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Breaking Stalin's Nose

Breaking Stalin's Nose


by Eugene Yelchin

Breaking Stalin's Nose Theme of Community

What do you think of when you hear the word "community"? Probably the various groups you belong to and all those things that make you feel like you're part of something bigger than yourself, right? But in Breaking Stalin's Nose, community is pretty much the opposite. Even though people live jammed right up in each other's faces (forty-eight to an apartment!), there's no sense that these people share any common interests (except staying alive) or even really like each other. The only time we really see any kind of real community is at the very end of the book, when the nice lady in line at the prison offers Sasha a place to stay.

Questions About Community

  1. Which characters give Sasha anything even remotely resembling a sense of community in the novel?
  2. It's not really paranoia if they are really out to get you, right? So, with so many people willing to turn on each other at the drop of a hat (or the stomp of a jackboot), can we even locate a true community in Sasha's world? And how is Stalinist Russia defining community in the first place?
  3. What type of community do you think the Young Soviet Pioneers is? What do you think its average member is like?
  4. When you think of "communal housing," you probably think of people living together, cooperating, forming strong relationships, and genuinely enjoying each other's company. We don't see much of that in Sasha's komunalka, though. Can you think of places where we do see its residents showing true community spirit to each other?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Stalin's "Communist 'WE'" is merely groupthink. According to Yelchin, there's no sense of individualism at all within those who subscribe to it.

Despite the paranoia and danger, we do see some people forming communities that have the potential to subtly stand against the totalitarian system.

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