No grim images of the Gulag here. Only idealised depictions of smiling peasants and workers. Like many aspects of the USSR its art can be divided into two periods; 1917-1928 and 1928 onwards. Prior to 1928 there was an amazing and genuine democratic flowering of artistic innovation which has continued to influence modern art to this day. A number of schools of art promoting different styles and themes; Suprematism, Cubo-futurism, Constructivism, Proletkultism; all prospered under Lenin (despite the latter's personal dislike of modernism). These were all suppressed under Stalin and replaced with a single style and totalitarian message in the name of 'Socialist Realism'. The epic film maker Sergei Eisenstein whose films 'October', 'Strike' and 'Battleship Potemkin' documented the revolutionary period and remain classics, had his work censured under Stalin's regime. Stalin is also said to have been responsible for the most obscene of all distortions; Lenin's own enbalmed body turned into a museum exhibit against the revolutionary's own wishes to be buried alongside his mother. Several art critics have drawn parallels between 'Socialist Realism' and the Neo-Classicism of Nazi Germany; smiling, 'perfect', people in idealised settings depicted in styles drawn from the pre-modern era masking a reality in which modern artistic forms had been suppressed. The Nazi Exhibition of Jewish and Degenerate Art finds an uncomfortable parallel in the fact that many of the Soviet Union's suppressed and exiled avant-garde artists were also Jewish or part Jewish; (e.g. Eisenstein, Brik, Chagall, Lissitsky). I could go on for much longer in the same vein but I'll leave it here for now.
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