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Picturing Russia

Picturing Russia: Explorations in Visual Culture

Valerie A. Kivelson
Joan Neuberger
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Picturing Russia
    Book Description:

    What can Russian images and objects-a tsar's crown, a provincial watercolor album, the Soviet Pioneer Palace-tell us about the Russian people and their culture?

    This wide-ranging book is the first to explore the visual culture of Russia over the entire span of Russian history, from ancient Kiev to contemporary, post-Soviet society. Illustrated with more than one hundred diverse and fascinating images, the book examines the ways that Russians have represented themselves visually, understood their visual environment, and used visual images in social and political contexts. Expert contributors discuss images and objects from all over the Russian/Soviet empire, including consumer goods, architectural monuments, religious icons, portraits, news and art photography, popular prints, films, folk art, and more.

    Each of the concise and accessible essays in the volume offers a fresh interpretation of Russian cultural history. Putting visuality itself in focus as never before,Picturing Russiaadds an entirely new dimension to the study of Russian literature, history, art, and culture. The book enriches our understanding of visual documents and shows the variety of ways they serve as far more than mere illustration.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14517-5
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. CHAPTER 1 Seeing into Being: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)
    Valerie A. Kivelson and Joan Neuberger

    Illustrating publications and presentations is easier than ever. Digital technology, the easy transfer of images from the Internet, and the willingness of conference centers, businesses, schools, and universities to invest in projection equipment make it increasingly attractive to insert images into lectures and books, presentations and papers. The result has been paradoxical. Within the humanities and social sciences, a new visual discourse has grown up alongside conventional scholarly activities, but even as we employ visual aids, we, as students, teachers, readers, audiences, and presenters, rarely give enough thought to the specific ways that visual sources contribute to our understanding of...

  2. CHAPTER 2 Dirty Old Books
    (pp. 12-16)
    Simon Franklin

    We all know what writing is for. It is there to be read. It converts words into a visual code, which we then, in the act of reading, convert back into words. The specific purpose of writing is to convey a verbal message. The idea of the written, verbal message is central to a common cultural perception of the entire past of humankind. A “prehistoric” age is widely taken to mean an age before written sources. History begins when we can read the words that people in the past wrote. To put it crudely: before the written source—before the...

  3. CHAPTER 3 Visualizing and Illustrating Early Rus Housing
    (pp. 17-20)
    David M. Goldfrank

    Almost everybody pairs shelter with food as a basic need for survival. On the most fundamental sensory level, we associate shelter with touch and smell, with the entire experience of feeling warm and dry, with the scents of the materials, the fuel, and humans living in close quarters, not with sight. So, in fact, did the early Rus, and one piece of writing showers pity on those lacking winter abodes, who could warm only one side of their bodies by an open fire and then try to stay warm by huddling together.

    Housing also has its purely visual side. When...

  4. CHAPTER 4 The Crosier of St. Stefan of Perm
    (pp. 21-27)
    A. V. Chernetsov

    The Perm Oblast Museum of Local Lore keeps in its collection the so-called staff of St. Stefan of Perm, which is richly decorated with bone carvings illustrating the biography of this missionary (fig. 4.1). Saint Stefan, who died in 1396, was renowned during his lifetime and afterward for his work converting the Komi people, Finnic pagans who populated the extreme northeast of European Russia. Saint Stefan is best known to us through the hagiographicLife of St. Stefan of Perm, composed in panegyric form by a contemporary, Epifany the Wise, who knew the saint. This voluminousLifeis of rhetorical...

  5. CHAPTER 5 Sixteenth-Century Muscovite Cavalrymen
    (pp. 28-32)
    Donald Ostrowski

    When the Mongols conquered Rus in the thirteenth century, they did so with the most advanced weapons, tactics, and strategy of the time. Traditional Russian historians have tended to deny that Mongol-Tatar weaponry and military ways had any impact on the Muscovite cavalry. Yet archaeological, written, and visual evidence belies that denial and tends to corroborate the assertion of other historians that borrowing occurred. A case in point is this woodcut, which appeared in the first edition of Sigismund von Herberstein’sRerum Moscoviticarum Commentariiand is thought to be based on drawings he made when he went to Moscow (fig....

