser­vices.79 This increase in ser­vice provision placed considerable economic strain on VOG. In 1948, an urgent message was sent to local organ­izations, exhorting them not to give out individual grants of more than 250 rubles without the express permission of the Central Directorate and without verifying the material situation of the claimant (Moscow City VOG, it seems, had been giving out grants of 400 rubles to anyone who asked).80 VOG’s operational expenses ­were covered by state grants from government bodies such as Narkomsobes and membership fees, but ­these sources could not supply the sums required for VOG to provide extended ser­vices to its members. In order to be able to afford such significant expenditure, VOG needed to strengthen its material base: the educational-­industrial workshops, or UPMs. The VOG UPM had grown out of the grassroots workshops of the 1920s as a means for deaf individuals to support themselves and their families through “honest l­abor,” and si­mul­ta­neously to transform themselves into ideal Soviet citizens. In the 1930s, the workshops allowed deaf ­people to learn ­labor skills before finding positions in state industry. Yet the constant shifting of orga­ nizational jurisdiction over the UPMs and the frequent bankruptcy and closure of individual workshops had prevented them from contributing financially to the work of VOG. By establishing the UPMs as an integral part of the VOG system, therefore, the VOG aktiv could kill two birds with one stone: establish a system of l­abor education to suit the par­tic­u­lar needs of the deaf community and provide a stable financial base to fund the cultural and social ser­vices provided by the society.81 To that end, over the course of the 1940s, the VOG aktiv worked to strengthen the UPM system, establishing a series of workshops in urban centers across Soviet Rus­sia. Given the widespread destruction left by the

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German army, the establishment of t­hese workshops was difficult and proceeded on an ad hoc basis. In Kalinin, for example, the VOG activist B. Travin founded the local UPM in the remains of the bombed-­out VOG dormitory, which was “without a roof, flooded with w ­ ater to knee level, without win­ dows and without fuel.”82 By 1944, the Kalinin UPM employed and trained fifty-­five deaf workers and turned a yearly profit of approximately 65,000 rubles.83 The example of Kalinin was echoed elsewhere. If in 1942, VOG had a total of eigh­teen UPMs serving approximately 850 p­ eople, by 1948 that number had reached sixty-­four, employing 3,600 deaf ­people and producing over 70 million rubles in profit.84 In the new VOG charter for 1948, this significant increase in VOG’s material base was acknowledged in a section entitled “Means of the Society,” where the “profits of educational-­industrial enterprises” was listed prominently, ahead of the allocations from state bodies.85 The shift in the purpose of the UPM from a site of ­labor training and sovietization to a money-­making enterprise caused a certain amount of unease among VOG leaders. At the Fourth VOG Congress, Dubovitskii complained that “Comrade Savel´ev has only one t­ hing in his head: UPMs, money, millions, millions, turnover, and he d­ oesn’t concern himself with work placement in the provinces.” The “pigmy” UPMs, he argued, could never match the state industrial enterprises in terms of the quality of industrial education they provided. Dubovitskii’s argument was heartfelt but somewhat undermined by his criticism of the salaries provided by the UPM: “Can they live on that money? They want to live an in­ter­est­ing life.” The state industrial enterprise in Zlatoust, he informed the congress, could provide advanced training and a decent salary, as well as “clothing, dormitory accommodation, [and] access to a canteen.”86 Evidently, the expectation of material support was not seen to be at odds with the broader goals of VOG: to return deaf p­ eople to the ranks of workers. As a result of the upheavals of war, therefore, the l­abor rehabilitation of all disabled individuals had been invested with a new status, and the need to provide the disabled with material benefits and ser­vices was enshrined in legislation. T ­ hese changes saw an equivalent rise in status of the organ­izations surrounding disabled individuals, including both VOG and VOS, which saw a similar widening of its ser­vices for blind p­ eople and strengthening of its own material base.87 The apparent placing of responsibility, both financial and symbolic, for all deaf ­people onto VOG fulfilled the demands of its members from the 1930s, when they had battled for control of their own ser­vices. At the same time, however, this shift from l­abor rehabilitation to material support placed par­tic­u­lar strains on the organ­ization, and provoked significant reform of its structures and hierarchy.

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Reforming VOG The reform of VOG began at the height of the war. On December 6, 1943, Narkomsobes published a decree, “On the Improvement of the Work of the Central Directorates of VOG and VOS.” This decree noted that the Central Directorate of VOG managed its work poorly and did not extend sufficient control over the work of the primary and regional organ­izations. In addition to this, “gross violations of the orga­nizational norms” of VOG’s charter had been permitted.88 This was not surprising; the chaos of the war period had broken many of the links that bound VOG to its regional network of branches. Many local man­ag­ers had been evacuated, leaving primary organ­izations without leadership, and ­after the occupation it proved difficult for many deaf clubs even to meet, due to the shattered transport links in the regions.89 The VOG congress had not met for eleven years, and the plenums of the TsP and local departments of VOG met irregularly, which had led to the “liquidation of the election [vybornost´] of the leadership of departments throughout the system.”90 The TsP was therefore “invited” to reform the central apparatus of VOG and improve work within it. In the context of the new postwar materiality, this was as much an economic question as a po­liti­cal one. As Donald Filtzer argues, “The reconsolidation of the elite’s po­liti­cal control over society required the rapid restoration of the system of production on which that control had been based.”91 The chaos in VOG made it particularly difficult to establish a material base to support the developing system of benefits and privileges. The society’s cadres ­were often untrained and lacking specialist knowledge, a prob­lem which became more acute as the society began to expand its membership base and ser­vices. As a VOG report from 1945 noted, some deaf workers “do not demonstrate creative initiative and activity on the question of the development of socialist competition among members of the society, on the organ­ization of cultural-­ educational work, on the economic strengthening and expansion of the UPKs and UPMs t­ oward the best everyday ser­vice of members of the society.”92 In some cases, such incompetence had a direct financial impact; the large sums of money and raw materials u ­ nder the control of VOG man­ag­ers ­were subject to continuous wastage and stealing. In 1948, for example, during the inspection of 103 VOG departments, clubs, and UPMs, VOG inspectors uncovered financial losses of approximately 125,000 rubles.93 To combat t­ hese prob­lems, Narkomsobes obliged the TsP and the Central Inspection Committee to demand greater accountability from its regional organ­izations, including twice-­yearly inspections. In September 1945, members of the TsP traveled down the Volga River in a motorboat, from Moscow

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to Astrakhan and back, inspecting the state of local organ­izations as they went.94 In the years that followed, members of the VOG aktiv went to the provinces to inspect individual departments, and local VOG departments ­were expected to provide full and critical reports of their work on a yearly basis. The inspections ­were often incomplete: in 1948, reports ­were completed by forty-­eight departments, partially completed by another twelve, and not completed at all by six.95 Despite ­these shortcomings, the information gleaned by such inspections provided impetus t­ oward change. For the most part, change involved the hiring and firing of cadres. In 1946, Rakushin, a member of the VOG Central Inspection Committee, was fired, along with se­nior accountant Frankovskaia, who was accused of “using her ser­vice position for mercenary ends.” Over the course of the year, seventy-­ four chairmen of oblast´ and krai departments of VOG ­were relieved of their positions.96 Their replacements tended to be deaf workers with a higher education and experience of industry and management. A number of late-­deafened gradu­ates of the VTsSPS Higher School of Professional Activity (Vyshaia shkola profdvizheniia) found se­nior management jobs in VOG during the war and postwar period, including Pavel Kirillovich Sutiagin, who became man­ag­er of the Moscow VOG UPM, and Glafira Mikhailovna Lukinykh, who became chairwoman of the Moscow City branch of VOG. VOG began to train cadres through central and local courses: at the Fourth VOG Congress, the presidium announced courses to train (and retrain) chairmen and instructors of republican branches of VOG, as well as the directors of large clubs and sign-­ language interpreters.97 From t­hese reforms it is clear that as VOG began to turn its attention to questions of financial management, the demands it made of its cadres began to change. The ­wholesale turnover of VOG workers following the war was thus not merely a means to weed out incompetence but a chance to bring about a “changing of the guard” that would usher in the new era of benefits and materiality in the life of the society.98 This shift can be seen with the replacement of Savel´ev, the founding chairman of VOG, by Sutiagin in 1949. According to Palennyi, this change reflected the new demands made of the VOG leadership: “It was one ­thing to expand the deaf study groups on the biographies of Lenin and Stalin and the ‘Short Course on the History of the RWP(b)’; it was another to establish economic activities in the context of the postwar economy and the growth of technological pro­g ress.” According to the transcript of the plenum, Savel´ev retired on health grounds, but Palennyi remains skeptical: “Pavel Alekseevich [Savel´ev] was in no hurry to retire—he was, as they say ‘given the push.’ ”99

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Savel´ev’s replacement, Sutiagin, represented a new breed of VOG leader: the financial man­ag­er. Sutiagin was born in Cherkassiia, in the Kiev guberniia of Ukraine, in 1906. At the age of twenty-­two, ­after an incomplete ­middle school education and a brief period working in the mines in Stalinsk, Sutiagin fell ill with meningitis and completely lost his hearing. He chose to continue his education in the Kiev tekhnikum of the Ukrainian Narkomsobes, before finding himself a position as the deputy chairman of the Stalinsk Organ­ization of Deaf-­Mutes and, si­mul­ta­neously, the director of an eve­ning school for deaf adults. Sent to Moscow to study at the VTsSPS Higher School of Professional Activity in 1934, Sutiagin would ­later serve five years as an instructor to the Union of Workers of Mid-­Sized Machine-­Building. During the war, he helped to build defensive structures in the Leninsk district and then returned to Moscow in 1942 to reestablish VOG’s UPM No. 1 in the city.100 Sutiagin’s rec­ord was not spotless, however. In the early 1930s, he had been sent on behalf of VOG to assist with an agricultural campaign in the Donbas region. During that time, a number of cows died of suspected poisoning, and Sutiagin, alongside the chairman of the oblast´ department of VOG, was charged. The blaming of outside officials for poor harvests and the loss of livestock appears to have been a commonplace of the collectivization period: Sheila Fitzpatrick describes two similar cases from 1937.101 According to Sutiagin, “The court found nothing incriminating [otiagchaiushchii],” but the pair was nonetheless sentenced to two years’ probation. Sutiagin had made full disclosure of this fact on his entry into the Communist Party, yet questions continued to be raised by members of VOG. At a meeting of the party group at the Fifth Congress of VOG, the first congress to be held ­after Sutiagin had been elected as chairman, a “voice from the hall” demanded: “I would like to hear comrade Sutiagin explain how he was fired from his work in Krasnodarsk krai, about his work in the L´vov oblast´.” Sutiagin, however, was unconcerned: “I ­will write it everywhere: I was not found guilty. The Supreme Soviet has explained the m ­ atter in full.”102 This explanation appeared to be sufficient for the party group, and no further questions ­were asked.103 Despite this controversy, Sutiagin had established a reputation as a man of authority and managerial experience by the time of his appointment. His sign name gave some indication of this reputation: while his original sign was shoulder-­belt (portupeia), within a short time of his assuming his new role the sign had morphed into a gesture meaning the general.104 This authority was manifest in his actions as VOG chairman. In his first year in the post, the presidium of the Central Directorate began to meet four times per month to discuss questions of planning, with par­tic­u­lar emphasis placed on raising the

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“executive discipline” (ispolnitel´skaia distsiplina) of the organ­ization. In 1949, thirty-­nine local VOG organ­izations and two departments of Minpros gave reports to the presidium. Work on the cultural education of VOG members was improved, with the support of the Soviet of Ministers of the RSFSR, and the number of po­liti­cal speeches and reports given to VOG members increased by 50 ­percent between 1949 and 1950.105 By the Fifth Congress of VOG, held in Moscow between July 30 and August 2, 1951, Sutiagin was able to announce that significant reforms to VOG’s orga­nizational structures had been carried out. The census of deaf ­people was completed; the number of VOG members had risen to 61,000 and the number of primary organ­izations had reached 1,740. Minsobes had demanded that the management of VOG at all levels be made accountable to its members; elections w ­ ere held across the VOG departments in 1950, and closer inspection of work from the center allowed unsatisfactory workers to be called to account.106 Despite this overt reestablishment of what Sutiagin termed the “collegial nature” (kollegial´nost´) of VOG, ­these managerial structures imposed considerably greater top-­down control over the organ­ization.107 Yet this control was still patchy; VOG membership had not reached the Minsobes target of 70 ­percent of all deaf p­ eople, standing at only 66.2 ­percent overall, and only reaching 36 ­percent in the countryside. Work in the countryside remained unsatisfactory, and the 2,465 rally conferences held over the four-­year period between congresses was considered far from sufficient. The congress also noted the need to reform the work of the UPMs, to establish norms of work, and to refurbish and mechanize the workshops.108 Nonetheless, in the two years since his appointment, Sutiagin’s reforms had already strengthened the VOG apparatus to a significant degree. The VOG that was reestablished ­after the war, therefore, was qualitatively dif­fer­ent from the society that had been destroyed by the conflict. A stronger, more disciplined organ­ization, staffed by educated, managerially trained cadres, it was able to provide ser­vices to deaf individuals that went far beyond the work placement and training of the 1930s to encompass material provision and benefits. The expanded network of UPMs provided funds, not only to support the material needs of society members but also to improve the cultural and educational functions of the society, including the capital building of workshops, clubs, and dormitories. The extension of VOG’s ambitions and capabilities to provide “all round ser­vice” to deaf ­people ­were such that, by the beginning of the 1950s, VOG was in a position to take sole charge of the ser­vice and care of Soviet deaf p­ eople. The VTsSPS Section for Work among Deaf-­Mutes, engaged for so long in a strug­gle for power with VOG, was fi­nally liquidated in 1954. According to A. Ia. Iampolskii, a member of

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the VOG TsP, the sector was abolished “­because in its work it virtually copied the VOG TsP; it dealt with the same questions that are reflected in the VOG charter and which are dealt with by the TsP itself in its everyday work.” In the f­ uture, he pointed out, “the TsP itself w ­ ill address the management of VTsSPS without middlemen, and, consequently, no one w ­ ill contest the opin109 ion of VOG.” The G ­ reat Patriotic War, in its widespread destruction, had thus proved paradoxically constructive for VOG as a social institution. By the early 1950s, the society had established itself as the sole provider of social welfare ser­vices, basic training, and cultural activities for deaf ­people. This shift revealed a fundamental change in the Soviet understanding of deafness and the relationship between the deaf individual and society: w ­ ere the deaf in­de­pen­dent agents, or worthy recipients of benefits? Such questions would become increasingly urgent as time went on. Si­mul­ta­neously, debates about deafness w ­ ere erupting in another branch of the Soviet state hierarchy. The reconstruction and reinvention of VOG had its parallel in the network of deaf schools decimated by the war, where the fundamental question of the nature of deafness was again being explored.

Rethinking Deaf Education For deaf ­children, integration into Soviet life and the Soviet deaf world was carried out by the network of schools for the deaf established and run by the Ministry of Education (Minpros). This school network had been broken up by the conflict. Some pupils from schools in areas threatened by the German invasion ­were sent home to their parents for evacuation, but in many cases w ­ hole classes of ­children ­were evacuated together to the east. Attempts to continue their education in new locations often proved difficult; in 1941, a group of eighty-­ six schoolchildren was evacuated from Leningrad to Iaroslavl oblast´, where they ­were ­housed temporarily in the Stalin summer camp in Tashchikha, a location without winter lodgings and unsuitable for a school.110 In addition, the dire need for workers in war industries forced groups of older schoolchildren to forgo their education and transfer to factories in the Urals, learning the necessary skills on the job.111 As a result, of the 28,100 deaf c­ hildren in school in 1941, only 7,600 remained in education by 1943.112 With the dispersal of their pupils, the need for deaf teachers similarly evaporated: in schools u ­ nder the authority of the Leningrad Institute of Hearing and Speech, the forty-­ five teachers and thirty-­five care staff (vospitateli) who remained a­ fter the evacuation of their pupils w ­ ere fired on September 1, 1941.113

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Reconstruction of this decimated school network began well before the conflict ended. As in the case of disabled veterans, the war had provoked a rise in the status of education in general, and of special education in par­tic­u­ lar. An editorial in Pravda in March 1942 declared that “however preoccupied we may be by war, concern for c­ hildren and for their education remains one of our chief tasks.”114 As the war progressed, the Soviet state took action not only to restore but also to widen the scope of Soviet education. On July 30, 1942, Sovnarkom passed a decree that made it compulsory for ­every child to attend school ­until the age of 14, a concept referred to as vseobuch (vseobshchee obuchenie, or universal education).115 On August 11, 1944, universal education was extended to the deaf in a decree of the Soviet of ­People’s Deputies of the RSFSR, “On the restoration of the network of special schools for deaf and blind ­children,” which set out the plan and targets for the reopening of schools in the newly liberated regions. The concept of vseobuch formed a central part of this decree: not only was the deaf school network to be restored, but all deaf c­ hildren over the age of seven w ­ ere expected to attend a special school.116 In the aftermath of war, the restoration of deaf schools was ad hoc and fraught with difficulty. Many school buildings had been destroyed, and t­ hose that had been commandeered by state bodies during the war ­were often difficult to get back, as was the case for two schools in the Gor´kii oblast´ and another three in the Krasnoiarsk krai.117 Thanks to the displacement of pupils and teachers, some schools w ­ ere only able to reopen by combining their classes and teaching all age groups together.118 Many schools ­were simply not reopened: by 1947, only twenty-­five of the forty-­nine schools for the deaf and hard of hearing in the occupied territories had been reestablished.119 This chaotic state of affairs was vigorously tackled by state organs and VOG. Establishing new schools in liberated areas was a central priority, followed by extending the control of Minpros over schools themselves, improving teaching quality, and equipping schools with textbooks, writing equipment, clothes, and shoes.120 Although VOG stood outside the system of deaf education, it took a central role in lobbying local state bodies to fulfil t­hese tasks; it was instrumental in persuading local Sovnarkom committees to establish schools for the deaf in Moscow, Briansk, Smolensk, and Voronezh oblast´.121 Pro­g ress was slow, but by 1949 VOG could announce that 18,646 deaf ­children attended a special school for the deaf, a number representing 66 ­percent of the prewar level.122 The postwar period did not merely see the reestablishment of deaf schools. As in many areas of Soviet life, the crisis of war provided an opportunity to rethink the ethos of Soviet education. As Thomas Ewing has shown, fundamental reforms to Soviet schooling in the final years of the conflict, including

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the decision to introduce single-­sex education in mainstream schools, ­were driven by concerns over “improvements in classroom order, pupil conduct, and academic achievement.”123 At the same time, the reforms raised impor­tant questions about the nature of the educational pro­cess itself and the type of citizens that Soviet schools aimed to produce. Such questions had always been at the heart of Soviet education policy; in the aftermath of war, with the imperative to rebuild a shattered populace, they ­were invested with a par­tic­u­lar urgency. Deaf education grappled with similar questions that trod the boundary between Marxist ideology and expert intervention. Soviet deaf education had under­gone a complex pro­cess of theoretical development since the emergence of Vygotskii’s theories in the mid-1920s.124 The tensions evident in Vygotskii’s work between contradictory paradigms of social identity—­ the speaking subject, on the one hand, and the ideal laborer, on the other—­were borne out in the structure of the deaf school system. Deaf ­children ­were expected to attend preschools from the age of two and to be transferred to primary school (nachal´naia shkola) at the age of six.125 Such schools should be internaty, or boarding schools, taking c­ hildren from the surrounding oblast´.126 While introducing deaf ­children to the usual range of general-­educational subjects, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, the central purpose of deaf education should be to instill oral speech through a combination of lipreading skills and fingerspelling, the use of dictionaries to widen vocabulary, and the teaching of logic and grammar.127 While oral speech was the central goal, it should not be learned as an isolated skill but rather “linked to life.”128 Vygotskii had argued that “it is necessary to or­ga­nize a child’s life such that speech is necessary and in­ter­est­ing to him, and sign language is unnecessary and uninteresting.”129 Only in this manner would oral speech cease to be an abstract skill and become a communicative tool in the fullest sense.130 Soviet pedagogues thus envisaged a form of deaf education that prioritized oral speech but was not unthinkingly oralist, seeking instead to link speech intrinsically to the pro­cess of child development and education. By learning to communicate with the world around them, deaf ­children would be able to overcome their disability and become educated, conscious members of the Soviet collective. In order to achieve this end, educators should be aware of the full extent of an individual child’s deafness and to tailor the child’s education accordingly: “For the correct organ­ization of the educational business (uchebno-­vospitatel´noe delo) of deaf-­mutes, it is necessary, before the admission of the child to school, to examine them, with the purpose of establishing their educational abilities and placing them in the right type of school.”131 Schools for the deaf, it was argued, should be differentiated into five types: schools for

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deaf-­mute c­ hildren, for late-­deafened ­children with some remnants of speech, for hard-­of-­hearing (tugoukhie) ­children, for mentally backward (umstvenno-­ otstalye) deaf c­ hildren, and for deaf c­ hildren too old for normal school. This differentiation would be the cornerstone of Soviet deaf education, enabling teachers to tailor their classes to the abilities of their pupils and thus making it easier for deaf c­ hildren to learn. This, then, represented the ideal of Soviet deaf education as envisaged in the mid-1920s. By the late 1930s, however, it had become clear that this ideal was not being realized. The disjunction between progressive theory and traditional practices in mainstream Soviet education—­clinging to the familiar old rather than embracing the utopian new—­has been noted by historians; the deaf school network was no dif­fer­ent.132 While the Second Rus­sian Congress on the Social and ­Legal Protection of Minors presented a utopian vision of deaf education along Marxist lines, with its emphasis on communication and socialization, the real­ity on the ground was very dif­fer­ent. The contingent of schoolchildren grew exponentially, but the introduction of new educational methods was confined to the cities of Moscow and Leningrad. According to an overview of the period by the defectologist A. I. D´iachkov, the majority of teachers continued to believe that their only goal was to teach deaf c­ hildren to pronounce their words correctly. As a result, “the formation of other forms of speech (written speech, dactylology) was ignored, and the life and activity of deaf pupils was run in fact on the basis of sign-­and-­gesture [mimiko-­ zhestikuliatornye] forms of communication.”133 This framing of oral speech as a tool of emancipation appears deeply problematic in the context of twenty-­first-­century Deaf studies scholarship.134 Yet the belief that oral speech was the only means to access knowledge was deeply ingrained, and the failures of oralism had significant consequences for deaf school pupils in the 1930s. Without developed oral speech or adequate literacy, it was believed that deaf ­children ­were unable to study more complex subjects: “The system of study did not allow for their language development, necessary for mastering knowledge. . . . ​The lack of appropriate knowledge in arithmetic and science did not create favorable conditions for the study of physics, chemistry, and other academic subjects.”135 In 1932, a new plan of study was introduced that placed emphasis on increasing the knowledge base of deaf pupils and the amount of time spent training them for skilled industrial ­labor. Yet again, ­these reforms ­were barely put into practice. In the late 1930s, the assessment of deaf education was scathing. At a meeting of deaf teachers from Narkompros, Narkomsobes, and VOG held in Moscow in 1938, a certain Ivanova asked desperately: “How can you talk of the pro­gress of deaf mutes, when pupils of Narkompros institutes gradu­ate illiterate? . . . ​[The

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teachers] have no methodology, no education. ­There are no textbooks. They teach as if they came from tsarist times.”136 The per­sis­tence of the oralist tradition in Soviet deaf schools appears particularly striking in light of the significant transformations in adult education over the course of the 1930s, where the inclusion of deaf adults in rabfak and VUZ courses, with the assistance of sign language interpreters, proved that complex theories and industrial pro­cesses could be grasped through the medium of sign and written Rus­sian. As Shorin’s account of life in the rabfak shows, this represented a fundamental shift in attitudes. The deaf w ­ ere seen to have proved themselves through education: “The ­f uture is with us, and it ­will show that deaf-­mutes, aside from the loss of hearing, do not differ from normal ­people.”137 Indeed, Shorin gives an account of the deaf cohort’s difficult, yet ultimately successful, experience learning German.138 But such educational experiences w ­ ere not open to deaf ­children. The per­sis­tence of tsarist-­era understandings of language and deaf competencies was not simply the result of mismanagement. The 1930s had witnessed a sea change in Soviet educational theory that effectively curtailed the development of deaf education. The notion of testing and differentiating deaf ­children had formed part of a broader trend in Soviet pedagogy known as “pedology” (pedologiia), or the diagnosis of developmental abnormalities in ­children. The theory of pedology stemmed from Vygotskii’s notion that physical abnormality caused prob­lems of ­mental development. However, in practice, pedology reversed this notion, using developmental abnormalities in apparently healthy schoolchildren to diagnose assumed physical defects. In the 1920s and early 1930s, a complex system of intelligence testing had been elaborated throughout Soviet education, which sought to identify ­children with developmental prob­lems and diagnose the physical cause b­ ehind it. Often ­children who found their schoolwork difficult or who ­were merely disruptive in class ­were diagnosed with oligophrenia, or feeble-­mindedness, and sent to special schools.139 By 1936, 7.8 ­percent of all school c­ hildren ­were in special schools.140 This tendency to view c­ hildren as pathologically and developmentally tainted contradicted the utopian Soviet notion that disability could ultimately be overcome through education and social life, an attitude that became more dominant in the 1930s. The backlash against pedology, when it came, was unequivocally fierce. In 1930, Vygotskii was removed from his post as head of the Institute of Defectology; in 1931, his journal, Voprosy Defektologii, was shut down.141 Fi­nally, on July 4, 1936, the Central Committee of the Communist Party published a decree, “On Pedological Perversions in the System of Narkompros,” which condemned pedological testing as a “false-­scientific

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experiment” that had led to “a greater and greater quantity of ­children being counted in the category of mentally backward, defective, and ‘difficult.’ ” As a result, “a ­g reat quantity of ­children, who in the conditions of a normal school would easily yield to correction and become active, honest, and disciplined school pupils, in the conditions of a ‘special’ school acquire bad habits (durnye navyki) and inclinations and become more difficult to correct.”142 The decree against pedology had a significant impact on deaf education, although its suggestions for improvement w ­ ere vague and contradictory at best.143 The examination and testing of c­ hildren for the purposes of educational differentiation was rejected as bourgeois, a “law of the fatalistic conditionality of the fates of c­ hildren upon biological and social f­ actors.” Yet it was unclear how deaf education should proceed in practice without such testing and differentiation. Over the next de­cade, this confusion was manifest in the decisions made by Narkompros. While the All-­Russian Congress of Surdopedagogues in 1938 discussed the means by which deaf schools could widen the scientific and practical knowledge taught to deaf ­children, the individual condition of the child, such as the degree of deafness or the presence of additional developmental prob­lems, was ignored.144 Many schools ­were staffed by teachers with no training or experience of deafness.145 In 1940, a decree of Narkompros reintroduced the princi­ple of differentiation in deaf education and banned the teaching of deaf-­mute, late-­deafened, and hard-­of-­hearing ­children together.146 Still the wariness ­toward differentiation persisted: of ­those schools that ­were not reinstated ­after the war, the vast majority ­were schools for the hard of hearing (many of which w ­ ere subsumed into larger schools for deaf-­mutes).147 The period of postwar reconstruction was thus seen by Narkompros to represent an opportunity, not merely to reconstruct the system of deaf schools, but to recover from the confusion and theoretical ambiguity that had resulted from the po­liti­cal strug­gles of the 1930s and to reinstate the role of the expert in the education of deaf c­ hildren. In 1946, a new “Position on Schools for Deaf-­ Mute C ­ hildren” was published, which set out the basic goals of Soviet deaf education. The purpose of Soviet education, it declared, was to “give pupils a general education and professional-­labor training” and to “teach ­children distinct oral speech that is comprehensible to ­those around them.” The mastering of knowledge and speech skills was to emerge from the activity and in­de­pen­dence (samostoiatel´nost´) of the child, and the linking of knowledge to life. From the age of twelve, pupils w ­ ere to be trained in a par­tic­u­lar ­labor skill at a UPM attached to the school. In contrast to the prewar period, teachers ­were expected to have e­ ither a qualification in defectology or a general qualification in pedagogy and at least five years of teaching experience.148

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The “Position” of 1946 thus focused on broad goals and administrative practice. In many ways, it reflected a widespread international interest in the education of deaf ­children at this time; Leila Monaghan points to the “huge boom in the development of deaf schools a­ fter World War II,” influenced by policies of nation building and the development of new technologies.149 Soviet deaf education following the war was also influenced by the debates surrounding expertise and scientific intervention that characterized Stalin’s last de­ cades. As Ethan Pollock argues, science became the testing ground for strug­gles between scientific objectivity and ideological orthodoxy, setting out “a painful, dangerous, and sometimes imaginative search for acceptable ways of presenting a worldview that was compatible with both canonical texts and new scientific discoveries.”150 In the years following the war, the theory of deaf education was opened up to renewed and intense debate, in the form of a protracted and ­bitter argument between Moscow’s Institute of Defectology, u ­ nder D. I. Azbukin, and Leningrad’s Institute of Special Schools (previously the Institute of Hearing and Speech), ­under M. L. Shklovskii. This argument is documented in two files, both ­running to several hundred pages, in the archive of the Acad­emy of Pedagogical Sciences. Shklovskii’s position stemmed primarily from a defense of oralism and the notion of “overcoming” hearing loss. During the late 1930s and immediately ­after the war, Shklovskii and the staff of the Institute of Special Schools had been conducting a pedagogical experiment in which deaf c­ hildren with some residual hearing w ­ ere trained to use that hearing. Shklovskii worked from the premise that the lack of differentiation in Soviet deaf schools caused ­children who w ­ ere not totally deaf, and who thus had the latent ability to learn to hear and speak, to become “deaf-­mute in practice” (prakticheskie glukhonemye) by interacting solely with other deaf-­mute c­ hildren and allowing their hearing skills to atrophy. Shklovskii made a study of 3,337 ­children in schools for deaf-­mutes in the Leningrad and Kalinin regions, and determined that of ­those, 1,159 had some degree of residual hearing, and a further 191 could be classified as hard of hearing.151 ­These ­children, argued Shklovskii, could be taught to use their limited hearing with the assistance of hearing aids and to learn to communicate through oral speech, in which case, they would “not be deaf-­mute and should not be taught in schools for deaf-­mutes.”152 For Shklovskii, therefore, the central question was one of identity: “WHO IS CONSIDERED A DEAF-­MUTE?”153 His work placed him in opposition to F. A. Rau, the former head of Moscow Deaf School No. 1 and a leading figure in late tsarist and early Soviet deaf education. In the Large Medical Encyclopedia, the entry on “deaf-­mutes,” written by Rau, considered the following p­ eople to be deaf-­mute: ­those deaf from birth or deafened before the age of

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one; ­those deafened before the age of six and who have subsequently lost what ­little speech they had learned; t­hose deafened in their early teens who retained limited speech; aphasics with normal hearing who cannot speak; and ­those “who before ­were deaf-­mute, but thanks to special education have learned to speak.”154 According to Rau, any child who could not “spontaneously” master oral speech without the assistance of a pedagogue should be considered deaf-­mute. Yet for Shklovskii, this lumping together of individuals with varied hearing and speech capacity artificially prevented them from overcoming their defect and becoming speaking individuals. His experiments sought to separate c­ hildren out on the basis of their level of speech perception and to teach them accordingly, with the goal, for t­hose whose speech abilities allowed it, of transferring them to mainstream schools in the shortest pos­si­ble time.155 Members of the Institute of Defectology remained unmoved by Shklovskii’s research, however, refusing to accept that a new administrative category of “deaf-­mutes with residual hearing” was necessary or that deaf ­children who mastered speech could be transferred to a mainstream school. In their response to Shklovskii, members of the institute seized on a peripheral part of his theory: that the inability of some deaf c­ hildren to master speech was not necessarily the result of a lack of hearing but due to other physiological defects affecting their speech.156 This idea had been put forward in a paper to the presidium of the Acad­emy of Pedagogical Sciences (APN) in April 1948 and was violently rejected by its vice president, B. P. Orlov. In a letter to Shklovskii, Orlov made it clear that the work of the Institute of Special Schools “contradicted the fundamental princi­ples of Soviet pedagogy.”157 ­Later that year, according to Shklovskii, the Institute of Defectology informed Minpros that they refused to engage with the Institute of Special Schools, warning that “if they receive something unpleasant from them [relating to Shklovskii’s theory], the Institute of Defectology ­will not reply, having warned the Ministry in good time.”158 By 1949, therefore, the ­battle lines w ­ ere drawn and the argument soon spilled over into the public arena. On January 15, an article appeared in the bi-­monthly journal Literaturnaia gazeta, in which V. Krizhanskii and I. Iurevich, two proponents of Shklovskii’s theory, set out his principal arguments and lambasted his ideological opponent, Professor Rau. Entitled “The Secret Island,” the article stated that Rau, a German theorist of the “Fatter school,” had imported the “reactionary views” of his teachers into the Soviet Union.159 Followers of the German theory, the authors argued, “indiscriminately place all ­children with any hearing disorder in the category of deaf-­mute, and declare that the hearing they do possess has no social, practical significance.” On

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the basis of this theory, and in opposition to the decrees of Narkompros, a “secret island” of undifferentiated schools for deaf-­mutes had been established in the RSFSR “to which all c­ hildren with even insignificant hearing and speech disorders are indiscriminately sent.” Of the 176 special schools in the RSFSR, the article said, only four catered to hard-­of-­hearing ­children. In ­these schools, ­children “­were instructed according to a muddled program which gave them scraps of primitive knowledge and ideas.” The progressive legacy of acclaimed nineteenth-­century Rus­sian surdopedagogues such as Georgii Aleksandrovich Gurtsov and Viktor Ivanovich Fleri, who advocated differentiating deaf education and giving deaf ­children a broad education on the same level as hearing ­children, was “constantly belittled and falsified by F. A. Rau and his followers.” Through his tenacious hold on Soviet deaf education, the article asserted, Rau and his colleagues thus “doomed [deaf ­children] to a life of deaf-­mutism.”160 “The Secret Island” thus framed the argument between the Leningrad and the Moscow Institutes as a fight between progressive, Soviet ideas and reactionary, “bourgeois” theories. Three years ­after the conclusion of the ­Great Patriotic War, the repeated, pejorative use of the word “German” was clearly designed to stir the sympathies of the reader. The article also implicitly criticized the notion of a distinct deaf community, set apart from the hearing world. Responses to the article similarly elided the categories of science and identity politics. P. I. Bragin, the chairman of the Kamyshin branch of VOG, wrote, “I read with g­ reat attention the article ‘The Secret Island,’ which correctly exposed the reactionary theory of education in schools for deaf-­mutes. We, the Soviet ­people, await the renewal of our school on the basis of a new theory of surdopedagogy.” Liudmila Kondrat´eva, from Leningrad, wrote that “for ten years I was considered deaf-­mute. Now I c­ an’t believe that [that term] applied to me. I was taught to hear and speak. I was transferred from the special school to a mainstream [massovaia] school.” Likewise, F. Miroshnaia, a ­mother from Leningrad, wrote that “they gave hearing and speech back to my child, whom the doctors had doomed to deaf-­muteness!” “What scientific squabbles could be more convincing than such agitated words!,” the editorial concluded.161 The Institute of Defectology was not slow to respond. Ten days a­ fter “The Secret Island” was published, the journal Meditsinskii rabotnik (The Medical Worker) published an answering article. Written jointly by professors V. Preobrazhenskii, A. Luriia, and O. Ageeva-­Maikova, the article, entitled “A Militant Pseudo-­Innovator and His Henchmen,” hit back at Shklovskii and passionately defended Rau. Rau, the authors asserted, had at no point argued against differentiation and “was himself one of the authors of a proj­ect for a

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differentiated network of special institutions.” By repeating this slander, they argued, the “zealous and ignorant satellites of Shklovskii cynically distort the truth.” “Who needs this patent lie?” they continued. “Who benefits by this slander of an honorable Soviet scholar who has helped thousands of ­people to become able-­bodied workers and citizens of the socialist country?” Preobrazhenskii and his colleagues did not deny that “the organ­ization of work with deaf-­mutes is in poor condition.” However, they insisted that steps ­were being taken and that Shklovskii’s “perverse and unscientific theories,” if accepted, would lead to further disintegration of that “­g reat and noble task.”162 Shklovskii’s followers made one final effort to convince the Soviet public, in a follow-up article of February 19, 1949. The authors pulled no punches: 35 to 40 ­percent of c­ hildren declared deaf-­mute had considerable residual hearing, but thanks to Rau’s theories, t­ hese c­ hildren remained “deaf in practice, and hence deaf-­mutes.” Rau’s belief in the hereditary transmission of deaf-­ muteness, they asserted, was based on Mendel’s theories of inheritance and was thus a short step away from promoting outright racism and eugenics: “We see with par­tic­u­lar clarity the deathly, soulless essence of Mendelianism carried into a field which is concerned with the speech of living ­people.” Moreover, the article in Meditsinskii rabotnik had proved that it was not just Rau who perpetuated ­these harmful theories but that other se­nior defectologists, such as Preobrazhenskii and Luriia, had “also played a considerable role.”163 By denying deaf p­ eople the chance to learn to speak, they insisted, t­hese experts had failed in their Soviet duty to help them overcome their defect and integrate into society. Despite this forceful rhe­toric, by the spring of 1949 it had become clear that the tide had turned definitively against Shklovskii. Immediately a­ fter the publication of the first article in Literaturnaia gazeta, an inspection commission, headed by Professor Leont´ev and including Luriia and other luminaries of the Institute of Defectology, was sent to inspect the work of the Institute of Special Schools.164 ­After the conclusion of their work, the commission informed Shklovskii that his experiment to “lift c­ hildren out of the condition of practical deaf-­muteness” could “harm pedagogical practice,” and the experiment was shut down. Thus the commission, Shklovskii commented, “thought it pos­si­ble, as a result of a two-­day, cursory examination of single ­children, to destroy with a stroke of a pen over fifteen years of pedagogical experience.”165 From that point on, Shklovskii’s theories, when mentioned at all, would be reduced to the notion of “combined hearing and speech defects” and dismissed as “false theory.”166 Even as Shklovskii became persona non grata in the world of Soviet defectology, a number of his ideas had taken root in postwar deaf education. In

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1948, the Institute of Defectology repudiated its existing system of differentiation, in which ­children w ­ ere determined to be deaf or hard-­of-­hearing on the basis of their speech ability when entering school. Instead, the new system proposed differentiation on the basis of the level of residual hearing.167 The use of residual hearing, with the assistance of group hearing aids, to teach deaf c­ hildren to speak became a fundamental part of the Soviet deaf education system from the 1950s.168 This also had the result of making the doctor’s diagnosis of hearing loss a defining moment in the education, and life, of a young deaf child. The most significant impact of Shklovskii’s theories was the shift in terminology from “deaf-­muteness” to “deafness.” The idea that deaf ­children could not learn to communicate through speech, a view which (despite Vygotskii’s efforts) had persisted throughout the 1930s, was definitively rejected. The Institute of Defectology and Narkompros began to refer separately to “deaf-­mute” and “deaf ” ­children in 1948, and by the late 1950s “deaf-­ mute” had ceased to be an administrative category, even disappearing from the name of VOG in 1959.169 The view that deaf ­children could not reach the same intellectual level as hearing ­children was dismissed in 1949 with the first unified plan for a standard middle-­school education for deaf ­children, which followed the same syllabus as the mainstream Soviet m ­ iddle school (with the exception of foreign languages).170 By 1949, therefore, the squabbles among the dif­fer­ent “schools” of deaf education had been concluded, and Narkompros and the Institute of Defectology could begin the pro­cess of standardizing the system of Soviet deaf education. Deaf c­ hildren, according to this system, w ­ ere to be diagnosed quickly at birth or ­after the onset of deafness and sent to an appropriate preschool fa­cil­i­ty, from which they would pro­g ress to the eight-­year standard ­middle school for the deaf. While at school, they would be taught to speak, using their residual hearing to the fullest, and aided by hearing a­ id technology and the use of fingerspelling. Through oral speech, they would then go on to study the full range of academic subjects, while gaining ­labor skills in the school’s workshops. On leaving school, they would thus have the opportunity to find a job in industry or move on to higher education in the tekhnikumy. Explicit in this view of deaf education was the notion that pedagogy could ultimately be curative: while deaf-­mute adults could work around their deafness with the aid of sign-­language translation and a worker identity, pupils of Soviet deaf schools had the opportunity to fully overcome their defect, shedding their identity as “mute” and becoming fully integrated into the Soviet collective. The postwar period, therefore, enabled Soviet theorists to elaborate a comprehensive system of deaf education and to take steps to put that system into

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practice. Similar to the reforms of VOG, ­these steps involved training cadres and enforcing standardized methods from the center. They also set out a vision of deafness as a prob­lem to be solved that would have continuing implications for the deaf experience. Soviet deaf education would undergo further changes, notably in 1960, when attempts ­were made to align the teaching practice of schools for the deaf with the December  1958 reforms of general education, and in 1967, when the rise in the profile of sign language among the deaf community provoked educational theorists to consider new ways of conceptualizing and teaching speech.171 By 1950, the fundamental notion of what deafness represented in the Soviet context and how it could be overcome through education had been definitively established.

Conclusion The postwar period saw ­g reat changes in the institutions and structures surrounding deaf ­people. Efforts to reconstruct the shattered infrastructure of the Soviet state provoked lasting shifts in that infrastructure, as deaf ­people and state bodies sought to rethink the nature of deafness and the relationship of deaf ­people to the state. This “reinvention” saw new ideas of welfare and materiality became apparent: the presence of disabled veterans of war engendered a new conception of ser­vice, as deaf ­people began to demand welfare and benefits in compensation for their disability. Concurrently, theorists of deaf education, in their exploration of oral speech, deaf identity, and Marxist selfhood, sought to establish how deaf ­children could be helped to overcome their defect and become “healthy,” active members of the Soviet body politic. ­These two trends appeared to show differing—­and potentially incompatible—­ visions of deafness. For deaf ­children, the notion of overcoming deafness was understood exclusively in terms of learning to speak; through speech, the world of knowledge and ­labor would be opened up to them. For deaf (and deafened) adults, overcoming took the form of an institutionalized deaf cultural identity, in which sign language and mutual support enabled deaf individuals to access the po­liti­cal and social values of the Soviet individual. The problematic implications of this tension ­were not immediately apparent, however. In the postwar period, both of ­these visions presupposed a certain passivity on the part of deaf individuals in the face of state ser­vice and care, one which would grow in significance over the subsequent de­cades. Equally, both provoked a stabilization of the institutional structures surrounding the deaf. Over the 1940s, VOG became a stronger, more accountable, and more centrally controlled organ­ization, with an increasingly rich material base. Similarly,

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the network of special schools ­under Narkompros fell ­under stronger practical and theoretical control from the state and from the Institute of Defectology. This stabilization laid the groundwork for the development of both institutions over the subsequent de­cades. Between the declaration of victory and the beginning of the 1950s, therefore, significant changes took place within the deaf community. T ­ hese changes ­were enshrined in legislation in the early 1950s, fi­nally bringing to fulfilment the new emphasis on ser­vice and welfare that had been developing during the 1940s. At the same time, the deaf community’s fight for the right to run their own ser­vices, which had raged throughout the 1920s and 1930s, found resolution in the stabilized VOG of the 1950s. Yet the competing visions of deafness put forward in t­ hese new institutions, and the implied passivity of deaf p­ eople in the face of expert intervention and welfare provision, w ­ ere at odds with the desire for the autonomy and “normality” inherent in the deaf community before the war. The postwar period thus engendered certain tensions in the way deaf p­ eople viewed themselves and w ­ ere viewed by the state. Following the death of Stalin, t­hese tensions would have scope to develop in new and unexpected ways.

Ch a p ter  4

The Golden Age

On the eve­ning of April 22, 1969, the ninety-­ ninth anniversary of Lenin’s birth, a crowd of deaf and hearing dignitaries gathered to celebrate the opening of the VOG Central (Republican) Palace of Culture, a purpose-­built cultural center for deaf citizens in the Izmailovo suburb of Moscow. The bright, modern complex, with its glass walls, striking visual displays, and airy central hall, ­housed a fully equipped 800-­seat theater, home to the country’s first professional deaf theater com­pany, the Theatre of Sign and Gesture (Teatr Mimiki i Zhesta, or TMZh). Above the theater, ­there was space for a library, six reception rooms, a café, and offices for the VOG Central Directorate.1 Speakers at the ceremonial event explored the significance of this new building in the history of the deaf community, framing its completion as a uniquely Soviet triumph. Such a t­ emple of culture for the deaf, they suggested, could not have existed e­ ither before the revolution or in the cap­i­tal­ist countries of the so-­called ­free West. As L. Leonidov, director of the TMZh, proclaimed: What was a deaf person before October? A doomed, wretched person, dragging out a miserable existence. ­Today, in 1969, on the eve of the cele­ bration of the 100th anniversary of V. I. Lenin’s birth, we can announce with pride that the All-­Russian Society of the Deaf is a mighty, united organ­ization with a widely deployed network of technical and general-­ 12 2

The G o l d e n A g e


educational institutions, nurseries, boarding schools, prominent industrial enterprises, clubs, h ­ ouses of culture, holiday homes, sanatoria, and all the riches of Rus­sia. A deaf person has become an equal citizen of the Soviet state. Therefore, our cele­bration ­today is doubly joyful.2 Alongside the Soviet triumphalism of the event, the opening ceremony was also quietly symbolic of a shift in the nature of deaf identity in the postwar era, with its emphasis on the emergent power of the VOG apparatus and the cele­bration of deaf social and cultural institutions. Leonidov’s insistence that the palace would represent a “territorial center of culture” and a site for the “aesthetic education” of VOG members suggests a growing recognition that deaf ­people had their own social, cultural, and aesthetic traditions that w ­ ere equally worthy of space and recognition. The event, with its overt cele­bration of deaf cultural forms, thus legitimized deafness as a dif­fer­ent but equally valid modality of Soviet identity. The twenty-­year period leading to the opening of the VOG Palace of Culture has been described by the deaf journalist Valerii Kuksin as the golden age (zolotoi vek) of the Soviet deaf community.3 The notion of a golden age is a particularly resonant one in Deaf studies, most commonly used to refer to the period before the Congress of Milan in 1880, when sign language culture was

Figure 7.  Opening of the VOG Palace of Culture, 1969. At the right, out of focus, is Pavel Sutiagin. Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

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sidelined in f­ avor of oralist education, a period characterized, in Paddy Ladd’s words, by “literacy and pride in all ­things deaf.”4 This term is certainly apt to describe the Soviet deaf experience between the early 1950s and the late 1970s. Soviet understandings of deafness in this period underwent a profound change; no longer a negative symbol of backwardness to be compensated for, or that would ultimately dis­appear with the transition to communism, deafness was increasingly framed in progressive terms as a legitimate Soviet community identity, institutionalized in the structures and establishments of VOG and characterized by unique forms of language, culture, and everyday life. The new spaces opened up by this rhetorical shift allowed the deaf community to establish financial and institutional frameworks for the ad hoc community practices and activities that had been developing since 1917, and to formalize their existence as a distinct community within the Soviet body politic. The deaf ­were far from the only Soviet marginal group to experience a golden age in this period. As Susan Reid argues, the social and aesthetic pro­ cesses of the Khrushchev Thaw saw an “articulation of distinct social identities and a re-­emergence of civil society.”5 The Khrushchev era, with its calculated move away from terror and t­oward mass participation and grassroots enthusiasm, paved the way for myriad subcultures to materialize within the structures of Soviet society.6 Like the stiliagi, the postwar subculture of “stylish youth,” the deaf community began publicly to assert a qualitatively new identity, grounded in institutions that stood outside the broader Soviet community. This identity favored the affective and the bodily over the dominant phonocentrism of mainstream Soviet culture, making the case for deafness as an alternative way of being. The assertion by the deaf community of their unique cultural traditions was mirrored, and indeed facilitated, by increasing hearing interest in the new spaces, institutions, and practices of this developing deaf culture, which w ­ ere seen to represent “a completely new phenomenon” in the Soviet cultural landscape.7 This proliferation of “Soviet nonpo­liti­cal subcultures,” to borrow Oleg Kharkhordin’s term, has been interpreted by some historians as the beginning of the end of the Soviet state as a utopian ideological proj­ect.8 However, Soviet deaf identity represented a complex intertwining of such marginal cultural practices with the broader ideological constructs espoused by the Soviet state. The assertion of a unique deaf identity was constantly tempered by the desire to show that identity to be fundamentally Soviet in its qualities, s­ haped by Soviet notions of a uniform and quantifiable “culturedness”—­expressed increasingly in hearing terms—­and permeated by values of collectivism, agency, welfare, and civic-­mindedness (obshchestvennost´). As Leonidov’s speech demonstrates, deaf p­ eople continued to frame sovietness as an opportunity

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for agency and a chance to overcome marginalization, an analy­sis that, in their view, had been vindicated by the success of the deaf community in the late Soviet period. The history of the deaf community thus challenges Denis Kozlov’s assertion that the post-­Stalin period was characterized by the “unmaking” of Soviet subjectivity.9 The golden age saw the flourishing of a deaf-­Soviet community: a deaf identity fully formed, but one that remained intimately intertwined with, and ultimately limited by, broader conceptions of Soviet individual and collective identity.

Changing Institutional Frameworks The golden age of the deaf-­Soviet community was, paradoxically, born of a crisis of deaf identity that emerged at the highest levels of the Soviet state apparatus. In August 1950, ­after publishing his work On Marxism and Questions of Linguistics, Stalin took to the pages of Pravda to respond to readers’ questions. In answer to a question about sign language, Stalin dismissed “deaf-­ mutes, who have no [spoken] language” as “abnormal p­ eople [anomal´nye liudi].” According to Stalin’s thesis, spoken language was the basis of thought and the foundation of all rational and historical understandings of h ­ uman selfhood. “In the history of mankind,” he declared, “spoken language is one of the forces that has helped ­human beings to emerge from the animal kingdom, unite into communities, develop their faculty of thinking, or­ga­nize social production, wage a successful war with the forces of nature, and reach the level of pro­g ress we have ­today.” Deaf ­people who relied on sign language to communicate, he said, w ­ ere incapable of accessing this level of individual and collective pro­g ress. Concluding his commentary, he noted that  it is clear that, since deaf-­mutes are deprived of language, their thoughts cannot arise on the basis of linguistic material. . . . ​The thoughts of deaf-­ mutes arise and can exist only on the basis of t­ hose impressions, sensations, and perceptions they form in everyday life—of objects in the surrounding world and of their relationships among themselves—­thanks to the senses of sight, touch, taste, and smell. Outside of ­these impressions, sensations, and perceptions, thought is empty, deprived of any content whatsoever; that is, it does not exist.10 Stalin thus explic­itly excluded signing deaf p­ eople from the “conscious” Soviet body politic. In a country advancing rapidly ­toward communism, it was implied, ­there could be no room for a group of ­people who communicated in such a primitive language of gestures.

