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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Red Wedge: Towards a Perspective of Soviet Propaganda in Light of Evolutionary Biology

  • Author(s): Bruins, Christine
  • et al.

Over the course of the early Soviet Union, the content and nature of propaganda exhibits increasing alignment with advantageous biological traits, particularly the human aptitude for indoctrination. Drawing from evolutionary biology, psychology, and history, Soviet propaganda will be analyzed as a vehicle of education and advertisement. Under the pretext of natural selection by way of an evolutionary theory of motivation, definitive patterns existed within Soviet propaganda, of which those found in posters and newspapers will receive examination. Human behavior is directionally motivated by survival, and the human propensity to accept ideologies contrary to fundamental mechanisms of individual survival suggest that the ability for indoctrination confers some evolutionary benefits. As the Soviet Union’s political situation changed between 1917 and 1932, propaganda experienced simultaneous transformations in accordance with both politics and human evolution. Methods employed under Stalin proved more adept than those previously employed by Lenin at appealing to innate biological predispositions, including the human desire for societal stability through hierarchical organization and the desirable positive associations among ‘in-group’ members when a defined contrasting ‘out-group’ exists. In this light, the evolution of propaganda effectively illustrates unconscious modifications within propaganda machines to better appeal to human biological traits that have been selected for under the processes of evolution.

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