Central Asia in Art: From Soviet Orientalism to the New Republics 9781784533526, 9781350985643, 9781838608132

In the midst of the space race and nuclear age, Soviet Realist artists were producing figurative oil paintings. Why? How

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Table of contents :
Map of Central Asia
Introduction: Soviet Orientalism - The Untold Story
Post-Soviet Art History and Theoretical Polemics
Post-Soviet Art History and Material Images
Postcolonialism in the Age of Petroleum
Central Asia: Nationalism and Nation-Building
Personal Influences
1. The Politics of Multinationalism: Messages from the Centre
The Union of Nations
Nationality Policy
The Great Russian People
The Imperial Project and Soviet Art
Moscow and Muscovites
The War
2. Soviet Totalitarianism: The Visual Experiment
Invented Doctrine and Exploitation of Visual Imagery
Art Trapped within Gesamtkunstwerk
Ideal Humans in the Multinational Context of the USSR
3. Teaching to See: Bringing Art to the Republics
Central Asia and the Great Russian Brother
Exploitation, Labour and Industry
Semion Chuikov: Daughters of Soviet Kyrgyzia (or Lolitas of the Soviet East)
Soviet Orientalism? Or Orientalism as Alternative?
Pavel Benkov: Soviet Impressionism
Alexander Volkov: Alternative East or Late Modernism
Museumification of National Identity
4. Learning to be: The Natives Learn to paint, or the arrival of soviet identities
National versus Soviet: from History to Everyday Life
The Challenge to Tradition: the Patriarchal family versus the Soviet Friend
Literacy, Language and Education
Land, Agricultural Production and Nostalgia
Abylkhan Kasteev: Primitive and National
Ural Tansykbaev: Avant-garde Road to Socialist Realist Dream
5. De- Stalinisation and Beyond: Stalin to Borat
After Stalin?
From Kasteev to Meldibekov
Central Asia, Soviet Art, Orientalism: Discourses and Images
Bibliographical References
Recommend Papers

Central Asia in Art: From Soviet Orientalism to the New Republics
 9781784533526, 9781350985643, 9781838608132

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central asia in art

‘The twin topics of Soviet art and modern Central Asian art are attracting growing attention, not to mention admiration, from connoisseurs and professional art dealers alike. However, to date it is a field that has been largely neglected by scholars. Thus, this new book is doubly welcome not only as a ground-breaking study of the subject, but as an impressive piece of work by any standards. Full of original insights and thought-provoking observations, it gives a lively and comprehensive overview of the subject and insightfully sets the Soviet legacy in context.’ shirin akiner, Senior Fellow of the Cambridge Central Asia Forum, University of Cambridge

‘This publication focuses on the academic, social and cultural connections between Central Asia and the Soviet Union. Its originality lies in emphasising the multifaceted complexity of the relationship between these two incomparable regions, through discussing a diversity of local histories, ideas and artists. Aliya Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen’s manuscript adds to the growing body of literature concerned with the Soviet presence in Central Asia, as well as related art works, by examining several collections that better our understanding of the artistic developments in Central Asia under the Bolsheviks.’ inessa kouteinikova Independent scholar and specialist on Central Asian art, early photography, and Russian and international Orientalism

‘Central Asia in Art offers a new perspective on the production and function of Soviet Socialist Art in relation to Soviet Central Asia. This thoughtprovoking book offers rich visual material from artists on both sides of the Soviet West/East divide, and makes a compelling argument for why the term “Orientalism” is appropriate to the new context of Soviet studies. From the Stalinist period to the present day, the artist looks at cultural exchange between Soviet Russia and Soviet Central Asia, and its relationship to Moscow’s propaganda machine.’ nina lobanov-rostovsky Author of Revolutionary Ceramics, Soviet Porcelain 1917–1927

central asia in art from soviet orientalism to the new republics Aliya Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen

Published in 2016 by I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd London • New York www.ibtauris.com Copyright © 2016 Aliya Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen The right of Aliya Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by the author in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Every attempt has been made to gain permission for the use of the images in this book. Any omissions will be rectified in future editions. References to websites were correct at the time of writing. ISBN: 978 1 78453 352 6 eISBN: 978 1 83860 812 5 ePDF: 978 1 83860 813 2 A full CIP record for this book is available from the British Library A full CIP record is available from the Library of Congress Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: available Designed by Oliver Keen


acknowledgements | vii preface | ix map of central asia | xiii introduction: soviet orientalism – the untold story | 1 Post-Soviet Art History and Theoretical Polemics / 2 Post-Soviet Art History and Material Images / 10 Postcolonialism in the Age of Petroleum / 17 Central Asia: Nationalism and Nation-Building / 20 Literature / 26 Personal Influences / 31


the politics of multinationalism: messages from the centre | 35 The Union of Nations / 36 Nationality Policy / 42 The Great Russian People / 49 The Imperial Project and Soviet Art / 53 Russification / 63 Transformations / 67 Moscow and Muscovites / 70 Metro / 75 The War / 77


soviet totalitarianism: the visual experiment | 81 Invented Doctrine and Exploitation of Visual Imagery / 81 Art Trapped within Gesamtkunstwerk / 103 Ideal Humans in the Multinational Context of the USSR / 119

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teaching to see: bringing art to the republics | 127 Central Asia and the Great Russian Brother / 129 Exploitation, Labour and Industry / 134 Semion Chuikov: Daughters of Soviet Kyrgyzia (or Lolitas of the Soviet East) / 145 Soviet Orientalism? Or Orientalism as Alternative? / 151 Pavel Benkov: Soviet Impressionism / 162 Alexander Volkov: Alternative East or Late Modernism / 166 Museumification of National Identity / 172


learning to be: the natives learn to paint, or the arrival of soviet identities | 183 National versus Soviet: from History to Everyday Life / 185 The Challenge to Tradition: the Patriarchal family versus the Soviet Friend / 200 Literacy, Language and Education / 208 Land, Agricultural Production and Nostalgia / 215 Abylkhan Kasteev: Primitive and National / 222 Ural Tansykbaev: Avant-garde Road to Socialist Realist Dream / 234


de-stalinisation and beyond: stalin to borat | 241 After Stalin? / 243 From Kasteev to Meldibekov / 248 Central Asia, Soviet Art, Orientalism: Discourses and Images / 257

notes | 261 bibliographical references | 276 index | 287


The research for this book has been aided by a grant from the University of London Central Research Fund and the Courtauld Institute of Art Travel Grant, both of which were utilised to finance study trips to Moscow and St Petersburg in 2005. I am also grateful to the Research Forum of the Courtauld Institute of Art for an award that allowed me to present a paper at the 2008 Association of Art Historians Annual Conference in London. After many years of working on this book, it is a pleasure to acknowledge the people who have helped in bringing it to fruition. I am particularly indebted to Sarah G. Wilson, for her amazing patience, invaluable advice and for the generosity with which both were always offered. Special appreciation goes to Shirin Akiner for her comments and invaluable help. My heartfelt gratitude goes to Ildar Galeyev for providing literature, images of art works, advice and vital support. I would also like to thank Gayane Umerova for assistance with getting many of the images. My research trips to Central Asia and Russia were made productive by assistance of a number of individuals and members of staff of the following institutions. In Almaty: the Archive of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan; the Kasteev State Museum of Art; the Central State Archive of the Republic of Kazakhstan; the National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan; and Ermek Zhangeldin. In Bishkek: the Aitiev Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts; the Central State Archive of Kyrgyz Republic; and the Chuikov Memorial Museum. In Tashkent: the State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, the Central Exhibition Hall of the Academy of Arts; the Central State Archive of Uzbekistan; and the House-Museum of Ural Tansykbaev. In Moscow: the State Tretyakov Gallery, in particular

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Nadezhda Musyankova and Olga Korotaeva who made visits to the storage and the reading room most enjoyable; the State Central Museum of Modern History of Russia; State Museum of the Arts of the Nations of the East; Russian State Library; Russian State Archive of Literature and Art; State Archive of the Russian Federation. In St Petersburg: the State Russian Museum; the Russian Ethnographic Museum. Finally, in London, I would like to thank Nina Lobanov-Rostovsky – her continued encouragement kept me going; Matthew Cullerne Bown; and Melanie Vandenbrouck. I am also obliged to Caroline Bray for her comments on the text. My gratitude goes to Inessa Kouteinikova for inspiration. Appreciation to Azmina Siddique, Baillie Card, Clare Martelli, Oliver Keen and Henry Howard at I.B.Tauris for their caring attention to my first book. Special thanks goes to my wonderful husband Alexis and daughter Katherine for their unconditional love. Above all, I am grateful to my parents Nurtay and Rima Abykayev for everything.


In the last five years the analysis of the artistic exchange between Russia and Central Asia has both intensified and diversified into three main fields. While academic examination is scarce, one notable example was the exhibition that took place in Florence in 2013, and its accompanying catalogue The Russian Avant-garde: Siberia and the East, which included an article on Central Asian influence on Russian art entitled ‘Legends of the New East: The Artists of Central Asia’, while its image section had a more suggestive and questioning title: ‘East or West? Colours of Spaces of the Eurasian Steppes’.1 East or West? is in fact the main question that resonates not only though this masterful exhibition, but also through other events and publications that came to light recently. Another main direction of development is the commercialisation of both historic representations of the Russian East and contemporary Central Asian art. Works are being exhibited and sold by major auction houses in London, notably either within Russian sections or with direct links to Russian departments. Christie’s has held two exhibitions – Treasures of Kazakhstan and Alexander Volkov: Of Sand and Silk – both directly related to the East–West exchange in arts generally and to the subject of this book in particular, and chapters by the author were included in both.2 The auction house also held a panel discussion on ‘Turkestan Avantgarde’ and the changing attitudes towards Volkov’s legacy – which included a screening of The Desert of Forbidden Art, a film on the fate of the art museum in Nukus, Uzbekistan. While Volkov’s works gained significantly in price in the last five years, it seems that it is not just Volkov’s legacy that is being re-examined, but that of the whole slice of

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twentieth-century history – of major artistic and cultural exchange as well as of dramatic political and social shift. The Nukus museum itself became a symbol of this shift – both its history and its collection are the dream of fiction writers. While it is undoubtedly a major repository of ‘Forbidden Art’, other museums such as Kasteev Museum in Kazakhstan show a parallel history of the period. The author has written and spoken on both museums and their current situations. However, as is demonstrated by the exhibition in Florence, Russia still holds the surviving masterpieces of this artistic Silk Route. The Sotheby’s approach to Central Asia is to look at its contemporary art, uniting it with works from the Caucasus as well as Turkey and Afghanistan – with both Russian and Middle Eastern representatives working on the formation of its sale exhibition entitled At the Crossroads.3 Leaning clearly towards the Eastern view of this art, Sotheby’s approach echoes that of the exhibition at non-profit gallery Calvert 22, where the region is broadly described as the ‘Centre of Asia’, and includes Mongolia and Afghanistan. Central Asia once again is a fluid construct. In the words of the ESCAS conference organisers, it is a ‘maturing field’, while for Calvert 22 it is somewhere ‘between heaven and earth’. The Courtauld glimpses at it as a ‘Soviet periphery’, and in Central Asia’s most recent incarnation on the pages of L’Officiel Art magazine it is simply ‘Les steppes de l’art’.4 In this last guise Central Asian art enters a new field, as international fashion business. Its most notable protagonist is Almagul Menlibayeva, a Kazakh artist skilled at fusing stereotype and fiction with natural disasters and national tragedies. Her works are recognisable for pure if problematic beauty of both execution and subject. Her women are objectified, yet seem to be in a cocoon state, ready at any moment to transform into a yet unknown image of power. The fashion world, in the form of Louis Vuitton, has responded to this imagery, and Menlibayeva’s works have been chosen to decorate its new boutique in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Established artists appear on this commercialised stage of fashion and art trade accompanied by their younger colleagues for whom art is first and foremost a form of personal self-realisation rather than political statement. Kyrgyz artist Aza Shade creates videos, photographs and

preface / xi

paintings, and is also a fashion photographer and punk musician. Having represented Central Asia at the Venice Biennale, she draws her inspiration from both Japanese and Russian films, as well as her own personal history and the contemporary reality of the place where she lives – London. Moving out and beyond her historic or traditional roots, Shade belongs to a new generation of artists originating in Central Asia, whose work is not defined by the legacy of the Soviet past. In the words of the curators of The Russian Avant-garde: Siberia and the East, ‘the development of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Russian art was forged through the extension of both outer and inner borders.’5 The present book looks at the subject through the prism of Orientalism while also examining the other side of the same coin – the forging of Central Asian art at a time of great social upheaval. While the two sides were learning from each other, the process was not an equal exchange, and social structure surrounding it still haunts the post-Soviet space to this day. The current political situation in the post-Soviet bloc, where some countries are keen to develop closer ties with Russia or between themselves while others go to war, only gives further reason to investigate the common past in order to progress into independent futures.

map of central asia

introduction soviet orientalism – the untold story

ore than two decades have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Two decades that brought destruction and change but, most importantly, opened new pathways and destroyed old borders. The time is ripe for a new look at the art of the Soviet Union, a country which no longer exists yet whose history shapes today’s world. One of the least-raised questions in the field of post-Soviet art studies remains that of Soviet colonies and their relationship with the Soviet centre, alongside the redeployment of Orientalist paradigms within art production in the USSR. Contemporary art from the former Soviet Central Asian republics becomes a new attraction in the sphere of the globalised art world. The theoretical and practical background that artists of the region share is rooted in Soviet and post-Soviet experiences. Whether choosing to avoid or utilise Soviet history, artists, curators and commentators nevertheless position themselves in relation to it. The fact that post-Soviet Central Asia is presented as one unified region is, in itself, a declaration of the existence of Soviet ghosts in the contemporary art world. At the Venice Biennale Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan shared the Central Asian pavilion between 2005 and 2013.1 In 2009 a new art centre in Turin opened its doors with a substantial exhibition of contemporary Central Asian art – once again unifying the former Soviet region into a whole.2 While political and economic divides become more pronounced, the art world continues to insist on a unified whole.

1. David Flekman, Recovery of Sight, 1957. Oil on canvas, 155 × 140, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

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For these two main reasons, namely the lack of debate in the field of post-Soviet art studies concerning the Central Asian region and the contemporary art world’s persistence in packaging Central Asia as a single unit, it is crucial that in the present moment we pose investigative questions in relation to both the region as a whole and each separate country. The collapse of the USSR brought about the creation of fifteen new states in its place. A post-Communist outlook takes the dominant position in historical, political, economic and cultural studies of the region. This perspective is characterised by paying attention to the role of the individual, scrutiny of official lines of propaganda and state control and the re-evaluation of the history of the dissolved state and its imperial nature, all of which are interwoven with broader postmodernist and postcolonial studies. Central Asia today comprises five republics, in which the identity of the adult population has been shaped by Soviet education and culture, as well as by the experience of a turbulent break-up phase and a period of new state-building. Coming from Kazakhstan, the only Central Asian republic that borders Russia, I have an interest not only in its history – a century of which took place within the borders of the Soviet Union – but also in considering the art of the Soviet period in terms of the broader landscape of power relationships within the Union and its official nationality policies for Soviet Central Asia.

Post-Soviet Art History and Theoretical Polemics After the dismemberment of the USSR, several authors, both in Russia and in the West, addressed issues related to Soviet art from different perspectives. Addressing and assessing Socialist Realism is impossible without taking into account the political and social processes that affected the creative process. Reassessing Soviet art should also lead to the broader reconsideration of quality and variety, both of which a seemingly homogenous Socialist Realism may present throughout its short but striking history. Soviet art, though often monotonously pompous and optimistic, contains various facets which when considered

soviet orientalism – the untold story / 3

and evaluated carefully present a concise picture of both cultural and, more evidently, economic and political dialogues between the centre and periphery of the huge state. With over half a century resting between today and the beginning of period covered here, one might agree with the author of Art Under Socialist Realism: Soviet Painting 1930–50 (1995), Gleb Prokhorov, that a sound and objective evaluation of it can now be made, or at least attempted.3 To conclude that the epoch was characterised by utopian ideas and myths, and a general ‘failure to create great art’, can no longer be enough.4 Since the Cold War, Western critics have been struggling with the interpretation of Soviet art practices. Writing in 1973, Caradog V. James complains of the problems faced by a Western reader when dealing with Soviet literature and art. James claims he has managed to offer this Western reader a basis for ‘independent judgement’.5 Noting that as a term ‘Socialist Realism’ carries an immediate negative connotation due to its link with Stalin, James underlines the tension inherent in understating ‘Socialist Realism’ as a negation of artistic experimentation due to the fact that ‘it is itself an artistic experiment on an unprecedented scale.’6 In a way, this suggestive statement predates what Boris Groys would later say in Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin (1988);7 however, it does not give the same explanation and justification. In his groundbreaking work Boris Groys not only draws parallels between the Russian avant-garde and Socialist Realism, but also claims that the latter is a reasonable successor to the former. Socialist Realism, Groys suggests, was the material realisation of the avant-garde’s conceptual dreams. In this way the works of Socialist Realism comprise not only the paintings themselves but the overall strategies employed in creating them. In this situation there existed one overarching designer, or ‘demiurge’, in the persona of Joseph Stalin, hence the title Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin. In a typically grand artwork, Glory to the Great Stalin (1950, fig. 2), the artists Yuri Kugach, Vasilii Nechitailo and Victor Tsyplakov present a god-like image of Stalin in his white military suit receiving respectful and enthusiastic ovations and praise from members of all the nations of the USSR. This image is reminiscent of two separate subjects in Christian iconography. First, the Nativity of Christ with the Three Kings and second,

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the Transfiguration, in which Christ in white robes is seen hovering above the ground and talking to the prophets while the apostles bow on the ground below. Here Stalin is a god and as such is the creator of, among other things, the system that enabled Socialist Realism to flourish and affect the minds of people, as exemplified by this work itself, whether the results were intended or not. This constituted an attempt at the visualisation of a concept within a specific work of art or visual image. Boris Groys, author of the most coherent critique of Socialist Realism and its relationship with the avantgarde, refrains from the use of images in his publications (except in exhibition catalogues). Groys is also the strongest promoter of the study of Socialist Realism in the West. Both the Russian edition of his most groundbreaking work Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin and his publication in English, Art Power (2008), attempt to bring Socialist Realism into the critical realm. In the latter case this is framed in his own words: ‘my own

2. Yuri Kugach, Vasilii Nechitailo, Victor Tsyplakov, Glory to the Great Stalin!, 1950. Oil on canvas, 351 × 525, © 2014, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

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essays collected in this book are also motivated by a wish to contribute to a certain balance of power in today’s art world – namely, to find more space in it for art functioning as political propaganda.’8 Groys is keen to analyse and reveal the problematic tendency on the part of post-Soviet authors to use certain moral dimensions to distinguish between ‘perverted’ and ‘genuine’ art forms, and similar moral judgements are dropped into discussions of art produced under muchcriticised market conditions.9 The less than noticeable presence of Soviet art in dominant art-historical discourses points at the persistent absence of a ‘balance’ in what Groys calls ‘our allegedly post-ideological age’.10 Groys does not defend Socialist Realism, far from it; however, he utilises it to demonstrate both an alternative and the subconscious nature of Western modes of art production in the twentieth century. He points out that Soviet culture might be seen as an attempt to abolish the split between the Greenbergian opposites of avant-garde and kitsch, or mass culture. Groys argues that Stalinist Socialist Realism (as it differs from the postStalinist version) was part of worldwide mass culture yet at the same time it refused to please the viewer, largely due to its primary interest residing above the artwork itself. Instead, it attempted to re-educate, inspire and ultimately create a new human being.11 Culture and nation are two of the main themes that preoccupied Vladimir Paperny, who wrote Culture 2 in 1979 and later published this text as Architecture in the Age of Stalin (2002).12 In between these crucial dates this text appeared in parts in various magazines and was published in Russian in 1985 in the US and in 1996 in Russia. Concerning itself with architecture of the Stalin period Paperny’s work seems to have had a material life of its own, which, curiously, runs in parallel with the latetwentieth-century history of the USSR, from the atmosphere of subdued or internalised resistance in the 1970s, to the outward critiques occurring both outside and inside the Union in the late 1980s, to the collapse of the Soviet system and economic chaos in the 1990s, and finally to a form of restoration of the power structures and public self-assurance visible in Russia in the late 2000s. This parallelism is not representative of the role Paperny’s book tried to play in relation to different intellectual elites at different times,