  6. CHAPTER 6 Blessed Is the Host of the Heavenly Tsar: An Icon from the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin
    (pp. 33-37)
    Daniel Rowland

    In the sixteenth century the Muscovite state, like many early modern European states, faced the problem of securing the allegiance of its subjects in the absence of the military and bureaucratic means to compel this allegiance. In other words, the tsar and his ecclesiastic image makers had continually to persuade his subjects, particularly his major courtiers, that he and his state were worthy of their support, including their willingness to fight and even to die for him. This ongoing campaign to establish the legitimacy of the regime was complicated by the illiteracy of many, perhaps most, of these courtiers. An...

  7. CHAPTER 7 The Cap of Monomakh
    (pp. 38-41)
    Nancy Shields Kollmann

    The Cap of Monomakh—in Russian, the Shapka Monomakha—is so powerful a symbol of Russia’s past that supporters of Russian president Vladimir Putin awarded him an exact replica on his birthday in 2002.¹ Bestowing upon a democratically elected leader of a constitutional federation a facsimile of the crown of Russia’s autocratic tsars may send a politically mixed message, but it demonstrates the evocative power this object carries for Russians (fig. 7.1 [color section]).

    The Cap (or Crown) of Monomakh symbolizes to modern Russians the glory and power of Russia’s past. They read it in the light of the myth...

  8. CHAPTER 8 Church of the Intercession on the Moat/St. Basil’s Cathedral
    (pp. 42-46)
    Michael S. Flier

    Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the most famous building in all of Russia, strikes us today as a quintessential example of Eastern exoticism, with its onion-dome cupolas in brightly colored facets, zigzags, or swirls and its brilliant frescoes with twisting vines and leafy flowers—it is a fantasy straight out of theArabian Nights. A native of Moscow returning to the capital in late 1561 after a prolonged absence would have been shocked to discover the strange and wondrous assemblage on the market square, close to the bridge that spanned the moat and led to the main gate of the fortress, the...

  9. CHAPTER 9 Mapping Serfdom: Peasant Dwellings on Seventeenth-Century Litigation Maps
    (pp. 47-50)
    Valerie A. Kivelson

    For the majority of the population of the Russian Empire from the mid-seventeenth century to emancipation in the mid-nineteenth century, serfdom was the defining and limiting condition of life. Bound to the land and thereby to the landlords who owned the land, peasants could not travel or move without their masters’ permission and rendered to their masters heavy payments in labor, goods, and cash. Landlords or their bailiffs had nearly unlimited powers to intervene in the lives of their serfs, mandating marriages, selecting military conscripts, and administering what passed for justice on the estates. From the moment of its legal...

  10. CHAPTER 10 From Tsar to Emperor: Portraits of Aleksei and Peter I
    (pp. 51-56)
    Lindsey Hughes

    In a groundbreaking work published in 1961 the American historian Michael Cherniavsky juxtaposed two portraits to illustrate the shift between what he termed the “theocratic tsar” and the “sovereign emperor.”¹ The first depicted Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich (born 1629, reigned 1645–76). It came from a bound illuminated manuscript known as theGreat Book of State, orTitulary(Tituliarnik), made in the workshops of the Moscow Kremlin in 1672 and comprising short biographies and colored pen and ink portraits of Russian and foreign rulers (fig. 10.1). The second was an engraved portrait of Aleksei’s son, Peter I (“the Great,” born 1672,...

  11. CHAPTER 11 The Russian Round Table: Aleksei Zubov’s Depiction of the Marriage of His Royal Highness, Peter the First, Autocrat of All the Russias
    (pp. 57-62)
    Ernest A. Zitser

    Aleksei Fyodorovich Zubov’s (1682–1751) justly famous etching of Peter the Great’s second wedding has been reproduced so often in Russian history textbooks and has become such an emblem of the cultural revolution under way at the court of Russia’s first emperor that it appears to speak for itself (fig. 11.1). Once we have explicated its charged political context, identified the key protagonists, and pegged it as a contemporary depiction of the long-term historical processes of westernization, secularization, and female emancipation, there seems very little else left to say.¹ Yet if we take a closer look at this print, its...

