Soviet Society and Culture


Новый советский человек
The New Soviet Man

"Study the Great Path of the Party of Lenin and Stalin!"
a young man recreates himself.
The New Soviet man, as postulated by the ideologists of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was an archetype of a person with certain qualities that were said to be emerging as dominant among all citizens of the Soviet Union, irrespective of the country's cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity, creating a single Soviet people, Soviet nation.

"Study the Great Path of the Party of Lenin and Stalin !": a young man recreates himself.
From the early times, ideologists of Communism have postulated that within the new society of pure communism and the social conditions therein, a 'New Man' and 'New Woman' would develop with qualities reflecting surrounding circumstances of post-scarcity and unprecedented scientific development.

Leon Trotsky
For example, Leon Trotsky wrote in Literature and Revolution about the "Communist man", "man of the future":
'Man will make it his purpose to master his own feelings, to raise his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent, to extend the wires of his will into hidden recesses, and thereby to raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman.'

Leon Trotsky; born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein; 7 November 1879 – 21 August 1940) was a Jewish Russian revolutionary and theorist, Marxist Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army.

Wilhelm Reich
As Wilhelm Reich wrote:
"Will the new socio-economic system reproduce itself in the structure of the people's character ? If so, how ? Will his traits be inherited by his children ? Will he be a free, self-regulating personality ? Will the elements of freedom incorporated into the structure of the personality make any authoritarian forms of government unnecessary ?"

Wilhelm Reich (24 March 1897 – 3 November 1957) was an Austrian psychoanalyst, a member of the second generation of psychoanalysts after Sigmund Freud, and one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry. He was the author of several influential books and essays, most notably 'Character Analysi' (1933), 'The Mass Psychology of Fascism' (1933), and 'The Sexual Revolution'(1936). His work on character contributed to the development of Anna Freud's 'The Ego' and the 'Mechanisms of Defence' (1936), and his idea of muscular armour – the expression of the personality in the way the body moves – shaped innovations such as body psychotherapy, Fritz Perls's Gestalt therapy, Alexander Lowen's bioenergetic analysis, and Arthur Janov's primal therapy. His writing influenced generations of intellectuals: during the 1968 student uprisings in Paris and Berlin, students scrawled his name on walls and threw copies of 'The Mass Psychology of Fascism' at the police.

Author and philosopher Bernard Byhovsky, Ph.D. writes:

"The new man is endowed, first of all, with a new ethical outlook."
The three major changes postulated to be indispensable for the building of the communist society were economical and political changes, accompanied with the changes in the human personality.

'The New Man'

'The Soviet Man' was to be selflesslearnedhealthy and enthusiastic in spreading the socialist Revolution.
Adherence to Marxism-Leninism, and individual behavior consistent with that philosophy's prescriptions, were among the crucial traits expected of the 'New Soviet man'.
This required intellectualism and hard discipline.
He was not driven by crude impulses of nature but by conscious self-mastery – a belief that required the rejection of both innate personality and the unconscious, which Soviet psychologists did therefore reject.
He treated public property with respect, as if it were his own.
He also has lost any nationalist sentiments, being Soviet rather than Russian, or Ukrainian, or any of the many other nationalities found in the USSR.

Alexey Stakhanov
His work required exertion and austerity, to show the new man triumphing over his base Alexey Stakhanov's record-breaking day in mining coal caused him to be set forth as the exemplar of the "new man" and the members of Stakhanovite movements tried to become Stakhanovites. This could also be a new woman; - 'Правда' (Pravda) described the Soviet woman as someone who had and could never have existed before.
Female Stakhanovites were rarer than male, but a quarter of all trade-union women were designated as "norm-breaking."

For the Paris World Fair, Vera Mukhina depicted a monumental sculpture, 'Worker and Kolkhoz Woman', dressed in work clothing, pressing forward with his hammer and her sickle crossed.
The idea that men could be remade was very important in the Soviet 'world-view'.
The idea of human remaking was part of the whole notion of transformation that was at the heart of the Soviet project.

As Bukharin put it:

plasticity of the organism is the silent theoretical premise of our course of action,” for without it, why would anyone bother to make a revolution ?"

The Soviet era was an 'age of heroism', in which even ordinary people became heroes. 
The First Five-Year Plan inaugurated the heroic age, launching the country on a make-or-break effort to transform itself. 
A 'heroic age' called forth heroic personalities and feats, and gloried in them. 
In Maxim Gorky’s 'Nietzschean' formulation, Soviet man was becoming Man with a capital letter. 
Free from the burden of serf consciousness inculcated through past exploitation and deprivation, the contemporary hero - “man of the new humanity” - is “big, daring, strong.” 
He pits the force of human will against the forces of nature in a “grandiose and tragic” struggle. 
His mission is not only to understand the world but also to master it. 
The word “hero” was ubiquitous in Soviet Russia, used for record-breaking aviators and polar explorers, border guards, Stakhanovites, and all kinds of Heroes of Labor.
Political leaders might also be described as heroes performing heroic feats: in poems by folk bards, Voroshilov was “a fantastic knight” on his steed, Stalin “the hero Joseph-Our-Light Vissarionovich.”
The Soviet hero was often described as a 'bogatyr', using the old word for the hero of Russian folk epics, and ascribed the same qualities of daring, defiance, and high spirits.
Films and plays about these national heroes appeared in abundance.
The Cheliuskin expedition was celebrated in the film 'Seven of the Brave' (1936) and also was the subject of a play by one of the participants in the expedition, Sergei Semenov, 'We Won’t Give In', focusing on the theme of collective heroism in the face of a hostile environment.
A whole string of films about aviators appeared, starting with 'Aviators' (1935) and including 'The Fatherland Calls' (1936), 'Tales of Aviation Heroes' ('Wings') (1938), 'Brother of a Hero' (1940), and 'Valerii Chkalov' (1941). 
Increasingly, the aviator films became celebrations of Soviet military aviation, emphasizing the pilots’ role as defenders of the native land. 
When asked about their heroes, Soviet adolescents named three 'generic' hero types - aviators, polar explorers, and border guards - as well as individual heroes. 
Similarly, when young auto workers were asked about their life plans in 1937, many said they wanted to be aviators (including military pilots) or serve in the border guards. 
The individual heroes chosen by the first group ranged from party and military leaders (Stalin, Voroshilov, Semen Budennyi), and Civil War heroes (Chapaev and Shchors, both the subjects of popular films of the period) to aviators (Chkalov), explorers (the Norwegian explorer of the North, Fridtjof Nansen), scientists (Konstantin Tsiolkovskii, a rocket pioneer who publicized the idea of space travel), Stakhanovite workers, chess players, and footballers from the Dinamo club.
The “little man” as hero was a favorite motif.
The heroes of Gorky’s 'Stories about Heroes' (1931) were 'rank-and-filers' - rural teachers, worker correspondents, worker inventors, reading-room organizers, activists of all kinds. 
The newspapers ran many stories on the extraordinary achievements of ordinary people, whose photographs, serious or smiling, looked out from the front page. 
Factory and kolkhoz “shockworkers” were the heroic 'little people' of the early 1930s. Then, in the mid 1930s, the 'Stakhanovite' movement gave new dimensions to the celebration of ordinary people. 
Stakhanovites - named for the record-breaking Donbass coalminer, Aleksei Stakhanov - were supposed to be not only record-breakers, but also rationalizers of production. 
The most visible Stakhanovites became members of a new social status group that might be called 'ordinary celebrities'. 
These were ordinary people - workers, kolkhozniks, saleswomen, teachers, or whatever - who suddenly became national media heroes and heroines. 
In theory, they were selected because of their achievements, but in practice patronage from a local party secretary or journalist often played a large role. 
Stakhanovites’ photographs were published in the newspapers; journalists interviewed them about their achievements and opinions; they were selected as delegates to conferences of Stakhanovites, and learned to make public speeches; some of the lucky ones even met Stalin and were photographed with him. 
Stakhanovites and other 'ordinary celebrities' were living examples that little people mattered in the Soviet Union, that even the most humble and ordinary person had a chance of becoming famous for a day. 
I became a hero along with the people,” wrote the Stakhanovite tractor-driver Pasha Angelina modestly. 
However, the representative function was only part of it. 
Stakhanovites were also celebrated for their individual achievements and encouraged to show their individuality and leadership potential. 
To become a famous Stakhanovite was to acquire a self whose worth turned out to be far greater than anyone had dreamed.


