Socialist realism is used through film, art, literature, and music to create a feeling in the audience or to connect with an individual on a personal level and make them feel a connection to the state and show how wonderful the state is. Socialist realism is what the state calls “politically correct art”. It creates an uprising feeling with people because socialist realism is not what socialism is but what socialism is becoming. It was used to inspire people to build up the state, and for educational and instructional purposes. Stalin was a major film buff and film was one of his favorite ways for the individual to be educated on the wonders of the Soviet Union.
In the movie Volga Volga a comedy produced in 1938, Socialist realism is promoted through the use of music as well as film. The movie uses music to promote the wonders of the state. At the end of the film it combines two different types of music, blending them to create a new style. The film uses this to blend the real and the ideal in a way that authenticates reality and promotes socialist realism. In 1938 when this film was created the Soviet Union was at a time of great industrial advancement.
Volga Volga is a great example of Socialist realism. It has a comedy, mixed with a story. It keeps the viewer entertained while having a good message at the end. There are good subliminal messages throughout the film especially at the end. And it really shows the blending of two things and the great outcome it can have. Volga Volga uses an uplifting comedy to help the people of Russia in dark times. It was the model of soviet utopia it was sophisticated yet accessible to people. It shows that the people of Russia need to stick together and do whatever it takes for the good of the Union. There is no bad only the good and the good that will be.
The movie uses different techniques to connect the viewer to the main characters and to suck them into the idea of it all. They show relatable jobs with the rural connecting to small town life, industrial and urban workers can also connect to the construction of the Moscow-Volga canal. They promote the state by using a steamboat named Joseph Stalin to symbolize Stalin as a central role in the modernization of the Soviet Union. In doing these things the individual feels special and the film shows the joining of two types of music as the joining of cultural legitimacy and appeal. Film was used to make people laugh and feel good, but underneath it all it was used to instill enthusiasm in the individual for the simple task of building socialism through optimistic stories, heroes, and with the help of the party of course.
Another way that socialist realism is used is through literature. In the Novel Time, Forward! By Valentine Kataev published in 1932 this is a novel about the shock worker and his goals and challenges to be the best for the state. It took place during Stalins five year plan. It shows how a shock worker went all out to make the most product in a day and beat the world record. He puts his job and the record before his pregnant wife and leaves her while she is giving birth to help his crew complete the task at hand. He gives everything to the state and for the good of the state. They go through struggles of bad weather and of the water being turned off. But through it all they complete the challenge. The main character becomes a party member and the crew receives entry into Komsomal the youth communist league. He is a hero until he finds out that the day after some crew in another town out worked them and produced more goods. With the competition of the other crew they will want to keep getter better and better, faster and faster and this signals the forward progress of the Soviet labor front. Everyday they will keep trying to out do the other sector or company and create more goods for the Union. This in turn will keep production up and the industrial forward progress of the state.
Kataev uses the underlying theme of collective thought to show social realism in his novel. He shows throughout his novel that not one person is responsible to the success of the whole, that it took a whole team or all the characters to complete it. He uses all the characters and the crowd at the mixing site as an attempt to cultivate a collective manner of thought in his soviet readers. The idea of togetherness, perseverance, and to work to produce more for the greater good of the party is the whole point of socialist realism. It is all about making the people feel like the best is yet to come and to keep doing everything they can for the good of the state. That’s how you become a great comrade. Support the state.
The last way they use social realism is through art. Art had a very big influence on individuals. There would be banners on the street, print in the papers, and paintings in buildings. These paintings had lots of meaning behind them and placed a god like image of Stalin. In a news article I found from the St. Petersburg journals, It states that the man thought that at the time he was convinced that they had the most and that they lived in a wonderful place. But in reality he now sees that he was living in a fairytale and they didn’t have hardly anything at all. This is an example of social realism. They make you believe that everything is wonderful when it really isn’t.
I am going to examine the painting Grigorii Shegal’, “Leader Teacher, and Friend” (Comrade Stalin at the Congress of Collective Farm Shock-Workers)” (1937). This painting stood out to me because I think it really shows what real socialist realism is all about. The painting shows Stalin as kind faced, with soft lighting, everyone is leaning towards him, wanting to be close to him. A quote from the St. Petersburg journal is that the painting is “the last supper of socialist realism”. The use of art to portray Stalin and the state as heroes was used day to day.
Another example I found was that they would use banners with happy perfect children yelling “Thank you, Comrade Stalin for our happy childhood”. This is just an example of how they would use these happy, peaceful, wonderful images to make you think that everything was okay when it truly wasn’t. Art was a very easy form for people to understand and see because not many soviets were educated at the time and not many could read or write. An image or a painting was very easy for them to see and interpret. Many different images were used to reflect positive things such as flowers, sunlight, the body, youth, flight, industry, and news technology. They were poetic images that created a utopia of communism and the soviet state.
Art then wasn’t used just for something nice to look at, but it had an underlying motive. The art was easy to interpret, showed every day life, and aimed to support the state and the party. During this time there were many portraits of Stalin portraying him as a hero or as a mighty man. Many people view socialist realism in art as a lie or as not accurate, but many people living through that time used it as a hope, dream, or as something to look forward too. That was the whole point of socialist realism to show the people what was to come… greatness!
When comparing the different forms of socialist realism I would have to say that music is probably the most influential in the Soviet Union. Then it would be art. Not everyone was educated and could read novels, not everyone had access to television. But almost everyone could see the banners in the streets, the paintings in the buildings, the pictures in the paper. And everyone knew music. Through the folk songs people sang, the rhymes the children would sing, music and art were definitely influential in the Soviet Union through Socialist realism.
Social realism was used for many many years. Even after Stalin’s death art, music, literature, and film were censored. For fifty plus years the Soviet Union was in charge of what people could write and publish. They wanted to make sure that people thought that everything was grand when it wasn’t really that way. They wanted the rest of the world to think that the Soviet Union was a great, powerful nation and that nothing could stop them.
In conclusion, I hope my essay explained what Socialist realism is. The way that socialist realism was used in film through the movie Volga Volga. Through Literature in Kataev’s Time, Forward! And through art specifically the painting Grigorii Shegal’, “Leader Teacher, and Friend” (Comrade Stalin at the Congress of Collective Farm Shock-Workers)” (1937). I tried to describe how each one used Socialist realism and how important that was in the Soviet Union in this time period. Socialist realism was used to bring something to the people to help create a feeling of togetherness and to do it for the good and betterment of the State. Socialist realism is about what is to come, how great it will be, and that the best is yet to come. Not anything negative about how it currently is or how some might see it. Only specific people were allowed to write, publish, draw, and produce film in this time period. Everything was done through the state. Russia needed to be seen as the greatest place in the world.
A wonderful powerful nation ran by Joseph Stalin. He needed to be seen as the states hero. I don’t think that censoring someone is a good thing but in the case of the Soviet Union if you didn’t censor yourself and only do what the state wanted you to do… you could end up beaten, jailed, or even worse killed. It was best to go along with what the state wanted and be a good comrade.
I think the examples of film, art, and literature that was given to us gave us a good understanding of how socialist realism was used in the Soviet Union during this time period, and how influential it was in everyday lives. If it wasn’t for socialist realism the factory workers wouldn’t want to work so hard for the state to produce large numbers of product for them to help the industrial progress. Socialist realism is all about the progress of socialism and how to better society, to make the Soviet Union the greatest place in the world.