Art or Home: Is this a different type of cultural construction?

Although the Gorispolkom officially promoted the construction of apartment buildings for citizens in need of shelter, the state put a higher priority on monumental structures, worthy of an international power, as the means to show its “care” for the people. After the horror and hardship of war, the public areas of the Soviet city architecturally and rhetorically needed to evoke the bright future of a victorious state that had defeated fascism and was prepared to take the revolution around the globe (146).

In our reading for today, I found this quote from chapter six to be very peculiar. From what we have learned about Soviet culture over the course of the semester, I think it is safe to say there is always a base belief in functional utility, i.e. the collective farm as way to serve the community. Of course, positive propaganda has always played a role in developments, but there seems to be a survivalist aspect to the whole matter. I feel like this quote shows a deviation from this principal: they are prioritizing art over housing. Does this seem odd to anyone else?

Once a Colonizer, Always a Colonizer?

Immediately following the first performance, Moscow papers praised the ‘progress’ of Kazak national art. Platon Kerzhentsev, who oversaw the events, declared: ‘Kazak musical theatre has only been around for three years, but its performance shown in Moscow reflects that it may be boldly compared with the performances of the other nationalities of the Soviet Union “(Rouland 192).

Last week we spent a considerable amount of class talking about the Soviet musical culture policies and their potentiality for colonial style oppression and interference. I was toeing the line a bit; now I am fully in the camp of this as a revamped colonial policy. I feel that above quote is case-an-point. What are your thoughts? Is anyone still thinking this policy is a net good?

Russian in Form, Soviet in Instrumentation?

I would like us to turn our attention to  “A traditional song played on the qobyz (Kazakhstan)” and “‘Spanish Fantasia’ for kobyz and piano by Igor Frolov (Kazakhstan)” on our playlist for today. According to our reading, we are told the musical aspects of the Soviet Cultural projects was something that was easier to prompt than other projects. We are also told that by the late 1930s, there were some rules on how to be respectful in terms of cultural exchange: “First, the process before the revolution was unidirectional, while in Soviet times it became reciprocal […] Second, before the revolution only a few individuals sought out the songs and dances of the East, while now a significant portion, perhaps even the majority, of Soviet composers worked with this material. […] Third, the fairy-tale and fantastic elements of Russian orientalism contrasted with Soviet music, which, while legitimately open to the earlier styles, did not allow its conventions to overshadow the whole, diverse reality of the East” (353-355). I am wondering, how you think this quote from Frolova-Walker operates with these two pieces from Kazakhstan. Do you think the folk instrument here is being played in the same way in both videos? If it is not being played in the same way, do you that it is respectful or appropriation?

Policy to Theatre Scenes Comparison

“There is a famous scene, in fact, in Circus where the small mixed-race child … is passed around the entire audience of the circus, and everyone sings to the child a lullaby in a different language of he Union” (98).

“The literary fair solved this dilemma, like good Soviets, by organizing the arts according to ethno-national categories: Jewish audiences were assigned to the Jewish theatre with Jewish artists and Jewish plays; Ukrainian audiences to the Ukrainian theatre…”(119).

Reading through the third chapter of Beau Monde on Empire’s Edge: State and Stage in Soviet Ukraine I found this two passages to be in conflict with each other (go figure, right!). I was wondering what the class thinks? Is this another case of financials determining the agenda or are cultural boundaries more pronounced than officials thought? Moreover, what do you think about the cultural exchanges discussed in the very first part of this chapter?

The Perfect Case Example: Jahon Obidova?

Last week, we talked a lot about how the western gaze was applicable to the Soviet’s vision of the veiled Uzbek women. I feel like we really focused on the reported health issues associated with the veil, but I am not sure if we talked about the inherently patriarchal structures at play. There are some points of validity to the claims that women were being oppressed; we see that with the Jahon Obidova story.