Among the major traits of a new Soviet man was selfless collectivism.
The selfless new man was willing to sacrifice his life for good causes.
This trait was glorified from the first Soviet days, as exemplified by lines from the poem 'Vladimir Ilyich Lenin' by the Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky:

Who needs a "1"?
The voice of a "1"
is thinner than a squeak.
Who will hear it?
Only the wife...
A "1" is nonsense.
A "1" is zero.

Fictional characters, and presentations of contemporary celebrities, embodying this model were prominent features of Soviet cultural life, especially at times when fostering the concept of the 'New Soviet man' was given special priority by the government.
Pro-natalist policies encouraging women to have many children were justified by the selfishness inherent in limiting the next generation of "new men."

Psychological Consequences
Игорь Семёнович Кон
Igor Kon

Игорь Семёнович Кон (Igor Kon) has studied the psychology of "Soviet man" (or "Sovki" (scoops, in Russian), as the Soviet people used to semi-jokingly call themselves sometimes) extensively.
One of his most important insights is that the "negative selection", including various types of visibly oppressive treatment of those whose thinking doesn't fit the "party line" leads to development of "acquired helplessness syndrome".
According to Kon,
"The lack of individual responsibility is a product of decades of living under limited freedom. People get used to oppression. This has always happened with totalitarian regimes. I remember, I was greatly surprised to meet people with a similar mentality in East Germany, a country that has always been very different from Russia. This happened during the unification of the East and West Germany. I saw fright in the eyes of the East Germans, the same reaction as I see here in Russia – people do not know what to do. There is a psychological term for this – the acquired helplessness syndrome. The syndrome is usually manifested in social pessimism and lack of self-confidence. The acquired helplessness syndrome is the main feature of Soviet mentality and unfortunately it is prevalent among senior citizens."

New Soviet Woman

In the 1920s, and into the Stalinist era, the concept of the “New Soviet Woman” served alongside that of the “New Soviet Man.”
Her roles were vastly different than that of her male counterpart; she was burdened with a complex identity that changed with ideology shifts in the party doctrine toward more conservative notions of the role of the family and the mother in the Soviet system.
The 'New Soviet Woman' was a Superwoman who balanced competing responsibilities and took on the burden of multiple roles — Communist citizen, full-time worker, wife and mother.
The 'New Soviet Person' was generally characterized as male.
In propaganda centered on the 'New Soviet Person', it was standard for men to be depicted as the primary actors, either battling opponents of the Marxist revolution, or rebuilding the world. Women, on the other hand, were often portrayed as “backward,” passive beneficiaries of the revolution rather than its securers.
This was so not least because the proletarian movement was organized and fought by the working class, which by and large consisted of men.
Thus, propaganda often equated male domination with proletariat domination.
Although the party leadership claimed the sexes enjoyed equal status under the law, not an insignificant accomplishment in itself, men remained the measure of worth.
This marginalization of women in the newly developing civil order made it difficult for women to find a place among the proletarian class for which the revolution was fought.
Due to regulations during the NEP period on the extent to which women could work in dangerous conditions, how many hours they could work in a shift and the kinds of special care they received during maternity, many factory owners reluctantly hired women, despite the Commissariat of Labor’s requirements that women be given equal access to employment.

Владимир Ильич Ленин
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
NEP - The New Economic Policy  (Новая экономическая политика) was an economic policy proposed by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who called it state capitalism. It was a new, more capitalism- oriented economic policy necessary after the Civil War to raise the economy of the country, which was almost ruined. Nationalization of industry, established during the period of War Communism, was revoked and replaced by a system of mixed economy which allowed private individuals to own small enterprises, while the state continued to control banks, foreign trade, and large industries. In addition, the NEP abolished forced grain requisition and required instead that farmers give the government a specified amount of raw agricultural product as a tax in kind. Although many members of the Bolshevik party were reluctant to issue policies that encouraged private profit by traders, events such as the Kronstadt Rebellion highlighted the need to address the deteriorating economic conditions. The new policy was adopted in the course of the 10th Congress of the All-Russian Communist Party and was promulgated by decree on 21 March 1921, "On the Replacement of Prodrazvyorstka by Prodnalog" (i.e., on the replacement of foodstuffs requisitions by fixed foodstuffs tax). Further decrees refined the policy. The New Economic Policy was replaced by Stalin's First Five-Year Plan in 1928.