  12. CHAPTER 12 An Icon of Female Authority: The St. Catherine Image of 1721
    (pp. 63-66)
    Gary Marker

    This essay focuses, quite literally, on the iconography of female political and religious authority in the early eighteenth century, on the eve of seven decades (1725–96) of almost uninterrupted female rule in Russia. For the most part it dwells on a single image, a 1721 icon of St. Catherine from the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg. Catherine of Alexandria was the name-day saint of both Catherine (Ekaterina in Russian) I (1725–27), Russia’s first crowned female ruler, and Catherine the Great (1762–96), Russia’s last female ruler.¹

    Both spatially and temporally this icon lends itself to a multidimensional...

  13. CHAPTER 13 Conspicuous Consumption at the Court of Catherine the Great: Count Zakhar Chernyshev’s Snuffbox
    (pp. 67-70)
    Douglas Smith

    A common refrain in the accounts of foreign visitors to Russia in the eighteenth century was amazement at the splendor of the tsarist court. This dazzling radiance reached its apogee in the reign of Catherine the Great (1762–96), the opulence of whose court rivaled, and in most areas surpassed, that of all the other courts of Europe. Through the imposing magnificence of the Winter Palace, with its armies of liveried servants and well-built guardsmen in their resplendent uniforms; through the unmatched collections of art and antiquities acquired en masse by the empress; and through the Technicolor brilliance of the...

  14. CHAPTER 14 Moving Pictures: The Optics of Serfdom on the Russian Estate
    (pp. 71-75)
    Thomas Newlin

    Among the rich trove of unpublished manuscripts in the Russian National Library is a partially filled album spanning the forty-year period from 1781 to 1821.¹ One of the many long-term projects of the multitalented memoirist, landscape designer, and agronomist Andrei Timofeevich Bolotov (1738–1833), the album was initiated at Bogoroditsk, the crown estate where he worked as bailiff from 1776 to 1797, and continued to garner new contributions from various acquaintances and family members for several decades after he retired to Dvorianinovo, his estate and birthplace in northern Tula Province. As a literary artifact the volume is unremarkable; consisting of...

  15. CHAPTER 15 Neither Nobles nor Peasants: Plain Painting and the Emergence of the Merchant Estate
    (pp. 76-80)
    David L. Ransel

    In the eighteenth century the Russian nobility rapidly adopted European styles, and its wealthier members were soon, in portraits at least, scarcely distinguishable from the nobles of central and western Europe. Their dress and poses resembled the European dress and poses, and their artists were either immigrants from Europe or Russians trained in European academy style and technique. The decision on the part of Russian nobles to commission individual and family portraits was a sign of their Europeanization and, as the nobility emerged as an estate, of their sense of their own importance and dignity. Before the eighteenth century scarcely...

  16. CHAPTER 16 Circles on a Square: The Heart of St. Petersburg Culture in the Early Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 81-85)
    Richard Stites

    Viewing edifices in pictures or, if on location, exclusively from the outside reduces the perception to facade, ornament, proportion, fenestration, and the like—pleasing enough on handsome structures but lacking in perceptual depth. To the modern visitor to St. Petersburg, interiors—except for those of hotels, churches, and palaces-turned-into-museums—are secondary or even wholly unseen. The great galleries, like the ones in the Russian Museum and the Hermitage, have interiors unrelated to their original purpose as royal residences. Those interiors that still perform their former function—for example, the Theater School, the Academy of Arts, the back stages of theaters...

  17. CHAPTER 17 Alexander Ivanov’s Appearance of Christ to the People
    (pp. 86-89)
    Laura Engelstein

    Appearance of Christ to the People, a painting by Alexander Andreevich Ivanov (1806–58), covers an entire wall of the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow. Based on the Gospel according to John, the painting shows John the Baptist (also called John the Precursor), as he fulfills his God-sent mission to prepare for the coming of Christ. Positioned just left of center, he directs the attention of the groups clustered in the foreground to the figure of Jesus, seen high and to the right, diminished in size against the far horizon (fig. 17.1 [color section]).

    As in other versions of this scene,...

  18. CHAPTER 18 Lubki of Emancipation
    (pp. 90-95)
    Richard Wortman

    The spirit of openness and trust that accompanied the era of reforms brought new modes of representation of the Russian monarch and the Russian people. Eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century ceremony and imagery had emphasized the distance between the emperor and the imperial elite, on the one hand, and the people, on the other. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, ideas of nationhood and popular sovereignty prompted changes in the form of imperial representation. The ceremonies and rhetoric of Official Nationality during the reign of Nicholas I (1825–55) defined the Russian nation in terms of the Russian people’s...