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The appearance of such a categorical condemnation of sign language and its users was devastating. For Nikolai Buslaev, a twenty-­five-­year veteran of deaf activism, such an article could not pass without comment. On July 14, 1951, he sent a four-­page, closely typed letter to Stalin in which he sought to set the rec­ord straight and draw attention to the needs of deaf ­people. He began diplomatically, stating that “you place deaf-­mutes without language among the number of abnormal ­people. While in no way do I dispute your characterization, I would like to draw your attention to the other side of this question.” Buslaev set out the successes that had already been achieved by the Soviet deaf community: 35,000 literate deaf ­people, thousands with incomplete m ­ iddle school education, and over 300 with higher vocational qualifications; 40,000 deaf p­ eople working in state industry, of whom over 7,000 had been awarded state medals. ­These facts, he stressed, gave the lie to the notion that deaf p­ eople “must always remain abnormal in the land of socialism.”11 Buslaev’s decision to challenge Stalin directly adds another layer of complexity to our understanding of late Stalinism as a period of “absolute and unbending control.”12 Unlike the petitions to the ­g reat leader (vozhd´) in the 1930s, as discussed by Sarah Davies, Buslaev does not flatter Stalin, nor does he defer to Stalin’s innate wisdom on the subject of ser­vices for the deaf.13 His tone is instead didactic, setting out the prob­lems facing deaf ­people and demanding that Stalin accept his views: “In the Soviet Union t­ here are 200,000 deaf-­mutes. How can it be that our Soviet society, in the midst of building communism, can countenance such a quantity of defective ­people? Is it not obvious that Soviet medicine is lagging b­ ehind in this arena?”14 Buslaev’s take on deaf organ­ization is firmly rooted in the 1930s, with its belief in the necessity of literacy, communist education, and work placement, ser­vices which he admits are poorly or­ga­nized. He also underlines the utopian belief, echoing Lunacharskii, that effective work with deaf ­people could achieve “the transformation of all deaf-­mutes and blind ­people into fully fledged and cultured members of Soviet society, and ultimately ensure that u ­ nder communism ­there ­will be neither deaf-­mutes, nor blind p­ eople.”15 To that end, he proposes the unification of all ser­vices for deaf p­ eople in a special section within the Soviet of Ministers. The letter provoked an immediate response from the Soviet state organs. Within a month, Georgii Malenkov, Stalin’s right-­hand man in the Soviet of Ministers, had obliged the ministries of Education, ­Labor Reserves, and Health, as well as the trades ­union, to conduct studies into the position and treatment of deaf p­ eople across the Soviet Union. They concluded that “Comrade Buslaev’s criticisms . . . ​are accurate.”16 While none of ­these bodies supported Buslaev’s proposal to create a special deaf section within the Soviet of Minis-

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ters, all agreed that reforms ­were sorely needed. By October, a draft decree of the Soviet of Ministers of the USSR, “On Mea­sures to Fight Deafness and Deaf-­Muteness and to Improve Ser­vice for Deaf-­Mutes and the Deaf,” had been drawn up and sent out to relevant organs for comment; the final decree was signed into law by Stalin on December 27, 1951.17 This decree marked the beginning of a phase of considerable legislative activity concerning deaf ­people; the 1951 decree spawned further legislation by the Soviet of Ministers of the RSFSR, the ministries of Education, Social Welfare, and Health, and the secretariat of the VTsSPS over the course of the 1950s.18 The rash of new laws culminated in a further USSR-­level decree, “On the Improvement of General and Professional Education, Recruitment and Ser­vices for Deaf Citizens,” signed by Anastas Mikoian on July 27, 1962. This sweeping legislation spanned a particularly turbulent historical epoch and reflected changing Soviet state attitudes to difference, marginality, and disability. Stalin’s death on March  5, 1953 provoked a collective attempt to come to terms with the legacy of Stalinist repressions and a rethinking at all levels of society of the historic treatment of marginalized individuals by the state.19 Unsurprisingly, therefore, the social and cultural Thaw that emerged ­under Khrushchev’s leadership did much to promote the humane treatment of social groups and the ac­cep­tance of difference within the Soviet body politic. Yet, as the history of deaf legislation suggests, the origins of this shift in attitudes ­toward disabled groups predated Stalin’s death, emerging in the context of bigger discussions about social responsibility, welfare, and reward for suffering that characterized the years following World War II. The deaf w ­ ere not the only group to benefit from state legislation in this period: disabled veterans w ­ ere granted freedom from taxation and priority access to ser­vices from September 1945 on, and decrees improving the treatment of blind p­ eople ­were promulgated in 1953 (again, predating Stalin’s death) and 1954. The development of frameworks of care and support for disabled ­people, commonly considered to be a corollary of the Brezhnevite cult of the G ­ reat Patriotic War in the mid-1960s, thus had a significant prehistory, as evidenced by the speed and efficiency with which Stalin and the Soviet of Ministers responded to Buslaev’s letter and established new legislation governing the treatment of the deaf.20 This attempt on the part of the Soviet state to support deaf and disabled individuals was further extended by the 1956 pension reforms, which saw the disabled of group III (the administrative category into which the majority of deaf p­ eople fell) granted pensions of up to 400 rubles per month, regardless of their individual earnings.21 Despite a certain continuity of attitudes, the detail of this legislation also reflected dramatic changes in the po­liti­cal and ideological context that took

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place between 1951 and 1962, and uncovered significant shifts in the Soviet understanding of deafness as obstacle and as identity. The 1951 decree, as evidenced by its title, focused exclusively on the “fight against deafness and deaf-­muteness,” framing hearing loss as a practical obstacle to consciousness and agency. The decree did not question the fact that this obstacle should be tackled and eliminated; in many ways, therefore, it reflected Buslaev’s eschatological hopes that deafness could ultimately be overcome by education and medical science. The body of the decree was functionalist and bureaucratic, setting forth a series of practical mea­sures to prevent the incidence of deafness through medical intervention and prophylaxis and to improve ser­vices for existing deaf ­people in the fields of education, medical care, and employment.22 Some small discussion of leisure and the everyday life of deaf ­people was included, but it was confined to the provision of physical culture instructors, the subtitling of films, and the setting aside of some small state funds to rebuild local deaf clubs a­ fter the war. The 1962 decree, by contrast, put forward a much more ambitious vision of ser­vices for the deaf community, reflecting the growing interest u ­ nder Khrushchev in leisure, everyday life, and the imminent transition to communism.23 Discussions surrounding the decree recognized that deafness was still a considerable prob­lem, despite all efforts to eliminate it, and thus shifted the debate onto the reconciliation of deafness with the pro­cesses of forming the new man: the “familiarization of a person with ­labor and social life, his mastering of knowledge and qualifications.”24 The decree itself focused on improving deaf education, from employing trained specialists in deaf boarding schools to enabling access for deaf ­people to all higher education institutions. Alongside a strong emphasis on knowledge and professional ambition, the decree also foregrounded the grassroots activities of the deaf community, extending access to cultural and po­liti­cal education, and making provision for the building of “cultural and everyday” spaces for the deaf community, built with funds raised by the deaf community themselves. This decree thus suggested thinking about deafness, not as an obstacle to be eliminated in order for the Soviet individual to emerge but as a marker of identity that could coexist with sovietness, given the right circumstances and opportunities. Tellingly, the decree spoke of “deaf citizens” rather than “the deaf,” thus explic­itly claiming deaf ­people as integral members of the Soviet body politic. The history of state legislation regarding ser­vices for the deaf thus reflected shifting attitudes at the highest levels of the Soviet state to the welfare of disabled citizens, to issues of grassroots organ­izations and civil society, and to the importance of culture and leisure to the development of the new man. Yet as Buslaev’s intervention shows, this transformation of state attitudes did

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not develop in a vacuum but reflected and cemented developments within VOG and the deaf community itself. Since 1917, activists had promoted a vision of a deaf community that was centralized, institutionalized, and self-­ sustaining, a vision that had been considerably strengthened by war­time policies of industrial concentration and the postwar reconstruction of VOG. Sutiagin had promoted this institutionalization further ­after his election to the VOG chairmanship in 1949. Following his reform of the UPMs (now renamed Uchebnye proizvodstvennyi predpriatii, or UPPs) profits had doubled, and in January 1954 VOG became financially in­de­pen­dent, formally refusing its annual contribution of 5 million rubles from the state.25 This dramatic change in VOG’s finances had a significant impact on its activities and institutional reach. On the one hand, increased revenues meant that more money could be spent on work within the society. By 1959, VOG had 260 million rubles at its disposal, enough to cover the r­ unning costs of all local organ­izations, fund new capital building proj­ects within the VOG system, and finance some state proj­ects such as refurbishing and building deaf boarding schools and equipping pioneer camps.26 On the other hand, the success of deaf p­ eople in industry was seen as evidence that VOG no longer needed to focus exclusively on skills training and work placement. As Viktor Palennyi puts it, “Questions of job creation for deaf-­mutes ceased to be a prob­ lem: the deaf had proved that their ­labor was impor­tant to the country.”27 By 1956, the new VOG charter asserted that VOG’s main tasks now included the promotion of “cultural-­educational work among deaf p­ eople,” the opening of “theater studios, h ­ ouses of culture, clubs, red corners, cultural bases, stadiums, and sports grounds” and the building of “living spaces, boarding ­houses, and boarding schools.”28 Over the course of the 1950s and 1960s, VOG extended its reach into the deaf community. By August 1959, the VOG membership had fi­nally reached 100,000, making it, in the words of Sutiagin, a “truly mass organ­ization.” By 1967, this number had reached 166,908, or 88.6 ­percent of all registered deaf citizens of the RSFSR.29 This surge in grassroots membership was matched by the increased involvement of deaf members in the institutional frameworks of VOG, with 10,000 members working as part of VOG’s governing apparatus or its cultural aktiv by 1959. This numerical reach helped to expand VOG’s influence into more and more aspects of deaf ­people’s lives. While work placement and po­liti­cal education remained core activities, VOG began increasingly to take responsibility for the childhood, private life, cultural development, leisure time, and old age of deaf ­people: a cradle-­to-­g rave approach to deaf social ser­vices. In a sense, therefore, ­these changes to the structure of VOG mirrored the development of welfare policies across postwar

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Eu­rope.30 By the late 1950s, it was pos­si­ble to be educated in a VOG-­built school, entertained in a VOG Pioneer Camp, trained in a VOG UPP, and employed in state industry in a deaf brigade, served by a VOG-­funded sign-­ language instructor. Eve­nings could be spent in the local VOG club and summer holidays at one of the VOG holiday homes. Beginning in 1963, deaf ­people with additional disabilities could recuperate at the VOG nursing home, and el­derly deaf ­people could retire to a VOG-­sponsored old ­people’s home. As such, the institutional frameworks of VOG fostered a new understanding of deafness as a cultural community, united by language and shared interests, and encompassing all generations. This was as much a physical as a meta­phorical construction. VOG’s capital building program began in earnest in 1952 and was written into legislation in the Soviet of Ministers decree of 1962, by which date nearly 4 million rubles ­were being spent annually on construction across the RSFSR.31 Living, working, and leisure spaces ­were built, including blocks of flats for VOG members, new buildings for UPPs, boarding h ­ ouses for students, and premises for clubs and red corners, canteens, and nursery school buildings. In the early 1960s, VOG acquired a 130-­place holiday home (dom otdykha) in Kriukovo, outside Moscow.32 VOG also financed a number of flagship building proj­ects, such as the Central Republican Palace of Culture, the sanatoria Druzhba (opened in 1957) and Maiak (1965) on the Black Sea coast, and a home for el­derly deaf ­people in Armavir (1963).33 ­These buildings ­were subject to approval by state planning agency Gosplan, but ­were funded exclusively by VOG.34 ­These w ­ ere not merely buildings for the deaf, therefore; they ­were also buildings by the deaf. Many of t­hese construction proj­ects involved deaf ­labor, ­either professional deaf builders or volunteer l­ abor forces; the deaf engineer A. P. Semenov, for example, headed the team building the new UPP premises in Moscow.35 VOG also supported deaf families building their own homes, giving total grants of 22,000 rubles by 1963 for individual construction.36 In 1967, VOG also began to actively participate in the planning of ­these spaces through its own Specialist Design and Technical Planning Bureau (Spetsial´noe konstruktorskoe proektno-­tekhnologicheskoe biuro, or SKPTB), which produced plans for deaf industrial and living spaces, and was responsible for organ­izing the production of furniture, equipment, and technical gadgetry within the UPP network to improve the lives of deaf p­ eople.37 The focus on construction stemmed in part from the mass urban housing program instigated ­under Khrushchev, which, as Mark Smith argues, “transformed the Soviet cityscape . . . ​[and] helped to modify residents’ ideological consciousness within the new microdistricts.”38 Deaf ­people participated in this vision of the cityscape, with deaf families acquiring flats in the new utopian

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Figure 8.  VOG members rebuild the House of Culture, Kaliningrad, 1951. Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

districts such as Moscow’s Cheremushki.39 The construction of deaf living spaces and cultural institutions had par­tic­u­lar significance for the deaf. ­These buildings ­were seen as an example of VOG’s success in providing for its members; as Leningrad activist Simonova claimed in 1959, “Every­thing that we create, every­thing that we build, is the result of the ­labor of VOG members.”40 VOG had initially been content to rely on Gosplan and other state agencies to deliver ­these specialized institutional buildings, but their faith in the capacity and willingness of the state to provide for them had not been rewarded: as activists commented, “We are literally begging, we are not getting what we need.”41 The proj­ect to build the deaf Palace of Culture, for example, had been first mooted in 1936; in 1950, VOG had fi­nally been granted use of the basement of the old Stanislavskii theater on Khmeleva Street (now Pushkarev Lane) in Moscow, but the space was so small the fire safety inspectorate forbid the showing of subtitled films on the premises.42 As such, the completion of the Palace of Culture was viewed as an expression of deaf agency and a confirmation that deaf p­ eople w ­ ere the most suitable custodians of their own culture and leisure. The significance of t­ hese buildings was not merely in their construction but in the changing institutions and organ­izations—­and the visions of deafness—­ housed within them. As Sutiagin had argued, the justification of the building campaign lay in the fact that deaf p­ eople had “specific cultural needs which

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can only be served in special cultural institutions.” As a result, t­ hese buildings ­were designed to h ­ ouse a new, targeted form of deaf cultural engagement.43 Construction of this specialized network of clubs thus suggests the framing of deaf leisure experiences as a type of “parallel socialist modernity,” distinct from, yet implicated in, the broader goals of socialist construction that historians have identified as central to the Soviet club system.44 As Anne White describes it, the Khrushchev Thaw saw a “blossoming of or­ga­nized ‘popu­lar initiative’ and new forms of cultural enlightenment” propagated in clubs and ­houses of culture across the USSR and, increasingly, Eastern Eu­rope.45 In the same way, the VOG leadership paid significant attention to the development of cultural work among deaf ­people, supporting public lecture cycles, thematic eve­nings, cinema screenings, reader’s conferences, sign-­language newspapers, and theatrical per­for­mances by the hundreds of amateur theater groups that had sprung up across the RSFSR.46 By 1959, VOG had 13 ­houses of culture, 93 clubs, 349 red corners, and 356 libraries within its system, many of which had received new premises or benefited from the 7 million rubles in grants given out to refurbish existing buildings.47 This was not simply a question of creating comfortable, adapted leisure spaces that served the needs of deaf ­people. The involvement of VOG in shaping the cultural lives of its members shows the deaf community to be equally implicated in what Kristin Roth-­Ey describes as the Soviet cultural “ ‘­table of ranks’ that placed the fine arts, and especially lit­er­a­ture, above ­those cultural products that won mass audiences but w ­ ere not defined as art.”48 Beyond the development of the local club system, the Thaw era also saw the foundation of several “high artistic” institutions for the deaf. In 1957, the Soviet of Ministers approved a proposal to establish a VOG theater studio in Moscow to train young deaf actors: the first gradu­ates would go on to found the TMZh, the world’s first professional deaf theater, which was registered with the state in 1963 and would find a permanent home on the stage of the Palace of Culture in 1969.49 Also in 1957, VOG relaunched Zhizn´ glukhikh as a monthly magazine; by 1963, its subscription rates had reached 27,250.50 The magazine showcased the po­liti­cal and cultural activities of VOG members and gave par­tic­u­lar space to visual art and theater. This collection of deaf cultural institutions was further augmented in 1960 when VOG opened the Studio of Fine and Applied Arts in Leningrad.51 ­These “high artistic” institutions framed themselves as new and innovative, but they drew on deaf traditions of cultural and social activity that predated the war. Amateur theaters, such as the Moscow Theatre of Deaf-­Mutes, had existed since the early 1920s.52 Many of the cultural activities engaged in by the new clubs and h ­ ouses of culture, such as artistic circles, sign-­language

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newspapers, po­liti­cal lectures, and other forms of visual agitation, had been common to the prewar VOG club system. Indeed, many of the found­ers and innovators of the new cultural institutions within VOG ­were veterans of ­these forms of work.53 ­These veterans sought to use the opportunity of increased funds and state recognition to, in the words of Zhizn´ glukhikh editor Ieronim Konstanovich Labunskii, “develop and perfect” the traditions of deaf cultural and social activity.54 As such, VOG’s efforts in the 1950s and 1960s ­were directed ­toward improving existing cultural traditions, turning what had been ad hoc local practice into a more permanent and perfected form of deaf cultural engagement.55 Along with formalizing t­ hese cultural practices, VOG used new institutions such as the TMZh as cultural exemplars within the deaf community. From the outset, the TMZh was explic­itly envisaged as a cultural hub: its found­ers sought to “concentrate within it the generalization of experience and methodological guidance of peripheral circles” and to communicate that experience to amateur groups.56 The theater began to tour in the early 1960s, performing in cities throughout the RSFSR and Ukraine, and giving guidance and advice to amateur theater groups ­after each per­for­mance.57 Regional conferences enabled local amateur theater workers to meet and exchange experiences, and the TMZh established short courses in Moscow for amateur directors to improve their skills. VOG also began to hold a regular All-­Russian Review of Clubs, reporting best practices on the pages of Zhizn´ glukhikh. Indeed, the magazine was described in internal VOG documents as a “tribune for the exchange of experience” and a vehicle for the circulation of information about how best to run deaf cultural institutions.58 The culmination of this impulse to standardization came with the opening of the Palace of Culture, which was placed at the center of the network of deaf cultural institutions. Sutiagin proclaimed that “cultural education work in ­these cultural institutions ­will, as it ­were, accumulate in this Central Republican House of Culture. ­Here, all new forms of club work ­will be studied, synthesized and disseminated.”59 The expanding frameworks of the VOG system that emerged in the early 1950s ­were thus intended to identify, perfect, and institutionalize the vari­ous forms of cultural and social engagement by deaf ­people that had developed over the course of the Soviet period. The reforms to VOG’s financial position, combined with an increased interest by the Soviet state in providing ser­vices for the deaf, gave VOG the power to develop professional, ­unionwide versions of ­these ad hoc practices, with the foundation of the TMZh and the Arts Studio, the relaunch of Zhizn´ glukhikh, and the building of dedicated leisure and living spaces for deaf individuals and families. This drive to “perfect and professionalize” could not help but bring about qualitative changes in the nature

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and understanding of the Soviet deaf community. Institutionalization had the inevitable result of foregrounding the practices and cultural traditions of deaf ­people, and of carving out a place for deaf culture in the Soviet cityscape.

Deaf-­Sovietness The impact of institutionalizing deaf culture can be seen most clearly in changing attitudes to sign language. In 1957, VOG published the Soviet Union’s first sign-­language dictionary, The Hand Alphabet and Speech Gestures of Deaf-­ Mutes (Ruchnaia azbuka i rechevye zhesty glukhonemykh). Written by Iosif Florianovich Geil´man, a linguist and hearing child of deaf parents, the volume included photographic depictions of the commonest sign words arranged alphabetically according to their Rus­sian equivalents. It was prefaced by an extended introduction, which explored the nature of sign as a language, setting out its history, its internal grammatical structures, and its capacity for further development. As such, Geil´man’s work stood as an implicit rejection of Stalin’s thesis that sign language was a poor substitute for spoken language and incapable of supporting abstract thought. “For the deaf-­mute who has not mastered spoken language,” Geil´man argued, “gesture-­signs serve as a tool of the embodiment of thought.”60 As well as being a spirited defense of sign, Geil´man’s volume engaged with developing international trends in the study and standardization of sign language. William Stokoe, Geil´man’s con­temporary in the United States, conducted extensive research into the linguistics of sign in this period, arguing in 1960 that “the communicative activity of persons using this language is truly linguistic and susceptible of micro-­linguistic analy­sis of the most rigorous kind.”61 This scholarly legitimization of sign language gave rise to utopian dreams of its international unification. Delegates to the World Federation of the Deaf affirmed their intention that “sign language should be made uniform, as well as the finger-­alphabet (dactylology), in order to have a single system in all countries.”62 The working group to create this universal sign language, known as Gestuno (the precursor to International Sign Language), called on national deaf bodies to establish their own commissions to study and unify their national sign language as a first step ­toward international unification.63 Geil´man’s research was mobilized ­toward that end. Sign in the USSR, and ­indeed in the RSFSR, was still dominated by local dialects. For example, a review of a per­for­mance by the Kharkov Amateur Theatre Studio in Moscow noted that comprehension was difficult, due to “the difference between the Kharkov and Moscow sign ‘codes.’ ”64 A VOG report suggested that linguistic

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study of sign language was necessary “for the beginning of the unification of the sign language of deaf-­mutes in the USSR.”65 VOG institutions and state decrees engaged with this drive to standardize and legitimize sign language, giving official sanction to long-­developed practices. Both the 1951 and 1962 Sovmin decrees confirmed the use of sign-­language interpretation in state industry, with the 1951 decree establishing norms of provision of one instructor-­interpreter for e­ very twenty to fifty deaf workers, at a fixed salary equivalent to that of a shift supervisor.66 The 1962 decree extended this provision, promising one additional interpreter for e­ very ten to twenty deaf students studying in technical schools, tekhnikumy, and VUZy.67 The use of sign language in work and education was normalized by the state and expanded rapidly, with over five hundred VOG-­f unded interpreters working in state industry by 1959.68 VOG also sought to improve the quality of this interpretation through central training courses and through Geil´man’s dictionary, which was intended to promote “the raising of the ­culture of interpreting, the improvement of the current system of speech gestures, and the achievement of their complete universality, at first for the deaf-­mutes of the RSFSR, and ­later the USSR.”69 This growing ac­cep­tance of sign language was particularly striking in light of Stalin’s comments in 1951 and in the context of the widespread Russification policies of the Khrushchev era. As Lenore Grenoble argues, “The Khrushchev era (1953–1964) introduced the vision of a new Soviet p­ eople, united not only po­liti­cally but through the use of one language.”70 In contrast to the 1920s, the notion of a ­mother tongue had ­little po­liti­cal power: spoken and written Rus­sian ­were key to the creation of the Soviet citizen. Strikingly, however, sign language pushed against this trend. While disputes over the legitimacy and expressive ability of sign language did not go away, the shifts propelled by Geil´man’s volume saw a broader recognition that sign language was, in his words, the “fundamental (and not remedial) mode of communication” of the deaf.71 On the pages of Zhizn´ glukhikh, a double-­page spread was regularly given over to letters from teachers, workers, and other interested parties arguing for and against the use of sign, with many declaring publicly that sign was “vitally necessary” (zhiznenno neobkhodimo) and should be recognized as a language in its own right.72 In education, for the first time since the 1920s, specialists considered formally introducing sign language into the classroom. Although the planned reforms did not ultimately materialize, defectologists such as A. I. D´iachkov and S. A. Zykov argued publicly that sign language was the ­mother tongue of deaf ­children and should be given consideration as the language of the “­children’s collective of deaf-­mutes” within the school.73

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The Theatre of Sign and Gesture was also called on to participate in this legitimizing pro­cess. The mere fact of the TMZh’s existence was seen to validate sign language as a marker of cultural identity for deaf ­people; as Labunskii stated in the pages of Zhizn´ glukhikh, “The existing ‘literal’ language of deaf-­mutes has the right to repre­sen­ta­tion even on the stage.”74 By 1966, the role of theater in promoting sign language was included in official reports of its activities: “For t­hose who speak in sign language, the theatre can become a sort of school for correct, precise, and colorful language.”75 Indeed, the use of sign language on the stage allowed the language to develop in new ways.76 The relative scarcity of sign language vocabulary, acknowledged by Geil´man, was a consistent prob­lem for theater groups working with written Rus­sian texts. The sign-­theater tradition, however, encouraged theater groups to push linguistic bound­aries and develop new gestures to render complex texts into sign. Neologisms created on the stage found their way into the conversation of artists and audience members, renewing and expanding the language.77 This practice also highlights the interconnected nature and development of sign languages across the Soviet space. Geil´man himself noted that “when Rus­sian deaf-­mutes travel to neighboring republics, communication takes place spontaneously, without an interpreter.”78 In 1970, the Theatre of Sign and Gesture visited seventy-­three cities across the USSR, teaching sign language as it went.79 As the case of sign language demonstrates, even as the deaf spaces and institutions established in the 1950s and 1960s reflected longstanding deaf traditions, they also brought about qualitative changes to the nature and understanding of deaf expressions of culture. The network of institutions established by VOG proved instrumental in establishing new, positive forms of deaf identity. Central to this developing identity was the VOG club. Tom Padden and Carol Humphries point out that such institutions have historically been instrumental in fostering a sense of a deaf cultural community: “Clubs served as socializing institutions, places where one could go to learn to be Deaf, to enjoy the com­pany of other Deaf ­people and the ease of communicating, perhaps for the first time in one’s life.”80 Yet while U.S. deaf clubs ­were privatized and often fragmented, serving dif­fer­ent ethnicities, classes, and cultural groups separately, the VOG system of clubs and facilities represented a network of deaf institutions that was integrated and almost universal in scope. Through such clubs, members of VOG w ­ ere socialized into a form of Soviet deaf community that became a fundamental part of their everyday identities. A review of the cultural lives of deaf residents in Gor´kii, for example, noted the existence of a “­whole inflorescence of cultural centers for

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deaf-­mutes” in the city, including a city club and specialized red corners in all major factories that employed deaf workers. The article stressed the importance of the central club in the lives and identities of deaf residents of the city: In the eve­nings, ­after their shifts, the “­people of silence” eagerly come to the center of the city from all corners of Gor´kii. Even in the after­ noons, the club is lively: workers from nearby enterprises come ­here on their lunch breaks to read the latest newspapers and magazines. In the eve­nings, it is even livelier: where e­ lse could a sociable gesticulating person just drop by? T ­ here is news to exchange, friends to meet, new exhibitions to visit, and lectures, films, and amateur concerts to watch.81 In the institution of the club, therefore, deaf ­people could develop a sense of themselves as members of a par­tic­u­lar community: the “­people of silence” or “gesticulating p­ eople.” As t­hese clubs developed in size and scope, often moving into specialized new facilities, deaf p­ eople ­were given the opportunity to explic­itly construct themselves as a social and cultural community, with par­tic­u­lar needs and interests that ­were worthy of recognition. New leisure institutions such as the TMZh served to further develop this sense of community, which, through tours, exhibitions, and cultural exchanges, stretched beyond the limits of the factory and the city to encompass the ­whole of the USSR. Genadii Mitrofanov, an actor from the TMZh, remembers that time: “I ­will never forget the triumphant tours in the first years ­after the opening of the TMZh; we traveled around many of the capitals of the Union Republics, and everywhere ­there was recognition and gratitude from audiences. Then, and in the 1970s, the tours ­were always sold out, despite the fact that the tickets ­were not ­free.”82 The expansion of sports networks also contributed to this sense of deaf community. Sports had featured heavi­ly in early Soviet deaf organ­ization, with sports clubs attached to most regional deaf organ­izations and the first All-­Russian Deaf Spartakiada held in August 1932. In the postwar period, Rus­sian deaf sports ­were given a boost by the Soviet Union’s inclusion in the International Deaf Games (now known as the Deaflympics) in 1957, which provoked the expansion and further professionalization of Soviet deaf sporting competition. In 1960, the All-­Russian Sporting Federation of the Deaf was founded, to coordinate all deaf sport across the RSFSR. By 1970, 22 ­percent of all VOG members took part in or­ga­nized sports. At the Eleventh International Deaf Games in Belgrade in 1969, the USSR won ninety-­nine medals, including forty gold.83 Yet for competitors and trainers, “We did not see the pursuit of rec­ords as our

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main task, but rather the mass character of sport and a healthy way of life. ­Every competition was a cele­bration. . . . ​Even factory veterans took part in the competitions.”84 The development of specialized deaf institutions and activities thus fostered a sense of belonging to an “­imagined community” of the Soviet deaf. It was not only institutions that had this effect. The creation of specialized deaf spaces further promoted this sense of a deaf community. As Mike Gulliver argues, deaf space “is created by sharing and interaction lived out in the visually interactive world of sign language. . . . ​The knowledges that produce them (and the knowledges that are produced within them) have developed over time in ways that make them profoundly dif­fer­ent in nature and priority from t­ hose of hearing ­people.”85 Memoirs of the late Soviet period place special emphasis on the experience of building and inhabiting t­ hese unique deaf spaces. Alla Borisovna Slavina, the deaf activist and historian, describes the impact of the new UPP complex in the Tekstil´shchiki region of Moscow, which included a boarding h ­ ouse for students and a block of fifty-­eight flats for the families of VOG workers and activists: “In this brick, five-­story building, t­ here w ­ ere only deaf families. The spirit of collectivism reigned. Every­one visited each other and gathered to take the air in the l­ittle courtyard. The joy of deaf p­ eople, who ­until this moment had lived in communal flats, was unsurpassed. The mutual aid and understanding that existed in that building did not exist elsewhere.”86 As Slavina’s reminiscences suggest, the deaf living and leisure spaces built by VOG, including the deaf holiday homes on the Black Sea, w ­ ere experienced as qualitatively dif­fer­ent from ordinary “hearing” space, promoting a distinct sense of community, qualities of mutual aid and collectivism, and a reliance on the visual that was absent elsewhere. This sense of togetherness continued the practices of concentration long promoted by deaf boarding schools and the deaf brigades in industry.87 As such, the existence of ­these spaces did much to cement the understanding of the deaf community as an everyday phenomenon, as much a part of the private lives and leisure experiences of deaf citizens as of their public activities. As ­these everyday spaces developed, it became more difficult to argue that the deaf community merely represented a form of sovietness in parallel with the hearing world. This community was increasingly expressed in terms of a cultural identity, defined through the tastes and inclinations of deaf p­ eople, which pushed the bound­aries of being Soviet. The deaf community, in its growing distinctiveness, existed in what Lewis Siegelbaum has termed the “borders of socialism”—­physical and conceptual spaces in which broader state goals and conceptual frameworks existed in tension with personal desires and informal community practices.88 If in the 1930s VOG activists had resisted the

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Figure 9.  The Maiak Holiday Home near Sochi. Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

notion of a distinctive deaf cultural identity, stating that “special conditions do not imply a separate culture!,” the Thaw era began to see the articulation of deaf identity in positive terms, defined through cultural engagement, linguistic specificity, and a raft of everyday traditions that ­were strengthened throughout the de­cade.89 This identity was framed and developed on the pages of Zhizn´ glukhikh, which discussed the constants of deaf cultural engagement and set out how they could be advanced through the new institutions of VOG. On the opening of a national exhibition of fine art by deaf p­ eople in 1958, deaf journalists noted the “natu­ral” inclinations of deaf ­people ­toward visual forms of culture; articles on the foundation of the Theatre Studio noted that “in the heart of nearly ­every nonhearing person lives a keen sense of rhythm, a striving for musicality, for plasticity.”90 Deaf ­people, it was noted, had unique ways of perceiving the world and traditions of engaging with culture: the references to “our” art and “our” theater played a central role in the developing deaf identity politics of the period. With the foundation of new deaf cultural institutions, deaf cultural activists sought to push ­these traditions forward, developing new forms of art that would stand apart from hearing traditions. This experimentation centered on the TMZh, which was called on by activists to rework the traditions of amateur deaf theater and develop a self-­consciously new form of theatrical culture: “All t­ hose who are interested in the birth of, in princi­ple, a new deaf theater, must make a g­ reat effort, in order that, through creative discussions and practical experiments, the essence and forms of the Theatre of

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Silence can be found. The first step in this ­matter is to carry out an impartial discussion of this question on the pages of our magazine.”91 According to ­these activists, the traditional form of deaf theater—­the adaptation of written plays into sign language and their per­for­mance in the “natu­ral” style in keeping with traditions of Socialist Realism—­had “aged [and] is not achieving its goals.”92 Instead of attempting to replicate hearing forms on the stage, they claimed, the new deaf theater should privilege silence and bodily gesture, the unique attributes of deaf communication. In the first years of its existence, the TMZh troupe experimented widely with mime techniques to create a form of theater that would represent the deaf in art.93 The TMZh staged full-­length mime per­for­mances in 1963 and 1972. The first of t­ hese, ­People Lived, based on a short story by Maksim Gorky, was praised in Izvestiia for representing “a completely new phenomenon”: “A new, dramatic style of per­for­mance has arisen within our home-­g rown mime.”94 Deaf actor Ritta Zhelezova described the second, The Enchanted Island, as “a fantasy play, a dream play. . . . ​The rich lexis of mime is pres­ent: the mimicry of the face, the play of the eyes, and the plasticity of the body are raised to the artistic level of ballet.”95 Mime was seen to enrich the traditions of deaf theater, enabling deaf actors to convey depths of emotion, and thus establishing deaf theater as an art form that stood apart from hearing culture. By the mid-1960s, therefore, deafness was clearly being promoted as a distinct social identity, defined through the institutions of VOG, with its own specific cultural, social, and linguistic traditions. At the same time, the articulation of this positive identity gave VOG the space to acknowledge the existence of dif­fer­ent cohorts within the deaf community, and to challenge the belief that all Soviet deaf p­ eople ­were essentially the same. The deaf ­people served by VOG in this period ­were qualitatively dif­fer­ent from the prewar deaf community, as a result of both the developing institutional reach of VOG and the changing medical and historical landscape. While no systematic rec­ords ­were kept of the hearing status of VOG members, it is clear that the postwar picture was considerably dif­fer­ent from the 1930s, when the vast majority of VOG members w ­ ere industrial workers who had e­ ither been born deaf or lost their hearing due to childhood fevers. A VOG report from 1954 noted that the number of deaf ­people in the RSFSR had risen by 7.6 ­percent due to the presence of deafened war veterans and the discovery of new contingents of adult deaf ­people in the countryside, but that the number of deaf ­people ­under sixteen had dropped by 10.8 ­percent due to the rise in the material well-­being of the Soviet ­people, as well as the fight against diseases of the ear, nose, and throat.96 In 1970, VOG held an exchange of membership cards, during which they counted 169,855 deaf ­people in the RSFSR,

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of whom 133,763 ­were profoundly deaf and 36,092 hard of hearing; 21,228 of the total ­were ­under the age of sixteen. As such, late-­deafened adults ­were increasingly pres­ent within the structures and membership of VOG. In light of ­these changes, deaf activists began to discuss the VOG membership in terms of separate and distinct cohorts (young ­people, late-­deafened, pensioners) and to propose varied cultural work to accommodate differing tastes and abilities.97 The Central Palace of Culture in Moscow led the way, hosting regular themed events, a filial of the “­People’s University of Culture,” dedicated eve­nings for students and pensioners, lipreading classes for late-­deafened ­people (the so-­called gubisty, a term which had fi­nally lost its pejorative 1930s overtones), and speech development classes for early-­deafened adults.98 Young ­people w ­ ere served by debates, and KVN eve­nings (Klub veselykh i nakhodchivykh, or Club of the Merry and the Resourceful). ­There ­were regular sign-­ language newspapers that discussed issues of the day, alongside other forms of “visual agitation,” including amateur documentaries, exhibitions of TASS photography, wall newspapers, and a permanent satirical exhibition called “The Fighting Pencil” (Boevoi karandash).99 The Central Palace of Culture also sent representatives into local deaf schools to run amateur dramatic circles, teach fine art and woodworking, and put on lectures and per­for­mances.100 ­These events showed the intersecting influences of deaf and Soviet culture: visual culture and tailored forms of deaf education sat alongside a more traditional diet of what Gleb Tsipursky has termed “socialist fun.”101 Admittedly, this expansion of choices and opportunities for deaf individuals was not yet universal. While the reach of VOG institutions had expanded greatly during this period, provision of social and cultural ser­vices was still uneven, particularly in the provinces. The alienation of hearing, rural cohorts from sites of Soviet education was a perennial prob­lem, but its impact was seen as even greater for the deaf, whose socialist transformation seemed to require much more active intervention.102 Articles in Zhizn´ glukhikh condemned ­these failing provincial clubs, calling for greater management and control from the center to rectify the boredom found in t­ hese establishments. The situation was considerably worse in the countryside, where a large percentage of VOG members did not have a primary organ­ization within easy reach.103 Funding was unevenly distributed; as one deaf activist pointed out in 1959, for ­every 150 rubles the society spent on leisure activities for each deaf individual in the cities, it spent an equivalent 5 rubles for each deaf individual in the countryside. While VOG had managed to build eight apartment blocks for deaf workers in collective farms by 1967, the policies of concentration and the fostering of deaf cultural and living spaces ­were difficult to implement: in 1967 the VOG Central Directorate reported that the

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majority of ­these individuals ­were over forty years of age, married, with stable work and living arrangements in hearing collective farms, and as a result did not wish to be integrated into the deaf community.104 Certainly, VOG took steps to rectify this unevenness of provision, sending representatives to provincial VOG organ­izations to lend methodological guidance and inviting provincial deaf activists to the center for training.105 In the countryside, VOG continued to promote interregional “rally conferences.” They also embarked on an extended consultation pro­cess to determine how best to serve the rural deaf, which, in an echo of 1930s practices, involved urban deaf activists traveling to the countryside to conduct interviews with 109,898 rural deaf inhabitants.106 Attempts ­were made to bring the deaf cultural revolution to the countryside, as in 1963, when students of the Arts Studio ­were sent to teach drawing to deaf collective farm workers.107 With ­every year, however, the urgency of this question diminished as the cohort of rural deaf individuals shrank further. While deaf collective farms continued to exist, a report in 1970 noted that, over the previous two years, more than three thousand deaf individuals had been reclassified as industrial rather than agricultural workers. The report suggested that this change was due to a significant number of deaf pensioners retiring while young deaf gradu­ates who had come to the cities to study chose to remain t­ here and enter industry.108 As such, the experience of deafness in this period can be read as a predominantly urban experience. In the cities, particularly Moscow and Leningrad, the phalanx of cultural and social initiatives tailored for deaf ­people not only highlighted the existence of a distinctive deaf culture but also served further to promote the success of deaf p­ eople as a group. The golden age was not merely seen as a period of deaf community cohesion and a flourishing of deaf culture but also as the ultimate vindication of deaf p­ eople’s abilities and agency, the justification of early activists’ insistence that, in the words of “The Internationale,” deaf p­ eople could “win their liberation with their own hands.” In purely statistical terms, deaf ­people demonstrated considerable agency and in­de­pen­dence in this period; by 1970, 83.4 ­percent of deaf ­people over the age of fifteen ­were “engaged in socially useful l­ abor, that is, work in industry, agriculture, or the VOG system, or they study.” 3.9 ­percent ­were unable to work due to other disabilities and 12.7 ­percent ­were ­house­wives or pensioners.109 This was not merely a question of employability in numerical terms but of a qualitative change in deaf ambitions and ­career paths. For the first time, the vast majority of deaf c­ hildren graduated from school with an education of between five and eight years (approximately 2,000–2,200 gradu­ates per year) and in large numbers continued on to specialist technical education. While the

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majority chose to study in the VOG UPPs or in VOG trade schools in Tula and Gor´kii, many went on to study at higher technical establishments or even at university. In the late 1950s, groups of deaf students could be found studying with the help of sign-­language interpreters at ten technical schools across the RSFSR, specializing in mechanical engineering, sewing, printing, physical culture, and planning.110 Deaf groups also studied in prestigious higher educational establishments such as Moscow State University (MGU), the Bauman Higher Technical School, Tomsk Industrial University, the Higher School of Trades Union Movement, and the Higher Party School. The fight to gain access to worker’s faculties in the 1930s had thus paved the way for a plethora of educational opportunities for postwar deaf ­people. This expansion of options in further and higher education changed the working landscape for deaf p­ eople. No longer confined to unskilled l­abor or learning on the job, they now had the opportunity to achieve their ambitions in highly skilled and qualified professions. ­Those who succeeded w ­ ere then held up as examples for other young deaf p­ eople to follow. For example, Dmitrii Smetanin, who lost his hearing at the age of fourteen, received a doctorate in oceanography and led a group of chemical hydrologists on an Acad­emy of Sciences expedition.111 Vladimir Ivanovich Domrachev became a lecturer in engineering at Kazan Aviation Tekhnikum.112 Slavina became a qualified archivist at the Central State Military-­Historical Archive of the USSR.113 The majority of deaf industrial laborers worked in qualified, mechanized industry, demonstrating a high level of skill and frequently winning state medals.114 Many deaf gradu­ates chose to become teachers. According to a VOG brochure published in 1957, “Deaf ­people have shown in practice that they can achieve professional qualifications to work in the most varied branches of the economy and become full-­fledged builders of communism.”115 Indeed, one of the most significant deaf success stories of the 1950s laid bare the rhetorical and practical linkages between deaf successes and the broader utopianism of the Khrushchev era. Sergei Usachev, who had lost his hearing before starting school, entered the rabfak with Buslaev in 1931, and then went on to study at the Higher School of Professional Activity in the engineering department, qualifying and entering the factory shortly before the war. In the mid-1950s, he joined the Sputnik engineering team ­under Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, working on the ground apparatus that would enable the launch of the world’s first artificial satellite in 1957. Usachev recounted his experiences on Korolev’s team in his memoirs: With time, they began to trust me to complete complex and crucial tasks, for example the reworking of the automatic systems of refueling and

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the structures for uncoupling the apparatus from the rocket at the moment of blast off. . . . ​ I remember well that day, when the first artificial satellite of the Earth was sent into orbit. Our joy was without limits: u ­ nder the guidance of S. P. Korolev, our collective had successfully completed one of the most fundamental tasks.116 Korolev demonstrated the interrelationship between his developing reputation as a trustworthy deaf engineer and the significant technical achievement of sending the first rocket into space. Sputnik served as a resonant symbol of the “total liberation” of the Thaw years following Stalin’s death; the linking of a deaf rocket scientist to this achievement was an equally power­ ful symbol of deaf p­ eople’s participation in the building of a better society ­under communism.117 Deaf successes ­were not confined to technical fields. Institutions such as the TMZh and the Arts Studio also offered deaf p­ eople the opportunity to succeed in the creative professions. The first cohort of the Theatre Studio was widely publicized as an example of deaf ­people’s ability to demonstrate their “love of theater art,” regardless of their background. In 1959, Zhizn´ glukhikh published “They W ­ ill Be Actors,” a sketch detailing the individual histories and training of the seventeen students chosen to become the first actors of the theater. Many had come to the Theatre Studio straight from school, but still more had chosen to change professions from the more “traditional” deaf occupations of metalworker or seamstress. Eleonora Borodulina, for example, “deci­ded to become a ‘real actress,’ transferring to studies from industry, where she was a qualified master tailor.”118 Actor Viktor Chebyshev l­ ater reminisced, “­After school and a year of working in the factory I had to choose: to go to technical school or to the Theatre Studio?”119 For Chebyshev to be able to pose this question spoke volumes about the development of choices within the deaf community. Deaf p­ eople ­were also integrated further into the po­liti­cal and ideological structures of the Soviet state. By 1959, 84 ­percent of the VOG presidium w ­ ere full or candidate members of the Communist Party. In the late 1960s, the first group of deaf students was accepted to the History Faculty of the Institute of Marxism-­Leninism, an offshoot of the Moscow branch of the Communist Party; ­after graduating from the program in 1970, t­ hese students worked as lecturers and teachers of po­liti­cal education in the VOG system.120 Throughout the period, political-­educational work was inextricably intertwined with the development of deaf social and cultural forms; indeed, the development of sign-­language culture and deaf theater did not develop in a vacuum but

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emerged as a means of disseminating to deaf ­people a specific ideological message.121 Discussions of amateur deaf theater in Zhizn´ glukhikh, for example, ­were at pains to stress that “a play or stage work of any genre must answer communist ideology, serve the goal of the communist education of the ­people. We ­don’t need nonideological t­hings, only ‘humorous’ or ‘in­ter­est­ ing.’ They merely waste the creative charge [zariad] of the collective.”122 Deaf creative forms, such as the sign-­language newspaper, ­were used to propagandize the decisions of the vari­ous Central Committee plenums and congresses of the Communist Party. According to VOG reports, by the late 1960s most clubs had become “true centers of po­liti­cal ideology and cultural education work.”123 The Khrushchev era thus saw the deaf community develop in two distinct and intersecting ways. On the one hand, the cele­bration of deafness as a distinct social and cultural experience was given legitimacy; on the other, deaf ­people w ­ ere encouraged to see themselves as full-­fledged Soviet individuals. ­These trends w ­ ere not seen in opposition to each other. The development of a deaf community identity was closely intertwined with broader social and cultural trends that fostered a Soviet social worldview. Deaf ­people ­were strongly encouraged to see their identities as hybrid; t­ hose succeeding in industry, education, and the arts w ­ ere not only representatives of a minority community but equally served as evidence that this community was capable of symbolically integrating with the rest of the Soviet body politic. This hybridity was not considered problematic. The development of deaf-­ specific, grassroots techniques and cultural forms was promoted as a means of proving the Soviet credentials of deaf p­ eople, in response to broader trends of obshchestvennost´ and community spirit born in the Khrushchev era.124 Deaf identity in this context engaged with broader Soviet values of participatory democracy and framed deafness as another way of being Soviet.125 Indeed, the Soviet identity of deaf p­ eople was continuously stressed. In 1959, Sutiagin reported to the Seventh Congress of VOG that “the image of Soviet deaf ­people has changed. They are fierce patriots of their Motherland, devoted to the cause of the Party, the cause of Communism.”126 While it is true that much of this discourse of deaf-­sovietness emerged in the context of public cele­brations or propaganda, it should certainly not be dismissed as empty rhe­toric. For members of the deaf community, the ability to assert their Soviet identity represented the culmination of a difficult journey from marginalization and obsolescence to self-­worth and an active participation in Soviet society. In local meetings, many deaf p­ eople spontaneously invoked the historical trajectory of the deaf community to underline their commitment to the Soviet cause. As Morozov, a factory worker, declared at a

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meeting of the Moscow VOG branch in 1958, “­Under tsarism, they d­ idn’t take deaf-­mutes in the factories. It was r­ eally hard for deaf-­mutes. Now, ­under our Soviet power, the State cares about deaf-­mutes, gives them a lot of attention. Now, deaf ­people go to the industrial plants with plea­sure and they accept them. Lots of deaf p­ eople work in state factories, they work well, and they are useful to the state.”127 Similarly, in her memoirs, the veteran deaf activist Agrippina Kalugina insists that “almost every­thing is obtainable to us: a diversity of professions, science, art; the creation of a new communist society is obtainable to us.”128 For many deaf ­people, therefore, the ability to be counted as Soviet citizens and to give their all to the Soviet state was just as impor­tant as their ability freely to choose their profession or to access specialized forms of deaf culture. At the same time, it cannot be denied that the constitution of this deaf agency and sovietness brought with it a cultural and institutional distinctiveness that threatened again to marginalize the deaf community. While the rhe­ toric of deaf-­sovietness firmly linked deaf experiences to the broader framework of the Soviet transformational proj­ect (in a way that, it could be argued, showed a much stronger allegiance to Soviet ideology than could be found among many hearing p­ eople at this historical moment), the creation of separate structures for the expression of that deaf-­sovietness proved isolating. As Slavina explains, “Intoxicated by their financial in­de­pen­dence, glorying in the fact that they ­were no longer scrounging off the state, VOG became a closed system of self-­sufficiency: their own [svoia] economy, their own culture, their own educational establishments, healthcare centers, sports facilities.”129 Within the deaf community, the distinctness of deaf identity and its unique social and cultural par­ameters was seen as a Soviet phenomenon, a success story born of the socialist system and celebrated as such. Yet the developing institutional and practical structures surrounding the deaf meant that t­ hese successes took place at arm’s length from the hearing. As a result, VOG began to look for ways of advertising t­hese success stories and narrating deaf-­sovietness to the broader Soviet population.

Narrating Deaf-­Sovietness The attempt to create a coherent, outward-­facing narrative of Soviet deafness began in earnest in the late 1950s. In 1956, in honor of the thirtieth anniversary of the foundation of VOG, Sutiagin applied to the Ministry of Culture for permission to produce a brochure and documentary film celebrating the “work carried out over t­ hose thirty years.” The resulting publication, 30 Years

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of VOG, traced the history of the organ­ization and contained chapters on all aspects of deaf industrial, social, and cultural activities, from the deaf collectives of the Cheliabinsk Tractor Factory to the activities of amateur deaf theaters; a documentary film, Of ­Those Who Cannot Hear, was broadcast on Soviet tele­vi­sion in 1957.130 The new cultural and institutional frameworks of VOG ­were reflected in a rash of further Russian-­language publications on deafness, deaf education, deaf l­ abor, and deaf culture.131 ­These works w ­ ere all commissioned and printed by the VOG Central Directorate; in the four years ­after 1956, the organ­ization published more books, collections, and brochures than in the rest of the society’s existence.132 This wave of publication spoke to Soviet audiences, but it also reflected the growing influence of international visions of deafness and international contact between deaf ­people. The Khrushchev era was marked by what Anne Gorsuch terms “an opening to the wider world,” characterized by “an unpre­ ce­dented exchange of art, ­music, material items, and ­people.”133 The deaf ­were equally implicated in this “opening up,” both through the expansion of deaf tourism and cultural exchange, and through Soviet participation in the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), founded in 1951. The WFD promoted a notion of a deaf identity that overcame national divisions; Cesare Magarotto, the first general secretary of the WFD, describes its foundation as a response to the “tragedy” of the Second World War, in the aftermath of which t­ hose “mutilated by nature and by the atavistic faults of society” could “easily, in the name of their mutual sacrifice, cross all borders, hearing only their fraternity.”134 Indeed, the development and experience of this deaf internationalism has been read by Deaf studies scholars as evidence that “deaf ­people share profound global commonalities.”135 In the context of the Cold War, however, international organ­izations and interactions ­were far from neutral. The notion of international relations as competition, encapsulated by Khrushchev’s insistence that the USSR would “catch up and overtake” the United States in economic terms, framed deaf international relations.136 In the crucible of the WFD, competition between national visions of deafness soon became evident, and representatives took ­every opportunity to propagandize their own understandings of deaf identity. VOG chairman Sutiagin led the Soviet del­e­ga­tion in 1955, the first year of the USSR’s membership, and became a strong voice within the organ­ization, serving as one of the four vice presidents of the governing bureau. As a result, brochures and films about Soviet deafness w ­ ere also produced for an international audience: an English-­language brochure entitled Of ­Those Who Cannot Hear was printed in Stockholm for the Fourth International Congress of the Deaf in 1963, and delegates ­were shown two documentary films about the Soviet deaf community.137

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This propaganda of deaf-­sovietness was thus conceived for, and spoke to, two audiences. On the one hand, it aimed to highlight the successes and abilities of Soviet deaf individuals, challenging the Stalinist trope of the deaf-­mute as backward and “abnormal” and proving to a Soviet hearing audience that deaf p­ eople could fi­nally be counted as equal citizens. On the other hand, in the context of Cold War competition it sought to validate the Soviet system as humane and supportive. This task was all the more vital a­ fter June 1956, when the New York Times published the text of Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin to a closed session of the Congress of the Communist Party (the so-­ called Secret Speech), thus revealing the realities of Stalinist repressions to the world at large. The narration of a coherent vision of deaf-­Soviet identity challenged preconceptions about the backwardness of the deaf in the Soviet context and about the totalitarian nature of the Soviet Union in the international arena. The rhe­toric and framing of deafness in both sets of propaganda is strikingly similar. Yet in their attempts to validate and confirm deaf-­sovietness as an identity, the authors and directors of t­ hese propaganda pamphlets revealed tensions within the positive understanding of postwar deaf identity and challenged broader Soviet preoccupations about community, identity, and culture. At their most basic level, t­ hese publications framed deafness as a Soviet success story, a transformational journey from marginalization to equality begun in 1917. In his brochure The Deaf and Deaf-­Mutes of the USSR, V. G. Dmitriev, a late-­deafened literary scholar and translator, claims that “­after the ­Great October Socialist Revolution opened the wide expanse of their creative abilities and initiative, deaf-­mutes, who w ­ ere once considered inferior [nepolnotsennye], superfluous members of society, felt that they w ­ ere full citizens of the ­g reat Soviet Motherland and in no way inferior to ­those who can hear. In spite of their physical defect, they march in step with the hearing and make their contribution to the general task: the building of communism in our country.”138 Dmitriev’s brochure describes the wealth of opportunities open to Soviet deaf ­people in culture, leisure, and the creative arts, as well as in industry and higher education. Invoking the lessons of history to underline deaf ­people’s pro­gress, he narrates in ­g reat detail the leap from backwardness to active agency and participation in building the ­f uture of the USSR. He singles out for praise successful deaf individuals and exemplary industrial brigades and clubs. This brochure, he explains, ­will “familiarize the wide masses of readers with how ­people deprived of speech live, work, study, and raise their cultural level.”139 Dmitriev’s brochure recognizes and celebrates the role of VOG and the strength of the deaf community in enabling this transformational journey. He informs his readers that “­those deprived of speech have common interests,

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strug­gle with the same difficulties generated by their defect, and, naturally, strive to unite.”140 As such, VOG was presented as a natu­ral corollary of deaf ­people’s desire to establish a community and as a prerequisite for their success within Soviet society. The role of VOG was further stressed in international propaganda. In his introduction to Of ­Those Who Cannot Hear, Sutiagin informs readers of the financial might of the society: deaf members of UPPs, he writes, “Manufacture articles which they sell, the proceeds of which go back to the deaf in the form of orga­nizational, cultural, and educational benefits, or in the form of new housing, in addition to the cultural and industrial premises built by the socie­ties for their members’ use. This year, the RSFSR Society alone has over 13 million rubles to distribute.”141 The distribution of this money in the ser­vice of the deaf community—­and pride about this accomplishment—is a strong theme throughout the brochure: evidence that the deaf community ­were no longer objects of charity, but in­de­pen­dent citizens supporting themselves through systems of mutual aid. In a section on the UPP system, the reader is informed that VOG not only pays for the education itself but “also provides [students] with hostels, uniforms, ­free meals, grants, and, upon the completion of their training, with work in any one of its own seventy enterprises.”142 The brochure thus underlines the power of the deaf social world, which was financially self-­sustaining and vital to the continued successes of deaf ­people. Yet despite this emphasis on deaf agency, ­these brochures do not promote an uncomplicated vision of Soviet deaf ­people’s in­de­pen­dence and power. The narrative of deaf self-­sufficiency is complicated by a competing vision of deafness pres­ent in t­ hese works, which portrays the deaf as grateful recipients of the care and welfare of the state. In a section entitled “Care of Deaf-­Mutes in the Soviet Union,” Dmitriev claims that “in the Soviet Union, extraordinary care has developed for the general education and professional training of deaf-­mutes, for their placement in industry and agriculture, for the raising of their cultural level, for the organ­ization of their leisure, of their inclusion in physical culture and sport.”143 Of ­Those Who Cannot Hear also demonstrates this narrative, both in overt statements—­“From the very first days of Soviet Power, the Government took upon itself the care and education of deaf ­people”—­and in a prevalent use of the passive voice when referring to benefits enjoyed by the deaf.144 Deaf p­ eople are “thoroughly trained” and “given” work, and “received” state pensions and hearing aids.145 Such statements reconfigure the nature of deaf experience in the Soviet Union from a narrative of agency to an account of welfare and the passive reception of benefits. This dominant emphasis on state care shows the continued influence of the materialist welfare ethos that began in the aftermath of World War II. In the

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early postwar period, the call for welfare and material support provoked a certain amount of uneasiness among deaf activists, who had historically rejected any dependence on the state as disabling; indeed, the decision of VOG activists to reject all state subsidies in 1954 would seem to be a continuation of this historical drive t­ oward deaf self-­sufficiency. Yet by the late 1950s, as Linda Cook shows, welfare had become central to the relationship between Soviet citizens and the state. According to the terms of this social contract, “The regime provided broad guarantees of full and secure employment, state-­controlled and heavi­ly subsidized prices for essential goods, fully socialized h ­ uman ser­vices, and egalitarian wage policies” in return for the po­liti­cal quiescence of the Soviet ­people.146 As such, receipt of state welfare and care would no longer mark the deaf out as dif­fer­ent from the wider Soviet population. Instead, invoking the welfare discourse showed the degree to which the deaf ­were part of broader Soviet social trends. As with their invocation of Marxist rhe­toric in the 1920s, therefore, the deaf community used the welfare narrative in the 1950s and 1960s to assert their citizenship and demand rights and benefits from the state. This call for care was not necessarily in opposition to overt statements of deaf agency and in­de­pen­dence; in petitioning the state for the right to build the Palace of Culture, for example, Andrei Iampolskii asserted that “we are not spongers off the state; we work in almost all sectors of the economy of our country, and therefore we have the right, equally with all other citizens, to care of our cultural needs.”147 The fact that much of this care came to the deaf through VOG itself also helped to ease the concerns of ­those who feared dependence. Tensions between care and agency, which had so concerned early deaf activists, w ­ ere elided within this new vision of VOG, in which the agency and in­de­pen­dence of deaf ­people ­were seen as intimately entwined with the institutional framework of state support. Moreover, this vision was not limited to the RSFSR but was seen in t­ hese brochures as representing a common socialist way of being deaf: “­Every society, from the Lithuanian society which has only a thousand members, to the RSFSR society with its more than 100,000 members, is performing the common, humane mission of providing a full life for ­those who cannot hear.”148 However rhetorically useful, the invocation of the welfare narrative did have an impact on the ways in which the deaf social and cultural community was understood at home and abroad. In portraying the history of deaf activism and the creation of VOG as gifts bestowed by the beneficent Soviet state, ­these narratives undermined deaf attempts to demonstrate their agency and in­de­pen­dence within Soviet society. The construction of the deaf as a form of “entitlement community” disrupted the deaf community’s self-­identification

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as an active and in­de­pen­dent Soviet collective.149 Milestones in the construction of the postwar Soviet deaf community ­were recast through the lens of welfare, often negating the significant efforts made by deaf p­ eople. At the ­g rand opening of the Palace of Culture, Sutiagin began his speech with “on this ­g reat day, allow me in your name, in the name of the 140,000 members of the Society, to express the deepest thanks to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and to the Soviet Government for their ­g reat help and constant care for the development and strengthening of the society.”150 While not negating the contributions made by VOG members, Sutiagin shifted the significance of the palace from an expression of institutional strength and deaf community cohesion to a passive reception of largesse from a paternalistic Soviet state. For a community fighting to overcome a legacy of marginality and backwardness, this rhetorical shift appeared troubling, enabling the dismissal of deaf agency and a broader notion of deaf community. Alongside the dominance of the welfare discourse, narratives of Soviet deafness also complicated the notion of a distinctive deaf culture. While documents from the founding of the TMZh and the development of other VOG cultural institutions stressed the unique nature of deaf engagement with culture, particularly their foregrounding of silence and the visual experience of the world, propaganda brochures discussed deaf cultural engagement in the context of a much narrower understanding of Soviet cultural politics. Dmitriev, for example, begins his section on “Cultural-­Educational Work with the Deaf and Deaf-­Mutes” by stressing the inaccessibility of most forms of culture for deaf ­people. “However,” he continues, “the Communist Party and the Soviet Government have demonstrated g­ reat care for the raising of the cultural level of deaf ­people.”151 His discussion of deaf cultural activities thus focuses on the degree to which the deaf, in their engagement with theater, visual arts, cinema, reading, po­liti­cal engagement, and leisure activities, could demonstrate their “culturedness” in a pragmatic sense, using it to establish their equality with the hearing: “As such, the cultural-­educational institutions created for the deaf play an active role in their education, their communist upbringing, and the cultured nature of their leisure time.”152 The terms “culture” (kul´tura) and “culturedness” (kul´turnost´) used in ­these discussions have l­ittle in common with the theoretical notion of Deaf culture, which emphasizes the “the central role of sign language in the everyday lives of the [deaf] community.”153 Instead, ­these terms enable us to trace deaf engagement within the par­tic­u­lar dynamics of Soviet cultural politics. A catch-­ all term for the promotion of enlightened be­hav­ior, kul´turnost´ emerged in the Stalin era to signify the internalization of such values as rationality, hygiene, collective-­mindedness, and self-­awareness that ­were necessary for the

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formation of the New Soviet Person.154 In the period following Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, kul´turnost´ was revived as part of a raft of mea­sures to shape and manage Soviet identity, alongside public emphasis on “communist morality,” and the activating of the masses to police each other and negotiate the bound­aries of acceptable be­hav­ior. As Catriona Kelly shows, this ­later manifestation of kul´turnost´ differed from its Stalinist pre­de­ces­sor in impor­tant ways: it “gave leeway to variation in individual taste that had not existed since the NEP era,” while at the same time placing strong emphasis on the “cultured” consumption of material goods.155 She also demonstrates the continued significance of the concept as a mea­sure of inclusion in the Soviet body politic: “From the mid-1950s . . . ​the ‘new Soviet man or ­woman’ was supposed to be distinguished not only by an informed familiarity with electrical goods and ­house­hold chemicals but by a developed taste in curtains and wall­paper, an eye for elegant dress, good ­table manners and refined speech.”156 Given the historical focus on the promotion of an ideal Soviet identity among deaf ­people, it is perhaps not surprising that the concept of kul´turnost´ figured highly in discussions of deaf social and cultural activity. Indeed, the imperative to behave in a “cultured” way was not confined to propaganda; almost all aspects of deaf cultural activity ­were discussed in terms of their ability to prove deaf kul´turnost´ to the world at large. Comrade Fedorov, head of the Rostov Oblast VOG, took the VOG leadership to task over the development of ser­vices and buildings for the deaf in the regions: “Rostov is a big city; we need the sort of proj­ects that would speak of our growing culture.”157 The role of VOG institutions in promoting this culture was emphasized: as Elena Minasova, the first sign-­language teacher of the TMZh, pointed out, “We must never forget that artistic workers are transmitters of culture.”158 Promoting cultural ability as a facet of deaf identity was underlined in 1959, when VOG petitioned the state to change its name from the All-­Russian Society of Deaf-­Mutes to the All-­Russian Society of the Deaf. At a meeting of the Moscow branch of VOG, Sutiagin stressed that “this obliges us to raise our level of culture. This name speaks of the fact that deaf ­people are more cultured, more literate.”159 By emphasizing their kul´turnost´, as with their invocation of the welfare discourse, deaf p­ eople could claim equality and inclusion in the Soviet body politic. Again, however, the focus on broader notions of kul´turnost´ had the result of negating the unique qualities of deaf social and cultural forms. In their eagerness to demonstrate their cultural level to the hearing world, deaf artists and cultural workers chose to underplay the potential of deaf culture to provide an alternative to hearing forms, choosing instead to perform their deafness in terms that hearing Soviet p­ eople could understand. This problematic relationship between deafness and kul´turnost´ played out on the stage of the

