Teaching the Creative Professions in the USSR: Ideology and Practice

Guest Editors: Maria Maiofis and Ilya Kukulin

The section opens with Vadim Bass’ “The Discourse of Form as the Last Refug e of the Soviet Architect.” In the early 1930s, Soviet modernist architects ma naged to publish an officially appro­ved composition textbook, founded on the system of architectural propaedeu­tics which had been developed even before the ‘adoption of the Classical heritage.’ This system was rooted in the intellectual fashions of the early 20th century, such that Soviet architects inherited from the pre-revolutionary period some ideas and values which had been preserved by avant-garde artists. The period covering the 1920s– 1950s saw the destruction of traditional mechanisms of the social functioning of architecture, which had been held in place by a collective “common sense” both within and without the profession of architect per se. As a result, the dis­course of form remained the only sover­eign territory of the Soviet architect, both in the Stalinist and post-Stalinist periods. This system of professional thought and architectural values was based on an eclectic model that combined scraps of psychology with the rhetoric of avant-garde art and acade mist practice; it was the only universally shared model for Soviet architects. The article examines both the process and the consequences of its establishment.

Marina Raku’s “The Social Construc­tion of ‘Soviet Musicology’: Birth of a Method” addresses special features of Soviet musicology, such as its dis­ciplinary structure and institutionaliza-tion; the shaping of the principles of its methodo logy; and its special social status in the period under consideration. Special attention is paid to the influen­ce of the concept of “kulturnost’” for the further conceptual development of Soviet music. This situation was also an influential factor for later Russian musi-cology and education.

Galina Belyaeva’s “‘Soviet Artist’: The Construction of Professional Iden­tity in Public Policy and Its Regional Variations (1918—1932)” analyzes the process of formation of “Soviet artist” as a professional identity in the first de­cade and a half following the October Revolution. The changes in ideology that were reflected in the terminologi­cal transition from “proletarian artist” to “Soviet artist” were crucial for this pro­cess. Changes in the way the “forming” of a new artist was taught were consid­ered at the level of state policy, as well as in one of its local institutions – the Saratov art school.


Thaw-Era Social Institutions: Moral Regulation, Urbanisation and Culture

Guest Editors: Maria Maiofis and Ilya Kukulin

Oleg Leybovich’s “New Party Patterns: The Construction Urban Practices in the Post-Stalin Decade” examines the pro­cess of building new urban practices in the Soviet Union in the first post-Stalin decade. These practices were directly related to the institutionalization of pri vacy. Leybovich proposes a hypothesis that Party organizations were an important in­strument for generating social self-regula­tion for people cultivating an urban lifestyle. The mid-1950s saw the development of a new interpretation of Party patterns in the general context of the de-Stalinization of public life. Its main idea was that a good Communist must be a respectable man in public: to lead a sober life, be an exempla­ry family man and a polite, decent citizen.

The section continues with Tatiana Dashkova’s “‘We don’t need stripteases, but you shouldn’t cover up too much either!’: The Transformation of the Institu­tion of Fashion as Seen in 1950s-60s Soviet Cinema.” Dashkova’s examina­tion of the interplay of fashion and cinema makes a valuable contribution to the study of Soviet fashion, which has demonstrated remarkable progress over the last decade. Her paper considers Thaw-era cinema with a view to different aspects of fashion as presented in the films (consumption, representation of the fashion industry, fashion behavior, urban activities, etc.) as well as genres and the cinematic imagery associated with these subjects. On the one hand, this study provides grounds for a comparative analysis of Thaw-era cinema and films from the 1930s–40s, in which representa­tion of fashion was almost absent. On the other hand, it reveals the specific rhythm of the development of cinematic rep­resentation of fashion in relation to the evolution of the Soviet fashion industry.

The section closes with an article by Irina Kaspe, “‘We Are Living in an Era That Gives Meaning to Life’: the con­struction of the ‘sixties’ generation in the journal Youth [Iunost’].” Using materials from the journal Iunost’, Kaspe investi­gates a particular type of Soviet youth periodical, which was characteristic for the late 1950s-early 1960s. Underscor­ing the fact that the institution of the youth journal in this case was itself laid out through the construction of genera­tional identity, and discovering what may have been the earliest attempt to define the new generation of Soviet citizens us­ing a term borrowed from the nineteenth century (shestidesiatniki), Kaspe demon­strates that the generational plots initi­ated by the writers of Iunost’ had at their center a set of existential questions: the search for resources for “giving meaning to life” and its “meaningfulness.”


Siege Narratives I

Guest editors: Riccardo Nicolosi and Polina Barskova

Natalija Arlauskaitė’s “‘Comrades, let’s move along faster!’: Visual Regimes for the Siege Everyday” examines feature films about the siege of Leningrad produced during the Second World War and until 1966, when the usual way of using documentary footage of the Siege started experiencing changes. All of these films recycle certain “Siege canon” material, established by the documen ta ry “Battle for Leningrad” (1942). Arlaus kaitė scrutinizes the selec­tion and combination of visual regimes used to convey the Siege story during the first twenty years after its occurence. She demonstrates the mechanisms and techniques used to tame the documen­tary footage employed in these films in order to control the reproduction of Siege history and experience. These are techniques of manipulation of the mov­ing image, camouflaging the difference and ruptures between visual regimes. Arlauskaitė argues that from the very beginning, in Siege films, documentary footage is placed into a “pasteurized” past, which is fully controlled and stable. In this way, documentary footage, poten­tially subversive when incorporated into the dominant historical film narrative — into retroscenario — is tamed: its exces-siveness is controlled, its contingency is anaesthetized.