There were gains made in combating illiteracy and promoting education for women during the 1920s.
Soviet policy encouraged working-class women to attend school and develop vocational skills. There even existed opportunities for women to participate in politics, become party members and vie for elected and administrative positions.
Access to the political sphere, however, was extremely limited.
Joseph Stalin’s policies on women were more conservative than that of his predecessor Lenin. Because he was concerned with a declining population rate, Stalin de-emphasized the Marxist feminist view of women in society, which necessitated the emancipation of the woman from the shackles of her doubly binding oppression, patriarchy and capitalism.
In keeping with the party line, Stalin reasserted the importance of women in the workforce and female education, primarily literacy, although he began to emphasize the role of mother in a way that differed from more radical notions of the early 1920s.
The “withering away” of the family was no longer a goal of economic and political progress.
The new party line was that 'the family, like the state, was to grow stronger with the full realization of socialism'.
Massive propaganda campaigns linked the joys of motherhood with the benefits of Soviet power.
Soviet ideology began to argue that women’s public roles were compatible with her roles as wife and mother.
In fact, that the two reinforced one another and were both necessary for real womanhood.
The 'New Soviet Woman' differed greatly from the conceptions of revolutionaries preceding the 1930s.
Instead of being freed from domestic concerns, she was bound to them.
Though she now filled the role of man’s peer in the workplace, she was also obligated to devote herself to being his helpmate in the home.
One of the primary roles of the New Soviet Woman was that of mother.
This role became of great importance in the wake of population decline beginning in the 1920s. War and revolution had decimated the population.
Legislation legalizing abortions and the increasing use of contraception—though still not that widespread—in the 1920s also contributed to the lower population numbers as women began to work more and give birth less.
As a means to combat that trend, propaganda placed a new emphasis on the female’s role as the perpetuator of the Communist regime in their ability to produce the next class of healthy workers, a policy called pronatalism.
Propaganda postured pronatalism, a means to encourage women to bear children, differently to urban working-class women than to rural peasant women.
Propaganda designed for an urban audience linked healthy female sexuality with reproduction while medical information to peasant women positioned conception as the purpose of sexual intercourse.
The new ideal Soviet woman appealed to many Soviet women.
Many had found Marxist feminism difficult to swallow, and preferred their traditional female roles.
Although these women drew satisfaction from their role as mothers, they appreciated the opportunity afforded them by the Communist ideology to dismantle the oppression that often went hand-in-hand with domestic life.
With husbands that often beat, abused, and abandoned them, and a society and government that looked down on them as intellectually and ideologically inferior prior to the Stalinist era, many women welcomed the ability to cast aside the stigma that came with their role as mother while retaining the status as an equal participant in society.
Иосиф Виссарионович Сталин
Joseph Vissarionovič Stalin
During the 1920s and into the Stalinist era, Soviet policy forced women to curtail their professional aspirations in order to fulfill their dual role as worker and housewife.
Competing requirements of family life limited female occupational mobility.
Women managed the role strain experienced during the Stalinist era either by either a restriction of professional aspirations or by limiting family size.
Despite pitfalls, unprecedented opportunities were available to lower-class women during this time. Women now had a voice in debates and the 'Zhenotdel', the women’s section of the Central Committee from 1919–1930, made strides during its operation to increase political, social and economic agency of Soviet women.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

Bolsheviks had always been obsessed with the concept of 'culture' - in its broadest sense.
'Culture' was something that had to be mastered, like virgin lands and foreign technology.
But what was culture ?
In the 1920s, there had been heated arguments among Communist intellectuals on this question.

Алекса́ндр Алекса́ндрович Богда́нов
Alexander Aleksandrovich Bogdanov
Some,such as Bogdanov, stressed the essential class nature of culture, and therefore wanted to destroy 'bourgeois' culture and develop a new 'proletarian' culture. 
see (Proletkult) - below.
In 1918-1920, Bogdanov co-founded the proletarian art movement Proletkult and was its leading theoretician. In his lectures and articles, he called for the total destruction of the "old bourgeois culture" in favour of a "pure proletarian culture" of the future. It was also through Proletkult that Bogdanov's educational theories were given form with first the establishment of the Moscow Proletarian University. At first Proletkult, like other radical cultural movements of the era, received financial support from the Bolshevik government, but by 1920 the Bolshevik leadership grew hostile, and on December 1, 1920 Pravda published a decree denouncing Proletkult as a "petit bourgeois" organization operating outside of Soviet institutions and a haven for "socially alien elements". Later in that month, the president of Proletkult was removed, and Bogdanov lost his seat on its Central Committee. He withdrew from the organization completely in 1921-1922.
Other Bolsheviks, including Lenin and Lunacharsky thought that culture had a meaning beyond class, and moreover that Russia had too little of it.
The 'proletarian' side achieved brief dominance in the years of Cultural Revolution but was then discredited.
That left the alternative view, that culture was something immensely valuable and beyond class, in the ascendant.
But it also left a tacit agreement that the meaning of culture was something that should not be probed too deeply.
Culture, like obscenity, was something you knew when you saw it. 
Tautologically, it was the complex of behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge that 'cultured' people had, and ignorant, 'backward' people lacked.
Its positive value, like its nature, was self-evident.
In practice, we can distinguish several levels of the culture that people throughout the Soviet Union were busy mastering.
The first was the culture of basic hygiene - washing with soap, tooth-cleaning, not spitting on the floor - and elementary literacy, which was still lacking among a substantial part of the Soviet population.
Here, the Soviet civilizing mission was construed in very similar terms to that of other European nations among backward native peoples, although it should be noted that in the Soviet case the 'backward elements' included Russian peasants.
The second, emphasizing such things as table manners, behavior in public places, treatment of women, and basic knowledge of Communist ideology, was the level of culture required of any town-dweller.
The third, part of what had once been called 'bourgeois' or 'petty-bourgeois' culture, was the culture of propriety, involving good manners, correct speech, neat and appropriate dress, and some appreciation of the high culture of literature, art, music, and ballet.
This was the level of culture implicitly expected of the managerial class, members of the new Soviet elite.
Members of the new elite - many of them recently upwardly mobile from the working class and peasantry - had always expected to acquire such cultural skills.

A worker who mastered Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' as well as the 'History of the All-Union Communist Party: Short Course' was a high achiever, deserving praise; the wife of a manager who was ignorant of Pushkin, and had never seen Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake' was an embarrassment. 
История Всесоюзной Коммунистической Партии (Большевиков): Краткий курс -(History of the All-Union Communist Party: Short Course), is a propagandist textbook on the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, first published in 1938. Colloquially known as "the Short Course", it was the most widely disseminated book during the rule of Joseph Stalin and one of the most important representing the ideology of Stalinism, which Stalin himself in the book dubbed "Marxism-Leninism".
Reading the nineteenth-century classics of Russian literature, keeping up with the news and the contemporary cultural scene, going to the theater, having your children learn the piano - this was all part of the culture expected of people in managerial and professional jobs.
The managerial stratum had to meet higher demands in some respects.
From the mid 1930s, they were expected to dress in a way that distinguished them from blue-collar workers at the plant.
“The white collar and the clean shirt are necessary work tools for the fulfilment of production plans and the quality of products,”
Ordzhonikidze instructed his managers and engineers in heavy industry.
He also told them to shave regularly, and ordered factories to provide extra mirrors so that personnel could monitor their appearance.
Apart from observing these marks of status, managers also needed to acquire organizational skills, which should be applied not only in the workplace but in their own lives.
A newly appointed shop head at a ball-bearings plant described how he coped with his demanding job.
He started the day with gymnastics at 6.15.
After an eleven hour workday, he arrived home in the evening early enough for cultural recreation: visits to the theater and cinema, drives in the car.
He made a point of keeping up with technical literature in his field as well as with 'belles-lêttres'.
The secret was his methodical nature and ability to stick to a routine.
Women had different cultural imperatives than men at this level, since with the exception of the small (but prized) group of women who were themselves managers and professionals, most were full-time housewives.
Their responsibility was to create a 'cultured' home environment, in which the bread-winner could relax when he came from his demanding job.
'Culture' in this context implied propriety and good household organization, as well as comfort and tastefulness.
Home life should run to schedule; apartments should be appointed with 'snowwhite' curtains, spotless tablecloths, and lampshades shedding 'soft light'.
Cultural requirements at the this level included knowledge of how to dress for formal public occasions, conduct oneself at polite parties, and entertain guests.
It was often forms of sociability that most clearly distinguished 'the intelligentsia', by which was meant broadly the upper class, from the lower classes.
The Party man is more advanced and more cultured because the Party educates him."
The culture of the Soviet Union passed through several stages during the 69-year existence of the Soviet Union.
It was contributed by people of various nationalities from every of 15 union republics, although a slight majority of them were Russians.
The Soviet state supported cultural institutions, but also carried out strict censorship.