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TMZh. Deaf directors stressed the importance of opening up the theater to hearing audiences: “The fundamental goal, pursued by the very existence of the Theatre, is the striving of deaf actors to create accessible art, the utmost expansion of the contact between nonhearing ­people and the world around them. Therefore, the Theatre’s plays must attract deaf and hearing viewers equally.”160 Mea­sures taken to advertise the theater’s per­for­mances reflected this intention: in 1963, theater shows w ­ ere advertised on the radio, in addition to poster advertisements throughout Moscow and other cities visited on tour.161 ­These mea­sures resulted in a strong bias ­toward a hearing audience; by 1967, VOG could report that, while regional tours generally catered to local deaf audiences, “in Moscow, the Theatre generally serves hearing viewers.”162 This desire to speak to a hearing audience had an inevitable impact on deaf theatrical techniques. The development of deaf mime art had emerged as an attempt to create a new form of theatrical self-­expression that represented the unique communicative experiences of the deaf community. Indeed, deaf mime had been viewed particularly favorably by hearing reviewers: in 1964, the actress Elena Fadeeva noted that “a new, dramatic style of per­for­mance has arisen [rodilas´] within our homegrown mime. This, to my mind, is a completely new phenomenon.”163 Yet in their desire to emphasize the kul´turnost´ of deaf theatrical experimentation, the TMZh troupe tended to shy away from such overt displays of deafness on the stage, choosing instead to focus on refining sign-­ language theater to a level consonant with that of professional hearing theater. The dangers of mime ­were highlighted on the pages of Zhizn´ glukhikh by A. Platov, an engineer from Moscow, who argued that mime might be an ancient art form, but “it is also true that long ago, ­people used a stone axe, bow and arrows. Why hark back to the Stone Age? Replace the language of Shakespeare, Gogol, and Ostrovskii with grimaces?”164 Platov’s article revealed a reluctance in certain circles of the deaf community to advertise their cultural distinctiveness too widely, for fear that they might still be viewed, in Stalin’s words, as “abnormal p­ eople.” In order to counteract this charge, the TMZh worked to raise the kul´turnost´ of deaf theater. In 1961, the management of the Theatre Studio was taken over by the Shchukin Theatre School, attached to the Vakhtangov Theatre in Moscow’s Arbat district. The educational plan was reworked and standardized, with students working ­toward a four-­year higher education (VUZ) qualification on a level with other theater schools. Much of the training focused on enabling the deaf students to master the same skills as their hearing peers; students learned to dance in synchronicity to ­music and to pair their signed dialogue with spoken language by mouthing the words. As articles pointed out, “Arriving at the Theatre Studio, the ­f uture actor in almost all cases has very ­little understanding

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of the complexity of dramatic art”; deaf actors, therefore, ­were obliged to forget their amateur experiences among the deaf community and learn a w ­ hole 165 new set of (hearing) traditions. Once the TMZh was established as a professional theater, this privileging of hearing audiences was embedded in the theater’s practices. Hearing viewers to the theater w ­ ere served by two live action announcers, one male and one female, who “dubbed” the sign-­language dialogue into Rus­sian, and per­ for­mances w ­ ere often accompanied by an orchestra. The content of the plays echoed this favoring of the hearing experience. While deaf activists in the late 1950s proposed commissioning a play for the TMZh to reflect the “lives and everyday experiences of deaf-­mutes,” this proj­ect was never realized, and plays performed by the TMZh tended to ­favor canonical socialist realist plays or the classics of Western theater.166 On occasion, when the script required it, deaf actors would feign an ability to hear as part of the stage action. As Dmitrii Brudnyi noted, reviewing the TMZh in the journal Teatr, the effect of this simulacrum of hearingness was extraordinary: At the per­for­mance of “Once in Seville,” in the course of the action Donna Anna receives condolences for the death of her husband, the commander. Suddenly she “hears” a whistle: the prearranged signal of Don Juan, with whom she had arranged a rendezvous. At the moment when the whistle was heard, the actress (T. Silant´eva) gave a start and made an effort to suppress the joyful feelings that seized her. In another theater, such an episode would not even be discussed. But h ­ ere, when the actor does not hear, but reacts to sound, it is evidence of the accuracy and consistency of the action, its freedom from “blunders.”167 For hearing reviewers, therefore, the ability of deaf actors to feign the ability to hear was evidence of the capacity for deaf theater, and deaf actors, to rise to the pinnacle of the art form. Yet the privileging of hearing forms over deaf traditions of theater, and of hearing experiences over deaf ones, could not help but downplay the uniquely “deaf ” qualities of this theatrical experiment. The requirement for deaf actors to “perform nondefective subjectivity,” as Anastasia Kayiatos puts it, thus undercut the potential of the TMZh to familiarize hearing p­ eople with the deaf community and deaf traditions of culture.168 The dominance of hearing paradigms of kul´turnost´ over long-­developed deaf traditions could be seen most clearly in attitudes t­ oward sign language. Khrushchev-­era kul´turnost´, as scholars have shown, was intimately bound up  with notions of speech culture (kul´tura rechi): “Practices of educated speech ­were laid down as models for emulation.”169 In the same way, no-

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tions of “cultured sign language” (kul´turnaia mimika) began to figure in deaf discussions from the late 1950s. As Dmitriev explains: As a means to raise the educational level of deaf-­mutes, ­simple [prosteishchaia] sign language is gradually giving way to a more perfect form: cultured, or literal, sign, which is based on spoken language. While this sign also does not follow the grammatical form and syntactical structure of speech, it is significantly richer than ­simple sign, and with its help it is pos­si­ble to translate the majority of abstract concepts. Geil´man similarly argues in his sign language dictionary that the influence of spoken language over signed language could not help but enrich it, proposing the use of spelled case endings following a signed word, or the voicing of Rus­sian words to tie signed language more concretely to speech. In order to facilitate the fullest development of deaf p­ eople, he concludes, “it is impor­ tant not to reject sign language, as some suggest, but to perfect it by aligning it as fully as pos­si­ble with verbal speech.”170 “Cultured sign” built on Gel´man’s work on the unification of sign language, yet it is also strongly reminiscent of the eighteenth-­century linguistic experiments of the Abbé de l’Epée. Epée’s system of “methodical signs,” which he taught to deaf pupils at his institute in Paris, represented an attempt to modify “natu­ral” French sign language to represent the grammar and syntax of spoken French, by inventing new signs for terms that had no sign equivalents, altering the order of signs to correspond to French word order, and adding signs to indicate gender, tense, prefixes, and suffixes.171 This system, he envisaged, would allow deaf pupils access to language, reason, and the word of God. “Methodical signs” w ­ ere ultimately discredited by oralist pedagogues and deaf signers alike: as Douglas Baynton has traced, “The principal argument leveled against methodical signs was that they ­were contrary to nature, abandoning both the natu­ral basis of individual signs and the natu­ral order of thought.”172 Two hundred years l­ ater, however, the notion of modifying and perfecting “natu­ral” sign language resonated with Soviet concerns over linguistic etiquette and the implicit backwardness of sign. While changes to the institutional frameworks of VOG had embedded sign language in the everyday practice of deaf ­people, emphasizing its role as a unique form of communication, cultured sign language demonstrated broader concerns over the place of sign in the Soviet linguistic hierarchy. The development of the cultured sign concept demonstrates the complexity inherent in deaf identity in this period, and the prob­lems thrown up by the desire to frame deaf p­ eople in broader Soviet terms as cultured, artistic, and worthy of inclusion. The concept also throws into sharp relief the difference

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between deafness as it was experienced within the deaf community itself and deafness as it was narrated to the world at large. The only place that cultured sign achieved any practical dominance was on the stage of the TMZh, where the simultaneous use of spoken and signed language and the reliance on dactylology—­all employed in an attempt to appeal to the hearing audience—­ had the result of changing the nature of theatrical sign. The result, however, was that theatrical sign language ceased to appeal to deaf theatergoers. In responding to a survey on the TMZh in 1976, for example, a deaf audience member noted that “the sign language is incomprehensible, the dactylology is not vis­i­ble, and it is impossible to understand what is ­going on.”173 By attempting to appeal to the broader Soviet (hearing) audience, therefore, deaf theater prac­ti­tion­ers had inadvertently divorced deaf theater—­and deaf cultural identity—­from its community roots.

Conclusion Over the course of the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviet deaf community experienced a true golden age in the flourishing of their institutions, the strength of their collective identity, and the development of unique forms of cultural engagement that both unified them and advertised their deafness to the world at large. The social changes experienced before and ­after Stalin’s death, including the growing emphasis on care and material well-­being, and the increased willingness to entertain notions of cultural and social difference, enabled the emergence and cele­bration of a deaf community identity that had been developing since 1917. This community was viewed, in particularly Soviet terms, as the practical realization of the “promise of October” for deaf p­ eople: the creation of a highly educated, in­de­pen­dent, and self-­sufficient deaf community that had emancipated themselves “with their own hands.” Yet ­these achievements and the framework of the deaf community saw the deaf in many ways distanced from the rest of the Soviet body politic. The experience of the golden age showed that the deaf could become ideal citizens, but the creation of special conditions and unique places for them to achieve this transformation also created a Soviet community apart. ­Those in this deaf border of socialism pushed the bound­aries of social norms, carving out spaces for the ­silent and the visual within Soviet art, culture, and everyday life. The creation of t­ hese spaces was certainly thrilling for ­those deaf ­people involved: as Valerii Kuksin puts it, “They certainly rejoiced; they marveled and w ­ ere proud. ­Every ­house­warming was a cele­bration.”174 Indeed, the experience of the Soviet deaf community in the Khrushchev era can be seen as represent-

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ing the fulfilment of the dreams of many deaf campaigners in the West, who have called for the construction of a distinct “deaf world.”175 Yet the existence of a network of “special spaces” for the deaf created social marginalization at the same time as it fostered deaf agency.176 The resulting desire on the part of VOG and other deaf activists to find ways of narrating deafness for hearing consumption revealed the complexities inherent in expressing cultural and social difference in the late Soviet period. Deaf leaders sought to frame their difference in ways that could be understood and accepted by hearing society—as grateful recipients of welfare and as “cultured” citizens—­which had the result of downplaying the distinctiveness of the deaf social and cultural experience. This was certainly not unique to the deaf, of course; as historians of the Khrushchev era have discussed, many hearing Soviet citizens in this period ­were equally torn between the desire for self-­expression and the obligation to behave appropriately.177 Yet the impact of being labeled “dif­fer­ent” was significantly higher for a group that, as late as 1951, had been dismissed as deviant and abnormal by the all-­ powerful head of state. Deaf individuals, and their representatives and educators within VOG, walked a fine line between uniqueness and marginality, a line that was frequently redrawn in light of changing state directives on the nature and significance of sovietness. It is difficult to quantify, of course, how far ­these complex and competing discourses of deafness affected the everyday lives of deaf individuals. Certainly, the experience of building and spending leisure time in the Palace of Culture, or in any deaf club or institution, was not diminished by the fact that the VOG leadership had publicly thanked the Soviet state for ­these beneficences, and the ability to visit a doctor or design a rocket propulsion system through the medium of sign language was not hampered by consideration of its kul´turnost´. The outward-­facing nature of deaf identity did not negate the massive strides made in agency, in­de­pen­dence, and cultural engagement by deaf p­ eople during and ­after Khrushchev’s Thaw. Yet the permeation of ­these discourses of deafness in publications, magazines, activist propaganda, and everyday discussions within the deaf community could not help but influence the way in which deaf ­people came to view themselves in the Soviet context. By viewing deafness through hearing paradigms of identity, deaf activists perpetuated the notion that deafness was something to be overcome, and that the deaf, while promoting their own traditions, would continue to be judged by hearing standards and found wanting. The golden age of the deaf community saw new ways of expressing and living deafness, but it also laid the groundwork for the development of darker concerns about the inability of deaf ­people to conform to hearing ways of being.

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In early February 1960, the newspaper Izvestiia published an article that thrust VOG and its members into the national spotlight. A lengthy investigative piece by E. Garina, “Pygmalion” told the story of a nineteen-­year-­old deaf orphan from Kharkov, Mariia Ivanovna Ivanova, who had been arrested in Moscow and accused of “being vagrant, begging, living without a permit and not leaving the city where she, as a homeless person, was not permitted by the militsiia to live.”1 Ivanova’s story was tragic: orphaned and deafened at an early age by the bombs of World War II, she had been taken in by soldiers, who found her a place in a c­ hildren’s home in Kursk. Following an incomplete four-­year education, she strug­gled to keep a job as a seamstress and ended up living at the railway station, begging and stealing to survive. By the time Izvestiia picked up the story, she had served time for vagrancy in Kharkov and been arrested three times in Moscow. The article sought to expose the reasons for Ivanova’s deviancy, directing its criticisms at t­hose in authority who had failed in their duty to recognize her potential and help her find work and a stable home. Garina drew explicit parallels between the myth of Pygmalion—­the sculptor breathing life into his perfect creation—­and the task of VOG transforming deaf p­ eople into cultured Soviet citizens. Yet unlike the positive narratives of Soviet transformation produced by VOG, the article laid bare the complexities and limitations of this pro­cess: “All the Pygmalions of past centuries have 15 8

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not called into being so much beauty as the g­ reat Pygmalion of our age: the society of our country. This sculptor is many-­sided and all-­powerful. And yet it sometimes happens that some talentless person, out of ignorance and indifference, destroys its creation, in which . . . ​the subtle features of humanity are already vis­i­ble.”2 Ivanova, the article makes clear, had been given ­every opportunity to learn a trade and overcome her defect in the Soviet model, and yet she persisted in hanging around Moscow’s railway stations with other perceived deviants, including “one guy, also from a ­children’s home, also a vagrant; she even knows that he was a thief [on voroval].” When, a­ fter all her ­trials, she was given work and lodgings in the Podolsk UPP alongside her “comrades in misfortune,” she fought with her roommates, stole, and soon ran away and returned to her old life. “Where is that deaf-­mute girl wandering now and what does she expect from life?” the article asked in conclusion. Preoccupation with crime and misbehavior was far from exclusive to the deaf community in this period. Khrushchev’s reforms had not only engendered a renewed interest in constructing the new man but had coupled this with “moral panic,” widespread social fears about crime and vio­lence, and the communal policing of antisoviet be­hav­ior. As Brian LaPierre argues, “In addition to cautious liberal policies that promised limited cultural pluralism and socialist legality, the de-­Stalinizing state was also actively engaged in parallel illiberal policies during the mid to late 1950s that entailed identifying the moral ‘­others’ who existed outside its civilizing mission.”3 In this re­spect, the focus on crime, petty misbehavior, and “hooliganism” in the Izvestiia article clearly conformed to broader social trends. Yet for a community that was already on the margins, grappling to overcome the label of “other” within Soviet society, the phenomenon of crime and its social ramifications was particularly troubling and generated its own specific discourses and concerns. The article thus sent shockwaves through the deaf community; as one activist remarked, “They published ‘Pygmalion’ and it was as if a bomb had gone off.”4 This chapter explores the discussions surrounding “Pygmalion” in the context of widespread concerns over the perception (and misperception) of deaf ­people by hearing Soviet society. The increased visibility of the deaf during the so-­called golden age opened them up to new scrutiny, which was further compounded by “Pygmalion”; as one activist put it, “Before, nobody r­eally bothered us, but nobody noticed us e­ ither. Now, a­ fter the comments in the newspaper, Party and Soviet organ­izations w ­ ill pay attention to us. This is a ­great responsibility.”5 Hearing views of the deaf in this period—­and deaf responses to them—­reveal the intersection of two distinct manifestations of this hearing “gaze” on the deaf community.6 The repre­sen­ta­tion of Ivanova and other deaf p­ eople in Soviet popu­lar culture framed the deaf as inherently exotic

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and “other”: deaf ­people ­were seen as fundamentally dif­fer­ent from the hearing, and their pitifulness and innocence held the potential to easily tip over into deviant be­hav­ior and acquisitiveness.7 This exoticizing gaze is particularly evident in the eliding of deafness and femaleness in t­ hese discussions. Ivanova was only one of a series of deaf w ­ omen discussed in this period whose double “otherness” s­ haped popu­lar responses to deafness.8 The response by the deaf community to ­these broader fears over deaf be­hav­ior saw this hearing gaze turning inward, becoming, in Foucault’s words, “an inspecting gaze, a gaze which each individual u ­ nder its weight ­will end by interiorization to the point that he is his own overseer, each individual thus exercising this surveillance over, and against, himself.”9 In response to hearing perceptions, VOG began to develop structures of self-­policing, seeking to control the expression of criminal—or even overtly deaf—­be­hav­ior among its members. This view of the deaf community as a potential crucible of antisovietness, and of VOG as a source of discipline and control, radically recast the nature of deaf-­Soviet identity and the place of deaf ­people within the Soviet body politic. It has been suggested that deafness should be read as a form of deviance in the Soviet context, with deaf ­people haunted by the assumption of ­those in power that “they would engage in aberrant be­hav­iors ­unless restrained or provided with proper assistance.”10 This elision, however, obscures the productive ways in which categories of deafness and deviance overlapped, interacted, and informed each other. For VOG and hearing activists alike, deaf criminality was not inevitable, but its continued existence disrupted the rhetorical simplicity of the “backwardness to first ranks” narrative and raised impor­tant questions about deafness and the deaf community that informed VOG policy. Did hearing loss incline deaf individuals to criminal be­hav­ior? ­Were deaf criminals capable of rehabilitation, and in what manner? Far more worryingly, ­were the structures and institutions of VOG pushing deaf p­ eople into lives of deviancy and crime? The developing postwar tension between discourses of welfare and autonomy played out in ­these discussions, which again raised the specter of charity and de­pen­dency but also overlaid it with concerns about sexuality, consumerism, and acquisitiveness. Discussions of deaf crime and misbehavior thus reconfigured the bound­aries between the deaf and the hearing, the Soviet and the antisoviet, in the context of Khrushchev’s Thaw.

Deaf Crime and the Hearing Gaze For members of the VOG aktiv, “Pygmalion” shone a light on an uncomfortable aspect of everyday deaf experience. While VOG did not keep systematic

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rec­ords on deaf criminality, it is clear from reactions to “Pygmalion” that deaf crime represented a constant worry for deaf activists. On the day of the article’s publication, VOG representatives w ­ ere sent to Podolsk to investigate Garina’s claims, and the following week Sutiagin chaired a long and heated debate at the Moscow City branch of VOG.11 In this debate, Ivanova’s misbehavior emerged not as an isolated incident but rather as a symptom of a wider and more serious prob­lem of crime and misbehavior within the deaf community. As factory worker Komalov put it, “We are discussing the article about Comrade Ivanova, but in fact we are not just talking about Ivanova alone.”12 Discussion focused in par­tic­u­lar on how VOG should deal with “­those ele­ments who have for many years strayed from the right path.”13 In his opening remarks, Sutiagin commented sadly that “it concerns us that in Moscow, the capital of our Motherland, ­there is a certain small group of deaf and deaf-­mutes who do not wish to engage in socially useful work. It is particularly unpleasant that deaf-­mutes, former convicts, who do not wish to work, are living in many of the railway stations of our capital.”14 Activists told tale ­after tale of deaf individuals, often registered members of VOG, who refused to work in deaf enterprises, drank, begged, stole, displayed “wanton be­hav­ ior,” or engaged in speculation, following the established tradition of selling postcards on the electric train system. As such, VOG activists faced an urgent task: to “return ­these individuals, who have ended up on the path of crime, to the ranks of the honest workers of our Society.”15 Concern about deaf criminality encompassed a range of be­hav­iors, many of which predated the revolution. As the experience of the early Soviet de­ cades had shown, Soviet attitudes to begging and speculation had recast traditional deaf methods of money making, such as postcard selling, as dangerous criminality.16 The continued presence of such be­hav­iors was therefore read as evidence of the inherent backwardness of the deaf as a group. It was a source of considerable shame to the deaf community that in the 1950s and 1960s, ostensibly the moment of their greatest success as a community, such be­hav­ iors had not yet been eradicated.17 Activists pointed to the continued activity of deaf postcard sellers as evidence of the failure of the deaf community to transform its members, and they betrayed a certain note of exhaustion in discussing ­these miscreants: “I’ve just had a call from the station. The militsiia ­there have arrested three deaf-­mute postcard sellers. Where should we send them? . . . ​Every­one says they are bad, bad, bad, but hardly anyone ­will help.”18 The figure of the postcard seller (otkrytochnik) invoked much more than simply unauthorized trading in the context of Khrushchev-­era debates on hooliganism and social parasites. As Sheila Fitzpatrick points out, the term “parasitical” was introduced in the 1950s to refer to ­those who refused to engage in

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“socially useful work.”19 For the deaf community, fears surrounding the postcard sellers concerned their per­sis­tent avoidance of honest l­abor: “The common ele­ment that unites them is the fact that they have a contemptuous attitude to work, they d­ on’t want to honestly engage in useful work, they prefer easy earnings, easy work.”20 This “easy” attitude to ­labor was seen to mark out individuals as morally compromised; VOG activists rhetorically linked the otkrytochnik to a wide array of antisoviet be­hav­iors, from rough sleeping and drunkenness to robbery and prostitution. A 1966 Zhizn´ glukhikh article ominously suggested that “postcard sellers are a menace to society. ­There have been many cases when postcard sellers did not balk at any means in pursuit of profit, not even stopping themselves from such crimes as killing a man.”21 The refusal to conform to traditional models of Soviet self hood—­ transformation through honest ­labor—­thus marked ­these deaf individuals out as deviant and potentially murderous. As part of the debates surrounding “Pygmalion,” therefore, old practices ­were placed u ­ nder an uncomfortable new spotlight. Yet it was not simply the beggars and postcard sellers that concerned VOG activists. The development of the VOG system and the growing financial might of the UPPs had engendered new categories of crime, including the “theft of socialist property”—­ embezzling from VOG’s finances. Between 1955 and 1959, total losses of 248,000 rubles ­were uncovered by the VOG Central Inspection Commission and organs of the militsiia; as a result, a number of prominent VOG leaders lost their posts.22 In 1961, following Khrushchev’s sensational revelation of fraud in Riazan´ province, the VOG Central Directorate discussed their own “Riazan´ affair,” in which a group of workers from the Riazan´ interregional department of VOG w ­ ere charged with collectively stealing over 10,000 rubles in cash; the ringleaders w ­ ere sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.23 As building work on VOG’s capital proj­ects began to pick up steam, quantities of raw materials also began to go missing; during the building of the Palace of Culture, for example, several attempts ­were made to break into the building site and remove raw materials, and two guards w ­ ere assaulted.24 Cases of embezzlement within the VOG system—of money and raw materials—­ were so prevalent by 1959 that the satirical journal Krokodil twice published remarks on the subject.25 Indeed, it is clear that deaf ­people ­were involved in a variety of criminal be­hav­ior, from white-­collar financial fraud to violent crime. As Comrade Abaeva, a sign-­language interpreter for the Moscow police, informed VOG members during the “Pygmalion” debates, even in the capital the incidence of violent crime among the deaf remained disturbingly high: “It is worth noting that in Moscow, the highest percentage of murders and violent robberies

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­ ere committed by deaf-­mutes, relative to the population of the city.”26 The w year 1959 had seen four deaf ­people, two men and two ­women, murdered by ­others within the deaf community. In January 1960, four deaf men had been found guilty of the rape of deaf w ­ omen. A deaf group w ­ ere u ­ nder investigation for physical assault.27 Abaeva explained, “In our country t­here are no economic or social reasons for ­these vices, which belong to the cap­i­tal­ ist world. Nevertheless, in the consciousness and be­hav­ior of certain parts of our society t­here have appeared remnants of the past.”28 As such, the incidence of violent, deaf-­on-­deaf crime was explic­itly framed as evidence of the antisoviet inclinations of certain deaf individuals. Just as in the broader Soviet population, much of the concern about deaf criminal be­hav­ior was provoked by the return of released prisoners from the Gulag; as memoirs show, deaf communities developed in Gulag camps, as deaf individuals banded together to support each other in an echo of VOG’s concentration practices.29 On release, however, it proved very difficult for ­these former inmates to reenter the wider deaf community. Nikolaeva, the deputy director of Moscow UPP No.1, told the story of a certain Sytin, who was released from prison and given work in the UPP. ­After three days of work, he requested to be transferred, professing a dislike for the “­woman’s work” of metal stamping. On further questioning, Sytin said, “Do you know who I am? I’m a thief [vor, a term which implies connections to or­ga­nized crime], I’m used to working with my comrades, and this environment of workers is new to me. I feel like every­one is looking askance at me, watching me: I ­can’t work like this.”30 Many such individuals only managed to come to work for a few days before returning to lives of drinking and petty theft; many ­were rearrested.31 The revolving door of the Soviet prison system thus reintroduced a significant number of deaf criminals into the established deaf community, challenging the support systems put in place by VOG. Deaf crime was not just the preserve of former prisoners. Activists ­were also extremely concerned about the incidence of crime among young p­ eople, noting that “the majority of transgressors are very young p­ eople, not long out of school.”32 Many pointed to the prevalence of petty criminal be­hav­ior within the school system itself, with pupils stealing apples, crayons, and even items of clothing from teachers.33 Throughout the late 1950s, articles in Zhizn´ glukhikh publicized cases of hooliganism and drinking across the RSFSR, “naming and shaming” badly behaved young ­people: “They and their like consider it a sign of good manners to enter the club in a state of considerable intoxication. And the only ­thing they are clever enough to do is cause scandals, fight, break furniture and doors, smash win­dows, and molest ­women.”34 ­These articles made clear the inherent danger posed by such be­hav­ior ­going unchecked,

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stressing the link between petty crime, alcoholism, and vio­lence, and emphasizing the detrimental effect of alcohol on the fulfilment of work norms: “The abuse of alcohol leads to shirking work, waste, and a lowered work productivity.” They also underlined the impact of this be­hav­ior on the activities and social life of the wider deaf community; as one VOG member from Vladivostok complained, “I ­don’t go to the club any more. . . . ​You d­ on’t see anyone but drunkards and hooligans.”35 Another article asked, “What kind of leisure can ­there be, when drunken young p­ eople start to behave outrageously [buistvovat´] and it’s necessary to call the militsiia to eject the scandal-­makers from the premises?”36 It is clear from t­ hese anecdotal sources that the events described in “Pygmalion” w ­ ere not isolated but rather fit broader patterns of misbehavior that ­were frequently read as “deaf.” Indeed, it could be argued that such discussions w ­ ere an integral part of Soviet social life in the late 1950s, as fears about hooliganism swept through society and citizens learned to define and police the bound­aries of acceptable be­hav­ior.37 Yet for the deaf, the highlighting of hooliganism and misbehavior among their ranks was considerably more unsettling than it was to the hearing, and the obligation to publicly reject the wrongdoers was more strongly felt. For VOG activists, in par­tic­u­lar, deviant be­hav­ior threatened to undermine their attempts to frame their identity as both Soviet and equal. Historically, the Soviet public had frequently read deviance in the ­faces and signing hands of the deaf community, using this vis­i­ble difference to marginalize and disenfranchise deaf individuals.38 This fear surrounding deafness had been driven by the scientific community, with defectologists in the mid-1920s making explicit the links between the categories of physical and moral deviance.39 Such concerns ­were no longer stated so explic­ itly, but the assumption that deafness could have a moral impact was still frequently implied, with texts stressing the need for educators to help deaf ­children to develop “moral and ethical comprehension” on the same level as their hearing peers.40 As such, the focus on deaf crime threatened to validate the longstanding assumption that deaf p­ eople w ­ ere to some degree morally compromised. This was not simply a continuation of old attitudes. The concern about deaf criminality highlighted the ambiguous responses by both deaf and hearing alike to the flourishing of deaf identity politics in the late Soviet era. The emergence of institutionalized deaf spaces, with their attendant emphasis on sign language culture, had the result of embodying deafness and making it vis­i­ble to the hearing; as deaf p­ eople came together and began to socialize in sign language, their physical difference became more evident to the world around

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them. This opening up of the deaf world to hearing scrutiny was further promoted by VOG, through its myriad publications and its use of the TMZh as a form of cultural envoy. Yet this increased visibility of the deaf community was not seen as unambiguously positive. While VOG continued to foreground the sovietness of its members and insist that greater contact with the hearing world would facilitate integration and mutual understanding, the experience of the “hearing gaze” was complex and frequently unsettling. However much the deaf community might stress their sense of belonging to the Soviet body politic, the existence of a defined deaf identity marked them out as “other” in the eyes of the hearing and would open them up to new and sometimes troubling interpretations. Indeed, the fear that the hearing world would misread the deaf community was frequently expressed. At the Seventh Congress of VOG in 1959, Sutiagin complained that the deaf ­were being poorly represented in Soviet cultural production: “It is necessary to note that in con­temporary lit­er­a­ ture, far more often than in classical lit­er­a­ture, one finds references to deaf-­mutes, and the majority with negative characteristics. [Zhizn´ glukhikh] should establish closer links with the Soviet Writers’ Union and take on itself the initiative to create artistic works about the life and work of Soviet deaf ­people, and good scripts for feature films about the deaf.”41 ­Until the mid1960s, in fact, ­there ­were very few books or films that engaged with deafness.42 Yet even as deafness began to enter the Soviet cultural consciousness, its portrayal did not always reflect the positive narratives of deaf-­sovietness pres­ent in VOG publications. In 1965, for example, two films with deaf characters ­were released in the USSR: Mikhail Bogin’s feature film Dvoe and Vasilii Shukshin’s adaptation of his short stories Vash syn i brat (Your Son and ­Brother). Both films revealed the ambiguity of hearing attitudes to the deaf, and particularly to deaf ­women, caught between admiration for deaf ­people’s capabilities and concern over their innate, exotic, otherness. Bogin’s Dvoe represented the most direct attempt by a Soviet filmmaker to engage with VOG’s positive framing of Soviet deaf identity.43 According to an interview in Zhizn´ glukhikh, Bogin’s intention in making the film was explic­ itly to highlight the abilities of Soviet deaf ­people. He explained that he had become interested in the deaf a­ fter a chance meeting with Svetlana Muskalova, an actress with the TMZh: “We understood that h ­ ere was an opportunity to show our audience something new. It is true that foreign directors have made several films about the deaf. . . . ​But in t­hese films, p­ eople deprived of hearing are shown as poor, rejected by society and humbled. No, we had a very dif­fer­ent goal in mind.”44 Bogin’s film highlighted the positive attributes of the

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late-­Soviet deaf community and showed his fascination with the materiality of the deaf world in the extended scenes filmed at the TMZh and in the long, lingering close-­ups of the signing hands of real-­life deaf actors Marta Grakhova and Valerii Liubimov. The film depicts deaf p­ eople as cultured, intelligent, and active, equally as comfortable reading Izvestiia as acting scenes—in sign language—­from Romeo and Juliet. Natasha, the film’s deaf heroine, is shown striving to overcome her hearing loss, working late into the night to pick up complex acrobatic routines to m ­ usic, sensing the rhythm by resting her hands on the lid of her accompanist’s piano. Yet even in the context of this positive cele­bration of Soviet deafness, the attitudes to deaf ­people revealed in Dvoe ­were deeply ambiguous. The fascination with deafness and the positive view of deaf characters in the film are tempered by moments of antideaf bigotry, such as when the pianist accompanying Natasha’s acrobatic training abruptly stops playing, muttering that “it’s a useless task, nothing ­will come of it.” While the film makes clear that this reactions is unacceptable, challenging it with Natasha’s triumphant (written) declaration that “It ­will come!,” the presence of such reactions of disgust complicates Bogin’s positive message of inclusion. More significantly, perhaps, the decision to cast the hearing actress Viktoria Fedorova as Natasha, despite the involvement in the film of qualified deaf actresses, suggests that even Bogin’s faith in the cultural abilities of deaf ­people was limited. While Bogin’s vision of deafness conforms to positive Soviet narratives of deaf transformation, his film also hints at darker fears and desires associated with the deaf, particularly deaf ­women. Scholars have frequently highlighted the historical intersection of categories of gender and disability, tracing the ways in which the disabled self is “feminized.”45 In Dvoe, gender shapes the ways in which Natasha’s deafness is understood by the viewer. Serezha’s view of Natasha is eroticizing; he fixates on her beauty, watching her in silence for extended periods of time (a trope highlighted by the film’s extended meta­phor of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet). The one real conversation between the ­couple focuses on Natasha’s deafening at the age of three, framing her passively as a child and as a victim. ­Under Serezha’s—­and by extension the viewer’s—­gaze, Natasha is a blank slate: beautiful, exotic, and ultimately unknowable. Shukshin’s Vash syn i brat continued this exploration of the Soviet deaf heroine through his character Vera (played by TMZh actress Marta Grakhova), the deaf-­mute ­sister of the eponymous “son and b­ rother” Stepan, who escaped from a l­ abor camp and returned home. Vera, as the review of the film in Zhizn´ glukhikh makes clear, is placed at the heart of the f­ amily drama and of the audience’s interest: “Vera is one of the central characters in the film. Her innate

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physical lack—­deafness—­has not alienated her from ­others, has not hardened her heart with resentment, has not made her withdrawn. Vera in the brightest pos­si­ble way personifies the authorial position in the film, a position of true agitation, of fiery love for ­people. It is as if the deaf-­mute girl has absorbed the rare gift of ­human goodness.”46 Vera functions as the emotional linchpin of the film; portrayed as si­mul­ta­neously childlike and motherly, her responses to the events that unfold echo and often foreshadow t­hose of the audience. The camera focuses on Vera’s face as she realizes that her b­ rother was not released early, as he claimed, but has escaped and is about to be rearrested; her expression provokes a similar, horrified realization on the part of the viewer. To a degree, this could be viewed as positive, demonstrating the ways in which portrayals of deafness reinforced Thaw-­era debates about language. According to John Givens, Grakhova’s per­for­mance foregrounded the inadequacy of words when dealing with the emotions of joy and loss engendered by Stepan’s return and his subsequent rearrest: “Her weeping, stumbling figure returning home from the police station is the last we see and it expresses all the dashed joy and pain awaiting Stepan’s entire f­amily.”47 As such, Shukshin’s direction reinforced the central rationale ­behind the TMZh, that bodily affect and sign language “spoke more eloquently than words.”48 Yet at the same time, the portrayal of Vera was ambiguous, provoking feelings of pity in the viewer for the unrestrained, childlike emotions and highlighting her muteness and isolation within the f­ amily environment. Indeed, muteness was a unifying (and, historically, rather unlikely) feature of ­these late-­Soviet portrayals of deaf ­women, recalling Spivak’s contention that silence is characteristic of the marginal or subaltern subject.49 While both films feature signing characters—­Natasha signs with her friends, and Vera signs to her friends and neighbors in the village—­sign is never interpreted or subtitled for a hearing audience. Natasha is portrayed throughout Dvoe as ­silent and reserved, unable to express herself to Serezha and his friends. The camera frequently replicates her gaze as she attempts to read lips or sense ­music, and the soundtrack is replaced by dissonant noise or silence. Vera is similarly portrayed as mute, making no sound of any kind throughout the emotional scenes of Stepan’s rearrest. Indeed, Shukshin’s original short story “Stepka,” on which the film was based, referred to Vera as the mute (nemaia).50 This muteness is somewhat surprising; with the continued emphasis placed on spoken language in deaf education, it seems unlikely that ­either character would have no spoken language at all, and the lack of speech seems to stand in sharp contrast to the practices of voicing promoted by the TMZh and proponents of “cultured sign.” Portraying both Natasha and Vera as mute, however, serves to underline their inability to

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express themselves and ultimately reinforces their innate, exotic otherness in the context of ­these films. ­These films reveal the complex and multilayered nature of Soviet popu­lar notions of deafness in the late Soviet period. Both films speak of the growing recognition of the deaf as a unique community: deaf reviews lauded the presence of deaf characters in a mainstream film, interpreting them as evidence of the growing social power of the deaf and underlining the real-­world inspiration for Bogin’s Natasha. Hearing responses to Dvoe, in par­tic­u­lar, ­were uniformly positive, suggesting that the film had a significant cultural impact. According to Iskusstvo kino, Dvoe “was met with unan­i­mous approval”; it won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1965 Moscow International Film Festival and was discussed widely in print.51 Natasha, in par­tic­u­lar, became representative of a par­tic­u­lar kind of Soviet deaf heroine: disabled by war, but beautiful, soulful, and full of potential. Yet the popularity of Natasha and Vera did not entirely dispel the ambiguity of hearing attitudes to deafness; their muteness, their emotional openness, and their seeming inability to fully connect with the hearing world complicated VOG’s portrayal of the deaf as integrated and successful Soviet citizens. Although this could be read as the per­sis­tence of popu­lar prejudices in the face of enlightened Soviet social policy, this ambiguity hints at a more fundamental uncertainty about the nature of deaf p­ eople and their place within the Soviet body politic. The mainstream portrayal of t­hese ambiguous deaf heroines was clearly prefigured in “Pygmalion” by Mariia Ivanovna Ivanova, who embodied the complexities of late Soviet deaf female identity. Ivanova is portrayed in this article as an infantile object of pity and exemplar of goodness; referred to throughout as “­little girl” (devchonka), she is described as facing the court in “a ­little cotton dress ­under a padded jacket, with someone ­else’s shoes,” and jumps for joy when given a new red jumper. When she is found a place at the UPP, her teachers report that “she worked well, she wanted to work.” Yet at the same time, hints of a less innocent self emerge. At the UPP, “a ruble and thirty kopecks went missing from one girl’s mitten and she blamed Ivanova, and Ivanova caused a stink and started fighting.”52 Ivanova also persists in returning to her criminal “­family” in the railway station, despite the opportunities given to her to start a new life. Both of ­these portrayals are hearsay; at no point in the article does Ivanova speak for herself, and impressions of her are thus constructed from the testimony of ­others. Yet both portrayals ­were equally troubling to the deaf community. If Ivanova was naturally inclined ­toward a life of crime by her deafness, which would flourish unchecked without outside help, this would destroy the narrative of deaf equality and agency that had been hard won over the previous four de­cades. Equally, if

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Ivanova surveyed her options as a member of the deaf community and chose a life of crime, what would this say about life in VOG? The ambiguity of hearing attitudes to deafness portrayed in ­these sources shows that the Soviet public had not completely embraced the notion of the deaf as equal citizens, fully integrated into the Soviet body politic. As “Pygmalion,” Dvoe, and Vash syn i brat reveal, the positive narrative put forward by VOG conflicted with other interpretations, which posited deafness (particularly in w ­ omen) as a font of emotional insight, as a hindrance to development, and as a source of muteness and passivity that precluded action and engagement in society. In the context of t­ hese ambiguities, the notion of deaf crime thus had significant symbolic weight, and risked destroying the carefully constructed narrative of deaf-­Soviet identity, agency and in­de­pen­ dence. As such, while “Pygmalion” and the subsequent debates over deaf crime never reached the level of universal moral panic that accompanied Gulag returnees, “parasites,” or stiliagi in the late 1950s, the discussion of deaf crime in the hearing press provoked an explosion of debate in the deaf world. The phenomenon of deaf crime was deeply unsettling to VOG, as it appeared to contradict their self-­representation as cultured Soviet p­ eople and thus ran the risk of returning the deaf community to a position of marginality and otherness. As Sutiagin warned, ­these individuals “with their amoral be­hav­ior and beggarly way of life bring shame to the members of our Society, and give the wrong impression about the deaf and deaf-­mute ­people of our country.”53 Thus, in the aftermath of Pygmalion’s publication, VOG needed to establish who was to blame for t­ hese individual deaf failures and what could be done to overcome them.

Who Is to Blame? The question of culpability stood at the heart of the discussions surrounding “Pygmalion.” For Garina, the hearing author of the article, the answer was ­simple. Mariia was an innocent, a victim of war and disability, who had been failed by t­ hose social organ­izations that w ­ ere responsible for her welfare: “Nobody knew that she had run away. And nobody had warned ­these Komsomol members who Ivanova was and what a g­ reat and significant task they had been entrusted with. Nobody from the local deaf society took an interest in how she was ­doing ­there. . . . ​None of the man­ag­ers and educators glanced with care at the new student with a hard fate. Thus stupid ­people ruined the work of Pygmalion.”54 Garina’s narrative reflected traditional Soviet understandings of deafness as an obstacle that could be overcome through the

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g­ reat, transformative work of the Soviet Pygmalion, “the society of our country.” Yet Garina portrayed this transformation less as a glorious “backwardness to first ranks” success and more as a fragile pro­cess that could be easily derailed by the indifference or malice of social actors. W ­ hether it be the callous police col­o­nel who chose to lock Ivanova up rather than learn about her tragic background or the VOG activists who ­were reluctant to help her ­because of her criminal past, ­these individuals had the power to disrupt or forestall the transformation of deaf individuals into Soviet citizens. Debates within the deaf community seemed to support Garina’s claims that VOG was at fault. In the initial discussion by the VOG Central Directorate, a mere two days a­ fter the article was published, activists confirmed that members of the local VOG leadership “did not demonstrate the necessary care over the fate of the deaf-­mute girl M. I. Ivanova and demonstrated a formal-­ bureaucratic attitude to her work placement.”55 The brief report went into more detail than Garina’s article, noting that at the Podol´sk UPP, Ivanova had “twice v­ iolated work discipline”—­playing truant for several days and turning up to work drunk—­before fi­nally leaving the UPP. Yet again, this misbehavior was seen as the fault of the UPP leadership. As a result, the Central Directorate committed to punishing ­those immediately responsible, including the UPP Director Adinaguev, the engineer Rezvan, and the deputy director of the Central Directorate, I. S. Sorokin, whose decision to warn the regional VOG apparatus that Ivanova was a former criminal was seen to have jeopardized her chances of assimilating into her new collective.56 Five days l­ater, a debate was convened by VOG in central Moscow, attended by Garina herself, the l­awyer Slutskina, and ­People’s Judge Alekseenko, who had dealt with Ivanova’s case. Deaf activists pres­ent continued to discuss the delinquent be­hav­ior of Ivanova as a failure of VOG. Komalov, a worker from the Podol´sk UPP, asked, “What is the Society of Deaf-­Mutes and why does it exist? Its main task is the care of deaf-­mutes, their work placement and education: all of this falls ­under the responsibility of our Society. Ivanova came to the Society for help, Sorokin and other comrades in the TsP treated her callously, and they are at fault for this callous attitude.”57 For ­these activists, VOG’s role was transformational, and its failures had real consequences for t­ hose like Ivanova who came to the society for help. They admitted that Ivanova and ­those like her w ­ ere “difficult to educate” (trudnovospituemye), but said that this did not absolve VOG of its duty to work with her. As such, the failures in be­ hav­ior and discipline should remain “on the conscience of our VOG department, on the consciences of our workers.”58 This blame was also extended to deaf schools, which w ­ ere seen to be failing in their duty inculcate Soviet moral and behavioral ethics in their pupils. The impression was therefore given that

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deaf p­ eople, particularly the young, ­were being comprehensively failed by the system. The arguments put forward during this debate thus drew on the long-­ established “backwardness to first ranks” narrative of deaf transformation, but added layers of complication and nuance. Activists grappled in par­tic­u­lar with the division between social determinism and active agency in their discussions of deaf be­hav­ior. Some chose to frame individuals such as Ivanova as passive victims of the system, marble to be sculpted by the artistic skill of state organ­izations such as VOG. Yet as the debate went on, many began to won­der aloud about the other side of the nature/nurture divide, questioning ­whether t­ hese ­children ­were in some way predisposed to criminality. As Peresvetova, the head of Special School No. 2, pointed out, “It is one t­ hing [to educate] easy, amenable ­children, but it is another ­matter with harder, intractable characters, who are considerably more difficult to educate [trudnee poddaiutsia vospitaniiu].”59 In many re­spects, this debate replicated some of the standard tropes of Khrushchev-­era discourse on criminality, arguing that “in the consciousness and be­hav­ior of some of the members of our society appear alien remnants of the past, something our Soviet society cannot ignore.”60 As society approached the era of communism and the social c­ auses of crime w ­ ere close to being eliminated, Soviet ideologues sought to attribute criminal be­ hav­ior to “remnants of the past,” forms of mentality left over from the cap­i­ tal­ist, prerevolutionary past that continued to haunt the consciousness of Soviet criminals.61 For many of t­ hose discussing “Pygmalion,” however, the concern was not ­whether such remnants of the past existed, but ­whether deaf ­people’s physical condition made them in some way more susceptible to crime. The sign-­ language interpreter Abaeva, who worked with deaf ­people in the Moscow court system, gave the most overt statement about deaf p­ eople’s natu­ral criminal inclinations: I fully understand that deaf-­mutes are a special category of ­people, who must be approached in a par­tic­u­lar way. . . . ​­These p­ eople have a ­g reat physical lack, they are hot-­tempered and irritable. The ner­vous system of almost all deaf-­mutes is affected, their ner­vous excitability is raised. The smallest unpleasantness excites them. Clearly, this explains the fact that among deaf-­mute criminals to a ­g reat extent the following crimes are committed: murder, robbery-­assault, and grievous bodily harm, crimes that are particularly dangerous or threaten life.62 For Abaeva, the c­ auses of deaf criminality lay not in the social milieu, or indeed in poor education, but in an overexcited ner­vous system. Abaeva thus

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echoed the concerns put forward in the secret island scandal, or even in Stalin’s 1951 comments, in which the behavioral traits of deaf ­children ­were attributed to physiology.63 Abaeva was seemingly not well-­liked within the VOG community, and some took the opportunity to criticize her for serving the deaf community poorly in her job with the militsiia.64 Yet her concern over the deaf predisposition to crime was forcefully put, and at no point was it challenged directly. Indeed, far from contradicting Abaeva’s analy­sis, many speakers during the VOG debate tacitly supported her contention that deaf ­people w ­ ere in some way predisposed to bad be­hav­ior. Instead of blaming the ner­vous system, however, such activists focused on the issue of the deaf f­ amily, a central part of the deaf community experience in the late Soviet period. Unlike in the eugenics-­ driven polities of Western Eu­rope, the USSR had never attempted to ban marriage between deaf individuals, with the result that many c­ hildren, both hearing and deaf alike, w ­ ere born and raised in deaf families.65 In light of “Pygmalion,” ­these families ­were reconfigured as breeding grounds for criminal be­hav­ior, as young p­ eople grew up away from the civilizing influence of the hearing and speaking world. Another interpreter, Drakina, argued that “deaf-­mute parents only know how to give birth to ­children, but they ­don’t want to raise them.” For Drakina, deaf criminality was due to the lack of a moral framework, something that could not be effectively instilled in a child in the context of a deaf ­family. Instead of blame, such criminals should inspire pity: “Of course, the life of deaf-­mutes is often hard. Sometimes they do bad deeds not consciously, but ­because they do not know what is right and what is wrong.”66 It was not only hearing interpreters who concurred with this moral condemnation of the deaf f­ amily. The veteran deaf activist Iampolskii sounded a note of caution about hearing ­children being brought up by deaf parents: “You all know difficult life is for us deaf-­mutes. It’s especially hard for us to raise ­children who can hear and speak. . . . ​We ­can’t hear, but the child grows and his horizons widen further. If he ­isn’t helped in time, he ­will become a poorly cultured person or a criminal.”67 The blame was thus shifted onto the school system, which was expected to fill the void left by delinquent deaf parents. As Peresvetova pointed out, this put intolerable pressure on the teachers. She told the story of a certain Gal´chenkov, a young pupil of the school, who per­sis­ tently stole small items such as crayons, pencils, and apples. When the school approached his deaf m ­ other for help, she protested that “this is a slander against my child: ­don’t make ­things up. I ­won’t take any action.” As such, Peresvetova argued, it was useless to focus on the schools without considering the ­family too: “The school must help and participate in the educational

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[vospitatel´naia] work that is carried out by the deaf society, but the deaf society must also help to educate parents, so that ­these parents can help the school.”68 This focus on the ­family again highlighted the gender-­specific discourses of deafness and deaf crime. While many of the crimes ­under discussion ­were perpetrated by men (particularly the violent crimes on which Abaeva focused her comments), the figure of the female petty criminal took center stage in ­these debates. Alongside Ivanova, activists focused their attention on several ­women who had offended the rules of Soviet be­hav­ior. For many of t­ hese ­women, a “poor attitude to work” was accompanied by overtly sexual be­hav­ ior, a tendency to steal clothes or cosmetics, or a desire to be supported by a rich husband rather than engage in “honest ­labor.” Both ­mothers and ­daughters ­were implicated in t­ hese discourses; Peresvetova, for example, told the story of a young deaf girl, Morozova, whose deaf ­mother prompted her to steal clothes and bedding from the teachers (“Mum said to take it”) and used the girl as a runner in her criminal enterprise. The girl ­later tried to run away from school and travel to Riga with some of her m ­ other’s friends. Asked by her teachers how ­these ­women supported themselves, she announced that “men look ­after them and give them money. Rus­sian men are bad, but Armenians are better, they give more money.”69 Such anecdotes inverted the ste­reo­type of the hardworking Soviet deaf heroine and complicated the Soviet film portrayal of the innocent deaf w ­ oman, painting instead a picture of deaf ­women as inherently deviant, driven by impulses to consume. In ­these discussions, specific concerns about deafness intersected with broader “moral panic” about Soviet young ­women in the Khrushchev era, embodied, as Kristin Roth-­Ey has traced, in the figure of the “loose girl.”70 One anecdote in the Pygmalion debate describes an encounter with one such girl: A deaf-­mute girl approached me and said, “Please talk to this ­uncle for me, he’s my husband.” That “­uncle” was fifty years old, and she was twenty. . . . ​It was the deaf-­mute Miroshina. Her m ­ other, who was of wanton be­hav­ior, had recently died. Clearly, the ­daughter was following the same path. He was a scientist. I had to ask: what kind of scientist? A se­nior laboratory technician at the Acad­emy of Sciences. Clearly, he was only pretending to be [a scientist], and had picked himself up a deaf-­mute lover. This is a shameful fact for us!71 The depiction of Miroshina h ­ ere is multilayered; she is depicted as a passive victim of male deception and desire, unable to make empowered decisions,

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but t­hese clear overtones of exploitation are complicated by the locating of “shame” for Miroshina’s be­hav­ior in the deaf community itself. Activists thus continued to judge such ­women for their be­hav­ior and their tendency to choose the seemingly easy path of prostitution or familial dependence. This focus on female deviance was particularly striking in the context of the gender politics of VOG in the capital. Although the VOG TsP was predominantly male, the Moscow City branch of VOG was administered mostly by ­women, and w ­ omen played a significant role in the deaf cultural and social life of the capital. In 1959, Anna Grigor´evna Antipina, a profoundly deaf ­woman from Ivanovo-­Vosnesensk, was elected chairwoman of Moscow City VOG, a post she would hold ­until 1965.72 Antipina was a staunch advocate for Soviet deaf w ­ omen, attending the World Congress of W ­ omen at the Kremlin in 1963 and meeting the first female cosmonaut, Vera Tereshkova.73 Another towering figure from the period was Glafira Mikhailovna Lukinykh, the editor of Zhizn´ glukhikh since 1957 and the sole deaf w ­ oman elected to the Moscow 74 Soviet. She was a devoted patron of deaf poets and went on to set up the literary organ­ization Tuning Fork in 1976. Deaf w ­ omen excelled in the arts, with TMZh actresses Marta Grakhova and Ol´ga Garfeld each awarded the title Honored Artist of the RSFSR, and deaf w ­ omen artists showing their work at exhibitions across the city. In sport, too, the profile of deaf w ­ omen continued to rise; the deaf gymnast Svetlana Slepneva won seven gold medals at the Ninth International Deaf Games in Helsinki in 1961.75 It was perhaps not surprising, therefore, that the complex figure of the deaf heroine would become so central to the work of directors such as Bogin and Shukshin. Yet as the Izvestiia article demonstrated, the figure of the deviant deaf ­woman continued to capture the imagination of deaf and hearing activists alike. This focus on the deaf female criminal demonstrates a continued foregrounding of the rhetorical linkage between w ­ omen and the deaf that had emerged in the 1930s (the “baba to comrade” trope), as both groups ­were constructed as backward “­others.” In an echo of earlier discourses of female crime, such portraits of female deaf criminals stressed the “tremendous obstacles to becoming proper, conscious, and po­liti­cally engaged Soviet citizens.”76 Just as w ­ omen ­were seen as predisposed to crime in that they w ­ ere maternal, tied to their bodies, and swayed by their attachments to the material world, so deaf ­people ­were seen as spontaneous and bodily, unable to curb their impulses through reason and language. This picture of the deaf female criminal thus perpetuated Stalin’s analy­sis of the deaf as elemental and unbound by reason and consciousness. Strikingly, during the “Pygmalion” debate, this analy­sis was tacitly perpetuated by the deaf activists themselves, who argued that a large number of deaf ­people “who do not want to engage

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in socially useful ­labor, inhabit the railway stations and the metro and incline other young [deaf] ­people to criminal activity.”77 Alongside such overt ste­reo­types, the VOG “Pygmalion” debate also put forward an inverted vision of the deaf community, one that was worlds apart from the golden age ideal described in VOG propaganda. In this alternative conception, the deaf community was not an official, institutional framework, a crucible for the transformation of deaf ­people into model Soviet citizens, but rather an underground network of deaf ­family and community ties that fostered criminal be­hav­ior. Speakers hinted at the existence of longstanding traditions of criminality in the deaf community that predated the death of Stalin and intersected with the Gulag system. Activists per­sis­tently returned to the case of Kurdina, a twenty-­year-­old ­woman who was fired from Moscow UPP No. 2 for violating ­labor discipline, despite being “surrounded by care” in the ­labor collective. It was made clear, however, that the criminal tendencies of her immediate circle of deaf associates w ­ ere to blame: Kurdina came from a “bad ­family. Her s­ ister was a criminal, her ­brother was the same, and the youn­gest s­ ister was following in their footsteps, she did not want to work and behaved wantonly.”78 Significantly, her ­father and ­mother, both deaf, w ­ ere described as “former vory,” thus making the link to or­ga­nized crime explicit. Despite the best efforts of VOG activists to offer her help and training to enter work, she categorically refused, choosing instead to associate with criminal friends and live illegally: speakers hinted that “we know of several flats where such unhealthy groups gather.”79 Kurdina was thus held up as a cautionary tale: allowing deaf ­people to inhabit this “shadow” deaf community would inevitably lead to their involvement in crime and their exclusion from the Soviet body politic. It becomes clear when reading the transcript of the VOG “Pygmalion” debate, however, that the dividing line between the official and the shadow deaf communities was blurred. While many deaf individuals did drop out of the official deaf world, choosing to sleep rough in railway stations and to support themselves through criminal activities, the majority of the cases discussed h ­ ere concern deaf criminals who ­were—­and remained—­members of VOG. Both Kurdina and Ivanova ­were members through their work placements at the UPPs, and their everyday experiences sat uneasily between the criminal world and the official activities of VOG. This echoes the situation in the hearing world; as Fitzpatrick says, “It was as if a ‘second society’ of parasites coexisted within the ‘first’ society of toilers (or, even worse, that ­every toiler was a potential parasite).”80 The suggestion of such an overlap between VOG and criminal circles is perhaps inevitable given the nature of the sources linked to the “Pygmalion” furor; for VOG activists to be able to discuss t­hese cases, the

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individuals in question would need to have made contact with the society in some way. Yet this overlap was also pres­ent in other sources: at a discussion on the planned renewal of VOG membership cards in 1961, for example, the deaf activist Ginzburgskii complained that deaf criminals and delinquents w ­ ere using their VOG membership cards to “get out of jail ­free,” producing them when they w ­ ere arrested in the train station to convince the militsiia to let them go.81 ­These individuals w ­ ere not incorrigible criminals, therefore; they existed within the structures of VOG and as such complicated the narrative of VOG as a transformative Soviet institution. ­These debates did not merely highlight VOG as a site or object of criminality, but also hinted that the structures of VOG might in themselves be considered its cause. The emphasis on VOG as a source of social support, which underpinned the state decrees of 1951 and 1962, painted a picture of deaf ­people as deserving of the welfare and care of the state. For many participants in the “Pygmalion” debate, this welfare was not a positive phenomenon but a crutch that made deaf individuals passive, dependent, and more likely to turn to crime than engage in useful l­abor. Peresvetova claimed, “It turns out that adult deaf-­mutes are like five-­year-­old ­children. They think that they are entitled and VOG w ­ ill give: and if VOG gives, then they w ­ ill take it away as soon as the deaf-­mute starts to earn money with his own ­labor. Such examples are infectious. Deaf-­mute ­children are already saying that our state is rich, it w ­ ill 82 feed, clothe, and shoe us, and we ­will live well.” Many of the anecdotes about deaf criminals featured this expectation of VOG support, no ­matter what: “Money. VOG always helps. It w ­ ill feed us.”83 ­These comments highlight the disconnection between two central discourses of the late Soviet era: the development of structures of welfare and support, on the one hand, and the fight against “idlers and parasites,” on the other. The promulgation of the 1956 pension law underlined the Soviet Union’s commitment to support its most vulnerable citizens, and deaf ­people ­were clearly considered to be dependents entitled to financial and material support. Yet the growing social preoccupation with “parasitism”—­defined by Khrushchev at the Twentieth Party Congress as p­ eople “who carry out no useful work ­either in the society or in the ­family but engage in vagrancy and begging and often commit crimes”—­made such financial dependence morally (and legally) suspect.84 Within the par­tic­u­lar politics of the deaf community, the reliance on welfare also raised the specter of prerevolutionary tutelage and dependence, thus threatening the structures of deaf agency and in­de­pen­dence long fostered by VOG. As such, welfare and de­pen­dency, while lauded in official speeches, was challenged in the VOG “Pygmalion” debate, with speakers insisting on the work capabilities of the deaf: “[The militsiia] often consider deaf-­mutes to

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be ill: they must not. Our deaf-­mutes are physically healthy ­people, and they must be made to work; t­ here is no need to coddle them.”85 For many, therefore, VOG’s focus on material support and welfare for the deaf community obscured the organ­ization’s fundamental responsibility to facilitate the agency and transformation of deaf ­people. Stearin’s account of his conversation with Ivanova demonstrated the limitations of material help in the transformation of deaf individuals: I asked her, “Why did you leave the dormitory? They gave you work, clothed you, shod you, put you on the right path, and you left.” She answered, “The dormitory gave me ­little. In the dormitory they called me a thief [vorovka]. In essence, they d­ idn’t accept me into the collective, so I was bored with them. I remembered my old life and felt drawn back t­ here again, and so I left.”86 Ivanova’s indifference to material help called into question VOG’s emphasis on making and distributing money in the ser­vice of the deaf. Deaf activists drew attention to practices of money-­g iving, describing it as an easy option that allowed VOG to abdicate responsibility for its members: “It is not enough to give money, to give a bed; we must look into a person’s soul and show warmth. That would be better.”87 For veteran activist Sof´ia Lychkina, this episode seemed likely to provoke a fundamental change in VOG’s practices: “­After this article about Ivanova, our Society ­will cease to throw a hundred rubles at someone and send them to the ends of the earth.”88 The “Pygmalion” debate thus raised complex questions about deaf culpability and the ­causes of criminal be­hav­ior. While many activists ­were at pains to stress that deaf ­people ­were innocent victims of the system, failed by VOG and the school system, the debates also uncovered the specters of other, more ambiguous, interpretations of deafness and deaf be­hav­ior. Some, like Abaeva, chose to blame the physiology of deaf ­people for their criminal tendencies; ­others stressed the unhealthy influence of communities of deaf criminals and deaf former vory. O ­ thers pointed the fin­ger at VOG for creating a generation of passive, dependent deaf p­ eople who could do nothing without help; as Sorokin would l­ater complain, “Our deaf-­mutes are completely helpless in resolving the simplest everyday questions, and turn to the VOG department for the littlest ­thing, for ­every trifle.”89 As such, ­these debates went beyond the issue of crime, working to redefine the ideals of deaf be­hav­ior within late Soviet society. Yet however t­hese prob­lems had come about, they left VOG with the significant challenge of solving this perceived crisis in deaf be­hav­ior. ­After establishing who was to blame, they now needed to decide what was to be done about it.

