Today the 80-mile-long Moscow Canal is a source of leisure for Muscovites, a conduit for tourists and provides the city with more than 60% of its potable water. Yet the past looms heavy over these quotidian activities: the canal was built by Gulag inmates at the height of Stalinism and thousands died in the process.
In this wide-ranging book, Cynthia Ruder argues that the construction of the canal physically manifests Stalinist ideology and that the vertical, horizontal, underwater, ideological, artistic and metaphorical spaces created by it resonate with the desire of the state to dominate all space within and outside the Soviet Union. Ruder draws on theoretical constructs from cultural geography and spatial studies to interpret and contextualise a variety of structural and cultural products dedicated to, and in praise of, this signature Stalinist construction project. Approached through an extensive range of archival sources, personal interviews and contemporary documentary materials these include a diverse body of artefacts - from waterways, structures, paintings, sculptures, literary and documentary works, and the Gulag itself. Building Stalinism concludes by analysing current efforts to reclaim the legacy of the canal as a memorial space that ensures that those who suffered and died building it are remembered. This is essential reading for all scholars working on the all-pervasive nature of Stalinism and its complex afterlife in Russia today.
Cynthia Ruder is an associate professor of Russian studies at the University of Kentucky. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell University and has previously published Making History for Stalin, which focused on the 1933 construction of the Belomor Canal. She has also contributed to peer-reviewed journals and edited collections and was the only non-Russian citizen who participated in the conference to commemorate the 70th anniversary (2007) of the Moscow Canal's opening in 1937.
Introduction: Surveying the Site: Historical Framework and Spatial Parameters Chapter 1: Water as Power: Real and Imagined Chapter 2: How the Gulag Built the Moscow Canal Chapter 3: Creating Metaphorical Space: Cultural Production about and on the Moscow Canal Chapter 4: Monuments, Monumentality, and Memory: Remembering and Forgetting Chapter 5: The Moscow Canal Today