The Lenin Years

The main feature of communist attitudes towards the arts and artists in the years 1918-1929 was relative freedom and significant experimentation with several different styles in an effort to find a distinctive Soviet style of art.
At first artists and writers were given a fair amount of freedom but many fled Russia because of their opposition to the Bolshevik government.
Lenin was a traditional man in art.
He hated the new 'isms' (Futurism, Expressionism), and wanted art to be kept to traditional ways, yet he did nothing to discourage the spread what was described as of 'Futurism' in Russia.
Lenin showed his support for the art scene, and wanted art to be accessible to the masses.
He nationalised many private art collections and created the Museum of New Western Art in Moscow.
Lenin wanted at the beginning to have full control of the art system and he appointed Izo-Narkompros to take control.
The 'Пролетку́льт' ('Proletkult') movement soon sprung up after the February Revolution.
Its members wanted to make art more sympathetic to the masses and to encourage more participation in the arts.

Пролетку́льт (Proletkult), a portmanteau of the Russian words "proletarskaya kultura" (proletarian culture), was an experimental Soviet artistic institution which arose in conjunction with the Russian Revolution of 1917. This organization, a federation of local cultural societies and avant-garde artists, was most prominent in the visual, literary, and dramatic fields. Proletkult aspired to radically modify existing artistic forms by creating a new, revolutionary working class aesthetic which drew its inspiration from the construction of modern industrial society in backwards, agrarian Russia.
Although funded by the People's Commissariat for Education of Soviet Russia, the Proletkult organization sought autonomy from state control, a demand which brought it into conflict with the Communist Party hierarchy and the Soviet state bureaucracy. Some top party leaders, such as V.I. Lenin, sought to concentrate state funding on the basic education of the working class rather than on whimsical artistic endeavors. He and others also saw in Proletkult a hotbed of bourgeois intellectuals and potential political oppositionists.
At its peak in 1920, Proletkult had 84,000 members actively enrolled in about 300 local studios, clubs, and factory groups, with an additional 500,000 members participating in its activities on a more casual basis.
Despite its formal termination as an organization, the Proletkult movement continued to influence and inform early Soviet culture. Historian Peter Kenez has noted the heavy influence of the Proletkult ethic in the work of pioneer Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, director of the classic films 'Strike' (1925), 'The Battleship Potemkin' (1926), and 'October': Ten Days That Shook the World' (1927):

Many new art studios were set up in many cities.
Its movement was progressive and its members pro-revolutionary.
In many respects, the NEP period was a time of relative freedom and experimentation for the social and cultural life of the Soviet Union.
The government tolerated a variety of trends in these fields, provided they were not overtly hostile to the regime.
In art and literature, numerous schools, some traditional and others radically experimental, proliferated.
Communist writers Maxim Gorky and Vladimir Mayakovsky were active during this time, but other authors, many of whose works were later repressed, published work lacking socialist political content.
Film, as a means of influencing a largely illiterate society, received encouragement from the state; much of cinematographer Sergei Eisenstein's best work dates from this period.
Education, under Commissar Anatoliy Lunacharskiy, entered a phase of experimentation based on progressive theories of learning.
At the same time, the state expanded the primary and secondary school system and introduced night schools for working adults.
The quality of higher education suffered, however, because admissions policies preferred entrants from the proletarian class over those of bourgeois backgrounds, regardless of the applicants' qualifications.
Under NEP the state eased its active persecution of religion begun during war communism but continued to agitate on behalf of atheism.
The party supported the Living Church reform movement within the Russian Orthodox Church in hopes that it would undermine faith in the church, but the movement died out in the late 1920s.
In family life, attitudes generally became more permissive.
The state legalized abortion, and it made divorce progressively easier to obtain, whilst public cafeterias proliferated at the expense of private family kitchens.
In general, traditional attitudes toward such institutions as marriage were slowly changed by the party's promotion of revolutionary ideals.

The Stalin Era

Arts during the rule of Joseph Stalin were characterised by the rise and domination of the government-imposed style of 'Socialist Realism', with all other trends being severely repressed, with rare exceptions (e.g., many notable Mikhail Bulgakov's works - however the full text of his The Master and Margarita was published only in 1966).
Many writers were imprisoned, examples being Osip Mandelstam, Isaac Babel and Boris Pilnyak. Andrei Platonov worked as a caretaker and wasn't allowed to publish.
The work of Anna Akhmatova was also condemned by the regime, although she notably refused the opportunity to escape to the West.
In addition to literature, musical expression was also repressed during the Stalin era, and at times the music of many Soviet composers was banned altogether.
Dmitri Shostakovich experienced a particularly long and complex relationship with Stalin, during which his music was denounced and prohibited twice, in 1936 and 1948 (see Zhdanov decree).
Sergei Prokofiev and Aram Khachaturian had similar cases.
Although Igor Stravinsky did not live in the Union, his music was officially considered formalist and anti-Soviet.

Late Soviet Union

In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the Brezhnev era, a distinctive period of Soviet culture developed characterized by conformist public life and intense focus on personal life.
In the late Soviet Union Soviet popular culture was characterized by fascination with American popular culture as exemplified by the blue jeans craze.

'Socialist Realism' is a style of realistic art which was developed in the Soviet Union.
Socialist realism is a teleologically-oriented style, having as its purpose the furtherance of the goals of socialism and communism.
Although related, it should not be confused with social realism, a broader type of art that realistically depicts subjects of social concern.
Unlike social realism, socialist realism often glorifies the roles of the meek and working class, and the struggle for its emancipation.
In conjunction with the 'Socialist Classical Style of Architecture', Socialist Realism was the officially approved type of art in the Soviet Union for nearly sixty years.
All material goods and means of production belonged to the community as a whole; this included means of producing art, which were also seen as powerful propaganda tools.
During the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks established an institution called 'Proletkult' (the Proletarian Cultural and Enlightenment Organizations) which sought to put all arts into the service of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Tatlin's Tower
Zuev Workers' Club - 1928
In the early years of the Soviet Union, Russian and Soviet artists embraced a wide variety of art forms under the auspices of Proletkult.
Revolutionary politics and radical non-traditional art forms were seen as complementary.
In art, Constructivism flourished, long with a few examples of Art Deco - the most famous example being the Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square.