  19. CHAPTER 19 Folk Art and Social Ritual
    (pp. 96-99)
    Alison Hilton

    Household objects offer insights into ways of life and cultural values that are not always available from written descriptions, photographs, or statistical records. Such domestic items as serving dishes displayed on open shelves and textiles draped around icons and windows have special significance, and their decorations inform on several levels. Choices of ornamental motifs, designs, and colors express the aesthetic preferences of artists and their communities; the motifs also recall a repertoire inherited from the distant past, featuring stylized plants and animals and symbols of water and the sun. Figurative scenes show familiar activities, sometimes in combination with fanciful settings...

  20. CHAPTER 20 Personal and Imperial: Fyodor Vasiliev’s In the Crimean Mountains
    (pp. 100-103)
    Christopher Ely

    Landscape paintings have a way of hiding in plain view. Finding out what they have to tell us can require concentration and repeated observation. The Russian landscape painter Fyodor Vasiliev produced images that are not flashy or spectacular but insist on, and reward, a second look.In the Crimean Mountainsis one such unobtrusively insistent work (fig. 20.1 [color section]). At first it may appear to be little more than a vaguely interesting depiction of a remote part of the Russian Empire, a slice of southern mountain scenery intended as a souvenir for a visitor from the flat and cold...

  21. CHAPTER 21 Shop Signs, Monuments, Souvenirs: Views of the Empire in Everyday Life
    (pp. 104-108)
    Willard Sunderland

    For a long time the focus in Western writing on imperial Russia fell much more on Russia than on the Russian Empire. Topics with a high Russian content were the norm—the history of the Russian court or the Russian peasantry, for example—and the usual settings were Moscow, St. Petersburg, or the Slavic-dominated “Russian center.” Scholars did not wholly ignore the empire’s history, but they tended to treat it separately, as if it were somehow detachable from the rest of Russia’s past. Questions of Russian expansion and policies toward the non-Russian peoples became the domain of “nationality specialists,” while...

  22. CHAPTER 22 The Storming of Kars
    (pp. 109-112)
    Stephen M. Norris

    With war raging in the Balkans between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in 1878, the peasants of Batishchevo, near Smolensk, enthusiastically received a visit from a peddler. The visitor, Mikhaila, carried with him images of the war to sell to the peasants, many of whom had relatives and friends fighting. To entice his customers, Mikhaila pulled a few of his favorite images from his collection and told his eager audience about their contents: “‘Here you have,’ he explains to thebabasand day laborers who have gathered around him in the dining room, ‘here you have Skobelev, the general, he...

  23. CHAPTER 23 A. O. Karelin and Provincial Bourgeois Photography
    (pp. 113-118)
    Catherine Evtuhov

    Photographs really are experience captured,” writes Susan Sontag in her essay “On Plato’s Cave.”¹ The photographic medium came into its own in the 1870s and 1880s, as technologies became sophisticated enough to experiment, and photographers developed philosophical perspectives on whether their pursuit served the interests of science or of art, or whether indeed photography could become one or the other. The high point in the career of Andrei Osipovich Karelin (1837–1906) came in precisely this period. From 1866 he lived and worked in the provincial town of Nizhny Novgorod, perhaps best known for its yearly trade fair—the biggest...

  24. CHAPTER 24 European Fashion in Russia
    (pp. 119-123)
    Christine Ruane

    Virtually every Russian history textbook mentions Peter the Great’s decree of 1700 that Russians abandon traditional dress and wear western European fashions instead. In spite of the importance of this edict, little explanation is offered as to why the tsar issued the order or how his dress revolution was accomplished. Most of us see this act as an expression of the tsar’s autocratic authority—Peter was so powerful that he could command his subjects to change their clothes, and they obeyed him. There is more to the story of Peter’s dress revolution, however. It offers a visual way of understanding...

  25. CHAPTER 25 The Savior on the Waters Church War Memorial in St. Petersburg
    (pp. 124-127)
    Nadieszda Kizenko

    From the second half of the nineteenth century to 1917, churches in the Russian style sprang up by the thousands all over the Russian Empire. They represented a new approach to memory, individual expression, and public policy. In a testament to changing goals, however, they disappeared nearly as quickly and completely as they had come. The Savior on the Waters memorial to the Russo-Japanese war exemplifies their story (fig. 25.1).