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Policing the Deaf Community For Garina and the ­legal professionals involved, the “Pygmalion” case highlighted failures in the work of VOG and the Soviet court system that needed to be uncovered and rectified. The situation with Ivanova, they argued, proved that the prob­lems of the “difficult to educate” (trudnovospituemye) ­were being ignored; instead, ­these organs demonstrated a “formal” attitude, following the letter of the law rather than working to understand the reasons b­ ehind such individuals’ be­hav­ior and thus provide the necessary conditions for their rehabilitation: “You ­can’t educate [vospityvat´] in this way: ­either a [police] file numbered something-­or-­other, or get out of our sight.”90 Yet for Garina, and the ­lawyer Slutskina whose letter to Izvestiia had precipitated the “Pygmalion” furor, this case represented an opportunity for change and a chance to demonstrate the beneficent and transformative nature of Soviet social organ­izations: “Even if certain administrators . . . ​make m ­ istakes, ­there are such p­ eople . . . ​who are capable of rectifying t­hese ­mistakes and returning ­those who are on a criminal path to the number of honest toilers of our society.”91 In a similar vein, the discussions within the deaf community called on VOG to reform its work with “difficult to educate” individuals.92 In line with broader discourses of the Thaw, in par­tic­u­lar the decisions of the Twenty-­First Party Congress, the veteran activist Iampol´skii took TsP VOG to task for demonstrating a “formal-­bureaucratic” attitude to its work with deaf p­ eople and failing to develop a responsive attitude to the prob­lems faced by the “living person.” He argued that the rapid expansion of VOG and the development of a complex bureaucracy had made it more difficult for the leadership to engage personally with its members, as had been the case in the early years of the organ­ization; “even when our Party was engaged in collectivization and the war against the kulaks they paid attention to us.”93 As a result, Party or­ga­nizer Artem´ev called for the leadership to spend more time in the House of Culture: “Come for an eve­ning, without an invitation, and take an interest in the air we breathe, the interests, needs, and desires deaf-­mutes have.”94 In many ways, therefore, the decisions made by the VOG TsP over the course of 1960 demonstrated less of a reforming zeal than a desire to return to long-­established systems of deaf ­labor and social organ­ization, and they reinforce the belief in the transformative potential of the Soviet deaf community. The decree published on February 12, 1960 echoed the rhe­toric of the 1930s deaf employment drive in its commitment to improve systems of work placement in the UPPs and expand ser­vices for t­ hose leaving special schools, as well as to increase the material help given to VOG members.95 Provisions

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­ ere made for UPPs to teach trades to ­those (“especially girls”) who found it w difficult to get a place in central trade schools, and to improve cultural and educational work through the network of VOG clubs and red corners.96 Alongside ­these social interventions, activists pointed to the development of Soviet deaf culture and the expansion of VOG building schemes as a key to redeeming ­those individuals who refused to work: “Then [they] ­will leave the criminal group b­ ecause they w ­ ill have somewhere to live.”97 For ­those discussing “Pygmalion,” therefore, the answer did not lie in developing innovative approaches to antisocial be­hav­ior but in a return to grassroots practices and an interest in the complex histories of deaf individuals. Such practices ­were difficult to continue in light of the increase in VOG membership, however, and the discrepancies in provision between the center and the periphery. Several activists noted that violations of the passport regime, one of the crimes for which Ivanova was prosecuted, was inevitable if the best cultural and social institutions for deaf p­ eople w ­ ere concentrated in Moscow: “The streets advised her: go to Moscow, they ­will support you t­ here and find you work.”98 In light of this, much discussion during this period centered on the further institutionalization and distribution of VOG’s ser­vices across the USSR.99 Activists also considered the expansion of VOG control over further aspects of deaf individual’s lives. Proposals during the VOG “Pygmalion” debate involved the twenty-­four-­hour opening of schools, to protect deaf ­children from the malignant influence of deaf families, or the permanent removal of ­children.100 Artem´ev advocated close collaboration with the Gulag administration, so that prisoners could be released directly to VOG. Other suggestions included the expansion of the duties of instructor-­interpreters, who should work to rehabilitate badly behaved members of the collective, b­ ecause “­these are our Soviet p­ eople, who must fulfil the decrees of the Party and government on the fight against crime.”101 As such, the expansion of VOG’s institutional structure can be seen as an attempt to bring tried-­and-­tested practices of sovietization to all deaf individuals. Even though the practices ­were similar, the discourses of tackling deaf crime w ­ ere somewhat dif­fer­ent and betrayed the complex attitudes of both deaf and hearing alike to deafness and antisoviet be­hav­ior in the Khrushchev era. As deaf activists grappled with the issue of deaf predisposition to criminal be­hav­ior, they remained torn between a desire to rehabilitate deaf criminals through art and ­labor, and an increasing push to police and control deaf be­hav­ior. For the majority of speakers, deaf criminals ­were seen as inherently redeemable; as their deviancy had been created by society, it could also be cured through the power of the collective and the value of ­labor. Yet the bound­aries between rehabilitation and control w ­ ere unclear. Immediately ­after Ivanova’s

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arrest, the VOG TsP demonstrated the interrelationship of t­ hese discourses, accusing the Podol´sk UPP of “not surrounding Ivanova with genuine care and attention, not drawing her in to participation in social events, not controlling her be­hav­ior, and not creating the necessary conditions for her rehabilitation.”102 In this case, VOG’s role was conceived as hybrid, providing social support and si­mul­ta­neously policing the bound­aries of acceptable be­hav­ior in Ivanova. In this re­spect, VOG echoed the practices of other organ­izations in this period, which began to police the be­hav­ior of its own members as a form of social control (obshchestvennyi kontrol´). Julie Elkner points out that the Twenty-­First Party Congress “hailed the passing of many state functions away from the KGB and other bodies to public organ­izations as a sign that the USSR was moving closer to communism.”103 In the wake of Stalin’s death, as part of a broader desire to repudiate terror and establish a more humane form of governance, social bodies such as the Komsomol ­were given the power to police their members, and extrajudicial systems replaced state organs in dealing with petty crime and misbehavior. As Christine Varga-­Harris explains, this rise in self-­policing was an impor­tant corollary of the rise in material welfare: “While the state was to lay the material groundwork for society through mass housing, ordinary individuals ­were expected to secure its moral foundation through exemplary be­hav­ior, as well as participation in the reform of wayward neighbors.”104 Prodded by the “Pygmalion” article, VOG demonstrated a similar shift ­toward self-­policing. During the VOG debate, Sutiagin explained that “Ivanova ­wasn’t sent [to the UPP] by chance, but at the special request of the ­People’s Judge so that she could be educated, as if she w ­ ere on bail [kak by na poruki]. They should not only have created the material conditions for her life and work but exercised daily control over her attitude to work, her be­hav­ior.”105 Activists called for the establishment of deaf ­people’s patrols (druzhiny) to police the House of Culture and other deaf spaces, and reminded members that “when a deaf-­mute works in the collective, he is ­under surveillance.”106 VOG’s involvement in policing and social control was sometimes instigated by the state: during the Fourth International Festival of Youth and Students in 1957, for example, the Moscow City branch of VOG was asked to or­ga­nize “a patrol of specified metro stations and Parks of Culture and Leisure to assist the administrative organs in maintaining the necessary order among deaf-­ mutes.”107 Yet in many re­spects, ­these practices revealed a desire among the deaf community to supplant the state and develop forms of deaf justice for deaf individuals. As “Pygmalion” had shown, state organs such as the P ­ eople’s Court sometimes expressed pity for the plight of deaf criminals and let them

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go. For activists, however, this was not acceptable. According to Peresvetova, deaf p­ eople often argued that “I am a deaf-­mute, a disabled person, and ­there can be no punishment for me. What ­you’re accusing me of is untrue, ­you’ve simply made it up.”108 In order to ­counter this attitude, VOG activists called for policing functions to be transferred to the organ­ization. Deaf activist Valentina Grigor´evna Filippova, in the most overt demand for deaf involvement in the justice system, called on the militsiia to send all misbehaving deaf ­people to VOG, so that they could “engage in the fight to reeducate the unconscious group of members of our Society.”109 She also lamented that “Moscow City VOG does not have the right to make arrests, it only has the right to carry out investigative work. We carry it out and ­will continue to carry it out; we must do this.”110 To a degree, this desire to engage in the justice system and ensure proportionate punishment for deaf crime and misbehavior conformed to narratives of deaf equality and agency: if the deaf ­were equal citizens, then they ­were deserving of equal punishment u ­ nder the law. Yet the active involvement of deaf social bodies in policing and criminal justice revealed differences in the ways in which correct be­hav­ior was conceptualized and regulated by the deaf, and uncovered preoccupations within the deaf community about be­hav­ior, sovietness, and the meaning of deafness. Just as discourses of hooliganism had enabled the Soviet authorities to redefine the bound­aries of acceptable be­hav­ior and “define the new ethical contours of the civilized post-­Stalinist subject,” discussion of unacceptable be­hav­ior within the deaf community became a means to define the ideal of deaf-­Soviet subjectivity and identify ­those who lay beyond the pale.111 As V. M. Nesterov, a deaf activist and former member of the TsP, pointed out at the conclusion of the “Pygmalion” debate, “­There are ­those who stumbled by accident [kotorye sluchaino spotknulis´], and ­there are ­those who cannot be redeemed. And ­these unredeemable ­people should not always be supported. They need to be punished, put in prisons or camps. ­Today we have only talked of surrounding ­people with care: this is not right.”112 The necessity of defining this line between the redeemable petty hooligan and the dangerous criminal was particularly urgent within the deaf community, for whom the bound­aries of inclusion and exclusion w ­ ere constantly being renegotiated. For VOG activists, in par­tic­u­lar, the danger of deaf crime lay in its ability to tarnish all deaf ­people as unworthy of inclusion in the Soviet body politic. Susan Burch traces similar attempts by the U.S. deaf community to exclude deaf p­ eople from racial minorities, or t­ hose with complex disabilities, particularly ­mental prob­lems, which “posed . . . ​a threat to the image of Deafness.”113 In the Soviet context, however, it was be­hav­ior, not

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physicality, that was interpreted as a risk to deaf integration. As Sutiagin warned, deaf hooligans “with their amoral be­hav­ior and beggarly way of life bring shame to the members of our Society, and give the wrong impression about deaf and deaf-­mute ­people of our country.”114 Such be­hav­ior, it was feared, risked contradicting the deaf community’s self-­representation as cultured Soviet ­people, which had enabled them to prove their capabilities and claim agency within society. As such, much of the VOG “Pygmalion” debate concerned the visibility of deaf crime and the necessity of limiting such be­hav­iors at all costs. Activists used vivid imagery to characterize t­hose individuals whose be­hav­ior lay beyond the pale: the chairwoman of Moscow City VOG Antipina concluded the debate with the call to “go home and think how to help, so that ­there are no monsters [urody] in our ­family. Our ­family must be without monsters.”115 Nesterov compared the situation in VOG to a Literaturnaia gazeta article about drunk tanks, explic­itly equating deaf hooligans to alcoholics: “We can compare the education of deaf-­mutes to ­those ­people being straightened out by the government. Is it easier to educate them? On the contrary, it is more difficult.”116 Another activist, P. V. Slozhenkov, recalled his participation in the famous street clearances of 1945–1946, in which severely disabled beggars, as well as drunks and other social outcasts, w ­ ere removed from Soviet public spaces: “As you see,” he concluded, “­there are very few disabled p­ eople left with their hands out. Our Society should likewise pay serious attention to the liquidation of ­those breeding grounds that exist in the stations and in other places.”117 For t­ hese activists, while the techniques of rehabilitation might be debated, the end result was the same: to remove badly behaved deaf ­people from the streets and thus from hearing scrutiny. The concern to eliminate deaf criminality sometimes spilled over into much broader worries about the everyday be­hav­iors of deaf p­ eople in urban space. While the “Pygmalion” debate concerned petty hooliganism and criminality broadly defined, other sources from the period show increased concern among VOG activists about the vis­ib­ le difference of deaf be­hav­ior. In 1959, for example, a debate in the Moscow City branch of VOG criticized deaf p­ eople for gathering and chatting in the street outside the Khronika cinema on movie night: “Why are deaf-­mutes crowding in the street? For five minutes they run around like mad p­ eople. Can that be allowed?”118 Such worries w ­ ere exacerbated by the changes to the deaf community in the late Soviet era, particularly the creation of institutional deaf spaces within cities and the attempts by VOG to propagandize the organ­ization and increase hearing familiarity with the deaf world. While ­these spaces ­were intended to showcase the transformation of deaf individuals into Soviet citizens, t­ hese shifts also embodied the

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deaf community to a degree not before seen, and made deaf p­ eople’s unique be­hav­iors and language increasingly vis­i­ble to the hearing: “Our [deaf ­people] with their gesticulation catch the eye.”119 Debates about deaf be­hav­ior thus most often concerned the visibility of sign language, and echoed broader worries, foreshadowed by Stalin, that sign—­ and by extension deafness—­was at its heart an uncultured phenomenon. Indeed, the framing of deafness as inherently uncultured was prevalent in VOG propaganda of the time, despite the positive spin placed on deaf culture. Dmitriev, for example, suggested in his brochure The Deaf and Deaf Mutes of the USSR that the high level of deafness in third world countries was due to a “low level of culture.”120 Such beliefs inevitably found their way into deaf social policy. In a telling exchange at Moscow City branch VOG in 1957, Sorokin recounted: “I remember one instance: one comrade came in to Ivan Ivanovich and said ‘it’s a disgrace, our deaf-­mutes are g­ oing to the Moscow Hippodrome.’ And why should they not go ­there, if generals and col­o­nels can? Why can our deaf-­mutes not buy a ticket and go? Just b­ ecause they speak in sign language? Our deaf-­mutes are very noticeable ­because of sign.” Sorokin clearly did not agree with the unknown comrade’s attitude, arguing for the right of deaf ­people to gather and converse anywhere, even on the metro. Yet he clearly had taken on board the imperative for deaf ­people to appear cultured and the unspoken worry that sign language was inherently lacking. He ­later commented that “if they behave in a cultured way [kul´turno], then no one can say anything bad.”121 Deaf activists thus internalized the “hearing gaze” and began to police the deaf community, not simply to eradicate criminality but in order to acculturate deaf ­people to a narrow set of predominantly hearing be­hav­iors. This preoccupation with “passing”—­performing hearingness in public space—­can be found repeatedly in VOG debates of the 1960s.122 The Khronika cinema debate, for example, did not cite any concrete challenges to public order but instead reflected a general despair over deaf ­people’s failure to respond to the city in the same way as the hearing. Their insistence on signing in the street before the film and their inability to hear cars broadcast their difference clearly to the world. Although this lack of responsiveness and vis­i­ble difference was not the fault of the deaf themselves, it was clearly regarded as VOG’s responsibility to alter their be­hav­ior: “The aktiv need to explain how to behave in public places. You have to behave yourselves better everywhere.”123 This widespread worry about deaf misbehavior appears to have far exceeded any hearing concerns on the subject; at a meeting in 1963 to discuss the deaf holiday home in Kriukovo, the sole question addressed to the (hearing) man­ag­er concerned “what amoral acts had taken place and . . . ​how [VOG] had reacted,”

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to which, confused, he could only reply that “deaf ­people behave more modestly in all re­spects than the speaking.”124 ­Whether justified or not, ­these debates over the policing of deaf be­hav­ior showed a number of conceptual shifts regarding deafness and the deaf community in the late Soviet period. On the one hand, the development of structures of deaf self-­policing showed the extent to which the deaf community had come to understand sovietness in an increasingly pragmatic sense: as a cultural value to be acquired, and as a narrow set of behavioral guidelines to which they should conform, in order to achieve inclusion within the Soviet body politic. On the other hand, ­these debates showed the emergence of a dif­fer­ent vision of the deaf community, not as a transformative and facilitative social organ­ization but as a disciplinary body, concerned less with the everyday well-­being of its members than the imperative to put forward a well-­ordered image of deafness to the hearing. VOG discourses from this period thus show complex practices of inclusion and “othering” as deaf activists attempted to better define the ideal of deaf-­ Soviet be­hav­ior. Such practices w ­ ere often linguistic: activists increasingly pointed to a distinction between the cultured deaf (glukhie) and uncultured deaf-­mutes (glukhonemye). Such distinctions w ­ ere far from literal; although they drew on per­sis­tent social attitudes that posited oral speech as cultured and sign language as “backward,” the terms “deaf,” and “deaf-­mute” soon became synonymous with “acceptable” and “unacceptable,” or “Soviet” and “antisoviet.” Attitudes t­ oward deaf-­mutes ranged from a paternalistic desire to rehabilitate to an inclination to arbitrarily exclude such individuals from the deaf collective: “A deaf-­mute comes and asks for work. We phone the factory. They tell us: give us the good ones, we ­don’t want the bad. The bad spoil our collective.”125 In 1961, activists such as A. S. Korotkov and D. L. Ginzburgskii called for the rules concerning VOG membership to be tightened in order to weed out ­those who behaved unacceptably: “It is time to not give them work, u ­ ntil they begin to work honestly, and to not give them a VOG membership card.”126 It is impor­tant to note that such attitudes ­were not universal, and that many VOG activists, particularly ­those who had entered the organ­ization in the early Stalin era, w ­ ere horrified at the suggestion that VOG should support only ­those who behaved appropriately. For Lychkina, the Izvestiia article “hit us like lightning. For can such a t­ hing happen in our organ­ization? A deaf-­mute is sent to some town or other, he arrives ­there, goes to the chairman of the Society, and the chairman decides ‘not one of us’ and does not accept him from the heart.”127 At such moments, the two visions of the organ­ization— as supportive framework, and as disciplinary body—­clashed. In is clear in ­these debates, however, that when deaf p­ eople came into contact with the

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hearing world, e­ ither on the city streets, in the factories, or in the courts, their be­hav­ior was seen to reflect on the deaf as a community. T ­ hese moments of contact revealed the fundamental precariousness of deaf-­ Soviet identity; while successful deaf individuals ­were seen as Soviet exemplars, evidence of the transformation that could be achieved given structures of support and the individual ­will to overcome, deaf criminals ­were seized on as evidence of the fundamental otherness of the deaf community as a ­whole. In response to this, VOG activists sought both to actively police its members’ be­hav­ior and limit t­ hese un­regu­la­ted moments of deaf-­hearing contact. When discussing the Khronika cinema case, Sutiagin reported that plans for the Palace of Culture w ­ ere proceeding apace, which would allow deaf p­ eople to socialize in a way that would not disturb the hearing. He argued that “we have no need to lock ourselves away b­ ehind the walls of our House of Culture,” but concluded that “the more that deaf ­people associate with the hearing, the better. But it has turned out the other way around.”128 While deaf institutions such as the TMZh continued to actively advertise its per­for­mances to the hearing, the everyday experiences of deaf p­ eople ­were increasingly locked away in specialized deaf spaces where deaf p­ eople could be better understood, or where their tendencies ­toward criminal be­hav­ior could be tackled at a distance from the hearing world. Deaf crime thus represented a secondary impetus in the strengthening of the institutionalized deaf community, not simply a means to showcase and encourage deaf-­sovietness, but as a tool in the fight against misreadings of deaf identity by the hearing.

Conclusion In his contribution to the VOG “Pygmalion” debate, Iampolskii expressed his gratitude to Izvestiia for bringing deaf crime, and by extension VOG, into the national consciousness: “Comrades, I wish with all my heart, on behalf of this tribunal, to say a heartfelt thanks to the newspaper Izvestiia, which has drawn attention to strengthening the position of our Society. . . . ​We must be honest before the p­ eople.”129 One might imagine that this gratitude was expressed through gritted teeth. The making vis­i­ble of the prob­lem of deaf crime and misbehavior was clearly deeply unsettling to the activists pres­ent and revealed fundamental concerns about the position of the deaf community within Soviet society. Despite VOG’s attempts to frame the narrative of deafness as one of transformation and the overcoming of obstacles, deaf crime, and the Pygmalion meta­phor in par­tic­u­lar, revealed this transformation to be limited and fragile. If “some talentless person” could ruin the work

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of transforming the deaf into Soviet citizens, then their integration into the Soviet body politic was far from secure. While “moral panic” over hooliganism and misbehavior in the late Khrushchev era was widespread, the translation of discourses of crime into the deaf community both altered and magnified its impact. For the deaf community, marginality and otherness ­were historical realities that had once been overcome but that required constant effort to keep at bay. Deaf p­ eople could become active and in­de­pen­dent citizens, but only by proving themselves to be Soviet in all senses of the word, a task made more difficult by the constant renegotiation of the bound­aries of Soviet identity in the period following Stalin’s death. Deaf crime and hooliganism risked shattering the façade of deaf-­Soviet identity and returning the deaf community to its position at the margins of Soviet public life. ­Whether that crime was due to a physiological disorder, a lack of social support, or a malevolent choice to reject Soviet behavioral standards, the bad be­hav­ior of certain deaf individuals threatened the social position of all deaf p­ eople and therefore represented a significant threat to the deaf community as a w ­ hole. Indeed, in light of the rigidity of Soviet behavioral norms during the Khrushchev era, it might be argued that being deaf in the 1960s was considerably more difficult than in the more overtly exclusionary 1930s, when industrialization provided deaf ­people a clearly defined path to integration and belonging. It is not clear what happened to Ivanova following the investigation; the VOG TsP committed to return to the topic a­ fter a year, but the archives are ­silent on the subject. Nevertheless, she continues to cast a long shadow, resonating within hearing Soviet and, indeed, post-­Soviet culture. In her eliding of deafness, criminality, and femaleness, three dif­fer­ent categories of otherness, Ivanova served to reinforce all the unspoken prejudices and concerns over the place of deaf individuals in Soviet society. While it is impor­tant not to overstate the significance of “Pygmalion,” which led to no major shifts in policy at ­either state or local level, the article remained the only full-­length piece about VOG to appear in a central newspaper during the Khrushchev era and therefore played a significant role in establishing the way hearing Soviet society interpreted both deafness and the deaf community. Although the article did not overtly target deaf ­people, directing its criticism at “formalism” within the bureaucracy and calling for man­ag­ers to pay more attention to the complexities of p­ eople’s lives, it remained for the deaf community a source of intense shame, and “Pygmalion” became a clarion call to tackle all ­those whose be­hav­ior represented a “shameful stain on the w ­ hole Society.” “We must all be Pygmalions in our practical work,” Sorokin concluded.130

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In light of this complex of attitudes and fears, it is not surprising that “Pygmalion” caused such a furor. The value judgments made about deafness and VOG both in the article itself and in the attitudes of the hearing world at large ­were internalized by the deaf community and used to promote policies of self-­ policing and the increased isolation of the deaf world from the hearing. The issue of deaf crime also sheds new light on identity politics and practices of the late Soviet era. Poorly behaved deaf p­ eople might have been objects of concern for Soviet society, but they w ­ ere rarely the targets of the police, many of whom brushed aside deaf criminals and declined to prosecute.131 Within the deaf community, however, poor be­hav­ior was met with harsh sanctions and interventions from the aktiv, who sought to limit the negative fallout from deaf be­hav­ior by ­either rehabilitating or excluding aberrant members. Such techniques of policing—­which could well be categorized as audist in their targeting of deaf be­hav­iors—­continued well into the 1980s.132 For the deaf, therefore, being Soviet lay at the heart of their identity as individuals and as a community, but the maintenance of this deaf-­Soviet identity led to the adoption of social policies and practices that isolated them still further from the hearing world.

Ch a p ter  6

Deaf-­Soviet Identity in Decline

On May 19, 1978, in the VOG Palace of Culture in Moscow, deaf gradu­ates from a wide variety of fields—­including economics, forestry, engineering, accountancy, microbiology and programming—­ came together to tell of their experiences as deaf specialists in a hearing world. Opening the meeting, Karp Avdeevich Mikaelian, the head of Moscow Special School No. 30 for the hard of hearing, encouraged participants to tell the story of their professional development and explain how their education had prepared them for success. He charged them to be truthful and to reveal the difficulties they had faced in getting to their current position, how they had dealt with the obstacle of hearing loss, and how they negotiated encounters with hearing ­people in the course of their daily lives.1 Over the course of several hours, ­these specialists narrated their experience of living Soviet deafness, before stopping to enjoy a per­for­mance by the TMZh. Like the opening of the Palace of Culture in 1969, this meeting was cast in the traditional narrative tropes of deaf-­Soviet identity. Participants celebrated overcoming their defect and succeeding at the highest levels of Soviet society; a success that reflected the broader successes of the Soviet community as a ­whole. As Mikaelian commented in his opening statement, “Our meeting takes place at an illustrious time, when the ­whole Soviet p­ eople, u ­ nder the guidance of Lenin’s party, is working with ­g reat po­liti­cal and industrial enthusiasm to bring to life the historic decisions of the Twenty-­Fifth Congress of the 18 8

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Communist Party. In a united rank with the hearing, nonhearing, and hard-­ of-­hearing workers, technicians, engineers, economists, design engineers, masters, and other specialists make their contribution to communist construction.”2 Indeed, the sheer fact that t­ here ­were sufficient highly qualified deaf specialists in Moscow to hold such a meeting was testament to the new opportunities open to deaf ­people in the late Soviet era. Yet many of the life stories narrated at this meeting chipped away at this narrative of triumphant Soviet success. Mikaelian’s invitation to name prob­lems and difficulties opened the floodgates, particularly among recent gradu­ates of special schools. Participants confessed to frequent prob­lems of communication with the hearing, to experiencing overt prejudice from hearing teachers and colleagues, and to feeling a wall between themselves and their hearing work collectives. As one participant, Comrade Bazoeva, explained, “Of course t­ here ­were difficulties. Every­thing was a ­little bit difficult. It ­couldn’t be other­wise, ­because a person with hearing loss can never dissolve into the collective.”3 This meeting revealed that all was not well in the Soviet deaf community in the late Brezhnev era. In her speech, Comrade Bazoeva did not overtly challenge the framework of Soviet identity that had developed over the previous de­cades: as a trainee forestry engineer, she had passed a grueling set of oral entrance exams to enter university and was now being considered for a PhD. Yet her dissatisfaction was not practical but emotional, expressing the complexities inherent in deaf identity in the latter years of the Soviet Union. To gain her place in higher education, she had to fight entrenched prejudices, including ­those of a doctor who did not believe that she could study b­ ecause “she d­ oesn’t hear. That’s just like a mentally retarded person, right, she d­ oesn’t understand anything?”4 By demonstrating that she could speak and read lips, she managed to convince the doctor to allow her to apply to the faculty of her choice. Yet in choosing a profession that “suited her character,” she isolated herself from the comradeship of other deaf p­ eople, an isolation that VOG did ­little to overcome. Bazoeva’s story thus uncovered overlapping and interrelated paradigms of deafness that had developed in this late Soviet period, paradigms that ­were increasingly at odds with each other and that left deaf individuals feeling isolated both within the deaf community and from the rest of Soviet, hearing, society. This chapter explores the changes to the institutional frameworks surrounding deaf p­ eople in the era of “developed socialism.” Historians of this period have attempted to move away from Gorbachev’s condemnation of the Brezhnev era as one of social and economic “stagnation” (zastoi), seeking instead to trace the “per­sis­tence of popu­lar engagement with the socialist ideology and the power it continued to wield within the Soviet Union.”5 The

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experience of the deaf community demonstrates that t­hese two trends—­ ideological engagement and stagnation—­were closely intertwined. The Brezhnev era saw an attempt to fi­nally realize several of the utopian tropes of the early Soviet period, including the belief that science and medicine would ultimately rid the world of deafness, and the expectation that Soviet deaf ­people would rise to the heights of their respective professions. The anticipated realization of t­ hese utopian dreams had far-­reaching implications for VOG and the deaf community, which had consistently justified its existence to the Soviet state as a temporary mea­sure to help deaf ­people achieve socialism. In par­tic­u­lar, the promise that improved hearing a­ id technologies would allow deaf p­ eople to regain some or all of their hearing destabilized the social real­ ity of the deaf community and chipped away at the institutional framework of VOG. Among deaf youth, in par­tic­u­lar, ­these seemingly utopian trends provoked considerable anxiety over their path in life, which revealed emerging new understandings of deafness as a physical, rather than a social, real­ity, as a tragedy of fate, and as a barrier to integration that prevented them from feeling at home in ­either the deaf or the hearing worlds. The phenomenon of dissatisfied and disengaged youth was far from unique to the deaf community; the young ­people at the VOG Palace of Culture meeting represented a deaf pocket of what Aleksei Yurchak has termed the “last Soviet generation,” t­ hose who “came of age between the 1970s and mid-1980s” and had no emotional attachments to the foundational events of (deaf ) Soviet history.6 Yet the ways in which the dissatisfaction of t­ hose like Comrade Bazoeva played out w ­ ere specific to the deaf community, revealing the fundamental instability of the deaf-­Soviet identity that had developed in the USSR. T ­ hese young p­ eople had benefited from the emancipatory changes that VOG had brought about but, without a living memory of the prerevolutionary constraints that had forged VOG as an institution, increasingly chafed within its narrow understandings of how deaf p­ eople should behave and what they could aspire to be. As the deaf civil rights movement gained traction in the United States, this crisis of Soviet deaf identity would have far-­reaching domestic and international ramifications.

Deafness and the Scientific-­Technological Revolution The identity crisis in the deaf community was fundamentally ­shaped by new discourses of science and medicine that emerged in the late Soviet era.

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­ fter the ideologically fraught “science wars” of Stalin’s last de­cade, KhrushA chev and Brezhnev oversaw a partial shift t­oward scientific objectivity and empiricism, with science increasingly framed as a positive force for social pro­g ress.7 Engagement with scientific practices in the West—­ framed, broadly, in terms of Cold War competition u ­ nder Khrushchev, and as collaboration ­under Brezhnev—­shaped the contours of this scientific turn.8 This scientific-­technological revolution (nauchno-­tekhnicheskaia revolutsiia), as it was termed, is most often discussed in the context of the economy and the Space Race, but historians have also noted the biopo­liti­cal ambitions of this shift, with sociology and medicine singled out as areas of scientific priority into the 1970s.9 This revolution in science had far-­reaching implications for the conceptual and institutional frameworks surrounding deaf ­people. Although tensions between social and medical models of deafness had been evident throughout the Soviet period, in its early de­cades VOG had prioritized social frameworks as a means to enable deaf ­people to overcome their hearing loss and find their place in the Soviet body politic. In the postwar years, however, scientific and medical understanding of deafness again began to dominate. Since the G ­ reat Patriotic War, the USSR had reestablished its traditions of scientific research into disability in general and deafness in par­tic­ul­ar. In 1943, Vygotskii’s Institute of Defectology was relaunched and renamed as the Scientific-­Research Institute of Defectology (Nauchno-­Issledovatel´skii Institut Defektologii, or NIID), containing within it four distinct branches of defectological science: surdopedagogy (education of the deaf ), tiflopedagogy (education of the blind), oligophrenology (education of the “feeble minded”), and logopedia (speech therapy).10 ­Under the leadership of Professor A. I. D´iachkov, an eminent researcher in deafness and deaf education, NIID began to establish itself as a center that, as its name suggests, based its methodological and theoretical conclusions on rigorous empirical research.11 The renewed discipline of defectology built on Vygotskii’s ideas of the social model of sensory disability, framing deafness as an essential barrier to language and communication to be remedied by oral education in the context of the deaf collective. With improved access to hearing aid technology ­under Brezhnev, however, the ways in which deafness was perceived by the scientific community began to change. Domestic hearing aids had been available from the 1930s, but their distribution was extremely limited as a result of both the vagaries of the command-­distribution system and the belief that hearing aids would provide no benefit to profoundly deaf individuals. If a deaf or hard-­of-­hearing person was able to obtain a hearing aid, they would have ­little choice as to the model provided, frequent prob­lems in obtaining the necessary

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batteries, and scant recourse when the device malfunctioned.12 As such, hearing aids barely figured as part of the everyday experience of the Soviet deaf community well into the 1970s. In a survey carried out in Moscow in 1978, only two of the ninety late-­deafened and deaf individuals who completed the questionnaire, and six of the sixty hard-­of-­hearing respondents, regularly used a hearing aid.13 Yet while the everyday use of hearing aids remained low, the theoretical impact of hearing aid technology was significant. In the context of Cold War détente, as the USSR began to import more advanced hearing aids from Yugo­slavia and Denmark, scientists began to discover that deaf individuals had significant levels of residual hearing that could be accessed through technology.14 This advance in hearing aid technology raised significant questions about how deafness was to be understood. ­These questions w ­ ere first discussed in the deaf press in June 1973. ­Under the subheading “What is a deaf person?” the author, S. Gushev, commented, “This is not an idle question, although it might seem naïve. Who is unaware of the fact that, from time immemorial, humanity has divided ­people into hearing, hard-­of-­hearing, and deaf ? A deaf person is one who cannot hear. Why split hairs? But it turns out that it is not so ­simple. . . . ​Between deafness and hardness of hearing ­there is no clear line. The boundary is in many ways relative.”15 As such, deafness, from being an incurable physical real­ity to be mediated by social means, was shifted into the category of curable, or at least treatable, malady. Through technology, the “miraculous world of sounds” could be made accessible to the deaf too, and the use of hearing aid technology in the classroom made speech training infinitely more pos­si­ble. Pedagogues at NIID noted that many deaf ­children “turned out not to be quite so deaf,” with approximately seven out of e­ very ten deaf ­children having some residual hearing that could be magnified with technological aids. This period also saw the widespread expansion of ear, nose, and throat clinics at which prophylaxis and treatment of diseases of the ear w ­ ere researched and practiced. The pioneer of this work, A. S. Tokman, was a guest speaker at the Ninth Congress of VOG in Pavlovsk.16 As a result, the restoration of hearing was put at the center of scholarly enquiry in the 1970s, fundamentally challenging the notion that “if y­ ou’re deaf, you c­ an’t hear. That is the rule.”17 The utopian potential of technology had not gone unnoticed in VOG. The harnessing of science in the ser­vice of deaf ­people had long been championed by the VOG leadership, with activists as early as 1959 calling for VOG to become more actively involved in the creation and production of everyday technologies.18 Calls in the early 1960s for VOG to begin producing hearing aids in their UPPs did not ultimately bear fruit, but the increased financial might

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of the organ­ization was channeled into hearing aid provision, with VOG providing 500,000 rubles to purchase aids for its members.19 The development of technology was also evident within the UPP system. The SKPTB provided new machinery to a raft of deaf enterprises, and a new organ­ization, the VOG Moscow Special Industrial Unification, was formed in 1975 to facilitate this technological transformation.20 Most of ­these innovations promoted by VOG functioned simply to refine and improve already existing practices within the deaf community. In scientific debates over hearing aids, however, the potent combination of technology, medicine, and defectology began alter the way in which deafness was understood by the wider society. The power of scientific pro­gress to “disable” deaf individuals by transforming deaf individuals into the objects of scientific intervention, and by disrupting the social frameworks and everyday accommodations that enable the flourishing of deaf culture, has long been noted by Deaf studies scholars.21 In the Soviet case, the rhetorical shifts engendered by the discovery of advanced hearing aid technology disrupted the notion of deafness as an essential real­ity to be overcome by social means, fracturing the cohesion of the deaf as a social and cultural community and opening spaces for doctors and pedagogues to actively intervene in deaf p­ eople’s lives. At a stroke, the hearing aid resolved the tensions between deafness and the phonocentric model of Soviet self hood; with technology and active intervention, a deaf person could access speech, and therefore would no longer be considered “deaf in practice.” The rise of technology put the onus on deaf individuals to submit themselves to the curative pro­cess and remake themselves as hard of hearing, a transformation that would, according to Gushchev’s article, require considerable “­will, patience, and perseverance.”22 Indeed, the late Soviet period was characterized by the gradual scientification of many areas of deaf ­people’s everyday lives and the shifting of power and responsibility from the deaf community to responsible scientific agencies. One agency in par­tic­u­lar drove this scientific revolution: the Central Institute for the Examination of Work-­Capability and the Organ­ization of the ­Labor of Disabled P ­ eople (Tsentral´nyi nauchno-­issledovatel´skii institute ekspertisy trudosposobnosti i organizatsii truda invalidov, or TsIETIN), which functioned u ­ nder the purview of the Ministry of Social Welfare.23 In 1963, the director of TsIETIN, Dmitrii Ivanovich Gritskevich, made a speech to the Seventh Plenum of VOG at which he announced that “it is extremely impor­tant that all your activities, proposals for rationalization, and any changes that take place are based on scientific foundations, developed in our institute.”24 The first major development spearheaded by TsIETIN was the establishment of a definitive list of professions suitable for deaf ­people. The pamphlet looked in detail at

19 4 Cha pte r 6

twenty dif­fer­ent professional fields, enumerating the tasks that could be completed by ­those suffering from dif­fer­ent levels of deafness and deaf-­related health prob­lems, including infections of the inner ear, cholesteatoma (an abnormal skin growth in the m ­ iddle ear), or prob­lems of the vestibular mechanism (the system governing balance and spatial orientation). Each section included both recommended professions and areas that ­were, in medical parlance, contraindicated (protivopokazany).25 The explosion of scientific and so­cio­log­i­cal research ­under Brezhnev has tended to be viewed as an example of the fragmenting of ideological control over Soviet individuals, opening new spaces for agency, diversity, and bricolage.26 For the deaf, however, the rise of science dramatically diminished their agency. Even as the scientific-­technological revolution held out the utopian hope of freedom from deafness and the return of hearing, one of its most significant results was the emergence of a par­tic­u­lar strain of biological determinism in dealing with the deaf. If in the past VOG had challenged the limitations of the body through social intervention and pushed for deaf p­ eople to fulfil their individual ambitions, the TsIETIN pamphlet placed clear and quantifiable restrictions on deaf individuals that ­were framed as medical fact. It authorized factory man­ag­ers to actively prevent deaf ­people from working in nonapproved jobs, even as it admitted that “deaf-­mutes often work in contraindicated conditions and carry out professions that are difficult to access.”27 Following Gritskevich’s speech to the VOG plenum, the deaf worker Lavrukhin complained that “­there are ­those man­ag­ers who, instead of organ­ izing the improvement of industrial conditions for deaf p­ eople, simply try to get rid of them with the excuse that a deaf person c­ an’t work t­here, that it would be dangerous for him.”28 The scientific overtones of the pamphlet thus gave a respectable gloss to antideaf prejudice, allowing bosses to legitimately avoid hiring deaf ­people. At the meeting of deaf specialists in 1978, Comrade Khlebina concluded that “many man­ag­ers doubt the capabilities of deaf ­people. Sometimes the refusal to hire a deaf person according to his specialism is simply unfounded, linked to the fact that it is difficult for a deaf person to communicate and resolve some prob­lem or other.”29 The TsIETIN pamphlet and other scientific developments in the 1960s and 1970s promoted the idea that only trained specialists could understand and resolve issues of deafness, and that deaf p­ eople did not have enough scientific knowledge to participate in their own decision making. Certainly, Gritskevich’s speech made it clear that VOG’s authority on ­matters of work placement was limited, insisting that “recommending a profession without scientific foundation is forbidden.”30 The impact of this shift on the everyday lives of deaf individuals was far-­reaching. This is particularly clear in relation to the

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“medical-­pedagogical commissions” (mediko-­pedagogicheskie komissii), the bodies responsible for determining the educational paths of disabled individuals. Such commissions had been founded by a decree of the Ministries of Education and Health in 1969, to create intraministerial groups of specialists who would examine ­every child diagnosed with hearing loss and determine the best school in which to place them, thus creating a more targeted and specialized educational experience.31 Yet in real­ity, the commissions often placed the fates of deaf c­ hildren and young ­people in the hands of so-­called specialists who had l­ittle understanding of the potential capabilities of deaf individuals. As Comrade Bazoeva recounted in the introduction to this chapter, her choice of profession had been dependent on the approval of doctors who ­were reluctant to allow her to study, in the belief that her deafness made her mentally retarded. Such tales of fighting against the decision of the medical commission w ­ ere commonplace in deaf journalism of the late Soviet period. One source told the tale of young Sasha, who wished to enter the Moscow Forestry Engineering Institute but was turned away as “deaf school leavers or ­people with lowered hearing are not admitted to this specialism.” Her ­father managed to convince the medical commission to let her prove her worth by conversing with them orally on any subject they could name. “Sasha passed the test impeccably. The doctors deci­ded to allow her, as an exception, to take the entrance exams, as it would be pos­si­ble in the end to find a place where Sasha could work without violating the safety rules.”32 The experiences of Sasha and Comrade Bazoeva clearly demonstrate a growing disenfranchisement of deaf ­people at the hands of medical and pedagogical experts, and a tendency to resort to individual appeals to ­those in power to make an exception to the scientific rules governing deaf ­people. Such stories could be read as echoes of prerevolutionary deaf experiences in which individual demonstrations of competence w ­ ere the sole means of mitigating the widespread marginalization of the deaf community, something which stood in stark contrast to the Soviet deaf propaganda of the period, which continued to celebrate the freedom and agency of deaf p­ eople. Indeed, the powerlessness of deaf ­people at the hands of “science” was a constant theme in deaf meetings of the period, with the frequent refrain that “science prevents us” (nauka zapreshchaet) from engaging in a variety of activities such as driving motorized vehicles, working in certain areas of industry, or taking part in everyday decision making in the fields of deaf education, healthcare, or even culture.33 In 1971, proposals ­were even put forward to redevelop the TMZh “on a scientific foundation” involving the study of such issues as repertoire choice and the nature of theatrical sign language.34 V. A. Komashinskii, a veteran deaf activist from Novosibirsk, complained bitterly at a meeting in 1969

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that “I once wrote a discursive article for Zhizn´ glukhikh, and specialists from NIID said that I ‘was not a specialist on this question.’ Why such a mono­poly on the education of the deaf ? At the very least, it’s strange. Is it pos­si­ble that ­people who have worked for many years with the deaf, and who are deaf themselves, know the needs of deaf ­people less than do hearing pedagogues? Is it pos­si­ble that the opinion of VOG workers means so ­little?”35 In the face of the mono­poly of science, therefore, deaf activists ­were losing the ground hard won in the 1930s. Yet it would be disingenuous to frame this period as torn between the grassroots activism of VOG and the dogmatism of state scientific institutions. The relationship between deaf agency and scientific rationalism in this period was a complex one. NIID was not entirely divorced from the deaf community and did not establish its scientific views in a vacuum. The institute was or­gan­i­za­tion­ally intertwined with VOG, which used some of its vast resources to pay the salaries of NIID scientists, many of whom (particularly in the teacher-­training department) ­were themselves deaf.36 Even the TsIETIN pamphlet was created on the initiative of VOG, ­after Sutiagin sent a request for methodological guidance to NIID and the Ministry of Education.37 Sutiagin himself worked at the institute for several years ­after leaving the VOG chairmanship in 1970. The penetration of scientific discourses to the very heart of VOG was most clearly evident in the opening of VOG’s new flagship institution, the Leningrad Rehabilitation Center (Leningradskii Vosstanovitel´nyi Tsentr, or LVTs) in 1965. Unlike the other major cultural institutions of the 1960s such as the TMZh and the Palace of Culture, which sought to foster deaf culture and community cohesion, the LVTs posited a model of working with the deaf that prioritized treatment and reintegration into the hearing community. The rehabilitation center had been promoted by TsIETIN as a universal model for the treatment of disabled individuals, and the LVTs was intended to be the first of several such centers in the RSFSR.38 Within the center, according to Iosif Geil´man, its founder and first director, through “cure, education, and professional training and retraining, defect ­will be overcome in practice, and a person ­will receive a ‘start in life’ [putevka v zhizn´].”39 At the LVTs, “overcoming deafness” was understood as the promotion of spoken language over sign. Writing in Zhizn´ glukhikh, Geil´man explained that “by the term ‘rehabilitation’—in relation to ­those who cannot hear—we understood the practical overcoming of deafness. This means that our nonhearing charges [pitomtsy] must first master spoken language to perfection, in order to freely communicate with t­ hose around them.”40 Geil´man explained that, while spoken language was initially learned by deaf c­ hildren in special schools, when they left school “they ceased to use words.” This failure to maintain their

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spoken language was due to a variety of reasons, he argued, not least that systematic speech training was not taught in VOG UPPs and other further education establishments. The central goal of the LVTs, therefore, would be to provide specialist language training, developed by the center’s resident defectologists. Alongside the “strengthening and development of oral speech—­the most impor­tant task of the center,” the LVTs also sought to provide professional training to all members, not only of the All-­Russian Society of the Deaf but also of the “­brother” socie­ties of the neighboring socialist republics. The center included a tekhnikum and professional-­technical school, which provided students with a m ­ iddle school education and professional training, involving the latest technological assistance from the speech and hearing laboratory. While general-­educational topics ­were taught by trained defectologists, professional training was conducted by specialists from local universities. Proponents of the LVTs did not propose to turn their back on the notion of a deaf community or on deaf activism per se. Geil´man’s article made clear that one of the fundamental tasks of the center was to train ­future VOG cadres,

Figure 10.  Leningrad Rehabilitation Center, speech and hearing laboratory, 1970s. Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

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including artists and cultural education workers. Each student was required to take a course entitled “VOG Work” (Vogovskaia rabota) in order to “train them as real activists.”41 It is also striking to note that the discourses of integration promoted by the LVTs never tipped over into calls for mainstreaming—­ the teaching of deaf c­ hildren alongside the hearing in Soviet mass schools. Some experiments with mainstreaming had been carried out since the 1960s, but it was never a­ dopted as a widespread policy. Nevertheless, the opening of the LVTs represented a radical shift away from the sign-­language-­based deaf culture that had been promoted within VOG and t­oward a more traditional, speech-­centered model of idealized Soviet self hood. It is striking that Geil´man did not once mention sign language in his extensive article introducing the LVTs, referring instead to written Rus­sian language as the students’ “­mother tongue.” This, from the author of the first sign language dictionary and a staunch advocate of sign interpretation, illustrated the move away from cultural and social models of deafness. This shift was reflected in terminology: no longer “deaf,” individuals w ­ ere now “nonhearing” (neslyshashchii), a temporary state that could be mitigated by constant training u ­ nder the supervision of experts. This pulling away from notions of deaf identity and deaf culture was starkly illustrated by a promotional volume from 1983, also by Geil´man, which sets out the successes of LVTs gradu­ates and explains how the difficulties faced in overcoming hearing loss allowed them to be forged anew as Soviet ­people: The young men and w ­ omen have endured a long and difficult path over many years to overcome deafness, to overcome the doubts of the first days of “acclimatization” through their strength of endurance, the difficulty of mastering the basics of the theory and practice of their ­f uture professions, the sleepless nights before the state exams and the defense of their diploma, the experiences of friendship and collectivism, of everyday work and creative skills: they have endured the path of becoming a citizen.42 In equating learning to speak and ­labor with becoming a Soviet citizen, Geil´man thus undermines the notion of deaf-­sovietness that had dominated deaf activism since the late 1950s. Through the advent of technology, he argues, it had fi­nally become pos­si­ble to do what deaf activists had promised in the 1920s: to practically overcome deafness on the path to a model, oral, Soviet self hood. As such, it is unsurprising that the voices of deaf ­people are strikingly absent from this promotional volume, apart from the occasional stanza from deaf poet Ivan Isaev. The LVTs volume is instead directed explic­itly to the “parents, VOG workers, and specialists, who meet with the prob­lem of

Deaf -­Soviet Id e n t i ty i n D ec l i n e


deafness in their lives and are interested in its qualitative resolution,” rather than to the deaf themselves.43 Deaf p­ eople no longer seemed to have a stake, or a voice, in their own lives. In the broader context of the Soviet scientific turn, it is difficult to pinpoint the origins of this shift t­ oward scientific intervention within VOG itself. It is certainly clear that, by the mid-1960s, certain failures within deaf education and training had become apparent, pushing deaf activists to call for guidance. In 1966, VOG member G. S. Aksakalov wrote a seventy-­seven-­page letter to VOG and NIID setting out the results of an extensive investigation into the failures of deaf education. He noted that t­ here remained nineteen illiterate and five hundred semiliterate deaf ­people in Moscow and insisted that “the presence in society of such a large number of partially literate and even illiterate deaf ­people on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the Soviet state . . . ​is a result of the underestimation and insufficient attention of the managing workers of VOG to questions of the education and culture of deaf ­people.”44 In his recommendations, Aksakalov includes a proposal to remove interpreters from factories and replace them with surdopedagogues, who could actively train deaf p­ eople to speak throughout the working day. For Aksakalov and many ­others, therefore, the LVTs was a significant triumph, but it did not go far enough to bring expert knowledge to bear on the issue of deaf education. The medicalization of Soviet deafness was also influenced by the international deaf community, particularly the activities of the World Federation of the Deaf. The scientific commissions of the WFD had in the late 1950s focused on the “early diagnosis and treatment (medical, psychological and pedagogical)” of deaf ­people.45 In 1963, the Pedagogical Commission passed a resolution that “centers should be established for an early diagnosis of deafness. ­These centers should have access to vari­ous experts, otological, phoniatrical, audiological, pedagogical and social.”46 The impact of this international consensus could be seen in the LVTs, whose founder, Geil´man, was a frequent attendee of the International Congress of the Deaf. The center’s very name betrayed this international influence; the term “rehabilitation” (vosstanovitel´nyi) was an innovation in the Rus­sian language and frequently required clarification in the center’s lit­er­a­ture.47 Geil´man would ­later make the link to Latin terminology explicit, explaining that “the term ‘rehabilitation’ [reabilitatsiia] (from the Latin) in the widest sense means ‘restoration’ [vosstanovlenie], having in mind capability, aptitude.”48 As such, this push ­toward science and treatment could be read as an attempt to demonstrate the USSR’s equality of provision for vulnerable citizens on the international stage.

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It is certainly ironic that the turn t­ oward science and away from the social model of deafness should have begun in the USSR at precisely the moment when deaf ­people in the west, particularly in North Amer­i­ca, ­were beginning to advocate for themselves as a distinct cultural and linguistic community. The early 1960s had seen an explosion of research into sign languages, with William Stokoe producing the first study of sign linguistics in 1960 and the first dictionary of American Sign Language in 1965. On the basis of this work, as Padden and Humphries have shown, U.S. deaf ­people began to conceive of themselves as a distinct identity, using the upper case “Deaf ” to refer to ­those who shared a common language and culture.49 In a sense, ­these events echoed earlier shifts within the Soviet deaf community, in which the linguistic recognition of sign language had provoked a developing sense of a cohesive deaf social and cultural identity. In the United States, however, ­these shifts ­were parlayed into a distinct social movement in which the concept of Deaf culture allowed deaf p­ eople to advocate for rights and repre­sen­ta­tion in all areas of social life and to reject the disenfranchisement of medical and scientific models of deafness. The rejection of paternalism and so-­called expert hearing intervention formed an impor­tant part of this shift. In 1988, a mass sit-in on the grounds of Gallaudet University, the deaf liberal arts college in Washington, DC, protested the appointment of yet another hearing president to the board of trustees, demanding a “Deaf President Now!” A ­ fter a seven-­day standoff, a 50 deaf president, I. King Jordan, was appointed. By contrast, the Soviet deaf community did not frame itself in explicit terms as a cultural community and did not develop languages of “Deaf Pride” in the same way as their U.S. counter­parts.51 The emerging lit­er­a­ture on the social model was not ignored, but Soviet activists in the international arena tended to discuss the deaf social world as a self-­evident real­ity, grounded in the rights-­ based frameworks of the Soviet state. Indeed, pressing international issues such as full citizenship for deaf p­ eople, universal rights, and employment, w ­ ere seen as long-­solved in the Soviet context. As Sutiagin proclaimed at the Fifth World Congress in 1967, “The social state system and the corresponding type of production relations is the criterion of determining man’s social position, including that of the deaf. In the Soviet Union the deaf fully enjoy the rights to work, education, recreation, and material security.”52 This particularly Soviet understanding of welfare, rights, and mutual responsibility, further reinforced by the 1977 Brezhnev constitution, which promised full medical and social support for Soviet citizens, also had a significant impact on the articulation of deaf identity in this period. The Soviet social model framed universal state care and social homogeneity as paths to rights and freedoms, unlike the U.S. model in which, as Karen Nakamura argues, the

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“availability of the power­f ul and articulate frame of ethnic multiculturalism” allowed deaf ­people to leverage their difference as a means to achieve social status.53 In this light, the Soviet deaf community did not have the same impetus to frame their cultural identity—as much a social real­ity, one could argue, as the Deaf culture of the United States—in such a forthright and positivist way, choosing instead to focus their attention on issues of technical pro­g ress and welfare. As an American visitor to the USSR in 1979 acknowledged, VOG, unlike the National Association of the Deaf, “does not have to serve a heavy po­liti­cal lobbying purpose; rather it helps to manage and finance implementation of the rights of the hearing impaired population which are guaranteed by the government.”54 This reluctance to put forward a positive understanding of Soviet deaf culture and identity certainly affected the reception of Soviet deafness on the world stage. While VOG members had been keen to engage in the World Federation of the Deaf in the early de­cades of its existence, fighting the deaf Cold War by emphasizing the material support and care of Soviet deaf citizens, this enthusiastic engagement had petered out by the late 1960s. Indeed, many U.S. accounts of Soviet deaf culture in this period dismissed that culture as somehow inauthentic, a poor imitation of deaf cultural traditions. The U.S. deaf actor David Hays, who visited Moscow in 1969, described the per­for­mance of the TMZh as “puppetry”: “It made them look like actors who had memorized something, rather than actors with a sense of choice.”55 Another U.S. visitor, Frederick Schreiber, reported that “as near as I can understand, the Rus­sians consider the ability to speak to be very impor­tant. . . . ​I have some private determination that when the Rus­sians come to visit us in 1980, I ­will make a special effort to expose them to the many highly educated and highly competent nonspeaking deaf ­people we have in this country.”56 In the context of the search for new paradigms of deaf identity, many in the west ­were looking to the USSR as a potential model. Schreiber explained that “I was especially interested in the activities of the Society itself, and how we might use some of their programs for the benefit of the deaf p­ eople in Amer­ i­ca.”57 It is clear from t­hese accounts, however, that the par­tic­u­lar cultural complexity of the Soviet deaf community did not translate. The lack of positive framework for understanding and expressing Soviet deaf identity also impacted the internal development of the Soviet deaf community. With the acknowledgement that full rights and freedoms had been guaranteed to the deaf community and further enshrined in the new Soviet constitution of 1977, the need for VOG to actively advocate for deaf p­ eople seemed to lose urgency. Similarly, the plethora of scientific institutions that studied, supported, or contributed to deaf ­people’s everyday lives increasingly

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devolved responsibility for deaf issues away from VOG, and the notion of curing deafness began to call into question the need for the type of grassroots activism VOG had traditionally carried out. As a result, the organ­ization began to lose its footing in the Soviet social landscape. As its new chairman, Vladimir Anatol´evich Fufaev, who replaced Sutiagin in 1970, infamously commented, “Science and technology are developing such that soon t­ here w ­ ill not be one deaf person left. We w ­ ill dissolve VOG, and its history w ­ ill end with it.”58 Fufaev’s ominous prediction was not realized, but his chairmanship certainly oversaw radical changes in the organ­ization and in the everyday experience of the Soviet deaf community.

