Art for the workers explores the mythology and reality of post-revolutionary proletarian art in Russia as well as its expression in the festive decorations of Petrograd between 1917 and 1920. It covers this brief period chronologically, and so permits a close inspection of the development of artistic policies in Russia under the Provisional Government followed by the Bolsheviks. Specifically, this book focuses on the pre-and post-revolutionary debate about the nature of proletarian art and its role in the new Socialist society, particularly focusing on festive decorations, parades and mass performances as expressions of proletarian art and forms of propaganda.
This collection of essays deals broadly with the visual and cultural manifestation of utopian aspirations in Russia of the 1920s and 1930s, while examining the before- and after-life of such ideas both geographically and chronologically. The studies document the pluralism of Russian and Soviet culture at this time as well as illuminating various cultural strategies adopted by officialdom. The result serves to complicate the excessively simplistic narrative that avant-garde dreams were suddenly and brutally crushed by Soviet repression and to contest the notion of the avant-garde’s complicity in Stalinism. Naturally, some essays document episodes in the defeat and dismantling of utopian projects, but others trace the persistence of avant-garde ideas and the astonishing tenacity of creative individuals who managed to retain their personal integrity while continuing to serve the cause of Soviet power.
Contributors include: John E. Bowlt, Natalia Budanova, David Crowley, Evgeny Dobrenko, Maria Kokkori, Christina Lodder, Muireann Maguire, Nicholas Bueno de Mesquita, Maria Mileeva, John Milner, Nicoletta Misler, Maria Starkova-Vindman, Brandon Taylor, and Maria Tsantsanoglou.