    In the late eighteenth century, the Italianate putti, neoclassical columns, and Germanic spires of the imperial capital exemplified the notion of St. Petersburg as a window on the West and...

  26. CHAPTER 26 Workers in Suits: Performing the Self
    (pp. 128-132)
    Mark D. Steinberg

    Four workers stare out at us from a page of a Soviet book on Moscow printers during the revolution of 1905 (fig. 26.1).¹ On the surface, these pictures are simply illustrations of individuals in a narrative text, one of many histories recalling working-class struggles in Russia and especially the rebellion that compelled a deeply conservative tsar to grant limited civil rights and an elected legislature. But these pictures are also expressive as visual objects. The traditional oval shape, as if the portraits were to be held in pendants or framed and placed on a table in visual remembrance of family...

  27. CHAPTER 27 Visualizing Masculinity: The Male Sex That Was Not One in Fin-de-Siècle Russia
    (pp. 133-138)
    Louise McReynolds

    Ivan Mozzhukhin, the most popular Russian movie star in the prerevolutionary era, posed for the postcard shot that reproduced his image for his legions of fans (fig. 27.1). Dressed neatly rather than nattily in a pinstripe suit, a wide tie, and a shirt with a stiff collar, he sits on an overstuffed, flowered couch. Directing his tender gaze at the black poodle in his arms, he raises one of the poodle’s paws to the camera. At first blush Mozzhukhin appears remarkably feminine for a popular male actor; indeed, this photograph resembles a publicity shot of the famed ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya...

  28. CHAPTER 28 Pictographs of Power: The 500-Ruble Note of 1912
    (pp. 139-141)
    James Cracraft

    Between 1898 and 1912, under the direction of the famous Sergei Witte, minister of finance, the Imperial State Bank in St. Petersburg issued a series of state credit notes in denominations of one, three, five, ten, twenty-five, fifty, one hundred, and five hundred rubles, all of them elegantly, not to say beautifully, designed. The series embodied Witte’s monetary reform of 1897, whereby he stabilized Russia’s hitherto grossly fluctuating currency, thus facilitating foreign investment in Russia and the empire’s ability to float foreign loans (both essential to Witte’s ambitious program of intensive industrialization). All previously issued notes were recalled to the...

  29. CHAPTER 29 Visualizing 1917
    (pp. 142-147)
    William G. Rosenberg

    Great upheavals like the Russian Revolution of 1917, however complex, are commonly reduced to simple political narratives. In the Russian case, the narratives usually describe how the revolution “began” in the Petrograd food lines late in February, developed after the tsar’s abdication through the dual-power conflicts between the soviets and the Provisional Government, was challenged by the June offensive and the Kornilov rebellion, and concluded with the October Revolution (logically, tragically, or triumphantly, depending on who does the telling). Such one-dimensional stories project an image of the revolution as a struggle for power. Whether this power is envisioned in political...

  30. CHAPTER 30 Looking at Tatlin’s Stove
    (pp. 148-151)
    Christina Kiaer

    In December 1924 an article appeared in the popular magazineRed Panorama(Krasnaia panorama) under the boldface title “The New Everyday Life” (“Novyi byt”). It described the avant-garde artist Vladimir Tatlin’s current work in his studio, the Section for Material Culture in Leningrad, and showed photographs of Tatlin with his creations: an overcoat, a men’s sportswear suit, pattern pieces, and a large wood-burning stove, all of which were designed as prototypes for industrial mass production although none were ever mass-produced. Tatlin was famous to a broad audience for his spectacular design for theMonument to the Third Internationalof 1920,...

  31. CHAPTER 31 Soviet Images of Jehovah in the 1920s
    (pp. 152-156)
    Robert Weinberg

    Russian anti-Semites believed that Jews threatened the well-being and stability of Russia because they engaged in capitalist exploitation of non-Jews, subverted the political order by participating in the revolutionary movement, and embraced a religion intent on promoting Jewry’s domination of the world.¹ Although scholars have explored Russian anti-Semitism in terms of policies, activities, and the printed word both before and after the revolutionary divide of 1917, they have devoted less attention to visual depictions of Jews and Judaism. Pictorial representations of Jehovah published in the Soviet Union during the 1920s, as we will see, supplement what we already know about...

