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TitleReconstructing the state: personal networks and elite identity in Soviet Russia
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RECONSTRUCTING THE STATE
Why do some state-building efforts succeed when others fail? Using newly
available archival sources, this book presents a reinterpretation of the rise and
subsequent collapse of the Soviet state. The study explains how personal
networks and elite identity served as informal sources of power that influenced
state strength. Reconstructing the State also offers a revised explanation of how
the weak Bolshevik state extended its reach to a vast rural and multiethnic
periphery as well as the dynamics of the center—regional conflict in the 1930s
that culminated in the Great Terror.

Gerald M. Easter is an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department
at Boston College.

Page 118

104 INFORMAL SOURCES OF POWER

former coworkers with them. Thus, a party leader in Uzbekistan, Lepa,
was appointed to head the Tataria party organization in 1933. Within a
short period, former colleagues of Lepa in Uzbekistan occupied the follow-
ing positions in the Tataria party apparat: head of the cadres department,
head of the industrial—transportation department, head of the schools and
science department, assistant head of the propaganda department, assistant
head of the trade department, and, secretary of the Kazan city party
organization.68 The former party chief of Tataria, Razumov, meanwhile,
was reassigned to head the party's East Siberian regional organization. Soon
after, the following positions in East Siberia were held by recent transfers
from Tataria: head of the industrial—transportation department, head of
the agricultural department, instructor of the regional party organization,
secretary of Irkutsk city party organization, secretary of the Zalarinsk
district party organization, secretary of the Usol'sk district party organiza-
tion, and the director of a large industrial enterprise (named for Kuiby-
shev). In addition, while the new procurator for East Siberia was not from
Tataria, he, in fact, had previously worked with Razumov in Orel.69

In this way, personal networks were allowed to take root within the
formal structures of regional and local administration under the guise of
implementation teams. But these personal networks also worked as a
constraint on the formal powers of the state center by acting as informal
mutual protection groups, the so-called family circles. Fainsod's description
of the ''family circles" operating across the middle and lower levels of
Soviet officialdom has remained the standard: 'Tarty as well as govern-
mental functionaries are tempted to seek a degree of independence from
control by organizing mutual-protection associations in which they agree
informally to refrain from mutual criticism and to cover up for each others'
mistakes and deficiencies."70 In the late 1930s, Stalin indicated the center's
frustration with the insular protectiveness of these personal networks in
words that echoed Fainsod's. "Most often," he declared,

so-called acquaintances and personal friends are selected regardless of
their suitablity from a political or practical stand point. It is not difficult
to understand that such family circles allow no place for criticism of
shortcomings in performance. Such family circles create a favorable envi-
ronment for raising toadies. In selecting cadres for their personal devo-
tion, these comrades evidently want to create conditions which make
them independent from the locality as well as from the center.71

By the end of the 1920s, the formal lines of power in the new state
indicated a highly centralized bureaucratic structure. Bureaucratic and
coercive power resources were concentrated in the central administrative
organs of the party and the government. The formal command chart of the

Page 119

THE CONSTRAINTS OF POWER 105

state, however, did not reveal the pervasiveness of informal personal net-
work ties. These ties extensively criss-crossed and ultimately distorted the
formal lines of power in the new state. For central state leaders, they
became a constraint on their exclusive claim on the state's "despotic"
powers. For regional leaders, personal ties provided an informal means of
access to the state's rule-making process. Moreover, the intersection of
informal and formal structures enabled regional leaders to solidify their
own personal political machines. These informal power resources accorded
the Provincial Komitetchiki an area of autonomy from central state leaders.
This situation eventually brought central and regional leaders into conflict.
The center—regional conflict and the attempts by both sides to redefine the
constraints of power in their relationship are the focus of the next two
chapters.

Page 235

INDEX 221

socialist offensive, 61, 111; see also collec-
tivization

Society of Former Political Prisoners, 149
Society of Old Bolsheviks, 20, 41, 48, 52,

149
Southeast regional bureau, 76, 77; see also

North Caucasus regional bureau
Stalin, Iosif, 7, 17, 38, 39, 46, 58, 59, 70,

81, 83, 93, 144, 145, 148, 149, 159,
165, 167

at February-March plenum, 153-7
class warfare and, 115, 128, 130, 153,

154
collectivization and, 113, 115, 117, 124
Provincial Komitetchiki and, 16, 18, 27,

63, 104, 127, 130, 141-3, 151
territorial administration and, 72, 102,

134, 147, 148
Stasova, Elena, 68
state, 3-7, 10

collapse of, 1, 2, 167-70
coercive powers of, 10, 97-100, 145,

146, 149, 158
defined, 10
despotic powers, 4, 15, 89, 105, 123,

124, 132, 164, 165
elites, 20, 162, 165, 166
infrastructural powers of, 4, 9, 15, 69,

70, 71, 77, 88, 101-4, 118-20, 163,
166, 167; also see administrative struc-
ture

strength, 2-4, 9-11, 13-16, 170
state-building, 3

in Soviet Russia, 7-17, 162-4
theory, 3-9, 170-4

state capacity, 2, 4, 10, 11, 164, 171; see
also state: infrastructural powers of and
administrative structure

state center, see central leadership
status image, see elite identity
Sverdlov, Iakov, 68-70, 72, 74
Syrtsov, Sergei, 81, 117, 135

Tarrow, Sidney, 11
territorial administration, 14, 76, 88, 101-

4, 163

organization of, 41, 75-80, 119, 147
personal networks and, 12, 167
regional leadership crisis and, 117-23
Transcaucasus regional network and, 82-

8
totalitarianism, 26, 27
Transcaucasus regional bureau, 76, 79, 83
Transcaucasus regional network, 82-8, 9 1 -

4, 96, 137, 142
core members of, 82, 83, 92
Red Army and, 98
territorial administration and, 85-8

Trotsky, Leon, 26, 27, 38, 70, 90, 98
Tucker, Robert, 72
Tukhachevskii, Mikhail, 54, 55, 98, 99,

146, 159
Turkestan regional bureau, 76

Ukraine, 41, 46, 78, 120-3, 126, 136,
142, 158

Ukrainian regional network, 98, 100, 101,
142

underground, see also komitetchiki
Urals region, 41, 78, 116, 120, 122, 147,

158
Urals regional bureau, 76, 78
Urban, Michael, 168

Vardan'ian, 156, 157
Vareikis, Iosif, 42-5, 50-2, 54, 62, 80, 81,

85, 86, 88, 98, 99, 130, 131, 137,
138, 142, 143, 146, 157-60

at February-March plenum, 152
collectivization and, 93, 115, 116, 117,

127-9
Von Hagen, Mark, 9
Voroshilov, Kliment, 81, 99

Walder, Andrew, 168
Wellman, Barry, 19
West Siberian region, 114, 122, 129
Western region, 41, 122, 158
Willerton, John, 168

Zatonskii, Volodimyr, 100, 101, 158
Zhdanov, Andrei, 149, 151, 152, 158
Zinoviev, Grigorii, 38, 90, 91, 144

Page 236

Continuation of series list

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Mark Irving Lichbach and Alan S. Zuckerman, eds., Comparative Politics: Ra-

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