«The Iconography» of Comrade Andrei (Yakov Sverdlov): a Mechanism of Soviet Mythmaking
The article considers the mechanism underlying the mythmaking of “comrade Andrei” (Yakov Sverdlov), a Soviet chieftain, referring to the art collection of the Ya. M. Sverdlov Museum (presently, the City Museum of Yekaterinburg). Kept in the Scientific Archive of the Museum, instructions and detailed descriptions of paintings ordered as well as transcripts of subsequent discussions attended by the so-called old Bolsheviks and representatives of the Institute of History of the (All-) Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), artists’ commentaries and suggestions along with the opinions and estimations of some officials help trace the process of planning and realization of different art projects, depicting the image and revolutionary activity of Yakov Sverdlov. The status of customers acquired along with their positions, meant that Soviet officials (heads of museums, factories, instructors of regional committees, and CEOs of local agricultural institutions) would solve all the issues, underlying the “production of art”. It was them who decided on the themes, plots and images and offered the format and compositions of paintings and their methods of creation; they also chose the appropriate studies and painting versions, controlled the realization and development of the concept and interfered with all the details to their liking. The authors demonstrate that the customers, i.e. representatives of the local authorities had the same tastes and cultural preferences as the public. In their creation of Yakov Sverdlov’s iconography, they followed the images and compositional patterns that had already been tested (with paintings depicting Lenin and Stalin) and kept the image of “the chieftain of Ural workers” within the assigned framework. Despite the fact that they observed all the iconographic compositional patterns, the creators (both customers and artists) failed to reach any impressive results in their mythologisation of “the chieftain of Ural workers”. The majority of paintings they created were limited to documentary and everyday themes. The customers rejected any artistic allegory, symbolic implications or artistic generalization, aiming at a reconstruction of a real revolutionary life which led to one-sided plots, aiming at a certain reconstruction of “the real revolutionary times”, which made Ya. Sverdlov’s image inexpressive and dull.
Arkhiv Muzeya istorii Ekaterinburga [The Archive of the Yekaterinburg History Museum]. Stock 1. List 2. Dossier 1, 2, 6, 9, 11. Ben′yamin, V. & Romashko, S. (Transl.). (1997). Moskovsky dnevnik [Moscow Diary].224 p. Moscow, Ad Marginem.
Golomshtok, I. (1994). Totalitarnoe iskusstvo [Totalitarian Art]. 296 p. Moscow, Galart, Degot′, E. (2010). Sovetskoe iskusstvo mezhdu avangardom i sotsrealizmom. 1927–1932 [Soviet Art between the Avant-Garde and Socialist Realism. 1927–1932]. In Nashe Nasledie, 93–94, pp. 134–147.
Dobrenko, E. (1997). Formovka sovetskogo chitatelya: Sotsial′nye i esteticheskie predposylki retseptsii sovetskoy literatury [The Formation of the Soviet Reader: The Social and Aesthetic Prerequisites of Soviet Literature Perception]. 321 p. Sankt Petersburg, Akademichesky proekt.
Ioganson, B. (2012). Pervye tridtsat′ let Moskovskogo soyuza khudozhnikov (1932–1962) : Mify, real′nost′, paradoksy [The First 30 Years of the Moscow Artists Union (1932–1962). Myths, Reality, Paradoxes]. In Iskusstvoznanie, 3–4, pp. 537–563.
Manin, V. S. (1999). Iskusstvo v rezervatsii: Khudozhestvennaya zhizn′ Rossii 1917–1941 gg. [Art in a Reservation: Russia’s Artistic Life between 1917 and 1941]. 264 p. Moscow, Editorial URSS.
Plamper, Ya. & Edel′man, N. (Transl.). (2010). Alkhimiya vlasti: Kul′t Stalina v izobrazitel′nom iskusstve [The Alchemy of Power: Stalin’s Cult of Personality in Fine Arts].496 p. Moscow, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie.
Sverdlova, K. T. (1985). Yakov Mikhaylovich Sverdlov [Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov].(4th ed.). 400 p. Moscow, Molodaya gvardiya.
Lunacharsky, A., Radek, K. & Trotsky, L. (1991). Siluety: Politicheskie portrety [Silhouettes: Political Portraits]. 463 p. Moscow, Politizdat.
Stalin, I. V. (1924). O Ya. M. Sverdlove [About Ya. M. Sverdlov]. In Proletarskaya revolyutsiya, 11, pp. 107–108.
Turchin, V. S. (2003). Obraz dvadtsatogo… [The Image of the 20th…]. 648 p. Moscow,Progress-Traditsiya.
Khrushchev, N. S. (1992). Memuary [Memoirs]. In Voprosy istorii, 1, p. 59. Khudozhestvennaya zhizn′ Sovetskoy Rossii. 1917–1932 : Sbornik materialov i dokumentov [The Artistic Life of Soviet Russia. 1917–1932 : A Collection of Materials and Documents]. (2010). 420 p. Moscow, Galart.
Tsentr dokumentatsii obshchestvennykh organizatsy Sverdlovskoy oblasti [The Documentation Centre of the Social Institutions of Sverdlovsk Region]. Stock 4. List 56. Dossier1013.
Chesnokov, N. G. (2000). Pretvorennaya v zhizn′ mechta [A Dream Come True]. 316 p.Yekaterinburg, Izdatelstvo Ural′skogo universiteta.