Tatlin’s Tower or The Monument to the Third International is a grand monumental building designed by the Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin, that was never built. It was planned to be erected in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, as the headquarters and monument of the Comintern (the third international).
The Monument is generally considered to be the defining expression of architectural constructivism, rather than a buildable project. Even if the gigantic amount of required steel had been available in revolutionary Russia, in the context of housing shortages and political turmoil, there are serious doubts about its structural practicality.
Symbolically, the tower was said to represent the aspirations of its originating country and a challenge to Eiffel Tower as the foremost symbol of modernity.Soviet critic Viktor Shklovsky is said to have called it a monument "made of steel, glass and revolution."

Interior of Lenin's Mausoleum
Lenin's Mausoleum - 1924
Мавзоле́й Ле́нина (Lenin's Mausoleum) also known as Lenin's Tomb, situated in Red Square in the center of Moscow, is the mausoleum that serves as the current resting place of Vladimir Lenin.
Aleksey Shchusev's diminutive but monumental granite structure incorporates some elements from ancient mausoleums, such as the Step Pyramid and the Tomb of Cyrus the Great.

Lenin Mausoleum - Red Square - Moscow
Shortly after the death of Vladimir Ilich Lenin in 1924, and despite the opposition of his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Soviet leaders built a mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square to display his embalmed body. The architect Alexei V. Shchusev designed two temporary cube-shaped wooden structures and then a permanent red granite pyramid-like building that was completed in 1929. The top of the mausoleum held a tribune from which Soviet leaders addressed the public. This site became the ceremonial center of the Bolshevik state as Stalin and subsequent leaders appeared on the tribune to view parades on November 7, May 1, and other Soviet ceremonial occasions. When Josef V. Stalin died in 1953, his body was placed in the mausoleum next to Lenin's. In 1961, as Nikita Khrushchev's attack on Stalin's cult of personality intensified, Stalin's body was removed from the mausoleum and buried near the Kremlin wall. Lenin and his tomb, however, remained the quintessential symbols of Soviet legitimacy.

In poetry, the non-traditional and the avant-garde were often praised.
This, however, was rejected by some members of the Communist party, who did not appreciate modern styles such as Impressionism and Cubism, since these movements existed before the revolution and were thus associated with "decadent bourgeois art."
Socialist realism was, to some extent, a reaction against the adoption of these "decadent" styles.
It was thought that the non-representative forms of art were not understood by the proletariat and could therefore not be used by the state for propaganda.
Alexander Bogdanov argued that the radical reformation of society to Communist principles meant little if any bourgeois art would prove useful; some of his more radical followers advocated the destruction of libraries and museums.
Lenin rejected this philosophy, deplored the rejection of the beautiful because it was old, and explicitly described art as needing to call on its heritage:
"Proletarian culture must be the logical development of the store of knowledge mankind has accumulated under the yoke of capitalist, landowner, and bureaucratic society."
Modern art styles appeared to refuse to draw upon this heritage, thus clashing with the long realist tradition in Russia and rendering the art scene complex.
Even in Lenin's time, a cultural bureaucracy began to restrain art to fit propaganda purposes.
Leon Trotsky's arguments that a "proletarian literature" was un-Marxist, because the proletariat would lose its class characteristics in the transition to a classless society, however, did not prevail.
Socialist realism became state policy in 1932 when Soviet leader Joseph Stalin promulgated the decree "On the Reconstruction of Literary and Art Organizations".
Accordingly, the 'Moscow and Leningrad Union of Artists' was established in 1932, which brought the history of post-revolutionary art to a close.

Кузьма Сергеевич Петров-Водкин
Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin - 1927
The epoch of Soviet art began.
In Leningrad well-known artist and art teacher Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin was elected the first president of the 'Union of Artists'.
This choice laid down the foundation of the lasting development of the 'Leningrad Union of Artists and Academy of Arts' as a unified creative body.

Кузьма Сергеевич Петров-Водкин (Kuzma Sergeevich Petrov-Vodkin - 1878, Khvalynsk, now Saratov Oblast – February 15, 1939, Leningrad) was an important Russian and Soviet painter and writer.
Until the mid-1960s, Petrov-Vodkin was nearly forgotten in the Soviet Union after his curtailment of painting and turn towards writing.
Petrov-Vodkin writings were republished in the 1970s to a great acclaim, after a long period of neglect. His most famous literary works are the 3 self-illustrated autobiographical novellas: "Khlynovsk", "Euclidean Space" and "Samarcandia". The second of these is of particular importance, as it transmits Petrov-Vodkin worldview as an artist in great detail.
The largest collection of Petrov-Vodkin's works is in the Russian Museum in St Petersburg, where, as of 2012, a whole room in the permanent exhibition is devoted to the painter.

Праздник Конституции
Holiday of the Constitution (1930)
Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky
In 1931-2, the early emphasis on the "little man", and the anonymous laboring masses gave way to the "hero of labor", derived from the people but set apart by the scale of his deeds.
Writers were explicitly enjoined to develop "heroization".
This reflected a call for 'romantic art', which reflected the ideal rather than the realistic.
Furthermore, it should show one clear and unambiguous meaning.

Исаак Израилевич Бродский (Izrailevich Brodsky Russian:  6 January 1884 [O.S. 25 December 1883] – August 14, 1939), was a Soviet painter whose work provided a blueprint for the art movement of Socialist Realism. He is known for his iconic portrayals of Lenin and idealized, carefully crafted paintings dedicated to the events of the Russian Civil War and Bolshevik Revolution.
He studied at Odessa Art Academy and the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. In 1916 he joined the Jewish Society for the Encouragement of the Arts.
Brodsky was on good terms with many leading Russian painters, including his mentor, Ilya Repin. He was an avid art collector who donated numerous first-class paintings to museums in his native Ukraine and elsewhere. His superb art collection included important works by Repin, Vasily Surikov, Valentin Serov, Isaak Levitan, Mikhail Vrubel, and Boris Kustodiev. After his death Brodsky's apartment on Arts Square in St. Petersburg was declared a national museum. His art collection is still on exhibit there.
Brodsky was an Honoured Artist of the Russian SFSR and a member of the Union of Russian Artists. He was the first painter to be awarded the Order of Lenin. In 1934 he was appointed Director of the All-Russian Academy of Arts. From 1934–1939 he was also a head of personal Art workshop in institute, where his pupils included the well-known Soviet painters Nikolai Timkov, Alexander Laktionov, Yuri Neprintsev, Piotr Belousov, Piotr Vasiliev, Mikhail Kozell and others.

