Engineers of the human soul

Engineers of the human soul (Russian: Инженеры человеческих душ, Chinese: 人类灵魂的工程师) was a term applied to writers and other cultural workers by Joseph Stalin.

The phrase was apparently coined by Yury Olesha; Viktor Shklovsky said that Olesha used it in a meeting with Stalin at the home of Maxim Gorky, and it was subsequently used by Stalin, who said «Как метко выразился товарищ Олеша, писатели — инженеры человеческих душ» ("As comrade Olesha aptly expressed himself, writers are engineers of human souls").[1] During his meeting with writers in preparation for the first Congress of the Union of Soviet Writers, Stalin said: "The production of souls is more important than the production of tanks.... And therefore I raise my glass to you, writers, the engineers of the human soul" (Joseph Stalin, "Speech at home of Maxim Gorky", 26 October 1932). It was taken up by Andrei Zhdanov and developed into the idea of Socialist realism.

Deng Xiaoping spoke approvingly of "engineers of the human soul" in the post-Mao era, while also condemning the "Gang of Four". Xiaoping stated:

This term is used extensively in the People's Republic of China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to refer to the teaching profession.


  1. ^ Союз писателей СССР, Воронежское отделение, «Подъëм» (1990), p. 48.
  2. ^ Deng Xiaoping, "Speech greeting the 4th Congress of Chinese writers and artists", October 30, 1979. Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, Vol. II (1975-1985). Beijing: People Publishing House, 2nd edition, October 1994.


  • Sheila Fitzpatrick, Cultural revolution in Russia, 1928-1931. Indiana University Press, 1984.
  • Abraham Rothberg, The heirs of Stalin: dissidence and the Soviet regime, 1953-1970. Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1972.
  • Frank Westerman, Engineers of the soul. In the footsteps of Stalin's writers. New York: Vintage, 2011.

See also

External links

  • Quotation source
  • As applied to Soviet cinema
  • Deng's 1979 speech
  • Later use by Zhdanov
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