By James von Geldern
Within the early years of the USSR, socialist festivals--events entailing huge, immense fee and the deployment of hundreds of thousands of people--were inaugurated via the Bolsheviks. Avant-garde canvases embellished the streets, staff marched, and tricky mass spectacles have been staged. Why, with a civil battle raging and an economic system in ruins, did the regime sponsor such spectacles?In this primary finished research of how gala's helped construct a brand new political tradition, James von Geldern examines the mass spectacles that captured the Bolsheviks' historic imaginative and prescient. Spectacle administrators borrowed from a practice that integrated tsarist pomp, avant-garde theater, and well known celebrations. They remodeled the ideology of revolution right into a mythologized series of occasions that supplied new foundations for the Bolsheviks' declare to energy.
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Extra resources for Bolshevik festivals, 1917-1920
The decision was hardly conscious, and it was not made by the party alone. Artists, directors, marchers, actors, and political sponsors all took part; give-and-take, not command from above, was the norm. This interaction involved a complicated and often frustrating dialogue between the sponsors' needs and the artists' abilities; factors as varied as the Russian festival tradition, artistic and dramatic form, audience comprehensionas well, of course, as socialist ideologyhad to be taken into account.
The Bolsheviks were fortunate, though not always pleased, to have some of the century's most talented artists eager to help them. The festivals were often aesthetic triumphs. Artists were given entire cities as their canvases: Marc Chagall covered Vitebsk buildings with murals; Nathan Altman redesigned Petrograd's Palace Square. Theater directors were given thousands of actors and vast urban expanses for mass spectacles, which culminated in the Winter Palace spectacle of 1920. The festivals realized artists' wildest dreams: they had the trust of the state, almost unlimited funds, and audiences that could approach one hundred thousand people.
The October Revolution stood at its summit. History was a highly political issue. To make the October Revolution the sole heir of progressive history was to legitimize Bolshevik power. When the Bolsheviks celebrated their revolution, they did not seem to be a party emerging from the underground and split by ideological conflicts; they were united by a clear historical mission stretching from the Page 13 beginnings of civilization to its culmination in communism. The process was not simply a matter of propagandists choosing a new identity and foisting it on the population.