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Blueprints and Blood: The Stalinization of Soviet Architecture, 1917-1937

Blueprints and Blood: The Stalinization of Soviet Architecture, 1917-1937

Hugh D. Hudson
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 278
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    Blueprints and Blood: The Stalinization of Soviet Architecture, 1917-1937
    Book Description:

    Analyzing "totalitarianism from below" in a crucial area of Soviet culture, Hugh Hudson shows how Stalinist forces within the architectural community destroyed an avant-garde movement of urban planners and architects, who attempted to create a more humane built environment for the Soviet people. Through a study of the ideas and constructions of these visionary reformers, Hudson explores their efforts to build new forms of housing and "settlements" designed to free the residents, especially women, from drudgery, allowing them to participate in creative work and to enjoy the "songs of larks." Resolving to obliterate this movement of human liberation, Stalinists in the field of architecture unleashed a "little" terror from below, prior to Stalin's Great Terror.

    Using formerly secret Party archives made available by perestroika, Hudson finds in the rediscovered theoretical work of the avant-garde architects a new understanding of their aims. He shows, for instance, how they saw the necessity of bringing elite desires for a transformed world into harmony with the people's wish to preserve national culture. Such goals brought their often divided movement into conflict with the Stalinists, especially on the subject of collectivization. Hudson's provocative work offers evidence that in spite of the ultimate success of the Stalinists, the Bolshevik Revolution was not monolithic: at one time it offered real architectural and human alternatives to the Terror.

    Originally published in 1993.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7282-4
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. List of abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    DURING the formative years of the Russian Revolution, urban theorists together with practicing architects and urban planners attempted the firstperestroikain Soviet history: the creation of a new socialist form of human settlement, a “social condenser” bringing about a more humane society in which there would be neither overcrowded cities nor isolated villages. This new society would guarantee the free development of individuality; it would assure the peasants and workers the full benefits of contemporary cultural development and allow them the freedom “to enjoy the songs of skylarks.” Their effort at social transformation is intrinsically connected to the Soviet...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Revolution and Architectural Schools of Thought
    (pp. 15-51)

    ALTHOUGH rooted in the question of the role of art and the artist in a socialist society, the war among avant-garde and conservative architects and cultural bureaucrats to determine the path that the construction of a socialist society would take could not be contained in so narrow a social and cultural arena. To those engaged in the architectural struggle, striving for socialism meant first gaining control of the definition of such an environment, and that, fundamentally, was apoliticalquestion. The combatants found themselves immersed in issues of nationalism, the appropriate power of central state organs, the prerogatives of professionals,...

  8. CHAPTER 2 OSA and the People’s Dreams
    (pp. 52-67)

    OSA’s break from intelligentsia isolation could not have been predicted from its initial approach to architecture and society. It derived, instead, from the group’s attempts to destroy two of the most traditional aspects of prerevolutionary life: the family and the city. In the early years of the organization, Roman Khiger, a leading social theorist and architectural historian, declared the architect’s primacy in leading the people to the promised land of socialism. The architect would “correct the direction and form of development of all types of human habitation, social and industrial buildings, as well as architectural complexes—cities and villages—allowing...

  9. CHAPTER 3 The Foundations of Stalinism in Architecture
    (pp. 68-83)

    AS OSA groped for a path along which it and the working class could walk together tow ard a socialist built environment, the Party, with political power firmly in the hands of the Stalinists, finally broke its silence on architecture and urban planning. The criticisms of society and of contemporary Soviet cities voiced by theorists of OSA and other modernist architectural groups produced a Central Committee resolution establishing the Party’s official position on the housing problem. This intervention portended much, for until this time the Party had allowed the urban theorists to debate among themselves without formal guidance from above....

