The inherently self-destructive nature of Socialist Realism
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From the years 1932 - 1987, the Soviet Union imposed the artistic style of Socialist Realism upon its artists. Paintings of this era have little to show of the dynamics of Russian art until they are analyzed in terms of the social and political forces that dominated the style's creation. Looking at its origins, we see Socialist Realism born of a struggle between realist and avant-garde artists. This struggle first saw the avant-garde establish a near monopoly on state commissions and then lose its position as a result of realist complaints and party intervention. It is this realist-supported intervention that instituted the restrictions on form that became the foundation for Socialist Realism and came to signify 50 years of formal restrictions. These restrictions resulted in the alienation of artists beginning with the avant-garde and moving to encompass a majority of artists. By 1946, the effects of this alienation were so great that it produced an artistic theory entitled The Theory of Conflictlessness. Here artists produced work they knew would not cause any question as to whether they were following Socialist Realist principles. It was not until after the death of Stalin that artists began a significant push to remove their restraints. Their accomplishments were few and far between however, until the Brezhnev era when conflict with artists was kept to a minimum. Artists, even with these reductions in party intervention, continued to fear for their safety and limited the extent of their work. Only after the policies of glasnost and perestroika were artists able to strongly assert themselves and bring an end to their repression. Socialist Realism, as such, must be seen in terms of the social and political forces that dominated its very existence. For without party intervention, Socialist Realism would not have been the form that has become synonymous with Soviet art.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaf 28).
Kovel, Kyle (2001). The inherently self-destructive nature of Socialist Realism. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from