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Soviet Culture Performings a Political Role in the Ussr in 1924-1953 sample essay

To what extent did Soviet culture perform a political role in the USSR in the years 1924-1953? By Seb Monson 12MW Soviet culture performed a political role in the USSR in the years 1924 to 1953 as it was seen by Stalin as an expression of society’s values and it needed to be shaped and directed in the same way that agriculture and industry had been to fit into the totalitarian state. However between 1924-1929 culture was fairly uncontrolled because of the relaxed policies of the New Economic Policy. On the contrary, In the 1930’s Major events occurred such as the ‘Cultural Revolution’ which aimed to remove all traces of the “bourgeois” culture by instilling socialist values into the people of the Soviet Union whether it be through Art, Theatre, Film, Music or Literature. Each section was investigated to enforce conformity to the standards set by Joseph Stalin who wanted to promote ‘Social Realism’ in its entirety. The ‘Komsomol’ were used to root out inappropriate material and disrupt plays and shows that did not fit with the values of the Cultural Revolution.

More so, new writer groups such as “The Russian Association of Proletariat Writers” were formed in 1934 to produce new literature to celebrate the achievements and experience of ordinary Russian – the “little man”. There were many harsh consequences for those whom did not conform with these strict cultural boundaries. Throughout World War II cultural aims were focused on increasing morale and socialist spirit, seen much before by Socialist Realism and other conformities of culture but some relief was allowed to produce patriotic glorifying the struggle against Germany. Moreover, post 1945 cultural aims were overall on the control of the USSR however repression reappeared. In this essay I am going to explain in detail the argument for how soviet culture did perform a political role in the Soviet Union between 1924 and 1953. Furthermore, also the fact how Stalin used the ‘cult of personality’ to help assert himself on the Soviet people in paintings, posters and literature. He was said to be the ‘big hero’. He depicted the picture of Lenin as a religious figure and adapted it in his way to help increase his control. One underlining aspect of soviet culture that performed the major political role was Socialist Realism.

In 1930, Stalin expressed his discontent at the state of art and culture in the Soviet Union. He wrote in an article in THE BOLSHEVIK saying that art should promote the state and be more accessible to the peasants and workers who had no understanding of the abstract art that had grown up since the revolution. In 1932, The Cultural Revolution was effectively brought to an end and Stalin adopted the policy of Social Realism. This policy was meant to encompass a wide range of ideas but was aimed at culture rooted in the people and being realistic in its outlook. An example of this could be seen when Stalin famously declared a gathering of Soviet writers, revealing how their task was essentially a soviet one not an artistic one. They were not to regard themselves as individuals concerned with self-expression, but as contributors to the great collective effort of reshaping thinking and behaviour of the Soviet people. These radical contrasts of the traditional intentions of an artist were in agreement with Stalin’s notions. All aspects of Soviet Culture were to be controlled as such. This totalitarian state constantly portrayed Stalin as a down-to-earth man who took into consideration for all classes, however this was quite the opposite in reality.

Overall the underlining part of Soviet Culture which played a massive political role after Stalin had succeeded in the power struggle. Moreover, a specific cultural aspect which performed a political role in the USSR between 1924 and 1953 was the Art of this time period. Although experimental and abstracted was allowed under Lenin, Stalin saw the arts as an expression of society’s values, and thus could be used as an effective propaganda instrument. Under Stalin and Socialist Realism, Arts had to portray people, scenes and events as they really were and could not be abstract. The abstract artists that remained had their work condemned and it was never exhibited. Many abstract artists had to be content to produce paintings and posters that illustrated the achievements of socialism. Arts were classed as ‘high cultures’ which soviets believed to be elitist and ‘bourgeois’ and this was the main reason for the conforming of art work.