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but rather provides a reading of the possible contexts the text found itself within. Its publication in Russian in 2006 includes reactions to the text itself from high-profile critics of Soviet and post-Soviet culture and theory under the chapter heading ‘Twenty-five years later’. In a way, this anniversary publication brings together the text, as a form of monument, and the reactions, which are notably very positive, of closely related critics, including Boris Groys and Susan Buck-Morss. ‘Closely’ in this context relates to both the author and the text. Paperny’s text deals with the inherent duality of Soviet and, more relevantly, Russian architecture and cultural history and is structured to highlight and question these dualities. The dualities were created by the Soviet system and affected Soviet art criticism. By revealing the duality of the ideological, Paperny links ideology to culture, while at the same time pointing to the impossibility of giving such a link a single straightforward reading or, indeed, of accepting it as a fact. One of the most overtly comparative works on Communist and capitalist propaganda and culture is Susan Buck-Morss’s Dreamworld and Catastrophe (2000). With text, subtext and image-based arguments, the monograph reveals both Soviet and American fascinations with the possibilities of mass indoctrination. By intertwining visual, textual and philosophical materials Buck-Morss escapes critical polemics, heading straight into the area of logical, or what seems to be logical, analysis. The era is approached as a historical period and as archival material, both of which are revealed to be at once irreversibly separated and variously interlinked with the contemporary world.13 A most striking feature, which is evident even in the title, is the use of the notion of utopia as a finished and passed stage. Is it so? Returning to Paperny’s Culture 2, which Buck-Morss utilises when preparing Dreamworld and Catastrophe, one notices direct links between certain texts concerning Soviet Socialist culture. Buck-Morss locates the main idea of Paperny’s text in his exposure of the ease with which utopian dreams can bring about Socialist catastrophe.14 Working with this text as it is structured around binary oppositions, Buck-Morss highlights in her own response to it the revealing aspects of this relatively early and special piece. Indeed, it is special not only because it came from inside

soviet orientalism – the untold story / 7

the system but also because it seemed to approach with relative ease such contradictions within the Soviet system as equality and authority.15 Culture 2 is a work which articulates very specific messages, such as the existence of binary oppositions within Soviet culture – it divides Soviet culture into Culture 1 and Culture 2. The text points to the fact that the Soviet critical apparatus created the binary good/bad view of architecture and art. However, it seems that contemporary approaches, of which Culture 2 inevitably is a part by virtue of being one of the earliest and most important texts (a form of avant-gardism), do themselves form a strong binary system. This system seems to heavily rest its own theoretical base on the assumption of ‘self’ versus ‘other’. That is to say that they place progressive thinkers, often those who emigrated to the West or those who closely followed their lead, in opposition to Soviet thinkers or those who still continue to follow that line. In response to Paperny’s text, and within the latest publication of it, Boris Groys points straight away to the freshness of the text, which he sensed when he first read it in the 1970s, as compared to the then ‘unbearably stagnant Moscow intellectual atmosphere’.16 At the same time, Groys points to the fact that late Soviet and post-Soviet art criticism seems to have shifted the positions of Culture 1 and Culture 2, with all ‘good’ art supposedly coming out only in opposition to the system of power. In this way the ‘leninist-stalinist theory of two cultures within one, where all good in culture of the past was created exclusively as an opposition to the dominant class’, is both reversed and reutilised.17 The binary nature of the Soviet art apparatus, and with it that of post-Soviet art criticism, highlights one contradiction: equality for all as opposed to authority above all. It is a truly Orwellian opposition, which might possibly be relayed into a national question. Where the national system was supposedly horizontal, hence the marching nations within paintings being all on the same physical level, it also possessed horizontal expression, thus containing a supposedly more civilised character at its centre, with other ethnically diverse members of the nation surrounding it or following suit (see fig. 6). In his examination of Soviet architecture Paperny utilises the VSKhV (All-Union Agricultural Exhibition) national republic pavilions. Just before

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this he points out that the expressions of Culture 2 through depictions of harvest and abundance occurred when, in fact, the levels of harvest were falling.18 He continues to say that the architecture of Culture 2 was supposed to express warmth as opposed to coldness, which he substantiates through the example of an Uzbekistan pavilion.19 Bringing warmth to the capital probably runs parallel to bringing smiles to the picture planes. However, let us remain on the question of the Uzbekistan pavilion, which was built in an Uzbek style mixed with grandiose classicist additions. Following Paperny’s logic, would such a building itself not symbolise two significant absences of the Soviet era, namely true Central Asian culture and intra-national accord? Paperny’s work forms a pioneering example for the criticism of Soviet culture and is one of the most substantial analyses of the history of it. Yet as with the vast majority of texts on the USSR’s cultural history, its perspective remains very Moscow-centric. Indeed, in a way it avoids one of the Soviet era’s most potent contradictions between Moscow and the periphery, or, more usefully here, between Russia and its Central Asia. Yet another strong binary situation that grows out of Culture 2 rests in its relationship with Soviet art criticism; as pointed out by Groys, the judgement seems not to fall in favour of the latter. Being in possession of a ‘stagnant intellectual atmosphere’ is probably a more diplomatic description in contemporary post-Soviet and postmodern criticism. The word ‘virus’ is, on the other hand, a much stronger and more generalised word and is used by some to describe Soviet Socialist Realist art and culture.20 If Groys’s concentration lies in the examination of Socialist Realism as a twentieth-century art world underdog, Susan Buck-Morss traces parallel modernities and parallel utopias in both the East and the West. For Buck-Morss it is not only the argument itself that matters, whether post-Soviet or postmodern, but the construction and juxtaposition of theory, argument, fact and image discourse. Possibly bridging the gap between Paperny and Groys, Buck-Morss structures her discourse on the breaking of dichotomies, leaving behind both the vertical and horizontal lines of judgment. East versus West remains a form of division, but it can no longer be viewed as absolute.

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If Groys and Paperny distinguish between Soviet and non-Soviet, even if simultaneously revealing certain links, Buck-Morss attempts a total re-evaluation of the use value of such distinctions. Whereas all three authors speak from the outside, Groys and Paperny utilise the aura of authentic knowledge while Buck-Morss would like to negate such a position, or even the possibility of it, on either side. Buck-Morss accentuates the flow and circulation of images, most prominently in twentiethcentury cinema. She claims that even though ‘Hollywood influenced Soviet filmmaking, it was the Soviet avant-garde that had an impact on cinema in the West.’21 This circulation and apparent proliferation of images in the twentieth-century context of mass culture is both defined by and relies upon reproduction and forms Buck-Morss’s main interest. Images as force and power are regarded in significantly differing ways by these three groundbreaking theoreticians of Soviet art. Paperny concentrates on the public image of architectural construction and emphasises that its public nature provides for the existence of Culture 1 and Culture 2. The visual aspect of architecture, and more crucially its visibility, is the underlying principle of his criticism. As shown above, Groys seems to consciously refuse images within his theoretical and critical texts. Could this tendency reveal his underlying goal? As Groys himself points out, ‘The struggle against the power of ideology traditionally took the form of struggle against the power of the image.’22 The proliferation of Western imagery in the East (whether within art structures or advertising), and simultaneous absence of Soviet imagery in the West, could therefore symbolise both victory of one over the other and the possibility of a continuous struggle within this context of the power of the image. However, this is subjected to a rigorous analytical test by Buck-Morss, who sees the circulation of images as a signifier of the age of utopia – when two parallel worlds in fact are shown to have heavy intersections. Yet Buck-Morss subtitles her work The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West. The utopian nature of the subtitle seems also to be apparent in the concluding remarks, which point at hope which the ‘passing of mass utopia’ has brought with itself. For Groys, and possibly for a large majority of people with an experience of authentic Soviet life mixed with authentic post-Soviet realisations, democracy or the possibility of balance is never more than utopian itself.

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One of the main points to emerge from the above is the power of images; the other is the East/West question. The East/West of Buck-Morss’s work is the East/West of the Cold War. As is often observed, this dichotomy only presupposes two overarching players, and discussions of Soviet art often support this, even if they do so in a deconstructive mode. The Soviet’s own East/West involves, however, a different political structure: that of Russia/Central Asia. For the West of the Cold War, this Soviet East is a doubly removed notion. If the East/West discourse of the Cold War was structured, and arguably continues to be structured, along the lines of progress and development versus backwardness and evil, what does it leave for a further-removed East-of-East? The Orientalism of the Soviet Union is the visual realisation of this political and geographical otherness. In this doubly removed context, both of power relations and of theory dominance, the question of the Soviet inner Other finds its own place. In the context of Socialist Realist depictions of Soviet Central Asia, images and identities are closely interlinked constructs because they inform each other in a cyclical rather than linear way. In the twentieth century the power of the visual is further fuelled by the disseminative potential granted by reproduction techniques and, in the case of the Soviet Union, the political power to spread them within vast territorial contexts. This highlights the intersection of two main anachronisms of the Soviet epoch: first, the increasing development of industrial production, which could involve the mass migration of the workforce, as well as the total restructuring of the way of life and modes of production in Central Asian territories in particular, and second, the continuation of the use of oil painting, an already outmoded form of image creation, as the main vehicle for delivering culturally elevated and, more importantly, culturally elevating information.

Post-Soviet Art History and Material Images Can an oil painting be an important political tool in an arena where national and state interests are played out? In a situation involving forced mass migration, culture clashes, linguistic experimentation and economic reform of drastic proportions, can art, or more specifically paintings, play

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a role in altering people’s perceptions? The situation described above is one that existed in the Central Asian republics of the USSR during the early to mid-twentieth century. At that time ‘national’ schools of painting were forming in Central Asia that were heavily based on the Russian Realist tradition and collected under the banner of Socialist Realism. During this period many works of visual art were created in Moscow, and formed the Soviet individual’s perception of Central Asia and its people. These two processes happened simultaneously and impacted upon one another and the receiving public. The depiction of Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs in this particular period was executed either by local artists in the republics or by Russian artists in Moscow and Leningrad (now St Petersburg). New artists were trained both in Russia and Central Asia and new modes of depiction were established. It is important to understand that painting was a Russian import to the region – traditional art was instead based on craft practices including jewellery, ceramics and carpet weaving. In 1934, at the Soviet Writers’ Congress, the style of Soviet Socialist Realist literature gained an official formulation. Art then followed, with the creation of a visual stylistic equivalent. In the introduction to the London edition of the publication of the Congress’s debate we read that ‘the most valuable result of the congress was that it made known to both writers and readers the tremendous achievements of literature in the languages of national minorities.’23 Not only does this underline the existence of minorities, but it also highlights what being part of the Soviet Union meant for these minorities relative to possibilities for development and achievement. Literature and art in the various national republics were united by ‘singleness of aspiration, singleness of ideas, singleness of aim’,24 or at least this was what they were to aspire to. The tradition of enlightenment, with its ideals based on the individual and subjectivity, is as far removed from the ideals aimed at by the Soviet state as possible. In Soviet paintings, however, a different enlightenment appeared to be a condition of the present brought from one nation to be shared with all the others. In David Flekman’s metaphorical work Recovery of Sight (1957, fig. 1) a Kyrgyz woman is shown to be astonished when she realises that she can see, with the Russian doctor and nurse

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looking on as she raises her newly opened eyes. The emancipation of women, the spread of scientific knowledge and, above all, the gift of freedom are suggested in this depiction. It was created, like many others, to be shown to both Kyrgyzs and Russians so that the former would be grateful and the latter would be proud of the fact that Kyrgyzstan was part of the USSR. The USSR was, after all, home to the most free of people and was a union based on freedom and equality between people and between nations. The harsh realities of the situation and the costs of this unattainable freedom are, as in other works, omitted here. Yet this omission only highlights the double-sided nature of intra-national relations in the Soviet context. The most prominent characteristic of these images is that they are oil paintings. It is notable that image-making in Soviet times involved other processes, such as cinema, photography, montage and posters. Yet imagemaking within the construct of art production involved paintings and sculpture. Paintings therefore constitute a field of intersection between the segregated arena of the art world and mass culture. As a two-dimensional object, a painting easily lends itself to reproduction and dissemination. Why the anachronism of oil painting in a world that followed Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915) on the one hand, and the spread of cinema and photography on the other? Lenin believed cinema to be the most significant of all visual forms, so what does the image as oil painting grow out of? One possible explanation lies in the fact that Socialist Realism was not about the reality of contemporary life and nor was it supposed to depict the present. Socialist Realist paintings imply reality but present the virtual, constructed or simulated real. This reality lies beyond the past, present or future. As far as the medium of oil painting is concerned, this absence of reality is probably not the most unusual characteristic, as the medium has never been utilised for the sole purpose of recording facts. However, the term Socialist Realism implies that at least on some level the painting or text in question is supposed to be about the real, hence the style of Realism and the specific life-mimicking depictions appropriated by Socialist Realism. A painting’s content had to explicitly support or propagate various Soviet dogmas and messages and so educate the people. Painting

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as a choice of visual medium for educating the masses is perhaps then the most straightforward one. It provides the exclusivity of an original artwork, yet the means by which it informs, or impacts, the audience is that of reproduction. The audience is simultaneously given the collective right to view and denied the private right to own. Recent exhibitions that include Soviet art, whether narrowly thematic, such as L’Idéalisme Soviétique: Peinture et Cinéma 1925–1939 (2005), or general, such as Russia! (2005), take paintings as the basis of their content. If the former contrasts Soviet paintings within Soviet cinema, the latter contextualises Socialist Realist art within a line of ancestors from the same medium, so to speak. In both cases, as in others such as the exhibition Dream Factory Communism (2003), the choice of works relies on the significance and quality of each of them, both of which are of course very subjective. When applied to Socialist Realism by various curators, the intersections or contradictions between these two parameters form two relationships that define the attitudes and approaches to these images.25 Contextualising oil painting within a Russian tradition leads to conclusions of anachronism, lack of quality, eruption of quantity, restriction of expression, etc. The analysis of oil painting within other Soviet territories, especially in Central Asia, leads to further unsettling questions. One such question stems from the introduction of the medium (and means of its exhibition, namely museums and galleries) into cultures not previously accustomed to visual imagery, fine art or realistic depiction. Art institutions such as galleries and training facilities, as well as artist unions, were all modelled on a general and overwhelming Soviet version. However, if this Soviet version was related to a preceding Russian one, then for Central Asian republics this experience was new. Ceramics, carpets and the applied arts of preceding generations were utilised in similar Socialist Realist modes, but it was oil painting that defined the processes of art production, whether for official or underground Central Asian artists from the 1930s onwards. The medium of oil painting was used to spread the Socialist and Communist doctrine across the Soviet Union and bear the message of infiltration and control. If the new self-expression of the new republics

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was channelled through this centrally approved medium and form, then this form is the easiest to monitor and reflect upon. Not only has the introduction of oil painting to the territories of the Soviet East restricted mechanisms of native expression, but it has also restricted the flow of messages from East to West. Today large-scale exhibitions of Soviet art, such as those mentioned above, do not include works by Central Asian artists and there exists an excessively small number of works on the subject. This is an expression of absence, not only of the geopolitical absence of the present but also of the absence of a substantial flow of communication between Central Asia and Moscow during the Soviet period. Socialist Realism depicted and consumed Central Asia, deleting both its presence and the possibility of such a presence. In the end it failed to ease or even establish a communication between East and West. European Orientalism exhibited, and continues to exhibit, power structures through which one side (Europe and the US) creates stereotypes and misrepresents the other (for example, the Middle East, Russia and various other Eastern countries) for its own political and economic advancement. Russian Orientalism certainly has similarities in that it established stereotypes, and did so very successfully; for example, the vastness and emptiness of the land, the lack of progress, the deceitful nature of the population and the usefulness of Soviet expansion. However, the main and most perplexing difference is that the Russian, Muscovite and Soviet central authorities had no need to destabilise the Other, had no need to cover up or provide explanations for any invasions, and had no need to create a public image in either the centre or in the portrayed peripheries. Control was overwhelming, economic expansion and change was hardly unnoticeable and social changes brought good and evil in one package. Could it be that art in Central Asia actually played a much more subdued role than its equivalent in the centre of the USSR for the reason that it could not change or alter minds and, indeed, never actually tried to? The proper analysis of Russian Orientalism isn’t useful to either side of the Soviet East/West equation. And the fact that such Orientalism was

3. Semion Chuikov, A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia, 1948. Oil on canvas, 119 × 94, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

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played out on the outmoded and anachronistic canvas of oil painting has simply fuelled scepticism as to the relevance of any discussions for today’s political or artistic milieus. Discovering differences and power structures beyond Russo–Kazakh, Russo–Kyrgyz and Russo–Uzbek relations is only of use to outside forces, such as Britain, which since the eighteenth century has exercised games of control and placed its own bid for Central Asian territories. It is even questionable whether, for example, Semion Chuikov’s A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia (1948, fig. 3) can be construed as an Orientalist work of art. Furthermore, can it be regarded as a successful painting and would there be any use in examining the reality of the depicted situation? First and foremost A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia is an oil painting that received high acclaim at the time of its production. It represents its time both in form and in function, the latter of which was to illustrate the progress of previously repressed Central Asian lands and women. In itself the work is not at all insulting for the Kyrgyz audience, nor is it insulting to women, or to either religious or atheist views. It lacks the grandeur of more recognisable examples of Socialist Realism and yet it does not deviate from Socialist Realist norms. It is in fact so non-insulting and unprovocative as a work of art, both in Socialist Realist terms and for today’s audience, that I am constantly surprised as to how it manages to escape finding a place in the pantheon of newly accepted Socialist Realist artworks of the Groys/Degot curatorial school that controls the exhibition circuit today. This is certainly one thing that sustains an interest in Socialist Realist Orientalism: the continuous absence of the subject not only from the political arena but from the realm of both long-standing and highly acclaimed art theory and criticism.26 Socialist Realist Orientalism has not ceased to exist. In fact, its medium, that of oil painting, provides for long-term ease of use, exhibition and fascination. If one side used this medium to depict an imaginary unity, then the other side learned to depict itself in a variety of forms. One side created a message for itself and hence failed to receive the message from the other side because the medium used was familiar, the form extremely similar, and the content therefore predictable for the Russian artist and audience. The seeming predictability of the artistic result and

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the actual unpredictability of the cultural situation, together with an insistence to this day on the use of oil painting as a medium of expression (even by such video and performance artists from Kazakhstan as Rustam Khalfin and Almagul Menlibayeva (see figs 98, 99), all result in the schism that fuels the inspiration behind an investigation into Socialist Realist depictions of Soviet Central Asia.

Postcolonialism in the Age of Petroleum After the collapse of the Soviet Union scholars shifted their attention from the omnipotence of the central apparatus, towards local agents and their actions and local reactions to policies formulated in Moscow. Researchers such as Arne Haugen employ both central and local perspectives in their studies.27 For the study of art from the 1930s to 1950s this approach is most suitable, allowing an examination of the role of both sides in the creation of visual material that affected public opinion in the centre and national consciousness in the republics in question. A split has developed between active and expanding hegemonic post-Soviet and post-Communist scholarship on Soviet and Communist subjects and the less apparent, and yet probably more legitimate, authority of the postcolonial voice in relation to the same issues. This voice is representative of the perpetual weakness of the colonial subject, in this case the Soviet Central Asian subject, and its perpetual representation, as opposed to self-reflection; crucially, the two instances are closely interlinked. This third constant forms a bridge to another area of art-historical and cultural scholarship, namely that of broader postcolonial studies as identified with its most prominent speakers, namely the late Edward Said, Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak. Postcolonialism has become a recognised academic discourse and a body of canonical texts has emerged in this field during the second half of the twentieth century. However, a contemporary disproportion between power over representation and possession of knowledge, or in this case influential knowledge and the means of its dissemination, shows that in the twenty-first century we are witnessing a reintroduction of imperialist structures (both by Russia in

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particular and the West in general) in a mutated form, but possibly with a wider and more substantial grasp. An examination of cultural or, particularly in this case, visual output provides an attempt to empower the voice of the represented group, namely formerly Soviet Central Asians. Critical discussions of such a voice reside in between several main categories or definitions. These involve issues of time and generations, which are closely interlinked with the idea of a political and social context. These are all then present during both the creation of depictions and self-depictions and the process of critical writing. Furthermore, there exists the notion of position, which can be interpreted in two ways. There is the appreciation of the within/without confrontation or simply the view from inside or outside the discussed geographical and intellectual sphere. This is further complicated, as ‘postSoviet’ and ‘postcolonial’ are terms that may or may not coincide in temporal terms with the territories of, for example, the UK, Russia and Kazakhstan. Therefore, as this book has been written within the UK, and in light of my Kazakh background, it is a study that inevitably functions outside of Russia and even outside of Kazakhstan. However, it is closer to being inside the latter than the former in terms of moral aspirations and point of view. It is strongly outside the Soviet context as it forms part of a post-Soviet enquiry. From another perspective there is the positioning of the discussed subject, which is more often than not in the post-Soviet and postcolonial studies of the Central Asian region, and this discussion is generalised within the framework of the central. The rest, or the peripheral, is assumed to develop in similar and slower patterns. Therefore, on both a basic dayto-day level and within academia and the art establishment, the notions of backwardness and copying, even if taken in a romantic sense, always prevail. At the other extreme, the rest, or the peripheral, becomes an invention for the outside world. This latest twist on the real highlights a discrepancy between the heritage of Soviet material culture that is left behind, or rather mostly destroyed, and the contemporary theoretical aestheticisation or justification of totalitarian regimes and their visual production. In itself this debate leads to a general and inevitable connection between art and power. However, in terms of recent history and its

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impact on modern politics, and more crucially modern culture, Socialist Realism becomes a revealing and grotesque exemplar of a general trend. Taking the above into consideration, any analysis of Socialist Realist depictions of the Soviet Other must be compiled from a series of palpable tensions. The main tensions are geopolitical and historic, and both are problematic, due to a significant distancing between the writer and the subject of research. Not only is there a generational issue in the fact that the new generation of art historians is only superficially aware of the former Soviet situation, moreover the reactions of post-Soviet scholars, even within one generation, vary from that of post-Western (or neoWestern) scholars.28 On the other hand, as suggested in the previous sentence, there is a continuous re-evaluation of the notion of the Other. In this case, this might encompass Russian, Soviet, Central Asian, Muslim, Secular, East European and more. The terms may sometimes overlap, but they by no means coincide with one another. Within the framework of a post-Communist, postcolonial, socio-cultural study of art history, autoethnography is an area that requires persistent and conscious evaluation. What is needed is the possibility of comprehending or of describing the anachronistic nature of those Socialist Realist oil paintings promoted at the same time, or in parallel with, the space race, nuclear advancement and the overarching context of the Cold War.29 Whereas Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida expose the complex constructions behind modern and postmodern societies, the moral dimension of any of them is questioned and then accepted as it is. For post-Soviet analysis, this second stage of moral questioning remains unresolved. Slavoj Žižek brings out this discrepancy, in his own argument on the ‘(mis)use’ of a notion of totalitarianism, seen in many ways as an Other to the capitalist, liberal West.30 Žižek as a figure himself brings out the (mis)use of a notion of philosophical interpretation, yet he does so with thought-provoking results. In a twenty-first-century world where there is once again a mounting polarisation of opinions, the new approach, and new generation of scholarship, seems a logical development in relation to very recent dramatic visual and virtual experiments.

