Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Agitprop is short for отдел агитации и пропаганды (otdel agitatsii i propagandy), i.e., Department for Agitation and Propaganda, which was part of the Central and regional committees of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The department was later renamed to Ideological Department.
The term propaganda in the Russian language doesn't bear any of the negative connotations that it carries in the English language. It simply means "dissemination of ideas". In the case of Agitprop, the ideas to be disseminated are those of communism, including explanations of the policy of the Communist Party and the Soviet State. In other contexts, propaganda could mean dissemination of any kind of beneficial knowledge, e.g., of new methods in agriculture. "Agitation" meant urging people to do what Soviet leaders expected them to do; again, at various levels. In other words, propaganda was supposed to act on the mind, while agitation acted on emotions, although both usually went together, thus giving rise to the cliché "propaganda and agitation".
The term 'agitprop' is now used more generically to refer to any form of mass media, such as a television program or film, that tries to influence opinion for political, commercial or other ends. For example, a television cartoon might be described as 'agitprop' if it could be interpreted as a marketing ploy to sell toys. Interestingly, the term is almost never used in modern Russian language.
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