As someone interested in the lives of great music composers, I’ve previously read about how composers such as Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Khachaturian and Muradeli were censored and controlled in the Soviet empire.
However recently I read some excerpts from a joint letter to Stalin written by these persecuted composers in response to the anti-formalism campaign (see Zhdanov Doctrine). The excerpts come from a book called The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold Schonberg. The forced public apology really drives home the horror and absurdity of what happens when the freedom to live naturally as a human should is destroyed by the government.
‘We are tremendously grateful to the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party and personally to you, dear Comrade Stalin, for the severe but profoundly just criticism of the present state of Soviet music…We shall bend every effort to apply our knowledge and our artistic mastery to produce vivid realistic music reflecting the life and struggles of the Soviet people.’
Makes me think Stalin was most likely quite pathetic and insecure.
The book contains more individual statements made by composers indicating the oppressive circumstances under which they suffered and their feelings of desperation, bitterness and cynicism.