The Decline of VOG In 1976, VOG celebrated its fiftieth anniversary and declared that it had achieved the dreams of its original found­ers. Deaf ­people ­were no longer considered downtrodden, backward, and unable to support themselves; on the contrary, as celebratory propaganda materials made clear, “all work-­capable deaf p­ eople are engaged in socially useful work, illiteracy is liquidated, and the law on universal education is realized.”59 Not only had the po­liti­cal and cultural level of deaf p­ eople been raised, VOG had also developed a strong financial base of factories and workshops, as a result of which the organ­ization was financially in­de­pen­dent and f­ ree of state subsidy. Shortly a­ fter, in 1978, VOG practically achieved its goal of including the entire deaf population in its membership: 98.6 ­percent of all deaf adults ­were members.60 Alongside this almost universal repre­sen­ta­tion, the financial might of the organ­ization continued to reach new levels. In the first ten months of 1976, VOG enterprises produced goods worth a staggering 140,800,000 rubles.61 In recognition of this moment of achievement, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR awarded VOG the title “Order of the Badge of Honor” (Znak Pocheta) in a lavish ceremony at the Palace of Culture on September 15, 1976. During the ceremony, the Minister of Social Welfare, D. P. Komarova, fixed the official medal to the society’s flag, and the president of the World Federation of the Deaf, Dragoljub Vukotic, gave a speech on the authority and reputation of VOG in the international arena.62 It was a moment of cele­bration and resolution, as VOG and the Soviet deaf community cemented their place in Soviet society. In the midst of this triumphant cele­bration, many deaf activists sounded a note of alarm. The successes of deaf ­people raised the specter of the enforced dissolution of VOG: Fufaev’s passing comment about the “withering away”

Deaf -­Soviet Id e n t i ty i n D ec l i n e


Figure 11.  Minister of Social Welfare D. Komarova attaches the Order of the Badge of Honor to the VOG flag, held by Vladimir Fufaev, September 15, 1976. Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

of the institution was echoed by articles in Zhizn´ glukhikh and Sovetskii Soiuz.63 Other activists argued that the rising expectations of deaf p­ eople and their exposure to new technologies and challenges made the society all the more necessary. Inevitably, however, ­these changes raised questions about VOG’s activities that proved difficult to answer. In 1969, A. Shvedov, an activist from Rybinsk, addressed the Plenum of TsP VOG: “We have stepped out into new expanses; before us ­there are already new tasks of a more complicated nature, and we must think through our strategy and tactics in order to achieve the optimum pro­g ress. We are not knitting valenki [felt boots] any more, we are making complex products, but our methods of work are transferred from the valenki era.”64 Even more problematically, he argued, the technological revolution had absolved VOG workers from thinking about the more complex prob­lem of the inner life and personality of the deaf individual:

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“The employment of hearing prosthetics has led to ­people leaving ­these walls [of the deaf club] with empty souls. . . . ​I think that our entire mass-­cultural work requires decisive revision.”65 Activists noted that VOG was now accepted as an authoritative organ­ization that could stand on an equal footing with the trades u ­ nion; from the inside, however, its role looked far more un66 certain. The need for reform was complicated by issues of deaf repre­sen­ta­tion within VOG. The expanded membership base would seem to suggest that VOG had become a synecdoche for the deaf community, allowing deaf p­ eople to work together and develop internal hierarchies that enabled local grassroots activism and systems of mutual aid. In real­ity, the visibility of VOG within Soviet society and on the world stage masked an ossification in its bureaucracy and the development of a representative void. Much of this stemmed from the centralization and standardization pro­cesses put into place by Sutiagin. The 1948 VOG charter had set out a new system of governance for the society: the All-­Russian Congress, made up of local, elected VOG man­ag­ers, would meet once e­ very three years and elect the Central Directorate and Central Inspection Committee. In turn, the TsP would elect a presidium through an open vote and nominate its chairman and deputy. In the years between the congresses, the presidium would be the “organ of governance of the Society,” meeting three times a month to manage the local VOG organ­ izations, set planning targets and oversee reports, and manage the frequent election campaigns within the society.67 In addition to t­hese structural reforms, Sutiagin had introduced a system of planning and targets covering all areas of VOG activity, including capital building, culture, education, and sport. By the mid-1960s, all of the major activities of the society had been centralized and brought ­under the control of the TsP and the presidium. The development of a centralized bureaucracy within VOG was framed in the same language of democracy and accountability that had characterized the reforms of the postwar period. Yet its results ­were far from demo­cratic. Viktor Palennyi argues forcefully that ­these reforms caused VOG to cease being a voluntary social organ­ization and become instead a hierarchical “state within a state” that neither included nor represented ordinary deaf ­people.68 Many VOG members noted that members of the TsP barely engaged with the grassroots membership. One immediate impact of Sutiagin’s reforms, which allowed the presidium to directly appoint leaders to responsible positions in the VOG apparatus, was the predominance of hearing p­ eople in the VOG administration. VOG activists had discussed excluding hearing p­ eople from VOG in the 1920s, but had concluded that it was wise to include ­those who wished to assist the deaf community. Beginning in the mid-1950s, however,

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the number of hearing p­ eople in the management of the organ­ization increased dramatically. By the late 1960s, two-­thirds of the VOG leadership ­were hearing, a figure that included sixty-­seven of the seventy UPP directors. Many of t­ hese VOG leaders w ­ ere former employees of the Ministry of Social Welfare, attracted by the significant turnover of cash and high salaries within the UPP system. Palennyi argues that such hearing man­ag­ers had come to see VOG as a sinecure: “MSO ‘dropped’ their old workers, whose usefulness was not g­ reat, if not completely negligible, into the VOG apparatus.”69 Unlike such figures as Geil´man, who as the son of deaf parents was considered “one of us,” ­these ex-­Ministry workers usually had l­ittle or no knowledge of the deaf community. A. P. Semenova pointed out in 1960 that VOG “must not allow [hearing] party members who work for us to stand at the sidelines and not understand deaf-­mutes.”70 The tensions engendered by ­these changes came to a head in 1970 when Sutiagin, the principal creator of this bureaucratic hierarchy, was dramatically ousted from his position as chairman. Glafira Lukinykh, the editor-­in-­chief of Zhizn´ glukhikh, sent a collection of compromising material on Sutiagin to state bodies, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Department for the Strug­gle against the Theft of Socialist Property and Speculation (OBKhSS), and the office of Leonid Brezhnev.71 Sutiagin’s domineering managerial style was recast as rudeness, with no lack of VOG workers willing to testify against him. The report documented Sutiagin’s abuse of his position for personal enrichment, including tales of special deliveries of luxury products to his personal apartment in the Kriukovo holiday home outside Moscow. Furthermore, his tendency to appoint hearing specialists to run VOG departments was singled out for criticism. For example, a deaf engineer complained to V. V. Grishin, a member of the Politburo, that deaf specialists w ­ ere leaving the VOG Central Directorate and Central Constructional Bureau ­because Sutiagin had appointed “­people foreign to our society [i.e., the hearing]”72 Fi­nally, and damningly, his opponents brought up his 1934 trial for mismanagement and the poisoning of livestock during his time as an agricultural worker in Ukraine.73 ­Under this onslaught of criticism, Sutiagin was summoned to the Ministry of Social Welfare and relieved of his position. Sutiagin’s fate revealed the degree to which VOG was implicated in the widespread corruption and cronyism of the late Brezhnev era. Soviet citizens in this period routinely resorted to practices of blat, informal networks and bribery, in order to overcome shortages and blockages in the economy.74 The economic weight of VOG as an institution, with its millions of rubles in profits to distribute to activists and members e­ very year, provided fertile ground for such practices, paving the way for personal enrichment by Sutiagin and

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­ thers. The notion of VOG as a sinecure also echoed trends in social organ­ o izations such as the Komsomol, which Jim Riordan describes as staffed by “careerists and time-­servers” in the early 1980s.75 ­These shifts had par­tic­u­lar implications for the deaf community, which relied on VOG as a representative body and a source of social power. As Kuksin recounts, “Serious complaints w ­ ere made . . . ​the veterans could not watch calmly as their dear Society turned into an industrial corporation, moving further and further away from the prob­lems of deaf ­people.”76 Sutiagin’s removal from the chairmanship clearly demonstrated widespread frustration at the VOG apparatus’s increasing distance from the interests of the deaf community as a w ­ hole. Yet his departure did l­ ittle to change ­matters. Sutiagin’s replacement, Fufaev, who had acted as Sutiagin’s third deputy for the last three years of his chairmanship, had ­little experience of management; his appointment over more experienced candidates came on the recommendation of D. P. Komarova, the Minister of Social Welfare.77 His appointment marked the ascendency of a new breed of VOG man­ag­er; a hard-­of-­hearing gradu­ate of Moscow’s School No. 30 and Engineering and Economics Institute, Fufaev had ­little experience of deaf activism before his appointment as Sutiagin’s deputy. The activist Maria Efimovna Rezvan protested this appointment, complaining that “he ­won’t last.” In response, first deputy Aleksandr Korotkov explained that “Sutiagin chose him. . . . ​He loves to paint against a background of mediocrity.”78 What­ever Fufaev’s personal failings, it was clear from the very start of his chairmanship that he had no desire to maintain VOG as a deaf-­run social organ­ization: ­under Fufaev’s chairmanship, the TsP VOG was predominantly hearing, including two of his three deputies. The editorial board of Zhizn´ glukhikh was also dominated by hearing workers, and the SKPTB included only twelve deaf engineers in a workforce of seventy.79 Alongside ­these changes in leadership, the goals and activities of VOG began to change. Instead of a focus on mass-­cultural and po­liti­cal education work, the VOG TsP found itself dealing most frequently with pressing issues regarding the profitability of the UPPs. In 1968, Geil´man, now a member of the presidium, noted that “an analy­sis of the work of the presidium over the last year shows that, of ninety-­one questions heard by the presidium, twenty-­ eight ­were devoted to the activities of the UPPs. Questions of education ­were heard four times, questions of culture only six times.”80 During preparations for the Lenin jubilee, VOG documents made it very clear that the most suitable way to mark the occasion would be to give the “gift of ­labor”: 432.2 million rubles’ worth of goods to be completed by April 1, 1970.81 This focus on money making helped to sustain the “good life” that stood at the heart of the VOG welfare narrative; pension levels continued to rise, and new VOG work-

Deaf -­Soviet Id e n t i ty i n D ec l i n e


ers, regardless of their hearing status, would be quickly provided with a flat.82 Yet, as Kuksin points out, the shift of emphasis to monetary concerns had the result of sidelining the grassroots activities of VOG primary organ­izations and giving “mass character” to the “parasitic” tendencies of deaf p­ eople: “For a 30 kopeck membership fee, VOG was obliged to provide support to almost every­one of at least ten times as much.”83 That is not to say that issues of identity and culture ­were absent in this period. Alla Slavina argues that the continued growth of VOG’s material base in the 1970s allowed cultural and social ser­vices for deaf ­people to flourish: “What talents developed on amateur stages, what competitions and festivals ­were held! And inspections of social and cultural ser­vices! And victories of our sportsmen at home and abroad! And artistic exhibitions, and theatrical premieres in packed halls! And films with subtitles, which toured all our clubs! And the first subtitles on the blue screens of our tele­vi­sions!”84 It is certainly true that the triumphs of the cultural golden age continued into the era of developed socialism; Kuksin, indeed, refers to the Fufaev era as the “silver age” of VOG. New technologies allowed for practices of visual forms of culture to be further explored: a review of VOG’s political-­agitation brigades in 1980 noted the advent of new types of stagecraft, including “dance, mime, the ‘living word’ [sign-­language per­for­ mance], song, posters, lighting effects, slides, cinema-­clips, and portraits.”85 The advent of accessible subtitling technology also represented a significant watershed. In the 1960s, VOG responded to the lack of subtitled films produced by the Ministry of Culture by developing their own parallel subtitling technology through the SKPTB.86 The system fi­nally received mass distribution in 1976, with the Kiev Kinap motion-­picture equipment factory producing 265 parallel subtitling machines for use with tele­vi­sions in VOG clubs.87 As the technologies of deaf cultural engagement continued to advance, however, the development of a deaf cultural paradigm lost much of its energy and drive. Partly, this could be attributed to the changing notion of the Soviet self u ­ nder Brezhnev. The Twenty-­Fourth Congress of the Communist Party had restated that the formation of the new man was one of the fundamental tasks of the Party, a task interpreted by Fufaev as “the education of the deaf worker into a cultured person with a communist world-­view.”88 Complex and nuanced debates about Soviet deaf self hood and the emergence of a deaf cultural community ­were thus increasingly downplayed in ­favor of ideological dogma. In a brochure from the early 1980s, a VOG cultural worker points out that the previous de­cade had seen five major themes dominate VOG cultural eve­nings: the propaganda of Leninist ideas, the explanation of the decisions of the KPSS, the honoring of heroes of ­labor, the cele­bration of jubilee dates, and the strengthening of international friendships.89 The

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dominance of t­hese topics, and their standardization, can be seen in VOG documents relating to the society’s fiftieth anniversary; the Moscow organ­ ization produced generic scripts for cele­brations to be held at local organ­ izations, full of references to Rus­sian folklore and Soviet songs, in which the word “deaf ” is not once mentioned.90 The materials covered by the oral sign newspaper Novosti zhizni [Life News] at the Palace of Culture in 1978 included speeches on Brezhnev’s visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, a special session of the UN, and a reading of Brezhnev’s biography, Malaia zemlia [­Little Earth].91 Ideology and the Party thus remained central to the everyday lives of VOG members. The experience of the deaf community thus represented a complex variation of Yurchak’s formulation that late Soviet culture was characterized by a “hegemony of form”; while variations in linguistic form remained central to t­ hese eve­nings, the content it conveyed remained hegemonic, standardized, and increasingly divorced from the everyday cares and experiences of the deaf community.92 With deaf cultural activities looking (on paper, at least) exactly the same as hearing culture, and with hearing workers dominating the hierarchies of VOG, it was perhaps inevitable that investment in deaf leisure became less of a priority. The impact of this shift could be seen most clearly in Moscow, which lost its two most significant deaf cultural spaces in quick succession. In 1975, the Moscow City House of Culture on Khmeleva Street was closed by the Moscow Soviet. Even ­after the opening of the Republican Palace of Culture, the Moscow City branch of VOG had maintained the basement of the former Stanislavskii Theatre as its local base for cultural activities and office space, and its closure—­ostensibly for fire safety reasons—­was a serious blow to its orga­ nizational activities. When he attempted to protest, the new chairman of Moscow City VOG, V. S. Khobot, was threatened with losing his Party card. Many deaf activists saw this closure as an attempt to push the deaf community out of a sought-­after location in central Moscow and did not believe that the risk of fire was a legitimate excuse. In a perfect example of the privileging of technology and phonocentrism over deaf culture, the building subsequently became a hearing-­aid laboratory, and ­later a branch of the Maiakovskii Theatre. As Alla Slavina points out, “The firemen did not object” to ­these institutions.93 Following the closure of the Moscow House of Culture, all remaining po­liti­cal, cultural, and educational work with deaf Muscovites was transferred to the Republican Palace of Culture on Izmailovskii Bulvar. The closure of the House of Culture had a significant impact on the everyday experiences of deaf Muscovites, many of whom found the Republican Palace of Culture a poor substitute for the central Moscow headquarters. In 1976, the Palace of Culture carried out a comprehensive opinion survey of its

Deaf -­Soviet Id e n t i ty i n D ec l i n e


visitors. Of the 300 ­people surveyed, around 65 ­percent said that they visited the palace “systematically and often,” but 30 ­percent stated that they came rarely ­because it was “far to come” and that “it would be good to have a House of Culture in the center of town.”94 Most came to visit the library and see festival eve­nings, the Club of the Merry and Resourceful (KVN), and amateur dramatics. Negative comments also emerged. For many, the Palace of Culture did not meet the everyday needs of deaf ­people in the area, instead focusing its activities on the outward-­facing activities that made money and drew hearing crowds. The TMZh came ­under sustained criticism; one respondent concluded that “the Theatre, such as it is, is designed for the hearing.”95 Visitors also noted that the sale of tickets was badly or­ga­nized; on days when a theatrical per­for­mance or cinema showing was held, tickets w ­ ere sold at the front door of the palace, not the auditorium, so it was not pos­si­ble to enter the building to use the club facilities without paying. This lack of everyday provision for deaf p­ eople within the palace was further exacerbated in 1977, when the VOG TsP transferred owner­ship of the building to the TMZh, forcing VOG to rent space for its activities from the theater’s organ­izing board. A mere eight years a­ fter its opening, therefore, the palace was removed from the control of the organ­ization that had built it. In response, the veteran VOG activists A. P. Semenova, G. M. Lukinykh, and B. S. Gukhman sent a letter of protest to the Minister of Social Welfare, explaining the impact of this change: In real­ity: t­ here is no space for hobby circles, the work of the library reading room is para­lyzed. Only 2–3 days a week are set aside to carry out cultural events amongst deaf Muscovites, and ­these are only weekdays. . . . ​ All of this is done in ­favor of the Theatre of Sign and Gesture, so that it has more days in its repertoire. . . . ​Leaving aside the fact that the Theatre serves, for the most part, hearing ­people, it receives from the Society of the Deaf over 300,000 rubles per year. And at the same time, the VOG TsP is limiting its provision for cultural events amongst the deaf.96 In fact, ­these changes ­were only the beginning: following the transfer of owner­ship, the Theatre began to appropriate space from the VOG TsP and the deaf cultural groups of the Moscow branch, including the lecture hall used for meetings and seminars, and the sports hall, which became a store for the theater’s decorations.97 The danger of this shift was all too clear. In an echo of earlier concerns over deaf be­hav­ior, the loss of the palace as a gathering place for deaf p­ eople, away from the gaze and strictures of hearing society, was seen as threatening the perceived culturedness of all deaf Muscovites. In

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another section from the letter of protest, its authors pointed out that “deaf ­people at the weekend and in the holidays are gathering in groups wherever they can: in the metro, in the hippodrome, in parks, or on the steps of the night school for working youth. They are disturbing ­people and attracting the attention of passersby. It’s shameful!”98 With the closure of the Moscow City House of Culture and the effective barring of the Palace of Culture to all but paying guests, the network of deaf spaces established in the early 1960s began to fragment. Attempts to negotiate the building of a new deaf space even farther from the center, in the suburb of Nagatino, w ­ ere ultimately unsuccessful. In the absence of such central institutions, deaf ­people began to search for new spaces of cultural and social life, with many relocating to the VTsSPS, ­under the leadership of the indefatigable Nikolai Buslaev. Focus also shifted to the small deaf clubs within larger cultural institutions, such as the in­de­pen­dent deaf collective within the Palace of Culture of the ZIL car factory. Such collectives engaged in amateur dramatics competitions and activities with other, hearing, collectives.99 Within the deaf community, the dominance of such factory-­based institutions could be seen in the mid-1970s, when the deaf collective of the Vladimir Il´ich Factory was awarded first place in the competition for the best deaf organ­ization in the city (a title usually taken by the Moscow City branch of VOG).100 The decline of centralized deaf spaces was accompanied by the playing down of deaf cultural identity in ­favor of integration—­both symbolic and practical—­into the Soviet body politic. The magazine Zhizn´ glukhikh, for example, became a touchstone for debates between t­ hose who advocated a strong sense of deaf-­Soviet identity, and ­those who believed that deafness should be viewed as a painful and humiliating obstacle to belonging in the Soviet world. In 1963, Vasilii Petrovich Polikarpov, a member of the VOG Plenum, raised the issue of the magazine’s title: ­ oday, we call our magazine “Life of the Deaf.” Imagine if ­there was a T magazine called “Life of the Lame [Zhizn´ khromykh],” who do you think would buy it? “Life of the Deaf ” puts p­ eople off with its very name. We could call it “Resonant Silence” or “The Voice of Silence.” The post brings this magazine, and [the recipient] is embarrassed. Why have such a name? “Deaf ” and “mute”: why write such words? You know that, especially in the countryside, such ­people are laughed at and mocked, and then they are brought a magazine called “Life of the Deaf.” In our life, this amplifies our general misfortune.101 Far from a sense of Deaf Pride, Polikarpov’s comments showed a strong streak of shame, in which the very term “deaf ” proved a barrier to the integration

Deaf -­Soviet Id e n t i ty i n D ec l i n e


and ac­cep­tance of deaf ­people. ­After much further discussion, the decision was taken in 1972 to rename the magazine V edinom stroiu (In a United Rank, or VES). Drawing on the military terminology common to the Brezhnev era, the title suggested the breaking down of barriers between deaf and hearing, situating both in the same ideological and social collective. The editorial of the January 1972 issue explained the change to its readers: “The magazine that you hold in your hands is now called ‘In a United Rank.’ This is only natu­ral [I eto zakonomerno]. Its previous names—­Life of Deaf-­Mutes, Life of the Deaf—­ have become property of the past. Education, professions, all rights and responsibilities of the citizens of the USSR provided by the Constitution: all this has been given to you, nonhearing toiler, by Soviet power.”102 The 1970s thus represented a moment of extreme change for VOG and the deaf community. Emerging from the golden age of deaf social and cultural activity, the late Soviet period saw an increased uncertainty about what it meant to be deaf and what role VOG should play in the lives of deaf individuals. The presence of hearing p­ eople within the hierarchical structures of VOG management directed attention away from deaf cultural and social activities, with VOG choosing instead to give priority to economic issues and the financial welfare of VOG workers and members. It is unsurprising, then, that VOG members began to feel themselves to be second-­class citizens, both in their isolated position within hearing society and in their dealings with VOG. In highlighting the social isolation of deaf ­people, ­these changes also uncovered a slow fragmentation of the solidarity that had for de­cades held the deaf community together. The late Soviet era was also characterized by the emergence of a generation gap, with old and young members of VOG advocating dif­fer­ ent paths for the f­ uture of the deaf community.

Generation Gap As Lilya Kaganovsky points out, “The generation gap is by now a standard observation” of the late Soviet period.103 Following World War II, the ideological orthodoxy and strict moral and behavioral expectations of older Soviet citizens grew increasingly at odds with the cultural experimentation and quest for personal fulfilment among young p­ eople.104 In the deaf community, this generation gap was evident in discussions of the pres­ent and f­uture of VOG as an institution from the 1950s, as veteran deaf activists bemoaned the reluctance of young deaf ­people to get involved in the everyday work of VOG. As Vasilii Fedorovich Timofeev pointed out at a central VOG meeting in 1957, “I am already an old man, I have been in VOG for 30 years, I have given my

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soul to my work, and where are my replacements? T ­ here ­aren’t any.”105 While other veterans, such as Lychkina, insisted that “I ­don’t plan to die; I read lit­er­ a­ture and newspapers,” the lack of new blood in the VOG management structure was clearly a point of concern.106 This concern came to the fore in the 1970s as the rising number of highly trained deaf specialists failed to translate into an active and committed deaf aktiv within the increasingly hearing-­dominated VOG hierarchy: “­There are now not tens, as t­ here ­were thirty years ago, but hundreds of VUZ gradu­ates, and yet t­ hose actively helping the society are mainly the same veterans as thirty years ago.” Such specialists achieved their qualifications with the help of VOG interpreters and support systems, but then failed to give back to the organ­ ization on graduation. The dispersal of the deaf intelligent­sia thus represented a significant concern; with only thirty to forty of the thousand highly qualified deaf individuals in Moscow engaged in VOG work, the ability of the organ­ization to provide effectively for its members was compromised.107 Older VOG activists tended to blame the situation on young ­people’s lack of civic-­mindedness and particularly their “parasitical mood and haughty attitude to semi-­literate deaf ­people and to VOG.”108 A closer inspection of the debates of the 1970s, however, uncovers a more fundamental division in attitudes to VOG between older and younger deaf ­people. The older generation had grown up during the early days of VOG grassroots activity and remained wedded to a notion of an in­de­pen­dent and self-­sufficient deaf cultural community in which deaf ­people came together to work and help each other. For them, the revolutionary discourses of mutual aid and common cause still remained paramount. By contrast, younger deaf p­ eople ­were increasingly influenced by notions of welfare, integration, and achievement, seeking instead to make their own way in the world as successful young professionals, despite their “defect.” For this generation, VOG represented something very dif­fer­ ent: a background support system offered to them by a beneficent state, for which they owed not work but gratitude. This polarizing of deaf visions was starkly illustrated in the 1970s with the emergence of two competing lit­er­a­tures about VOG and the deaf community. On the one hand, this period saw the development of new historical narratives, emerging with the fiftieth anniversary of the organ­ ization and continuing into the early 1980s. T ­ hese narratives smoothed away the historical wrinkles, portraying the emergence of VOG as the inevitable result of deaf emancipation and the Soviet social system. On the other hand, magazines such as V edinom stroiu began to feature letters and debates with young ­people in which the uncertainties and tensions of life in the late Soviet period ­were foregrounded. Such articles became the basis for further discussions and debates

Deaf -­Soviet Id e n t i ty i n D ec l i n e


within the VOG club system. Both lit­er­a­tures w ­ ere envisaged as grassroots and participatory; the first attempts to write a definitive history of VOG was prefaced by a call in VES for readers to send in materials from the society’s history, and young ­people ­were encouraged to participate in discussions about their own experiences.109 While attempts ­were made to reconcile ­these two competing lit­er­a­tures, the contrast between the ideological clarity of the historical narrative and the complexity of con­temporary deaf experience began increasingly to make itself felt. The focus on history was not unusual for the 1970s. Brezhnev’s revival of the Victory Day parade on May 9, 1965 set the tone for a widespread rediscovery of the glorious (and by necessity, selective) Soviet past. As Roger Markwick shows, the historical debates provoked by Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin in 1956 ­were resolved ­under Brezhnev by a return to an “official paradigm, which in its essentials was ­little removed from the Stalinist conceptions of the Short Course,” and proved inadequate to explain “the Soviet past, with all its fabrications and silences, its ‘blank spots’ and ‘black holes.’ ”110 In a similar vein, the history of VOG was intended to create a celebratory, unambiguous narrative, borrowing the language of the war cult as a touchstone. The call for materials in VES announced that “it is our duty to reconstruct the history of our society, to widely and fully tell of its best ­people: ­those who laid the foundations of VOG, and ­those who continued and still continue the glorious traditions of the veterans.”111 On this basis, in 1976, VOG opened a Central Museum of the History of VOG in the Palace of Culture and published an accompanying volume of text by A. S. Korotkov, entitled 50 Years of the All-­Russian Society of the Deaf. This volume, divided into thematic sections, was to be used by the VOG aktiv in local deaf clubs to lead discussions on the history of their organ­ization. The text of 50 Years cogently summarized the history of deaf organ­ization since the prerevolutionary period, painting a picture of the opportunity of revolution and the liberation of the deaf from tutelage and marginality. Korotkov tells how, ­after the revolution, deaf ­people actively remade themselves as Soviet individuals: literate, conscious workers, s­ haped by their interactions with the life of the collective and on whose initiative socialist society was to be built. He recounted the foundation of the first deaf Communist Party and Komsomol cells, the entry of deaf p­ eople into the factories and sovkhozy, their participation in higher education, and their involvement in theater and sport.112 Yet despite the accuracy of his information, this text still represented a reconstruction of the past. The im­mense difficulties faced by deaf ­people, for example, as they tried (and sometimes failed) to master the skills necessary to enter the factory and the classroom, w ­ ere strikingly absent. Moments when the Soviet state had opposed the organ­ization of deaf p­ eople ­were glossed over.

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Similarly, the occasionally violent debates within the deaf community on the nature of their engagement with the Soviet proj­ect ­were not discussed. Instead, deaf history was viewed teleologically, with VOG portrayed as the inevitable culmination of the liberation of deaf ­people by the state. Korotkov thus produced a version of Soviet deaf history that had been cleaned up, stripped of the moments of tension between the par­tic­u­lar needs of deaf individuals and the broader demands of Soviet individual and collective self hood. Despite this glossing over of tensions, Korotkov’s narrative served as a model for discussions of Soviet deaf p­ eople’s history and place in the world. Unsurprisingly, this narrative built on the notions of welfare and gratitude that dominated late Soviet discourses of VOG. Beginning in the mid-1960s, VES had published regular articles on major events in Soviet deaf history, and a series of books on the history of VOG was published well into the 1980s.113 In many of ­these articles, the work of early deaf activists was sidelined in f­ avor of the “leading role of the Communist Party in the Society’s work.” This foregrounding of narratives of state care had the effect of erasing much of the complexity of deaf agency and the strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence.114 As  E. Kutepov argued in 1976, deaf identity—­and the identity of VOG—­was firmly bound up with gratitude to the state: “Our Society is rich in bright and distinctive talents. And their flourishing was made pos­si­ble only thanks to the everyday and tireless care of the Leninist Communist Party for the all-­round development of ­human personality.”115 Regardless of the implied causation, the end result in t­hese narratives was the same: the creation of a community of gifted and creative Soviet ­people “who had overcome their physical lack” to emerge as full-­fledged Soviet citizens. However much t­ hese narratives of state beneficence might diminish their own strug­gles, for veteran VOG members t­ hese tales still conveyed the pride they felt in their organ­ization. Many articles and memoirs written by veterans in the late 1960s and early 1970s showed that such notions of satisfaction and fulfilment remained dominant. As Agrippina Kalugina points out in her 1966 memoir, VOG and its Soviet values defined her life: I ­don’t know how my life would have turned out if I had not lost my hearing in childhood, simply by chance, having caught scarlet fever somewhere. But the world of silence, where my life has been spent, has been filled with a multiplicity of events, of vivid impressions, of unforgettable meetings with in­ter­est­ing ­people. In life, I consider that the most impor­tant t­ hing is ­labor. Beloved ­labor, to which you give your all, ­labor in the ser­vice of the Motherland, in the ser­vice of my nonhearing comrades; ­labor gave me happiness, and joy, and filled my days with richness and meaning.

Deaf -­Soviet Id e n t i ty i n D ec l i n e


For Kalugina, therefore, notions of l­ abor and collectivism w ­ ere central to her identity and her understanding of the world, a set of values which she wished to pass on to young p­ eople. Such statements did suggest a certain amount of nostalgia for the early days of VOG, and many older VOG activists did not refrain from comparing the con­temporary situation unfavorably with the glorious strug­gles of the early years. Yet ­these veterans did not always have their minds on the past: Kalugina continued to give lectures to w ­ omen living in the Tekstil´shiki region “on the beauty and greatness of life, on this history of our motherland, on culture, art, the morals of a Soviet person and much more.”116 The Soviet of L ­ abor Veterans within the Moscow City branch of VOG or­ga­ nized lectures and discussions in the red corners of deaf enterprises and in special schools, as well as concerts of amateur dramatics and excursions to local cities.117 By the 1970s, however, the enthusiasm of VOG’s founding generation was losing its ­battle with the ravages of time. While activists such as Sof´ia Lychkina, head of the VOG Soviet of Pensioners, continued to assert her usefulness to the organ­ization—­“What do you think, that Lychkina is an old person, a pensioner? I ask you to use me, and other comrades too”—­their failing strength (and tendency to fall asleep during VOG events) was noted.118 As Kalugina points out, “The years took their toll. The moment came when I could no longer continue my work in this collective, and I had to take my pension.”119 The material structure of VOG clubs also proved an obstacle to the involvement of pensioners; a meeting in 1960 discussed the steepness of the stairs in the House of Culture as a barrier to el­derly VOG members taking part in activities.120 The veterans’ fighting talk continued, but the 1970s and early 1980s saw the deaths of many of the leaders of the early years of VOG: Pavel Savel´ev, first chairman of VOG, died in 1975, followed by his wife Sof´ia Lychkina in 1981; I. I. Snetkov, former head of the Moscow City branch of VOG, in 1973; Labunskii, founding editor of Zhizn´ glukhikh, in 1977. In light of this, it became even more necessary to involve young deaf ­people in the work of VOG. Compared to the dedicated veterans, the younger generation remained detached from VOG activities. While activists continued to call for new ways to appeal to young deaf ­people, putting on thematic eve­nings for students of special schools and higher education establishments, the late Soviet period saw a marked decline in youth participation. Echoing broader trends in the Komsomol, young deaf p­ eople ­were increasingly reluctant to take part in the social world of the VOG club: as Lychkina asked despairingly, “Why do the kids not want to go to the House of Culture?”121 Similarly, ­those who had graduated from the VOG UPPs and benefited from VOG support throughout their

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education failed to make the transition to working as activists. For t­hose within the VOG hierarchy, the unwillingness of young ­people to devote themselves to the deaf community represented a shift in attitudes that was profoundly worrying. As Komashinskii put it in 1969, a young deaf specialist might achieve his education with the help of VOG, but still think “that’s how it should be, that he is not obliged to help VOG in any way, but that VOG must fuss over him and create special conditions for him, both in the enterprise where he works, and in society.”122 This view of VOG as a provider of welfare and ser­vices, rather than a social organ­ization promoting mutual aid, fundamentally challenged the vision of deaf community put forward by the veterans. Such a shift was not unique to the Soviet case; Padden and Humphries argue that the decline of deaf clubs in the 1960s in the United States was influenced by “the increasing availability of professional occupations for Deaf men and ­women,” which undermined the social significance of deaf-­only institutions.123 Certainly, rising expectations and access to highly skilled professions for Soviet deaf youth played a key role in this change. Throughout the 1970s, opportunities for deaf ­people continued to widen; in 1975, for example, the first deaf group was accepted into a tekhnikum within the Central Statistical Directorate of the RSFSR, learning to repair computers.124 It is not surprising that such highly skilled individuals would seek employment elsewhere rather than choosing low-­skilled and low-­paid work in a VOG club or UPP. Beyond the question of living standards, the increased opportunities for deaf ­people outside the VOG system had the effect of throwing the insularity of the VOG system into sharp relief. As young deaf workers began to test their skills and abilities within hearing institutions and hearing factories, they began to question the closed world of interdeaf competition that characterized VOG’s activities.125 Yet VOG’s role as a universal hub for the organ­ization of all aspects of deaf ­people’s lives meant that few outside organ­izations, with the exception of the VTsSPS, had the capabilities and experience to deal with the par­tic­u­lar challenges faced by deaf ­people. If they rejected VOG, where ­else could ­these young ­people go? The absence of young, skilled deaf activists and role models within VOG testified to something of an identity crisis within the generation of Soviet deaf youth. As Yurchak suggests, t­ hose who came of age in the 1970s and early 1980s developed particularly complex attitudes to Soviet ideology and history, informed by their experience of stagnation, on the one hand, and their lack of experience of the foundational events of the Soviet revolutionary narrative, on the other.126 This sense of dislocation was particularly acute for the young deaf generation, who ­were caught between the dominant narratives

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of VOG’s glorious communal past—of which they had no memory—­and the uncertain pres­ent, in which the contours of the deaf community w ­ ere undergoing profound change. T ­ hese uncertainties w ­ ere made starkly vis­i­ble in 1973, when a young deaf ­woman from Perm´, Liuda Gachegova, wrote a letter to the editorial board of VES, confessing her confusion about her ­f uture and her place in the world: Dear Editors, My name is Liuda, I am seventeen years old. I study in year 13 of a School of Working Youth and I am training to be a seamstress at a VOG UPP. I hear badly, but I have completed eight years of mainstream [massovaia] school. It was hard to study amongst the hearing, but I now achieve fours and fives. The girls at the mainstream school told me if you hear badly, they ­will not let you choose a profession to your liking, they w ­ ill not let you have friends or a mate for life. This raised questions for me: is ­there a college for the hard of hearing where they can learn to be artists or writers? And also: ­were t­ hese girls right? Your answer is very impor­tant to me.127 For Liuda, her position between two worlds—­the loneliness of the mainstream school, and the limitations of the deaf world—­caused her to fundamentally question her identity and her life choices. Her personal and professional dreams of becoming an artist and finding love seemed to stand at odds with the limited options open to her as a young deaf person. The teenage search for meaning expressed in Liuda’s letter would certainly have felt familiar to hearing Soviet readers. Irina Kaspe describes how, beginning in the late 1950s, “the construction of the ‘meaning of life’ took center stage” in discussions in the youth press, and played a central role in the self-­ identification of the “Sixties Generation.”128 ­These tropes ­were echoed in popu­lar films such as Marlen Khiutsev’s Mne dvadtsat´ let (I am Twenty, 1965).129 Liuda’s letter reflects this prehistory of youth angst, yet at the same time it reveals par­tic­u­lar anx­i­eties over the place of young deaf p­ eople in the Brezhnev era. In response to her letter, VOG began a campaign of information among the deaf youth, publishing a series of responses to Liuda’s letter u ­ nder the rubric “Your Place in Life.” From 1975, the Moscow City branch of VOG began to hold debates on the subject, calling young p­ eople to answer four fundamental questions: “What do you see as the meaning of life? Can a person with a hearing loss choose a profession to their liking? How should you find your calling, and should you look for it? How do you understand the word

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‘Happiness’?”130 ­These responses came from a wide variety of correspondents: established writers, artists, and professionals, both deaf and hearing; teachers of the deaf; and several young students from the LVTs. ­These responses revealed profound generational discrepancies in understandings of VOG as an institution and exposed the inherent fragility of deaf identity and the deaf community in this period of social change. The framing of the debate by the editorial staff of VES borrowed from the traditional tropes of Soviet self hood: “The leitmotif sounded in their responses: happiness is in the achievement of the goal set. Of course, by this they meant a noble goal, to be useful to other p­ eople.”131 This theme of hard work and usefulness was to be found most often in the responses from older writers: Sof´ia Voinich, writing from the city of Brest, told the story of an old comrade and VOG activist, Georgii Kozel, who stated that his goal and dream in life was to “be a ­human being!”132 The Novosibirsk activist Komashinskii, who held a candidate degree in technical science, pointed out that dreams must be balanced against a deaf person’s abilities: “If you had dreamed of becoming a doctor, a pi­lot, or a cosmonaut before becoming deaf, you must, alas, search for another profession.” T ­ hese writers sought to impress on Liuda that life was hard and deafness a tragedy, but that joy could be found in selfless devotion to o ­ thers. The changing landscape of deafness, in t­ hese readings, was a benefit to be envied and not a difficulty: “When our nonhearing girls and boys consider choosing a profession, I r­eally envy them. T ­ here are so many roads open to them, and so many opportunities to choose a profession to their liking!”133 By contrast, the responses from younger readers, who w ­ ere all students at the LVTs, showed a widespread uneasiness about the life path of young deaf ­people, which was overlaid with very personal and emotional responses to their hearing loss. For many, the teasing of Liuda by her hearing classmates struck at the heart of their own fears, and most began their letters by addressing this head on: “I read your letter and was shocked by the fact that your comrades in mainstream school said such absurd ­things to you.”134 Most quickly brushed this off—­“Only an ignorant person could say such ­things, so let us not pay attention to such p­ eople”—­but the real emotional uncertainties engendered by deafness remained clear in their letters. One, describing her childhood, admitted that “it seemed to me that ­because of my illness, all my dreams would remain just that: dreams.”135 The lack of clarity surrounding opportunities for young deaf ­people is clear in ­these responses: each of the students admitted to discovering about the LVTs by chance, ­after long periods of anxiety over their life choices. As Valentina Bulavkina put it, “I’m not sure how to express this in words, but I was so overjoyed at the possibility of getting into a tekhnikum that I raced home as fast as

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my legs would carry me. Mum was sad, ­because she ­didn’t want me to go so far away, but I was resolute.”136 Even then, however, their path was not necessarily straightforward: Bulavkina failed the first entrance test for the LVTs, only gaining a place ­after she had worked for a time in a planning institute and improved her submission materials. Unlike the selfless visions of deaf ­labor and self hood put forward by older letter writers, therefore, t­ hese younger correspondents wrote in strongly emotional and personal terms, considering their choice of profession in terms of desire and tragedy, love and despair. One of the most striking aspects to this discussion was the confusion over where young deaf ­people now belonged in the Soviet institutional landscape. For the young letter writers, the central institution in their lives was the LVTs; VOG was not mentioned. The publication of this letter series ended with an interview with Liuda herself, in which she was encouraged to consider the central themes of work, happiness, and deaf ­people’s place in life. Liuda admitted that, having read all the advice she had been sent, she now considered her original letter naïve. Yet while she had a better sense of the opportunities now open to her, she was eloquent about her isolated position, alienated from both the deaf and hearing worlds: I entered into society knowing nothing about the deaf. The first time I worked at the Perm´ UPP I was astonished at how many deaf p­ eople ­were working in one place. I ­didn’t understand their language of gestures. I d­ idn’t know how they lived, what they thought about. At first, their lives seemed extremely primitive to me. In fact, it was not like that at all. . . . ​ But now I have come to feel at home, I know my comrades better, I see that they are p­ eople with whom it’s “pos­si­ble to make a life,” and that they are not somewhere far off, distant, but close to me. [VES] helped me to understand that ­there are many such p­ eople.137 Liuda’s statements are particularly striking given VOG’s reach in the late Soviet period and its power to acculturate t­ hose with hearing loss into the deaf community, its language and its culture. She appears, at the age of seventeen, to have had almost no contact with the deaf community at all; her response thus replicates many of the Stalinist tropes of the primitive nature of signing deaf p­ eople. In falling through the cracks of the deaf community, Liuda was disadvantaged in both the hearing and deaf worlds; not hearing well enough to make a life for herself, and not culturally deaf enough to benefit from the social safety net of VOG.138 Indeed, the isolated position of ­these young ­people raises impor­tant questions about the role of institutions in the era of stagnation. In light of VOG’s

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role as the sole provider of material goods and ser­vices to Soviet deaf p­ eople, was it pos­si­ble to be deaf and not be a member of VOG? Certainly, the problematic decline of deaf repre­sen­ta­tion in VOG, and the move away from a focus on a deaf cultural and social identity, prompted many deaf ­people to reject the institution: as Viktor Palennyi puts it, “It was very strange for deaf ­people, entering their own Central Directorate, to see such a multitude of hearing p­ eople, at times with no knowledge of VOG’s affairs, but immediately taking for themselves the right to treat deaf p­ eople in a didactic manner.”139 Yet the cultural and linguistic isolation of deaf p­ eople meant that finding an alternative place in the Soviet system was particularly difficult. As Bazoeva’s comments at the start of this chapter demonstrate, even as she was given the opportunity to find an intellectually challenging and satisfying profession, her position as a lone deaf worker in a hearing enterprise left her profoundly isolated from the social and material support provided by VOG and the deaf community: “I never once took advantage of the benefits which ­were open to ­others, in factories where ­there ­were groups of deaf ­people.”140 This paradox of late Soviet deaf identity proved difficult to resolve. For Liuda, at least, this discussion seems to have left her with l­ittle certainty as to her life path. Far from giving her a stronger idea of where she belonged and where her life might go, the exchange of letters seems to have confirmed in Liuda the sense that not knowing was valid. When asked what she wanted to be, she responded: “If we are talking of professions, then honestly I have still not deci­ded. Right now, I am working as a seamstress. I try to work well, ­because that is a duty for every­one. But I feel that this is not the sort of work to which I would like to fully devote myself. I ­will study further. I have made a firm decision to take a higher degree.” Similarly, when asked “How do you, Liuda, understand the word ‘happiness,’ ” she replied: “That is a hard question to answer. It’s prob­ably good to live your life right, to be a useful person: maybe t­ here’s happiness in that. But it ­won’t come on its own. Happiness is in my own hands. That’s what many readers have shown me.” The dramatic certainties about life’s purpose, expressed by older deaf p­ eople such as Agrippina Kalugina, had thus given way to the “maybes” and “prob­ablys” that qualified Liuda’s approach to hearing, self hood, and Soviet ideology. It is clear that she was convinced of the usefulness of education and of the need to find a profession to which she could devote herself. Yet the broader ideas of selfless devotion to the collective—­particularly the deaf collective—­and the desire to prove oneself useful did not appear to hold the same sway over Liuda as they had over previous generations. Instead, Liuda’s desires w ­ ere personal and individual: “I want to get a lot out of life: I want to know more, do more.”141

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Conclusion The Brezhnev era thus marked the moment when deaf-­sovietness—­the power­ ful cultural identity that had been developing since 1917—­began to decline. This was not a straightforward example of stagnation, however. The experiences of the 1970s show this decline to have been intimately bound up with notions of scientific and social pro­g ress and the expansion of the welfare system. The curative fantasy offered by advanced imported hearing aids represented a blow to deaf agency and autonomy, as researchers, doctors, and pedagogues asserted their ability to determine deaf ­people’s lives. At the same time, the economic successes of VOG encouraged its takeover by hearing bureaucrats, and the rising expectations of its members saw them increasingly reluctant to engage with the deaf-­only spaces and cultural practices of the institution. As a result, the tantalizing possibility, explored by deaf activists in the 1950s and 1960s, of creating an alternative, visual model of Soviet self hood was forestalled. Without a strong organ­ization and a clear articulation of the social and cultural identity of the deaf, this period saw significant uncertainty over the place of deaf ­people in the late Soviet social world. Indeed, the experience of the deaf community stands as a corrective to histories of the Brezhnev era that have stressed its plurality and nonconformism. Juliane Fürst has stressed that “normality in the sense of living within officially prescribed and generally accepted norms does not seem to have been much in evidence in the Soviet Union in the 1970s.”142 For the deaf community, however, the Brezhnev era brought the resurgence of scientifically and ideologically defined norms of the self that imposed par­tic­u­lar expectations and anx­i­eties on its members. T ­ hese anx­i­eties particularly affected the young, prompting them to publicly question the meaning of life without hearing, and to reject the paths to Soviet self hood laid out by older deaf generations. The individualism shown by Liuda and ­others like her, when combined with the decline in VOG as a representative, grassroots organ­ization, made it much more difficult to attract young p­ eople into the deaf community and to discover what made them tick. Yet outside the structures of VOG, it was unclear where ­these young deaf ­people should fit. As science redefined ­these individuals as nonhearing—­neither hearing, nor deaf—­their place in the world remained uncertain. Indeed, the fragmentation of VOG reveals the degree to which deafness in the USSR had become an institutional, as well as a physical and a cultural, identity. By the mid-1970s, to be a deaf person was to be a VOG member. As a result, the institutional stagnation of the Brezhnev years was all the more problematic for deaf p­ eople. Alienated by their own institution, they found no

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alternative structures that could accommodate their par­tic­u­lar cultural and communicative practices. VOG was crumbling, but t­ here was nothing to take its place, no understanding outside the organ­ization of what deafness means and how to tackle it, and no traditions outside the UPPs and the brigade system of integrating deaf p­ eople into the hearing workplace. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that when young p­ eople fell outside the VOG system they found they had nowhere to go. The 1970s thus saw the deaf community come full circle. The agency and in­de­pen­dence of the early years of the Soviet deaf community, in which the structures of VOG facilitated the creation of strong traditions of mutual aid and support, had given way to a bureaucratic system within which deaf p­ eople increasingly felt alienated. Yet outside the structures of this self-­sustaining “state within a state,” the hearing world had ­little knowledge of deaf ­people and found it difficult to know how to deal with them. T ­ hose who had grown up with stories of the limitless potential of Soviet deaf p­ eople found themselves fighting against the tutelage of the medical commissions, the prejudices of employers, and the misconceptions and meanness of their hearing comrades. ­These themes—of tutelage, of repre­sen­ta­tion, and of individual choice—­bear a striking resemblance to the debates of the prerevolutionary era. As the winds of po­liti­cal change began to blow in the mid-1980s, the time was ripe for another deaf revolution.


