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'Spontaneous De-Stalinization'

People would recall the war as a period of relative freedom compared to the years before. Forced to act on their own initiative, without thinking of the risks, people spoke more openly than they had done in 1930s, and from this activity a new sense of nationhood emerged. The historian Mikhail Gefter, then an army doctor, describes the war as a period of 'spontaneous de-Stalinization': 'We remained Soviet, but in those years the universal human spirit also entered into us.'

Soldiers talked. Small groups of comrades united by the fighting were a safe environment to discuss what they were fighting for. The soldiers hoped for a better way of life after the war. Many thought the collective farms would be abolished. They talked about the need to open churches, increase democracy, or end the Party system root and branch.

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