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Central Asia: Nationalism and Nation-building ‘The history which became part of the fund of knowledge or the ideology of nation, state or movement is not what has actually been preserved in the popular memory, but what has been selected, written, pictured, popularised and institutionalised by those whose function it is to do so.’31 In a situation where the state under discussion is no longer existent, and is now replaced not just by another state but by a number of other states, the story presented through visual culture offers an insight into the creation of history and invention of tradition within the Soviet nation and various Soviet nationalities in the mid-twentieth century. At the same time, it offers an insight into the possible approaches to this condition and relationships that exist between the various nations involved today. This approach concentrates on the visual art of Central Asian republics of the Soviet Union from the 1930s to 1950s. It addresses the extent to which Soviet art helped create national and other identities and affected national consciousness through the depiction the non-Russian people in certain ways and through the requirement that these peoples themselves create art (and represent themselves) in a certain, namely Russian, style. To a great extent, the establishment of Socialist Realism as the only acceptable form of art diminished or destroyed national traditions in the Central Asian republics and in doing so lessened national identification in favour of Soviet identification. Through either museum display or reproduction, art played a crucial role in the social and political life of the USSR, as can be seen in the example of Soviet Orientalism. The view of particular works within the Union could change depending on the political situation. As a result of the government’s great interest in art as a tool for realising its political aspirations, a relatively large number of critics discussed its form and content in specialist art periodicals, such as Iskusstvo and Tvorchestvo, in the national newspaper Pravda, and at various official meetings. The basis of Socialist Realism was first, the superiority of content over form and second, the social role of art. Both just before and during the Cold War period, influential critics in the West, such as Clement Greenberg, insisted that such art could only be regarded as low art.32

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Whether low or high, Socialist Realism was nevertheless an example of invented tradition, to use Benedict Anderson’s words, employed specifically in the context of Central Asian cultures. Anderson first published Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism in 1983 when the Soviet Union still existed. Anderson therefore uses it as an example of a state that resists nationality, at least in its name, and points to its imperialist ambitions in terms of other nations, especially Eastern European nations. For Anderson, Marxism proves a challenging exception to overall historic developments, which lies in the move towards nationalities and nationalisms.33 This explains Anderson’s statement that ‘nationalism has proved an uncomfortable anomaly for Marxist theory and, precisely for that reason, has been largely elided, rather than confronted.’34 Beyond the criticisms of another ideology and despite the use of the Soviet Union example as a form of exception, Anderson points to the crucial understanding of any community, not only a national community, as that which is fundamentally imagined. Nation for him is an imagined political community. The term ‘imagined’ is encouraged to be read not as pertaining to falsity of pretension, but rather creation. It is therefore neither a negative nor positive term.35 This term becomes useful and even crucial for any examination of Central Asia in the twentieth century. Arguably, the processes that shaped the visual image of Central Asia and its people during the 1930s to 1950s, and indeed beyond, can be regarded as steps in nation-building. These processes themselves were a form of imagining for Central Asia, both for the sake of the new Soviet Central Asians and for the sake of the rest of the Soviet Union and its centre, Moscow. Even though the Soviet Union was a state without a nationality, it nevertheless contained nationalities within itself. As shown by way of official art, the Soviet Union promoted differentiation and differences between nationalities. Yet at the same time the official politics of the time, including the purges of a ‘national’ intelligentsia, meant that any form of nationalism was heavily suppressed. However, it seems that the nationalisms of the nations of the Soviet Union, however imagined those national communities may have been and arguably still are, served a main blow in the destruction of the Soviet community. Whether

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imagined or invented, both sides of the equation can be shown to be the results produced by the activities of the state and individuals leading to very material results. In view of the above it may be intriguing to see how the process of creating or imagining a nation, which in terms of Soviet Central Asia also meant an attempt at the destruction of nationalism, can lead to unforeseen consequences. As the results of the 1991 coup and break-up of the USSR showed, in the end nations emerged out of a nationless state. These nations defined themselves within the borders of the Soviet era and, more often than not, utilised that era’s cultural heritage to promote their own cultures. On both the real level of border definitions and the virtual level of separate cultures, these nations are indebted to processes that took place in the mid-twentieth century, both political and artistic. Anderson further points to language as one of the most potent devices in the course of imagining ‘fellowships’ and communities, and furthermore ‘dreaming futures’.36 As a state, the Soviet Union tried and succeeded in imposing a lingua franca: the Russian language. Today it remains the lingua franca of post-Soviet states. Yet notably each state promptly defined its national language as its state language. This is even true of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where Russian remains, even officially, a language of intraethnic communication. If a spoken language defines a human’s belonging to a certain community, then a visual language (of a nation) may also define its belonging or otherwise. The Soviets have Arrived (1963, fig. 4) by Gapar Aitiev and I. Belevich is an exemplary work of Socialist Realism. It presents the viewer with a chance to see the historical event represented as a joyous occasion witnessed by a large crowd of people of more than one nationality. Red banners held by Kyrgyz and Russian representatives display slogans in Cyrillic and Arabic scripts and are waved in front of the crowd together with a photographic representation of Lenin; this representation acts as a vital reminder of the connectedness of this Kyrgyzstan event to the grand overall scheme of the Russian Revolution. A colourful image of propaganda for the sake of solidarity is presented while, at the same time, submission and respect is arranged around a crisp, black-and-white image of the Soviet leader from the distant centre.

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When approaching Socialist Realism, one can see Soviet ideology filtering through every painting. It seems to have been directed at creating a Soviet consciousness that claimed to be equalising, when in actual fact it not only established differences between Russian and Central Asian identities, but also launched nationalist sentiments that drove Central Asian nations apart. Consequently, a territory once united by a common past, language and traditions was now divided into separate parts, which continued to develop in diverse directions. Inventing tradition therefore gained two parallel identities: one of being official and visible alongside another of being discreet. According to Eric Hobsbawm, invented traditions consist of three overlapping types: those establishing or symbolising social cohesion or the membership of groups, real or artificial communities; those establishing or legitimising institutions, status or relations of authority; those whose main purpose is socialisation, the inculcation of beliefs, value systems and conventions of behaviour.37 The invention of traditions and associations through art and visual representation within

4. Gapar Aitiev and I. Belevich, The Soviets Have Arrived, 1963. Oil on canvas, 200 × 288, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

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the context of the Soviet Union possessed qualities of all three of these types and also added a colonial aspect to them. As a result of the overtly colonial attitudes Moscow exercised towards the Asian republics of the Soviet Union, the people residing in these territories became the victims of progress; that is to say they became victims of a dramatic change in economic and social conditions which involved the denial of some or all of their fundamental rights. Slavoj Žižek argues that a fundamental right of human beings is not necessarily the right to truth but the right to narrate or ‘the right to tell your story.’38 In a way this particular right was not entirely taken away, but the means by which Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks were required and allowed to tell their story became so dramatically different from what they were accustomed to that it is possible to suggest that for some time these nations were left without the ability to fully express themselves. The definition of ‘Soviet people’ underwent changes itself. Until the 1930s the term ‘international’ meant something different to ‘colonial’. Yet in the 1930s, and for eight years after World War II, the definition of ‘international’ came to simultaneously mean Soviet and Russian.39 The actual name of the state, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, refuses any national connotation. In Imagined Communities Anderson observes that even at the time of writing in 1983 the ‘end of the era of nationalism, so long prophesised, is not remotely in sight. Indeed, nation-ness is the most universally legitimate value in the political life of our time.’40 Right before and especially after World War II nationality and nationalism were at their height and were deployed in political propaganda around the world and in the USSR. A divergence between fact (the Soviet Union) and theory (Marxism) led to a situation in which nationalist sentiments were considered simultaneously dangerous and non-existent. By the beginning of the twentieth century the relationship between Russia and Central Asia had built up a long history, the last three centuries of which were mostly characterised by the spread of Russian political, military and economic domination. Imperial attitudes emanating from the Soviet centre to the Soviet periphery highlight the closeness of the new regime to the one it overthrew. Excessive amounts of land in Central Asia were used for the cultivation of raw products, with little regard for

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traditional and native ways of living, or environmental problems that might arise. In the case of Kazakhstan mass collectivisation of land and sedentarisation of the nomadic population meant a loss of 42 per cent of the latter. Immigration into the republic, as well as the withdrawal of huge masses of land, meant the destruction of traditional economic and social structures.41 The processes that began in Central Asia during the nineteenth century did not stop or lessen but actually gained in terms of scale and roughness of application. ‘Soviets criticised Tsarist rule in Central Asia for using Uzbekistan to grow cotton (instead of grain), then themselves followed the same policy.’42 In Uzbekistan this meant the excessive use of natural water supplies in order to keep up with the required levels of cotton production, and of grain in Kazakhstan. Colonial attitudes towards Central Asian lands culminated in the period after World War II when eastern areas of Kazakhstan were deemed vast and empty enough to conduct atomic weapons testing. Edward Said’s preoccupation with Western conceptions of the Orient has indeed produced followers and critics. One valid criticism is an avoidance of more complex Orientalisms, for example those of Imperial and late Soviet Russia. Russia’s position in between, or as a uniting of Europe and Asia, gives it certain credentials which are sometimes used to excuse the use of Orientalist strategies by the dominant ethnic group. At the same time, the new nations established as a result of the collapse of the Soviet system, most notably Kazakhstan, have widely and successfully utilised their own positions as Eurasian states, both in Europe and in Asia. The methods of identity-construction during Soviet times might be brought into examination in order to trace the roots of such success. In fact, Russia today views Kazakhstan’s position as an in-between country with uneasiness, feeling possibly that its own grasp of that region is being shaken by a discourse that allows the previous stereotypes of Soviet Central Asia to be moulded into a more flexible contemporary reality. Nationality and nationalism are still largely disputed subjects in Central Asia. However, steps towards the construction of an identity cannot be viewed as having roots in the independence of 1991 only, or even in the 1986 December revolt.43 Art structures of the Soviet era, as well as

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depictions of Central Asians in Soviet paintings, are valid examples of stereotype and identity construction. Where Moscow realises that its grasp on the image of the new republics now has to be shared with both the nations in question and the outside forces these nations welcome for economic and political reasons, its own imperialist consciousness becomes more evident. In a 2008 interview Kazakhstan’s ambassador in Moscow was faced with a question from a Russian journalist concerning the interpretation of history in school books and universities and the Kazakh view of Russian rule as colonisation.44 The question presents an obvious fear on behalf of Russia concerning a loss of power in the writing of history and, at the same time, a persistently imperialist attitude towards those countries and nations it no longer governs.

Literature Even though art criticism concerned with Socialist Realist art gained academic status during the late Cold War period of the 1970s and 1980s, collaborations and dialogues on the issue increased and bloomed in the late 1990s and especially in the last ten years (within the post-Soviet context). In 2006, the journal Third Text even addressed the subject within an issue devoted to the art of the 1950s.45 Three elaborate and extensive collections of essays were published in 1997, 2000 and 2002, the first being in English and the later two in Russian: these were Thomas Lahusen and Evgeny Dobrenko (eds), Socialist Realism Without Shores (1997), Hans Günther and Evgeny Dobrenko (eds), Socialist Realist Canon (2000) and Marina Balina, Evgeny Dobrenko and Yury Murashov (eds), Soviet Wealth: Essays on Culture, Literature and Cinema (2002). Beyond the repetition of certain names and themes, an over-reaching desire and expression of widening interest in the re-evaluation of Soviet heritage and the alternative culture of Socialist Realism is strongly expressed. Socialist Realism Without Shores is the expression of an early desire for a review of history. It is based on a collection of essays originally published in the South Atlantic Quarterly in 1995. Most of the texts therefore originate from the early to mid-1990s, which was arguably the worst

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period for post-Soviet societies in both economic and political terms. Yet the publication amasses a quantity of texts which analyse the phenomenon of Socialist Realism largely from the outside; all but one of the authors are students and staff of American and European institutions. With the cover of the paperback edition bearing an image of Maxim Gorky observing something unseen in the distance, the publication is an overview of what is visible but lies beyond the physical and often temporal grasp of the authors.46 It is in this volume that one finds Greg Castillo’s essay ‘Peoples at an Exhibition: Soviet Architecture and the National Question’. This essay, which deals with spatial forms rather than two-dimensional expressions of fine art, is the only direct exploration of the nationalities issue within the volume. Here Castillo points to something crucial, namely the for-show nature of Soviet national identities. His text also hints at links between the then new Soviet Orientalisation processes and those that Soviet culture claimed to have surpassed. Essentially, colonialist representation is shown to have taken a Soviet form.47 In Socialist Realist Canon essays are divided into six blocks, from film to music and from literature to art, and form a unified post-Soviet critical analysis by both Russian and foreign (Western) authors. This is the widest of the three collections, with sixty-eight articles in total. A thorough examination of Socialist Realism as a form of fine art is given by Igor Golomstock – a renowned scholar in this field long before the renewed surge of post-Soviet interest – and includes such observations as the fact that Socialist Realism was a ‘product of the totalitarian culture mega-mechanism’.48 For Golomstock this mechanism included the socalled ‘golden fund’ of Soviet art, which would produce ‘masterpieces’ that were then copied in their millions, including reproductions in school textbooks. The author also draws a parallel between the genres, styles and messages of Socialist Realism and the iconography of the Church with its religious cult imagery. He introduces the term ‘value levels’ in relation to Soviet cultural media and subject matters. One of his most useful observations is the impossibility of ideologically neutral meanings and readings in Soviet artworks, even in light of the most seemingly innocent subject matter.49

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In the same volume Mikhail Ryklin presents a much more overt criticism, rather than examination, within the framework of very powerful ideological terminologies and under the title ‘Metrodiscourse’. Following an analysis of the visual and textual discourses surrounding the construction and consumption of the highly decorated Moscow Metro, Ryklin suggests that Soviet culture as a form replaced real unity with a virtual, or what he called an outer/visual, connection. The author uses this assertion as a criticism against a system that could not provide deeper levels of unity. Whether there is ever the possibility of simple outer/visual social connections is a rather sticky question; however, Ryklin develops his discussion to suggest that the post-World War II Soviet Union developed a unified history which created in turn a super-ethnos or a secondary nationality.50 In themselves these two terms provide a fruitful platform for taking a broader approach to Soviet nationalities and the concept of the Union, in particular in the case of Central Asia both as a region and, sometimes, as a subject of Moscow Metro décor. Soviet Wealth: Essays on Culture, Literature and Cinema contains a variety of articles on the influence of Socialist Realism on differing cultural forms. Boris Groys’s article ‘Fight against the museum, or a demonstration of art in totalitarian space’ argues for an understanding of Soviet art ideology as a total visual space. He points to the Soviet strategy of equalising between museum and non-museum spaces. Therefore the author points to his main argument that Socialist Realist art was a replacement of reality, or rather a formed reality by virtue of having real support from the power elite.51 He concludes that by placing the paintings from this period into a structured contemporary exhibition they are rendered impotent since they are stripped of their purpose and power, where that specific power is the power to virtualise reality and realise the virtual. The nationality question is addressed within Soviet Wealth in an article on literature by Lynn Mally. Her analysis concludes that the other nationalities (or indeed the Other), that is to say non-Russian members of society, were portrayed as developing where development was measured in terms of having learnt the Russian language. These characters appear as marginal and their gradual development and advancement is

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portrayed through the perfection of their use of the new language.52 We can link this with another article in the same volume, that of Natasha Droubek-Meyer, who utilises the theories of Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault to argue that the subject is created by socialisation systems, the main one of which is language.53 We might conclude that the main system for the Soviet multinational subject was Russification. This process differs greatly from unification since Russification entails the creation of a stable and homogenous subject, although this subject is dominated by that which it accepts as a superior culture, namely Russian culture. A closer examination of the particular uses and abuses of the Central Asian theme is given outside these three main publications within magazine articles and some surprising academic contexts. An analysis of the decoration of the Sverdlov Square Metro station is given by Karen L. Kettering in ‘Sverdlov Square Metro Station: the “Friendship of the Peoples”’ and the Stalin Constitution’ in Studies in the Decorative Arts. By highlighting the examples of porcelain sculpture that decorate the station, Kettering underlines the link between Stalin’s constitution and an emphasis on Soviet progressiveness as opposed to Central Asian backwardness.54 In a sense the utilisation of familiar forms and the degradation of national identities into costumed characters summarises for the contemporary observer the position of the Soviet state as a descendent of Imperial Russia, with similar attitudes towards other cultures and modes of depicting them. As mentioned above, this surge of interest in Soviet art and cultural spheres seems to have accelerated in 2000. It seems the 1990s was filled with a post-Soviet euphoria which brought with it a sense of multiple possibilities. Within this, Soviet art was pushed to the very end of cultural interests, especially within the museum sector of the former Soviet Union. However, after gathering momentum the interest in Socialist Realism, as well as its connection with pre- and post-Soviet art, exploded in the 2000s with major exhibitions happening in Europe and the United States: Boris Groys’s Dream Factory Communism, 2003–4, Frankfurt; Ekaterina Degot’s L’Idéalisme Soviétique, 2005–6, Liège; and Thomas Krens’s Russia!, 2005–6, New York. Exhibitions within Russia on the art of the Soviet period are becoming regular and all the more present.

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However, the late 1990s were also characterised by an interest in deconstructing the multitude of nationalities questions concerning the territory of the former USSR. One of the reasons for this would probably be the direct interest of the US and Europe in further widening the rift between the former Soviet republics in order to limit the possible unifying strategies as they were attempted post-1991 by Russia and others, most notably Kazakhstan. In the 2000s the emphasis on nationalism and national divisions has lessened in critical literature in favour of a much wider and deeper analysis of a culture that is now seen not simply as a Communist doctrine in opposition to Western art-historical norms, but as an in-between and therefore as a level between modernism and postmodernism. Sharing traits of both, it is not therefore surprising that this art is attracting critical attention on a variety of levels. Parallel to this development in art criticism, mainstream philosophy has gained a new impetus for extended evaluations of notions of ideology, totalitarianism, Marxism and beyond, all since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In terms of postcolonial literature, which generally functions outside of post-Soviet studies, an increase in the overtly imperialist actions of the United States, and issues that involve the relationship of the West with its various Others, is once again becoming very topical and urgent. In terms of Orientalism and its opponents, there seems to be a revival of both interest and criticism in the subject. This is revealed by various recent events including ‘Framing the Other: 30 Years after Orientalism’, a conference which took place at the Courtauld Institute of Art in April 2008.55 The success of the conference, expressed through both a fullto-capacity room and post-conference response, shows that there is a strong need for debate in this field. However, the biggest criticism remains that there is hardly a large enough Oriental voice at these events, especially with events that take place in the West. Another criticism comes from authors such as Robert Irwin, Daniel M. Varisco and Ibn Warraq, who all point to the same criticisms faced by Said during his entire career, specifically criticisms that narrowed in on the details, thus downgrading the massive influence that his texts had on the shape of postcolonial studies.

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At the same time, within Central Asia there is a noticeable process of realisation and self-awareness in relation to the process of Orientalisation of a territory. A conference on ‘Eastern Orientalism’ (2008) in Almaty has also formed part of the newly developing trend in the examination of self-reflective processes, and at the same time processes where the East and not the West represents its various Others.56 Processes of questioning seem to be at the heart of the continuing effort to find a new identity that could reconcile Orientalism and anachronisms of the past century with contemporary unbalanced tendencies.

