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Rovno Party Lecture Series 1947

March 13, 2011

Since we have yet to figure out a way to go back in time (little known fact: theoretical physicists are even more lazy than teachers and public workers), we can only imagine what it would have felt like to hear about the planned lecture series by the Agitation and Propaganda Department of the Rovno oblast’ Communist Party in 1947. Fortunately, we have such things as archives and graduate students to look into such matters.

Reading through agitprop materials over the last few weeks at the Party Archive in Kyiv has been quite enlightening with regard to the party’s efforts to educate and propagandize (культурно-просветительная пропаганда or научно-просветительная пропаганда) both their party internally, and also the population of western Ukraine, at large — we could call that part “outreach.” Regarding the outreach efforts, there is a great deal of information on lectures, films, and other cultural events organized by the party (perhaps I’ll do a post on the films at a later date).

Here are just a few of the 160 planned lectures to which you would have been treated had you lived in Rovno oblast’ in 1947. Worried about those wrinkles? You might attend the lecture on “Old Age” or the “Problem of Longevity.” Other health topics included, “Women’s Hygiene” and of course, the ever helpful lecture on “VD.”

Somewhere in Rovno oblast' 2010 (Credit: author)

Perhaps you weren’t sure what happened during the four-year hellish occupation you just endured – you could go to “The Party of Lenin-Stalin: Organizer and Leader of the Drive to Victory,” “On the Ukrainian-German Nationalists” or even the “Belorussian-Ukrainian-German Nationalists” (first time I’ve seen this phraseology). If you fancied yourself a legal enthusiast, perhaps “The Stalin Constitution: The Most Democratic in the World” or “Laws of the USSR” would interest you.

Maybe your interests fell more in the categories of national and international matters: “The International Situation and Security,” “Reunification of the Ukrainian Lands Under One Government” or even, “The Russian Narod: The Leading Peoples of the Soviet Union,” in case you weren’t sure why the Russians were in charge.

For the farmers out there, “Predicting the Weather,” “Perennial Herbs,” and “The Role of the MTS (Factory-Tractor Stations)” would have been attractive choices. For the culturally minded, one of many lectures on Shevchenko would have worked, or even “The Talent of Pushkin.” Not that I would have recommended doing this, since well, it was illegal, but you could have gone to neighboring Volyn’ oblast’ to check out the lecture on “Gogol’s Dead Souls.”

The most interesting of all were the scientific lectures. For some reason, the French mathematician, Pierre-Simon Laplace, was the only foreigner who was the sole subject of an entire lecture (“Laplas – famous French mathematician and astronomer”). Regarding linguistics, in Volyn’, you could have attended “Why People Speak in Different Languages,” after having just watched all of Czech and Polish speaking neighbors resettled abroad in 1947. There was a lecture on “Sleep and Dreams” for the Freudian crowd. As for the cosmos, lectures included, “How the Universe is Organized,” “When the Universe Began and When it Will End,” and by far, my favorite of all the lectures, “Is There Life On Other Planets?”.

Just picture it! There you are, a citizen of Rovno oblast’ in 1947 — you were born in the 19th century; your understanding of the world likely is based on your religious upbringing; you lived through two world wars and half a dozen regime changes in thirty years; your home won’t have electricity until the next decade sometime; half of the people you’ve ever known are likely dead; your entire village has been decimated by the Nazi occupation and you’re sitting there in a one room hut listening to some young whippersnapper from some fancy place like Kharkov explain to you whether there are people on other planets.

Perhaps the apparent surreality of this event is only a side-effect of peering through the looking glass of history with my post-modern eyes and orientation or perhaps it was actually surreal to be in the room for that lecture at that moment in time. What was the lecture like? What kinds of questions were asked? What were the attendees thinking? Until those physicists get off their lazy butts, I suppose we’ll just have to wonder.

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