Soviet Culture

Culture in the USSR 1928-41

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  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 08-05-08 18:09


More liberal until 1928 when restrictions came into place

> During the 1920s, much freedom in culture (people reacting against the conservatism of the Tsarist era)

> People reacted against limitations from Church

> 'Fellow Travellers' - weren't Communists but welcomed revolution, wanted to see how it would develop

> 1928 Cultural Revolution - Russia tried to change course through industrialisation etc to create the new Soviet man

> Culture had to be used to build new Soviet society

> Fellow Travellers suddenly out of favour - weren't committed to new Russia

> Constructivists became dominant cultural group, wanted new proletarian culture based on industrialisation

> Komsomol sent out to disrupt bourgeois culture - plays etc, abstract art seen as middle class nonsense

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> Organisation set up RAPP 1928, monitored literature, tried to eliminate bourgeois influences

> 'Cult of the Little Man' - style came to light under the RAPP - literature had to reflect the lives of ordinary people (no focussing on individuals), repetitive, fairly unpopular

> Middle classes + intelligentsia driven out of literature

> 1932 Great Retreat - new themes - strength of Stalinist Russia etc. RAPP shut down, replaced by Union of Soviet Writers - tried to introduce socialist realism about showing ordinary things in an idealised way

> Stories about heroes - ordinary people achieving great things, no more Cult of the Little Man

> Much low brow literature produced, themes Russian heroes of the past, war novels became popular as they endorsed patriotism, detective novels with capitalists the criminals

> 'Genre of silence' - writers refusing to write, killed themselves/left the country, no significant books produced 1930s

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Culture - Media/Music


> Didn't change much as they were heavily censored and government controlled

> Emphasised state view - 'Pravda' (truth) - just a list of achievements


> 1920s - anything went, experimental classical

> 1928 onwards; music had to be joyous and positive - very controlled

> Folk music encouraged - Shastakovich > Lady Macbeth of Mitsenek

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Culture - Architecture


> Cultural Revolution - plans drawn up for huge communal living arrangements

> Used architecture to destroy family life; Visionary Utopianism (style of architecture changing society)

> None of the buildings ever made, purely ideological, impressive architecture to show Russia's power

> Lots of family homes during the Great Retreat, official style 'Stalinist Baroque'; decorative, intricate design

> 5/6 Moscow buildings huge - gigantomania (Moscow Metro etc), many saw it as unnecessary and tasteless

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Culture - Film


> Reflected priorities at the time; early on, revolution glorified, later all Stalin

> All film making controlled by government

> Scripts checked by state committee for cinematography - no room for creativity

> Films required to be easily accessible to viewers

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Culture - Art


> Very experimental during NEP (experimentalism tolerated in all forms)

> Later became unacceptable (paintings such as 'Beat the whites with the red wedge') - too individualistic, bourgeois

> From 1928 - genuine Soviet society trying to be created, experimental art unappealing to the masses

> Painting of 'Lenin in Smolny' too bourgeois - only focussed on one person, condemned during Cultural Revolution, Cult of the Little Man art emphasised

> Great Retreat 1932 onwards, socialist realism (official Soviet style) - meant to be easy to understand and tell a story - about how things would be ideally

> General theme either building a glorious future/enjoying fruits of labour

> Nothing abstract allowed, artists' output monitored, became known as reliable to government then commissioned to do specific works

> Focus of spiritual realism - people building the future, art aimed to inspire

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Cult of the Personality

Why was it necessary?

> Disruption + disorientation brought about by First 5YP, Purges caused bewilderment + confusion

> Former heroes revealed as traitors, saboteurs etc

> Image of Stalin reassured people - firm hand directing them, useful in holding Soviet society together

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> Regime didn't want people alienated by a remote leader - popular image of Stalin cultivated

> Paintings + posters stressed his humanity + active participation

> Stalin's relationship with children emphasised, powerful, monumental leader

> Operas + films glorified Stalin's role in Revolution as chief hero of civil war

> Exhibitions of him portrayed as a natural leader/young Christ figure

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Stories about the Cult:

> Provincial meeting - applause + standing ovation when Stalin's name mentioned - people arrested for halt in applause

> A speech of Stalin's was recorded onto gramaphone, one side entirely applause

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