Superiority Complex: The Pavilion of the USSR at the Exposition Internationale in Paris and the Soviet Cultural Diplomacy
Keywords:Exposition Internationale of 1937; Soviet Pavilion; cultural diplomacy; architectural image; Stalin; B. Iophan; V. Mukhina
This article focuses on the Soviet Pavilion at the 1937 Exposition Internationale in Paris. The author reconstructs Soviet preparation and participation for this event in the context of Stalin’s cultural diplomacy, which helps model the interactions between the authorities and the architectural community during the prewar period. The article considers several key aspects of the state’s ideological, political, and artistic guidelines for the Pavilion: the decision-making mechanism behind participation, the choice of architectural design and projects for the decoration of the Pavilion, and criteria for selecting the winners. Additionally, the author shows the decisive role of the government, the Politburo, and Stalin in making all the decisions; she also discloses the mechanism for distributing ‘victories’ outside the complete competitive procedures. When analysing the architectural and artistic imagery of the Pavilion, the article focuses on multiple historical and cultural contexts. Primarily, the architecture of the Pavilion correlated with the plans for the Palace of the Soviets. In addition, the author studies the correlation of the style of 1930s Soviet architecture with international architectural trends. This multi-dimensional examination allows the author to come to a conclusion about the origins and characteristics of the Soviet style used for ‘export purposes’ and the practice of artistic appropriation typical of socialist realism. Special attention is paid to ‘Stalin’s architect’ B. Iofan, whose creative biography sheds light on the relationship between the totalitarian state and an artist reduced to the status of a public servant. The Soviet Pavilion at the Exposition Internationale was a reflection of the USSR: it was meant to demonstrate that the country’s involvement in global processes had autarkic content. In other words, it was a demonstration of a Soviet model of the world, one based on self-sufficiency, totalitarian leadership, and victorious ideas.