The raw material for these vignettes came from hundreds of interviews with Soviet refugees, conducted by the Harvard Refugee Interview Project in 1950-1951. These data were later supported by work at the Harvard Russian Research Center and at the M.I.T. Center for International Studies, and from information from the Soviet press.
These nine Soviet portraits are of role-types of Russians in the middle ranks of Soviet society in the post-war era. Dr. Bauer believes that this is the crucial group to examine in order to appreciate the problems of social control in the Soviet Union. Members of this group respond to a pattern of more limited incentives and personal motives. At the same time, the contributions of these people are of first importance to the functioning of the Soviet system, and the degree of skill required of them is considerable.
Nine Soviet Portraits is a study of how these individuals live in a totalitarian society, of the mechanisms of accommodation which they adopt in an almost impossible situation. This book introduces to the general reader some of the basic social and psychological dynamics of Soviet society.
Not all of the characters or the concepts in this volume will be foreign to the reader. The reader will discover many familiar personalities and situations in these sketches. The Soviet Union is a modern industrial society, and all industrial societies have features in common. This is what makes Nine Soviet Portraits such fascinating reading: it gives compelling insights into the men and women who live behind the Iron Curtain and the social and psychological dynamics which motivate them, and offers an unusual perspective in which to view our own society.
The focus of this volume is nothing less than the entire set of social indicators—statistics, statistical series, and all other forms of evidence—that enable us to assess where we stand and where we are going with respect to our values and goals and to evaluate specific programs and determine their impact. The kind of social indicators called for in this volume require an abandonment of the Ptolemaic perspective that sees the world revolving around us and require instead a kind of Copernican revolution through which we may better "regard our decisions as involving the total social system, and not only that part of it which revolves around our own persons."
Historically, this book can be compared with the earlier efforts of economists to create a stable and useful set of economic indicators. But the problem with economic indicators is that they deal not with the quality of life but rather with the quantity of goods and dollars. True social indicators can function as a guide for economic indicators. Clearly, the implications of the development of social indicators are revolutionary.
This pioneering work is intended specifically to state the full dimensions of the problem, to evaluate the present state of the art, and to make specific proposals for where we might go from here.