Modernism and the making of the Soviet New Man

The creation of Soviet culture in the 1920s and the 1930s was the most radical of modernist projects, both in aesthetic and in political terms. This book explores the architecture of this period as the nexus between aesthetics and politics. The invention of communist culture in the aftermath of the October Revolution was perhaps the most radical of modernist projects. The book demonstrates that the relationships between utopia and reality, idealism and pragmatism, between the will for progress and the will for tyranny, are complex and that they do not always play out in the same way. Case studies presented demonstrate the notion that Soviet architecture of the 1920s defined the New Man as primarily a worker. In contrast, during the 1930s the New Man was supposed to be an admirer of socialism in aesthetic terms, the total work of art created by the Communist Party. After an overview of the evolution of Soviet subjectivity, the book discusses transition from the productivist ethos to the representational ethos, which is epitomized in the public baths constructed around 1930 in Leningrad and Moscow. These structures were envisioned as both efficient machines for the production of cleanliness and microcosmic representations of the Soviet society. The book also presents a particular genre of socialist realism, the environmental expertise of obshchestvennitsy, or socially minded women. Finally, it explores the history of this immense structure, clad in expensive marble and illuminated by electrical lighting, altogether the embodiment of socialist modernity.

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