Socialist realism

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Socialist realism is a style of realistic art which developed under Socialism in the Soviet Union and became a dominant style in other communist countries. Socialist realism is a teleologically-oriented style having as its purpose the furtherance of the goals of socialism and communism. Although related, it should not be confused with Social realism, a type of art that realistically depicts subjects of social concern. Unlike Social realism, Socialist realism often glorifies the roles of the poor.


Soviet Union

In conjunction with the Socialist Classical style of architecture, Socialist realism was the officially approved type of art in the Soviet Union for nearly sixty years. All material goods and means of production belonged to the community as a whole, this included means of producing art, which were also seen as powerful propaganda tools. During the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks established an institution called Proletkult (the Proletarian Cultural and Enlightenment Organizations) which sought to put all arts into the service of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In the early years of the Soviet Union, Russian and Soviet artists embraced a wide variety of art forms under the auspices of Proletkult. Revolutionary politics and radical non-traditional art forms were seen as complementary. In art, Constructivism flourished. In poetry, the nontraditional and the avant-garde were often praised.

This, however, was rejected by some members of the Communist party, who did not appreciate modern styles such as Impressionism and Cubism, since these movements existed before the revolution and were thus associated with "decadent bourgeois art." Socialist realism was, to some extent, a reaction against the adoption of these "decadent" styles. It was thought that the non-representative forms of art were not understood by the proletariat and could therefore not be used by the state for propaganda. Lenin himself deplored the rejection of beautiful because it was old, and explicitly described art as needing to call on its heritage: "Proletarian culture must be the logical development of the store of knowledge mankind has accumulated under the yoke of capitalist, landowner, and bureaucratic society."[1] Modern art styles appeared to refuse to draw upon this heritage, thus clashing with the long realist tradition in Russia and rendering the art scene complex.[2]

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