Artistically, the Soviet Union was one of the most exciting places to be in the 1920s. The re-establishment of international connections after the end of the Civil War heralded a period of vibrant cultural exchange during which the Russian avant-garde proceeded to surprise and dazzle the rest of the world with its brilliantly inventive creativity.

At the same time, Russian artistic life was invigorated by the influx of foreign ideas and distinguished visitors from the West, resulting in the production of daring operas, ballets and plays. This time of intense cultural ferment coincided with the liberal years of the ‘New Economic Policy’, when the austere measures of War Communism were replaced by a limited form of private enterprise. It came to an abrupt end when Stalin introduced the first Five-Year Plan.

The exploration of Russia’s artistic life during the years of the New Economic Policy will be the subject of two days of lectures, covering firstly the period 1921 to 1924 and secondly the period 1925 to 1928. Topics to be discussed on the first day include the development of Constructivism, the technique of montage, the introduction of jazz to the Soviet Union, the 1922 exhibition of Russian art in Berlin and the dance school established in Moscow by Isadora Duncan. The second day will cover the Russian Pavilion at the 1925 Art Deco Exhibition in Paris, experiments in the cinema and performing arts in Moscow and Leningrad, the fate of the Morozov and Shchukin collections, and the increasing pressure exerted by the state on Soviet writers. Amongst others, we will be discussing the work of the artists El Lissitzky, Rodchenko and Filonov, the architects Shchusev and Melnikov, the directors Meyerhold and Eisenstein, the composers Roslavets and Mosolov, and the writers Mayakovsky and Babel.

Speaker: Rosamund Bartlett.