Personal Influences Personally the subject of this book has deep significance for me, as I come from a mixed family – my mother is Russian and my father is Kazakh. Being brought up until the age of nine in the Soviet Union, and then afterwards in independent Kazakhstan, results in an uncertain and fluctuating identity. A crisis of identity on the state level, as well as on a personal level, across the former Soviet Union has led to the formulation of the basic and central questions of this discussion. The road to answers lies in an arthistorical schooling in a foreign country, indeed in a country which itself has a complex relationship with its colonial past. When put together, these contexts lead to the construction of an argument based on Soviet examples, post-Soviet foreign analytical debates and personal observations, each of which is an invaluable source of inspiration. Possibly the most important publications on the subject of the art of Central Asia are the aforementioned Orientalism by Edward Said and Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin by Boris Groys. However, two female writers and their works have been particularly infuential; these are Shirin Akiner and her The Formation of Kazakh Identity: From Tribe to Nation-State (1995) and Gulnara Abikeyeva and her Nation-building in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian States, and How this Process is Reflected in Cinematography (2006). All of the above are theoretical texts, yet there exist several relevant literary and popular influences. A reading of Yurii Dombrovsky’s The Curator of Antiquities (1966)57 reveals how personal as well as public

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memories can be shaped not only by time but also by circumstances.58 Dombrovsky writes about the psychological pressure of living in the society gripped by the Soviet State repressions in the 1930s known as the Great Terror or the Great Purge, and its random casualties in the then small Soviet town of Almaty. The juxtaposition of historical narratives, antique or pseudo-antique items, the inventiveness of the human mind and finally the tyranny of the bureaucratic apparatus forms the main body of the text. However, the author presents as most surprising and most unlikely the chance entanglement of a ridiculous incident in Almaty with the larger foreign policy of the Soviet Union in the 1930s. In its own curious way the book therefore underlines the peripheral status of the region, pointing out, however, that this status did not allow Central Asian people to escape the iron grasp of Soviet leadership and the Gulag. In the literary field a revealing juxtaposition with Dombrovsky’s view is that of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who is most famous for his work The Gulag Archipelago (1973). The book’s events are staged within the territory of a Gulag labour camp in Northern Kazakhstan. Praised both in the West and in Russia, Solzhenitsyn is infamous in Kazakhstan for considering more than half of its territory as belonging to Russia. He dis1990 publication ‘Как нам обустроить Россию’ [‘Rebuilding Russia’]. misses Kazakhs as primitive nomads. Both views were expressed in his Not surprisingly, in view of such comments, Kazakhstan did not officially

express any upset following the death of the author.59 However, the case pinpoints the main characteristic of the relationship between Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states on the one side, and Russia and the West on the other; a complete dismissal and even denial of any voice or opinion stemming from the region and, at the same time, an acceptance of the most outrageous suggestions or implications stemming from the West (or scholars approved by the West). At this point a highly successful and frequently praised character in Western popular culture comes to mind. The fictional character Borat, invented and portrayed by the British actor Sacha Baron Cohen, originates from nowhere less than Kazakhstan. His outrageous behaviour and beliefs are used to reveal the underlying views of the Western public. Yet

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for a number of Kazakh individuals, a cause for concern can be found in the reasons behind this particular choice of nationality. If Borat is an imaginary character, why does he have to have a real homeland? British and European reactions to disapproval of such a choice highlight a persistent if not increasing lack of cross-cultural sensitivity. The West reasserts its own desire for superiority and laughs at the expense of the other and in particular the East. Of the numerous publications that came out in Kazakhstan in the late 1990s, the most notable are Valerii Mikhailov’s Chronicle of the Great Famine (1996) and an edited collection of documents by Uraz Dzhandosov titled Documents and Publications (1918–1937) (1999). The first of these traces the steps of what was, in effect, a partial genocide in the territory of Kazakhstan during the 1920s and 1930s (the Soviet policy of forced collectivisation), which cost an estimated two million Kazakh lives. The second reveals the various dualities that Soviet Kazakhstan had to deal with after the 1917 revolution and the fierce reaction of the Soviet state to national sentiments in the peripheries.60 Both books, as well as Solzhenitsyn’s claims, relate to geopolitical issues of land ownership. While the borders of independent Central Asian republics have been officially delineated since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the natural resources of Central Asian lands – such as oil and gas – continue to shape both present-day politics and historic interpretations. A country and a nation that suffered so violently and so recently should not be subjected to ridicule in any form, since its sense of a new national identity needs time to be constructed. Kazakhstan has immersed itself in all forms of such construction as the issue of national identity is addressed in schools, universities, the press, the film industry and art. Contemporary to the period between the outward destruction of Kazakhstan (up to the 1930s) and its period of conscious independence and nationbuilding (from the 1990s through to today), the art world of the Soviet Union was characterised by Socialist Realism and various direct reactions to it (such as underground art and later SocArt). This period affected the Central Asian consciousness, giving it, for now, a schizophrenic edge. Central Asia became both and neither Soviet and Asian, traditional and contemporary, Western and Eastern.

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Torn and shattered life stories and the continuous fluctuation of national identity, together with a lack of purposeful research within the area of post-Soviet art-historical studies concerned with the relationship between the Soviet periphery and the Soviet centre, are and will remain the main reasons for this book. Nation-building can and should be regarded not only as a political and social process, but also as an area that gives rise to a variety of representational practices. Attitudes towards these practices should be fully addressed and, if necessary, shifted.

one the politics of multinationalism messages from the centre

he period 1934 to 1953 marks the establishment of Socialist Realism as the official Soviet style and therefore the only acceptable style not only in which to write but, crucially, in which to create art, and ends with the death of Stalin and, with it, the beginning of a fragile era of post-Stalinism. This post-mortem period entailed the chaotic continuation of Stalinist doctrines following Stalin’s death, before the condemnation of the Stalin personality cult and subsequent de-Stalinisation. Both dates form important brackets for the artistic style of Socialist Realism. However, they also permit a discussion of the colonial structures that lie behind the Soviet state. Central Asian republics, as part of the Soviet Union, gained their political and geographical form during the 1930s, and the following decades shaped inter-state relationships with Soviet Russia. This suggests that the term ‘imperial’ was not only applicable to the Tsarist past, but also to the Soviet present and, so it seemed for a while, to the Communist future. The art of the Soviet period, in particular Russian depictions of Central Asia, the Soviet centre’s views of the periphery, came about through the construction of institutional apparatus for the implementation of Socialist Realism. The political and social constructs surrounding both Soviet art and Soviet Central Asian policies existed as the basis of Soviet visual production, and constituted separate forms of power. Increasingly, artistic, social and political structures within the Soviet East were intricately and inevitably linked to the USSR’s centre. Archival and contemporary material related to the Socialist Realist era in Soviet art and society reveals that two interlinked processes were

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happening simultaneously.1 A clear expression of this binary process can be found in an essay by Hans Günther, a writer and editor of works on Soviet art. Quoting Walter Benjamin, Günther states that the aestheticisation of politics on the one hand, and the politicisation of aesthetics on the other, are interacting tendencies.2 ‘Dreamworlds become dangerous when their enormous energy is used instrumentally by structures of power, mobilised as an instrument of force that turns against the very masses who were supposed to benefit.’3 It is possible to argue that the problem of nationalities was one of the most difficult for the USSR; it remained unresolved for the duration of the existence of the country and in the end served as a main factor in the dissolution process that took place between 1986 and 1991. Cultural relationships between Central Asia and Russia are unbalanced to this day – yet another reason to further the enquiry into Soviet modes of representation and their role and power in myth-construction and myth-sustaining.

The Union of Nations One of the central roles in the ‘thematic plan’ is given to Stalin’s Union of Nations, which demonstrates the vitality and strength of the USSR, friendship between the Kazakh nation and the Great Russian nation and other nations of the USSR.4 The Soviet Hymn proclaimed that free republics were united by a Great Russia and made it quite clear that ‘free’ denotes neither independent nor equal.5 The Soviet Union’s basic structure was a grouping of nations. These nations were represented in two main forms. Some nations or ethnicities were shaped as separate national republics, such as Kazakh SSR. Others were identified as autonomous republics, such as Tatar ASSR within the largest republic, known as the RSFSR (Russian Socialist Federate Soviet Republic), or within other republics. Such divisions were neither natural nor historic. Furthermore, these identifications and statuses changed in the early years of the USSR. For example, the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic – initially named the Kirghiz Autonomous Soviet

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Socialist Republic – was first an autonomous republic within the RSFSR, from 1920, but later became a full Union Republic of the USSR in 1936. The main borders of the Soviet Union as a whole were based on the pre-1917 borders of the Russian Empire. However, the borders within the Union were realised after the revolution. Central Asia proved to be one of the more problematic areas for ethnic and national division. To this day there exists a belief, on the levels of both common and academic understanding, that the division was made for two main purposes. The first was to divide a power that, as a unified state, could prove too hard for post-revolutionary Russia to handle, the second, more arguable reason, being to make sure that the new so-called nations would constantly

5. Stepan Karpov, Friendship of the Peoples, 1923–4. Oil on canvas, 205 × 248, State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia.

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be struggling for certain territories, which each side would perceive as their own. As the painting Friendship of Peoples (1923–4, fig. 5) by Stepan Karpov demonstrates, the concept of friendship was portrayed as a driving force for progress. The new age is symbolised by an artificially sunny landscape which includes fields, houses and machinery, and an aeroplane in flight; the future also sends rays of light from the right-hand side of this large-scale canvas. This is a history painting about the future, infused with theatrical special effects. The props highlight the unity of agriculture and industry, thus revealing one of the main tropes of the era, namely heavy industrialisation in a previously agricultural economy. The heroes in action, all male, step out of the shadows, clad in national costumes and holding theatrical poses. Three white men stand at the front, closely followed by a Caucasian, a Ukrainian and then an Uzbek.6 The procession, at least the visible part of it, culminates with the sight of an illuminated (read enlightened) man from the Soviet North.7 The road to progress, as we understand it, is taken by these men and their nations in the same order; not all together but one after another, with one leading and the others following. This early Soviet painting was created before Socialist Realism officially came into existence, hence the outward theatricality of the set – something that will be replaced by quasi-realistic yet progressive spaces in later Soviet art. This work is by no means a masterpiece of early Soviet art, but it provides a valuable point of comparison for Socialist Realist works painted a decade later. The fact that, even in Soviet terms, it is less of an artwork and more of a document is further exemplified by the fact that it belongs not to an art museum, but to the State Museum of Modern Russian History in Moscow. Yet it is not a document of history itself – the revolution was not fought by all nations simultaneously – but a document symptomatic of the desires and new illusions that came into being at the time of its creation. The illusion of equality, something never previously achieved, is promised by the society of which this work is a product and a weapon. Visual imagery and the art of the Soviet period can be regarded as a powerful force in the hands of the Soviet government. The success of such a force relies upon the dissemination of this non-military weaponry

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on a massive scale, something offered by the state-owned media and printing houses that reproduced these images by the millions. The main problem facing such high volumes of reproduction was a decrease in quality and the degradation of the image. The propagandist impact of each image became lessened by its obvious similarity to the previous one. Dissemination and repetition were most clearly realised through the concept of the All-Union Exhibition. The rise of the All-Union Exhibition during the 1930s coincided with the toughening up of centralised government in the USSR. Taking place in Moscow, these exhibitions underlined the fact that this large country’s economic and cultural life was governed from one, and only one, capital city. Large turnouts were provided through visits organised by workplaces and educational establishments, as well as through general interest, both in Moscow and across the Soviet Union. This interest derived from a lack of information regarding non-Russian Soviet nationalities; it led to the construction of a one-sided view of the

6. Alexander Deineka, Distinguished People of the Soviet State, 1937. Study for a wall painting, oil on canvas, 122 × 203, Perm State Art Gallery, Perm.

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nationality question in the USSR. Works created for these exhibitions had to clearly display qualities such as the utopian belief in intra-national love and mutual support, as well as an overarching gratitude on behalf of all other nations for the facts of Russian history, such as the October Revolution. Works such as Alexander Deineka’s Distinguished People of the Soviet State (1937, fig. 6) depict the official vision of a ‘necessary happiness’ as well as the artist’s interpretation of it. Each republic had to produce

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a certain number of works, including specimens of architecture and the applied arts. Yet the role of the visual arts cannot be underestimated. Although it may not have been widely admired, Socialist Realist art was disseminated strategically and was therefore well known by the majority of the population. This is due to a great extent to large-scale exhibitions, often obviously imperial in character, as well as to multiple reproductions – in both specialist magazines and the wider press. The national pavilions of the All-Union Exhibition of 1939 were at once odes to the wide-reaching Soviet superpower and glorifications of its present-day architecture, as seen in the example of the structure created for the Uzbekistan pavilion.8 This architecture was, however, as limited in variety as the range of options given to the represented nations for re-presenting themselves. Replete with grand, neo-classical and pseudotraditional façades, these buildings seemed to symbolise the gates to the new world. They were devoid of any understanding of that natural human desire for personal identification, something that often entails national identification as well. The All-Union Exhibition could therefore be seen as presenting a new concept for the national style; an intriguing mix of tradition and international historicist classicism, thus creating a prepostmodern collage. However, this collage lacked irony, one of the main traits of postmodernism, and instead leaned heavily upon ideology. The role of large-scale exhibitions did not diminish during Stalin’s rule. Throughout the 1950s great emphasis was placed on art exhibitions, with national republics taking their turn as subject matter for segments of time or decades, as they were named. During a certain period of time the art and culture of one or the other republics was shown in Moscow. Consequently, distinctions between the concepts of nation and state were at once emphasised and blurred in three important ways. First, there existed a delineation between various nations within one Soviet state; second, there existed a unity between Soviet nation and Soviet state; and third, there existed a conscious insistence upon the continuous use of the concept of nationalities through the process of cultural representation within a specified state-controlled framework.

7. Baki Urmanche, Girls in a Yurt, 1949. Oil on canvas, 51 × 60, Mardjani Fund, Moscow, © the estate of Baki Urmanche, Kazan, courtesy Ildar Galeyev.

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The successful construction of a Soviet nation depended upon the careful handling of the nationalities question. On the one hand, national representatives in the republics had to be discouraged from associating themselves with a separate, non-Soviet identity, but, on the other, the distinction between various nations had to be emphasised in order to secure and preserve a position of power. However, Socialist Realist depictions of the Oriental area of the Motherland were not ideologically different from those of Western areas; both depictions constituted utopian visions. The difference lay in the use and reception of this material. Some post-Soviet critics (both in Russia and elsewhere) claim that resistance to Socialist Realism was very strong, at least on a psychological level.9 Yet it is undeniable that the majority of the population of Russia during the Soviet era, and to this day, views Central Asia as an idyllic and climatically warm region, full of the rather backwards but constantly smiling people of the East. Though departing from rigid Socialist Realist norms and allowing a certain freedom of brushstroke, images such as Baki Urmanche’s Girls in a Yurt (1949, fig. 7) would have added to such a widespread stereotype.10 Furthermore, the people of the East were seen as easily induced into subjection to a supposedly more civilised nation; an opinion that can only be strengthened by governmental decisions such as those being taken in today’s Kyrgyzstan, where officials bow to the West one day and to the North the next. Modernday Kazakhstan, however, poses a dilemma for the Russians. With its close ties with both the West and China, it remains Russia’s friend, but yet resists becoming a younger sibling.

Nationality Policy In their record of the Soviet situation in 1959, Herschel and Edith Alt explain that ‘since the revolution there have been marked swings in the public policy toward the preservation of ethnic and nationality cultures, with periods of repression only explainable on the theory that loyalties to special groups subtracted from the primary loyalty to the state.’11 These shifts were particularly significant for the eastern territories of the Soviet Union, where not only national or ethnic unities would be challenged, but also familial ties, which might often be traced back through numerous

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generations. In this respect the notion of one ancestor, for example Genghis Khan, becomes a serious obstacle for Soviet policy. Genghis Khan, a figure whose legacy is global, is regarded as a villain in the West and especially in Russia. Yet for the native inhabitants of Soviet Central Asia he is an everlasting and unifying hero. During the Soviet era the image of this leader would be disputed and often overshadowed by new civilising patterns implemented by the Soviets. However, the fact that such a historic image experienced a decline in popularity during the Soviet epoch may point to two obvious conclusions. First, any possible unifying point of reference for Central Asia had to be undermined. Second, Soviet history was written on Russian terms. The Tatars and Mongols of the thirteenth century, who ruled over what are today Russian lands, were consequently written off as ruthless barbarians.12 On the other hand, according to a pro-Eastern subjective view of history, Tatar rule and its defeat by Ivan the Terrible led to the unification of the state and the creation of Russia as a nation. When rarely permitted, the link between the semi-nomadic nations of Central Asia and Genghis Khan was always used to undermine the descendants of this so-called barbaric figure and underline Russian superiority. In his analysis of photography in Russia, David Elliott pointed out that the use of the medium on military and geographical expeditions to the Caucasus and Central Asia in 1860s and 1870s was not devoid of political message. In fact, he states, such images not only emphasised, and even glorified, the size and ethnic diversity of the Russian Empire, but also, in response to an ever present but submerged fear of the ravages the Mongol horde had subjected on orthodox Russia in the thirteenth century, they could now be seen as an affirmation of the victory of Christian Panslavism over the civilisations and cultures of the East.13 In the same publication, Elena Barkhatova noted that the earliest Russian documentary photographs were made on ethnographic expeditions to the

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Caucasus and Central Asia – assisting in building up a picture of the vast Empire.14 While these two views are similar, the former engages the political aspect of photography, while the latter remains concerned with the use of the medium – in this case as a means of factual recording. Continuation of this duality of propaganda and recording can be seen in the creation of Socialist Realist paintings in the middle of the twentieth century. Interestingly, the man in charge of nationalities in the early years of the Soviet Union, when it was under the power of Lenin, was a Georgian man named Joseph Stalin. He later became the head of the Party and the Soviet Union and his position on nationalities constantly fluctuated. Crucially, the relationship between the central apparatus in Moscow and the appointees and people of the periphery is fundamental to the discussion of the role of art in the construction of the Soviet totalitarian system. The fact that national republics were created shows that the Soviet government was not convinced that nations could simply be eliminated. However, any signs of nationalism were seen as a form of treason right from the very early days of the post-revolutionary period. Communism, if its aims were to be achieved, was envisioned as bringing all the nations together and even eliminating national distinctions. If, however, one could imagine that such distinctions were eliminated, then nations would perish with them. What is important is not simply the fact that such elimination was deemed plausible, but that the image of the new man continued to be infused with certain national characteristics. During the same era, the United States of America was experiencing an economic recession and racial and ethnic tensions were on the rise. It would not be until the 1960s that racial equality would be legally established. The USA provides an example of a different form of nationalities strategy, though with certain similarities. For example, the use of an overarching nationality such as American or Soviet is comparable, while the distinctions between nationalities and origins within the bounds of these broad national identities differ. Although the USA was not divided into national states, it nevertheless differentiated between its citizens on the grounds of race and origin. To this day, it seems, major differences in standards of living appear to reflect racial rather than economic situations.15

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On opposite sides during the Cold War, these two states were faced with similar problems within their own societies. However, economic methods of control in the USA won over the political methods utilised by the USSR. While in the Soviet state the past provided a location for the criticism of other nations and an affirmation of the superiority of the primary nation, in America the past only provided obvious material for criticism of the ruling ethnicity, that is the white Anglo-Saxon, especially in relation to those of African-American and Indian-American origin. However, the present was used to highlight the backwardness of nonwhites and their apparent reluctance to change. Modern-day America comprises two circles of colonial rule: on the one level, America is a nation built on the basis of a colony that is still governed by the coloniser, and on another level, American influence has expanded to cover the rest of the world. Whether in the form of economic domination or military invasion, this signifies a new imperial state; its dominance is often both unchecked and unrestricted by any international organisations, as the USA often controls or ignores such organisations, and its supremacy is free from opposition thanks to the absence of a comparable superpower. The Cold War led to both the destruction of one super-empire and the creation of another. In a way the political and social constructs of the Soviet Union have taken on their full force in modern-day America, and to a certain degree in the UK, yet with the significant support of both a highly developed market economy and military base. Achieving the union of various nations was an official goal of the Soviet State. One of the steps in reaching this goal was the examination and evaluation of each nation, with a special focus on its history. In his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), George Orwell assigns the motto ‘Those who control the past, control the future. Those who control the present, control the past,’ to the voice of the evil totalitarian state; the imposition of ignorance becomes a strength. Those in power always have, and always will, rewrite history to suit the specific needs of the current regime. Nationalism develops out of a certain view of history, and a lack of historical facts can both strengthen and weaken nationalistic sentiment. For