An article from Ilja Kukuj, “‘It was what really happened that I couldn’t bear Seeing’: The Narrative of Remembering in Pavel Zal’tsman’s Siege Text,” exa­mines the Siege memoirs of the artist Pavel Yakovlevich Zal’tsman (1912— 1985) as a special kind of narrative, one that allows the author the possibil­ity of translating what he saw and lived through during the siege of Leningrad into a reflective mode. “Reflection” is understood here literally: as a reflec­tion of what was seen rendered in text, in a translation of the visual into the verbal. Kukuj investigates the mecha­nisms of this translation while taking into account the fact that Zal’tsman was a student of the analytical school of Pavel Filonov, and that he (Zal’tsman) also worked as a artist-producer in the film industry.

Katharine Hodgson’s “Breaking through the Barriers of Time in a Space under Siege: Olga Bergholz” article explores the dialogue between diffe­rent representations of time in Ol’ga Berggol’ts’s writing on the Leningrad Siege, including her poetry, diaries, and prose. The device of representing diffe­rent periods of time running in parallel with one another was already present in what she wrote during the Siege, when she developed the narrative model of a ‘double life’ which existed both in the traumatic present and a utopian future. This duality allowed the author to bring together, in her portrayal of the cata­strophic events of the Siege, the stylistic and ideological characteristics of social­ist realism as well as those of ‘realism without adjectives’.

In his article, “The Apophatic and Formalism. The Siege Narrative in Lydia Ginzburg’s Blockade Diary,” Riccardo Nicolosi examines Ginzburg’s Diary and proposes a new interpretation of the narrative conceptualization of Siege experience reflected there. In the Diary, Ginzburg has recourse to a method that could be called “apophatic,” i.e. founded on negative definitions. Ginzburg’s nar­rative strategies meanwhile refer to “the apophatic quality” (to use P. Medvedev’s term) of the Formalists’ method, and these strategies are in turn opposed to the “cataphatic” strategies of official So­viet discourse regarding the Siege. The first part of Nicolosi’s article analyzes this “cataphatic” discourse in the work of K. Fedin, V. Inber, Vs. Vishnevsky and A. Chakovsky, all of whom use a number of literary means in order to present a coherent and meaningful portrait of the Siege. The second half addresses the answer Ginzburg suggests to this cataphatic quality.


Siege Narratives II

Polina Barskova’s “Fiction and Truth: What We Learn about the Siege from Boris I. Ivanov’s Allegory Vedyornikov the Deserter” examines the specific tasks of Boris I. Ivanov’s story “Behind the City Walls. Vedyornikov the Deserter,” corre­lating these tasks with those of other im­portant Siege texts (both literary and non-fiction), and revealing the marks of both kinds of writing in the story. In Barskova’s view, the most unique feature of Ivanov’s story is its combination of the allegory device with documentary representation of the circumstances of traumatic history.

Tatiana Voronina’s “Old-Fashioned Ways of Talking about Old Things: The Siege of Leningrad in Perestroika-Era Literature” examines literary works treat­ing the Siege written in the 1980s-90s as an important source for the formation of historical ideas in Russian society, and literature of this time period as a struc­ture that functioned in accordance with a specific system of rules. The past, mean­while, was used as a resource, while the literary canon of socialist realism worked as a framework giving structure to his­torical content.

Evgeniia Vorobyova’s “Breaking through Obstruction: the Siege of Leningrad as Symbol and Experience” analyzes contemporary Russian literary texts of the past decade focused on the theme of the Siege of Leningrad in the context of the processes of collective identity forma­tion and the struggle for control over the production of symbols of that identity (as understood in terms of cultural sociology). One of these officially established symbols is the Victory in Great Patriotic War, rep­resented as a “great sacrifice in the name of the future.” This purely symbolic and sacred means of representation blocks at­tempts to narrate the war in any other way. Vorobyova demonstrates how the works analyzed enact narrative strategies that differ from the official one; through these strategies, the event of the Siege — by virtue of its historical ambivalence — rep­resents a breakthrough to history as trau­matic experience that can be appropriated and given new interpretations.


New Literary Institutions: The Arkady Dragomoshchenko Prize

The 2015 Arkady Dragomoshchenko Prize guest of honor was the American poet Michael Palmer (see the selec­tion of his work published in NLO no. 33), a close friend of Aleksey Parshchikov and Arkady Dragomoshchenko, who first visited what was then still called Lenin­grad in 1990. Among the events connect­ed to the prize, the day before the open debates Palmer’s book Under the Sign of the Alphabet (translated by Dragomosh-chenko and Alexander Skidan) was pre­sented as part of the ‘Novye stikhi’ [New Poems] series published by the Poriadok slov [Word Order] bookstore. Palmer also read a ‘Letter to St. Petersburg,’ special­ly written for this occasion, and which opens the selection of materials here. He also presented the prize to this year’s winner, Alexandra Tsibulya. In addition to a selection of Tsibulya’s poems, this section also inclu des selections from two other finalists — Stanislav Snytko and Nikita Sungatov, a speech describing the poetic practice of all three authors from Anna Glazova (representing the jury) and a speech in response from the winner. The constellation of these texts helps to both map out the ‘lines of force’ in contemporary ‘young’ poetry, ‘responding sharply to the challenge of its time’ (from the ‘Prize Statutes’) and to reveal its points of contact with the international context.