Posted by on February 26, 2017

“Perhaps the best-documented struggle of the cultural revolution was in literature,” (Freeze, pg.356).  The reason literature became a struggle during 1929 was the shift from creativity to constraints that took place in regards to artistic expression: no longer would opinions be created autonomously.  Rather, what is published would be dictated by the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP).  “The chief villains, though, were Stalin and Central Committee, which used RAPP to place literature and the other arts (excepting, for the time being, music) under Party control,” (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History).

Leopol’d Averbakh (1905-1937),  Source: Wikipedia

Leopol’d Averbakh was considered to be the leadership figure of RAPP.  Although he was considered the “undisputed king of RAPP,” he was also referenced as “the executioner of Soviet-Russian literature,” (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.  Under his direction and the power of the state backing his efforts, the ideology behind RAPP was thoroughly pushed to a point in which the “dictums (of RAPP) become odious and destructive (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History).

Artists of AKhRR: Political-Educational Work in 1917-1927 (1927).
Source: New Gallery, 2000

Another example of constraint was within art.  The artistic equivalent to RAPP was the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (AKhRR).  An example of artistic constraints during this time period would be the painting above.  The constraints for the picture above, and those that other artists attempted to meet, include the idea that “the art must serve the interests of industrialization and the worker state,” (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History).


In order to visualize the concepts that RAPP attempted to impose on society, Director Kuleshov “created a film that seems to satirize the ‘varnishing of reality’ that RAPP vilified,'” (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History).  Below is a link to the film he directed to potentially give insight on how Kuleshov tried to make the impositions of RAPP still fit the direction of his creativity.


Whether the constraints of the cultural revolution of 1929 were placed on writers, artists, or directors, cultural intolerance was being built.  In order for this intolerance to be built, however, certain goals (formulated by the Proletariats) had to be met.  The two goals were as followed:

1) To root out class-alien culture

2) Create new art forms in its place

(Seventeen Moments in Soviet History)

Due to the goals mentioned above, many limitations were placed upon those that had previously been able to share their ideas.  “Former aristocrats, unsympathetic intellectuals, nonconformist artists, and other dangerous elements were denied access to presses, theaters, and museums,” (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History).

Considering the twenties had brought the ability to express in a freer capacity, the implications of the cultural revolution on artistic expression reverted the progress that had been made thus far.

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  1. Max Morrison
    February 27, 2017

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    Hey Leah, I found this to be a very interesting post! Something that has always stood out to me is that whenever a revolution or similarly shocking event occurs and a new regime is trying to implement their ideology, they never go after the engineers or scientists first; instead, they go after the poets and writers and other artists because that is where resistance always first exposes itself. As such, I am not surprised that literature and other forms of the arts were repressed at such an early age, since throughout history and across time periods, literature, and especially novels, were seen as the undoing of a society.

  2. Drew Snell
    February 27, 2017

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    The role and suppression of the arts in this period of cultural revolution is fascinating. As you referenced, the RAPP regulated political opinions and the autonomy of the artist, creating uniformity of public expression that gave no incentive for creatives to continue their artistic passions. I really liked the quotes you chose and found the premise of Kuleshov’s film interesting. Nice work!

  3. Leighann Holcomb
    February 27, 2017

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    This post was very interesting to read. I had not realized that art could be controlled in such a manner. A lot of people turn to art as an outlet and as a way to learn about history/current events. They can depict the mood of a particular time. Having such restrictions and ulterior motives behind these restrictions is very disappointing. Thank you for educating me on this!

  4. Caroline Ritchey
    February 27, 2017

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    I thought this post was very interesting. During such tumultuous times, people often create art and literature to reflect these times and as an outlet of the change. However, it’s interesting to see how the Soviets repressed that so it is hard to tell exactly how people were feeling about the change in regime and ideology during this time.

  5. Kassidy Rimer
    February 27, 2017

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    This was a very interesting post to read, and covered a topic that was foreign to me. I never really thought of the implications Stalin’s authoritarianism had on arts and literature. It’s crazy to think that artistic work had constraints that artists had to follow. It just goes to show that individual expression, even down to the basic level, was crushed under Stalin.

  6. A. Nelson
    February 27, 2017

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    I see lots of connections between this post and your previous discussion of film. How do you think the kind of artistic and literary output endorsed by RAPP was received? Did people like it? If one of the purposes of this kind of “art” was mobilization and propaganda, how effective do you think it was?

  7. Jimmy Meehan
    February 28, 2017

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    Great post about the Soviet’s control over artistic expression. It is interesting to see how the state wanted to limit and control its culture. Their constraints were meant to show the ideal worker state and not the reality of their situation. I also really liked the sources you used in this, they add a good amount of detail to these measures by the Soviets.

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