In 1996, in cele­bration of VOG’s seventieth anniversary, VES published a series of articles looking back at the history of the institution. Over eight issues, the editor in chief, Valerii Kuksin, and historian and archivist Alla Slavina discussed VOG’s history from its origins in the prerevolutionary deaf intelligent­sia to the full-­fledged state within a state of the late socialist era. While both interlocutors assumed that the broad contours of this history would be familiar to their readers, they made it clear that, following the collapse of the USSR, this history would need to be told again, and differently. Yet the temptation to reject the past caused them profound disquiet. As Slavina commented, “At the beginning of the 1970s, when the editorial board of VES asked me to put together materials on the history of VOG, my task, naturally, was also to demonstrate the role of the Communist Party and Soviet power in the unification of deaf p­ eople. We are all ­children of that epoch. The motherland taught us, and we served her. Now, in the epoch of glasnost´, much is viewed differently. But I do not re­spect ­those who disown their past.”1 In the upheaval of the Soviet collapse, as VOG and its members sought to stake out their place in the new po­liti­cal landscape, the nature of the Soviet deaf past and the relationship between deaf and Soviet paradigms of identity became a m ­ atter of urgent debate. Such historical questioning was not unique to the deaf community; as Kathleen Smith has noted, “Periods of turbulent 223

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change always seem to foster waves of looking backward, w ­ hether with nostalgia or with distaste.”2 The 1980s and 1990s saw widespread condemnation of the Soviet (and particularly Stalinist) past, but for deaf p­ eople this past was not an easy t­hing to reject. The deaf community and its institutional structures had come into being as a product of Soviet socialism; as Kuksin describes it, VOG was “an entirely unique society, bringing together ­people not only on account of their physical lack, but also their po­liti­cal like-­mindedness.”3 Since the revolution, the utopian conceptual and l­egal structures of the nascent Soviet system viewed deaf ­people as capable of embodying the best qualities of the New Soviet Person. Deaf ­people themselves, particularly ­those involved in VOG, actively engaged with t­ hese frameworks, seeking to overcome social limitations and claiming their place in the Soviet body politic. This engagement with the structures of Soviet identity shifted over time, as the opportunity of revolutionary politics gave way to a vision of the Soviet subject as a passive recipient of Soviet humaneness and welfare. Yet as Alla Slavina remarked, throughout the Soviet period “VOG marched in step with the country.”4 At the same time, the inclusion of deaf p­ eople in the utopian frameworks of Soviet identity did not deny deaf p­ eople’s difference, particularly their reliance on sign language, their construction of a visual mode of being, or their desire to remain together as a community. The l­egal and linguistic disenfranchisement of the tsarist era caused early deaf activists to declare that “the affairs of deaf-­mutes are their own,” with the deaf-­run grassroots organ­izations of the early Soviet period laying the groundwork for a centralized and self-­sufficient VOG.5 ­These institutional frameworks fostered a form of identity that was Soviet but also distinctly “deaf,” drawing on notions of marginality, ethnicity, and linguistic difference to articulate their position in Soviet society. By the 1960s, a vibrant deaf world existed, marked out by its deaf-­run institutions, its visual spaces, and its distinct culture. ­These unique spaces ­were conceived in Soviet terms as the inevitable result of the emancipation and social support provided to all citizens by the Soviet system. The two sides of the coin of deaf-­Soviet identity w ­ ere thus closely intertwined and interdependent. The contextual specificity of this deaf-­Soviet identity reveals a historical arc that is distinct from the narratives of deaf history in Western Eu­rope and North Amer­i­ca, and from the standard chronologies of hearing Soviet history. The majority of deaf histories, even ­those with a global focus, have characterized the twentieth c­ entury as a period in which the “deadly enemies of deafness”—­ eugenics, oralism, and technology—­denied deaf agency ­until the emergence of social and civil rights models in the 1960s.6 In the USSR this social model emerged with the revolutions of 1917, fostered by the Marxist, egalitarian ide-

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ologies of the Soviet state. The belief that deafness was a social defect that could be overcome by social means fostered a par­tic­u­lar form of deaf agency and cultural community in the Soviet context, which was formalized and institutionalized in ways not seen elsewhere. In the context of the Cold War, this model did not easily translate across borders and was not able to challenge the dominance of the Deaf culture model in the international arena. Within Soviet Rus­sia, the b­ rother republics of the USSR and, l­ater, the Eastern Bloc, this par­tic­u­lar theoretical framework and lived experience of deafness serves as an impor­tant counterpoint to U.S.-­centric narratives of deaf history.7 In the Soviet context, one of the most striking aspects is the extent to which deaf ­people publicly and consistently engaged with frameworks and ideologies of sovietness, long ­after most hearing p­ eople began to retreat into apathy and often in the face of highly audist attitudes from state (and occasionally even deaf ) activists. Historians of the hearing Soviet world have pointed to the fracturing of the Soviet subjectivity paradigm as early as the 1950s; that it should have taken a further two de­cades for deaf ­people even to begin to reject notions of collectivism, mutual aid, and social usefulness is surprising.8 The degree to which deaf agency, in­de­pen­dence, and social power ­were bound up with notions of sovietness is an impor­tant part of this story, however. The deaf community chose to tie its fate to that of the Soviet proj­ect, to reach for paradigms of sovietness in order to claim agency and autonomy in society. Outside ­these frameworks, therefore, it was not clear how deaf ­people could articulate their social worth. When loss of faith in deaf-­sovietness did come, it was driven equally by the general decline of the Soviet system and the internal tensions of the deaf world, many of which had been pres­ent since 1917. The insistence of early deaf activists that they should remain together to achieve sovietness had the result of creating a community that was ideologically Soviet, yet institutionally marginalized. The disconnection between the deaf and hearing worlds led hearing Soviet society to increasingly exoticize their deaf peers, and pushed deaf activists to police their own community and stamp out be­hav­iors that marked them as dif­fer­ent. While earlier generations of deaf activists reveled in the opportunities for deaf social and cultural expression, the ­children of the 1970s, who had reaped the benefits of deaf social, cultural, and educational support, chose to turn away from VOG and seek other paths to self-­fulfillment. ­These changes w ­ ere exacerbated by the development of assistive technologies, whose promise of liberation from deafness shifted the focus away from social understandings of deafness and the deaf community. This social ferment was given new impetus ­after 1985, as the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev embarked on his twin policies of glasnost´ (openness)

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and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to revive the ossified structures of the Soviet Union. In this context, members of VOG began to radically rethink the institution’s structure and purpose.9 Notions of popu­lar democracy and grassroots activism, central to Gorbachev’s reforms, appealed to t­hose deaf individuals who sought fuller participation in Soviet social life. Yet ­these reforms also drew on established grievances within the deaf community, in par­tic­u­lar their developing aversion to the constraining framework of the (predominantly hearing) VOG hierarchy. Mirroring the activist politics of the 1920s, the deaf borrowed the dominant po­liti­cal language of the day to stake their claim to repre­sen­ta­tion. As I. P. Ubogov pointed out in 1988, “The decisions taken by our committees do not have a demo­cratic character, they do not take into consideration the interests of all members of the Society: pensioners, students, workers, engineers from state enterprises, the peasantry. . . . ​ ­Those who ­will carry out the decisions should themselves make them. Is that not right, is that not democracy?”10 This push for change perpetuated the generational shift that had begun in the 1970s. The focus on youth grassroots organ­izations continued with the creation of the Student Construction Bureau in 1984, which brought together brigades of deaf youth to build and refurbish VOG structures.11 In the mid1980s, members of the VOG club “Youth” began to take their place in the organ­ization; N. S. Chaush´ian became director of the TMZh, and Viktor Palennyi became one of the editors of VES.12 In 1985, twenty-­eight-­year-­old Igor Abramov was chosen as chairman of the Moscow City VOG, emerging as the dominant leader of the deaf reform movement. Abramov had been deafened in early childhood and communicated in both speech and sign. ­Under his leadership, Moscow City VOG began to emerge as an alternative model of deaf organ­ization based on grassroots activism.13 Abramov also appointed other young deaf leaders, predominantly from worker backgrounds, to the Moscow hierarchy.14 He founded a new deaf newspaper, Maiak (The Beacon), which was a model of glasnost´ journalism, openly critical of the stultification of the VOG leadership. In the central VOG administration, following the ousting of Fufaev in 1984 for the “unconstrained spending of the Society’s money,” the chairmanship passed to the forty-­five-­year-­old Valerii Korablinov.15 ­These “­children of perestroika” turned the introspective questioning of the 1970s outward, asking, as Kuksin tells it, “what the Society should be, what place it should hold in the system of social organ­izations, whose interests it should protect, who should lead it.”16 ­These questions received a comprehensive airing in November 1989, when VOG held its first directly elected All-­Russian Conference of VOG (analogous to Gorbachev’s Congress of P ­ eople’s Deputies, for which Abramov stood

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unsuccessfully as a candidate in the same year). Two hundred and eleven elected delegates from seventy-­one regions, a hundred and fifty one of whom ­were deaf or hard of hearing, came together to debate a new draft constitution and charter. In a typically animated debate, delegates raised many familiar grievances, including of the lack of young p­ eople in the VOG infrastructure, the paltry salaries given to VOG workers, the terrible state of deaf schools, and the lack of a strong cultural program for deaf ­people.17 They also reopened painful questions that had long been considered resolved, such as the position of hearing ­people within VOG. In the months following the conference, delegates, including Abramov, argued forcefully for the removal of hearing p­ eople from VOG and called for deaf p­ eople to determine their own lives, “where they should go, and how they should develop.”18 Abramov conceded that hearing specialists ­were useful to VOG and proposed giving t­hese individuals honorary membership once they had proved their worth, but acknowledged that the pres­ent situation allowed hearing p­ eople “who joined VOG yesterday [to be] already leading it t­ oday.”19 His Moscow colleague Mariia Evseeva suggested making knowledge of sign language a prerequisite for hearing members of VOG, concluding that at pres­ent “many deaf p­ eople consider that VOG is their home, but they are not master of it.”20 The questions raised at the conference reflected the changing perception of VOG by deaf ­people across the Soviet period, from a representative lobby, to an orga­nizational hub, to a cultural community, and fi­nally to a repressive and unrepresentative body that imposed hearing frameworks on the real­ity of deaf lives. Many of the issues discussed by VOG members in this period echoed the calls made during 1917 to overthrow the painful structures of tutelage and disenfranchisement imposed on deaf ­people. In this new revolutionary moment, however, VOG was no longer seen as the answer to this tutelage but as a new and stultifying form of it. Indeed, the conference was seen to perpetuate rather than undermine this hearing dominance. I. V. Filippova, a hearing delegate of the Moscow City branch, commented that “the worst impression was left by the offensive comments from the floor: ‘That’s just what they wanted!,’ ‘­Don’t translate that for him!,’ ‘Let’s leave the hall,’ ­etc. Of course, it was the hearing that shouted t­ hese t­ hings out, understanding perfectly that the deaf delegate speaking was not able to hear them and was not able to give a worthy reply. I consider this be­hav­ior to be dishonorable in the highest degree.” As a result, Filippova pointed out, ­little resolution could be found at the conference, which represented “the worst traditions of the era of stagnation.”21 This challenge to VOG was also driven by the opening up of the USSR to the West, and the growing influence of U.S. models of deaf identity. In 1989,

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a group of fifty Soviet delegates ­were given permission to travel abroad to attend The Deaf Way, a conference of 6,000 deaf ­people from across the world convened at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. to celebrate “the success, skill and artistry of deaf p­ eople.”22 Delegates to this “deaf Woodstock” discussed deaf art, the role of sign language in deaf communities, diversity in deaf communities, deaf history, and h ­ uman rights. For t­ hose versed in the narratives of the Soviet deaf community, The Deaf Way proposed a very dif­fer­ ent model of being deaf, grounded in “empowerment, advancement, pride and self-­identity,” which stood in stark opposition to Soviet notions of overcoming, usefulness, and collective endeavor.23 This communication across borders reinforced notions of the unrepresentative nature of VOG. Most of the Soviet delegates to The Deaf Way ­were from the VOG apparatus, and many of them ­were hearing. One delegate, Ubogov, asked “on what basis did workers of the apparatus of the Central Directorate of VOG and Minsobes RSFSR deprive deaf ­people of the ability to speak about themselves and their prob­ lems, and consider themselves the representatives of their opinions and interests? It was no coincidence that members of the VOG del­e­ga­tion made no speeches or pre­sen­ta­tions at the conference. . . . ​We had something to say, but ­there was no one t­ here to say it.”24 By 1991 members of the deaf community w ­ ere publicly chafing against the bounds that VOG had placed on them and w ­ ere calling for widespread demo­ cratic and pluralist reforms to the VOG system. W ­ hether this new, reformed Soviet VOG could have come into being—­and what it might have looked like if it did—­remains open to debate, as the deaf perestroika was forestalled by events. In August 1991, an attempted coup by the State Committee for the State of Emergency, a hastily convened group of hardline Communist officials, brought tanks onto the streets of Moscow and threatened to overturn Gorbachev’s demo­cratizing pro­cess. This coup was condemned by Abramov, who called for deaf Muscovites to throw their support b­ ehind the newly appointed president of the RSFSR, Boris Yeltsin.25 The failure of the coup and the ensuing po­liti­cal chaos led to the ultimate collapse of the Soviet social and po­liti­ cal system. A new po­liti­cal entity, the Rus­sian Federation, was created in its place, with Yeltsin at the helm. As a social, grassroots organ­ization, VOG was—­barely—­able to survive the collapse of the Soviet state. With its inherently Soviet structure, however, the society needed to change to flourish in ­these new po­liti­cal circumstances. The most pressing prob­lem was financial. The VOG bud­get had been ­under threat during the 1980s as Gorbachev’s reforms to the economic system took effect: in 1990, Korablinov pointed to a 13-­million-­ruble shortfall.26 The collapse further exacerbated this prob­lem. VOG UPPs had specialized in providing parts

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for state factories, and deaf workers in t­ hese factories paid their membership dues into the VOG coffers. The collapse of the centralized economy at a stroke destroyed the society’s main source of revenue and, indeed, of social power. Almost immediately ­after the collapse, therefore, VOG made a decision to switch to a market system and to sell or rent its premises in order to keep the system g­ oing. The ground floor of the building housing the TsP VOG in Moscow was turned into a supermarket; other private enterprises ­were set up by VOG organ­izations in Riazan´, Sverdlovsk, Kaluga, and Taganrog. Apartment blocks built by VOG ­were given over to private rent, ceasing to be dedicated deaf spaces. A number of flagship VOG organ­izations, such as the LVTs (now the VOG St. Petersburg Rehabilitation Centre), ­were given over to the Rus­ sian state to save vital funds.27 With this “switch to the market,” VOG managed to maintain the core of its social system, losing only one local organ­ization in Naro-­Fominsk, outside Moscow. Yet within this seemingly stable structure, the hierarchies of VOG began to break down. Debates about the role of hearing p­ eople within VOG continued, with the result that the TsP split between a representative section, staffed by deaf p­ eople, and an administrative section staffed by the hearing.28 The relationship between the center and the periphery also suffered. At the Fifteenth VOG Congress in 1995, Kuksin described the tensions within the apparatus: “The nomenklatura who live and work in the capital tried to demonstrate how necessary and impor­tant they are: ‘You try living without our control, tutelage and subsidies.’ And the nomenklatura from the regions zealously rebuffed them: ‘We already know what money is, we have taught ourselves to earn it. So d­ on’t interfere in our affairs. In a word, leave us alone!’ ”29 Indeed, it was not only the regional branches that rejected the control and tutelage of the central VOG apparatus. Shortly ­after the collapse, Abramov began to refer in official documents to the Moscow City branch of VOG as the Moscow Society of the Deaf and to prepare a separate charter for the organ­ ization. Similarly, the St. Petersburg branch proposed a reciprocal relationship with VOG, associated with but not subordinate to it.30 The ability of VOG organ­izations to make money and carry out their responsibilities was swiftly called into question by the rapidly rising prices brought about by post-­Soviet market reforms. In February 1992, Korablinov approached the Rus­sian government, together with his counter­parts in the All-­ Russian Socie­ties of the Blind and of Disabled ­People (VOS and VOI), to ask for financial support.31 The dire situation had been spelled out in an open letter to Yeltsin by the Moscow City Directorate of VOG a month before. As the letter made clear, it was not just the lack of money that threatened deaf ­people but the w ­ holesale collapse of the legislative safety net that supported their

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position.32 No laws remained in place to guarantee the rights and protections of disabled p­ eople, with the result that the financial burden fell on VOG to support them with “medicine and treatment, and technical means of rehabilitation,” not to mention food.33 The dissolution of specialized artels as well as the liquidation of dedicated places for disabled ­people in state factories had led to the mass dismissal of deaf ­people from work. T ­ here was no longer a guarantee of ­middle and higher education for deaf ­people or of vocational training; t­ here ­were no rights to healthcare, leisure, or cultural activities. As the letter concluded, the “miserable position of disabled ­people is facilitated by the irresponsibility of organs of power at a variety of levels.” On April 3, 1992, for the first time since 1917, a crowd of disabled ­people took to the streets outside the former headquarters of the Central Committee to demand better ser­vices; deaf ­people in the crowd held placards reading “We demand a guarantee of full social protections for deaf ­people,” and “Where is the law on the protection of deaf p­ eople?”34 The result of this lobbying was a new set of laws for the new po­liti­cal regime. On July 27, 1992, Yeltsin signed the order “On the scientific and informational support of the prob­lem of disability and disabled p­ eople.”35 Mea­sures ­were taken to ensure the financial security of VOG: a state grant of 1.8 billion rubles in 1993 was followed by tax reforms to exempt enterprises staffed by disabled individuals from export and import taxes.36 In 1995, a new law “On

Figure 12.  Deaf protesters on Staraia ploshchad´, Moscow, April 3, 1992. Reproduced with the permission of the Central Museum of the History of VOG.

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the Social Protection of Disabled ­People” was passed. The law had been in preparation since 1990, before the collapse, and VOG members had been involved in discussions surrounding its implementation. The law promised “economic and ­legal mea­sures and mea­sures of social protection, providing disabled ­people with the conditions to overcome or substitute (compensate) for the limitations of their ability to live and directed ­toward the establishment of equal possibilities, with other citizens, to participate in the life of society.” This new legislation echoed Soviet conceptions of overcoming physical limitations and participating in l­abor and the life of society, formally recognizing the need for disabled p­ eople to be offered treatment, prosthesis, training, and “orientation” in the workplace in order to find their place in life. It also recognized the leading role of “social associations” of the disabled in providing this support, although VOG was not named directly. The 1995 law reinstated many ­legal protections for deaf ­people and gave renewed legitimacy to VOG as a national organ­ization. Yet the period of transition had fundamentally changed the position of VOG in the eyes of its deaf constituents. Throughout 1995, Kuksin maintained a scathing criticism of VOG as perpetuating Soviet myths about the equality of disabled ­people: “Alas, the rigidly politicized and centralized VOG and VOS, created ­under Soviet rule, inevitably accepted a vision of g­ reat reservations of disabled p­ eople, the founding princi­ple of which was ‘Help yourselves.’ I remember we w ­ ere even proud of this gilded cage which isolated us from the society of healthy ­people.”37 For Kuksin, the vision of agency and in­de­pen­dence that lay at the heart of the Soviet model of deafness—­and, by extension, of VOG—­­was not liberating but constraining. He suggested that the myth that deaf p­ eople ­were “in a united rank” with the hearing ignored the fact that “every­thing is a thousand times harder for us.”38 At the Fifteenth Congress, Korablinov, now president of VOG, called for unity during the transition. Yet the congress highlighted further fractures within the institution; in Petersburg, the meeting to select delegates was targeted by protesters.39 A renewed charter was approved, but Clause 56, which allowed the executive organs of the TsP control over local VOG establishments, was removed, effectively ending the centralized structure of the institution.40 As VOG’s power declined, alternative models of deaf organ­ization came to the fore. New forms of deaf community ­were to be found within the Rus­ sian Orthodox Church, which enjoyed a considerable re­nais­sance following the collapse of the atheist Soviet state. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Tikhvin, in the Simonov Monastery on the banks of the Moscow River, was given over to the deaf community in 1990. Local deaf p­ eople participated in its refurbishment, removing de­cades’ worth of debris, and the local newspaper,

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Moskovskii komsomolets, took up a collection to provide the cathedral with an icon.41 Similar Orthodox communities (obshchiny) ­were established across Rus­ sia, using an improvised form of religious sign language vocabulary to interpret hymns and the liturgy for the deaf congregation. T ­ hose giving religious instruction to the deaf stressed the fact that such ser­vices provided a way out of the ghetto of deafness and into the wider community of Orthodox Christians. According to Petr Kolomeitsev, the priest of Our Lady of Tikhvin, “The deaf live in their own world, in their ghetto, in their own subculture. They have their schools, their theater, their clubs. ­Here, ­people all feel that they are in a normal church. We have not created another ghetto for them. We simply let the hearing impaired into the Rus­sian Orthodox Church.”42 Other associations w ­ ere not so salubrious. Following the Rus­sian state’s decision to exempt VOG enterprises from imports and taxation, the UPPs became popu­lar partners for many of the new companies that had sprung up in the transition to capitalism. ­These deals exposed VOG and its enterprises to the influence of the mafia. On September 7, 1995, the chairman of Moscow City VOG, Abramov, was shot twice in the back of the head outside his home. The following year, VOG President Korablinov was also gunned down in an attack that left his wife severely injured. ­These murders formed part of a mafia war in the mid-1990s that also claimed the lives of Vladimir Orlov, the vice president of Invest, one of VOG’s trading partners, Magomed Musaev, a man­ ag­er of the Fund for the Social Protection and Rehabilitation of Deaf-­Mutes and president of the trading firm Open World, and several innocent bystanders. In 1999, four members of the Dagestani mafia w ­ ere charged with t­ hese murders.43 Recent accounts of the killings have stressed the fact that Abramov and Korablinov ­were unwittingly drawn into a mafia strug­gle—­and a cap­i­tal­ist system—­that was beyond their control or understanding.44 VOG UPPs w ­ ere forced into international deals to prop up their crumbling infrastructure, which made them easy targets in the mafia strug­gle for power in Moscow. Yet many journalists at the time pointed to the murders as evidence of widespread corruption and criminality that had emerged within the deaf community as it adjusted to the new, cap­it­ al­ist rules of the game. Following Abramov’s murder, a VES editorial remarked that “it i­sn’t pos­si­ble that he did not know that he was walking on the razor’s edge. He certainly knew the rules of this nightmarish game, intoxicated, like a drug addict; or perhaps he saw examples of such reckless gamblers in VOG?”45 An investigative piece in The Observer following Abramov’s murder suggested that he had allowed mafia businessmen to pay to use the UPP’s rubber stamps as a cover for their activities. Journal-

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ists interviewed Vladimir Bazoev, Abramov’s deputy, who spoke of his colleague’s “new Cherokee Jeep [bought] for $59,000.”46 In an echo of the 1960s, fears of criminality within the wider deaf community ­were also invoked. Initially, this new wave of deaf criminality was seen to be borne of desperation, rather than physical or social deviance. As Moskovskii komsomolets argued, “Yes, deaf p­ eople get involved in crime, but this is not ­because they have some sort of inbred tendency t­oward depravity, but ­because they simply ­don’t have another choice. No one w ­ ill give a deaf person a job.”47 The longstanding notion of the deaf criminal world as an alternative form of community soon emerged in t­hese discussions, however. Rumors proliferated of a deaf mafia, headed by one Levoni Dzhikiia, or “Leo,” who or­ga­nized gangs of deaf drug dealers and pickpockets on the streets of Moscow.48 Dzhikiia was said to be involved in some capacity with the corruption in VOG enterprises in the 1990s, using the TMZh as a base for his activities, which, according to the author Maksim Glikin, involved the laundering of around 180 million dollars.49 At the same time, this criminal enterprise stepped into the gap left by VOG, using some of t­ hese profits to support deaf culture, including the TMZh. This period was short-­lived (Dzhikiia was murdered in 1997), but left an indelible stain of criminality on the post-­Soviet deaf community, and it remains a touchstone for almost all journalistic and cultural narratives of post-­Soviet deafness.50 What­ever the truth of the events of the 1990s, it is clear that VOG had changed dramatically since the late Soviet period. VOG had survived the transition, but the push for grassroots involvement and the widespread challenge to Soviet ideas of inclusion and “overcoming” had eroded the authority of the institution, and the shift to the new, cap­it­ al­ist system had led to corruption and the pulling back of VOG involvement in much of the social and cultural infrastructure that characterized the Soviet deaf community. The financial crisis of August  1998 worsened the situation still further; tensions arose between the central and regional VOG organ­izations over the control of finances, following the considerable loss of funds through bad investments.51 The financial position stabilized in the early 2000s, but VOG was left with a reduced bud­get and dependent, for the first time since 1954, on central government funding. Much of the institutional legacy of the Soviet period did remain, including the system of clubs and Houses of Culture, the two newspapers VES and Maiak (renamed Mir glukhikh, or World of the Deaf, in 1998). Yet the material heart of the organ­ization, the system of UPPs (now renamed sotsial´no-­reabilitatsionnye predpriiatii, or SRPs), was considerably reduced. VOG maintained a membership of around 100,000 and continued to fund

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social and cultural activities such as national theater competitions, youth festivals, and local social clubs.52 It also continued to lobby the Rus­sian government on behalf of deaf and hard-­of-­hearing citizens. Yet, when compared to its overarching mandate in the Soviet era, VOG no longer represented a comprehensive home, a support system, or even a system of control for Rus­sian deaf ­people. The Rus­sian deaf community entered the new millennium at a moment of extreme uncertainty, poised between the legacy of the Soviet past and an uncertain vision of the post-­Soviet, Rus­sian deaf ­f uture. Defining deafness in ­these new circumstances, and seeking to protect and advocate for ­those who cannot hear, has proved a complex prob­lem. The Soviet deaf community, like many marginal communities in the Soviet era, defined itself in strongly ideological terms. The collapse of the USSR removed the ideological foundations that had ­shaped this identity. In the absence of the overarching model of a New Soviet (Deaf ) Person, it has proved particularly difficult for the deaf community to articulate a positive new vision of Rus­sian deafness. While many deaf ­people have been keen to reject the Soviet past and redefine themselves as Rus­ sian, t­ here are few landmarks to guide the way. The growing power of the “deaf cultural” model has provided a potential framework, one that was seized on in the mid-1990s by historians such as Viktor Palennyi.53 As Anna Komarova and Michael Pursglove point out, however, this model sits awkwardly with established understandings of deafness in Rus­sia: Rus­sian has no established terms for “deaf culture,” “deaf awareness,” “deaf identity,” “deaf pride,” or “deaf heritage.” Interpreters have to resort to elaborate periphrases to render them in Rus­sian or RSL. Indeed, even the concepts expressed by t­ hese terms prob­ably do not exist in Rus­sia ­today. It is perhaps symptomatic that one eminent hearing specialist on deafness reacted to the term deaf pride with the comment, “What rubbish! What is ­there to be proud about in that?”54 Pursglove and Komarova frame this misunderstanding as the result of years of deaf oppression at the hands of “overweening, corrupt, and inefficient officials.” Yet models of deafness are intimately bound up with their cultural context; it is therefore not surprising that the deaf cultural model, born of the U.S. civil rights movement, would not easily translate into a culture steeped in notions of individual conformity to collective models of be­hav­ior, even a­ fter a short, sharp exposure to the cap­i­tal­ist world. By contrast, the notion of deafness as defined by community and sign language has been strengthened in the years since 1991. While the Soviet state had tacitly facilitated the development of sign language during the Stalinist

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industrialization period, and linguists such as Geil´man had sought to underline the expressive qualities of sign during the Thaw period, widespread concern about the limitations of gesture and the importance of speech meant that attitudes to sign w ­ ere often ambivalent. Since the collapse, however, sign language is increasingly seen as a marker of deaf identity both within and outside the deaf community, and access to interpreting ser­vices is seen as a right that the deaf community should enjoy. Much of this was due to the pioneering work of the linguist Galina Zaitseva, who coined the term Rus­sian Sign Language (Russkaia zhestovaia iazyk, or RZhIa) in 1995. Zaitseva founded the Moscow Bilingual School in 1992, which sought to normalize the use of sign language in deaf education. In the absence of Stalinist ideological concerns about gesture, Zaitseva “showed that Rus­sian sign language is a distinctive and highly developed linguistic system, playing an impor­tant role in the communicative and cognitive activity of deaf pupils.”55 The status of sign language was formally recognized in 2012, when amendments to the federal law “On the Social Protection of Disabled ­People in the Rus­sian Federation” defined sign as a “language of communication,” or a valid linguistic system that requires the provision of interpreters.56 At the same time, ambivalent attitudes to sign language still persist. According to Pursglove and Komarova, even in the early 2000s many Rus­sian deaf citizens regarded sign language as a “simplified form of communication” incapable of conveying complex information.57 By contrast, the perception of deafness as a medical prob­lem to be “cured” by technological intervention, which had emerged during Brezhnev’s Scientific-­Technological Revolution, continues to dominate in post-­Soviet Rus­sia. Deaf individuals are now most commonly referred to as invalidy po slukhu (translated by Pursglove as “aurally disabled”), with deaf c­ hildren screened at birth, sorted into categories of disability, and guaranteed the right to “technological means of rehabilitation.”58 Cochlear implants are growing in popularity, with the Ministry of Health publishing guidelines for their use in 2000 and All-­Russian Congresses on Auditory Implantation held yearly since 2012.59 Despite their popularity, however, ­these technologies continue to sit awkwardly with the community-­ based conceptions of deafness fostered by VOG. VOG’s vice president, S. A. Ivanov, commented in 2014 that “cochlear implants are actively propagandized by the mass media and medical experts as the only means to return real hearing to a deaf person and to successfully integrate him into society. In this way, deafness is presented as disability and abnormality, which can only be fixed by a cochlear implant.”60 Rus­sian deafness thus remains poised between medical and social models, between language and embodiment, disability and agency. The loss of power

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experienced by VOG since 1991 has only compounded this deaf identity crisis. By the last de­cades of the Soviet period, to be deaf was to be a member of VOG. The crumbling of the institutional structures of support provided by VOG represented the removal of a key tenet of identity, both for the deaf community itself and for ­those hearing ­people who came into contact with deafness. The comprehensive social, cultural, and material support provided by VOG absolved Soviet deaf individuals of the need to integrate into the hearing world, and the institution provided an easy narrative of deaf “overcoming” and agency that could be projected outward and propagandized among the hearing. In the years since the Soviet collapse, it has become increasingly apparent that most hearing Rus­sians are not familiar with the deaf world and have l­ittle understanding of what deafness means, tending to view the deaf community in terms of ghettoization and enforced isolation. As an article in Kanskie vedomosti argued in 2010, “It is a scientific fact that a deaf child can be born into any f­amily. But then he must become part of a dif­fer­ent world, a resident of a territory, the borders of which are only as thick as an ear drum. They live so close to us, and at the same time so far away that we know nothing about them. For us, they are ‘other.’ For them, ­there is no other life.”61 The decision by early VOG activists to remain together at all costs has left a problematic legacy of isolation and marginalization that it is proving difficult to overcome. In the absence of knowledge and familiarity, certain ste­reo­types of the deaf community continue to hold sway. One of the key landmarks of the cultural pre­sen­ta­tion of deafness in the post-­Soviet era was the film Strana glukhikh (Land of the Deaf, 1998), Valerii Todorovskii’s thinly veiled account of the deaf mafia. The central characters of Svinia (The Pig), a supremely violent deaf mafia boss, and Iaia, the deaf antiheroine who has become embroiled in the deaf underworld, (played by the hearing actors Maksim Sukhanov and Dina Korzun) echo all the fears of the Pygmalion furor, framing deafness as instinctual, violent and subhuman, and the deaf community as a ghetto that exists outside the social mores of the civilized world. Such characters represent the negative inversion of Bogin’s Natasha, unable to overcome the nature of their disability. Some positive repre­sen­ta­tions of deafness have emerged, most notably the character of Lesha (played by the hard-­of-­hearing actor Aleksei Znamenskii) in Sergei Loban’s cult film Shapito-shou (2012). Yet the negative ste­reo­types still persist. In 2014, Ukrainian director Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy won three major prizes at the Cannes Film Festival with Plemya (The Tribe), a film set in a deaf school in the 1990s and filmed entirely in sign language without dubbing or subtitling. Audiences praised the use of deaf actors from

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across the post-­Soviet space, and the repre­sen­ta­tion of au­then­tic sign communication. Yet the film’s subject m ­ atter, which covered drug dealing, vio­lence, rape, illegal abortion, and murder, replicated old ste­reo­types and reopened old wounds. The deaf reviewer Evgenii Mazaev commented, “Try telling [hearing] ­people who are thunderstruck by the cruelty of the action that it is only a fantasy, that the film i­ sn’t about deaf p­ eople, that it’s only an experiment with form. It’s useless.”62 The question of where the deaf belong in post-­Soviet Rus­sia thus has no easy answer. Issues of marginality and belonging, integration and difference have been fractured through the prism of Soviet ideology, and the legacy of Soviet theories of embodiment, language, and community have cast long shadows. The chaos of the 1990s served to magnify the flaws and tensions inherent in the Soviet model of deaf identity. Yet the difficult transition faced by the deaf community as it emerged from the Soviet era does not negate the dreams—or the agency—of t­ hose who lived through it. The utopian goal of overcoming deafness through social intervention and technology was never fully realized. But the attempts to do so, and the radical rethinking of what deafness should mean and how deaf ­people should live, resulted in the creation of a historically and culturally distinct deaf community that still endures. The i­magined contours of this community are distinctly Soviet: the reliance on sign language, the espousal of collective values and mutual aid, the vibrant cultural world supported by developed institutional frameworks all bear witness to the legacy of Soviet ideas. For the Rus­sian deaf community, their relationship with history remains complex. In the early 1990s, the w ­ holesale rejection of the Soviet proj­ect and of Soviet models of identity and governance meant that the structures and ideals of the Soviet deaf community in Rus­sia ­were rendered suspect. As historians such as Alla Slavina, and l­ater Viktor Palennyi, began to retell this history, they rediscovered the radical and participatory nature of early Soviet deaf organ­ization, using this knowledge as the basis for the reanimation of Rus­sian deaf identity. As Palennyi argued at the first Moscow Symposium of Deaf History in 1996, “Sign language binds together our group identity. But ­there is another subjective f­ actor that unifies us: our common historical fate. This is not to be found in the state pension that is paid to disabled p­ eople from childhood; this is ‘our’ schools with ‘our’ teachers, ‘our’ sport, ‘our’ exhibitions, ‘our’ Moscow City VOG. . . . ​­These did not begin only yesterday.”63 The emergence from the ideological constraints of the Soviet period has allowed deaf historians to renarrate their community’s history and to reconsider their con­temporary experiences through the prism of past debates and strug­gles.

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The Soviet deaf experience thus provides the context necessary to understand the nature of deafness in Rus­sia ­today and to frame deaf ­people’s understandings of their own place in this new, post-­Soviet world. For the historian, the growing field of Soviet deaf history has the potential to illuminate bigger questions about the dreams and limitations of Soviet identity politics and the historical contingencies of deaf identity. The revolutionary roots and complex development of the Soviet deaf community reveal the intersections between Soviet ideology and the realities of physical and sensory disability. The particularities of the deaf world and the obstacles faced by deaf ­people expose the tensions inherent in the Soviet ideological world view. At the same time, deaf engagement with the Soviet proj­ect illuminates the ways in which individual and collective agency, and the embracing of Soviet frameworks of identity, s­ haped the fate of marginal communities within the Soviet body politic.

N ote s


1. V. Baulin and I. Razdorskii, “Dvoe,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, July 1965, 13. 2. Ibid. 3. Defectology, the branch of Soviet science devoted to the study of t­hese disorders, has a contested history; celebrated in the 1920s, it was banned in the mid-1930s and only revived again following Stalin’s death. See William McCagg, “The Origins of Defectology,” in The Disabled in the Soviet Union: Past and Pres­ent, Theory and Practice (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989), 39–61. 4. As Yanni Kotsonis points out, “backwardness is ubiquitous” in Rus­sian historiography: Yanni Kotsonis, Making Peasants Backward: Agricultural Cooperatives and the Agrarian Question in Rus­sia, 1861–1914 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999), 4. 5. On the New Soviet Person, see David L. Hoffmann, Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917–1941 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), 45–56. 6. For more on the physical incarnation of the New Soviet Person and its links to the Soviet social experiment, see Tricia Starks, The Body Soviet: Propaganda, Hygiene and the Revolutionary State (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008); Toby Clark, “The ‘New Man’s’ Body: A Motif in Early Soviet Culture,” in Art of the Soviets: Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in a One-­Party State, 1917–1992, ed. Matthew Cullerne Brown and Brandon Taylor (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1993), 33–50. 7. On the application of biopolitics to the USSR, see Anna Toropova, “An Inexpiable Debt: Stalinist Cinema, Biopolitics, and the Discourse of Happiness,” Rus­sian Review 74, no. 4 (2015): 665–83; Dan Healey, “Lives in the Balance: Weak and Disabled Prisoners and the Biopolitics of the Gulag,” Kritika: Explorations in Rus­sian and Eurasian History 16, no. 3 (Summer 2015): 527–56. A classic example of the application of Foucault’s theories to Soviet history can be found in Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). 8. David L. Hoffmann, Cultivating the Masses: Modern State Practices and Soviet Socialism, 1914–1939 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011), 1. 9. Lilya Kaganovsky, How the Soviet Man Was (Un)Made: Cultural Fantasy and Male Subjectivity ­under Stalin (Pittsburg: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008), 4. 10. In honor of the record-­breaking coal miner Aleksei Stakhanov, the title of Stakhanovite was awarded to workers who beat norms of production during Stalin’s industrialization drive. For more on deaf Stakhanovites, see chapter 2 of this volume.


24 0 NOTES


11. Igal Halfin, From Darkness to Light: Class, Consciousness and Salvation in Revolutionary Rus­sia (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000), 49. 12. Mike Gulliver and John Lyons have noted a similar deaf liberation narrative in the Victorian church, which posited heaven as a realm in which the deaf would fi­nally hear. Mike Gulliver and John Lyons, “An Eternity of Silence or Merely Half an Hour (Rev. 8.1)? St Saviour’s, Oralism, and the Anthropocene” (paper, Association for Biblical Lit­er­a­ture Conference, Atlanta, GA, November 2015). 13. V. G. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh: Istoriia, razvitie, perspektivy (Leningrad: Leningradskii vosstanovitel´nyi tsentr VOG, 1985), 6. 14. Otchet tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1967–70 (proekt), VOG collection, 5. 15. Douglas C. Baynton, Forbidden Signs: American Culture and the Campaign against Sign Language (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 2. 16. Deaf history serves as another example of the influence of nineteenth-­century Eu­rope on Soviet social policy. See Hoffmann, Cultivating the Masses, 2; Peter Holquist, Making War, Forging Revolution: Rus­sia’s Continuum of Crisis 1914–1921 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002). 17. Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, Deaf in Amer­i­ca: Stories from a Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 9. 18. For this reason, I do no use the term “Rus­sian Sign Language” (RSL), which only came into use in the 1990s. In Soviet parlance, “sign language” was referred to as mimika (mimicry) and, ­later, zhestovoi iazyk (gesture language). For clarity, I translate both ­these terms as “sign language.” 19. Christopher Krentz, Writing Deafness: The Hearing Line in Nineteenth-­Century American Lit­er­a­ture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 2. 20. On the limited articulation of eugenicist policies in Rus­sia, see Mark B. Adams, ed., The Wellborn Science: Eugenics in Germany, France, Brazil and Rus­sia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990); Daniel Beer, Renovating Rus­sia: The H ­ uman Sciences and the Fate of Liberal Modernity, 1880–1930 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008). 21. Mikhail Shorin, “Vzorvannaia tishina,” in Vspolokhi tishiny, ed. V. A. Palennyi and Ia. B. Pichugin (Moscow: Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 2012), 193. 22. Benedict Anderson, ­Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso Books, 2006), 6. 23. For a criticism of binary models in Soviet history, see Alexei Yurchak, Every­ thing Was Forever, U ­ ntil It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ ton University Press, 2005), 4–8. 24. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1963– 66 gody, VOG collection, 3. 25. Robert Dale, “The Valaam Myth and the Fate of Leningrad’s Disabled Veterans,” Rus­sian Review 72, no. 2 (April 2013): 261. The infamous claim that “­there are no invalids in the USSR!” is discussed in Sarah D. Phillips, “ ‘­There Are No Invalids in the USSR!’: A Missing Soviet Chapter in the New Disability History,” Disability Studies Quarterly 29, no. 3 (2009): n.p.; see also Sarah D. Phillips, Disability and Mobile Citizenship in Postsocialist Ukraine (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011). On exclusion and disability, see Mark Edele, Soviet Veterans of the Second World War: A Popu­lar Movement in an Authoritarian Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); Beate Fieseler, “The ­Bitter Legacy of the ‘­Great Patriotic War’: Red Army Disabled Soldiers



­ nder Late Stalinism,” in Late Stalinist Rus­sia: Society between Reconstruction and Reinu vention, ed. Juliane Fürst (London: Routledge, 2006), 46–61. 26. Michael Rasell and Elena Iarskaia-­Smirnova, introduction to Disability in Eastern Eu­rope and the Former Soviet Union: History, Policy and Everyday Life (London: Routledge, 2013), 1. 27. Maria Cristina Galmarini-­K abala, The Right to Be Helped: Deviance, Entitlement, and the Soviet Moral Order (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2016), 4, 161. 28. P. A. Savel´ev, “Istoriia povtoriaetsia,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, October 1, 1925, 1. 29. Brigid O’Keeffe, New Soviet Gypsies: Nationality, Per­for­mance, and Self hood in the Early Soviet Union (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013), 13. 30. Sergei Usachev, “Stupeni,” in Palennyi and Pichugin, Vspolokhi tishiny, 193. 31. Anna Krylova, “The Tenacious Liberal Subject in Soviet Studies,” Kritika: Explorations in Rus­sian and Eurasian History 1, no. 1 (March 2000): 119–46. 32. Jochen Hellbeck, Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary ­under Stalin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), 13–14. 33. Choi Chatterjee and Karen Petrone, “Models of Self hood and Subjectivity: The Soviet Case in Historical Perspective,” Slavic Review 67 (Winter 2008): 985. 34. Peter Fritsche and Jochen Hellbeck, “The New Man in Soviet Rus­sia and Nazi Germany,” in Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared, ed. Michael Geyer and Sheila Fitzpatrick (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 305. 35. Donna Ryan and John Schuchman, eds., Deaf ­People in Hitler’s Eu­rope (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 2002). 36. Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain, 220. 37. As Emma Widdis argues, “The Soviet revolutionary proj­ect was distinguished by the ambition that its far-­reaching social and po­liti­cal revolution would be accompanied by a revolution in sensory experience.” This work thus forms part of this sensory turn in Soviet history, seeking to ground discussions of abstract subjectivity in the concrete experience of hearing (or not hearing). Emma Widdis, “The Socialist Senses: Film and the Creation of Soviet Subjectivity,” Slavic Review 71 (Fall 2012): 591. See also Lilya Kaganovsky and Masha Salazkina, eds., Sound, Speech, M ­ usic in Soviet and Post-­Soviet Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014); Claire Shaw, “Deafness and the Politics of Hearing” in Rus­sian History through the Senses: From 1700 to the Pres­ent, ed. Matthew P. Romaniello and Tricia Starks (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016). On phonocentrism and Deaf studies, see H-­Dirksen Bauman, “Audism: Exploring the Metaphysics of Oppression,” Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 9, no. 2 (2004): 243–45. 38. Stephen Lovell, “Broadcasting Bolshevik: The Radio Voice of Soviet Culture, 1920s–1950s,” Journal of Con­temporary History 48 ( January 2013): 81. See also Stephen Lovell, Rus­sia in the Microphone Age: A History of Soviet Radio, 1919–1970 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). 39. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1973). For an articulation of this argument, see Geoffrey Hosking, The Awakening of the Soviet Union (London: William Heinemann, 1989); for a critique, see Michael David Fox, “Review of Irina Nikolaevna Il´ina, Obshchestvennye organizatsii Rossii v 1920-­e gody,” Kritika 3, no. 1 (Winter 2002): 173, 177–78, 180–81. 40. Stuart Finkel, On the Ideological Front: The Rus­sian Intelligent­sia and the Making of the Soviet Public Sphere (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 3.

24 2 NOTES

TO PAGES 1 2 –1 6

41. On voluntary organ­izations in tsarist Rus­sia, see Joseph Bradley, “Subjects into Citizens: Socie­ties, Civil Society, and Autocracy in Tsarist Rus­sia,” American Historical Review 107, no. 4 (2002): 1102. 42. On the “Moral Code,” see Deborah A. Field, Private Life and Communist Morality in Khrushchev’s Rus­sia (New York: Peter Lang, 2007). 43. Tsentral´nyi gosudarstvennyi arkhiv goroda Moskvy (TsGA Moskvy, formerly TsAGM), fond (f.) 3010, opis´ (op.) 1, delo (d.) 17, list (1.) 4. 44. John Vickrey Van Cleve, preface to Deaf History Unveiled: Interpretations from the New Scholarship (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1999), ix. For examples of this activist history, see Harlan Lane, When the Mind Hears: A History of the Deaf (New York: Random House, 1984). 45. Padden and Humphries, Deaf in Amer­i­ca, 10. 46. Van Cleve, Deaf History Unveiled, x. 47. See Mike Gulliver and Mary Beth Kitzel, “Deaf Geographies,” in Genie Gertz and Patrick Boudreault, The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2016), 1:451–53; Gill Harold, “Reconsidering Sound and the City: Asserting the Right to the Deaf-­friendly City,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 31, no. 5 (2013): 846–62; Kyra Pollitt, “Signart: (British) Sign Language Poetry as Gesamtkunstwerk” (PhD diss., University of Bristol, 2014). 48. Paddy Ladd, Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deaf hood (Clevedon, UK: Multilingual M ­ atters, 2003), x­ viii. 49. H.-­Dirksen L. Bauman and Joseph J. Murray, introduction to Deaf Gain: Raising the Stakes for ­Human Diversity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), xv. Emphasis in original. 50. Cited in Bauman, “Audism,” 240. 51. Michele Friedner and Annelies Kusters, introduction to It’s a Small World: International Deaf Spaces and Encounters (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 2016), x. 52. Annelies Kusters and Maartje De Meulder, “Understanding Deaf hood: In Search of Its Meanings,” American Annals of the Deaf 157, no. 5 (Winter 2013): 428. On deafness as a visual identity, see Ben Benjamin, “On the Formation of a Visual Variety of the ­Human Race,” in Open Your Eyes: Deaf Studies Talking, ed. H.-­Dirksen and L. Bauman (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 83–99. 53. Padden and Humphries, Deaf in Amer­i­ca, 2. 54. Kusters and De Meulder, “Understanding Deaf hood,” 435. For Ladd’s response to this critique, see Paddy Ladd, “Global Deaf hood: Exploring Myths and Realities,” in Friedner and Kusters, It’s a Small World, 274–85. 55. Friedner and Kusters, It’s a Small World, xvii and xvi. 56. Karen Nakamura, Deaf in Japan: Signing and the Politics of Identity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006), 8. 57. Ibid., 11. 58. See Leila Monaghan, Constanze Schmaling, Karen Nakamura, and Graham H. Turner, eds., Many Ways to Be Deaf: International Variation in Deaf Communities (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 2003). 59. On the influence of French and German models on Rus­sian deaf education, see Howard G. Williams, “Found­ers of Deaf Education in Rus­sia,” in Van Cleve, Deaf History Unveiled.

NOTES TO PA GES 1 6 – 2 3


60. Susan Burch, “Transcending Revolutions: The Tsars, the Soviets and Deaf Culture,” Journal of Social History 34, no. 2 (Winter 2000): 399. 61. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1963– 66 gody, 3. 62. This is perhaps unsurprising; at its inception, the social model, particularly in the British tradition, was unashamedly Marxist. See Colin Barnes, “A Brief History of Discrimination and Disabled P ­ eople,” in The Disability Studies Reader, ed., Lennard J. Davis (New York, 2010), 20–32. For a critical reading of the social model, see Tom Shakespeare, Disability Rights and Wrongs (London: Routledge, 2006). 63. L. S. Vygotskii, “K psikhologii i pedagogike detskoi defektivnosti,” in Voprosy vospitaniia slepykh, glukhonemykh i umstvenno-­otstalykh detei, ed. L. S. Vygotskii (Moscow: Izdanie otdela sotsial´no-­pravovoi okhrany nesovershennoletnykh glavsotsvosa narkomprosa R.S.F.S.R., 1924), 6. 64. Michael Pursglove and Anna Komarova, “The Changing World of the Rus­sian Deaf Community,” in Monaghan et al., Many Ways to Be Deaf, 255. 65. On the “normative self,” see Chatterjee and Petrone, “Models of Self hood,” 977. 66. Most significant in t­ hese is Palennyi’s seminal, three-­volume history of VOG: V. A. Palennyi, Istoriia Vserossiskogo obshchestva glukhikh (hereafter Istoriia), 3 vols. (Moscow: BAFI-­Art, 2007–2011). Key works in En­glish on the Soviet deaf community include Burch, “Transcending Revolutions”; Anastasia Kayiatos, “Sooner Speaking Than ­Silent, Sooner S­ ilent Than Mute: Soviet Deaf Theatre and Pantomime a­ fter Stalin,” Theatre Survey 51, no. 1 (May 2010): 5–31; Anastasia Kayiatos, “­Silent Plasticity: Reenchanting Soviet Stagnation,” ­Women’s Studies Quarterly 40, nos. 3 and 4 (Fall/ Winter 2012): 105–25; Galmarini-­K abala, The Right to Be Helped. 1. Revolutionizing Deafness

1. S. Usachev, “Zhizn´ komsomola: 4-ia godovshchina Saratovskoi iacheiki RLKSM,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, October 1, 1925, 2. 2. Hoffmann, Stalinist Values, 45–56. 3. Usachev, “Zhizn´ komsomola,” 2. 4. Susan Burch, Signs of Re­sis­tance: American Deaf Cultural History, 1900 to World War II (New York: New York University Press, 2002), 4. 5. On the origins of Soviet “excisionary vio­lence,” see Hoffmann, Cultivating the Masses, 242–53. The equation of difference with dissent is a strong line in Soviet scholarship: see Dan Healey, Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Rus­sia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001); Galmarini-­ Kabala, The Right to Be Helped, 4. 6. Choi Chatterjee, Celebrating ­Women: Gender, Festival Culture and Bolshevik Ideology 1910–1939 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002), 11. 7. This line of analy­sis builds on the work of Jochen Hellbeck, who argues that the impact of Soviet revolutionary practice on individuals’ sense of self “was not repressive, but productive.” Jochen Hellbeck, “Working, Struggling, Becoming: Stalin-­Era Autobiographical Texts,” Rus­sian Review 60, no. 3 ( July 2001): 341. 8. Avi Lifschitz, Language and Enlightenment: The Berlin Debates of the Eigh­teenth ­Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 1. See also Matthew Lauzon, Signs of

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TO PAGES 2 3 –2 7

Light: French and British Theories of Linguistic Communication, 1648–1789 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010); Sophia Rosenfeld, A Revolution in Language: The Prob­lem of Signs in Late Eighteenth-­Century France (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004). 9. Viktor Ivanovich Fleri, Glukhonemye, rassmatrivaemye v otnoshenii k ikh sostoianiiu i k sposobam obrazovaniia, samym svoistennym ikh prirode (St. Petersburg: A Pliushara, 1835), 23–24. 10. Cited in Nikolai Mikhailovich Lagovskii, S. Peterburgskoe uchilishche glukhonemykh (1810–1910): Istoricheskii ocherk (St.  Petersburg: tip. Uch-­shcha glukhonemykh, 1910), 11. 11. Ibid., 35. On Jauffret, see also Lane, When the Mind Hears, 156. 12. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:13. 13. On the “war of methods,” see Rebecca Edwards, Words Made Flesh: Nineteenth-­ Century Deaf Education and the Growth of Deaf Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2014). On the epistemological shift in deaf education in the nineteenth ­century, see Sabine Arnaud, “Fashioning a Role for Medicine: Alexandre-­Louis-­Paul Blanchet and the Care of the Deaf in Mid-­nineteenth-­century France,” Social History of Medicine 28, no. 2 (May 2015): 288–307. 14. This phrase can be found in Rus­sian in a critique by A. K. Pfel´ of the St. Petersburg School’s charter in 1865, attributed to the British teacher of the deaf Thomas Arnold (1816–1897): see Lagovskii, S. Peterburgskoe uchilishche, 260. Douglas Baynton sees “foreigners in their own land” as a “meta­phor with two centers” that both excluded and trapped deaf p­ eople. Baynton, Forbidden Signs, 29. 15. Lagovskii, S. Peterburgskoe uchilishche, 155. 16. Ibid., 251. 17. See, for example, Lane, When the Mind Hears; Harlan Lane, The Mask of Benevolence: Disabling the Deaf Community (New York: Knopf, 1992). 18. A. K. Gauger, ed., Svod zakonov grazhdanskikh (Petrograd: Merkushcheva 9. izd., 1915), 129. 19. Ibid., 130. 20. Susan Burch, alongside other historians of deafness, identifies deaf schools as the “hub” of deaf community identity: Burch, Signs of Re­sis­tance, 70. 21. Gauger, Svod zakonov grazhdanskikh, 130. 22. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:11. 23. Ibid., 1:10. 24. Ustav S. Peterburgskogo obshchestva popecheniia o glukhonemykh (­adopted 1893, approved by Ministry of Internal Affairs July 12, 1888), 1. 25. A. Kalugina, “Zhizn´ v tishine: dokumental’nia povest´ o liudiakh vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh,” in Palennyi and Pichugin, Vspolokhi tishiny, 9. 26. Otchet S. Peterburgskogo obshchestva glukhonemykh za 1904–1905 god (St. Petersburg, 1907), 2. 27. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:13. 28. Ustav S. Peterburgskogo obshchestva popecheniia glukhonemykh (­adopted 1904, approved by Ministry of Internal Affairs August 9, 1904), 3. 29. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:14. 30. Otchet S. Peterburgskogo obshchestva glukhonemykh za 1904–1905 god, 1. 31. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:19. 32. Bradley, “Subjects into Citizens,” 1094n1.

NOTES TO PA GES 2 7 – 3 2


33. F. A. Rau, Glukhonemye Tul´skoi gubernii (Tula, Rus­sia: Tipografiia Tul´skogo Gubernskago Pravleniia, 1899), 8–9. 34. On the language of revolution, see Orlando Figes and Boris Kolonitskii, Interpreting the Rus­sian Revolution: The Language and Symbols of 1917 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 108. 35. The decline of Nicholas II’s authority is traced in Richard S. Wortman, Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Rus­sian Monarchy from Peter the G ­ reat to the Abdication of Nicholas II (Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton University Press, 2006), 335. 36. On social polarization, see Leopold Haimson, “The Prob­lem of Social Stability in Urban Rus­sia, 1905–1917 (Part One),” Slavic Review 23, no. 4 (December 1964): 619– 42. Peter Holquist argues that Rus­sia endured a “continuum of crisis” that began in 1914 and did not end ­until the conclusion of the civil war in 1921. See Holquist, Making War, Forging Revolution, 2. 37. E. E. Zhuromskii, Vserossiiskii soiuz glukhonemykh, cited in Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:25. 38. Boris Kolonitskii has referred to this coopting of revolutionary and socialist identity in the period between revolutions as a “fashion for socialism” and cites the founding of the Socialist Union of Deaf-­Mutes as evidence of its widespread impact. Boris Kolonitskii, “Antibourgeois Propaganda and Anti-´Burzhui’ Consciousness in 1917,” Rus­sian Review 53, no. 2 (1994): 187. 39. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:26. 40. Ibid., 1:27. 41. Ibid. 42. Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (hereafter GARF), f. A-511, op. 1, d. 1, l. 72 ob. 43. Ibid., l. 166. 44. Ibid., l. 176. 45. “Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the R.S.F.S.R. A ­ dopted by the Fifth All-­ Russia Congress of Soviets, July 10, 1918,” in First Decrees of Soviet Power: Acts of Legislation November 1917–­July 1918, ed. Yuri Akhapkin (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1970), 164. 46. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:30. 47. See V. G. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh: Istoriia, razvitie, perspektivy (Leningrad: Leningradskii vosstanovitel´nyi tsentr VOG, 1985), 174. 48. Kalugina, “Zhizn´v tishine,” 59. 49. “Declaration of the Rights of the ­Peoples of Rus­sia, November 2, 1917,” in First Decrees of Soviet Power: Acts of Legislation November 1917–­July 1918, ed. Yuri Akhapkin (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1970), 31–32. 50. L. D. Trotskii, “Ot staroi sem´i—­v novuiu,” Pravda, July 13, 1923, 2. 51. On utopian dreaming in the revolutionary period, see Richard Stites, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Rus­sian Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 3. On utopianism in the fields of public health and social welfare, see Starks, The Body Soviet, 17–28. 52. C. Brandist, “Language and Its Social Functions in Early Soviet Thought,” Studies in East Eu­ro­pean Thought 60, no. 4 (December 2008): 279–80. 53. On the history of defectology, see McCagg, “The Origins of Defectology,” 39–42. 54. Vygotskii, “K psikhologii,” 21. See also L. S. Vygotsky, The Collected Works of L. S. Vygotsky, vol. 2, The Fundamentals of Defectology (Abnormal Psy­chol­ogy and Learning Disabilities), trans. Jane E. Knox and Carol B. Stevens (New York: Plenum, 1993).

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TO PAGES 3 2 –4 0

55. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Po­liti­cal Economy (Chicago: Kerr, 1904), 11. 56. Hoffmann, Stalinist Values, 46. 57. Vygotskii, “K psikhologii,” 12. 58. On the controversy over pure oralism, see Lane, When the Mind Hears, 386–97. 59. Vygotskii, “K psikhologii,” 23. 60. Michael Gorham, Speaking in Soviet Tongues: Language Culture and the Politics of Voice in Revolutionary Rus­sia (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003); Lovell, “Broadcasting Bolshevik,” 78–97. 61. Lovell, Rus­sia in the Microphone Age. 62. Vygotskii, “K psikhologii,” 24. 63. Diane P. Koenker, Republic of ­Labor: Rus­sian Printers and Soviet Socialism, 1918– 1930 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), 1. 64. Vygotskii, “K psikhologii,” 21. 65. Ibid., 30. 66. “Constitution of the R.S.F.S.R. July 1918,” 156. 67. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:32. 68. Builleten´ Vserossiiskoi konferentsii glukhonemykh, May 29, 1921. 69. On artels and early Soviet ­labor practice, see Stites, Revolutionary Dreams, 125. 70. “Polozhenie ob upolnomochennykh po rabote sredi glukhonemykh pri Gub. Obl. i Okruzhnykh GIKO,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, June 1, 1925, 3. 71. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:70–73. 72. GARF, f. R-5575, op. 3, d. 9, l. 16. 73. D. Riol´f, “Na perelome zhizni,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, March 15, 1925, 3. 74. “Rezoliutsiia po dokladu o trudovom ustroisve slepykh i glukhonemykh vynesennaia vserossiiskim s´ezdom zav. Gubsobezami,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, June 1, 1925, 3. 75. Builleten´ Vserossiiskoi konferentsii glukhonemykh, May 27, 1921. 76. P. A. Savel´ev, “Istoricheskii obzor raboty Moskovskoi iacheiki RKP(b) glukhonemykh,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, August 14, 1925, 2. 77. Sof  ´ia Lychkina, “Istoki,” in Palennyi and Pichugin, Vspolokhi tishiny, 112. 78. Savel´ev, “Istoricheskii obzor,” 2. 79. Lychkina, “Istoki,” 116; Kalugina, “Zhizn´v tishine,” 70. 80. Lychkina, “Istoki,” 117. 81. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:30. 82. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 5, l. 12 (my italics). 83. For more information on the likbezy, see Charles E. Clark, Uprooting Otherness: The Literacy Campaign in NEP-­Era Rus­sia (Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 2000). 84. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:61. 85. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 5, l. 19. 86. Ibid., l. 85 ob. 87. Narkomzdrav Semashko, Narkomsobes Vinokurov, and Narkompros Lunacharskii, “O sotsial´nom obespechenii glukhonemykh i slepykh,” Izvestiia, November 26, 1920. 88. As Lynn Mally has pointed out, organ­izations such as Proletkult w ­ ere targeted and ultimately subsumed by the state as a result of their autonomy. See Lynn Mally,

NOTES TO PA GES 4 0 – 4 5


Culture of the F­ uture: The Proletkul´t Movement in Revolutionary Rus­sia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 227. 89. “Khronika 2-­i Vserossiiskii s´ezd glukhonemykh,” Izvestiia, October  21, 1920, 2. 90. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 3, l. 129. 91. Brigid O’Keeffe makes a similar point about Roma identity: “In order to become Soviet, they had to first become Gypsies.” O’Keeffe, New Soviet Gypsies, 17. 92. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 3, ll. 130–132. 93. Ibid., l. 107. 94. Kalugina, “Zhizn´v tishine,” 28. 95. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 3, l. 129. 96. Semashko, Vinokurov, and Lunacharskii, “O sotsial´nom obespechenii glukhonemykh i slepykh,” 4. 97. GARF, f. R-5575, op. 3, d. 1, l. 4. 98. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 5, l. 41. 99. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 3, l. 129 ob. 100. Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001). See also Francine Hirsch, Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014); Yuri Slezkine, “The USSR as a Communal Apartment, or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism,” Slavic Review 53, no. 2 (Summer, 1994): 414–52. 101. Paddy Ladd, Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deaf hood (Clevedon, UK: Multilingual ­Matters, 2003), 112. On the “deaf-­mute banquets,” at which this claim to deaf nationhood was made, see Bernard Mottez, “The Deaf-­Mute Banquets and the Birth of the Deaf Movement,” in Deaf History Unveiled: Interpretations from the New Scholarship, ed. John Vickrey Van Cleve (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1999), 30. 102. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 3, l. 129 ob. 103. Builleten´ Vserossiiskoi konferentsii glukhonemykh, May 25, 1921. 104. Juliane Fürst, “Between Salvation and Liquidation: Homeless and Vagrant ­Children and the Reconstruction of Soviet Society,” Slavonic and East Eu­ro­pean Review 86, no. 2 (2008): 234. 105. GARF f. 5575, op. 3, d. 6, l. 5. 106. GARF f. 5575, op. 3, d. 2, l. 1. 107. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 5, l. 19 ob. 108. Ibid., l. 19. 109. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 5, l. 19–19 ob. 110. See Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:70–73. 111. P. A. Savel´ev (as B. Volgin), “Teni na solntse,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, October 1, 1925, 1. 112. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:79. 113. Kalugina, “Zhizn´v tishine,” 19–20. 114. Ibid., 29–30. For other accounts of lobbying for buildings by the deaf community, see D. L. Ginzburgskii, P. F. Isaev, and I. E. Rubin, eds., Pervyi predsedatel´: Vospominaniia, dokumenty (Leningrad: Leningradskii vosstanovitel´nyi tsentr VOG, 1990), 57.

24 8 NOTES

TO PAGES 4 6 –5 4

115. P. A. Savel´ev, in Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:64. 116. N. A. Miliutin, “K voprosu ob organizatsii glukhonemykh,” Izvestiia, November 20, 1924, 2. 117. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 3, l. 136. 118. Ibid., l. 3. 119. “Nashi zadachi,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, March 15, 1925, 1. 120. P. A. Savel´ev, “Istoriia povtoriaetsia,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, October 1, 1925, 1. 121. “O sviazy glukhonemykh,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, June 15, 1925, 1. 122. GARF f. A-259, op. 10b, d. 3173, l. 63. 123. Ibid., l. 63 ob. On social support for deaf p­ eople, see Galmarini-­K abala, Right to Be Helped, 54–55. 124. See F. I. Shoev, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo slepykh i ego deiatel´nost´ (Moscow: Tipolitografiia VAF, 1965), 29. 125. GARF f. 259, op. 10ob., d. 3173, ll. 40–41. 126. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:95. On the prehistory of the “Position,” see Lychkina, “Istoki,” 119. 127. Ibid. 128. Kalugina, “Zhizn´v tishine,” 64–65. 129. Ivan Isaev, Mnogogolos´e tishiny: Iz istoriia glukhikh Rossii (Moscow: Zagrei, 1996), 23–25. 130. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:93–94. 131. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 8, l. 18. 132. Ibid., l. 6. 133. Kalugina, “Zhizn´v tishine,” 37. 134. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 5, l. 26. 135. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 8, l. 7. 136. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:94. 137. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 8, l. 14. 138. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhykh, 14. 139. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 6, l. 22. 140. N. Minakov, “Ne zabivaite derevni,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, July 22, 1925, 1. 2. Making the Deaf Soviet

1. “Na prazdnike fizkul´tury,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, January 1933, 15. On the symbolism of Soviet physical culture parades, see Susan Grant, Physical Culture and Sport in Soviet Society: Propaganda, Acculturation, and Transformation in the 1920s and 1930s (London: Routledge, 2013), 142–45. The title of this chapter references Lewis H. Siegelbaum and Ronald Grigor Suny, eds., Making Workers Soviet: Power, Class and Identity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994). 2. On the “revolution from above,” see Moshe Lewin, “Society, State and Ideology during the First Five-­Year Plan,” in Cultural Revolution in Rus­sia 1928–1931, ed. Sheila Fitzpatrick (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1978), 41. 3. “Cultural revolution” is Sheila Fitzpatrick’s term; see Sheila Fitzpatrick, “Cultural Revolution in Rus­sia, 1928–31,” Journal of Con­temporary History 9, no. 1 ( January 1974): 33–52. 4. Hoffmann, Stalinist Values, 3–4.