The first exhibition organized by the Leningrad Union of Artists took place in 1935.
Its participants – Piotr Buchkin, Rudolf Frentz, Alexander Samokhvalov, Isaak Brodsky, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Kazimir Malevich, Nikolai Dormidontov, Mikhail Avilov among them – became the founding fathers of the Leningrad school while their works formed one of its richest layers and the basis of the largest museum collections of Soviet painting of the 1930-1950s.
In 1932, the Leningrad Institute of Proletarian Visual Arts was transformed into the Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (since 1944 named Ilya Repin).
The 15-year period of constant reformation of the country’s largest art institute came to an end.
Thus, basic elements of the Leningrad school – namely, a higher art education establishment of a new type and a unified professional union of Leningrad artists, were created by the end of 1932.
In 1934 Isaak Brodsky, a disciple of Ilya Repin was appointed director of the National Academy of Arts and the Leningrad Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Brodsky invited distinguished painters and pedagogues to teach at the Academy, namely Konstantin Yuon, Pavel Naumov, Boris Ioganson, Semion Abugov, Pavel Shillingovsky, Dmitry Kardovsky, Alexander Osmerkin, Nikolai Radlov, Yevgeny Lansere, Alexander Lubimov, Rudolf Frentz, Nikolai Petrov, Victor Sinaisky, Vasily Shukhaev, Dmitry Kiplik, Nikolai Punin, Vasily Meshkov, Mikhail Bernshtein, Efim Cheptsov, Ivan Bilibin, Matvey Manizer, Piotr Buchkin, Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, Alexander Karev, Leonid Ovsyannikov, Sergei Priselkov, Ivan Stepashkin, Konstantin Rudakov and others.

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman (1939)
Рабо́чий и колхо́зница Rabochiy i Kolkhoznitsa - (Worker and Kolkhoz Woman)) is a famous landmark of monumental art, "the ideal and symbol of the Soviet epoch", that represents a dynamic sculpture group of two figures with a sickle and a hammer raised over their heads (☭). It is 24.5 meters (78 feet) high, made from stainless steel by Vera Mukhina for the 1937 World's Fair in Paris, and subsequently moved to Moscow. The sculpture is an example of the 'socialist realistic' style, as well as 'Art Deco' style.
The worker holds aloft a hammer and the kolkhoz woman a sickle to form the hammer and sickle symbol.
The sculpture was originally created to crown the Soviet pavilion (architect: Boris Iofan) of the World's Fair. The organizers had placed the Soviet and German pavilions facing each other across the main pedestrian boulevard at the Trocadéro on the north bank of the Seine.
Mukhina was inspired by her study of the classical Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the 'Victory of Samothrace' and 'La Marseillaise', François Rude's sculptural group for the 'Arc de Triomphe', to bring a monumental composition of 'socialist realist' confidence to the heart of Paris.
The symbolism of the two figures striding from West to East, as determined by the layout of the pavilion, was also not lost on the spectators.
Although as Mukhina said, her sculpture was intended "to continue the idea inherent in the building, and this sculpture was to be an inseparable part of the whole structure", after the fair the Rabochiy i Kolkhoznitsa was relocated to Moscow where it was placed just outside the Exhibition of Achievements of the People's Economy.
In 1941, the sculpture earned Mukhina one of the initial batch of Stalin Prizes.

Art exhibitions of 1935–1940 disprove the claims that artistic life of the period was suppressed by the ideology and artists submitted entirely to what was then called ‘social order’.
A great number of landscapes, portraits, genre paintings exhibited at the time pursued purely technical purposes and were thus ostensibly free from any ideology.
Genre painting was also approached in a similar way.
In the post-war period between the mid-fifties and sixties, the Leningrad school of painting was approaching its vertex.
New generations of artists who had graduated from the Academy (Repin Institute of Arts) in the 1930s–50s were in their prime.
They were quick to present their art, they strived for experiments and were eager to appropriate a lot and to learn even more.
Their time and contemporaries, with all its images, ideas and dispositions found it full expression in portraits by Lev Russov, Victor Oreshnikov, Boris Korneev, Leonid Steele, Oleg Lomakin, Semion Rotnitsky, Vladimir Gorb, Samuil Nevelshtein, Engels Kozlov, in landscapes by Nikolai Timkov, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Sergei Osipov, Alexander Semionov, Arseny Semionov, Vasily Golubev, Nikolai Galakhov, Dmitry Maevsky, in genre paintings by Nikolai Pozdneev, Yuri Neprintsev, Yevsey Moiseenko, Andrey Milnikov, Nina Veselova, Mikhail Trufanov, Yuri Tulin, Mikhail Natarevich, and others.
In 1957, the first all-Russian Congress of Soviet artists took place in Moscow.
In 1960, the all-Russian Union of Artists was organized.
Accordingly, these events influenced the art life in Moscow, Leningrad and the provinces.
The scope of experimentation was broadened; in particular, this concerned the form and painterly and plastic language.
Images of youths and students, rapidly changing villages and cities, virgin lands brought under cultivation, grandiose construction plans being realized in Siberia and the Volga region, great achievements of Soviet science and technology became the chief topics of the new painting.
Heroes of the time – young scientists, workers, civil engineers, physicians – were made the most popular heroes of paintings.
In this period, life provided artists with plenty of thrilling topics, positive figures and images.
Legacy of many great artists and art movements became available for study and public discussion again.
This greatly broadened artists’ understanding of the realist method, and widened its possibilities.
It was the repeated renewal of the very conception of realism that made this style dominate Russian art throughout its history.
Realist tradition gave rise to many trends of contemporary painting, including painting from nature, "severe style" painting, and decorative art.

'Bathing Soldiers' - 1959
Dmitry Zhilinsky
After the death of Stalin in 1953, political change came to the Soviet Union. Censorship remained in force and artistic themes and means of expression were still controlled by the Party. This period, however, is known as the Thaw. In fine art, literature and cinema, artists began to openly reflect on life, without attempting to idealise reality.
The romantic artists of the 1960s and 1970s constituted a movement known as the “severe style.” They travelled around the country, observing the new construction sites and the changes taking place in the towns and countryside. Their humanist works no longer promoted the Communist ideology. Instead, the masters of the “severe style” increasingly advocated reflections on various aspects of Soviet life.

'At The Sea' -1964
Dmitry Zhilinsky

Dmitry Zhilinsky - born in Volnovka, Krasnodar region, (25 May 1927). He trained in Moscow at the Institute of Applied and Decorative Art (1944–6) and the Surikov Art Institute (1946–51) under Pavel Korin and others, while Vladimir Favorsky was particularly influential in shaping his talent. Zhilinsky was a member of the generation of the so-called Severe (or Austere) Style (Rus. Surovyy Stil’), a movement in Russian art in the 1960s that sought to endow images with a new integrity and strict verism, thereby overcoming the decrepit standards of Socialist Realism, and he has always been distinguished by the refined aestheticism of his paintings.
Working in tempera on levkas (the gesso-like priming typical of Russian medieval painting), he drew stylistically on the heritage of the Italian Quattrocento and the German Renaissance.
Touches of a sort of Art Nouveau revival are also manifested in his precise, rhythmical use of line and in the exquisite details of his works.

