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Reviewed by:
  • Vlast′ i khudozhestvennaia inteiigentsiia. Dokumenty TsK RKP(b)-VKP(b), VChK-OGPU-NKVD o kul′turnoi politike. 1917–1953 gg, and: Stalin: vlast′ i iskusstvo, and: Sum bur vmesto muzyki. Stalinskaia kul′turnaia revoliutsiia 1936–1938
  • Jan Plamper
Andrei N. Artizov and Oleg Nikolaevich Naumov, eds., Vlast′ i khudozhestvennaia inteiigentsiia. Dokumenty TsK RKP(b)-VKP(b), VChK-OGPU-NKVD o kul′turnoi politike. 1917–1953 gg. (Series Rossiia. XX vek. Dokumenty). Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi fond “Demokratiia” [fond Aleksandra N. Iakovleva], 1999. 872 pp. ISBN 5-85646-040-5.
Evgenii Sergeevich Gromov, Stalin: vlast′ i iskusstvo. Moscow: Respublika, 1998. 495 pp. ISBN 5-250-02598-6.
Leonid Valentinovich Maksimenkov, Sum bur vmesto muzyki. Stalinskaia kul′turnaia revoliutsiia 1936–1938. Moscow: Iuridicheskaia kniga, 1997. 320 pp. ISBN 5-88711-064-3.

Although the genre types of these three works on Soviet high culture might seem disparate, their similarities are in the end much more striking.1 Evgenii Gromov's "popular-scientific" Stalin: vlast' i iskusstvo, Leonid Maksimenkov's monograph on the anti-formalist campaign of 1936–38, and the voluminous and heavily annotated document collection Vlast' i khudozhestvennaia intelligentsiia all share some crucial common features. All three books juxtapose the cultural producers (writers, artists, composers, musicians, actors, and dancers) to "power," by which they mean either the state, the Bolshevik Party, or Stalin. They often do so in outright contradiction to the new sources that they adduce, where art and power emerge interwoven in myriad complex ways and directions. Furthermore, the underlying – linear – narrative in all three books is one of increasing repression of art by power. The history of Soviet culture is understood to progress along a via dolorosa, marked by canonical stations. These stations are weighted differently, but invariably include the Great Break and Stalin's assumption of dictatorial power, the 1932 dissolution of independent writers' organizations, the repression of Babel' and Bulgakov, Pilniak and Platonov, Mandel'shtam and Meierkhol'd, the 1937 scandal surrounding Sergei Eisenstein's [End Page 211] Pavlik Morozov film, Bezhin lug, the anti-formalism campaign introduced by the 1936 "Muddle instead of Music" ("Sumbur vmesto muzyki") article, the Great Terror, a relative hiatus during World War II, and, finally, the apogee of the Zhdanovshchina. Finally, the source base for the three works under review is by and large the same – documents from the central Moscow archives concerning the Party's relationship with prominent cultural producers and such central organizations as the Writers' Union.2

To be sure, the configuration of art and power as separate, reified entities, and the narrative structure of a march from art's relative freedom to its unfettered control by the state, are difficult to stomach for scholars brought up during the 1980s and 1990s on a steady diet of postmodern theory from Foucault to Spivak – not to mention all those working hard at the deconstruction of the liberal subject, the disaggregation of society into fields, postcolonial decentering, and the blurring of high and low cultures. Rather than reproach the authors and editors at hand for the kinds of books they did not produce, however, this review, I believe, should be a place to extract from the three books all that can successfully enter into Western academic conversations. And there is plenty to extract.

The document collection Vlast' i khudozhestvennaia intelligentsiia, one of the many sborniki to have appeared in Russia since the opening of the archives, is as good a place as any to begin. The collection appeared in a series of the "Democracy Foundation," chaired by Aleksandr Iakovlev, and the editorial thrust is clearly to discredit the communist regime. Nearly 700 pages of documents cover the period 1917–53, arranged in chronological order, followed by an appendix listing all visitors from the arts to Stalin's office (taken from the same visitor books made familiar to scholars through the work of Oleg Khlevniuk),3 a second appendix listing prizes awarded to cultural figures, and 60 small-print pages of annotations to the documents. The book closes with an excellent name index.

Vlast' i khudozhestvennaia intelligentsiia is divided into seven chronological sections, the titles of which are quite telling: 1) In Search of a Bolshevik Course, 1917–1927; 2...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-5000
Print ISSN
1531-023x
Pages
pp. 211-218
Launched on MUSE
2008-03-26
Open Access
No
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