The Soviet David Mace; Vera Mace

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  • The Soviet Family. by David Mace; Vera MaceReview by: Mark G. FieldSlavic Review, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Dec., 1964), pp. 781-782Published by:Stable URL: .Accessed: 18/06/2014 22:03

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  • Reviews 781

    DAVID and VERA MACE, The Soviet Family. Garden City, N.Y.: Double- day, 1963. xiv + 367 pp. $4.95.

    The Maces, and especially David Mace, have made a reputation as experts on the family and marriage counseling, particularly through their book Marriage: East and West. At one point they decided to turn their expertise upon the Soviet family and embarked with admirable vigor and diligence to rolling back their ignorance on that little-investigated subject. They read many books (I counted 184 of them in the bibliography) and selected articles. In addition, they traveled 3,500 miles in the Soviet Union, staying mostly in camping sites. Altogether they had a delightful experience; every- body was friendly to them, and most officials very cooperative. And yet, though I would be willing to give them an "A" for effort, I found the final product disappointing. Perhaps the book was intended to be a readable, popular book on the Soviet family, but it lacks not only the scholarly touch but also that balance and perspective that are difficult to achieve without a long acquaintance with the subject. The research method employed by the Maces in their review of the literature has led, in page after page, to a sort of collage in which quotation after quotation from different books are strung together and connected with a few words. What is even more dismaying is that the sources used covered different periods of the history of the Soviet Union, though often one quotation for, let's say, 1932 or earlier, is bracketed with another one for 1958 without an indication in the text of the difference. The careful reader could, in most instances, refer to the footnotes and do the necessary correction, but is the average reader likely to do so? Is the average reader likely to realize that, for example, the description of the per- formance of an illegal abortion is from Raymond Bauer's book Nine Soviet Portraits and is a fictionalized description of several types of Soviet persons based primarily on interviews with displaced persons? I know that Bauer based his stories on real interviews, but this is not made clear in the text.

    There are also dismaying contradictions: on page 49, for example, we are told without comment that in June, 1961, the death penalty was reintro- duced for serious crimes involving currency speculation, and on page 54 we are told that in dealing with political opposition the Soviets are hard and ruthless, but in dealing with civil crime and delinquency they are patient, considerate, and just. This must be small consolation to the Soviet citizen facing the firing squad for having illegally changed rubles into dollars on the black market! On page 233 we are told that the evidence suggests that "birth control devices have always been more or less available," and a few lines below that "Soviet contraceptives have often been in short supply." Or take for example the Maces' description of Pavlik Morozov "who de- nounced his father for organizing resistance against collectivization, and his story written up, as an example of heroism, for other children to read" (p. 303). Is that really all there is to the Morozov story? The uninitiated reader will never know that Morozov was killed by his uncle, that he was made a national hero, that statues were erected to him as a symbol of the new Soviet child who gave his life for the regime and forsook allegiance to his family. Or take this statement: "It is well known that the USSR spends more money per capita on education than any other country in the world."

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  • 782 Slavic Review

    Where is the evidence? Or is this simply the repetition of a Soviet statement following other figures apparently quoted from Soviet sources (p. 263, n. 26). But then the footnote should follow that statement and not come before it.

    Nor am I convinced by the following statement in which the authors say that privacy in housing is a middle-class Western obsession: "Anyone who knows the East is well aware that the common people desire nothing better than to live in the street, and would be quite miserable if they were sep- arated from their fellows in splendid isolation, even under palatial condi- tions.... It is a sound, healthy, deeply ingrained human instinct, the frus- tration of which is causing multitudes in the privileged West to languish in frustrated loneliness.. . the root cause of many of the personal and social problems in our Western world" (p. 172).

    The authors then go on to say that although the Russians desire privacy, we must remember that they have always lived under conditions of over- crowding, that Soviet philosophy is based on collectivism, and that it "cer- tainly puts the people under pressure to cooperate at all costs ... it prevents the family from digging in as a defensive unit in opposition to the state." As Ian Fleming would say, the mind boggles. If this is so, then why the massive housing construction program launched by Khrushchev whose aim is to provide, in some distant future, a private apartment for every family? Furthermore, nowhere does the book systematically examine the family in different socio-economic classes or in the different nationalities of the Soviet Union.

    In summary, this study is of limited usefulness in understanding the Soviet family today. It brings together a great deal of interesting materials and some personal observations, but it lacks perspective and balance. It confirms the authors' statement in the preface that "We may with some justification claim to be specialists in the field of the family; but we make no claims whatsoever to be specialists in the field of Soviet studies."

    Boston University MARK G. FIELD

    ANDREW FIELD (ed.), Pages from Tarusa: New Voices in Russian Writing. Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1964. xvi + 367 pp. $6.75.

    Tarusskie stranitsy, a volume of prose fiction, poetry, criticism, and literary miscellany appeared in 1961 but was soon withdrawn from circulation. It was received by the public (and by the authorities, it seems) as a declaration of the autonomy of art. The message is clearest in the critical pages, where K. Paustovsky's "Chapters from the 'Golden Rose'" lead the way. Paustov- sky boldly asserts the greatness of Ivan Bunin, an implacable opponent of the regime, whose every creative fibre ran contrary to the official Soviet con- ception of art, and explicitly commends him for what could be properly labeled his psychologism, individualism, metaphysical idealism, and for- malism.

    Bunin is dead and a classic, and Paustovsky is himself almost an "immor- tal," exempt from temporal canons of orthodoxy. But it is news when a

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    Article Contentsp. 781p. 782

    Issue Table of ContentsSlavic Review, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Dec., 1964), pp. 619-821Volume Information [pp. 816-821]Front MatterDiscussionThe Problem of Social Stability in Urban Russia, 1905-1917 (Part One) [pp. 619-642]

    Immunities in Old Russia [pp. 643-659]Samuel Clain and the Rumanian Enlightenment in Transylvania [pp. 660-675]The Beginnings of the Modern Turkestanian Theater [pp. 676-687]Russia's Special Position in China during the Early Ch'ing Period [pp. 688-700]Notes and CommentA Sixteenth-Century Russian Envoy to France [pp. 701-705]The USSR and Eastern Europe: Research and Area Study in Austria [pp. 706-716]

    Review ArticleThe Kerensky Government and Its Fate [pp. 717-736]

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