However, during this period impressionism, post-impressionism, cubism and expressionism also had their fervent adherents and interpreters.
The Union of Soviet Writers was founded to control the output of authors, and the new policy was rubber-stamped at the Congress of Socialist Writers in 1934.
It was enforced ruthlessly in all spheres of artistic endeavor.
Artists who strayed from the official line were severely punished.
Form and content were often limited, with erotic, religious, abstract, surrealist and expressionist art being forbidden.
Formal experiments, including internal dialogue, stream of consciousness, nonsense, free-form association and cut-up were also disallowed.
This was either because they were "decadent", unintelligible to the proletariat or counter-revolutionary.
In response to the 1934 Congress in Russia, the most important American writers of the left gathered in the First American Writers Congress of 26, 27 April 1935 in Chicago, at the meetings which were supported by Stalin.
Waldo David Frank was its first president See the League of American Writers which was backed by the Communist Party USA.
A number of the novelists balked at the control, and the League broke up at the invasion of the Soviet Union by German forces.
The restrictions were relaxed somewhat after Stalin's death in 1953, but the state still kept a tight rein on personal artistic expression.
This caused many artists to choose to go into exile, for example the Odessa Group from the city of that name. Independent-minded artists that remained continued to feel the hostility of the state.
In 1974, for instance, a show of unofficial art in a field near Moscow was broken up, and the artworks destroyed with a water cannon and bulldozers (see Bulldozer Exhibition).
Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost and perestroika facilitated an explosion of interest in alternative art styles in the late 1980s, but socialist realism remained in limited force as the official state art style until as late as 1991.


The initial tendencies toward socialist realism date from the mid-19th century.
They include revolutionary literature in Great Britain (the poetry of the Chartist movement), Germany (Herwegh, Freiligrath, and G. Weerth), and France (the literature of the Paris Commune and Pottier's "Internationale.")
Socialist realism emerged as a literary method in the early 20th century in Russia, especially in the works of Gorky.

It was also apparent in the works of writers like Kotsiubinsky, Rainis, Akopian, and Edvoshvili. Following Gorky, writers in several countries combined the realistic depiction of life with the expression of a socialist world view.
They included Barbusse, Andersen Nexø, and John Reed.
The political aspect of socialist realism was, in some respects, a continuation of pre-Soviet state policy. 
Censorship and attempts to control the content of art did not begin with the Soviets, but were a long-running feature of Russian life. 
The Tsarist government also appreciated the potentially disruptive effect of art and required all books to be cleared by the censor. 
Writers and artists in 19th century Imperial Russia became quite skilled at evading censorship by making their points without spelling it out in so many words, however, Soviet censors were not easily evaded. 
Socialist realism had its roots in neoclassicism and the traditions of realism in Russian literature of the 19th century that described the life of simple people. 
It was exemplified by the aesthetic philosophy of Maxim Gorky. 
The work of the Peredvizhniki (The Itinerants or Wanderers), a Russian realist movement of the late 19th / early 20th centuries), Jacques-Louis David and Ilya Yefimovich Repin were notable influences. 
Socialist Realism was a product of the Soviet system. 
Whereas in market societies professional artists earned their living selling to, or being commissioned by rich individuals or the Church, in Soviet society not only was the market suppressed, there were few if any individuals able to patronize the arts and only one institution – the State itself. 
Hence artists became state employees. 

As such the State set the parameters for what it employed them to do. 
What was expected of the artist was that he/she be formally qualified and to reach a standard of competence, however, whilst this rewarded basic competency, it did not provide an incentive to excel, resulting in a stultification similar to that in other spheres of Soviet society. 
The State, after the Congress of 1934, laid down four rules for what became known as "Socialist Realism":

That the work be: 
Moscow Metro Mosaic

Proletarian: art relevant to the workers and understandable to them.
Typical: scenes of every day life of the people.
Realistic: in the representational sense.
Partisan: supportive of the aims of the State and the Party.
Socialist realism held that successful art depicts and glorifies the proletariat's struggle toward socialist progress.
The 'Statute of the Union of Soviet Writers' in 1934 stated that socialist realism is the basic method of Soviet literature and literary criticism.
It demands of the artist the truthful, historically concrete representation of reality in its revolutionary development, moreover, the truthfulness and historical concreteness of the artistic representation of reality must be linked with the task of ideological transformation and education of workers in the spirit of socialism.
Its purpose was to elevate the common worker, whether factory or agricultural, by presenting his life, work, and recreation as admirable.
In other words, its goal was to educate the people in the goals and meaning of Communism. 

Soviet Miners
The ultimate aim was to create what Lenin called "an entirely new type of human being":
The 'New Soviet Man' (see above).
Stalin described the practitioners of socialist realism as "engineers of souls".
The "realism" part is important.
Soviet art at this time aimed to depict the worker as he truly was, carrying his tools.
In a sense, the movement mirrors the course of American and Western art, where the everyday human being became the subject of the novel, the play, poetry, and art.
The proletariat was at the center of communist ideals; hence, his life was a worthy subject for study.

This was an important shift away from the aristocratic art produced under the Russian tsars of previous centuries, but had much in common with the late-19th century fashion for depicting the social life of the common people.
In practice, this entailed realistic depictions of objects, so that ordinary people could understand; a theater could not use a box to represent a chair. 

Soviet Soldier

The artist could not, however, portray life just as he saw it; because everything that reflected poorly on Communism had to be omitted, and indeed, people who were not simply good or evil could not be used as characters. 

All characters were poured into a heroic mold, sometimes termed 'heroic realism'. 

This reflected a call for heroic and romantic art, which reflected the ideal rather than the realistic. 

Maxim Gorky urged that one obtained realism by extracting the basic idea from reality, but by adding the potential and desirable to it, one added romanticism with deep revolutionary potential; "critical realism" had been appropriate for older, corrupt societies, but criticism of society must now give way to optimism.
Joseph Stalin
Art was filled with health and happiness; paintings teemed with busy industrial and agricultural scenes, and sculptures depicted workers, sentries, and schoolchildren.
Literature filled with "positive heroes".
Compared to the eclectic variety of 20th century Western art, socialist realism often resulted in a predictable range of artistic products.
Painters would depict happy, muscular peasants and workers in factories and collective farms; during the Stalin period, they also produced numerous heroic portraits of the dictator to serve his cult of personality.
Industrial and agricultural landscapes were popular subjects, glorifying the achievements of the Soviet economy.


Novelists were expected to produce uplifting stories in a manner consistent with the Marxist doctrine of dialectical materialism.
Composers were to produce rousing, vivid music that reflected the life and struggles of the proletariat. It was argued that mere photographic replication of facts was merely "naturalism", while socialist realism was distinguished by a will and purpose on part of the artist, and his recognition of these facts as part of a vision of the whole.
Even diarists would attempt to fit their accounts of their daily lives into suitable purpose-driven, future-oriented accounts.
Socialist realism thus demanded close adherence to party doctrine, and has often been criticized as detrimental to the creation of true, unfettered art – or as being little more than a means to censor artistic expression.
Not all Marxists accepted the necessity of socialist realism (Marx's, Engels' and Trotsky's views on art and culture were very liberal and may have balked at the propagandism of Socialist realism themselves). Its establishment as state doctrine in the 1930s had rather more to do with internal Communist Party politics than classic Marxist imperatives.