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the Soviet authorities the Central Asian region presented a wide range of possibilities due to massive religious, national, historical and cultural changes, all created and supported by economic and political instability. Nationality became an indispensable construct in Soviet nationbuilding. For this reason the Russian nation was as artificial as the Kazakh nation or any other. Both fine and applied arts were used to disseminate the message. An inkwell by Natalya Danko titled Discussion of the Project of the Soviet Constitution (1936–7, fig. 8) is not only a collectable piece of decorative art, but a sign and expression of a new bilateral image. On the one hand, the work is a straightforward depiction of a group of Uzbeks engaged in a discussion of a new legal form. Yet at the same time it is an object with no pretence of authentically representing the depicted, but which reserves the right for itself to sit on the tables of the elite – most probably of the Russian elite. Here the term Russian denotes a resident of the Russian Federation, rather than an ethnic Russian. In the case of this decorative object Soviet propaganda gets straight onto the table without the need for metaphorical distancing. In this composition a group comprising men and women and the old and young is seated on a carpet around plates of fruit, the latter of which are positioned in the centre of the composition. They are placed in a natural setting, yet engaged in an unnatural business. The situation is supposed

8. Natalya Danko and L. Lebedinskaya, Discussion of the Project of the Soviet Constitution, 1937. Porcelain writing set, painted over-glaze, partially gilded, 18.4 × 41.3 × 20.9, © 2014, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

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to illustrate the progress already achieved as it has been delivered by a Western, or more precisely Russian, civilising mission; here men and women are depicted together, as are the old and young, on equal terms. This group is engaged in an impossible activity, that is the discussion of something non-negotiable: a printed version of a future Soviet constitution. The production date of this object creates an even more doubtful aura for the piece; 1936 and 1937 were the years of the heaviest purges, which then extended into the even more bloody 1938. While many of the visual materials of the period are oil paintings, this particular one is an inkwell. In itself it is a sign of literacy and control as it symbolises the signing of documents. In 1937 the art magazine Iskusstvo carried a section containing extracts from writings on Socialist culture by famous Marxists, one of whom was Stalin himself: We have destroyed national oppression, we destroyed national privileges, and established national equality. […] We have established unity and the economic and political interests of the peoples of the USSR. But does it mean that by doing all this we destroyed national differences, national languages, culture, ways of life, etc.? Clearly, it does not.16 The existence of such a posed question, especially from a Soviet authority, indicates that the issue was far from clear. Stalin, the Commissar for Nationalities in his early career, knew well that the question of nationalities was both tricky and unsolvable for the Soviet situation. Even though progress towards Soviet unity was propagated as a fact, divisions and differences clearly remained, as Stalin himself points out. Therefore, it was within these remaining differences that new national characters were permitted to be found. For a Soviet art magazine to carry a political statement was not an unusual occurrence. However, in this particular instance the statement referred to the culture of national republics and so provided a blueprint

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for the treatment of the issue. Each nation within the USSR had to produce artists, or be depicted by Russian artists, who would show that their nation shared Soviet goals with other nations, yet also possessed its own distinct culture and art. The closeness of political and cultural worlds is therefore revealed. Stalin’s statement represented the way ahead in the world for contemporaries and progress consequently became a most revered word for them. The same statement placed in the context of today exposes the brutal disjunction between Soviet reality and Stalinist ideals. Is a nation ‘primarily a community, a definite community of people,’ or does it in fact only exist ‘when a state has a unified administrative reach over the territory over which its sovereignty is claimed’?17 The first statement is by Joseph Stalin, the man in whose power it was to rebuild a collapsing state but probably not a nation. The second is by one of the most prolific sociologists of today, Anthony Giddens. Stalin’s USSR was far from an ideally administrated state. Even though the policing structure was far reaching, it alone could not provide enough support to hold the whole country together.18 One of the strongest unifying elements in human life is war against a common enemy. Such battles were provided both within the country, against numerous enemies of the state, and, more importantly, outside the country, against Fascist Germany and the capitalist West. As for everyday life, unity often had more of a visual rather than actual presence. The Soviet nation in itself was a supra-nation. To this day many people from the former Soviet Union still refer to themselves as Soviet people, namely those who lived in what was a Soviet reality but survived to witness the transformation of one nation into many. In the pre-war years it was deemed important to build a state based on a union of nations. During the war it became necessary to encourage the equality of nations. Finally, after the war the construction of a new nation, a Soviet nation, became the task of the authorities. How unbiased membership of this new nation was, can be contemplated in the light of Mikhail Khmelko’s grand work Drink a Toast to the Great Russian Nation (1947, fig. 9). Here a moment at a dinner party is depicted, as a toast is raised by Stalin to the ‘Great Russian Nation’. The Russians were undoubtedly the victors of World War II, but did they win single-handedly? Stalin raised the toast not to the Soviet nation as a whole, but to the Russian nation, which he viewed

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as being superior to the rest. The toast was reported in Pravda newspaper. Khmelko then gave the occasion a visual variant; the painting received the Stalin prize in 1949 and was reproduced on posters across the USSR. It was a direct affirmation of the greatness and superiority of one nation.19 In a discussion with the author, Boris Groys stated that Soviet nations were all invented and essentially unreal. The imperial structure of Russia meant that the Russian nation itself, together with the Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek nations, was fictional rather than natural. The process of its creation involved the establishment of what Groys calls a ‘type of Central Asian life’. This type was heralded through paintings, photographs and films, and resulted in the suppression of history in favour of its simulacrum. Confirmation of such activity can be found in the apparent ethnic diversity of the represented territories. Boris Groys compares these to McDonald’s ethnic burgers: the main structure remains while the sauces get adapted.20 The importance lies, then, in the sauce-mixer, and here one inevitably returns to the Great Russian brother.

The Great Russian People In November 1917 Lenin and Stalin, his Commissar for Nationalities, published Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia. It proclaimed

9. Mikhail Khmelko, Drink a Toast to the Great Russian Nation, 1949. Oil on canvas, State Museum and Exhibition Centre ROSIZO, Moscow, Bridgeman Images.

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that all Russian nations (or peoples) were to be equal and sovereign and asserted their ‘right to free self-determination, up to the point of secession and the formation of independent states’.21 A year later, in 1918, the Declaration of the Rights of the Oppressed Nationalities set out rights for all the nationalities of Russia. The fact that Russia itself was a nationality and an empire did not seem to be an issue.22 In fact, Russia’s greatness became the indisputable basis for its position as the leading nation: the nation that gave rights and provided laws for others. The use of the following quote in a late Soviet work about the fine art of Kyrgyzstan makes the position of the Great Russian brother explicit: ‘Russia is indeed playing a progressive role in relation to the East […] Russian supremacy plays a civilising role.’23 Here the writer acknowledges that without Russian influence Kyrgyzstan and its culture would remain underdeveloped, backward and in need of guidance. It is through the medium of art that such characteristics can be made more visible and recognisable. Socialist Realist painting proved an invaluable medium for confirmation of the stereotypes and desires that the Soviet governing bodies wished to inculcate in the viewers of art. Art of the Stalinist period does not constitute a mirror of the age, but rather a depiction of the opinions and dreams of a specific stratum of the Soviet population. These dreams were associated with the construction of Communism, the utopian dream in itself, and they were also interlinked with the state’s desire for control of personal time and leisurely activities, including the consumption of art. These images are comparable to the widely broadcast images produced by modern-day television programs such as reality tv, series or chat shows. Just like the art of the Stalinist period, these images are easily consumable by the population at large and the majority of intellectuals would never admit to having enjoyed any of them, even if they do. In spite of this, the use of painting as a medium of communication or indoctrination during the mid-twentieth century poses inevitable questions concerning the validity and success of such a medium. Painting was becoming increasingly outmoded in Western Europe, not least in its Realist form. On the one hand, painting was closest to photography in its ability to convey a believable image. Yet it could never be imbued with the validity that photography could provide, due to the perceived subjectivity of the

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former in relation to the supposed objectivity of the latter. It can be argued that painting in the Soviet Union, especially Realism, was by its nature essentially an extension of Russian art forms of the nineteenth century. In the case of Russia’s encounters with its East, that is Central Asia, oil painting was most certainly seen (by both native artists and the viewing public) as a Western (i.e. Russian) form of art and expression.24 In terms of Orientalist structures within art, the main change brought about by Sovietisation was, in Boris Groys’s view, an increase in the artificial and invented. The East was no longer an alternative civilisation, but a new Asia repressed under the strains of modernisation.25 Therefore, the Soviet form of Orientalism becomes an expression of frustration at the loss of the true Other within its own borders on the part of Russia. Delegates (1939, fig. 10) by Alexander Samokhvalov is an almost iconic example of a work that celebrates the Union. Other works on the subject usually present a large number of figures in various national costumes, all engaged in an ecstatic dance or marching. However, Samokhvalov’s work is small in scale and its subjects seem like real characters. Yet what an extraordinary costume game. One wears modern, even fashionable dress, while another displays the decorative remains of her nationality. In her analysis of the construction of the imaginary Orient by French artists of the nineteenth century, Linda Nochlin, one of the most notable voices in the field, asserts that ‘Only on the brink of destruction, in the course of incipient modification and cultural dilution, are customs, costumes, and religious rituals of the dominated finally seen as picturesque.’26 It seems that the Russian artist of the twentieth century was still very much involved in the processes of Orientalisation, with all its inevitable consequences. The image is constructed as a memory machine, a symbol of the unity of nations and diversity of cultures. In fact, the girl on the right is not Soviet but a friend from abroad. The character on the left, a Russian girl wearing modern European clothing, represents the whole Soviet Union. Both women are devout in their belief in the prospect of a bright future. Their aspirations are based, it seems, on qualities such as gender equality and internationalism, both of which were highly proclaimed achievements of the Soviet era.

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By 1939, the year in which this work was completed, the Soviet Union was absorbed in urban and industrial development. Through widespread but secretive purges, involving numerous forms of repression as well as military advances, the state was becoming a superpower both inside and outside its geographical borders. The quality of life (for those outside the Gulag camps) was on the increase and the belief in Communism intensified whilst simultaneously gaining the status of being both utopian and, therefore, unachievable.27 In every official work, the art of the period confirmed the aura of the times, and Delegates is one such example.

The Imperial Project and Soviet Art In Semion Chuikov’s A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia (1948, fig. 3), in which a young girl is depicted walking through empty fields, the artist has allegedly portrayed a whole nation, namely the young Soviet republic of Kyrgyzia. Chuikov’s painting presents a metaphor for the idea of one nationality for the benefit of the other. The painting travelled to Moscow while another artist’s copy remained in its country of origin. The metaphoric nature of the painting is not simply a modern invention, but such a reading is also recorded in the 1948 exhibition catalogue of the artist’s paintings.28 Presentation and re-presentation were crucial characteristics of the art exchange that took place between Soviet Central Asia and Moscow from the late 1930s to 1950s. This exchange points towards the continuation of neo-imperial, intra-national relationships within the wider Soviet territory. Soviet artists repeated themes and subjects previously utilised by their Russian predecessors. These themes ranged from depictions of grand political gatherings to state portraits and Orientalist subjects. In this way the imperial project started by Russia in the eighteenth century was not halted by the revolution, but actually enhanced by it. The most notable Russian artists working in Central Asia before the revolution were Vasilii Vereshchagin (see fig. 70), Nikolai Karazin, Boris Smirnov and Nikolai Khludov.29 Their art was characterised by bearing similarities

10. Alexander Samokhvalov, Delegates, 1939. Oil on canvas, 139 × 98, © 2014, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

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to and demonstrating an interest in Western European Orientalism, the geopolitical aspirations of Russia at the time, ethnographic observation and, finally, an artistic interest in new and exotic subject matters. Soviet artists would claim that their role was very different from that of the preceding generation and that it involved creating a new Soviet man. In essence, they strove to depict the progressive transformation of Soviet society on the road to Communism. The Soviet Union offered freedom and equality to all of its citizens and citizenship to all of its inhabitants. However, the right to independence for national republics proved an impossible or a fictional freedom, despite having been written into the constitution. The use of art within the sphere of intra-national communication worked in two main ways. First, through the depiction of Central Asians within multinational compositions created by official artists in Moscow and Leningrad, who represented the subject of the multinational state in their pieces. Second, it heralded the creation of new national schools of painting in the republics, followed by the depiction of those nationalities by the newly trained artists. The educational aspect of the East–West relationship in the Soviet Union was not only an everyday fact but was also the subject of numerous paintings, for example, Aisha Galimbaeva’s Textile Factory Workers (1951–60, fig. 11). Visual sources in the form of instructional posters teaching Uzbeks how to grow cotton,30 or Kazakhs how to look after sheep, presented an opportunity for the Soviet state to modernise the agricultural sector in order to fully exploit its vast territories. Furthermore, it enabled the state to show the local population that they were inferior in not just military or industrial sectors, but also in areas in which they had originally thought themselves to be highly accomplished. Another type of poster mocks the old ways by depicting the expulsion of the gentry and taking over of production by the state.31 This poster continues with the theme of progress while simultaneously reminding formerly Islamic and/or nomadic populations of the greatness of the gifts of freedom and secular enlightenment, both of which they have received from their Russian neighbour. The contrast between the overpoweringly large size of the new men and the tiny pale figures of the old men may

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prompt recollections of the Terror. However, here the scene is made humorous to a painful extent. Crushing undesired and so-called enemies of the people under the weight of the Soviet machine in Gulag labour camps had two goals. One was to ‘cleanse’ the population of alternative ways of thinking; another was to utilise the free workforce to forcibly industrialise the country. The poster image alludes metaphorically to both these desires of the state, and while mocking the enemies, it underlines the need to undermine them. Teaching and checking went beyond mere posters and agitprop and filtered heavily into the workings of the cultural sphere itself. Russian artists were sent to the republics in question and the artists of the republics were sent to study in Moscow and Leningrad. Even though official requests for theatre productions, musical compositions and paintings came from as far away as Moscow, it was still believed that instruction in the ways in which these subjects might be rendered should come from artists

11. Aisha Galimbaeva, Textile Factory Workers, 1951–60. Oil on canvas, 130 × 170, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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trained in the European part of the Soviet Union. The nation could often be represented at the All-Union Exhibition by a Russian artist residing in the republic, rather than by a local artist. Works by native artists could easily be criticised for either backwardness of technique and primitive artistry or for nationalistic sentiment. Despite being illustrated in the All-Union art magazine, Ural Tansykbaev’s Uzbek32 was criticised for being too decorative. Looking at the picture one can see that it is too confrontational an image, even though the subject is that of an offering of drink. The offering of a cotton stem to Comrade Stalin was a more applauded subject. Indeed, the image of just such an offering, no matter how fictional, ended up not inside but on the cover of the Iskusstvo magazine.33 It was upheld that special positions within artistic circles should be appointed to several artists originating from the Soviet centre and for whom Asia was a treat rather than a place of forced work. These were those whose art was considered inappropriate for the centre, but not for the periphery. Such artists could continue to enjoy the privilege of being members of the Artists’ Union but they could not belong to such a union in Russia. Being so far removed from the seat of power, these individuals did not present as much of a threat for the authorities and, at the same time, they could be utilised to instruct local students in the techniques of art. One such inappropriate artist was Sergei Kalmykov, whose A Girl with Melons (1948, fig. 12) was not disseminated throughout the Union, nor even within the republic itself. Living in Kazakhstan, he was not a member of the Artists’ Union; however, a whole generation of Kazakh artists would later claim that he was their mentor. One of the most prominent official Soviet artists working in Central Asia was Pavel Benkov, who also taught at the Samarkand Art College between 1930 and 1949. His style, influenced heavily by his studies in Paris, possesses qualities usually associated with late Impressionism. Despite bearing similarities to a Western painterly style, his prominence has remained steady. Based in Uzbekistan from the late 1920s, he continued to work until the late 1940s. One of his most famous works, Girlfriends (1940, fig. 13), depicts a meeting of two young girls, one of whom is ethnically Uzbek while the other is Russian. A highly acclaimed

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work, it was included in the catalogue of the State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan in 1954 and Matthew Cullerne Bown lists it as the artist’s most well-known work in his 1998 dictionary of artists.34 Possibly the use of a luminous Impressionist technique, with its haziness and link to the exotic, provided the basis for this work’s high acclaim. The image is political in its depiction of the meeting of two cultures and portrayal of seemingly everyday activities in the Soviet East. The Uzbek girl, in her national costume, is presented as a timid guide for the Russian girl, the

12. Sergei Kalmykov, A Girl with Melons, 1948. Oil on canvas, 75 × 64, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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latter of whom is excited by her experience of the new world. Both girls are engaged in the activity of exploration and learning and the artist has painted an image signifying the idea of friendship for both sides. Yet on another level the image can be read as a presentation of the Uzbek land with what the Russian viewer would perceive as its humble and welcoming people – one such figure is already in the picture. The image is therefore an example of the continuation of imperial attitudes exercised by Russia in equal measure throughout the twentieth century before and after the October Revolution. In relation to Soviet Central Asia, the Soviet government had strong opinions on how, where and when Central Asian subjects could be depicted by artists and addressed by Soviet critics. Through creating

13. Pavel Benkov, Girlfriends, 1940. Oil on canvas, 120 × 150, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Photo courtesy of Gayane Umerova, © the estate of Pavel Benkov.

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images that were Orientalist in character, the apparatus of the Communist Party was able to pursue several of its goals, namely state unification, imperial expansion and the acceleration of national differences. The fundamentals of Socialist Realism lay in the superiority of content over form and, in a deeper sense, the creation of a powerful social role for art. As a result, the government had a strong interest in maintaining art as a tool for realising political aspirations. To this day there are discussions surrounding whether Central Asia was a Russian colony or not. It must be said that the changes implemented by Russia’s Communist government had drastic effects on the region, but that does not necessarily mean those changes were all negative. Yet looking at the mosaic in the Leningrad (today St Petersburg) Vladimirskaia underground station titled Plenty,35 one wonders whether this is in fact an image that simply glorifies labour or glorifies the multi-ethnic empire that was the USSR. In the mosaic, various national types are depicted delivering their produce. The Central Asian types are mainly delivering cotton, fruit and sheep to an empty expanse in the foreground, apparently for the delectation of the viewers, or, more specifically, Leningrad’s underground users. But who in the end had access to this foreground and was it communal? Images of colonial plenty were not particular to the USSR. Exhibited in France at the 1931 Exposition Coloniale Internationale de Paris was an image of French colonies ‘as a huge cornucopia of raw materials, a bottomless reservoir of organic plenty to be bestowed upon mother France’.36 The fair proved to be ‘the most spectacular colonial extravaganza ever staged in the West’, and was directly sponsored by government ministries.37 Irrigation (1930s, fig. 14) by Max Penson and Portrait of V.E. Meyerhold (1938, fig. 15) by Petr Konchalovksii are different examples of two sides of the same coin, namely Soviet-style imperialism. On the one side, photographer Max Penson glorifies advances in Soviet agriculture. On the other side, Meyerhold, a prominent Soviet theatre director and Moscow intellectual, is depicted at leisure by the renowned Soviet artist Petr Konchalovsky, reclining atop an Uzbek decorative textile. The placing of a black and white visual construct against a colourful one represents the dual nature of the relationship between Moscow and Central

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Asia. For some, Soviet Central Asia continued to be a decorative province, capable of producing functional home décor. For others, Soviet Central Asia became a place that experienced increasing burdens on its agricultural system; so much so that numerous scientists agree that water usage during the Soviet era has led to the destruction of the Aral Sea. Max Penson’s photograph is an example of the utilisation of the recently developed and progressive medium of photography to record the new modernity. In the other such examples, the link to Constructivism becomes apparent. Penson was not Uzbek by ethnic origin, yet he devoted his life and work to the region. His images, therefore, obtain the effect of reality so essential for the purposes of Soviet propaganda. Petr Konchalovsky’s portrait of a theatre director is a rather typical image of an artistic figure, at least by Western European standards of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Reclining on a sofa, the subject holds a pipe in his mouth. Also in sight are a book, a dog and, crucially for my discussion, a decorative background. The handmade textile present in the painting both indicates the form of abstraction granted to the artist within a tough Soviet Realist framework and bears a thematic weight by hinting at the cultural openness of the sitter. This juxtaposition conceals a certain crucial aspect of the East–West relationship within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, even though it reveals the features described above. The fact that Central Asia was by this time gripped between developing a deportation camp system and increasingly demanding economic plans – details closely related to one another – is hinted at in the photograph, even if not fully apparent. At the same time, the portrait of Meyerhold points to the fact that in the minds of Soviet people, and even within the intellectual elite, Central Asia was still largely seen as an exotic and poetic territory.38 These distinct polarities of an everyday reality and the depicted image of reality originated in part from the lack of information available to the artists and the public at large regarding Gulag labour camps. At the same time, building the Communist future, in which artists were supposed to play an active part, did not involve criticism of the Soviet government’s policies. Whether produced in the centre or on the periphery, artistic language was limited by its inability ‘to voice any critique’.

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As early as 1934 the All-Union art magazine Iskusstvo devoted an issue to painting in Soviet Uzbekistan, which came out in connection with an exhibition of Uzbek art in Moscow. Written by V. Chepelev, an art critic responsible for covering Central Asian developments, one particular article draws on the history of Central Asian art. Chepelev criticises the use of decoration in art due to its relation to Islam and the Middle Ages and points out that such artistic forms are cut off from contemporary reality.39 A glimpse of that reality for Soviet artists is available in the recently opened archives. Those archival materials stored in Moscow’s RGALI that are related to art practices and institutions in Central Asia for the period between the 1930s and 1950s can be divided into two main categories.40

14. Max Penson, Irrigation, 1930s. Gelatin silver print, artist’s family collection, Tashkent, courtesy Ildar Galeyev, © the estate of Max Penson.