  32. CHAPTER 32 National Types
    (pp. 157-161)
    Francine Hirsch

    Can images tell their own stories? How much information or context do we need to make sense of a series of tables or photographs? Take the images of Chuvash, Mishar, and Russian “types,” for example, shown in figures 32.1–32.3. What do these images evoke for us? We see three sets of headshots, each set photographed from the same three angles. All of the subjects have serious expressions; all are in fixed positions, holding themselves still for the camera. The photographs are in black and white. There is no date. A pair of calipers, a standard tool used in physical-anthropological...

  33. CHAPTER 33 Envisioning Empire: Veils and Visual Revolution in Soviet Central Asia
    (pp. 162-167)
    Douglas Northrop

    In Central Asia the Muslim and Slavic worlds met (and sometimes collided) across a broad cultural divide. Literacy levels were low, so the encounter was expressed in a language that was as much visual as textual or oral. Merely by acting or dressing in a certain way, people made nonverbal statements about their identity, about state power, and about the future of Central Asian and Soviet society. They did so, moreover, with specific viewers in mind.

    Party policy in the exotic “East” aimed at multiple audiences. It had to reach local men and women but also to inspire the wider...

  34. CHAPTER 34 The Visual Economy of Forced Labor: Alexander Rodchenko and the White Sea–Baltic Canal
    (pp. 168-174)
    Erika Wolf

    In 1933, Alexander Rodchenko extensively photographed Belomorstroi, the construction of the White Sea–Baltic Canal, a forced labor project administered by the Soviet secret police.¹ His photographs appeared in numerous publications, including an issue of the magazineUSSR in Construction(SSSR na stroike) designed by the artist. While other modernists were persecuted by the regime, Rodchenko celebrated the Gulag system of labor camps in slick propaganda. The work of Soviet artists after April 1932, when the Central Committee dissolved all independent cultural organizations, is often dismissed as compromised. Rodchenko’s photographs and photomontages of the construction of the White Sea–Baltic...

  35. CHAPTER 35 The Cinematic Pastoral of the 1930s
    (pp. 175-180)
    Emma Widdis

    Igor Savchenko’s film-musicalThe Accordion(1934) pictures farm laborers at work and play. In the original film sequence from which the frames shown here are taken, they dance and sing to the merry strains of the accordion of the film’s title, scythe the fields, then break for a lunch of simple fare. Meanwhile, the film’s hero, Timoshka, continues to work with unflagging energy (figs. 35.1–35.3). The scene is apparently timeless, a glimpse of rural harmony and healthy labor reminiscent of Leo Tolstoy’sAnna Karenina. Yet it supposedly depicts part of Soviet reality, the collectivized countryside of Stalin’s Russia in...

  36. CHAPTER 36 Portrait of Lenin: Carpets and National Culture in Soviet Turkmenistan
    (pp. 181-184)
    Adrienne Edgar

    Until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the carpet titledPortrait of Leninoccupied a prominent place in the collection of the Turkmen State Museum of Art in Ashgabat (fig. 36.1 [color section]). Handwoven in the rich colors and delicate patterns characteristic of Turkmen carpets, it portrays a stern-looking Lenin framed by a traditional carpet border. It may seem incongruous to see the face of a Russian revolutionary leader peering out of a Central Asian carpet. If we look more closely, however, this image can tell us a great deal about the nature of the Soviet multinational state...

  37. CHAPTER 37 The Moscow Metro
    (pp. 185-188)
    Mike O’Mahony

    The Moscow metro is one of the most spectacular engineering, architectural, and design achievements of the Stalinist era. Begun in the 1930s as part of the plan for the reconstruction of the Soviet capital, the Moscow metro continued to expand throughout the Soviet era and by the late 1980s consisted of over 120 miles of track and 138 stations. There can be little doubt, however, that it was during the early stages of the project, and in particular in the 1930s, that the most dramatic developments occurred and that some of the most beautiful stations were designed and built. Between...

  38. CHAPTER 38 The Soviet Spectacle: The All-Union Agricultural Exhibition
    (pp. 189-195)
    Evgeny Dobrenko

    The All-Union Agricultural Exhibition (AAE) can justifiably be considered one of the brightest examples of Stalinist architecture. Originally opened in Moscow in 1939, then rebuilt and reopened in 1954, the exhibition was again transformed in 1958 into its late-Soviet incarnation as the Exhibition of the Achievements of the People’s Economy of the USSR. The Soviet state enlisted culture to produce socialism through what might be called the derealization of life. As the philosopher Mikhail Ryklin asserts, “From the beginning, the Exhibition was planned to be a gigantic, agitational, theatrical operation realized by architects, builders, directors, actors, and tour guides supervised...

