Terror by Beauty: Russo-Soviet perspectives

13 years 12.6K Views
Dostoevsky asserts that Beauty will save the world. However, in the Twentieth century, Beauty was used by the most barbaric and repressive regimes, be it in Stalin’s Russia, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, or Franco’s Spain. In the transition to Modern times Beauty lost its sacredness. Its secular equivalent – Sublime – was politically instrumentalised by totalitarian regimes which created reactionary populist mobilizational cultural projects based on perfect simulation of Beauty. Therefore, totalitarian kitsch has to be understood not simply as a decline of taste, but as a byproduct of cultural democratization and means of legitimizing terror.


Evgeny Dobrenko is Professor and Head of the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies of the University of Sheffield. He is the author, editor, or co-editor of twenty books, and has published more than 250 articles and essays on Soviet cultural and intellectual history, literature, film, visual arts, architecture, photography, media and music, Socialist Realism, and critical theory, which have been translated into eight languages. His books include the monographs Stalinist Cinema and the Production of History: Museum of the Revolution (Yale University Press, 2008), Political Economy of Socialist Realism (Yale University Press, 2007), Aesthetics of Alienation: Reassessment of Early Soviet Cultural Theories (Northwestern University Press, 2005), The Making of the State Writer: Social and Aesthetic Origins of Soviet Literary Culture (Stanford University Press, 2001), The Making of the State Reader: Social and Aesthetic Contexts of the Reception of Soviet Literature (Stanford University Press, 1997), Metaphor of Power: Literature of the Stalin Era in Historical Context (Munich, 1993) and others, as well as the edited and co-edited volumes Soviet Culture and Power A History in Documents, 1917-1953 (with Katerina Clark, Yale University Press, 2007), The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Russian Literature (with Marina Balina, Cambridge University Press, 2011), Petrified Utopia: Happiness Soviet Style (with Marina Balina, London: Anthem Press, 2009), The Landscape of Stalinism: The Art and Ideology of Soviet Space (with Eric Naiman, University of Washington Press, 2003), Soviet Riches: Essays on Culture, Literature and Film (St. Petersburg, 2002), Socialist Realist Canon (with Hans Günther, St. Petersburg, 2000), Endquote: Sots-Art Literature and Soviet Grand Style (with Marina Balina and Nancy Condee, Northwestern University Press, 1999), Socialist Realism without Shores (with Thomas Lahusen, Duke University Press, 1997), and others.