Dignity, Pride, Trust and Ability to “Be Alive” in (Auto)biographic Texts of 1930–1940s

The research is based on following archive materials by: A. Bannikov, the first director of Uralmashinstroy (1895–1932); V. Anfimov, engineer of УЖКХ of Uralmash district (1900–1991); V. Vasiliev, founder of Kondo-Sosvinsky sanctuary (1892–1942); V. Raevsky, research scientist of this sanctuary (1909–1947); documentary work “Life of a Soviet family” (2005) by S. Navarskaya (1932–2013), Uralmash engineer, inventor of “Malyutka” washing machine with diary excerpts of her parents; and “Childhood memories” by N. Vvedenskaya, a geologist (1913–2015).

In terms of biographical discourse, the category of dignity is receptive: it is accompanied by the concepts of broad cultural outlook, involvement in creation; aesthetic sensitivity, sense of humour, sensation of “life abundance”; internal tenacity; personal modesty; special communicative qualities (combination of delicacy and benevolence with firm moral values); and specificity of experiencing time (lasting longer and not limited to short terms).

As a personal and behavioural trait, at this period dignity demonstrates a generational dependence by transforming into synonymous but not identical values: pride, responsibility, activity etc. “The fracture line” follows the timeline of catastrophic social disruptions: charismatic first directors of “pre-revolutionary formation” perceived the time in a more sensitive manner; outcomes of early (and by no means self-sacrificing) death were included in diaries. Immensely difficult circumstances were changed for “one’s own benefit”; the situation of maximum level of personal responsibility coincides with the shift of value balance from individual to collective (and corporate); all the qualities were played crescendo and hypertrophied: the dignity was often replaced by pride. Conviction of one’s own forces is connected to the impending aggression. Cases of hesitation, doubt and exhaustion were perceived in an especially sensitive manner and experienced like dying and sensing “the death within.

It is important to point out that the sensation of this quality in someone else was making an almost magical impression on anyone in 1930–1940s and wasn't forgotten through the years, which was reflected in their texts. Possibly, it was happening due to the fact that even having this quality meant belonging to a different “personal framework” and showed a different attitude towards the meaning of life, its values, a different level of trust towards people and the world in general.