  39. CHAPTER 39 Motherland Calling? National Symbols and the Mobilization for War
    (pp. 196-200)
    Karen Petrone

    In the first half of the twentieth century, the poster came into prominence as a modern medium of mass communication. Posters promoted commerce, educated the public, and mobilized citizens for war. The heyday of the poster coincided with the era of total war, during which a victorious outcome was determined not only by military strategies but by the effectiveness with which a government mustered its economic and social resources. During the two world wars, Russian and Soviet propagandists designed posters to motivate the population to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the nation.

    A key aspect of war propaganda...

  40. CHAPTER 40 Visual Dialectics: Murderous Laughter in Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible
    (pp. 201-206)
    Joan Neuberger

    When Stalin commissioned Sergei Eisenstein to make a film about Ivan the Terrible in 1941, it was widely assumed that the film would follow the prescribed historical thinking on Ivan: it would glorify the sixteenth-century tsar (and his twentieth-century counterpart) as the founder of the Russian state and justify his use of mass terror against the boyars who opposed him. Eisenstein had little interest in making that film, but Ivan’s story offered him the possibility to experiment with his evolving ideas about filmmaking, psychology, politics, and aesthetics. He resolved to make a film that would be acceptable to the ruling...

  41. CHAPTER 41 Soviet Jewish Photographers Confront World War II and the Holocaust
    (pp. 207-213)
    David Shneer

    On May 9, 1945, Mark Markov-Grinberg, a photographer for the Soviet army newspaperThe Fighter’s Word(Slovo boytsa), entered the grounds of the Stutthof concentration camp with the 48th Regiment and took a series of photographs that were some of the most graphic images of war he ever created. In addition toThis Cannot Be Forgotten(Eto ne zabyvaetsia), a haunting and seemingly staged image of an arm in a crematorium, Markov-Grinberg photographed gas chambers, zyklon B canisters, and other relics of Nazi atrocities (fig. 41.1). In interviews, he describes this series as the war photographs that touched him most...

  42. CHAPTER 42 The Morning of Our Motherland: Fyodor Shurpin’s Portrait of Stalin
    (pp. 214-217)
    Mark Bassin

    The Morning of Our Motherlandis one of the most popular and important examples of socialist realist painting from the period of late or “high” Stalinism, which extended from the end of World War II down to Stalin’s death in 1953 (fig. 42.1 [color section]). Its creator, Fyodor Shurpin (1904–72), was part of a generation of young Soviet “peasant” painters who came from rural backgrounds and emphasized themes of agriculture and country landscapes in their work. Completed in 1948, Shurpin’s painting was immediately hailed by critics and the viewing public alike as an outstanding achievement, and in the following...

  43. CHAPTER 43 The Pioneer Palace in the Lenin Hills
    (pp. 218-223)
    Susan E. Reid

    You could be forgiven for never noticing the Pioneer Palace in Moscow’s Sparrow Hills. Or you may have dismissed it as just another of those postwar prefabs that remind you of your high school. Yet when the Pioneer Palace was built, between 1958 and 1962, at the height of the Thaw, this complex of glass and reinforced concrete structures, nestling unassumingly in a wooded hillside, inspired enormous enthusiasm. Even the First Secretary of the Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev, pronounced the palace a “fine example of good taste” (fig. 43.1).¹

    The Pioneer Palace was a palace for children. Built in an...

  44. CHAPTER 44 Mikhail Romm’s Ordinary Fascism
    (pp. 224-229)
    Josephine Woll

    The filmOrdinary Fascismwas conceived in response to the power of images. In 1963 the critics Maia Turovskaia and Yury Khaniutin watched thousands of yards of film footage from Weimar and Nazi Germany, much of it captured by Red Army forces from German archives. “We were amazed,” they later wrote, “at how much the face of Germany had changed. Life became completely standardized. The whole country was a faceless mass, raising its hand and hysterically shouting ‘Heil!’”¹ They originally intended to show that transformation in a blend of documentary footage, which would convey the passage of time, and clips...