Notable works and artists

Maxim Gorky's novel 'Mother' is usually considered to have been the first socialist realist novel.
Gorky was also a major factor in the school's rapid rise, and his pamphlet, 'On Socialist Realism', essentially lays out the needs of Soviet Art.
Other important works of literature include Fyodor Gladkov's 'Cement' (1925), Nikolai Ostrovsky's 'How the Steel Was Tempered' and Mikhail Sholokhov's two volume epic, 'Quiet Flows the Don' (1934) and 'The Don Flows Home to the Sea' (1940).
Yury Krymov's novel 'Tanker "Derbent"' (1938) portrays Soviet merchant seafarers being transformed by the 'Stakhanovite' movement.

Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov
In Soviet history and iconography, a Stakhanovite (стахановец) follows the example of Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov, employing hard work or Taylorist efficiencies to over-achieve at work.
The Stakhanovite movement began during the second 5-year plan in 1935 as a new stage of the socialist competition. The Stakhanovite movement was named after Aleksei Stakhanov, who had mined 102 tons of coal in less than 6 hours (14 times his quota), however, his record would soon be "broken" by his followers. On February 1, 1936, it was reported that Nikita Izotov had mined 607 tons of coal in a single shift.
Stakhanov and other "model workers" were promoted in the press, literature and film, and other workers were urged to emulate their heroic examples. What is more, the achievements of Stakhanovites served as an argument in favor of increasing of work quotas.

Martin Andersen Nexø developed socialist realism in his own way.
His creative method was characterized by a combination of publicistic passion, a critical view of capitalist society, and a steadfast striving to bring reality into accord with socialist ideals.
The novel Pelle, the Conqueror is considered to be a classic of socialist realism.
The novel 'Ditte, Daughter of Man' had a working-class woman as its heroine.
He battled against the enemies of socialism in the books Two Worlds, and Hands Off!.
The novels of Louis Aragon such as 'The Real World' depicts the working class as a rising force of the nation.
He published two books of documentary prose, 'The Communist Man'.
In the collection of poems 'A Knife in the Heart Again', Aragon criticizes the penetration of American imperialism into Europe.
The novel 'The Holy Week' depicts the artist's path toward the people against a broad social and historical background.


Hanns Eisler composed many workers' songs, marches, and ballads on current political topics such as 'Song of Solidarity', 'Song of the United Front', and 'Song of the Comintern'.
He was a founder of a new style of revolutionary song for the masses.
He also composed works in larger forms such as 'Requiem for Lenin'.
Eisler's most important works include the cantatas 'German Symphony', 'Serenade of the Age' and 'Song of Peace'.
Eisler combines features of revolutionary songs with varied expression.
His symphonic music is known for its complex and subtle orchestration.
Closely associated with the rise of the labor movement was the development of the revolutionary song, which was performed at demonstrations and meetings.
Among the most famous of the revolutionary songs are 'The Internationale' and 'Warszawianka'. Notable songs from Russia include 'Boldly, Comrades, in Step', 'Workers' Marseillaise', and 'Rage, Tyrants'.
Folk and revolutionary songs influenced the Soviet mass songs.
The mass song was a leading genre in Soviet music, especially during the 1930s and the war. The mass song influenced other genres, including the art song, opera, and film music.
The most popular mass songs include Dunaevsky's 'Song of the Homeland', Blanter's 'Katiusha', Novikov's 'Hymn of Democratic Youth of the World', and Aleksandrov's 'Sacred War'.


In the early 1930s, Soviet filmmakers applied socialist realism in their work.
Notable films include 'Chapaev', which shows the role of the people in the history-making process.
The theme of revolutionary history was developed in films such as 'The Youth of Maxim', by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, Shchors by Dovzhenko, and 'We are from Kronstadt' by E. Dzigan.
The shaping of the 'new man' under socialism was a theme of films such as 'A Start Life' by N. Ekk, 'Ivan' by Dovzhenko, 'Valerii Chkalov' by M. Kalatozov and the film version of 'Tanker "Derbent"' (1941).
Some films depicted the part of peoples of the Soviet Union against foreign invaders: 'Alexander Nevsky' by Eisenstein, Minin and Pozharsky by Pudvokin, and Bogdan Khmelnitsky by Savchenko.

Alexander Nevsky - Eisenstein
Alexander Nevsky - Eisenstein

Алекса́ндр Не́вский - Alexander Nevsky is a 1938 historical drama film directed by Sergei Eisenstein. It depicts the attempted invasion of Novgorod in the 13th century by the Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire and their defeat by Prince Alexander, known popularly as Alexander Nevsky (1220–1263).
Eisenstein made the film in association with Dmitri Vasilyev and with a script co-written with Pyotr Pavlenko; they were assigned to ensure that Eisenstein did not stray into "formalism" and to facilitate shooting on a reasonable timetable. It was produced by Goskino via the Mosfilm production unit, with Nikolai Cherkasov in the title role and a musical score by Sergei Prokofiev, 'Alexander Nevsky' was the first and most popular of Eisenstein's three sound films. In 1941 Eisenstein, Pavlenko, Cherkasov and Abrikosov were awarded the Stalin Prize for the film.

Soviet politicians were the subjects in films such as Yutkevich's trilogy of movies about Lenin.

Visual Arts

The painter Aleksandr Deineka provides a notable example for his expressionist and patriotic scenes of the Second World War, collective farms, and sports.
Yuri Pimenov, Boris Ioganson and Geli Korzev have also been described as "unappreciated masters of twentieth-century realism".
Another well-known practitioner was Fyodor Pavlovich Reshetnikov.


Socialist realism had a significant impact on art in Russia.
The works of authors such as Gorky, Mayakovsky, Sholokhov, Tvardovsky, Fadeyev, Leonov, and many other writers became established classics, achieved worldwide renown, and have become a firm part of the world's cultural heritage.
Socialist realism was credited for helping talent to develop and art to flourish in many forms and for making it more accessible to the masses.
Mikhail Bulgakov wrote his work, 'The Master and Margarita', in secret, despite earlier successes such as 'White Guard'.
In 1936 Dmitri Shostakovich was criticized for his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in a Pravda article entitled "Muddle instead of Music",.
Sergei Prokofiev too found his musical language increasingly restricted in the years after his permanent return to the Soviet Union in 1935 (especially in the wake of the 1948 Zhdanov Decree), although he continued to compose until the end of his life five years later.
The political doctrine behind socialist realism also underlay the pervasive censorship of Communist societies.
Apart from obvious political considerations that saw works such as those of George Orwell being banned, access to foreign art and literature was also restricted on aesthetic grounds. Bourgeois art, and all forms of experimentalism and formalism were denounced as decadent, degenerate and pessimistic, and therefore anti-Communist in principle.
The works of James Joyce were particularly harshly condemned.
The net effect was that it was not until the 1980s that the general public in the Communist countries were able to freely access many works of Western art and literature.