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The first category contains documents discussing the sending of Russian artists to Central Asia to teach and Central Asians to Moscow and Leningrad to learn. The second category comprises files generated as a result of the administrative monitoring of cultural institutions in Central Asia, mainly the region’s few established museums. In the GARF archive the tone of the documents is more obviously political as the documents concern themselves with economic transformations in the area.41 The two archives present two parallel courses of events, one cultural and one economic, which were also defined by one overarching structure. The neoimperialist structure that was put into place with the establishment of the USSR becomes evident through the sheer number of documents that formulate, inform and analyse the nature of Russia’s relationship with ‘its’ Central Asia. The structure of half-truths and positivism in art and literature leads to the formation of mixed ideas about the national republics of the Soviet ‘Orient’. These republics were seen both as useful appendages to Russia and examples of the true nature of Socialist progress. Both of these images are closely related to processes that took place all over the Union – the Russification of language, everyday life and culture – but nowhere more so than in Central Asia, especially in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Russification Lenin and Stalin clashed in more ways than one. In particular, Stalin was the Commissar for Nationalities and the nationalities question was one on which he and Lenin did not agree. A Georgian in terms of ethnic origin, Stalin was a Russified non-Russian. Alex de Jonge states that, ‘Drafting the constitution which would define Russia’s relations with other republics, Stalin took a strong centralist line which emphasised Russian dominance over its smaller associates […] Lenin objected to policies in which he perceived that Great Russian chauvinism which he had always abhorred.’42 Lenin seems to have understood, albeit too late, that

15. Petr Konchalovsky, Portrait of V.E. Meyerhold, 1938. Oil on canvas, 233 × 212, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, © Petr Konchalovsky Foundation.

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imperialist traditions of governance which extended deeply into the nationalities question continued almost unchallenged and unchanged into the Soviet structure. Importantly, they did so under the control of those he perceived as ‘worst of all’, that is Russified non-Russians.43 Russification played a vital role in terms of the formation of new directions for the former colonies. Central Asian subjects were now required to learn the Russian language, as it became not only the lingua franca throughout the whole territory of the Soviet Union, but a necessity in the lives of the new Soviet people. This was especially valid in the Kazakh and Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republics. In both, the proportion of the original ethnic population was significantly reduced during the periods before and after the Great Patriotic War (World War II). This was due not only to the famine that took the lives of more than two million Kazakhs in the 1920s, but also to the mass migration of other Soviet citizens to Central Asia either to find work or, more commonly, as a result of deportation. Under these circumstances the languages and the traditional ways of life of both the deported people and of the original nations were significantly affected. The Russification of the arts and of language was especially thorough in the middle and late 1930s. During this period those aspects of national cultures and languages that differed from the ways of the Great Russian brother were proclaimed as archaic, dying and even counterrevolutionary.44 During World War II a different strategy was employed as the Party began to stress the multi-ethnic nature of the Soviet population.45 At a time when the Soviet government and the Communist Party needed as much support as possible in defeating Nazi armies, the state could not afford outbreaks of nationalism and ethnically induced confrontations within its own borders. Following the war, Stalin returned to a policy of Russification.46 The process of development as understood and propagated by the Soviet state entailed a journey from capitalism to Communism and from darkness to light.47 This journey, which took place within the boundaries of the USSR, could take the form of a quick change for some members of society or a more prolonged process for others; the slowest to change were understood as the primitive people of Siberia. Nomadic Asians were

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not seen to be that far ahead. In order to speed up the process, very close attention and guidance from Moscow was perceived as necessary. To some extent the Communist Party in the USSR, in a similar way to governments in Germany and Italy, held a belief ‘in the eugenic theory of the creation of a higher race’.48 The Soviet situation was, however, slightly more complicated given the fact that it was a multiracial state. It therefore became an official goal that all nations should aspire to become a collective Soviet nation, the basis for which would be provided by the strongly suggested and highly supported ideal model of the Russian nation. Even though the term Soviet did not have inherent racial connotations, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was far from devoid of racial discrimination. As a result, the prevalent ideology had a philosophy that was ‘imperial rather than national and incorporated many races under a single leader’.49 In the Soviet Union the structures of government and power were such that in the cultural sphere the main misbalance occurred between representations of the Slavic/Caucasian new man and the Orientalised stereotype.50 Despite its pitfalls and its strong dependence on critical discourse, Soviet art presents an outstanding example of a use of cultural form for the purposes of political propaganda. Such art can also be valued for its reflection of a specific society and for the outlooks it came to propagate through the hidden meanings it offered to viewers then and which it still offers now. Certainly, as David Elliot maintains, Socialist Realism’s theorists ‘concentrated on abstract definitions of the kind of political consciousness that all the arts had to reflect and through which their success and failure could be judged’.51 Elliot explains this by way of the idea that Socialist Realism was not a style but a method of creation. Yet at the same time, how can a work of art of any style or period be judged without taking into account the political or social circumstances and consciousness that it either reflects or evades? ‘The sublime cannot become beautiful post factum,’ wrote Mikhail Ryklin, warning prospective researchers not to make the mistake of forgetting the history of a state that believed it was possible to construct history.52 Today Soviet art is becoming popular in the art market and as the subject

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of exhibitions, but the context of its creation is often brushed aside or generalised. However, even a small example of a collectible work of art, such as the previously discussed porcelain inkwell by Danko which depicts a discussion of a draft of the Soviet Constitution by Uzbeks and is titled Discussion of the Project of the Soviet Constitution, provides a fruitful point of debate concerning the dissemination of Russian power over Soviet lands and the continuation of the imperial tradition of porcelain figurines (fig. 8). Such objects were available to a limited circle of people who doubtfully were ever Uzbek in origin, yet who were possibly in charge of the economic and social structures that governed, among other things, Uzbek–Russian relations at the time. Today such works are highly collectible pieces, with a variant recently selling at Sotheby’s London for £18,000. Has Russia become a popular brand, together with its governmental bureaucracy, geographical vastness and financial excess? In the art world Russian and Soviet pieces are becoming a fashion statement. To appreciate and investigate Soviet art is to be a free thinker or, in other words, to be both anti-totalitarian and anti-capitalist at once. In the midst of this strong interest in the art of the Soviet era there exists little concern as to the unsolved problems left behind by that period, one of which is the nationality question. This not only relates to independent post-Soviet Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, with each of which Russia is struggling to maintain balanced relations, but it also relates to the present-day East within Russian borders. Stalinist bureaucrats in the culture industry believed that a lack of unity could be overcome in visual terms. Vladimir Putin’s government seems to play two-faced games by creating, for example, the holiday of national unity on a date that happens to correspond with the anniversary of the victory of the Slavs over the Tartars in the Middle Ages. Power rather than unity was, and remains, the main goal of the governing body. However, it can be dressed in a diverse range of robes, including those of democratic openness and those of fear and overt discrimination.

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Transformations Notable transformations within the art sector during the Stalinist period included the creation of a centralised art system in order to establish and support the grip of the Socialist Realist doctrine in art. At the same time, society as a whole was undergoing a transformation as the lifestyle and mentality of the average Soviet underwent critical modifications. The social sector received massive funding, much of which went to schools and hospitals. Together with industrialisation, the Soviet government constructed one important resource for the future, the new Soviet workforce. This required advancements not only in the health sector, but also in science and the arts. Artists were often seen as and discussed in terms of a workforce or military force, especially during the years of the Great Patriotic War (World War II). Soviet artists had to learn two skills at once: first, to be a Socialist Realist artist (almost a performative dimension) and second, to portray a Socialist Realist reality. If asked to describe Central Asia in one word most people would choose the word ‘steppes’. Central Asia comprises vast territories that are mostly scarcely populated as the result of the complex history of these lands combined with unfavourable climatic conditions. Indeed, modernday Kazakhstan on its own occupies an area equal to that of Western Europe. This vastness led to the creation of a romantic image of this part of the world, yet at the same time gave the Soviet authorities enough reason to suggest to both the local population and the entire world that the territory had not yet been utilised to its true potential. What this meant for visual art during the Soviet era was that landscape became a genre with direct political connotations. As Igor Golomstock notes, ‘whatever the painter was painting – a portrait of the leader or a cucumber […] – he was meant to be aware of the link of any painted or created object to the ideological whole: this object could only gain its meaning and beauty through its connection to higher values of social doctrine and philosophy of life and history.’53 Today Kazakhstan for Russians in Russia is often associated with the labour camps of the 1930s, deportation during the war in the 1940s or collective labour of the 1950s and ’60s. It is seen as a massive expanse of land containing a people about which little is

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known: what language do they speak, what food do they eat and how do they live? This ignorance is not due to a lack of intelligence on the part of Russians, but due to a lack of information. Needless to say, those who went back to Russia after completing their sentence or work-placement in Kazakhstan were the ones who did not and could not have found anything attractive in these lands. Consequently, the image they brought back with them was far from favourable. Official art magazines such as Tvorchestvo and Iskusstvo – both of which served as the main agencies for the dissemination of information between artists and art critics in the country – published regular thematic articles on the subject of Central Asia. In an article in a 1934 issue of Iskusstvo called ‘Painting of Soviet Uzbekistan’ the author discusses the cultural heritage of the land in terms of its religious dependency and ‘decorativism’. He claims that in order for young Uzbek artists to progress in the art of painting they should shed the old traditional values in favour of the new vision.54 Articles on the art and culture of Central Asia in the years between 1934 and 1954 range from those that accentuate the glorious but nevertheless feudal past and the developed yet too decorative applied arts sector, to those that support the progressive yet sometimes underdeveloped newly emerged fine arts. The claim of having successfully departed from the bourgeois Orientalism of the past seems, however, to have not been entirely valid. The depiction of Central Asian women and men by the Russian artists centres on the exotic and the traditional, whether or not they are depicting past realities or a new and altogether invented reality. How could the Orientalist tradition fade when the only available examples of the treatment of Central Asia in art for Soviet Artists were the works of Russian Orientalists? The themes dominating depictions of Central Asia did not disappear after the war, even with the changing situation in the nationalities question. Most notable is an incident after the death of Stalin in 1955 when artists were sent to document the execution of state orders to develop the virgin lands of the north of Kazakhstan to create massive crop-growing fields. The works sent back were full of romance rather than heroism. Yet national subjects were hardly present in them. What happened to the people whose lands were now supposedly virgin lands?

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An image of what is claimed to be the first ever train, First Train, Chirchik by Max Penson,55 might be read as a metaphoric representation of the masculine possession of feminine land. Due to its title it is also a representation of the moment of the loss of virginity, or one might say of the emancipation, of these lands. With its tilted horizon and stark division of light and dark areas the image is another example of Penson’s experiments with visual formalism. Despite being an image of Soviet progress, it is also a reminder of the power of the machine – something coveted by Soviets and capitalists alike – and so represents a power that was seen as liberating, rather than constraining. In fact, mechanisation was very much the basic underlying philosophy of a variety of art movements in the early to mid-twentieth century, for example, Constructivism in Russia and Futurism in Europe. Cultural and social transformations are recorded in art magazines, themselves the political vehicles of the Soviet cultural sphere, with a Central Asian theme often raised as an example. In the 1949 issue of Iskusstvo the following is noted regarding a sculptural Portrait of Nazarali Niazov by E. Vuchetich: ‘The crucial trait of this portrait is the clearly depicted feeling of pride of the Soviet citizen in this man, who was previously an illiterate and labourer without rights.’56 Therefore, the reader is led to believe that this non-Asian artist depicts an Asian man and is doing a good job of depicting not only the man himself, but the social processes which form the basis of the man’s life. At the same time, in this simple description of a work, the author presents a concise worldview for the Soviet man: the transformations which took place in the Soviet Union in the early twentieth century affected positively the lives of the peoples of the Soviet East. Transformations of the essence of what constitutes ‘national’ are also recorded in the art magazine Iskusstvo. In a review of the exhibition ‘Artists of Central Asia’, A. Zamoshkin criticises the lack of both ‘ideological and artistic’ mastery in the works exhibited by national artists. He blames them for not knowing what reality is like. An enlightening quotation is brought in: ‘in comrade Fadeev’s words “National form is an evolving entity, as it changes just as much as the national character of the Socialist transformation of society”.’57 The critic concludes

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that any development of Socialist Realism and enrichment of national form by non-Russian artists cannot be achieved without them having learnt from Russian Soviet artists. 58 The article provides a damning critique of Central Asian art during the post-war era when the Russification of Central Asian society was once again on the rise. At this time it was no longer sufficient to learn the methods of Socialist Realist painting from a Russian elder brother. Now an acceptable national character had to be modelled on the Russian example. Transformations therefore meant both the increasing Russification of art and a change in the general understanding of what ‘national’ meant. The term became less and less related to cultural and geographical origins and more and more to the Russian vision of what its multiple Others could and should be.

Moscow and Muscovites ‘Moscow still plays a huge role as a centre for exhibiting the achievements of national cultures, for the exchange of creative experience which the capital of the multinational Soviet state accumulates, and therefore allows for a wider spread of it and strengthens the connections between republics,’ one reads in the 1982 Soviet book Interaction between Artistic Cultures of the Peoples of the USSR.59 In this statement the author emphasises the fact that Moscow was the centre for Soviet artistic life and the city where intersections between various cultures took place. This is the location where these processes not only took place but where they could be closely monitored. Actual developments in remote regions were less apparent in the exhibited works, yet the strategies of representation corresponding to these regions were on constant display. Soviet republics were given the aforementioned decades, or time periods, to display their cultures in Moscow; Kazakhstan was granted one in 1936, Uzbekistan in 1937 and Kyrgyzstan in 1939. How does a Soviet Muscovite see a Soviet Central Asian? As a person who inhabits distant lands which can only be visualised and imagined by way of description. In the Soviet person’s mind Central Asians existed not so much in Central Asia, but on the canvases available for viewing

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in the All-Union Exhibitions and in art publications. These images would remain in the memories of their beholders and affect any future encounters. It is impossible to underestimate the power of the arsenal of Soviet duplicity and farce. The walls of Moscow’s Kazan station, which received trains from the eastern republics, are decorated with murals depicting happy Asians wearing traditional costumes within new and technologically advanced circumstances. One of the murals is pointedly titled Asia.60 In an account of his works in Iskusstvo magazine Evgenii Lanceray, the artist behind these murals, suggests that they represent a celebration of both the unification of workers and the natural resources of the country. The artist highlights the fact that the models for the wall paintings come from his experiences of church interiors, theatrical sets and poster designs at one and the same time.61 The entire content of this particular issue of Iskusstvo – the official agency of the Union of Soviet Artists and Sculptors – is dedicated to monumental and architecturally decorative art, which formed the main source of visual instruction in 1934. Right from the first years of the creation of the new state special attention was granted to perceptions of the Soviet East and the way it should be talked about and visualised: ‘The development of national cultures of the Soviet Central Asian republics is happening in the midst of an active inter-cooperation between themselves, other Soviet national cultures, and above all – the Russian one.’62 The insistence on superiority apparent in this statement characterised the relationships between Russians and other nationalities throughout the history of the USSR. If one looks at the artistic heritage left over from the Soviet period it is clear that feminising and infantilising processes form the core of the overall scheme of art practices relating directly to national issues. Children and young heroes were a common feature in many examples of Socialist Realist art, with young females representing more of an Eastern premise. Chuikov’s two main themes were landscapes and young Kyrgyz girls. He was praised for his achievements in paintings, culminating in his being awarded a Stalin prize for his A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia and having the work both exhibited in Moscow and later published in many schoolbooks. His were not the only works of such a nature. Vladimir Rozhdestvensky’s Portrait of a Young Woman (1945, fig. 16),

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and later Kanafiya Telzhanov’s In a Sunny Land (1960, fig. 17), are also examples in which young females are depicted engaging in various activities, such as reading, as opposed to confronting the viewer.63 These are representations of new nations that are young and ready to be emancipated and which have been educated and pacified. One thing certainly becomes clear: that in the 1930s, 1940s and even in the late 1950s Russia still needed to emphasise its right to domination. After all, one of the functions of Orientalism, at least during its heyday in nineteenth-century Europe, was to ‘certify that the people encapsulated by it, defined by its presence, are irredeemably different from, more backward than, and culturally inferior to those who construct and consume the picturesque product’.64 Paintings themselves constituted both the idea and the ideal of the future and of the past. Their impact depended on effective distribution or, more specifically, the effective distribution of copies. Therefore, the image of a simply dressed girl walking through vast fields with a book in her hands is not one that just sprung up in peoples’ minds when they tried to imagine Kyrgyzia or Soviet Kyrgyzia. It is instead the recollection of a reproduction of a famous painting in a school textbook. The All-Union Exhibition of 1946 that took place in Moscow included works that depicted Soviet Central Asia for the benefit of the Moscow audience (and presumably a Union-wide audience). Uzbekistan was presented in the works of Pavel Benkov, Kazakhstan in the works of Baki Urmanche and Kyrgyzstan in those of Semion Chuikov.65 Benkov was a Russian artist trained in the West, Urmanche was a Tatar artist, and Chuikov – the only local – was born in Kyrgyzstan but was also ethnically Russian and trained outside of Kyrgyzstan. The depiction of Central Asia therefore rested on the shoulders of three men who were undoubtedly well acquainted with the region, but who still saw it from the point of view of outsiders, just like their Moscow audience. A Moscow exhibition of a group of works by Semion Chuikov titled ‘Kyrgyz Kolkhoz Suite’ contained works from the period 1936 to 1948 and was accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, a rarity in itself. In the introduction the artist himself explains that the role of the Soviet artist,

16. Vladimir Rozhdestvensky, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1945. Oil on canvas, 98 × 64, collection of the National Bank of Uzbekistan.

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as he sees it, is to present the viewer with an image that would encourage and assist him or her to build a better future. Chuikov explains that the exhibition was not an attempt to show Soviet Kyrgyzia in its entirety but that it attempted to bring the republic closer to the Soviet viewer and make them appreciate and love it even more.66 The Soviet viewer was of course the Moscow viewer, as the exhibition was staged in the Soviet capital. Moscow had to represent and encapsulate the whole of the Soviet Union; the views of a Muscovite were assumed to be identical to those of a Soviet in general. This view-from-the-centre attitude has still not been shaken off, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the largest country in the world still remains exceptionally centralised.

Metro Created by famous artists such as Deineka and Lanceray, the plaques in the Metro and the wall paintings of the train stations were part of a greater visual structure, one function of which was to establish and reconfirm the strong grasp Moscow had on Asia. Passengers arriving from faraway lands were faced with images of their own reality upon entering a Russian reality, while the citizens of the whole Union were encouraged to envisage the vastness of their land through depictions in the underground. All this might be far less disturbing should one not know the historical context within which the visual works were created. For a large number of Russians, Central Asia represented the possibility of deportation. For most Central Asians, Moscow was as unreachable and, paradoxically, as desirable as national autonomy. The most vivid expression of Soviet sponsorship of art and design was the Moscow Metro. However, this everlasting ‘All-Union Exhibition’ was not named after Stalin.67 Initially planned as an alternative form of transportation, it was opened by L.M. Kaganovich, whose name it bore along with the words ‘Our Soviet metropolitan is not just a technical structure’. What was it, then? The Moscow Metro became the central palace of the whole Union, not just of Moscow. Here diversity became

17. Kanafiya Telzhanov, In a Sunny Land, 1960. Oil on canvas, 70 × 54.5, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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unity as names of towns became names of stations and the interior decoration exceeded all existing Soviet standards. Whether the gilt white glazed faience figure of a kneeling Uzbek man surrounded by ripe cotton stems by Georgii Motovilov,68 or a Kazakh girl dancing in gilt porcelain by Natalya Danko,69 these types of images surrounded Muscovites on their daily journeys. Mikhail Ryklin believes that the Soviet Metropolitan, and especially the process of its creation, gave rise to a certain ‘metro-discourse’. With its palatial grandness the Moscow Metro claimed technical superiority over all other underground systems in the world and as an architectural construction it belonged to the type of project that, by virtue of its sheer existence, tried to ‘symbolically compensate the lack of real unity’.70 Yet in Ryklin’s view this flowering of visual imagery within the Moscow underground, which started post-1938, was a sign of the end of the metrodiscourse, as it could no longer hold any power by itself and so resorted to a visual, more accessible, imagery. If the structure of the Underground preached massive urbanisation, then the images of Asia on its walls spoke of joyous collectivisation on the collective farms far away from Moscow. As in France, where during the worst period of the Depression the government allocated subsidies for the creation of the country’s famed ocean liners (1924–35), known as ‘the most extravagant commercial expression of colonial propaganda’, in Russia the Party never economised on the construction and decoration of the Metro in Moscow and public spaces all over the Union.71 Porcelain sculptures in the Metro stations were often enlarged versions of existing porcelain figurines and served to link the visual culture of private homes with that of public spaces. Natalya Danko, an artist who worked with ceramics and porcelain and created the aforementioned figurines of nationalities in the Moscow Metro station Kievskii Vokzal, is quoted as saying, ‘For me, having seen with my own eyes the oppression of the Tsarist national politics, the subject of growth of the cultures of the peoples of our Union seemed the most cherished and close.’72 The Soviet method of controlling a large territory seems to be a mixture of what neo-Marxist theoreticians Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri say are two different things: imperialism and Empire. According to

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their definition, the period of imperialism was specifically characterised by the existence of boundaries between nation states and therefore around the centres of power which the peripheral territories were made to accept. Moscow was the epitome of such a centre. Yet it seems that the USSR was also an attempt, albeit a failed one, at what the USA is today on the way towards achieving, namely the creation of Empire, the object of the rule of which, in Hardt and Negri’s view, is no less than ‘social life in its entirety’.73 Was it not in the Soviet Union, as much as it is in today’s global politics, that this blood-stained practice was always dedicated to perpetual and universal peace – itself another trait of the concept of Empire?