As the 13-year-old-fourth-bride to a 65 year old man, Jahon was subjected to horrifying circumstances: “I was not only his slave, without contradiction, silent, obedient, but also the slave of his wives, his children, who repaid all my service daily with kicks, curses, and abuse, because I was still a child who could not stand up to herself, and besides, I was from a poor family” (310).

However, I want to play devil’s advocate and say maybe that this account is the work of Soviet propaganda? I say this because the story fits the party-line a little too well. Also, the citation provided by Marianne Kamp is suspicious. The quote above is cited to her fifth footnote: a book published in 1938 … I want to specify that I am NOT supporting the idea that Jahon did not experience these things, but instead I might suggest that she was encouraged to talk about her experience in a very particular way. Thoughts?

Anyway, I think Jahon’s story further complicates our assessment of the USSR’s cultural programs because she is a success story. Their programs provided her with opportunities that she would not have had.

ALSO! Look how expensive this book is! … how is anything from 1938 “new”?????? and shipping is not included!

Bodily Autonomy of a Veiled Women

In the end Iasevich defined the Uzbek woman through the dual languages of statistics and sexuality. His results, published in 1928, included painstakingly detailed tables giving the statistical distributions of the measurements and descriptions of every conceivable body part-from spine curvature to skin tone to breast size-within the Uzbek female population of Khorazm. These distributions were compared with those of Russian, German, American, Jewish, and Norwegian women to demarcate the national differences more clearly.

page 53

In the first Chapter of Veiled Empire, we are repeatedly supplied examples of how Uzbek women were surveyed and measured as part of Soviet nationalization policy. I found these “scientific” accounts of national identification particularly uncomfortable and invasive. I would like to us to think about the quote above and how this “method” (emphasis on scare quotes) is designed colonizing, patriarchal frame of reference. What are we supposed to make of this historical record? Do you think nationalization classification would have ever looked like this in the Kresy? Did we see these types of measurements on the other side of the empire?

Can Judaism be “National in Form and Socialist in Content”?

Sydney Kightlinger

On page 70, we are presented a photo of an elementary school primer from 1936 that is written in Yiddish. Lenin is at the top of the page and the words read: “Vladimir Ilich Lenin / Lenin is our leader, / Our teacher, our friend / We do as Lenin teaches us, / All working people know and love Lenin.” This is supposed to exemplify the Soviet Government’s commitment to “national in form and socialist in content.” I believe message is conveyed fairly well, but do we think that it is a representation of Jewishness? The commentary beneath this argues that “Yiddish was an insufficient basis on which to maintain one’s identity.” Going back to conversations we had in the first two weeks, do you think that the J.A.R was an actually celebrated Soviet Jewish region or an area settled by Jewish people that had to give up major parts of the Jewish faith in order to comply with Soviet policy?

Accidental Use of the Oppressor’s Tools?

Sydney Kightlinger

In The Soviet Union as a Work-in-Progress: Ethnographers and the Category Nationality in
the 1926, 1937, and 1939 Censuses
, Hirsch spends a great deal of time explaining the preparation needed to survey the Soviet Union as government officials scrambled to figure out what Stalin would called “proletarian culture.” Although they were retained by the government, ethnographers who were trained in Imperial Russia were forced to throw out their old methods and design a census that did no depend on religion and or language. Soviet leadership had determined those old classifications were inaccurate markers of culture and nationality because of the “colonial practice of Russification” (255). However, there seems to still been a sense of colonization in the rhetoric used by Soviet officials after receiving the 1926 data: “In official discourse, natsional’nosti were “developed”
peoples, and narodnosti were still developing. This discussion of terms appeared in the “question and answer” pages of the journal as a device to educate party personal (167).

Maybe I am interrupting Hirsch’s language incorrectly, but does it not seem like she is suggesting that at certain points Soviet officials are attempting to form a collective using similar terms and techniques their oppressors had?

I am thinking specifically of her example of government intervention based on census data, page 266: “For example, a number of peoples who did not consider themselves Uzbeks were registered as such in 1926, presumably in order to buttress Uzbek claims to disputed territories. These peoples were then forced to adopt a new language and culture as their own.”