  45. CHAPTER 45 Solaris and the White, White Screen
    (pp. 230-232)
    Lilya Kaganovsky

    One of the premier filmmakers of the post-Stalin period, Andrei Arsenevich Tarkovsky (1932–86) completed only five feature films in the Soviet Union and two in the West, before his death in Paris in 1986. His films, which began withThe Steamroller and the Violin(Katok i skripka,1960) andIvan’s Childhood(Ivanovo detstvo,1962) and ended withThe Sacrifice(Offret,1986), are each in their own way masterpieces of world cinema. In each Tarkovsky strives to combine the visual and formal possibilities of filmmaking with an intensely personal web of memory, history, and art. The films drew criticism from...

  46. CHAPTER 46 After Malevich—Variations on the Return to the Black Square
    (pp. 233-238)
    Jane A. Sharp

    Kazimir Malevich’sBlack Square(1915) and its legacy in the visual arts in Russia had unique significance for avant-garde artists in the Soviet era, particularly after the Thaw (1953–62). For this generation, the painting, an irregular rectangle (nearly square) on a white ground, embodied both the myth of creative work in the prerevolutionary period and its real impact on their own work (fig. 46.1). Launched at “0.10: The Last Futurist Exhibition” in St. Petersburg in December 1915 as a spontaneous and intuitive (though historically self-conscious) act, the square was presented by Malevich as the founding element of suprematism. This...

  47. CHAPTER 47 Imagining Soviet Rock: Akvarium’s Triangle
    (pp. 239-242)
    Polly McMichael

    A strip of carpet runs along the polished floor of a corridor. A man wearing a dark suit and pale shoes, with a strange circular object attached to the back of his head, steps away from us, toward a window where a figure stands on a radiator, partly hidden by a translucent curtain (fig. 47.1). In 2002 this image was used on the front cover of the compact disc re-release ofTriangle(Treugol’nik) by the rock group Akvarium, founded by the singer and songwriter Boris Grebenshchikov in 1972.¹ The design used for this compact disc was based on the photography...

  48. CHAPTER 48 Keeping the Ancient Piety: Old Believers and Contemporary Society
    (pp. 243-247)
    Roy R. Robson and Elena B. Smilianskaia

    In Russian literature and history there is a stereotypical view of Old Believers: old men with beards and women in headscarves spending countless hours in church and arguing over mundane points of theology. To some extent, the stereotype is true. Old Believers have tried to retain the ancient piety of seventeenth-century Russian Orthodoxy, convinced that the old rituals offer the path to salvation. Mostly, rituals are liturgical in form, showing the correct ways to stand, read, sing, and pray. Rituals, however, can also affect secular activities, guiding Old Believers in the dos and don’ts of their lives. Such rituals often...

  49. CHAPTER 49 Viktor Vasnetsov’s Bogatyrs: Mythic Heroes and Sacrosanct Borders Go to Market
    (pp. 248-253)
    Helena Goscilo

    As the redoubtable protector of national borders and Orthodox Christianity, the Russianbogatyrlooms large in multiple cultural genres throughout the ages. From medieval epic songs (byliny) and legends to fairy tales, poems, posters, and opera libretti, the bogatyr embodies the ethos of medieval Russia, with its sui generis embrace of both pagan and Christian rituals. The hyperbolic image of this divinely ordained incarnation of valorous masculinity has practically vanished from contemporary verbal texts, whether written or oral. Visual representations of the bogatyr, by contrast, continue to thrive.

    PROPHYLACTIC IDEALS. Within this iconography, no image of the bogatyr matches two...

  50. CHAPTER 50 Landscape and Vision at the White Sea–Baltic Canal
    (pp. 254-258)
    Michael Kunichika

    A network of camps encompassing thousands of square miles in Karelia, in the northwest of Russia, housed the prisoners who labored on the construction of the White Sea–Baltic Canal (Belomorsko-baltiiskii kanal) in 1931–33 and who later maintained it or worked in timber production in the area around it.¹ Located throughout the region’s terrain of forests, marshes, and fields, the barracks constituting this site of the Gulag are now in varying states of ruin. Some are barely discernible: we see rectangular pits in the ground, posts jutting out in a field, or just bare foundations. Others remain with buckling...

  51. Chronology of Russian History
    (pp. 259-262)