The casualness of the so dramatic a choice, to which the artist in the period of social realism was condemned, permits one to perceive that cultural experiment as one of the most tragic experiences of 20th century art. In prison and the Gulag camps perished, among others, Issak , Osip Mandelshtam, Borys Pilniak, Nikolai Punin, Leonid Nikitin, Viera Yarmolayeva. Denial of the possibility of working, destruction of life's work, psychological depression was the lot of a whole community of artists. The criminal Stalinist ideology destroyed the individual, its artistic version - which was socialist realism - ravaged art. The abovementioned doctrines of socialist realism led to far reaching changes in the very essence of the creative process, reaching with its destructive force even to the technical questions of composition of the canvases. Carried into practice, the doctrine of social realism not only precluded the formation of bonds between the artist and his artwork, but caused a wasteland in the whole area of artistic tradition. The demand, formulate by Stalin, of a "national form" of the socialist work was basically directed at the destruction or the real value of national culture, for the creation of something that could be termed "false culture." The art of social realism, to which often are ascribed the aims of agitation and propaganda (agit-prop), in reality invalidated the sense of creation and served above all to bring into vassalage one more community group, which were the artists.
Nazism and communism and the accompanying concepts of culture and art, carried out their programs in a similar manner using analogous means. Common to the artistic programs of both ideologies was the conflict with autonomous art and the pluralism of artistic principles. The were linked moreover by the mobilization against everything which cannot be controlled and the artistic result of which is unknown; by the categorical rejection of the language of abstract art, strong deformation and expression; by a declared return to realistic styles and traditional categorization of works of art; by recognition of the "mass audience" as the final arbiter of the worth of the work of art and demands for linkage to local native traditions; by a characteristic isolationism and opposition to modern traditions of an open internationalist character; by the instrumental exploitation of the artists and their work in the context of the political or ideological needs. The end of the Nazi oppression in 1945 marked the beginning of the expansion of communism and accompanying it forms of culture.

based on Sztuka a systemy totalitarne (Art and totalitarian systems) by Waldemar Baraniewski.

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Links:     Socrealism     Jones
English translation by Peter K. Gessner of Polish original posted by Liga Republicanska
© 2000 Polish Academic Information Center, University at Buffalo. All rights reserved.


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