Not to be confused with social realism or real socialism. Socialist realism is a style of idealized realistic art that was developed in the Soviet Union and was imposed as the official style in that country between 1932 and 1988, as well as in other socialist countries after S23 4MO – Letna – Morning Sun War II.
Socialist realism was the predominant form of approved art in the Soviet Union from its development in the early 1920s to its eventual fall from official status beginning in the late 1960s until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Socialist realism was developed by many thousands of artists, across a diverse society, over several decades. Early examples of realism in Russian art include the work of the Peredvizhnikis and Ilya Yefimovich Repin. Shortly after the Bolsheviks took control, Anatoly Lunacharsky was appointed as head of Narkompros, the People’s Commissariat for Enlightenment. There were two main groups debating the fate of Soviet art: futurists and traditionalists. Russian Futurists, many of whom had been creating abstract or leftist art before the Bolsheviks, believed communism required a complete rupture from the past and, therefore, so did Soviet art.
The first time the term “socialist realism” was officially used was in 1932. The term was settled upon in meetings that included politicians of the highest level, including Stalin himself. Proletarian: art relevant to the workers and understandable to them. Typical: scenes of everyday life of the people.
Partisan: supportive of the aims of the State and the Party. Workers inspect architectural model under a statue of Stalin, Leipzig, East Germany, 1953. The purpose of socialist realism was to limit popular culture to a specific, highly regulated faction of creative expression that promoted Soviet ideals. The party was of the utmost importance and was always to be favorably featured.
There was a prevailing sense of optimism, socialist realism’s function was to show the ideal Soviet society. Not only was the present gloried, but the future was also supposed to be depicted in an agreeable fashion. Because the present and the future were constantly idealized, socialist realism had a sense of forced optimism. Tragedy and negativity were not permitted, unless they were shown in a different time or place.
Revolutionary romanticism elevated the common worker, whether factory or agricultural, by presenting his life, work, and recreation as admirable. Its purpose was to show how much the standard of living had improved thanks to the revolution. Art was used as educational information. By illustrating the party’s success, artists were showing their viewers that sovietism was the best political system. Art was also used to show how Soviet citizens should be acting.
Common images used in socialist realism were flowers, sunlight, the body, youth, flight, industry, and new technology. These poetic images were used to show the utopianism of communism and the Soviet state. The artist could not, however, portray life just as they saw it because anything that reflected poorly on Communism had to be omitted. People who could not be shown as either wholly good or wholly evil could not be used as characters.