The War ‘During the first three months of the war (1941) [the railways] shifted more than 250 heavy plants to Kazakhstan and Central Asia. […] The transportation of entire peoples was soon under way. The Soviet Union deported Chechens, Kalmyks, Balkars, Karachais, Crimean Tatars, and even the Volga Germans, who had been domiciled there since the eighteenth century, to put them beyond reach of the invaders.’74 The war between Germany and the Soviet Union was fought outside the territory of Soviet Asia, yet the latter played an immense role in the Soviet victory. Stalin’s period of power is intrinsically linked to World War II. An increasing number of studies and publications in Russian, as well as other languages, have recently been directed towards deconstructing the implications of the war for the Soviet Union. The untarnished image of the Soviet soldier is the first to fall under attack, together with Soviet military strategy. More often than not, failures are linked directly or indirectly to Joseph Stalin. Yet simply the possibility of a re-evaluation of the war, the real statistics and the consequences of it, is a very firm expression of the end of the Soviet era. Up until the very end of the Soviet era the Great Patriotic War was an untouchable and non-debatable subject. This new tendency is not confined to the post-Soviet situation alone: in the German and European press in general a noticeable move towards the re-evaluation of Nazi power and the German nation during Hitler’s rule is evident.

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The nationality question did undergo a transformation during and after the war. During the war a common effort was required, which meant a loosening of Russification policy and an insistence on a unified nation. After the war a reversal ensued. Visual and literary depictions of the time are full of heroic actions and are inevitably linked to Russian identity. Yet at the same time it is hard to forget both the multinational military effort in the war and the welcome provided to citizens from all over the Union who were stationed in Central Asia, an area conveniently far from the USSR’s western borders. The Soviet art world was gripped by relocations from the centre to the periphery or, more accurately, from western borders to the safety of the eastern deserts. Two works of 1942 illustrate two of the many parallel realities of the day. In Alexander Deineka’s Defence of Sebastopol (fig. 18) heavy fighting is expressed in chess-like juxtapositions of white

18. Alexander Deineka, Defence of Sebastopol, 1942. Oil on canvas, 200 × 400, © 2014, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

19. Alexander Gerasimov, Hymn to October, 1942 (recipient of the Stalin Prize). Oil on canvas, 406 × 710, © 2014, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

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and black. A crimson sky frames the action of a glorified war effort. In Hymn to October (fig. 19) by Alexander Gerasimov crimson swathes of fabric symbolise another effort. Here we find not one, but two Stalins: a little man under the ray of Lenin and a large-scale profile above Lenin. This grand painting encompasses a very diverse gathering and Central Asians are scattered here and there, including in the last rows. This all-Union gathering during the hardest year of the war is another expression of the now unbelievable artificiality of the Soviet process. To see all the nations gathering for the celebration of the anniversary of the October Revolution was to hear a hymn to Russia, the great nation, and Stalin, the great leader. Although not shown in the piece, Central Asia was at the same time taking part in the war effort by producing cotton and coal, providing fighters for the front line and receiving relocated members of other nations. The war provided for an alternative interaction between the Central Asian artist Ural Tansykbaev and Russian land. In his article ‘Artists of

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Uzbekistan’, B. Veimarn, an important Soviet critic of Central Asian art practices, notes that the paintings of Tansykbaev, exhibited at the 1944 Moscow exhibition of works from the republics of the Soviet Union, are full of a deep affection for Russian nature. This nature is, the author continues, ‘as dear to Tansykbaev as the colourful landscape of Uzbekistan’.75 Tansykbaev spent the war years in the Moscow countryside collecting documentary material for his works. Only one year after the end of the war another art exhibition was staged, in 1946, and this time it included twenty-seven works by Uzbekistani artists. The post-war years were characterised by a return to pro-Russian propaganda as opposed to pro-Soviet propaganda. Indeed, one can read in a 1947 issue of an art magazine dedicated to the post-revolutionary Civil War that works depicting this point in history show the ‘immense help which the Russian nation and the Red Army granted to the workers of Uzbekistan in their struggle for Soviet power’.76 The message from the centre remained clear and continued to delineate the helper and the helped.

two soviet totalitarianism the visual experiment [D]reamworlds become dangerous when their enormous energy is used instrumentally by structures of power, mobilised as an instrument of force that turns against the very masses who were supposed to benefit.1

he invention of tradition in the case of Socialist Realism was essentially twofold. On the one hand Socialist Realism was an invented doctrine that came into force in the 1930s, yet on the other hand its function within society was to invent Soviet traditions and truths, realities and utopias, and both a single nation and multiple nationalities. This invented doctrine manifested itself through the exploitation of visual artistic imagery, and the resulting art of limited forms performed a variety of functions within the cage of what can be termed the Gesamtkunstwerk of Stalinism. Within the changing ideals that Socialist Realism expressed and strived to make a reality, images of men and women in the USSR were transformed and perfection was utilised as a new guiding principle for progress in society as a whole. At the same time, Soviet identity, a new creation in itself, had to include a variety of nationalities, some of which had only recently been invented. Massive social upheaval during the era of Soviet totalitarianism took a multitude of forms, including visual experimentation and the invention of a virtual and utopian reality within the painted surfaces of Socialist Realist art.

Invented Doctrine and Exploitation of Visual Imagery In Spaces of Exultation: Totalitarianism and Difference (2002) Mikhail Ryklin notes that the Soviet Union was essentially a ‘huge theatrical space’.2 Ryklin states that having lost a binary system of oppositions,

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intellectuals on both sides of the former Iron Curtain are now faced with a ‘cannibalism of utopias’.3 Contrary to the widespread opinion that the culture of the Soviet Union was a process instructed and instigated from the top down, Ryklin believes that Soviet mythology could only survive and be accepted by millions if it had originated from within, and was demanded by, both the top and the bottom of Soviet society.4 It is therefore possible to say that the overall Soviet, and in particular Stalinist, structure of society and culture was one big experiment in which the line between the scientist and the guinea pig was very fine. Socialist Realism was neither a long-term achievement nor a shortterm mistake. It was, possibly, a virtual experiment on a grand scale and it wasn’t a representation of the past, the present or the future. It was equivalent to the future perfect tense, only this tense does not exist in the Russian language. The smiling faces of faceless heroes and innumerable portraits of grand characters who one after another became as obsolete as their characters, make up the image of an art form that survived in spite of and due to state support. Socialist Realism was as much an expression of its time as any art form, and that time was one full of invented truths and therefore devoid of reality. Ivan Pavlov’s research on conditioning and reflex actions, conducted in the early part of the twentieth century along with various other reflection theories, was closely related to Marxism and possibly formed the basis of the Communist Party’s obsessive regulation of the visual arts. In their 1959 report on child welfare in the Soviet Union the American researchers Herschel and Edith Alt paid a great deal of attention to education. In ‘Part II: “Shaping the Will”’, the authors discuss Pavlov’s experiments in the context of human behaviour. As we understand it, mid-twentieth-century Soviet educational theory emphasised the educability of the average human being and viewed the application of external pressures as a way of moulding human responses; the cornerstone of this theory was Pavlov’s experiment.5 If we believe Pavlov’s assertion that after a certain amount of repetitive action the action triggers a response in the viewer, one may assume that after several years of exposure to Soviet imagery one starts endlessly smiling. One imagines Socialist Realist painting to depict happy people, heroic actions, victories and leaders in a saintly atmosphere. Soviet

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paintings might therefore leave one feeling guilty of possibly consuming the smile and forgetting the context. Even with ups and downs in the contemporary art market, Soviet art still remains sellable, albeit not at such expensive prices as Western art of the same period. It is in this detail that the force of this derelict approach towards art becomes graspable. Whether painting is an acceptable form of expression for the twentieth century, and whether Soviet painting was in fact popular during its own day, are only two of the numerous possible contextual factors to be taken into account in an examination of Socialist Realism. One detail, such as the expression of the multi-ethnic nature of the Soviet Union within state-supported art, gives away the actual effect this art had – and seems to still have – on the people. When Socialist Realism was invented and formed as a doctrine in 1934 it was first and foremost a literary style. However, visual art followed suit extremely quickly. In Moscow and Leningrad a revision of art institutions took place. Within the next decade new museums and art schools appeared all over the Soviet Union, in places where such institutions had never existed before, the main purpose of which was to disseminate the Socialist message.6 The form chosen was Realism and the subject was the bright new world. Artistic and literary texts shone with excitement about Stalinist times, and for a large proportion of the population this optimism proved that the move towards a Communist future was steadily happening and indeed inevitable. Socialist Realist depictions invented the past, the present and the future, as well as inventing people as presences as much as absences; history was remade on a day-to-day basis. As has been proved by David King’s research into photography in Soviet Uzbekistan, the books containing these photographs were revised constantly.7 As people disappeared, so did photographs and depictions of them. In the same vein, painters were faced with producing compositions in which the number of characters portrayed could decrease throughout the period of creation. Most notably, following Stalin’s death a staggering number of his portraits, and works which included his person, gradually disappeared or were altered to eliminate him. The swiftness of this virtual and visual execution of Stalin was similar to the one he granted his foes during his time in power.

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The vast area of Central Asia and Kazakhstan is still considered by the rest of the world to be an exotic location full of unexpected coexistences of the old and the new. However, the new is often criticised on the basis that it is either tainted with the shadow of the old and therefore too barbaric, or that it is too modern and therefore not exotic enough. The locals are hardly ever accredited with success, but neither are they accused of failure. Blaming the Soviet past or praising American or modern Russian investment always seems to be an easy way for both neighbours and foreign visitors to cope with the unusual social layout and circumstances they find in twenty-first-century Central Asia. The roots of both today’s situation and approaches to it may be found in the specific modes adopted for the study of history and culture during the Soviet era and, more precisely, the divergence between ethnographic and archaeological investigations carried out or banned at the time. The two methods adopted for approaching the nation-building process in terms of research were ethnographic expeditions and archaeology. Ethnographers were given full support in not only discovering the specific national characteristics of the peoples in question, but also in successfully creating new ones. Archaeologists, on the other hand, received less encouragement from the Soviet state. The peoples of Central Asia were considered inherently nomadic with little or no cultural heritage, except in some areas along the Silk Route, which themselves became successful tourist sites within the Soviet Union. Any evidence pointing to the contrary was not welcome. Together with the economic and political tools applied to nation-building throughout the USSR, these two strands of research inevitably led to the creation of a general view in Russia and also in Britain, for example, that the territories between the two great nations of Russia and China were occupied by nomads. Indeed, some still believe this to be the case. Yet more importantly for this study, the avoidance of certain facts and introduction of new stereotypes led to the construction of a general belief among the local population that the above was in fact true. Mythology in the Soviet Union was based not on the denial of truth altogether but on the careful and systematic selection of truths which

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would then be prescribed in detail. Consequently, if an artist wanted to earn a living he or she would have to join the Union of Artists. Through this Union artists would receive official commissions for themes specified by the Ministry of Culture. Upon completion, the work would then be examined by the Union members and representatives of the Ministry. Only after these procedures took place and the work was deemed appropriate could it enter an exhibition, which would usually be organised to commemorate historical dates relating to the history of the USSR. After a successful exhibition, to which people would come together with their colleagues or classmates (trips were frequently organised by professional and educational organisations), the work would enter the museum collection where it has remained to this day. As noted by Maria K. Tzopf in her article on Soviet pavilions at international exhibitions, the success of each work depended on the successful unification of the artistic capabilities of the executing artist and the ideological requirements issued by the state; only artists could

20. Max Penson, To Work, 1930s. Gelatin silver print, artist’s family collection, Tashkent, courtesy Ildar Galeyev, © the estate of Max Penson.

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give a finalised form to the ideas of the state. Subjects defined in advance required a realistic depiction in paintings. Tzopf also states that ‘architects and artists were almost never the victims of direct purges.’8 As for photographs and paintings of the Soviet era, the two seem to have been heavily informed by one another in ways that were supposed to change the perceptions of each medium. Max Penson’s To Work, (1930s, fig. 20) which depicts the robotic, yet grand, march of faceless workers towards their heavy daily duty, is an example of an image that both documents life in Uzbekistan and functions as an experiment in aesthetics. This photograph is not purely a document but more a politically imbued artwork. However, the precise political stance taken by the artist is not apparent. His main concern seems to have been to photograph Soviet Uzbekistan using the language of Russian Constructivism. The movement was itself imbued with social propaganda and the creation of images had ideological aims – one of which was multinational unification.

21. Alexander Deineka, Along Stalin’s Road. Stakhanovite Workers, sketch for a mosaic, 1938. Oil on canvas, 125 × 198, State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia.

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At the other end of the visual spectrum is Alexander Deineka’s full-blown Soviet masterpiece of propaganda art titled Along Stalin’s Road, Stakhanovite Workers (1938, fig. 21). Created during one of the bloodiest years in Soviet history, at the height of Stalin’s repressions, this work is about joy and celebration. The problematic nature of reading this image today lies in the disjunction between the possible actuality of the event – the march may have actually taken place – and the exclusion of the other, greater event that took place, namely the purges of the Great Terror. The purges form the dominant context within which to read this image today. In 1938 audiences, as well as the artist, had a limited notion of the extent of the Gulag apparatus. Yet it certainly, if only partially, formed a context for the work’s creation seventy years ago. Deineka’s figures comprise a variety of nationalities. To his credit most of them are devoid of national costumes and differences between them are represented through facial variety. The spirit of the moment is depicted for the benefit of future audiences in the centuries to come. In the image the characters are clustered together and squashed into each other’s personal space. Correspondingly, the representation of this era is that of a communal one devoid of privacy.9 During periods of distrust, intrusions into personal space become both normal within life and an attack on life. This game is played out even within this large-scale painting of a marching crowd depicted as a demonstrative mass gathering at the time of limitation of personal freedom. The atmosphere of distrust justified not only the actions of the police state, but also those of individuals. Prejudice, betrayal and reports to the police could emerge from neighbours who were simply jealous of their victims, or as the result of deep-rooted nationalist sentiments. A few lines taken from the 1937 All-Union Exhibition catalogue point towards some of the main routes taken by Soviet critics in order to alter and channel Uzbek art in the appropriate direction. This direction is characteristic of invention rather than truth, yet in 1937 it was presented as the reverse. One reads praise for those developments in the Uzbek arts which ‘cut away from the formalist tendencies which took place in their works in the past’.10 But at the same time strong criticisms are also evident, such as, ‘in a number of paintings the painterly reading

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of the subjects does not correspond with the colourful traits of the nature in Uzbekistan, its sunny-ness, contrast-ness, and colourfulness,’ and such perceived disjunctions might entail dangerous consequences.11 Artists were blamed for not noticing the traits of their own homelands, features which were most sought after by Russian critics. In the same catalogue the issue of reproducibility is also raised. The drawings by Uzbek artists are highly praised: ‘The draughtsmen of Uzbekistan are, undoubtedly, some of the best in the Central Asian republics. They find an extensive use of their production in the press.’12 Here the artists or draughtsmen are praised highly but only in comparison to their immediate neighbours, namely fellow Central Asians. They are not compared to Russian artists or Soviet artists in general. This comparative strategy can be read as, first, the creation of a competitive framework for Central Asian nations within which artists and nations have to compete against one another; the ultimate judge of this competition is then an outsider or, more specifically, a Russian critic; second, a highlighting of the absence of possible comparisons to other draughtsmen in the Soviet Union thanks to such limited comparisons. This is indeed evidence of the segregated nature of Soviet art history: an Uzbek artist was only allowed to excel on a regional and not national level. The main message of the aforementioned passage lies not in the differentiation made between national schools of craftsmanship, but in the fact that the qualitative comparison is directly linked to the reproducibility of artistic production. The statement implies that the work of Uzbek artists is of a high standard and is therefore highly reproducible, or is it the case that such work is of an elevated quality because it is easily printable? This link between the potential reproducibility of the original artwork, and so its accessibility to the masses, is a defining standard for all Soviet art. A printable work of art has to be both clear and readable as a visual image but also, one assumes, direct in its virtual message to the public. The inventive course onto which Central Asian art was directed can be more clearly visualised with reference to the authors’ suggestion that more of the following subjects are needed: ‘portraiture, civil war, party history, industrial building, and the blossoming of the culture of the Uzbek people’.13 Together with the aforementioned call for more attention to be

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paid to the colourfulness of Uzbek nature and the reproducibility of artworks, these subject requirements led to the creation of Soviet Central Asian Orientalism. In a way, Russian artists did not need to depict Central Asia any more, as the region’s national artists could be called upon to do so. Authenticity of experience – a feature so often debated in relation to Orientalism in France and Britain – became an unquestionable feature of Soviet art. Certainly, the authenticity of an artwork by an Uzbek artist depicting Uzbekistan could not be questioned. Writing in 1934 the Soviet art historian V. Chepelev commented that Uzbek artists were well on their way to embracing the new Socialist art. He states that the preceding years (1929–32) had been characterised by the introduction of a new understanding of the East, which moved away from an exotic Orientalist view and towards a real and truthful one. Chepelev reveals that during that period artists had to ‘forget a lot, and learn a lot’.14 Socialist Realism effectively produced artists who forgot one reality and invented another in its place. In the case of Soviet Central Asia this change was closely reported in All-Union magazines, such as the previously discussed Iskusstvo, which were specifically dedicated to covering artistic developments across the Union. The fact that Soviet culture was essentially an invented phenomenon is confirmed in various statements made contemporaneously with the practice of the style itself. In a 1948 issue of Iskusstvo, for example, S. Temerin writes on the Soviet ornament, describing it as being ‘created’ and then used for various applied arts practices.15 A post-war issue of Iskusstvo carried an article on Soviet fine art in which the author stated that ‘The flowering of the multinational art of the peoples of the USSR, lead by Russian art of the Soviet epoch, gives one of the most obvious proofs of the progressiveness and vitality of Socialist artistic culture.’16 The article is duly illustrated with a work entitled Morning by Semion Chuikov.17 An ethnic Russian, born and working in Kyrgyzia, Chuikov was a prime example of a truly Soviet artist due to the fact that he was both Russian and Central Asian. His ethnicity arguably gave him artistic credentials and acceptance in the Russian centre, while his birthplace and residence status made him a ‘native’ Central Asian, thus adding to the aura of authenticity in his works.

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The intriguing nature of the quoted statement lies in the link between the progressiveness of Soviet art and its multinational nature. Soviet art could simply be Russian and that would be enough to make it a viable form of artistic expression. The statement above confirms that Russian art was seen as the leader in all things cultural (or otherwise). However, such an insistence on multinationalism and the need to support artistic cadres outside the Russian centre highlights the interconnectedness of the nationalities policy and artistic culture. From the 1930s through to the 1950s painted imagery was devoid of any depiction of confrontation, hardship, abuse or exploitation. In this sense the imagery itself was both exploited and exploitative to the highest degree. Viewed in this light Socialist Realist art becomes an expression of a cloaked age, that is to say a representation in itself of inherent and perpetual contradictions. One of the main traits of Soviet art at the time was a system of official commissions through which artists would be given a theme to depict or imagine and be told the ways in which they should carry out the order. Arguably, such a system has also existed throughout the history of art in other countries. Yet it seems that Socialist Realism, with its insistence on the reality of the depicted, went beyond a simple commission-based art practice into heavily virtual, and more importantly, openly political ventures. One strong example of this is a painting by Pavel Malkov called Politburo of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party at the Eighth Extraordinary Congress of the Soviets,18 and in this work one can fully appreciate the political aspects of Socialist Realism. Together with Stalin himself, the characters are depicted as engaged in what may seem to be an ecstatic dance routine. A typical Soviet painting, the work depicts a regular gathering of high-profile officials. A man in a colourful robe faces away from the spectator; he is a Soviet Central Asian man who is defined by his costume and he presents blooming flowers to the leader. Painted standing in a ridiculous position, the exaggerated happiness of the latter’s movements includes the removal of his hat (he seems to have had two on at the same time). He is a metaphoric image of the positive Other towards whom Stalin looks with indifference, while others either smile ironically or seem annoyed by his presence.

