For my print project, I will be analyzing the speeches from previous leaders of the Soviet Union to understand and develop a logical timeline of how language changed from Lenin in 1917 and the October Revolution, to what would become the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. This idea came to me in lieu of the recent 100th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. With recent scholarship on the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the role of 1917, it would be advantageous to use a digital forum to analyze the language used in Soviet speeches to see any correlation between the historical context of the time and linguistic usage. The speeches I will be analyzing are from Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and finally Mikhail Gorbachev. Specifically, I will be looking at Vladimir Lenin’s speech on November 5, 1917 entitled “To the Public” where he addresses Soviets after the October Revolution has successfully overthrown the sitting leadership. Next, I will look at Stalin’s speech at a Red Army parade on November 7, 1941, only a few short months after Operation Barbarossa during the Great Patriotic War. The next speech is by Nikita Khrushchev, and is one of the most famous speeches in Soviet history. This is what was known in the West as the “Secret Speech” at the 20th Party Congress of the CPSU in February of 1953, and was an attempt by Khrushchev to call to light the crimes of Stalin in order to move the Soviet Union forward on an international scale. Although this is substantially longer than the other speeches analyzed, it is important to have the entire transcript for a thoughtful and accurate analysis. Lastly, I will analyze a speech given by Gorbachev Christmas Day, 1991, effectively tendering his resignation and officially dissolving the Soviet Union on Christmas Day.
There are a variety of issues that may arise from taking on this project, but I have adequate plans to address the concerns. First, there is the language issue. Since I am not fluent in Russian, I will be relying on translated texts of the speeches. While this poses a risk with translations, I will be relying on only two sources that have their translations cited to address validity. The next issue is figuring out which speech from each leader to choose. However, through the course of my research I have found that each of these leaders has at least one very popular speech that is supposed to garner or rally support for the Soviet cause. By limiting my speeches to just four leaders and on speech per leader,I offer a small sample of the environment that surrounded the Soviet Union, from its birth to eventual death.
In order to analyze these texts, I will be using Voyant Tools. Since this is not a perfect system, I will have to individually input the translated texts into separate boxes on Voyant’s website. I will also find speeches that are similar in length, in order to get the closest as possible comparison when I manually compare them. The goal of this comparison is to see how Soviet language and propaganda evolved as the Soviet Union became strong and then eventually failed. I fully expect that strong Soviet language, emphasizing comrades, workers, and communism, to fade especially around Khrushchev. By using Voyant Tools, a digital component, I will easily be able to track any linguistic change that could be useful for further study.