Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Putin-Era Official Art Not ‘Socialist Realism 2.0,’ Cultural Specialists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 12 – Given Putin’s revival of many aspects of the Soviet past, many are quick to label the official art his regime has been promoting as “socialist realism 2.0,” but specialists on Russian culture say that is inappropriate because in two important ways, the situation in Russian art today is fundamentally different than was the case in Soviet times.

            On the one hand, these experts say, socialist realism was about promoting a communist future by downplaying current problems, pointing to the ways in which everything in the USSR was getting better and better and offering up positive heroes looking to the future for emulation (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2024/05/12/novoe-pokolenie-nuzhdaetsia-v-polozhitelnom-geroe).

            Putin’s official art in contrast is based not on a vision of the future toward which Russia is moving but on a conception of Russia in which continuity with the past defines everything; and as a result, there is no possibility of offering a positive hero who is struggling to achieve a new and better future.

            And on the other hand, the Soviet system was bureaucratized to the point that Kremlin orders for socialist realism could be realized and faced few competitors. The Soviet regime decided what the country was striving for and made sure that any critics were silenced or at least marginalized.

            Today, these organizations are missing, profit seeking dominates over promotion of this or that message, and the regime is so far incapable of excluding other messages provided by art either through the Internet or other means. As a result, official art now can meet demands for escapism but not provide the kind of messaging socialist realism did.

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