standing ovation

Posted on September 24, 2009
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stalin

From The BBC

One factor that drives moderately long speeches into the realms of eternity is the amount of time taken for applause.

Soviet leaders, for example, gave long speeches with orchestrated applause and ovations, “because particularly in the 1930s those listening didn’t want to get arrested”, says Prof Service.

In the book Gulag Archipelago, author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn recounted how a fellow prisoner in the USSR labour camps told how he came to be arrested. At a local party conference, someone toasted Stalin and “stormy applause, rising to an ovation”, broke out. Even though the great leader was absent, it continued. “But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching… However, who would dare be the first to stop?

“Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a business-like expression and sat down in his seat.” That same night, he was arrested.

And Robert Conquest’s Stalin: Breaker of Nations recalls a recording of a speech by Stalin released on vinyl – the eighth side consisted entirely of a standing ovation. It’s an anecdote that makes it into Martin Amis’s 2002 novel Koba The Dread.

Although associated with long orations, Stalin only ever spoke at length while delivering Central Committee reports at congress, as did his successors, says Prof Service. It’s an anecdote that makes it into Martin Amis’s 2002 novel Koba The Dread.

Although associated with long orations, Stalin only ever spoke at length while delivering Central Committee reports at congress, as did his successors, says Prof Service.

“These were enormously long, but did have to cover economic, political, cultural and foreign policy developments and predict what was going to happen in the next 10 to 20 years. And when Brezhnev did it, he was so doddery that he sometimes read the same page twice. The speech was long enough without that.”

And when that other communist leader associated with marathon speeches, Fidel Castro, visited Chile in the 1970s to drum up support, Salvador Allende criticised his speaking style.

“Allende took the view that his vastly long speeches haranguing the Chilean people were counter-productive,” says Prof Service.

But the roots of Castro and Gaddafi’s oratory lie in ancient Greece, and the first demagogue Cleon, who understood the power of speech to win over the masses.

Among the most famous of long speeches is that made by the Athenian politician Pericles at a public funeral for those who had first fallen in the Peloponnesian War. He took the opportunity not only to praise the dead, but Athens itself.

More recently, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, delivered an epic oratory in 1927. Not for him a speech measured in mere minutes – he spoke for 36 hours and 31 minutes over six days.

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