Alongside institutional interest groups, whose growing influence was
“softening” and “thawing” the Soviet monolith, other groups began to
appear that were less formalized and yet increasingly assertive,
voicing concern over various aspects of Soviet development.
The appearance of these informal groups of writers, journalists,
scientists, and other intellectuals became possible when the
quarter-of-a-century-long “deep freeze” of Stalinist tyranny was
replaced by the more liberal cultural and ideological atmosphere of the
Khrushchev period. The direction and essence of changes that would rock
the Soviet Union in the final phase of its history under Gorbachev were,
to a significant extent, prepared by the ideas and activities of these
groups. From the mid-1950s this relative liberalization affected
literature and cinematography, painting and music, and natural and
applied social sciences. All this served to transform the monotonous
cultural landscape of the Stalin era, leading to the development of
cultural and academic pluralism.
particular, the autonomous activity of writers and journalists led
to the appearance of a number of groupings of the literati usually
clustered around major literary magazines, such as
Artists, filmmakers, composers, and actors also had their own
informal groupings. Despite being poorly structured, these diverse
interests and their representatives articulated independent opinions
and beliefs and sought to express them in their artistic
explorations. All this enabled Soviet art and culture of the 1970s
to develop into a rich and varied scene.
Soviet authorities, no doubt, were aware of the dangers of cultural
autonomy for the purity of the obligatory “party spirit” that had to
permeate works of Soviet artists and writers, yet they refrained
from rooting out resolutely all shoots of cultural pluralism.
Partly, this was because they hoped that the growing cultural
diversity might help diffuse tensions in society by channeling the
emotional and social energies of the better-educated and socially
active citizens into creative search and cultural activities.
Partly, it was an attempt to compensate for the growing
disenchantment of the intelligentsia with Communist ideals and to
fill in the spiritual void that was opening up in an increasingly