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The term kulturnost ("culturedness") originates from the Russian kultura (culture) and can be translated as "cultured behavior," "educatedness," or simply "culture."

Kulturnost is a concept used to determine the level of a person's or a group's education and culture, which can be purposefully transferred and individually adopted. It first appeared in the 1870s when the narodniki (group of liberals and intellectuals) tried to bring education and enlightenment to the working and peasant masses. A "cultured person" (kulturnyi chelovek ) was one who mastered culture.

The meanings of kulturnost can differ with time, place, and context. It became a strategy of the Soviet regime in the 1930s, when millions of peasants poured into the cities and new construction sites, and their nekulturnost (uncultured behavior) seemed to endanger public order. Cultural policy aimed to transform them into disciplined Soviet citizens by propagandizing kulturnost, which in this context demanded good manners, personal hygiene (e.g. cleaning teeth), dressing properly, but also a certain educational background, level of literacy, and basic knowledge of communist ideology.

Kulturnost was thus part of a broader Soviet civilizing mission addressing the Russian peasants, but also native "backward" peoples. In the creation of a new Soviet middle class, kulturnost centered on individual consumption. Values and practices that were formerly scorned as bourgeois could be reestablished on the basis of kulturnost in the 1930s.

As an integration strategy used by the regime and as a reference point for various parts of the population, kulturnost gained significance in the formation of Russian and Soviet identities.

See also: nationalities policy, soviet; peasantry


Fitzpatrick, Sheila. (1992). The Cultural Front. Power and Culture in Revolutionary Russia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Volkov, Vadim. (2000). "The Concept of Kul'turnost'. Notes on the Stalinist Civilizing Process." In Stalinism. New Directions, ed. Sheila Fitzpatrick. London and New York: Routledge.

Julia Obertreis