The Landscape of Stalinism

The Art and Ideology of Soviet Space

Edited by Evgeny Dobrenko and Eric Naiman

  • Published: 2003
  • Subject Listing: History; Art History
  • Bibliographic information: 344 pp., 35 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Studies in Modernity and National Identity
  • Contents

This wide-ranging cultural history explores the expression of Bolshevik Party ideology through the lens of landscape, or, more broadly, space. Portrayed in visual images and words, the landscape played a vital role in expressing and promoting ideology in the former Soviet Union during the Stalin years, especially in the 1930s. At the time, the iconoclasm of the immediate postrevolutionary years had given way to nation building and a conscious attempt to create a new Soviet "culture." In painting, architecture, literature, cinema, and song, images of landscape were enlisted to help mold the masses into joyful, hardworking citizens of a state with a radiant, utopian future - all under the fatherly guidance of Joseph Stalin.

From backgrounds in history, art history, literary studies, and philosophy, the contributors show how Soviet space was sanctified, coded, and "sold" as an ideological product. They explore the ways in which producers of various art forms used space to express what Katerina Clark calls "a cartography of power" - an organization of the entire country into "a hierarchy of spheres of relative sacredness," with Moscow at the center. The theme of center versus periphery figures prominently in many of the essays, and the periphery is shown often to be paradoxically central.

Examining representations of space in objects as diverse as postage stamps, a hikers' magazine, advertisements, and the Soviet musical, the authors show how cultural producers attempted to naturalize ideological space, to make it an unquestioned part of the worldview. Whether focusing on the new or the centuries-old, whether exploring a built cityscape, a film documentary, or the painting Stalin and Voroshilov in the Kremlin, the authors offer a consistently fascinating journey through the landscape of the Soviet ideological imagination.

Not all features of Soviet space were entirely novel, and several of the essayists assert continuities with the prerevolutionary past. One example is the importance of the mother image in mass songs of the Stalin period; another is the "boundless longing" inspired in the Russian character by the burden of living amid vast empty spaces. But whether focusing on the new or the centuries-old, whether exploring a built cityscape, a film documentary, or the painting Stalin and Voroshilov in the Kremlin, the authors offer a consistently fascinating journey through the landscape of the Soviet ideological imagination.
Evgeny Dobrenko is a professor in Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Nottingham, England. Eric Naiman is associate professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. The other contributors are Oksana Bulgakowa, Katerina Clark, Randi Cox, Mikhail Epstein, Boris Groys, Hans Gunther, John McCannon, Jan Plamper, Mikhail Ryklin, Richard Taylor, and Emma Widdis.

"The editors - foremost scholars in their own right - have gathered in this volume the leading scholars that are working currently in the field of Slavic studies. These essays each represent an innovation in the field of Slavic studies and, more generally, in the emerging interdisciplinary fields of the study of social and political space. This is one of those rare volumes that represents an event opening the disciplinary bounds and addressing itself to the reader of the future."
-Dragan Kujundzic, University of California, Irvine

"Offering a variety of perspectives on Russian culture of the Stalin period (from theoretical musings to down-to-earth archival historical research) and ranging in subject matter from the popular song, postage stamps, hikers magazines, and musicals to monumental architecture, film travelogues, Stalinist Bildungsroman, and the archetypal Moscow Metro, the collection should be used widely by students of modern Russian culture and politics."
-Gregory Freidin, Stanford University

List of Figures
Note of Transliteration
Introduction - Eric Naiman
1. Socialist Realism and the Sacralizing of Space - Katerina Clark
2. The Spatial Poetics of the Personality Cult: Circles around Stalin - Jan Plamper
3. Spatial Figures in Soviet Cinema of the 1930s - Oksana Bulgakowa
4. "Broad is My Motherland": The Mother Archetype and Space in the Soviet Mass Song - Hans Gunther
5. The Art of Totality - Boris Groys
6. All This Can Be Yours!: Soviet Commercial Advertising and the Social Construction of Space, 1928-1956 - Randi Cox
7. The Art of Social Navigation: The Cultural Topography of the Stalin Era - Evgeny Dobrenko
8. "But Eastward, Look, the Land is Brighter": Toward a Topography of Utopia in the Stalinist Musical - Richard Taylor
9. To Explore or Conquer?: Mobil Perspectives on the Soviet Cultural Revolution - Emma Widdis
10. Tabula Rasa in the North: The Soviet Arctic and Mythic Landscapes in Stalinist Popular Culture - John McCannon
11. "The Best in the World": The Discourse of the Moscow Metro in the 1930s - Mikhail Ryklin
12. Russo-Soviet Topoi - Mikhail Epstein

"A fascinating collection..This important collection on the landscape of Stalinism is both compelling and original."
-Slavic Review