NOTES TO PA GES 5 5 – 6 0


5. Sarah Davies, Popu­lar Opinion in Stalin’s Rus­sia: Terror, Propaganda and Dissent, 1934–1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 102. On the Stalin constitution and practices of marginalization, see Golfo Alexopoulos, Stalin’s Outcasts: Aliens, Citizens, and the Soviet State, 1926–­1936 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), 170. 6. Hoffmann, Stalinist Values, 146. 7. Kaganovsky, How the Soviet Man Was (Un)Made, 5. 8. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 15, l. 6. 9. Ibid., l. 2. 10. Hellbeck, Revolution on My Mind, 165. 11. On peasants as backward, see Sheila Fitzpatrick, Stalin’s Peasants: Re­sis­tance and Survival in the Rus­sian Village ­after Collectivization (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). On the ideology of backwardness, see Kotsonis, Making Peasants Backward, 4–6. 12. Choi Chatterjee, Celebrating ­Women: Gender, Festival Culture and Bolshevik Ideology 1910–­1939 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002), 156–57. 13. See, for example, GARF, f. R-5575, op. 8, d. 2, l. 116. 14. See Polozhenie o Vserossiiskom obshchestve glukhonemykh (Moscow: Mosoblit, 1932), 8. 15. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:99. 16. Ibid., 130–31. 17. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 11, l. 1 ob. 18. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 31, l. 8. 19. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 29 ob. 20. Ibid. 21. N. N. Minakov, cited in Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:157. 22. Kalugina, “Zhizn´ v tishine,” 76. 23. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 29; GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 11, l. 1 ob. 24. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 21, l. 6. 25. Lynne Viola, Peasant Rebels ­under Stalin: Collectivization and the Culture of Peasant Re­sis­tance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 13–29. Viola points out that, by grouping peasants together in collective farms, the state hoped to overcome the “primordial muzhik darkness” and “plant” socialism in the countryside. 26. P. A. Savel´ev, “Polnyi okhvat glukhonemykh derevni—­boevaia zadacha kazhdoi vogovskoi organisatsii,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, July 1934, 3. 27. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:255. 28. “Nizhegorodskii krai,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, August 15, 1930, cited in Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:258. 29. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 13, l. 33. 30. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:284. 31. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 13, l. 31. See also GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 20, l. 49 ob.; d. 17, l. 13; d. 22, l. 40; and d. 24, l. 41. 32. VSNKh i Narkomtrud RSFSR, Tsirkuliar no. 213, “O poriadke registratsii i napravlenii na rabotu v proizvodstv glukhonemykh i oglokhshikh,” October  31, 1929. 33. VOG i Narkomtrud RSFSR, Instruktsiia no. 39, “O vovlechenii glukhonemykh v obshchuiu promyshlennost,’ ” January 2, 1930. 34. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 1.

25 0 NOTES

TO PAGES 6 0 –6 3

35. Ibid, l. 30. Stephen Kotkin points out that such a progression—­from unskilled construction laborer to skilled factory worker—­was commonplace u ­ nder the first five-­ year plan. Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain, 203. 36. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:234. 37. Ibid., 1:235. 38. Chatterjee, Celebrating ­Women, 123. 39. Kati Morton, “Gainful Employment: Historical Examples from Akron, Ohio,” in Bauman and Murray, Deaf Gain, 318. 40. Robert Buchanan, Illusions of Equality: Deaf Americans in School and Factory, 1850– 1950 (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 2012), 73; Burch, Signs of Re­sis­tance, 113–128. 41. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:118. 42. Ibid., 1:350. According to a history of VOS, the need for “special adaptations” to enable blind p­ eople to work in state factories meant that factory man­ag­ers ­were reluctant to hire them. Shoev, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo slepykh, 44. 43. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:118. 44. Ts. K. Ambrosius, Glukhonemye (trudoustroistvo, obuchenie i kul´trabota) (Leningrad: Leningradskii Oblispolkom i Sovet, 1933), 3–4. For a discussion of the scientific study of deaf ­labor, see Chapter Six. 45. Lewis Siegelbaum, “Industrial Accidents and Their Prevention in the Interwar Period,” in The Disabled in the Soviet Union: Past and Pres­ent, Theory and Practice, ed. William O. McCagg and Lewis Siegelbaum (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburg Press, 1989), 99. 46. GARF, f. R-5575, op. 8, d. 2, l. 116; f. A-511, op. 1, d. 21, l. 11. 47. See A. F. Raikh, “Glukhonemykh—­v shumnye tsekha,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, July 1934, 23. On ­labor and Deaf Gain, see Morton, “Gainful Employment,” 318. 48. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 33. 49. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:293. 50. Ibid., 1:296. 51. Gail W. Lapidus, “Educational Strategies and Cultural Revolution: The Politics of Soviet Development,” in Fitzpatrick, Cultural Revolution, 80. 52. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d.13, l. 44. 53. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 17. 54. Ibid., l. 18. 55. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:170. 56. A. K., “Dat´ kvalifitsirovannye kadry dlia sotsialisticheskoi promyshlennosti,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, July 1933, 12–13. 57. Polozhenie o Vserossiiskom obshchestve glukhonemykh (1932), 5–6. 58. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 16, l. 33, and d. 13, l. 49. 59. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 1, ll. 37, 40. 60. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:284. 61. B. Volgin, “Na fronte invalidnoi kooperatsii ne vse ladno,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, October 28, 1929. 62. A. Fedot´ev, in Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:288. 63. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 21, l. 11. 64. Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain, 202. 65. Nakamura, Deaf in Japan, 113.

NOTES TO PA GES 6 4 – 7 0


66. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 13, l. 31. 67. P. Liteinyi, “Perevooruzhit´ tekhniku obsluzhivaniia glukhonemykh za bashniami elektrokombinata,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, January 1933, 12. 68. K., “Rastet zavod, rasut liudi, im vospitannye,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, January 1934, 8. 69. ­Here I disagree with Galmarini-­K abala, who argues that deaf p­ eople w ­ ere considered “intrinsically dif­fer­ent from the able-­bodied and unable to partake in the common economic and po­liti­cal life of the country.” Galmarini-­K abala, The Right to Be Helped, 161. 70. A discussion of the impact of Stakhanovism on ­labor practices can be found in Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Stakhanovism and the Politics of Productivity in the USSR, 1935– 1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). 71. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 20, l. 30. 72. GARF, f. R-5575, op. 8, d. 2, l. 116. 73. B. Ulanov, “Sergei Rodionov,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, June 1933, 8; GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 32, l. 2. 74. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 18. 75. Ibid., l. 17. 76. GARF, f. R-5575, op. 8, d. 2, l. 116. 77. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d.18, l. 71. 78. Chatterjee, Celebrating ­Women, 156–57. 79. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 34, l. 72 ob. 80. Through the medium of sign language, Spiridonov is replicating practices referred to by Stephen Kotkin as “speaking Bolshevik.” See Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain, 220. 81. Alexopoulos, Stalin’s Outcasts, 159. 82. Ibid., l. 15 83. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 41. On cultured living space, see Hoffmann, Stalinist Values, 17–26; on po­liti­cal engagement and the loan drive, see Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain, 229. 84. Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, Inside Deaf Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 57. 85. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 32, l. 3. 86. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 12 ob. 87. GARF, f. R-5575, op. 9, d. 1, l. 7–9. 88. Shorin, “Vzorvannaia tishina,” 127. 89. Ibid., 130. 90. GARF, f. R-5575, op. 10, d. 1, l. 20 ob. 91. Ibid., l. 20 ob. This report also noted that the system of concentrating deaf ­people in urban centers, far from their families, had an adverse effect on their studies: “It is necessary to take into account the circumstance that deaf-­mutes are gathered from all corners of the Union, torn away from their homes, and placed in restricted material conditions.” 92. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 45, l. 10 ob. 93. Ibid., l. 14. 94. Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain, 203. 95. GARF, f. R-5575, op. 9, d. 1, l. 9 ob.

25 2 NOTES

TO PAGES 7 0 –7 4

96. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 32, l. 3. 97. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 79 ob. 98. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 13, l. 41. 99. Ibid., l. 42. 100. Ibid., l. 43. 101. Shorin, “Vzorvannaia tishina,” 124; Kalugina, “Zhizn´ v tishine,” 66. 102. On Lunacharskii, see Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Commissariat of Enlightenment: Soviet Organ­ization of Education and the Arts ­under Lunacharsky, October 1917–1921 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 103. On peddling in the United States, see Padden and Humphries, Deaf in Amer­ i­ca, 45. 104. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 149. 105. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:331. 106. Zakharov, “Pokonchit’s ‘otkritochnikami’,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, February 1936, 11. 107. Lynne Viola, “The Second Coming: Class Enemies in the Soviet Countryside, 1927–1935,” in Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives, ed. J. Arch Getty and Roberta T. Manning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 80. 108. Zakharov, “Pokonchit’s ‘otkritochnikami,’ ” 11. 109. “Usilit´ bor´bu s khuliganstvom,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, April 1935, 2. 110. This discussion also engages with historical lit­er­a­ture on the cleansing of “socially harmful ele­ments” as a key component of the purge dynamic of the 1930s. Paul M. Hagenloh, “Socially Harmful Ele­ments and the G ­ reat Terror,” in Stalinism: New Directions, ed. Sheila Fitzpatrick (London: Routledge, 2000), 286–308. For a discussion of hooliganism and crime in the deaf community, see Chapter 5. 111. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 13, l. 42. 112. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:265. 113. Sovnarkom RSFSR, Polozhenie “Po dokladu Vserossiiskogo ob´´edineniia glukhonemykh o ego deiatel’nosti,” October 26, 1929. On the importance of prophylaxis to Soviet concepts of medicine, see Starks, The Body Soviet, 37–39. 114. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 45, l. 8. 115. V. I. Voiachek, “Novye sposobi bor´by s glukhotoi,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, July 1933, 19. 116. Siegelbaum, “Industrial Accidents,” 99. 117. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 31, l. 20 ob. 118. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:265–66. 119. Ibid. 120. Ibid., 1:261. 121. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 20, l. 30. 122. K., “Rastet zavod,” 8. 123. D. L. Ginzburgskii, “Pomniu tragicheskii 1937-­i,” and A. Ia. Razumov and Iu. P. Gruzdev, “Delo leningradskogo obshchestva glukhonemykh,” in Leningradskii martirolog 1937–1938, Tom 4, ed. A. Ia. Razumov (St. Petersburg: Tsentr “Vozvrashennye imena,” 1999), 675–77, 678–80. 124. D. L. Ginzburgskii, “Khotelos´ by vsekh poimenno nazvat´,” in Materialy pervogo moskovskogo simpoziuma po istorii glukhikh, ed. Ia. B. Pichugin (Moscow: Zagrei, 1997), 119.

NOTES TO PA GES 7 5 – 7 9


125. Ibid., 118. 126. Ibid., 110. 127. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 13, l. 36. On the sterilization law, see L. Kait, “V fashistskoi germanii: zakon o prinudetel´noi sterilizatsii i kastratsii,” Izvestiia, July  27, 1933, 1. Members of VOG held meetings to protest the passing of this law; see M. Iuzhnyi, “Protestuem protiv fashchistskogo terrora! Na mitinge protesta,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, May 1933, 6. 128. Ginzburgskii, “Pomniu tragicheskii 1937-­I,” 675. 129. Wendy Goldman, “Stalinist Terror and Democracy: The 1937 Union Campaign,” American Historical Review 110, no. 5 (December 2005): 1430. 130. Ginzburgskii, “Pomniu tragicheskii 1937-­i,” 676. 131. Ginzburgskii, “Khotelos´ by,” 122. 132. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:341. 133. On the deaf experience of the Holocaust, see Ryan and Schuchman, Deaf ­People in Hitler’s Eu­rope; Horst Biesold, Crying Hands: Eugenics and Deaf P­ eople in Nazi Germany (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1999). 134. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:343. 135. Ibid., 1:342. On Beriia’s s­ ister, see L. Ia. Lur´e and L. I. Maliarov, Lavrentii Beriia. Krovavyi pragmatic (St. Petersburg: BKhV-­Petersburg, 2015), 164; Amy W. Knight, Beria: Stalin’s First Lieutenant (Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton University Press, 1993), 15. 136. D. L. Ginzburgskii, “Teplo ego ruki,” in Ginzburgskii et al., Pervyi predsedatel´, 70. 137. Ginzburgskii, “Khotelos´ by,” 117. 138. GARF, f. A-511, op, 1, d. 45, l. 20. 139. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:114, 209. 140. Na vogovskom fronte, Biulleten´ 3-go s”ezda VOGa, November 16, 1931. 141. See Polozhenie o Vserossiiskom obshchestve glukhonemykh (1932), 8–10. 142. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 26, l. 70. 143. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 3. 144. Ibid., l. 18. 145. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:175. 146. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 28. 147. Ibid., l. 36 ob. The baba (illiterate and superstitious peasant ­woman) represented the ste­reo­type of the backward, prerevolutionary Rus­sian female, soon to be replaced by the po­liti­cally conscious Soviet w ­ oman. See Elizabeth A. Woods, The Baba and the Comrade: Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Rus­sia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997). 148. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 13, l. 44 and d. 16, l. 22. 149. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:156, 290. 150. Ibid., 1:200. 151. GARF, f. R-5575, op. 8, d. 2, l. 116. 152. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:231. 153. N. A. Buslaev, “Novaia stadiia organizatsii glukhonemykh,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, January 1933, 7. The fact that VOG membership was voluntary also had an impact on this institutional tussle: members of the VOG aktiv described a VTsSPS rally in Rostov on the Don at which deaf profsoiuz members threw away their VOG cards, saying that “VOG ­wasn’t necessary.” GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 27, l. 37.

25 4 NOTES

TO PAGES 7 9 –8 4

154. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:231. 155. Ibid., 1:175. 156. Buslaev, “Novaia stadia,” 8. 157. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 27, l. 43. 158. Ibid., l. 31. 159. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:297. 160. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 31, l. 6. 161. Ibid., l. 7. 162. Ibid., l. 43. 163. Ibid., l. 31. 164. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 45, l. 27. 165. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 41. In the early years of VOG, interpreters ­were usually the ­children of deaf parents who had learned sign language in childhood. In the early 1930s, in light of the pressing need for interpreters in industry and education, VOG began to run regional courses to train individuals in sign language translation. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:175; GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 46, l. 35. 166. Shorin, “Vzorvannaia tishina,” 123. 167. Kalugina, “Zhizn´ v tishine,” 75. 168. Ibid., 78. 169. Kalugina, 85. 170. Shorin, “Vzorvannaia tishina,” 156. Deaf intermarriage was strongly discouraged by eugenicists; see Edwards, Words Made Flesh, 236n116. On the broader ramifications of sterilization and marriage laws for disabled ­people, see Sharon L. Snyder and David T. Mitchell, Cultural Locations of Disability (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006). 171. David L. Hoffmann, Peasant Metropolis: Social Identities in Moscow, 1929–1941 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), 169. 172. Shorin, “Vzorvannaia tishina,” 135. 173. See David Brandenberger, Propaganda State in Crisis: Soviet Ideology, Indoctrination, and Terror u­ nder Stalin, 1927–1941 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), 5. 174. “Doklad predsedatel´ia tsentralnogo pravleniia VOGa t. Savel´eva ob itogakh perestroika raboty VOGa,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, July 1936, 8. 175. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 30, l. 40. At the same time, the question of transcending nationality to create an All-­Union Society of Deaf-­Mutes was raised at the Third Congress. The goal to create a united f­ amily of deaf p­ eople was ultimately prevented, however, by orga­nizational considerations, namely the subordination of the vari­ous republican deaf socie­ties to their respective national organs of Social Welfare. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 42 ob. 176. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:336. 177. A. Vanshtein, “U vsesoiuznogo starosty,” in Ginzburgskii et al., Pervyi predsedatel´, 57–58. 178. Ibid. 179. V. Karunii, “U starogo geroia truda est´ chemu pouchit´sia molodym udarnikam,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, February 1934, 10. 180. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 79 ob. 181. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 13, l. 329. 182. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 18, l. 72 ob.

NOTES TO PA GES 8 4 – 9 1


183. Ibid., l. 102 ob. 184. Byvshii gubist, “Kuchka alkimikov ili bortsy za piatiletku?,” Na vogovskom fronte: Biulleten´ 3-go s´´ezda VOGa, November 18, 1931. 185. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:509. 186. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, l. 37, l. 75 ob. 187. Oleg Kharkhordin, The Collective and the Individual in Rus­sia: A Study of Practices (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 140. 188. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 37, l. 74 ob. 189. Ibid., l. 87. 190. Ibid., l. 74 ob. 191. Ibid., l. 79. 192. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 27, l. 66. 193. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 37, l. 75 ob. 194. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:510. It is hard to find concrete information about Buslaev’s reinstatement; the few short biographies that exist tend to ignore the Buslaevshchina or to dismiss it as an isolated incident in an other­wise spotless rec­ord of ser­vice. See Isaev, Mnogogolos´e tishiny, 32–34. 195. Karunii, “U starogo geroia,” 10. 3. War and Reconstruction

1. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:399. 2. Juliane Fürst, introduction to Late Stalinist Rus­sia: Society between Reconstruction and Reinvention, ed. Juliane Fürst (London: Routledge, 2006), 2. See also Juliane Fürst, “Prisoners of the Soviet Self ? Po­liti­cal Youth Opposition in Late Stalinism,” Europe-­Asia Studies 54, no. 3 (2002): 353–75; Mark Edele, “Strange Young Men in Stalin’s Moscow: The Birth and Life of the Stiliagi, 1945–1953,” Jarbüche für Geschichte Osteuropas 50, no. 1 (2002): 37–61. 3. Vera Sandomirsky Dunham, In Stalin’s Time: Middleclass Values in Soviet Fiction (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990). 4. See Edele, Soviet Veterans of the Second World War; Julie Hessler, A Social History of Soviet Trade: Trade Policy, Retail Practices, and Consumption, 1917–­1953 (Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton University Press, 2004); Ethan Pollock, Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars (Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton University Press, 2008). 5. Snyder and Mitchell, Cultural Locations, 136. Snyder and Mitchell suggest that this relationship was not causal, however: “The movement had run its course with re­spect to its primary function as a public policy campaign with scientific justifications.” 6. Padden and Humphries, Inside Deaf Culture, 89. 7. See Leila Monaghan, “A World’s Eye View: Deaf Cultures in Global Perspective,” in Monaghan et al., Many Ways to Be Deaf, 12. 8. Article 23 of the 1939 Law on Universal Military Duty stated that deaf p­ eople could not join the army on the grounds of their “physical lack, impeding the per­for­ mance of military ser­vice.” Verkhnovnyi Sovet SSSR, “Zakon o vseobshchei voinskoi obiazannosti,” September 1, 1939. On military defense training, see “K trudu i oborone byt´ gotovym!,” editorial in Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, February 1935, 2. 9. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:414; A. Shvedov, “Gvardii riadovoi,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, February 1958, 7–8.

25 6 NOTES

TO PAGES 9 2 –9 8

10. Cited in M. A. Evseeva, “Sud´by, opalennye voinoi,” in Pichugin, Materialy pervogo moskovskogo simpoziuma po istorii glukhikh, 123. See also M. A. Evseeva, ed., 70 let pobedy (Moscow: SPb SRP “Pavel” VOG, 2015). 11. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 1–2. 12. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:419–23. 13. E. S. Il´ina, “Samye luchshie oba—­mama moia i otets,” V edinom stroiu [VES], January 1996, 11. 14. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:407. 15. Ibid., 1:402; Evseeva, 70 let pobedy, 127. 16. V. Krasovskii, cited in V. Gusev, “Ne merkhet podvig glukhikh,” in Sudby, opalennye voinoi: glukhie Rossii i stran SNG v gody Vtoroi mirovoi voiny, ed. M. A. Evseeva (Moscow: VOG, 2005), 85–86. 17. I. K. Labunskii, “Marsh glukhonemoi stakhanovtsev,” cited in Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:421. 18. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 2. 19. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:440. 20. I. Falin, “Etot den´ my priblizhali, kak mogli,” VES, May 1995, 10. 21. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:452. 22. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 4. 23. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:458. 24. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 119, l. 62. 25. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 2. 26. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, ll. 2–3. 27. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:408. 28. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 2. 29. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:477. 30. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhykh, 19. 31. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 119, l. 63. 32. Beate Fieseler, “The ­Bitter Legacy of the ‘­Great Patriotic War,’ ” 46–47. 33. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 12. 34. Ibid., l. 12. Classification according to ­these categories of disability was carried out by the labor-­medical boards (VTEK). Edele, Soviet Veterans of the Second World War, 82. 35. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:435. 36. Ibid., 1:428. 37. Ibid., 1:441–42. 38. Ibid., 1:458. 39. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 2. 40. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 78. 41. Ambrosius, Glukhonemye, 3. 42. Fieseler, “The ­Bitter Legacy of the ‘­Great Patriotic War,’ ” 47. 43. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 20. 44. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:434. 45. “Oglokhshim-­Invalidam Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny,” editorial in Vogovskie kadry (Kirov oblast´), February 16, 1947. 46. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 12. 47. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 1 ob. 48. Ibid.

NOTES TO PA GES 9 8 – 1 0 4


49. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 12–13. 50. Ibid., l. 13. 51. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 1 ob. 52. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 14. 53. Kalugina, “Zhizn´ v tishine,” 97. 54. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 14. On the po­liti­cal power of veterans, see Amir Weiner, Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution (Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton University Press, 2001), 62. 55. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 227, l. 48. 56. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 6. 57. Ibid., l. 5. 58. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 154, l. 2. 59. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 171, l. 5. 60. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 78–79. 61. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 3. 62. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 21. 63. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 154, ll. 2, 14. 64. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 26. 65. Ibid., l. 23–26. 66. Ibid., l. 4. 67. Ibid. 68. Mark Edele, “Soviet Veterans as an Entitlement Group, 1945–1955,” Slavic Review 65, no. 1 (2006): 137. See also Elena Zubkova, Rus­sia ­after the War: Hopes, Illusions and Disappointments, 1945–­1957, trans. and ed. Hugh Ragsdale (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 1998). 69. S. Ivanov, “O fil´makh dlia glukhonemykh,” Pravda, February 14, 1948, 3. 70. Karl D. Qualls, From Ruins to Reconstruction (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009), 86. 71. Zubkova, Rus­sia ­after the War, 103. 72. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 171, l. 7. On the demand for l´goty, see Edele, “Soviet Veterans,” 112. 73. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 4. “Return to normalcy” is Sheila Fitzpatrick’s phrase; see “Postwar Soviet Society: The ‘Return to Normalcy,’ 1945–1953,” in The Impact of World War II on the Soviet Union, ed. Susan J. Linz (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, 1985). 74. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 27. 75. GARF, f. 5451, op. 24, d. 374, l. 23. 76. GARF, f. R-5575, op. 8, d. 2, l. 116. 77. Ibid., l. 24. 78. Ibid., l. 9. 79. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 154, l. 17. 80. Ibid. 81. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 2. 82. B. Travin, cited in Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:431. 83. Ibid., 1:431 84. Ibid., 1:430; GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 3; Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 22.

25 8 NOTES

TO PAGES 1 0 4 –1 1 0

85. Polozhenie o vserossiiskom obshchestve glukhonemykh (Moscow: Tipografiia Izdatel´stva MSO, 1948), 12. 86. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 119, l. 60–61. 87. On the postwar growth of VOS, see Bernice Q. Madison, Social Welfare in the Soviet Union (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1968), 188. 88. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 20. 89. See, for example, V. M. Likhachev’s account of restoring VOG work in Voronezh: V. M. Likhachev, “Vospminaniia o vosstanovlenii i rabote Voronezhskogo oblVOG v 1943–1948 gg.,” in Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:441–46. 90. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 20. 91. Donald Filtzer, Soviet Workers and Late Stalinism: ­Labour and the Restoration of the Stalinist System ­after World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 7. 92. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 5. 93. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 171, l. 19. 94. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:447. 95. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 76, l. 5; d. 171, l. 4. 96. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 29. 97. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 160–61. 98. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:489. Palennyi uses the phrase “changing of the guard” [smena karaula] somewhat ironically; he sees the change of leadership as more of a coup d’état. 99. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:489. For an archival account of Savel´ev’s departure, see GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 171, l. 3. 100. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:570. 101. Fitzpatrick, Stalin’s Peasants, 306–7. 102. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 217, l. 69. 103. The case was to come up again, however, when Sutiagin was ousted as VOG chairman in 1971 (see Chapter 6). 104. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:490. 105. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 23. 106. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:492. 107. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 24. 108. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:492–93. 109. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 309, l. 72. 110. GARF, f. R-2306, op. 75, d. 2557, l. 1. 111. Kulikovskikh, “Deti voennogo tyla,” 8. 112. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 104, l. 19. 113. GARF, f. R-2306, op. 75, d. 2557, l. 1. 114. “Vospitanie detei v usloviiakh voiny,” editorial in Pravda, March 24, 1942, 1. 115. Rasporiazheniia Sovnarkoma SSSR “O vovlechenii v shkoly vsekh detei shkol´nogo vozrasta i ispol´sovanii shkol´nykh zdanii po naznacheniiu,” July 30, 1942, in Direktivy VKP(b) i postanovleniia sovetskogo pravitel´stva o narodnom obrazovanii: sbornik dokumentov za 1917–­1947 gg., ed. V. Z. Smirnov (Moscow: Poligraf kniga, 1947), 1: 111. 116. GARF, f. R-2306, op. 75, d. 2616, l. 1. 117. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 154, l. 15. 118. GARF, f. R-2306, op. 75, d. 2719, l. 1. 119. Ibid., l. 1–6.

NOTES TO PA GES 1 1 0 – 1 1 4


120. GARF, f. R-2306, op. 75, d. 2616, l. 3–5. 121. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 154, l. 15. 122. Ibid. 123. E. Thomas Ewing, Separate Schools: Gender, Policy, and Practice in Postwar Soviet Education (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010), 8. 124. For more on Vygotskii’s theories of deafness and deaf education, see Chapter 1. 125. N. M. Lagovskii, “Tipy uchrezhdenii dlia glukhonemykh,” in Materialy ko vtoromu vserossiiskomu s”ezdu sotsial´no pravovoi okhrany detei i podrostkov i detskikh domov, 26-go Noiabria 1924g, ed. L. P. Svirskii (Moscow: Tipografiia M. K. X., 1925), 93. 126. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 176. Initially, deaf schools fell u ­ nder the administrative umbrella of the detdomy, or ­children’s homes. They w ­ ere transferred to Narkompros on November 23, 1926. 127. P. I. Chirkin, “Kompleksnoe prokhozhdenie bukvaria, nabliudeniia nad formami rechi, upotrebleniia fraz, uskorennogo navyka v analiticheskom i sinteticheskom chtenii s gub, putem zapisi poslednego i primeneniia v summarnykh samostoiatel´nykh rabotakh uchashchikhsia,” in Svirskii, Materialy, 103; A. I. D´iachkov, Sistemy obucheniia glukhikh detei (Moscow: Izdatel´stvo akademii pedagogicheskikh nauk RSFSR, 1961), 196. 128. V. M. Tkachenko, “Opyt raboty II Moskovskogo institut glukhonemykh po organizatsii detskoi sredy,” in Svirskii, Materialy, 94. 129. Vygotskii “K psikhologii,” 26. 130. Many of ­these communal activities ­were common to both deaf and hearing schools: see Catriona Kelly, ­Children’s World: Growing Up in Rus­sia, 1890–­1991 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 495–569. 131. Lagovskii, “Tipy uchrezhdenii,” 93. 132. Larry E. Holmes, The Kremlin and the School­house: Reforming Education in Soviet Rus­sia, 1917–­1931 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 36–37. See also Douglas R. Weiner, “Strug­gle over the Soviet ­Future: Science Education versus Vocationalism during the 1920s,” Rus­sian Review 65, no. 1 ( January 2006): 72–97. 133. D´iachkov, Sistemy obucheniia, 203. 134. See Arnaud, “Fashioning a Role for Medicine,” 288–307. 135. D´iachkov, Sistemy obucheniia, 204. 136. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 45, ll. 27 ob.-28 ob. 137. Shorin, Vspolokhi tishiny, 185. 138. Ibid., 174–75. 139. See Andrew Sutton, “Backward ­Children in the USSR: An Unfamiliar Approach to a Familiar Prob­lem,” in Home, School and Leisure in the Soviet Union, ed. Jenny Brine, Maureen Perrie, and Andrew Sutton (London: Allen & Unwin, 1980), 176. 140. McCagg, “The Origins of Defectology,” 54. 141. Ibid., 53. Vygotskii died of tuberculosis in Moscow in 1934 at the age of 37. 142. Postanovlenie Tsentral´nogo Komiteta VKP(b), “O pedologicheskikh izvrashcheniiakh v sisteme Narkomprosov,” July 4, 1936, in Smirnov, Direktivy, 191–92 (italics in the original). 143. On the impact of the decree against pedology in the hearing classroom, see E. Thomas Ewing, “Restoring Teachers to Their Rights: Soviet Education and the 1936 Denunciation of Pedology,” History of Education Quarterly 41, no. 4 (2001): 471–93.

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TO PAGES 1 1 4 –1 2 4

144. D´iachkov, Sistemy obucheniia, 210. 145. See, for example, V. M. Bel´gus, “Sverdlovskaia shkola za piat´desiat let,” in Sverdlovskaia opornaia shkola dlia glukhikh detei, ed. S. A. Zykov (Sverdlovsk: Tipografiia “Krasnyi boets,” 1970), 12. 146. RGASPI, f. 17, op. 132, d. 206, l. 174. 147. GARF, f. R-2306, op. 75, d. 2719, ll. 5–6. 148. GARF, f. R-2306, op. 75, d. 2656, l. 40–46. 149. Monaghan, “A World’s Eye View,” 13. 150. Pollock, Science Wars, 213. 151. RGASPI, f. 17, op. 132, d. 206, l. 30. 152. Ibid., 9. 153. Ibid., 29 (emphasis in original). 154. RGASPI, f. 17, op. 132, d. 206, ll. 5–6. 155. Ibid., l. 12. Such mainstreaming tendencies ­were also prevalent in the West: see Monaghan, “A World’s Eye View,” 14. 156. RGASPI, f. 17, op. 132, d. 206, ll. 17–18. 157. Ibid., l. 22. 158. Ibid., l. 30. 159. V. Krizhanskii and I. Iurevich, “Tainstvennyi ostrov,” Literaturnaia gazeta, January 15, 1949, 3. 160. Ibid., 3. 161. “Ot redaktsii,” editorial in Literaturnaia gazeta, February 19, 1949, 2. 162. V. Preobrazhenskii, A. Luriia, O. Ageyeva-­Maikova, and A. Vlasov, “A militant pseudo-­innovator and his henchmen,” Meditsinskii rabotnik, January 26, 1949, 2, translated and cited in Current Digest of the Soviet Press 1, no. 9 (1949): 55. 163. V. Kovalenko, M. Khvatsev, and M. Mogilnitskii, “Eshche raz o ‘Tainstvennom ostrove,’ ” Literaturnaia gazeta, February 19, 1949, 2. 164. RGASPI, f. 17, op. 132, d. 206, l. 32. 165. Ibid., l. 43. 166. See, for example, N. G. Morozova, “Razvitie teorii doshkol´nogo vospitaniia glukhonemykh,” in Trudy vtoroi nauchnoi sessii po defektologii, ed. A. I. D´iachkov and V. I. Lubovskii (Moscow: Izdatel´stvo akademii pedagogicheskikh nauk RSFSR, 1959), 15. 167. Ibid., l. 25. 168. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 182. 169. RGASPI, f. 17, op. 132, d. 206, l. 24; GARF, f. A-511, predslovie k opisi 1, l. 4. 170. D´iachkov, Sistemy obucheniia, 212. 171. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 181. 4. The Golden Age

1. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 1849, l. 10. 2. Ibid., l. 20. 3. V. K. Kuksin and A. B. Slavina, “Tak kakaia u nas biografiia? Zhurnalist beseduet s istorikom,” pt. 7, VES, July 1996, 4. 4. Ladd, Understanding Deaf Culture, 394. For a critique of the golden age concept, see Hannah Anglin-­Jaffe, “De-­Colonizing Deaf Education: An Analy­sis of the Claims

NOTES TO PA GES 1 2 4 – 1 2 7


and Implications of the Application of Post-­Colonial Theory to Deaf Education,” in Rethinking Disability Theory and Practice: Challenging Essentialism, ed. Karin Lesnik-­ Oberstein (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 85. 5. Susan E. Reid, “The Exhibition Art of Socialist Countries, Moscow 1958–9, and the Con­temporary Style of Painting,” in Style and Socialism: Modernity and Material Culture in Post-­War Eastern Eu­rope, ed. Susan E. Reid and David Crowley (Oxford: Berg, 2000), 101. 6. On late Soviet subcultures, see William Jay Risch, Youth and Rock in the Soviet Bloc: Youth Cultures, M ­ usic, and the State in Rus­sia and Eastern Eu­rope (Lanham, MD.: Lexington Books, 2014); Kharkhordin, The Collective and the Individual in Rus­sia; Hilary Pilkington, Rus­sia’s Youth and Its Culture: A Nation’s Constructors and Constructed (London: Routledge, 1994). 7. “Zhizn glukhikh,” Izvestiia, June 15, 1957, 4. 8. Kharkhordin, The Collective and the Individual in Rus­sia, 315. On subcultures and democracy, see Hilary Pilkington (with Elena Starkova), “ ‘Progressives’ and ‘Normals’: Strategies for Glocal Living,” in “Looking West?” Cultural Globalization and Rus­sian Youth Cultures, ed. Hilary Pilkington (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002), 105. 9. Denis Kozlov, The Readers of Novyi Mir: Coming to Terms with the Stalinist Past (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 9. 10. I. V. Stalin, “Tovarishcham D. Belkinu i S. Fureru,” Pravda, August 2, 1950, 2. 11. GARF f. 5446, op. 81, d. 4817, l. 28. The documents in this file are numbered in reverse order. 12. Fürst, Late Stalinist Rus­sia, 8. 13. Davies, Popu­lar Opinion in Stalin’s Rus­sia, 160. 14. GARF f. 5446, op. 81, d. 4817, l. 28. 15. Ibid., l. 25. 16. Ibid., l. 22. 17. Ibid., ll. 134–33ob. 18. ­These decrees included “On Mea­sures to Fight Deafness and Deaf-­Muteness and to Improve Ser­vice for Deaf-­Mutes and the Deaf,” RSFSR Ministry of Health, 1952; “On Mea­sures to Improve the Education and Training of Deaf-­Mute and Hard of Hearing ­Children in Special Schools and Pre-­School Institutions of the Ministry of Education of the RSFSR,” April 2, 1952; “On Work of the Trades Union Organ­izations among Deaf and Deaf-­Mute Workers,” Secretariat of the VTsSPS, October 1956; “On the Use of the ­Labor of Deaf and Deaf-­Mute Workers in Industry and the Improvement of Their Ser­vice by Professional Organ­izations,” Secretariat of the VTsSPS, December 30, 1958: Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhykh, 265–68. 19. See, for example, Polly Jones, Myth, Memory, Trauma: Rethinking the Stalinist Past in the Soviet Union, 1953–1970 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013); Miriam Dobson, Khrushchev’s Cold Summer: Gulag Returnees, Crime, and the Fate of Reform ­after Stalin (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009). 20. Edele, Soviet Veterans, 18. On the prehistory of policies commonly associated with Khrushchev, see Stephen V. Bittner, The Many Lives of Khrushchev’s Thaw: Experience and Memory in Moscow’s Arbat (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008); Mark B. Smith, Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010); articles in “The Relaunch of the

26 2 NOTES

TO PAGES 1 2 7 –1 3 2

Soviet Proj­ect, 1945–64,” ed. Susan Morrissey, Juliane Fürst and Polly Jones, special edition, Slavonic and East Eu­ro­pean Review 86, no. 2 (2008). 21. Zakon o gosudarstvennykh pensiiakh: priniat Verkhovnym Sovetom SSSR 14 iiulia 1956 goda (Moscow: Izdatel´stvo Izvestiia, 1956), 13. 22. GARF f. 5446, op. 81, d. 4817, l. 133ob. 23. Anne White, De-­Stalinization and the House of Culture: Declining State Control over Leisure in the USSR, Poland and Hungary, 1953–89 (London: Routledge, 1990), 19. 24. GARF f. 5446, op. 96, d. 252, l. 2. 25. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580, l. 35. VOS underwent a similar financial revolution in this period, refusing state subsidies as early as 1951. However, VOS’s enterprises had been exempt from all taxation since 1946, whereas VOG continued to pay state taxes on revenues from its UPPs. Shoev, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo slepykh, 53. 26. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580. l. 35 27. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:495. 28. Polozhenie o Vserossiiskom obshchestve glukhonemykh (Moscow: Tipografiia Moskovskogo gorodskogo otdela VOG, 1956), 4–5. 29. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580, l. 22; Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1963–66 gody, 3. 30. Linda Cook, The Soviet Social Contract and Why It Failed: Welfare Policy and Workers’ Politics from Brezhnev to Yeltsin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 68. 31. A. S. Korotkov, 50 let Vserossiiskomu obshchestvu glukhikh (Leningrad: Leningradskii vosstanovitel´nyi tsentr VOG, 1976), 47. 32. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:543. 33. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 202. 34. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 469 l. 2 35. Alla Slavina, “Pripomnim vek minuvshii,” Russkii invalid, November 2012, 7. 36. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 202; TsGA Moskvy f. 3089, op. 1, d. 16, l. 7. On individual participation in construction work, see Stephen Lovell, Summerfolk: A History of the Dacha (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), 178–79. 37. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:564. 38. Smith, Property of Communists, 101. 39. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 469, l. 70. 40. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580, l. 77. 41. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 947, l. 24; d. 580, l. 78. 42. TsGA Moskvy f. 3089, op. 1, d. 2, l. 1. 43. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 469, l. 17. 44. On the USSR’s distinct path to modernity, see Hoffmann, Cultivating the Masses, 29–34; Gleb Tsipursky, Socialist Fun: Youth, Consumption, and State-­Sponsored Popu­lar Culture in the Soviet Union, 1945–1970 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016), 4. See also Michael David-­Fox, “Multiple Modernities vs. Neo-­Traditionalism: On Recent Debates in Rus­sian and Soviet History,” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 54, no. 4 (2006): 535–55. 45. White, De-­Stalinization, 36. 46. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 480, l. 42. 47. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580, l. 42. 48. Kristin Roth-­Ey, Moscow Prime Time: How the Soviet Union Built the Media Empire That Lost the Cultural Cold War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), 3.

NOTES TO PA GES 1 3 2 – 1 3 5


49. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 450, l. 1. On the Theatre of Sign and Gesture, see Claire Shaw, “ ‘Speaking in the Language of Art’: Soviet Deaf Theatre and the Politics of Identity during Khrushchev’s Thaw,” Slavonic and East Eu­ro­pean Review 91, no. 4 (2013): 759–86. 50. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1963– 66 gody, 28. See also “Zhizn´ glukhikh,” Izvestiia, June 15, 1957, 4. 51. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 887, l. 14. 52. D. V. Rebrov, “Pervye gody teatra glukhikh” in Materialy tret´ego Moskovskogo simpoziuma po istorii glukhikh, ed. V. A. Palennyi and Ia. B. Pichugin (Moscow: Zagrei, 2001), 222. 53. A. L´vov, “Schast´e Poiska,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, August 1966, 28; Kalugina, “Zhizn´ v tishine.” 70. 54. I. K. Labunskii, “Pust´ ozhivet nemaia stsena!,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, November 1957, 1, 16. 55. See, for example, “Polozhenie o dome kul´tury moskovskogo gorodskogo otdela vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhonemykh (MOSGORVOG),” in Sbornik rukovodiashchikh materialov po rabote vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhonemykh, ed. P. K. Sutiagin (Moscow: Izdatel´stvo Tsentrsoiuza, 1952), 117–18. 56. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 480 l. 55. 57. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 887, l. 13; Otchet tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1967–70 (proekt), 36. 58. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1963– 66 gody, l. 34. 59. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 1849, l. 9. 60. I. F. Geil´man, Ruchnaia azbuka i rechevye zhesty glukhonemykh (Moscow: KOIZ, 1957), 9. 61. William C. Stokoe Jr., “Sign Language Structure: An Outline of the Visual Communication Systems of the American Deaf,” Studies in Linguistics, Occasional Papers 8 (1960): 67. 62. “Statute of the World Federation of the Deaf,” Proceedings of the Second World Congress of the Deaf, ed. Ferdinand Maslić (Zagreb: Univerzum, 1955), 371. 63. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 488, l. 64. V. Sungarii, “Gosti udivili stolichnogo zritelia,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, February 1959, 16. 65. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580. l. 49. On sign language linguistics a­ fter Geil´man, see Epilogue. 66. GARF f. R-5446, op. 81, d. 4817, l. 133 ob. 67. GARF f, A-259, op. 1, d. 1639, l. 17. 68. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580. l. 23. 69. Geil´man, Ruchnaia azbuka, 1. 70. Lenore A. Grenoble, Language Policy in the Soviet Union (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic, 2003), 57. 71. Geil´man, Ruchnaia azbuka, 10. 72. A. Shishkov, “Ia golosuiu ‘za,’ ” Zhizn´ glukhikh, December 1961, 16. Collections of readers’ letters ­under the rubric “Sign Language—­a Help or a Hindrance in Education?” (Mimika—­podspor´e ili pomekha v obuchenii?) w ­ ere published in Zhizn´ glukhikh, December 1961, 16–17 and July 1962, 18–19.

26 4 NOTES

TO PAGES 1 3 5 –1 4 1

73. D´iachkov and Lubovskii, Trudy vtoroi nauchnoi sessii po defektologii, 6–7. 74. Labunskii, “Pust´ ozhivet nemaia stsena!,” 16. 75. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1963– 66 gody, 29. 76. A. Platov, “Zametki pristrastnogo zritelia,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, May 1960, 16. 77. See, for example, I. Danilin, “Kak sozdavalsia ‘Klop,’ ” Zhizn´ glukhikh, September 1965, 20. 78. Geil´man, Ruchnaia azbuka, 18. 79. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 887, l. 13; Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1967–70 (proekt), 36. 80. Padden and Humphries, Inside Deaf Culture, 82. 81. N. Gorbunov, “Tvorcheskoe sodruzhestvo,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, August 1958, 20. 82. V. P. Skripov, Vernost´ stsene nam sily davala. . . . ​Teatr mimiki i zhesta—50 let tvorchestva (Moscow: Izdatel´stvo “Neft´ i Gaz,” 2012), 61. 83. Korotkov, 50 let VOG, 25–26. 84. V. S. Fridkes, “Sportivnaia letopis´ pervichnoi organizatsii VOG GPZ No. 1,” in Materialy chetvertogo Moskovskogo simpoziuma po istorii glukhikh, ed. V. A. Palennyi and Ia. B. Pichugin (Moscow: Zagrei, 2003), 185. 85. Mike Gulliver, “Places of Silence,” in Making Sense of Place: Exploring the Concepts and Expressions of Place through Dif­fer­ent Senses and Lenses, ed. Frank Vanclay, Matthew Higgins, and Adam Blackshaw (Canberra: National Museum of Australia, 2008), 91. See also Michael Stuart Gulliver, “DEAF Space, a History: The Production of DEAF Spaces: Emergent, Autonomous, Located and Disabled in 18th and 19th ­century France” (PhD diss., University of Bristol, 2009). 86. A. B. Slavina, cited in B. Z. Bazoev, V. A. Palennyi, and A. B. Slavina, Moskva i glukhie moskvichi (Moscow: Izdatel´stvo “Neft´ i Gaz”, 2012), 143. 87. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 442, l. 48. See Elena Sil´ianova, “Goroda glukhikh,” in Palennyi and Pichugin, Materialy tret´ego Moskovskogo simpoziuma, 229–39. 88. Lewis H. Siegelbaum, introduction to Borders of Socialism: Private Spheres of Soviet Rus­sia (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 3. 89. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:479. 90. V. Sungarin, “Prazdnik iarkikh krasok,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, June 1958, 19; Labunskii, “Pust´ ozhivet nemaia stsena!,” 16. 91. T. Smolenskaia, “Teatr tishiny,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, November 1958, 23. 92. I. A. Sapozhnikov, “Za novye formy,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, February 1958, 23. 93. Snezhnitskii, “Rozhdaetsia Novyi Teatr,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, February 1962, 19. For more on the development of mime and the influence of Marcel Marceau on Soviet deaf theater, see Kayiatos, “Sooner Speaking Than S­ ilent,” 6–11; Shaw, “ ‘Speaking in the Language of Art,’ ” 772. 94. “Zhizn glukhikh,” Izvestiia, June 15, 1957, 4. 95. Skripov, Vernost´ stsene, 41. On The Enchanted Island, see Kayiatos “­Silent Plasticity,” 105–25. 96. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 329, l. 14. 97. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580. l. 42. 98. TsGA Moskvy f. 3089, op. 1, d. 36, l. 5–9. 99. Ibid., ll. 11–12. 100. Ibid., l. 15.

NOTES TO PA GES 1 4 1 – 1 4 6


101. Tsipursky, Socialist Fun, 4. 102. See, for example, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Education and Social Mobility in the Soviet Union, 1921–1934 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 58. 103. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1967– 70 (proekt), 10. 104. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1963– 66 gody, 10. 105. See, for example, K. Chernoiartsev, “Na avanstsenu!,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, January 1958, 16. 106. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1967– 70 (proekt), 7. 107. E. Frolov, “Tvorcheskii eksamen: iz zhizni uchashchikhzia izostudii VOG,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, January 1963, 23. 108. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1967– 70 (proekt), 11–12. 109. Ibid., 11. 110. V. G. Dmitriev, Glukhie i glukhonemye v Sovetskom Soiuze (Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1958), 21. 111. Palennyi, Istoriia, 3:163. 112. Ibid., 3:167. 113. Isaev, Mnogogolos´e tishiny, 224. 114. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1967– 70 (proekt), 13. 115. Dmitriev, Glukhie i glukhonemye, 22. 116. Palennyi and Puchugin, Vspolokhi tishiny, 211. 117. On reactions to Sputnik, see Donald Raleigh, Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Rus­sia’s Cold War Generation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 67; Lewis H. Siegelbaum, “Sputnik Goes to Brussels: The Exhibition of a Soviet Technological Won­der,” in Soviet Space Culture: Cosmic Enthusiasm in Socialist Socie­ties, ed. Eva Maurer, Julia Richers, Monica Rüthers, and Carmen Scheide (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 170–71. 118. A. Kalugina, “Oni budut akterami: v teatral´noi studii,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, September 1959, 22. 119. Skripov, Vernost´ stsene, 29. 120. TsGA Moskvy f. 3089, op. 1, d. 36, l. 5. 121. See, for example, TsGA Moskvy f. 3010, op. 1, d. 382, l. 7. 122. G. Baklanov, “Kak vybirat´ repertuar,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, July 1964, 18. 123. TsGA Moskvy f. 3089, op. 1, d. 36, l. 7. 124. See Melanie Ilič, “What Did ­Women Want? Khrushchev and the Revival of the Zhensovety,” Soviet State and Society ­under Nikita Khrushchev, ed. Melanie Ilič and Jeremy Smith (New York: Routledge) 104–21. 125. Melanie Ilič and Jeremy Smith, introduction to Soviet State and Society ­under Nikita Khrushchev (London: Routledge, 2009), 3. 126. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580. l. 19. 127. TsGA Moskvy f. 3010, op. 1, d. 171, l. 7. 128. Kalugina, “Zhizn´ v tishine,” 101. 129. Kuksin and Slavina, “Tak kakaia u nas biografiia?” pt. 6, VES, June 1996, 7.

26 6 NOTES

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130. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 357, l. 27. 131. ­These included Dmitriev, Glukhie i glukhonemye; Geil´man, Ruchnaia azbuka; A. S. Tokman, Kak predupredit´ bolezni ukha i sokhranit´ khoroshii slukh (Moscow: Medgiz, 1956); F. E. Fishkovaia, ed., Vystavka izobrazitel´nogo tvorchestva chlenov vserossiiskogo obshchestvo glukhonemykh: zhivopis´, skul´ptura, grafi ka, prikladnoe iskusstvo (Moscow: Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1958). 132. GARF f. 511, op. 1, d. 580, l. 48. 133. Anne E. Gorsuch, All This Is Your World: Soviet Tourism at Home and Abroad ­After Stalin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1–2. 134. Cesare Magarotto, ed., preface to Atti Ufficiali del Congresso Mondiale dei Sordomuti (Rome: Scuole Culturali e Professionali Surdomuti—­ENS, 1953), viii. 135. Ladd, “Global Deaf hood,” 275. 136. On Cold War competition, see Gorsuch, All This Is Your World; Patryk Babiracki and Kenyon Zimmer, Cold War Crossings: International Travel and Exchange across the Soviet Bloc, 1940s–1960s (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2014); Anne E. Gorsuch and Diane P. Koenker, eds., The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013). 137. RGANI, f. 5, op. 55, d. 40 l, l. 110. 138. Dmitriev, Glukhie i glukhonemye, 35. 139. Ibid., 2. 140. Ibid., 13. 141. E. Vartan´ian and I. Gitlits, Of ­Those Who Cannot Hear (Stockholm: Vneshtorgizdat, 1963), 1. 142. Ibid., 14. 143. Dmitriev, Glukhie i glukhonemye, 16. 144. Vartan´ian and Gitlits, Of ­Those Who Cannot Hear, 8. 145. Ibid., 13, 31. 146. Cook, The Soviet Social Contract, 1–2. Vera Dunham dates this tacit “big deal” between state and society to the late Stalinist period: Dunham, In Stalin’s Time. 147. TsGA Moskvy f. 3089, op. 1, d. 2, l. 6. 148. Ibid., 4. 149. Edele, “Soviet Veterans as an Entitlement Group,” 112. 150. GARF f. 511, op. 1, d. 1849, l. 7. 151. Dmitriev, Glukhie i glukhonemye, 31. 152. Ibid., 33. 153. Padden and Humphries, Inside Deaf Culture, 1. 154. On kul´turnost´, see Hoffmann, Stalinist Values, 42; Vadim Volkov, “The Concept of Kul´turnost´: Notes on the Stalinist Civilizing Pro­cess,” in Fitzpatrick, Stalinism: New Directions, 210–30. 155. Catriona Kelly, Refining Rus­sia: Advice Lit­er­a­ture, Polite Culture, and Gender from Catherine to Yeltsin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 367. 156. Ibid., 321. 157. GARF f. 511, op. 1, d. 329, l. 115. 158. E. Minasova, “Tridtsat´ piat´ let v khudozhestvennoi samodeiatel´nosti glukhonemykh,” in 30 let VOG: Sbornik statei, ed. P. K. Sutiagin (Moscow: Vsesoiuznoe kooperativnoe izdatel´stvo, 1957), 189. 159. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 192, 1. 23.

NOTES TO PA GES 1 5 3 – 1 6 0


160. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1963– 66 gody, 29. 161. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 902, l. 7. 162. Ibid., l. 3; Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1967–70 (proekt), 36. 163. E. Fadeeva, “Iskry Serdtsa Danko,” Izvestiia, May 23, 1964. 164. Platov, “Zametki pristrastnogo zritelia,” 16. 165. Kalugina, “Oni budut akterami,” 22. 166. GARF f. 511, op. 1, d. 450, l. 6. 167. Dmitrii Brudnyi, “Mimika i Zhest,” Teatr, November 1971, 43. 168. Kayiatos, “Sooner Speaking Than ­Silent,” 17. 169. Kelly, Refining Rus­sia, 336. See also Michael S. Gorham, “Language Ideology and the Evolution of Kul´tura Iazyka (‘Speech Culture’) in Soviet Rus­sia,” in Politics and the Theory of Language in the USSR, 1917–1938: The Birth of So­cio­log­ic­ al Linguistics, ed. Craig Brandist and Katya Chown (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 137–50; Kozlov, Readers of Novyi Mir, 68. 170. Geil´man, Ruchnaia azbuka, 24. 171. Lane, When the Mind Hears, 61. On the broader significance of methodical signs in the French enlightenment, see Rosenfeld, Revolution in Language, 95–96. 172. Baynton, Forbidden Signs, 119. 173. TsGA Moskvy f. 3089, op. 1, d. 132, l. 9. 174. Kuksin and Slavina, “Tak kakaia u nas biografiia?” pt. 7, 4. 175. Krentz, Writing Deafness, 2. 176. Kuksin and Slavina, “Tak kakaia u nas biografiia?” pt. 7, 5. 177. Gleb Tsipursky, “Citizenship, Deviance, and Identity: Soviet Youth Newspapers as Agents of Social Control in the Thaw-­Era Leisure Campaign,” Cahiers du Monde Russe 49, no. 4, (2008): 629. 5. Pygmalion

1. E. Garina, “Pygmalion,” Izvestiia, February 10, 1960, 3. 2. Ibid. 3. Brian LaPierre, Hooligans in Khrushchev’s Rus­sia: Defining, Policing, and Producing Deviance during the Thaw (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2012), 97. 4. TsGA Moskvy f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 61. 5. Ibid., l. 65. 6. The gaze is an impor­tant concept in disability studies; see Rosemarie Garland-­ Thompson, Staring: How We Look (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). 7. The notion of the exoticizing gaze draws on Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin Books, 2003). 8. On doubling, see Brenda Jo Brueggemann and Susan Burch, introduction to ­Women and Deafness: Double Visions (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 2016), ix. 9. Michel Foucault, “The Eye of Power,” in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: The Harvester Press, 1980), 155. For more on the hearing gaze and the impact of space on Soviet deaf be­hav­ior, see Claire Shaw, “ ‘We Have No Need to Lock Ourselves Away’: Space,

26 8 NOTES

TO PAGES 1 6 0 –1 6 5

Marginality, and the Negotiation of Deaf Identity in Late Soviet Moscow,” Slavic Review 74, no. 1 (Spring 2015): 57–78. 10. Galmarini-­K abala, Right to Be Helped, 4. Italics in the original. 11. Ibid.; GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 887, 1. 4. Sutiagin also called for similar debates to be held in e­ very regional branch of VOG: GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 670, l. 50. 12. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, 1. 52. 13. Ibid., l. 10. 14. Ibid., l. 4. 15. Ibid., ll. 25–26. 16. See the discussion of postcard selling in Chapter 2. 17. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 736, l. 30. 18. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 65. 19. Sheila Fitzpatrick, “Social Parasites: How Tramps, Idle Youth, and Busy Entrepreneurs Impeded the Soviet March to Communism,” Cahiers du monde Russe 47, nos. 1–2 ( January–­June 2006): 380. 20. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 6. 21. G. Sakharov, “Khuliganstvo—­boi!,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, October 1966, 1. 22. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580, ll. 36–37. 23. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 736, l. 140. On the hearing Riazan´ affair, see William Taubman, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era (New York: Norton, 2004), 377–78. 24. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3089, op. 1, d. 56, l. 2. 25. See, for example, “Shalosti kantseliarskogo pera,” Krokodil, August 30, 1959, 2; GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580, l. 36. 26. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 24. 27. Ibid., l. 26. 28. Ibid., l. 23. 29. “Vospominaniia Mikhaila Roskina,” VOG collection. 30. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 43. 31. Ibid., l. 41. 32. Ibid., l. 8 33. Ibid., l. 34. 34. Anon., “Sornuiu travu—­s polia von!,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, July 1958, 18. 35. A Poruchenko, “K chemu privodit ravnodushie,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, June 1961, 8. 36. Anon, “Sornuiu travu,” 18. 37. LaPierre, Hooligans, 23. On the redrawing of behavioral bound­aries, see also Tsipursky, “Citizenship, Deviance, and Identity.” 38. On reading deviance, see LaPierre, Hooligans, 34. 39. Vygotskii, Voprosy vospitaniia, 5. 40. See, for example, D´iachkov and Lubovskii, Trudy vtoroi nauchnoi sessii po defektologii, 10. 41. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580, l. 48. 42. For a discussion of cultural repre­sen­ta­tions of deafness in the U.S. context, see John S. Schuchman, Hollywood Speaks: Deafness and the Film Entertainment Industry (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988). 43. The plot of Dvoe is discussed in the Introduction. 44. Mikhail Bogin, cited in V. Baulin and I. Razdorskii, “Dvoe,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, July 1965, 13.

