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Art for the new society: Russian art in the service of the Revolution

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Already in 1917 the leader of the new Bolshevik State, Vladimir Lenin, proclaimed that culture should support political needs, which effectively meant that all culture was now viewed as propaganda. Like Lenin, Trotsky believed that ‘the essence of the new culture will be not an aristocratic one for a privileged minority, but a mass culture, a universal and popular one.’ This lecture will examine the impact of the 1917 revolution on artists and the quest of the new government for a new form of proletarian art. How was this to be defined? How would it come about? Where did it go? To answer these questions, we will look at the first expressions of so-called proletarian art after the revolution – especially Lenin’s Plan for Monumental Propaganda – a strategy that employed visual monumental art (revolutionary slogans and monumental sculpture) as an important means of propagating revolutionary and Communist ideas. In this lecture we will look at the new role of art and avant-garde artists after the 1917 October Revolution. Was art useful for the socialist revolution or was revolution useful for art?

This talk is part of the Slavonic Studies series.

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