  10. CHAPTER 4 The School of Revolutionary Architecture: VKhUTEMAS
    (pp. 84-100)

    THE STAKES were clear to all: whoever succeeded in molding the built environment thereby claimed the field in one of the major battles to define Russia’s cultural revolution. The combatants also recognized Max Weber’s in sight into the twentieth century: he who controls the bureaucracy commands the revolution. Aware that lastin depended on the ability to win the hearts and minds of their “sons,” in particular to institutionalize values with in that generation, architects waged their fight with special vigor within the walls of VKhUTEMAS, revolutionary Russia’s most prestigious school of architecture and art. To understand the nature of modernism...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Students and the Architectural Wars
    (pp. 101-117)

    DESPITE the difficulties inherent in attempting to Jeain in an intellectual war zone, students continued to flock to the Architecture Faculty. Within a year of VKhUTEMAS’s opening, the administration had been forced to forbid students in other departments from transferring into architecture.¹ How did the students align themselves in the struggles surrounding them, and how well could they perform within the politically heated environment created by the warring modernists? Some suggestions for answering the former question are provided by a departmental self-study produced in 1924.² The findings demonstrate that ASNOVA had reasons for fearing its demise as anything other than...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Stalin’s Agents in Architecture: VOPRA
    (pp. 118-135)

    THE PLAN to build revolution through the efforts of newly educated architects who would transform the nature of and physically restructure industrialized society failed. Numerous reasons have been advanced for that failure, but one is primary. Unable to accept the need to work cooperatively on a curriculum of revolution in architecture, the fathers at VKhUTEMAS taught their student sons not a new architecture but rather an old politics. Many of these apprentice builders learned above all else intolerance and deceit, and the assurance that the ends indeed necessitated Stalinist means. No students had learned these lessons better than those who...

  13. CHAPTER 7 The Deintellectualization of Architecture
    (pp. 136-146)

    FOR thirteen years revolutionary architects had debated the characteristics of a socialist built environment. In the process, some within the architectural community reflected the culture of intolerance and violence that had given rise to tsarist autocracy and was well on its way to producing Stalinism. Paralleling, if not aping, the behavior of the politicians, architects had fallen into vicious ad hom inem attacks with but little connection to the problem of housing people in a liberating environment. With ego dominating over intelligence, the ASNOVA leadership had followed the same deadly path that Bukharin had blazed, seeking allies among the Stalinist...

  14. CHAPTER 8 Mikhail Okhitovich and the Terror in Architecture
    (pp. 147-165)

    HAD Mikhail Okhitovich merely built his reputation as a champion of decentralization and respect for individualism, he might not have been selected for sacrifice before the new god of Stalinist architecture. But he genuinely threatened the Stalinists by his ability, and continued willingness, to argue his position from a firm base in Marxist theory. That talent and political commitment made him particularly vulnerable in the mid-1930s; for, more clearly and forcefully than any other member of the architectural avant-garde, he joined his architectural criticism to a transparent condemnation of collectivization and championed the needs of the village, arguing that only...

  15. CHAPTER 9 Organizing a Victory Celebration
    (pp. 166-184)

    MUCH like the Show Trials of Stalin’s political opponents, the Congress of Soviet Architects was to be a celebration of victory over the modernists, a festival commemorating the refeudalization of architecture and the return to state worship. For the Party, therefore, it was imperative to govern the proceedings, and as early as October 1932, during the initial planning for the congress, Lunacharsky him self took control of the selection of the inaugural speaker. Alabian appropriated for himself the responsibility for approving all remaining ones.¹ But at that time the Stalinists had yet completely to push the old leadership aside, and...

  16. CHAPTER 10 The Victory Congress?
    (pp. 185-202)

    AS THE PARTY architects surveyed the political situation, they could only conclude that 1936 had been a disaster. Their efforts to purge modernist architects from control of the Moscow Soviet workshops and to win the loyalty of younger architects had failed miserably. Despite the arrest of Okhitovich and the ensuing anti-Okhitovich campaign, the modernists had refused simply to collapse and allow the Stalinists to assume control. Some among the modernists, led by Aleksandr Vesnin, had responded to this terror by rededicating them selves to preserving the heritage of constructivism and to winning the hearts and minds of the younger generation....

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 203-216)

    IN THE ERA of the Soviet reaction against communism it is all too easy to fall victim to that constant urge to rewrite history to fit the prejudices of the day. Following the aborted coup of August 1991, the impulse to simplify the past in the mistaken belief that such would assist the pursuit of present goals manifested itself once more, as it had in 1917 when the Bolsheviks, and others, began to rewrite the history of tsarist Russia. In the creation of myth now under way, all things revolutionary are being tarred with the brush of Stalinism. That old...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 217-246)
  19. Selected bibliography
    (pp. 247-254)
  20. Index
    (pp. 255-260)