NOTES TO PA GES 1 6 6 – 1 7 5


45. Helen Deutsch and Felicity Nussbaum, introduction to “Defects”: Engendering the Modern Body (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), 12. 46. Vl. Baulin, “Novaia rol´ Marty Grakhovoi,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, January 1966, 13. 47. John Givens, “Screening the Short Story: The Films of Vasilii Shukshin,” in Stephen Hutchings and Anat Vernitski, eds., Rus­sian and Soviet Film Adaptations of Lit­er­a­ ture, 1900–2001: Screening the Word (London: Routledge, 2005), 123. 48. Labunskii, “Pust´ ozhivet nemaia stsena!,” 16. 49. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 287. 50. Vasilii Shukshin, “Stepka,” in Sobranie sochinenii v trekh tomakh (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1985), 3:168–178. 51. “Novye: Mikhail Bogin,” Iskusstvo kino, June 1965, 29. 52. Garina, “Pygmalion,” 3. 53. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 4. 54. Garina, “Pygmalion,” 3. 55. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 670, l. 49. 56. Ibid., ll. 51–52. 57. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 52. 58. Ibid., l. 18. 59. Ibid., l. 30. 60. Ibid., l. 22. 61. See LaPierre, Hooligans, 20. 62. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 23. 63. For more on the “secret island” scandal, see Chapter 3. 64. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, ll. 47–48. 65. Snyder and Mitchell, Cultural Locations of Disability, 119. 66. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 46. 67. Ibid., l. 22. 68. Ibid., l. 32. 69. Ibid., l. 35. 70. Kristin Roth-­Ey, “ ‘Loose Girls’ on the Loose? Sex, Propaganda and the 1957 Youth Festival,” in ­Women in the Khrushchev Era, ed. Melanie Ilič, Susan E. Reid, and Lynne Attwood (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 75–95. 71. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, ll. 18–19. 72. “V piatnadtsat´ let: Anna Grigor´evna Antipina,” in Isaev, Mnogogolos´e tishiny, 121–22. Antipina was awarded a VOG medal in honor of International W ­ omen’s Day at the same meeting in which TsP VOG discussed “Pygmalion” and condemned Ivanova’s be­hav­ior. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 670, l. 81. 73. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 120. 74. T. A. Mamontova, “Rol´ zhenshchin v Moskovskoi organizatsii glukhikh,” in Materialy chetvertogo moskovskogo simpoziuma po istorii glukhikh, ed. V. A. Palennyi and Ia. B. Pichugin (Moscow: Zagrei, 2003), 59. 75. Ibid., 64. 76. Sharon A. Kowalsky, Deviant ­Women: Female Crime and Criminology in Revolutionary Rus­sia, 1800–1930 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2009), 5. 77. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 58.

27 0 NOTES

TO PAGES 1 7 5 –1 8 3

78. Ibid., l. 58. 79. Ibid., l. 15. 80. Fitzpatrick, “Social Parasites,” 408. 81. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 736, l. 31. 82. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 36. 83. Ibid., l. 35. On the problematic result of welfare discourses in the 1960s, see Kuksin and Slavina, “Tak kakaia u nas biografiia?,” pt. 7, 5. 84. Fitzpatrick, “Social Parasites,” 382. 85. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 46. 86. Ibid., l. 3. 87. Ibid., l. 14. 88. Ibid., l. 38. 89. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 580, l. 67. 90. Garina, “Pygmalion,” 3. 91. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, ll. 25–26. 92. Ibid., l. 10. 93. Ibid., l. 20. 94. Ibid., l. 18. 95. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 670, ll. 48–51. 96. Ibid., ll. 50–51 and GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 671, ll. 165–66. 97. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 60. 98. Ibid., l. 27. 99. See, for example, GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 671, ll. 164–66. 100. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 33. 101. Ibid., l. 12. 102. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 670, l. 49. 103. Julie Elkner, “The Changing Face of Repression,” in Ilic and Smith, Soviet State and Society ­under Nikita Khrushchev, 154. 104. Christine Varga-­Harris, Stories of House and Home: Soviet Apartment Life during the Khrushchev Years (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015). 105. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 2. 106. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 670, l. 50. 107. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 162, l. 2. 108. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 32. 109. Ibid., l. 15. 110. Ibid., l. 13. 111. LaPierre, Hooligans, 23. 112. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 63. 113. Burch, Signs of Re­sis­tance, 87. 114. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 4. 115. Ibid., l. 65. 116. Ibid., l. 62. 117. Ibid., l. 60. The street clearances are discussed in Dale, “The Valaam Myth.” 118. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 193, l. 14. 119. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 171, ll. 3–4. On minority identity and public space, see Kate Brown, “Gridded Lives: Why Kazakhstan and Montana Are Nearly the Same Place,” American Historical Review 106, no. 1 (February 2001): 45.

NOTES TO PA GES 1 8 3 – 1 9 1


120. Dmitriev, Glukhie i glukhonemye, 4. 121. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 171, l. 4. 122. On passing, see Elaine K. Ginsberg, ed., Passing and the Fictions of Identity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996); Krentz, Writing Deafness, 176. 123. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 192, l. 22. 124. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 947, l. 29. 125. Ibid., l. 64. 126. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 736, l. 31. 127. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 38. 128. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 192, l. 22. 129. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 212, l. 19. 130. Ibid., l. 37, 51. 131. Ibid., l. 15. 132. See, for example, TsGA Moskvy, f. 3089, op. 1, d. 228. 6. Deaf-­Soviet Identity in Decline

1. TsGA Moskvy f. 3010, op. 1, d. 642, ll. 17–18. 2. Ibid., l. 4. 3. Ibid., l. 24. 4. Ibid., l. 23. 5. Dina Fainberg and Artemy M. Kalinovsky, introduction to Reconsidering Stagnation in the Brezhnev Era: Ideology and Exchange (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016), vii. 6. See Yurchak, Every­thing Was Forever, 31–32. 7. Erik P. Hoffman and Robbin Frederick Laird, Technocratic Socialism: The Soviet Union in the Advanced Industrial Era (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1985), 8–9. 8. On the connection between the Scientific Technological Revolution and Soviet everyday life, see Susan Reid, “The Khrushchev Kitchen: Domesticating the Scientific-­ Technological Revolution,” Journal of Con­temporary History 40, no. 2 (April 2005): 289–316. 9. Loren Graham, “Biomedicine and the Politics of Science in the USSR,” The Soviet and Post-­Soviet Review 8, no. 1 (1981): 147–58. On Soviet sociology, see Steven Solnick, Stealing the State: Control and Collapse in Soviet Institutions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 55–58; Simon Huxtable, “A Compass in the Sea of Life: Soviet Journalism, the Public, and the Limits of Reform ­after Stalin” (PhD diss., Birkbeck, University of London, 2013), 191–96; Nikolai Novikov, “The So­cio­log­i­cal Movement in the U.S.S.R. (1960–1970) and the Institutionalization of Soviet Sociology,” Studies in Soviet Thought 23, no. 2 (February 1982): 95–118. On the limitations of late Soviet medical science, see Anna Geltzer, “Stagnant Science?: The Planning and Coordination of Biomedical Research in the Brezhnev Era,” in Fainberg and Kalinovsky, Reconsidering Stagnation, 105–22. 10. V. I. Lubovskii, “Defektologiia,” in Bol´shaia sovetskaia entsiklopedia, ed. A. M. Prokhorov (Moscow: Sovetskaia entsiklopediia, 1972), 8:168–69. 11. A. I. D´iachkov, “Osnovnye problemy surdopedagogiki,” in D´iachkov and Lubovskii, Trudy vtoroi nauchnoi sessii, 10. On D´iachkov, see McCagg, “The Origins of Defectology,” 61.

27 2 NOTES

TO PAGES 1 9 2 –1 9 6

12. See, for example, I. L´vov, ´Pochemu zamolchal slukhovoi apparat?,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, June 1970, 12–13. 13. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 642, l. 9. 14. See E. P. Kuz´micheva, “Ispol´zovanie razlichnykh tipov slukhovykh apparatov v obuchenii glukhikh uchashchikhsia,” Defektologiia, March 1976, 45. For an overview of the new types of hearing aid technology and the issue of residual hearing in the 1970s, see also V. D. Laptev, “O tekhnicheskom osnashchenii zaniatii po formirovaniiu proiznosheniia i razvitiu ostatochnogo slukha u glukhikh i slaboslyshashchikh detei,” Defektologiia, February 1976, 69–75. 15. S. Gushev, ‘Uvidet´, uslyshat´,” poniat´. . . ,” VES, June 1973, 10. 16. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:555. 17. Gushev, ‘Uvidet´, uslyshat´,” poniat´. . . ,” 11. 18. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d.580, l. 51. 19. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:554. 20. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 99; Bazoev, Palennyi, and Slavina., Moskva i glukhie moskvichi, 161. 21. For an overview of t­ hese arguments, see Mara Mills, “Do Signals Have Politics? Inscribing Abilities in Cochlear Implants,” in The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, ed. Trevor Pinch and Karin Bijsterveld (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 323–24. 22. Gushev, ‘Uvidet´, uslyshat´,” poniat´. . . ,” 13. 23. TsIETIN began life as the Institute for the Study of the ­Labor of the Disabled (Institut po izucheniiu truda invalidov, or ITIN), established in Moscow in 1930. See Ambrosius, Glukhonemye, 3–44. 24. GARF, f. A-511, op. 1, d. 947. 25. Metodicheskie ukazaniia k trudoustroistvu glukhikh, glukhonemykh i lits s krainei stepen´iu tugoukhosti (Kharkov, Ukraine: 4-ia tipografiia MPS, 1963). 26. Hoffmann and Laird, Technocratic Socialism, 3: Huxtable, “A Compass,” 277–78. 27. Metodicheskie ukazaniia, 9. 28. GARF, f. 511, op. 1, d. 947, l. 58. 29. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 642, l. 62. 30. GARF, f. 511, op. 1, d. 97, ll. 21, 22. 31. See Anon, “Novye polozheniia o medico-­pedagogicheskikh komissiiakh i instruktsii po priemu v spetsialnye shkoly,” Defektologiia, February  1975, 3–5. T ­ hese built on the experience of the doctor-­labor expert commissions, which ­were responsible for classifying disability within the framework of Soviet social insurance. See Galmarini-­K abala, Right to Be Helped, 54. 32. E. D. Oksiukevich, “Sashenka,” in Chelovek ne slyshit, ed. V. Krainin and Z. Krainina (Moscow: Znanie, 1984), 40–41. 33. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 958, l. 6. The ban on driving motorized vehicles was overturned in 1974, following sustained pressure from VOG: V. Mitin, “Kto mozhet byt´ voditelem?,” VES, November 1973, 25. 34. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3089, op. 1, d. 57, l. 1. 35. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 1850, ll. 94–95. 36. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:543. 37. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 34. 38. On rehabilitation centers, see GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 947, l. 20.

NOTES TO PA GES 1 9 6 – 2 0 4


39. I. F. Geil´man, “Leningradskii vosstanovitel´nyi—­est´!,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, January 1966, 12. 40. Ibid. 41. Ibid. 42. I. F. Geil´man, Leningradskii vosstanovitel´nyi tsentr VOG (Leningrad: Leningradskii vosstanovitel´nyi tsentr VOG, 1983), 28. 43. Ibid., 2. 44. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 339, l. 73. 45. Cesare Magarotto, “The Deaf in the World: Outlines of the Activities of the W.F.D,” in Proceedings of the Fourth World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf: Stockholm, Sweden, 17th–21st August 1963, ed. Cesare Magarotto, special edition of The Voice of Silence 10, nos. 1–4 (1966): xxxvii. 46. “The Resolutions of the Commissions” in Magarotto, Proceedings of the Fourth World Congress, 557. 47. See Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:553. 48. Geil´man, Leningradskii vosstanovitel´nyi tsentr VOG, 6. 49. Padden and Humphries, Deaf in Amer­i­ca, 2. 50. For a detailed account of the protests, see John B. Christiansen, Deaf President Now! The 1988 Revolution at Gallaudet University (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1995). 51. Pursglove and Komarova, “The Changing World of the Rus­sian Deaf Community,” 251. 52. P. K. Sutiagin (as Soutiagine), “Social Status of the Deaf in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,” in Fifth Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf (Warsaw: Polish Scientific Publishers, 1967), 377. 53. Nakamura, Deaf in Japan, 7. 54. William E. C ­ astle, “Ten Days in Russia—­Some Impressions,” The Deaf American, December 1978: 7. 55. Cited in Stephen C. Baldwin, Pictures in the Air: The Story of the National Theatre of the Deaf (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1994), 66. 56. Frederick C. Schreiber, “To Russia—­With Love,” The Deaf American, November 1978: 6. 57. Ibid., 3. 58. Isaev, Mnogogolos´e tishiny, 5. 59. A. S. Korotkov, 50 let Vserossiiskomu obshchestvu glukhikh: Materialy dlia dokladov i besed (Leningrad: Leningradskii vosstanovitel´nyi tsentr VOG, 1976), 3. 60. Otchet o rabote tsentral´nogo pravleniia Vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhikh za 1963– 66 gody, 3. 61. Postanovlenie III Plenuma TsP VOG, 2 noiabria 1976g., g. Moskva. Private VOG collection. 62. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:601. 63. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 1850, l. 73. 64. Ibid. 65. Ibid., ll. 74–75. 66. Ibid., l. 17. 67. Ustav vserossiiskogo obshchestva glukhonemykh (1948), 14. 68. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:556.

27 4 NOTES

TO PAGES 2 0 5 –2 1 0

69. Ibid. 70. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 208, l. 60. 71. On the OBKhSS, see William A. Clark, Crime and Punishment in Soviet Officialdom: Combating Corruption in the Po­liti­cal Elite, 1965–1990 (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1993), 110; Luc Duhamel, The KGB Campaign against Corruption in Moscow, 1982–1987 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010). 72. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:559. 73. This trial had been a point of some debate when Sutiagin was elected chairman in 1949; see Chapter 2. 74. Alena V. Ledeneva, Rus­sia’s Economy of Favours: Blat, Networking and Informal Exchange (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 1; Natalya Chernyshova, Soviet Consumer Culture in the Brezhnev Era (London: Routledge, 2013), 12. 75. Jim Riordan, “The Komsomol,” in Soviet Youth Culture, ed. Jim Riordan (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989), 16. See also Solnick, Stealing the State, 67. 76. Kuksin and Slavina, “Tak kakaia u nas biografiia,” pt. 8, 8. 77. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:559. 78. Isaev, Mnogogolos´e tishiny, 95. 79. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhykh, 98. 80. Cited in Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:556. 81. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d.1850, l. 4. 82. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:593. 83. Kuksin and Slavina, “Tak kakaia u nas biografiia?” pt. 8, 8–9. 84. Ibid. 85. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3089, op. 1, d. 193, l. 2. 86. S. Shapovalov, “V piat´ raz bol´she, v chetyre raza deshevle,” Zhizn´ glukhikh, May 1960, 14. By 1960, the Ministry of Culture of the RSFSR subtitled a total of forty to forty-­five feature films per year, ten copies each, which w ­ ere deployed on ten routes around the VOG clubs of the RSFSR. 87. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:602; B. Z. Bazoev and V. A. Palennyi, eds., Chelovek iz mira tishiny (Moscow: Akademkniga, 2002), 562–72. 88. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3089, op. 1, d. 57, l. 1. 89. V. V. Krupchenko, “Tematicheskie vechera—­odna iz massovykh form klubnoi raboty sredi neslyshashchikh,” in Organizatsiia i provedenie tematicheskikh vecherov v klubnykh uchrezhdeniiakh VOG, ed. V. V. Krupchenko (Leningrad: Leningradskii vosstanovitel´nyi tsentr VOG, 1982), 5–6. 90. See, for example, TsGA Moskvy, f. 3089, op. 1, d. 105. 91. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3089, op. 1, d. 148, l. 2. 92. Yurchak, Every­thing Was Forever, 37. 93. Bazoev, Palennyi, and Slavina, Moskva i glukhie moskvichi, 155. 94. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3089, op. 1, d. 132, l. 8. 95. Ibid., l. 9. 96. Bazoev, Palennyi, and Slavina, Moskva i glukhie moskvichi, 156–57. 97. L. Triska, “Vchera i segodnia,” VES, January 1986, 10–11. 98. Bazoev, Palennyi, and Slavina, Moskva i glukhie moskvichi, 156. 99. Ibid., 160. 100. Ibid., 163.

NOTES TO PA GES 2 1 0 – 2 1 9


101. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 947, l. 43. 102. “Grazhdanin SSSR,” VES, January 1972, 3. 103. Lilya Kaganovsky, “Postmemory, Countermemory: Soviet Cinema of the 1960s,” in Gorsuch and Koenker, The Socialist Sixties, 239. 104. Juliane Fürst, “The Importance of Being Stylish: Youth, Culture and Identity in Late Stalinism,” in Fürst, Late Stalinist Rus­sia, 210. 105. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 171, l. 14. 106. Ibid., l. 24. 107. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 1850, l. 94. 108. Ibid. 109. “Vossosdadim istoriiu obshchestva,” editorial in VES, April 1974, 19. 110. Roger D. Markwick, Rewriting History in Soviet Rus­sia: The Politics of Revisionist Historiography, 1956–1974 (New York: Palgrave, 2001), 245. 111. “Vossosdadim istoriiu obshchestva,” 19. 112. Korotkov, 50 let VOG. 113. See, for example, Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh; Krainin and Krainina, Chelovek ne slyshit. 114. Ushakov, Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo glukhikh, 3. 115. E. Kutepov, “Formiruia lichnosti . . . ,” VES, July 1976, 23. 116. Kalugina, “Zhizn´ v tishine,” 100–101. 117. Cited in Bazoev, Palennyi, and Slavina, Moskva i glukhie moskvichi, 172. 118. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 208, l. 40 and f. 3010, op. 1, d. 87, l. 77. 119. Kalugina, “Zhizn´ v tishine,” 100. 120. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 171, l. 16. 121. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 208, l. 48. 122. GARF f. A-511, op. 1, d. 1850, l. 94. 123. Padden and Humphries, Inside Deaf Culture, 94. 124. Bazoev, Palennyi, and Slavina, Moskva i glukhie moskvichi, 164. 125. Ibid., 160. 126. Yurchak, Every­thing Was Forever, 32. 127. Liuda Gachegova, “Dorogaia redaktsiia,” VES, June 1973, 14. 128. Irina Kaspe, “ ‘My zhivem v epokhu osmysleniia zhizni’: Konstruirovanie pokoleniia ‘shestidesiatnikov´ v zhurnale Iunost,’ ” Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie 137, no. 1 (2016): 130–48. 129. On Mne dvadtsat´ let, see Kaganovsky, “Postmemory, Countermemory,” 239– 41; Josephine Woll, “Being 20, 40 Years L ­ ater,” Kinoeye: New Perspectives on Eu­ro­pean Film 1, no. 8 (2001): http://­www​.­k inoeye​.­org​/­01​/­08​/­woll08​.­php. 130. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3089, op. 1, d. 105, l. 29. 131. S. Kopylova, “Schast´e v moikh rukakh,” VES, December 1974, 16. 132. Sof´ia Voinich, “Byt´ liudiam nuzhnoi!,” VES, October 1973, 18. 133. Iu. Silant´eva, “Moia professia,” VES, February 1974, 9. 134. N. Zablotskaia, “Kak nashli moe budushchee,” VES, July 1974, 11. 135. V. Koval,” “Zhdem tebia, Liuda!,” VES, June 1973, 15. 136. V. Bulavkina, “Zhdem tebia, Liuda!,” VES, June 1973, 15. 137. Liuda Gachegova, quoted in S. Kopylova, “Schast´e v moikh rukakh,” 16. 138. For a parallel discussion in the American context, see Brenda Jo Brueggemann, Lend Me Your Ear (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1999).

27 6 NOTES

TO PAGES 2 2 0 –2 2 9

139. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:593. 140. TsGA Moskvy, f. 3010, op. 1, d. 642, l. 27. 141. Ibid. 142. Juliane Fürst, “Where Did All the Normal ­People Go?: Another Look at the Soviet 1970s,” Kritika: Explorations in Rus­sian and Eurasian History 14, no. 3 (Summer 2013): 638. Epilogue

1. V. K. Kuksin and A. B. Slavina, “Tak kakaia u nas biografiia? Zhurnalist beseduet s istorikom,” pt. 1, VES, January 1996, 5. 2. Kathleen E. Smith, Mythmaking in the New Rus­sia: Politics and Memory during the Yeltsin Era (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002), 4. 3. Valerii Kuksin, “S dnem rozhdeniia, VOG!,” VES, September 1996, 1. 4. A. B. Slavina, “VOG shel v nogu so stranoi,” in Materialy tret´ego Moskovskogo simpoziuma po istorii glukhikh, ed. Viktor Palennyi, (Moscow: Zagrei, 2001), 245. 5. P. A. Savel´ev, “Istoriia povtoriaetsia,” Zhizn´ glukhonemykh, October 1, 1925, 1. 6. Leila Monaghan, “World’s Eye View,” 11. 7. Friedner and Kusters, eds., It’s a Small World, xvi. 8. See, for example, Kozlov, Readers of Novyi Mir, 9 9. On the deaf perestroika, see A. Ivanov, “Ot imeni, no ne po porucheniiu,” VES, January 1995, 2–3. 10. I. P. Ubogov, cited in Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:622. 11. Cited in Bazoev, Palennyi, and Slavina, Moskva i glukhie moskvichi, 179. 12. Ibid., 183. 13. A. Iampol´skii, “Iacheika iacheike rozn´,” VES, February 1987, 4. 14. Bazoev, Palennyi, and Slavina, Moskva i glukhie moskvichi, 183. 15. Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:613. 16. Ibid., 1:632. 17. Ibid., 1:633. 18. I. L. Gitlits, “VOG: Glukhie i slyshashchie,” VES, September 1990, 10. 19. Ibid. 20. Ibid. 21. I. V. Filippova, in Palennyi, Istoriia, 1:635. 22. Merv Garretson, “Foreword,” in The Deaf Way: Perspectives on the International Conference on Deaf Culture, ed. Carol J. Erting, Robert C. Johnson, Dorothy L. Smith and Bruce D. Snider (Washington DC: Gallaudet Univeristy Press, 1994), xvii. 23. Ibid., xix. 24. I. Ubogov, “Put´ ot glukhikh?,” VES, March 1990, 25. 25. Bazoev, Palennyi, and Slavina, Moskva i glukhie moskvichi, 195. 26. “Plenum opredeliaet pozitsii,” VES, December 1990, 4. 27. Palennyi, Istoriia, 2:12–13. 28. Pursglove and Komarova, “The Changing World,” 251–52. 29. V. A. Kuksin, “S´ezd ne mog byt´ drugim,” VES, October 1995, 5. 30. V. A. Kuksin, “Parad paradoksov: zametki s VI plenuma TsP VOG,” VES, August 1993, 4. 31. Palennyi, Istoriia, 2:15.

NOTES TO PA GES 2 3 0 – 2 3 5


32. See Mark G. Field and Judyth L. Twigg, eds., Rus­sia’s Torn Safety Nets: Health and Social Welfare during the Transition (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000). 33. Bazoev, Palennyi, and Slavina, Moskva i glukhie moskvichi, 196–97. 34. Ibid. 35. Ibid. 36. Palennyi, Istoriia, 2:15, 29. 37. V. A. Kuksin, “My—­invalidy,” VES, December 1995, 5. 38. V. A. Kuksin, “Tak v kakom my edinom stroiu?,” VES, January 1995, 3. 39. Pursglove and Komarova, “The Changing World,” 251. 40. “Vystuplenie  V. A. Korablinova po itogam soveshchaniia redaktsionnoi i soglasitel´´noi komissii,” VES, September 1995, 16. 41. B. S. “Khram dlia glukhich: dva goda spustia,” VES, January 1995, 13. On the revival of religion in the postwar period, see Zoe Knox, Rus­sian Society and the Orthodox Church: Religion in Rus­sia ­after Communism (London: Routledge, 2004). 42. Andrei Zolotov, “Reading Signs from Above,” The Moscow Times, January 7, 2001, http://­www​.­themoscowtimes​.­com​/­news​/­article​/­reading​-­signs​-­from​-­above​/­256254​ .­html. 43. “Raskryta taina serii ubiistv rukovoditelei obshchestv glukhikh,” Moskovskii komsomolets, December 31, 1999. 44. See, for example, Pursglove and Komarova, “The Changing World,” 252–53; Palennyi, Istoriia, 2:30. 45. V. Kuksin, “Pochemu ego ubili?,” VES, November 1995, 6. 46. Victoria Clark, “Rus­sia’s Mafia for the Deaf Breaks Its Code of Silence,” The Observer, September 24, 1995. 47. Iuli Litvinenko, “Strana glukhonemykh,” Moskovskii komsomolets—­Iug, March 8, 2006. 48. “Strana glukhikh,” Ekspress gazeta, August 24, 2004, http://­www​.­eg​.­r u​/­daily​ /­adv​/­5921​/­. 49. Aleksandr Maksimov, Bandity v belykh vorotnichkakh: kak razvorovyvali Rossiiu (Moscow: EKSMO-­Press, 1999), 168–69. 50. Elena Kosova, “ ‘Strana glukhikh´: nevydumannaia istoriia o liubvi i smerti,” Ria Novosti, September 26, 2010, http://­ria​.­ru​/­society​/­20100926​/­278805139​.­html. 51. Palennyi, Istoriia, 2:44–49. 52. See Otchet TsP VOG o deiatel´nosti za period s iuniia 2000 g. po Iun´ 2005 g. 53. See V. A. Palennyi, “Istoriia glukhikh: nastoiashchee i budushchee” in Palennyi and Pichugin, Materialy chetvertogo Moskovskogo simpoziuma po istorii glukhikh, 206–29. 54. Pursglove and Komarova, “The Changing World,” 255. 55. Bazoev, Palennyi, and Slavina, Moskva i glukhie moskvichi, 203. 56. On the implications of the new law, see A. A. Komarova and V. A. Palennyi, eds., Za zhestovoi iazyk! Sbornik statei (Moscow: SPb SRP “Pavlovskoe” VOG, 2014). 57. Pursglove and Komarova, “The Changing World,” 256. 58. See Federal´nyi zakon ot 24.11.1995 no. 181-­FZ (red. ot 30.11.2011) “O sotsial´noi zashchite invalidov v Rossiiskoi Federatsii (s izm. i dop. vstupaiushchimi v silu s 01.02.2012), Statia 4. 59. See Pis´mo Minzdrava RF ot 15.06.2000 no. 2510/6642-32 “O vnedrenii kriteriev otbora bol´nykh dlia kokhlearnoi implantatsii, metodik predoperatsionnogo obsledovaniia I prognozirovaniia effektivnosti reabilitatsii implantirovannykh bol´nykh.”

27 8 NOTES

TO PAGES 2 3 5 –2 3 7

60. Vystuplenie vitse-­prezidenta VOG S. A. Ivanova na zasedanii plenuma TsP VOG 19 dekabria 2014 goda po voprosu “Kokhlearnaia implantatsiia: prob­lem i puti ikh resheniia,” http://­www​.­voginfo​.­ru​/­novosti​/­newsvog​/­item​/­1009​-­PlenumVOG​.­html. 61. Aleksandr Shesterikov, “Poiushchie tishinoi,” Kanskie vedomosti, May 26, 2010. 62. Evgenii Mazaev, “ ‘Plemya´ glazami glukhogo cheloveka,” Vestnik VOG, March 4, 2015, http://­voginfo​.­ru​/­novosti​/­kulturas​/­item​/­1080​-­thetribe​.­html. 63. V. A. Palennyi, “Vstupitel´noe slovo,” in Materialy pervogo Moskovskogo simpoziuma po istorii glukhikh, ed. Ia. B. Pichugin (Moscow: Zagrei, 1997), 4.

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Dvoe. Directed by Mikhail Bogin. USSR, 1965. Mne dvadtsat´ let. Directed by Marlen Khiutsev. USSR, 1965. Plemia. Directed by Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy. Ukraine, 2014. Shapito-­shou. Directed by Sergei Loban. Rus­sia, 2011. Strana glukhikh. Directed by Valerii Todorovskii. Rus­sia, 1998. Vash syn i brat. Directed by Vasilii Shukshin. USSR, 1965.


Page numbers in italics refer to figures. Abramov, I. A., 226–29, 232–33 All-­Russian Conference of VOG (1989), 226–27 All-­Russian Congress of Deaf Mutes (1917), 28–30 All-­Russian Society of the Blind. See VOS All-­Russian Society of the Deaf. See VOG All-­Russian Sporting Federation of the Deaf, 137. See also sport Antipina, G. M., 174, 182, 269n72. APN, 116 Arnol´do-­Tretiakov School for Deaf-­Mutes, 24–27, 37, 42, 84 audism, 14, 17, 187, 225 backwardness, 56, 174, 239n4. See also deafness “backwardness to first ranks,” 53, 65–66, 72, 148, 160, 170–71 be­hav­ior antisoviet, 19, 72, 159–64, 169–70, 178–83, 210 deaf, 164, 182 Soviet conformity of, 13, 17, 22, 177, 184–86, 211 Bekhterev, Vladimir, 32 benefits. See welfare Beregi slukh!, 73–74, 78, 84 Beriia, Lavrentii, 76 biopolitics, 4, 8, 11, 191 blind ­people, 10, 32–36, 48, 83, 110, 126–27, 191. See also VOS (All-­Russian Society of the Blind) Blum, Albert, 74–75 Bogin, Mikhail, 1–2, 9, 18, 165–68, 174, 236 buildings. See space, deaf Buslaev, N. A., 55, 79–80, 84–86, 92, 126–28, 143, 210, 255n194

care. See welfare Central (Republican) Palace of Culture declining popularity of, 208–10 opening of, 122–23, 123, 130–33, 150–51 use of, 141, 157, 188–90, 196, 202, 208, 213 See also clubs, deaf Central Directorate of VOG activities of, 79, 86, 95, 103–5, 162, 178–80, 186 make-up of, 99, 174, 204–5, 220, 227–29 publications by, 147 reform of, 105–7, 204 Central Inspection Committee of VOG, 77, 105, 106, 204 Central Museum of the History of VOG, 213 Central Soviet of VOG, 57, 77, 79 charity deaf as objects of, 22–27, 59, 72 re­sis­tance to, 46, 52, 149, 160 ­children of deaf parents, 3, 7, 102, 172 civil society, 12, 19, 124, 128 clubs, deaf accessibility of, 12, 70, 141, 215 ­after 1991, 233–34 cultural and po­liti­cal education in, 37–40, 132–33, 145, 151, 179, 207 and deaf identity, 81–82, 136–37 network of, 3, 21, 26–27, 45, 50, 77–79, 128–33, 179, 210 postwar reconstruction of, 94, 102, 105–8, 128 See also space, deaf cochlear implants, 235. See also hearing aids; technologies, assistive Cold War, 11, 147–48, 191–92, 201, 225 collapse of the USSR, 223, 228–29 collectivization, 58–59, 107, 178, 249n25 communication, prob­lems of, 39–40, 57–58, 68–70, 80–81, 189–92


28 6 INDE X

Communist Party of the Soviet Union deaf membership of, 37, 45, 50, 56, 67, 144 community, deaf and attempts to integrate, 11, 16, 22, 83, 146, 196, 210–12, 237 as crucible of antisovietness, 75, 160–61, 165, 174–77, 233 diversity within, 140–44 as “entitlement community,” 101, 150 exclusionary practices of, 72, 85, 163, 181–87 and ­family, 7, 172 as “­imagined community,” 7, 138 intergenerational conflict, 130, 140–41, 211, 218, 226 international links, 17, 134, 147–49, 199–202, 228 as locus of identity, 3, 16, 21–26, 81–83, 92–93, 136–39, 145–46 marginalization of, 87, 146, 156, 169, 185–87, 219–20, 225 as path to sovietness, 8–13, 38–40, 98, 145, 156, 175, 178 spaces of, 45, 128, 138, 182 and use of sign language, 6–8, 81, 136, 151–53, 164, 234–35 See also schools for the deaf; sign language; space, deaf; VOG Congresses of Deaf Mutes First (1917), 28–29, 41, 50 Second (1920), 35, 41–42 Congresses of VOG First (1926), 49–50, 49 Second (1929), 58–61, 70–73, 77–78 Third (1931), 59, 62, 77–78 Fourth (1947), 100, 104–6 Fifth (1951), 99, 107–8 Seventh (1959), 145, 165 Ninth (1967), 192 Fifteenth (1995), 229, 231 Congress of Milan (1880), 24, 32, 123 crime and deaf ­family, 172–73 deaf involvement in, 73, 159–62, 168–72, 177, 185–87, 233, 237 mafia, 175, 232–33 popu­lar anx­i­eties regarding, 159, 163, 171, 252n110 and rehabilitation, 160, 178–79, 187 and self-­policing, 160, 164, 179–82, 185–87, 225 and ­women, 173–75 and young ­people, 163 See also postcard sellers

cultural revolution, 54, 61, 82, 142 culture, deaf cultural “­table of ranks,” 132 institutions of, 131–32, 136, 166, 219, 221 and kul´turnost´, 151–53 practices of, 82, 90, 123–24, 133–42, 148, 164, 174, 207 and Soviet ideology, 145, 151, 179 theories of, 14–16, 90, 151, 193, 200, 225, 234 traditions of, 132–33 U. S. responses to, 201 See also kul´turnost´; sign language Deaf Deaf hood, 14–15 Deaf Gain, 14–15, 61 Deaflympics, 137 Deaf President Now (1988), 200 Deaf Pride, 200, 210, 234 Deaf Same, 14, 17 Deaf space (see space, deaf ) Deaf studies, 14–17 Deaf Way (1989), 228 deaf-­mute affair, 55, 74–76 deafness as antisoviet, 71–73, 160–63, 184, 210 as “backwardness,” 42, 56, 65–66, 72, 125–26, 151, 161, 184 ­causes of, 8, 73, 79, 84 as criminality, 160–64, 168–77, 181, 233, 237 as defect, 4–5, 31–34, 83, 126, 154, 191–97, 225 demographics of, 5, 27, 52, 100 as disability, 42–44, 79, 85, 95, 176, 230, 235 as exotic, 159–60, 165–68, 225 “golden age” of, 19, 123, 142, 156–59, 211 hearing attitudes to, 30, 44, 159–60, 164–69, 182, 188–89, 194 as identity, 6, 16, 81–84, 115–16, 123–25, 130–31, 140, 234 as lack of culture, 6–7, 66, 74, 183–84 as medical diagnosis, 6, 15, 17, 119, 190–99 as modality of Sovietness, 11, 123 as nationhood, 10, 43, 51, 69, 82–83 as obstacle, 5, 33, 55, 68–76, 100, 128, 169, 210 overcoming of, 5, 33–36, 54, 115–20, 196–98, 214, 236–37 in popu­lar culture, 2, 18, 87, 159, 165–69 and Soviet ideology, 2–6, 12–13, 32–37, 92, 145–46, 220

INDE X 287 as subculture, 7, 124, 232 terminology of, 8, 15–17, 119, 184, 198, 210 as tragedy, 6, 17, 33, 190, 218–19 as visual mode of being, 14–18, 138–41, 151, 207, 221, 224 See also deaf-­sovietness; identity, deaf deaf-­sovietness decline of, 19, 221, 225 as hybrid identity, 15, 21–22, 46, 81–83, 93, 123–25, 145 as institutional identity, 12, 221, 224 legacy of, 223, 235–36 narratives of, 146–51, 157–58, 165, 168–69, 181–82, 201 as path to agency, 9–11, 13, 22, 124–25, 149, 225, 231 precariousness of, 170, 189–90, 198 defectology, 31–32, 114–19, 191–93, 196, 239n3 developed socialism, 189–90, 207 deviance, 22, 158–60, 164, 173–74, 179, 233 D´iachkov, A. I., 112, 135, 191 disability medical model of, 15, 126, 128, 235 social model of, 14, 16, 191, 200, 224–25, 235, 243n62 Soviet classification of, 95, 256n34 See also deafness; defectology Dmitriev, V. G, 148–49, 151, 155, 183 driving licenses, 195, 272n33 Dubovitskii, I. B., 94–95, 100, 104 Dvoe (film), 1–3, 18, 165–69 Dzhikiia, Levoni, 233 education, deaf and community ties, 25–27, 237 as curative, 14, 119, 128, 193, 196–98 and the “difficult to educate,” 170–71, 178 higher education, 61–62, 70, 119, 128, 142–43, 188–89, 230 industrial training, 62–63, 79, 114, 142–44, 250n35 international trends in, 15–16, 23–24, 115, 200, 240n16 and ­legal rights, 24–25, 29–30 moral education (vospitanie), 47, 170–73 po­liti­cal education, 48, 64, 70–72, 79, 93, 144–46, 207–8 role of the expert in, 29, 111, 114–15, 118, 195, 198–200 and Soviet ideology, 30–34, 38, 110–20, 128, 207

universal education (vseobuch), 110, 202 use of sign language in, 24, 32, 81, 120, 135, 196 See also schools for the deaf; and names of individual institutions educational-­industrial enterprise. See UPP educational-­industrial workshop. See UPM el­derly deaf ­people, 130, 141, 211–16, 219–21. See also veterans of VOG employment concentration of deaf ­people, 61–63, 84, 92, 102, 138, 141, 251n91 in creative professions, 144, 148 in deaf artels, 35–36, 45, 48, 59–64, 78, 80 practices of work placement, 36–38, 47–48, 59–64, 92, 98–100, 178, 194 in specialist professions, 142–43, 188–89, 212, 216 in state industry, 7, 59–68, 73, 103–4, 126, 130, 135 See also ­labor Empress Mariia Fedorovna, 23, 26 Epée, Abbé de l’, 155 eugenics, 7, 55, 90, 118, 172, 224, 255n5 Evseeva, Mariia, 227 factory-­plant apprenticeships (FZU), 62 ­family. See community, deaf February Revolution, 3, 28, 30 Filippova, I. V., 227 Filippova, V. G., 181 fingerspelling (dactylology), 69, 84, 97–99, 119, 132, 156 Five Year Plans, 56–59, 62–64, 73, 87 fizkul´turniki. See sport Fleri, V. I., 23, 117 Fourth International Festival of Youth and Students (1957), 180 Frunze Professional-­Technical School, 62, 70, 84 Fufaev, V. A., 202, 203, 206–7, 226 Gachegova, Liuda, 217–20 Geil´man, I. F., 6, 134–36, 196–99, 205–6, 235 generation gap. See el­derly deaf ­people; young deaf p­ eople Gestuno. See sign language Ginzburgskii, D. L., 74–75, 176, 184 glasnost, 223–27 Gorbachev, Mikhail, 189, 225–26, 228 Grakhova, Marta, 166–67, 174 ­Great Break, 19, 56–57. See also Five Year Plan ­Great Patriotic War. See World War II

28 8 INDE X

Gritskevich, D. I., 193–94 Gulag returnees, 163, 169, 175, 179. See also crime Gurov, Mikhail, 64, 64, 74 Gurtsov, G. A., 117 hard of hearing, 5, 16, 91, 110–20, 191–93 Hays, David, 201 health resorts, 84–85, 102 hearing aids as curative fantasy, 192–93, 221 use of, 97, 115, 119, 190–93, 208 hearing damage, 60–61, 73 “hearing gaze,” 159–60, 164–65, 183–85, 267n7 historiography, deaf, 14–17, 23–24, 90, 115, 224–25 holiday homes, 123, 130, 138–39, 139, 183, 205 hooliganism, 13, 73, 94–96, 100, 159–64, 181–82. See also be­hav­ior; crime hybrid identity. See deaf-­sovietness I Am Twenty (film), 217 identity, deaf, 6, 16, 81–84, 115–16, 123–25, 130–31, 140 U. S. model of, 16, 224–25, 227–28 See also deafness; deaf-­sovietness identity, Soviet changing definitions of, 21, 32–33, 53–54, 124–25, 186, 207, 223 deaf engagement with, 2–3, 12, 17, 34–37, 40–47, 145–46, 224–25 historiography of, 11–13 as imperative to transform, 8, 56–68, 100, 126, 162, 170–71, 196–98 as utopian vision, 2–5, 31–37, 46, 54, 124–25, 224 See also deaf-­sovietness ideology, Soviet, 11–13, 19, 22, 92, 216, 238 Institute of Defectology, 113–19, 121, 191. See also NIID (Scientific-­Research Institute of Defectology) intelligent­sia, deaf, 78, 212, 223 interpreters, sign-­language activities of, 61–62, 67–69, 76, 81, 113, 143, 179, 212 background of, 7, 254n165 funding for, 6, 102, 135, 235 proposed replacement of, 199 training for, 106 Ivanova, M. I., 158–61, 168–71, 177, 180, 186

Jauffret, Jean-­Baptiste, 23 July Days, 29 Kalinin, M. I., 83 Kalugina, A. N., 25, 38, 49, 49, 81, 98–99, 146, 214–15 Khobot, V. S., 208 Khronika cinema debate, 182–85 Komashinskii, V. A., 195, 216, 218 Komsomol deaf participation in, 21–22, 37, 52, 169, 213 as social organ­ization, 80, 180, 206, 215 Korablinov, Valerii, 226, 228–29, 231–32 Korotkov, A. S., 184, 206, 213–14 Krokodil (journal), 162 Krupskaia, Nadezhda, 31, 45 Kuksin, Valerii, 123, 156, 206–7, 223–26, 231 kul´turnost´ (culturedness), 67, 124, 151–54, 157, 182–83, 209. See also culture, deaf ­labor deaf avoidance of, 43, 161–62, 173–76 deaf capability of, 4, 33–35, 42, 60–61, 83 deaf participation in, 35, 59–67, 92–94, 100, 126, 129–31, 142–43 as path to agency, 35–40, 43, 60–68, 90–92, 103–4, 225 and Soviet ideology, 4, 33–36, 63, 92, 100, 224 See also employment; TsIETIN (Central Institute for the Examination of Work-­Capability and the Organ­ization of the ­Labor of Disabled ­People) Labunskii, I. K., 93, 133, 136, 215 late-­deafened, 3, 16, 192 attitudes ­toward, 84, 99, 141 in education, 112–14 participation in VOG, 48, 84, 106, 141 and World War II, 91, 98 leisure, 128–33, 136–44, 148, 157, 164, 207–8, 230. See also culture, deaf Lenin, V. I., 21, 27–28, 39, 71, 122, 206 Leningrad House of Enlightenment, 50, 75, 92, 94 Leningrad Institute of Hearing and Speech, 109, 115 Leningrad Institute of Special Schools, 115–18 likbez. See literacy lipreading, 1, 24, 32, 69, 84, 111, 141. See also speech literacy, 25, 35, 38–39, 67–70, 112, 199, 202

INDE X 289 living standards. See welfare logocentrism, 11 Lukinykh, G. M., 106, 174, 205, 209 Lunacharskii, A. V., 61, 69–74, 126 Luriia, A., 117–18 LVTs (Leningrad Rehabilitation Center), 196–99, 197, 218–19, 229 Lychkina, Sof´ia, 37–38, 85, 177, 184, 212, 215 mafia. See crime Maiak (holiday home), 130, 139 Maiak (newspaper), 226, 233 marginality and agency, 8–13, 124–25, 224 per­sis­tence of, 151, 157, 164, 169, 225, 235–38 rejection of, 9, 35–36, 145–46, 157, 186 in Soviet historiography, 3, 8–10 See also community, deaf; space, deaf marriage, 7, 27, 82, 82n270, 172. See also ­children of deaf parents; community, deaf medical model. See disability medical-­pedagogical commissions, 195, 272n31 Mezhekov, A. V., 31, 44, 81 Mikaelian, K. A., 188–89 Minakov, N. N., 58 Minkul´t, 146, 207, 274n86 Minpros, 108–10, 116, 126, 195 Minsobes, 97–101, 108, 193, 205, 228 Mintslova-­Piotrovskaia, M. S., 41, 50–51, 75 Minzdrav, 126, 195, 235 Mokhonov, E. N., 61, 83 Moral Code of the Builder of Communism (1961), 13 “moral panic,” 159, 169, 173, 186. See also be­hav­ior; crime Moscow City House of Culture, 208–10 Moscow City VOG, 106, 174, 180–83, 208–10, 215, 217, 226–29 Moscow Special Industrial Unification, 193 muteness, 33, 71, 167–69. See also speech MVD. See secret police Narkompros, 39–40, 45, 68–69, 72, 78, 112–19, 121 Narkomsobes relationship to VOG, 48, 51, 57, 61–62, 77–80, 97, 103–5 ser­vices for deaf ­people, 40, 42, 44, 69, 112 Narkomtrud, 59–60 Narkomzdrav, 40, 73, 78

National Association of the Deaf (U.S.), 201 national minorities, 10–11, 42–43, 69, 82, 224, 247n91 Nazi Germany attitudes to deafness in, 11, 55, 75–76, 90, 253n127 invasion and occupation by, 88, 94–96 New Soviet Person. See identity, Soviet newspapers, sign-­language, 132–33, 141, 145, 208 NIID (Scientific-­Research Institute of Defectology), 191–92, 196, 199. See also Institute of Defectology NKVD. See secret police October Revolution, 28, 30 narratives of, 37, 52, 122, 148, 156 oralism history of, 24, 124, 224 re­sis­tance to, 38–40, 51 in Soviet deaf education, 32–33, 70–71, 111–15 in tsarist deaf education, 24–25 See also schools for the deaf; speech orality. See speech organ­izations, deaf and activism, 3, 7–8, 16–18, 50, 196–98, 202 and autonomy, 10, 27–30, 35–40, 46–48, 51, 121, 160 and collectivism, 3, 11, 84, 124, 138, 198, 215, 225 and democracy, 145, 204, 226 and grassroots initiative, 7, 57, 128, 178–79, 226, 233 and mutual aid, 26–27, 48, 138, 149, 212, 216, 225, 237 Palennyi, V. A., 17, 226, 234, 237 parallel modernity, 132, 138 partisans. See World War II Pavlov, Ivan, 32 Peasant Committees of Mutual Aid, 57–58 pedology, 113–14. See also schools for the deaf pension law (1956), 127, 149, 176 phonocentrism, 11, 124, 193, 208 physical culture. See sport Plemya (film), 236–37 postcard sellers (otkrytochniki), 72, 75, 161–62. See also be­hav­ior; crime Preobrazhenskii, V., 117–18 prophylaxis, 73, 79, 128, 192

29 0 INDE X

Provisional Government, 28–29 purges, 19, 55–56, 74–76, 85. See also secret police “Pygmalion” Izvestiia article, 158–59, 168–69 VOG debates, 161–63, 169–82, 185–87, 236 rabfak, 61–62, 65, 69, 78, 81–82, 113, 143 rally-­conferences. See rural deaf p­ eople Rau, F. A., 27, 44, 115–18 revolution from above. See cultural revolution Riazan´ affair, 162 rights, ­legal and civil rights model, 190, 200 and Soviet collapse, 229–31, 230 Soviet frameworks, 30–31, 127–29, 200–201 tsarist disenfranchisement, 9, 22–25, 28–29, 222, 226 rural deaf p­ eople, 56–58, 100–101, 108, 141–42 Rus­sian Orthodox Church, 231 Rus­sian Sign Language, 235, 240n18. See also sign language sanatoria, 102–3, 123, 130 Savel´ev, P. A., 49 attitude to deafness, 73 biography, 50–51, 215 early years of VOG, 37, 39, 45–51, 58–59, 69, 72, 77, 80–85 war­time activities, 94–97 removal from VOG chairmanship, 106, 258n98 schools for the deaf and criminal be­hav­ior, 163, 170–73, 179 differentiation by hearing loss, 111–19 as hub of community identity, 25–26, 244n20 and mainstreaming, 116–17, 198, 217, 260n155 postwar reforms of, 89, 109–19 ­under socialism, 34, 100, 109–19, 259n130 ­under tsarism, 23–26 See also education, deaf scientific-­technological revolution, 190–95, 203, 221, 235 secret island scandal, 116–20, 172 secret police, 31, 48, 55, 74–76, 100 Secret Speech, 148, 152 sensory history, 12, 14, 241n37 Shapito-­shou (film), 236

Shklovskii, M. L., 115–19 shock work. See Stakhanovites Shorin, M. L. 62, 65, 69, 81–82, 113 Sicard, Abbé, 23 sign language cultured sign (kul´turnaia mimika), 154–56, 167 deaf ambivalence t­ oward, 7, 13, 84, 198, 219 development of, 80–82, 134–36, 153–56 dictionary of, 6, 134–35, 155, 200 home sign, 57, 69–70 international status of, 23–24, 90, 134 ­legal status of, 135, 235 as marker of identity, 6–7, 43–44, 81–85, 135–36, 164–66, 224 as “­mother tongue,” 24, 43, 135, 198 Soviet attitudes to, 7, 32, 125–26, 155, 183–84 terminology of, 240n18 See also education, deaf; schools for the deaf sign names, 82 SKPTB (Specialist Design and Technical Planning Bureau), 130, 193, 206–7 Slaboshpitskiy, Miroslav, 236 Slavina, A. B., 17, 138, 143, 223, 237 Smirnov, A. P., 47–49 social model. See disability Sokolov, S. I., 39, 41–43, 49, 50 Soviet farms (sovkhozy). See rural deaf ­people Sovmin of the RSFSR, 108, 126–27 of the USSR, 126–27, 130, 132, 135 Sovnarkom, 31, 40, 42, 47–49, 110 space, deaf building of, 129–31, 179, 204 experience of, 16, 45, 82, 92, 123–24, 128–41, 156, 182 loss of control over, 209–10, 229 as marginalizing, 164–65, 185, 222 as theoretical construct, 7, 82, 138 See also community, deaf; marginality; sign language “speaking Bolshevik,” 11, 67, 251n80 speech as expectation, 33–34, 70–71, 111–20, 125–26, 184 as means to overcome deafness, 34, 71, 191–93, 196–98 as Soviet value, 12, 33, 84–85, 196–98 See also sign language

INDE X 291 speech and language training, 12, 141, 192, 197, 197 speech culture (kul´tura rechi), 154–55 Spiridonov, Petr, 12, 66–67 SPON (Social and ­Legal Protection of Minors), 31, 112 sport, 53, 54, 102, 128–29, 137–38, 146, 174, 237 Sputnik, 143–44 stagnation, 18, 189–90, 216, 219–21, 227 Stakhanovites, 5, 65–67, 66, 71–72, 87, 92–93, 100–103, 239n10 Stalin, I. V. attitude to deafness, 125–27, 153, 172, 174, 219 Stalin constitution (1936), 55, 67, 72 stiliagi, 124 Stokoe, W., 134, 200 St Petersburg School for Deaf-­Mutes, 23–26, 28 Strana glukhikh (film), 236 street clearances (1945–46), 182 Studio of Fine and Applied Arts, 132–33, 142, 144 subjectivity. See identity, Soviet subtitling, 101, 128, 131, 207, 274n86 Sutiagin, P. K. and deaf culture, 131–32, 149 election to VOG chairmanship, 107 employment by NIID, 196 livestock scandal, 107, 205 reform of VOG, 107–9, 129 removal from VOG chairmanship, 205–6 role in Pygmalion debate, 161, 180 technologies, assistive, 90, 192–93, 203–4, 208, 224–25, 235, 250n42. See also hearing aids tekhnikum, 62, 98, 119, 135, 142–43, 197, 216–18 Thaw, 18, 124, 127, 139, 144, 160, 167, 178 TMZh (Theatre of Sign and Gesture) amateur roots of, 93, 132–33 as exemplar of deaf culture, 122, 132–33, 136, 139–40, 144 and mime, 140, 153 and or­ga­nized crime, 233 privileging of hearing audiences, 153–56, 209 relationship to Shchukin Theatre School, 153 repre­sen­ta­tion on film, 1–2, 166 “scientific” reform of, 195 and sign language, 6, 155–56, 167

Tot´mianin, Erik Mikhailovich, 48, 75–76 trades ­union. See VTsSPS (All-­Union Central Soviet of Trades Union) Trotskyism, 84–85 TsIETIN (Central Institute for the Examination of Work-­Capability and the Organ­ization of the ­Labor of Disabled ­People), 193–96, 272n23 tutelage ­under socialism, 41, 45–47, 176, 222, 227, 229 ­under tsarism, 9, 22–23, 27–31, 51–52 Udal´, A. D., 58 Udal´, A. I., 30, 38, 42–45, 58, 84–85 UPM (Educational-­Industrial Workshop), 61, 78, 96, 99–100, 103–8, 129 UPP (Educational-­Industrial Enterprise), 129, 143, 179, 196, 206, 215, 222, 232–33 Usachev, Sergei, 10, 143 values, Soviet, 3, 8, 11–12, 124, 145, 151, 214–15, 237. See also organ­izations, deaf Vash syn i brat (film), 165–69 V edinom stroiu (magazine), 211–14, 217–19, 223, 226, 233 veterans, deafened, 89, 95–99, 101–2, 140 veterans of VOG, 133, 206, 212–16. See also el­derly deaf ­people VIKO (All-­Russian Cooperative Association of Disabled P ­ eople), 34, 36, 63, 78, 80 visual art, 14, 132, 151 visuality. See deafness VOG (All-­Russian Society of the Deaf ) awarded “Order of the Badge of Honor,” 202, 203 cadres of, 50, 78, 105–8, 197–98, 204–6 charters of, 49, 51, 104, 109, 129, 204, 227–31 as cultural community, 7, 81–84, 89, 92, 123–25, 130–44, 224 decline of, 202–6, 220, 226–31 as disciplinary body, 160, 170, 177–85, 187 financial base of, 78, 103–5, 129, 149, 202–7, 228–29, 233 founding of, 34, 47–51 histories of, 212–15, 223–24, 237–38 institutional frameworks of, 55, 77, 105–9, 133–34, 178, 204–7, 254n175 as lobby group, 8, 38–40, 45, 201, 227, 234, 247n114 membership of, 48, 56–59, 63, 77, 94, 101, 108, 129, 140–41, 202, 233, 253n153

29 2 INDE X

VOG (continued) names and acronym of, 3, 50, 62, 152 as organ of Soviet transformation, 48, 56–68, 86, 97–100, 158, 177 as provider of social ser­vices, 101–4, 129–30, 149–51, 176–77, 206–7, 216 reforms of, 79–80, 84, 96, 105–9, 226–28 as “state within a state,” 204, 221–22 as voluntary association, 7, 12, 48–49, 54 voluntary organ­izations, 12, 27, 49, 54, 201, 242n41 Soviet targeting of, 40 VOS (All-­Russian Society of the Blind), 10, 48, 60, 89, 104–5, 229, 250n42, 262n25. See also blind ­people VSG (All-­Russian Union of Deaf-­Mutes), 3, 28–35, 39–44, 46–47, 51 VSNKh (Supreme Soviet of the Economy), 59–60 VTsSPS (All-­Union Central Soviet of Trades Union) conflict with VOG, 42, 78–80, 85–86, 108–9 Higher School of Professional Activity, 106–7, 143 provision of ser­vices for deaf p­ eople, 61–65, 92, 102, 210, 216 VUZ (Higher Education Establishment), 61–62, 78, 113, 135, 153, 212 Vygotskii, L. S., 16, 31–34, 71, 111–13, 119, 191, 259n141 welfare as cause of criminality, 160, 177 deaf as recipients of, 6, 8, 17, 44, 149, 156–57, 212–14 as disabling, 44, 150, 176

as material support (l´goty), 90, 101–9, 120–21, 149–50, 160, 221 narratives of, 149–51, 157, 206–7, 214 in postwar Eu­rope, 129–30 as social contract, 150 WFD (World Federation of the Deaf ), 90, 134, 147, 199, 201–2 ­women, deaf activities of, 37–38, 174–77 attitudes ­toward, 1, 78, 165–69, 173, 253n147 as doubly “other,” 160, 173–74, 186 World War I, 27 World War II cult of, 127, 212 deaf casualties of, 76, 93–94, 158 deaf participation in, 88, 91–93, 91, 255n8 devastation of, 86, 90, 95, 104–9 evacuation, 92–94, 109 legacy of, 12, 86, 90, 147, 149, 191, 211 Yeltsin, Boris, 228–30 young deaf p­ eople anxiety among, 190, 216–20 detachment from VOG, 211–12, 215 individualism of, 221 as leaders of VOG, 226 rising expectations of, 143, 146, 203, 216, 218 Zaitseva, Galina, 235 Zhenotdel, 54 Zhizn´ glukhikh (magazine), 1, 132–35, 139–40, 163, 174, 206, 210 Zhizn´ glukhonemykh (magazine), 21, 47, 52, 57, 79, 85–86 Zhuromskii, E. E., 28, 31, 50–51 Znamenskii, Aleksei, 236