However, many of the country’s best artists had moved abroad before the Ministry of Culture could impose this strict condemning on freedom of art as seen in the Lenin and N.E.P days of society. A specific piece of art that had one a Stalin prize in 1948 was commentated on by ‘Iskusstuo’ magazine describing it. ‘The image of Comrade Stalin is the triumphant march of communism, the symbol of courage’. This here is a specific example of how the soviet culture performed a political role in the USSR throughout most of this period. I believe this is strongly showing how much of a role soviet culture actually played on the Soviet Union and the people within it from 1924-1953. Another part of Soviet culture which in fact performed a role In the USSR was literature. It was seen after the triumph of the Bolsheviks, many Russian writers emigrated and continued their work abroad. Those that remained had to adapt their talents to the needs of the new regime. In the 1920’s, writers wishing to get their works published had to join the Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP).

The Association urged writers to concentrate on the lives and achievements of proletariat and the needs of socialism. Therefore the period 1928-1931 turned into what Martin McCauley described as the years of ‘glorification of the man in the street’. This situation was very short-lived due to Stalin demanding major changes. In 1932, RAPP was abolished and replaced by the Union of Soviet Writers. The Union imposed the new political correctness on writers and greatly reduced their creative freedom. Many writers such as ‘Solzhenitsyn’ and ‘Mandelstam’ were unable to work under such restrictions, but less able writers who accepted the need for conformity rose to fame. Andrei Zhdanov stated writers aim should now be to achieve ‘Socialist Realism’. Writers were constantly writing about the achievements of Socialism which reignited the discovery of Russian history and the great national heroes of the past.

This all had considerable effect on the people of the USSR as they were bombarded constantly with these political writings and pictures, influencing them all towards the idea of Socialist Realism and it major benefits. Overall this is one major part of the Soviet Culture which developed a political role in the Soviet Union throughout. Finally the last aspect I am going to be using specifically from Soviet Culture is Theatre and film. In 1936-7, 68 films had to be withdrawn in mid-production and another 30 taken out of circulation, In this same period, 10 out of 19 plays and ballets were ordered to be withdrawn. However, decades before this Lenin had recognised the propaganda value of the cinema in indoctrinating the largely illiterate masses with socialist principles. The Bolshevik leader described film as ‘the most important art’. Although Stalin agreed with this, he was also more strict with censorship and the conforming of any vaguely out of line productions or films.

This is why such high levels of films and theatre performances were withdrawn. A prominent victim was the director, Vsevolod Meyerhold, whose concept of ‘total theatre’ had a major influence on European theatre. It would have been though how Meyerhold’s methods of bringing theatre closer to people would follow similar notions of Socialist realism. On the contrary, his idea of artistic liberty led to a campaign being mounted against him by Stalin’s informers. This led to Meyerhold’s arrest in 1938 which inevitably lead to death 2 years later. This example shows how although it seems on the outside he was following the conformities laid down by Stalin he was treated fatally after he stepped vaguely out of line in the Social Realist point of view. Harsh treatment was apparent throughout the whole of Stalin’s time in power. The totalitarian state he had created provoked such violence. Overall Film and theatre were a large part of soviet culture which initiated political roles in the USSR.

To conclude, I believe Soviet cultures such as Arts, Literature, Films and Theatre played a large political role throughout most of this time period in the USSR. However between 1924-29 there was little control on much of the culture due to free culture because of N.E.P. Moving on, it was said by Adolf Hitler how the ‘personality cult is the best form of government’ and this very much agreed with Stalin’s notions as he monopolised Soviet life of every person in every way.

Soviet Communism was Stalinism and this further adds to the point of how largely soviet culture performed as a political role in the USSR. The Communist party became indistinguishable from Stalin as a person; he was the embodiment of the state. From the 1930’s Stalin’s picture started to appear everywhere in newspapers, magazines, books and films and pictures as mentioned earlier. Each image carried a reference to Stalin’s greatness. This aspect of glorification of Stalin, socialist realism and each specific soviet cultural aspects played a large part in the political role in the USSR in the years 1924-1953 undeniably.

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