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This official painting has several undertones. Not only was it created to convey certain meanings, but it evolved along with the views of those societies and institutions which may decide to evaluate these meanings. In this painting the mood is that of celebration, as confirmed by the overly excited Central Asian character. Nevertheless, the variety of attitudes towards this lucky outsider is of a totally different nature. Assuming that nationality plays the key role here – an assumption confirmed by the very outward representation of nationality through the portrayal not of a person but of a costume – then the reactions of the members of the Politburo are also reactions to a nation, or nations, rather than to the depicted man himself. Not surprisingly, the man in question is very positive about what is taking place – the mini-march by the members of the Politburo – and almost showers the Politburo with flowers. He represents his republic, or several republics at once, as a member of those societies that are separate from the society of Moscow and yet willing to be a part of it. Within this painting the members of the Politburo express a variety of emotions, from joy, as if watching a court jester, to overall disinterest and disbelief, or rather contempt. There is also a note of distrust between members and indeed on the part of all of them towards this unstable, unusual and unpredictable Asian. Does this misrepresentation, apparent in all Soviet paintings that include Central Asian characters, have anything to do with the inherent suspicions surrounding these people? Or did these works in fact provoke the development of such distrust? Whether or not the change in opinion was a new invention or a continuation of existing tensions between the main and peripheral nationalities, in the case of Russia and Central Asia it led to certain transformations not only in stereotypical perceptions, but also in actual economic and political conditions for both sides. As we understand from this image, Central Asia was the flowering East of the Soviet Union. It was evidently the Soviet equivalent of France’s Algeria or Britain’s India. The painting was completed in 1938, by which time the territories of Central Asia and Kazakhstan were both huge mining fields and supplied Moscow with almost the entire spectrum of raw materials from coal to gold. At the same time, the territories had

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become a highly developed labour camp. Karaganda, a city in the centre of Kazakhstan, boasted the largest coal mines in the region, hence the name ‘black valley’. Yet it also boasted KarLag, the infamous labour camp in which Stalin’s prisoners were gathered from all over the Union. For a long time the Kazakhs were a predominantly nomadic nation with a highly developed applied arts tradition. A carpet could hold multivalent spiritual and social significances for the native population (fig. 22) and such objects also served as inspiration for Russian avant-garde artists.19 Socialist Realist artists did not ignore this tradition either. Along with the introduction of oil painting to Central Asia, the Soviet imagemaking machine utilised existing traditions in slightly altered formats. In Abylkhan Kasteev’s painting A Gift for Comrade Stalin (1950, fig. 23) we see a reasonably truthful representation of a carpet-making location set within an idealised landscape and the inspection of a carpet bearing an image of Stalin. The same artist who painted this work created the original study for the depicted carpet.20 22. Kazakh wool carpet, mid-twentieth century, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

23. Abylkhan Kasteev, A Gift for Comrade Stalin, 1950. Oil on canvas, 174 × 200, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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The dual nature of the Russian–Asian relationship was strangely apparent in the largely optimistic artworks of Socialist Realism. From the 1930s and through to the 1950s Central Asia lived through a period of massive economic development which saw an unprecedented growth in its infrastructure. Levels of education, healthcare and living conditions all rose steadily as qualified, healthy men and women were required to develop and sustain some of the Soviet Empire’s richest resources. Yet the native population also suffered massive losses due to dramatic changes in living arrangements and a total restructuring of the economy (forced

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collectivisation lead to famine and the loss of approximately two million lives). The migration and deportation to Central Asia of both the workers and prisoners of Stalin’s USSR was on the rise. In the art sector depictions of Central Asian land fell into two main categories: modern development and a close-to-nature native population. Labour camps, and later nuclear tests, were omitted from Soviet history and art history. Realisations that came first during the period of de-Stalinisation, and most significantly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, have enabled us to finally grasp

24. Gapar Aitiev, Working for a Rich Man, 1936. Oil on canvas, 124 × 158, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

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the immense differences between the factual and constructed realities of the Stalinist era. How was it that Kazakhs and Russians alike only looked at certain subjects and not at others? Where was the line drawn between equality for all nations and the superiority of one? George Orwell’s famous words provide a fitting summary of the situation: ‘everyone became equal, but some more equal than others.’ Once the Commissar for Nationalities became the head of state, his views regarding nationality changed. By 1930 Stalin no longer saw internationalism as the most advanced mode of multinational coexistence. Both Stalin and members of the elite came to see that the Russian nation had united all others and that it was no longer permissible to make degrading jokes or comments about Russians. Yet it was very much acceptable to highlight the probable and virtual backwardness of other nationalities. This policy resulted in the appearance of images in which Russians are depicted teaching non-Russians (fig. 11). Illustrations of the dark past of non-Russian lands also became indispensible to the Soviet Union: for example, the image of a rich man beating a poor one (fig. 24) and other typical stereotypes of the pre-Soviet past. A Kazakh was no longer able to be proud of his or her ethnicity but still had to present himself or herself as different from the Russians, even though everybody was Soviet. Hence the appearance of a slight but vital differentiation, namely that one was no longer a Kazakh or a Soviet, but a Soviet Kazakh. This new artificial entity was based as much on a mixture of ethnic and geographical factors as on the image of such a nation presented in the press and in official artworks. In short, the total art space – the goal of the Soviet propaganda apparatus – spread into the area of national identification as strongly as it did into Stalin’s personality cult. If we accept Boris Groys’s premise that a total visual space was the basis of Soviet totalitarianism, then paintings no longer served as museum objects and were not produced for the museum, since they had become impotent within its walls.21 The Soviet visual experiment on a grand scale relied on a large amount of imagery being produced and the means of its dissemination. The reality of Socialist Realism lay not in its portrayal but in its projection, since this form of art was backed by political power,

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which had in its capacity the ability to realise the image and to equate the virtual with the material. Since the collapse of the Soviet system it has become widely acceptable to discuss the Soviet state as both a totalitarian power and a total space of influence in which Soviet citizens were reduced to mere subjects, both educated but also formed by this menacing space.22 In terms of art practices within the Soviet East, the complexity of the change becomes apparent for native cultures in the differences between native applied arts and the new fine arts introduced in the 1930s. Most existing forms of art demanded the anonymity of the creator as all the objects created belonged to a communal past and present. But a Soviet future demanded the introduction of individual artists. However, the variety of forms they could utilise did not increase but actually decreased. While theoretically

25. Alexander Volkov, Hoeing of Cotton, early 1930s. Oil on canvas, 118 × 208, ©2014, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of Andrey Volkov, © the estate of Alexander Volkov, Moscow.

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Soviet art was based upon individual artworks, in practice it ended up becoming one extensive communal gesture. The results of communal production became apparent within the Soviet art structure itself, manifesting themselves as a decrease in quality or the apparent absence of it and as the expected human rejection of uniformity. The Soviet government’s insistence on a certain type of imagery and prohibition of all others indicates a strong belief in the power of visual information. In his introduction to Mapping Ideology (1994), Slavoj Žižek points towards the Soviet system’s Achilles heel, as he calls it, identifying it as a belief in the power of the word.23 Žižek avers that ideology is always based on the distortion of information by sources of power, but that at the same time ideology ‘resides in the very notion of a thought not permeated by some non-transparent power strategy’.24 Whatever the goals of Soviet ideological apparatus were, the means for achieving them were either not carried out correctly or not carried out at all since, as is widely

26. Yuri Zaitsev, A Building Site in Balkhash at Night, 1935. Oil on canvas, 115.5 × 132, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

27. Sergei Bogdanov, Portrait of a Kazakh Woman in National Costume, 1935. Oil on canvas, 93 × 73, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

28. Alexander Nikolaev (Usto-Mumin), Bridegroom, 1920s. Oil on canvas, 24 × 23, the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art named after I.V. Savitsky, Nukus. Photo courtesy of Gayane Umerova.

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known, Soviet ideology was abandoned in favour of capitalism in a very rapid, albeit painful, transformation. A comparison between attitudes towards official and unofficial strands of Soviet art, made using the example of depictions of the Soviet East, may shed some light on the variety of criteria used to praise or dismiss works. According to the official publication Essays on MarxistLeninist Aesthetics (1960), the multinational character of Soviet art mainly manifested itself through the development of professional arts in the Soviet republics, and through artistic interchange between all Soviet republics and between the republics and Russia.25 Artistic preference lay not in the densely coloured and almost iconic image of working men by Alexander Volkov’s Hoeing of Cotton (early 1930s, fig. 25), but

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in a night-lit factory building site populated by a faceless workforce in Yuri Zaitsev’s A Building Site in Balkhash at Night (1935, fig. 26). Instead of a phallic bridegroom surrounded by rigid shapes, Bridegroom by Alexander Nikolaev (Usto-Mumin) (1920s, fig. 28), we are presented with a Portrait of a Kazakh Woman in National Costume by Sergei Bogdanov (1935, fig. 27). The rich red tones of Ural Tansykbaev’s Crimson Autumn (1931, fig. 29) are abandoned by the artist in favour of an endless Socialist Realist blue horizon in Native Land (1951, fig. 30). In ideological terms the heat

29. Ural Tansykbaev, Crimson Autumn, 1931. Oil on canvas, 118.5 × 105, the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art named after I.V. Savitsky, Nukus. Photo courtesy of Gayane Umerova.

30. Ural Tansykbaev, Native Land, 1951. Oil on canvas, 168 × 216, Memorial House-Museum of Ural Tansykbayev. Photo courtesy of Gayane Umerova.

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and sweat of the Central Asian summer was not correct for Soviet art, even if it was undeniably bright red. In 1931 Tansykbaev depicted a man in the company of a blue donkey reposing under the lush vegetation of the Soviet East. But by the late 1940s Tansykbaev had altered his perception of the world. An ethnic Kazakh, the artist gained fame in neighbouring Uzbekistan and his name is mentioned in almost any history of Soviet art. His images of vast steppes and valleys full of lush green vegetation, and depictions of the well-known exemplars of modernity such as electricity and cars, were regarded as models for depictions of the East. Equally endless and empty, his landscapes served both as an expression of the artist’s familiarity with the chosen space and as a portrayal of the promising possibility for the Soviet authorities to utilise these vast lands. Connected to these landscapes were the views of Moscow scientists and Party bosses who believed that Eastern Kazakhstan’s lands were both vast and vacant enough for the creation of the USSR’s main space rocket launch station, Baikonur, and nuclear explosion sites near Semipalatinsk. The subsequent decisions taken in the 1950s and 1960s were based on known facts about low population rates in this republic and virtual images of the land fostered through decades of visual indoctrination and held within the imaginations of the scientists and Party bosses. Nuclear sites, a rocket launch area and oil and coal mines were all environmental hazards and made a significant impact on the local population. Without these developments Kazakhstan was worthless to the Soviet Empire. The artists whose works were used, or indeed misused, by the Soviet machinery of view-creation were not necessarily villains. It would be too simplistic to label all of them as Soviet, even though they all built Communism. In ‘Stalin’s Comedy of Manners’ (2002), Lynn Mally reiterates again and again that Soviet theatre and various other Soviet arts aimed to create communal thinking and team playing.26 More to the point, the arts showed the viewer how he or she had to function in the new society. Central Asians, for example, were required to learn a new language, namely Russian, in order to be part of the new Soviet family of nations. The Soviet Union did offer citizenship to everyone living within its territory, regardless of ethnic background. However, this citizenship involved the introduction of new norms of behaviour. One such norm

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would be learning to speak the language of intra-national communication within the Union and another would be learning to read the Soviet imagery employed in films, photomontages and paintings. For artists to be part of the Artists’ Union meant to learn to paint in the officially prescribed Socialist Realist format.

Art Trapped within Gesamtkunstwerk Kazimir Malevich and his close contemporaries are renowned for having called for the destruction of the old order and with it the museums and artistic practices of preceding eras. Socialist Realist art made no such rallying cries or sweeping attempts in its visual programme. On the contrary, during the era of Soviet Realism the museum structure within the territory of the Soviet Union underwent a large expansion. Simultaneously, a large number of exhibits were banned from display while others were sold off to European and American buyers.27 The museum as an institution was transformed; it continued to conserve art but now also provided space for the display of Soviet propagandist art. The past was sorted into the acceptable and the unacceptable. This is not an unusual process within manipulations of history to political ends, but the Soviet process possessed an underlying twist. Most significantly, the population was encouraged, and even coerced, to visit museums and to consume the culture of previous great generations, i.e. nineteenth-century Russian Realism. This history was common all over the Union and every republic had a department of Russian art within its collection. The construction of a Union-wide museum structure accelerated in the 1930s, corresponding with Stalin’s initial steps towards building a nation. In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan art museums were established in capital cities. Collections initially consisted of examples of Russian nineteenth-century art sent from existing museums in Russia, while also being quickly enlarged with the new works of Socialist Realism. These were either sent from other republics or created by newly emerging professional, national artists. The speed of this creation and tightness of its regulation gave the museum structure of the Soviet Union a truly imperial feel. The use of

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the museum as an institution provided a basis around which other art structures could be created. These comprised new academies, artist unions and special committees under the orders of the state to produce necessary themes in painting. The museum therefore provided a certain point of departure in artistic terms while at the same time remaining a main and final destination for works of art. Boris Groys noted that the function of art in Soviet society did not correspond with European notions of the art market. Soviet art was primarily created for celebrations, including national pavilions within All-Union Exhibitions (as well as international exhibitions abroad). Museums within this structure existed as palatial creations where one would find not artworks, but images of a future in which art and reality would become one.28 In this sense the Soviet streets and cities themselves became museum-like, the only difference being that within the walls of an institution the fictional future always lay farther ahead. Any construction of an institution is in itself a projection of power. However, discriminating power requires a balancing subversive element. Within the broader structure of the Soviet Union the subversive was often, but not exclusively, found on the periphery. Central Asia served as both a greenhouse for the creation of a new art force and a suitable ground for variation in terms of Soviet art. The term Socialist Realism may therefore be exclusive to and denote a specific form of artistic production. Indeed, the term Soviet alone denotes a geographical and temporal frame within which artistic production is to be considered. Art of the Soviet period, created within the bounds of the Soviet Union, was rarely homogenous. This became particularly evident in the period following Stalin’s death and increasingly so towards the end of the Soviet era. Variations within the Soviet structure occurred in the disjunctions between a rigid Socialist Realism and reactionary underground art. Seen in retrospect, one can now delineate both contradictory and similar tendencies within these two supposedly opposing trends. In this way the creation of a new structure for museums and art institutions within the whole of the USSR, and so in each republic, laid the foundations for professional artistic production not only in terms of the Soviet situation but, significantly, for the post-Soviet situation as well.

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The exchange of works between museums in Alma-Ata, Tashkent and Frunze (the capitals of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan respectively) and the State Tretyakov Gallery and the Museum of the East in Moscow was a politically motivated process. Russian and European paintings found their way to Central Asia, while depictions of Central Asia by a variety of native and non-native artists found their way to the Soviet capital.29 The State Museum of Arts of the Nations of the East in Moscow was established in 1918 with collections spanning almost the entire Eastern hemisphere, from Siberia to Japan, and from Central Asia to India and Iran. It seems that the collection is not overtly imperial, as only a small number of the represented ethnicities were ever under Russian rule. However, the collection hints at a desire on the part of Russia to differentiate itself from the East. Another intriguing part of the collection is its extensive time frame: it includes not only historic artefacts from Central Asian territories, for example, but also works of art from the Soviet era. The museum produced a publication in 1985 titled The East in the Works of Moscow Artists, 1970s–80s.30 This book highlights the museum’s interest in Russian depictions of the territories of the Soviet East and, interestingly, not just those depictions made in tune with their own Asian cultural expression. Such depictions therefore become part of the history of these lands. In this publication, which discusses the late Soviet period, older Russian artists such as Alexander Volkov are mentioned as an important influence on younger generations. In the late Soviet period Volkov, who was regarded a revolutionary during his lifetime and used forbidden formalist methods of painting, becomes an example for future generations. This transformation is in itself revealing of changing structures within Soviet art. Although the title of the publication includes the word East, this entity is revealed as very narrow and discussions of the East are based solely on depictions of the Soviet East. This is evidence of another revealing Soviet characteristic which points towards a further tightening of the already narrow Soviet outlook and worldview, i.e. the idea of a world which could only be Soviet. This was a political gesture and revealed the very limited capability of the Soviet citizen for travelling to

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the outside world. The Soviet Union became a world in its own right with its very own West, East, North and South. As discussed in the introduction, Boris Groys introduced or applied the Wagnerian term Gesamtkunstwerk to the discussion of Soviet art history. The total art of Stalinism extended into the realm of the visual with extreme force as official propaganda, films, painting, photographs and publications were all affected by the new order. A wave of condemnation followed the death of Stalin in 1953 and Nikita Khrushev’s criticism of Stalin’s methods is still felt today. However, this reaction meant that Stalin was single-handedly blamed for all the faults of the Soviet regime that manifested themselves during the years he was in power; he became an easy target on which to place all blame.

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It is arguable as to whether Stalin became the demiurge of Socialist Realism during or after his lifetime. He was depicted endlessly from the 1930s through to the 1950s and then his images disappeared from museum walls. Today these canvases are rolled up in museum storage and neither destroyed nor paraded. His period of rule is displayed without him, and yet his presence cannot be ignored. In terms of national and ethnic subjects Stalin was most certainly a puppeteer behind the scene. Not only did he establish the rules of engagement between the various peoples of the Soviet Union, but he was also depicted surrounded by these peoples in various official portraits. In Boris Ioganson’s four-by-five-metre work of sheer glorification titled Our Wise Leader, Dear Teacher (1952, fig. 31) the mood and lighting are subdued. The grandeur of the event and the architecture is muted and apparition-like figures are tinted with rainbow colours. The setting is not straightforward, as the atmosphere surrounding the grand palace borders on something more suited to a Russian Orthodox church. Consequently, the leader-teacher figure appears to be a new priest or possibly even a new messiah. While the top part of the painting is painted in predominantly pastel shades, the bottom is a feast of colour. Is the gathering depicted as a symbol of unity and as a symbol of the greatness of its leader? Representatives of the whole Soviet Union gather around this grey-haired man in his simple suit. All eyes are directed at him and we, as viewers, supposedly form part of this mystical occasion. In Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? (2001) Slavoj Žižek notes the existence of works, such as Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D minor of 1937, that expressed the distorted acceptance of the Soviet order ‘as if reproducing musically the repetitive striking of a hammer driving into you the obscene injunction “Be Happy! Be Happy!”’31 In Žižek’s view this did not constitute a critique of official optimism but rather demonstrated the effectiveness of the power of the injunction on Soviet people to be happy. With smiling faces in oil paintings and high art displayed in museum collections, this artistic programme affected the attitudes of the viewers. In 31. Boris Ioganson, L. Tanklevsky, A. Khomenko, I.V. Stalin among the People in the Kremlin (Our Wise Leader, Dear Teacher), 1952. Oil on canvas, 410 × 530, © 2014, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.

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essence it made the Soviet people more positive, even if the act of viewing was itself an organised activity. The artistic and cultural life of the country during the 1930s was marked by the liquidation of all unions of artists and writers and the subsequent creation of All-Union organisations. These new organisations required that all members work within the predefined framework of Socialist Realism. Furthermore, the decree of 1932 announced the monopolisation of all art practices by the state. The title of the exhibition of Soviet Art at the Russian Museum in St Petersburg in 1994, namely Agitation for Happiness, clearly illustrates the outlook of its Soviet organisers. There existed an official requirement for the depiction of optimism in all Soviet art following Stalin’s famous statement that ‘Life has become better, life has become merrier,’ in a speech he delivered in 1935.32 This joy had to be depicted in a ‘truthful’ manner, which for Soviet officials meant in a photographic or naturalistic way.33 Writers and artists alike were not only to depict but to play the role of ‘engineers of human souls’, as expressed in another famous phrase by Stalin; they had to ‘create works of high attainment, of high ideological and artistic content’.34 Once one considers Boris Groys’s suggestion that Socialist Realism was the material realisation of the avant-garde’s conceptual dreams, it no longer becomes unproblematic to appreciate either of the two independently.35 It seems that Socialist Realism comprises not only the paintings themselves but the overall strategies employed in creating and disseminating them. It is possible that alternative artistic tendencies were not devoid of such characteristics. However, in the case of Socialist Realism during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s a particular trait is apparent. Essentially, there existed one overarching designer, who was often found in the person of Joseph Stalin. If we agree with Foucault that ‘the function of an author is to characterise the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within a society,’ then Stalin perfectly embodied just such an author function.36 Following on from Foucault’s analysis that ‘the fact that a number of texts were attached to a single name implies that relationships of homogeneity, filiation, reciprocal explanation, authentication, or of common utilisation were established among them,’ and accepting the notion that ‘[the name of the author] points to the existence

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of certain groups of discourse and refers to the status of this discourse within a society and culture,’ it becomes irresistible to flirt with the idea that Stalin was an overarching author in an epic Wagnerian sense.37 Though, notably, Socialist Realist art and literature was possibly his least horrendous creation. Groys’s title, Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin, posits the whole of the USSR enterprise, embodied in the person of Stalin himself, as a Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art: Socialist Realism in its literary, artistic, cinematographic and other forms. The title Groys gave to his book never found a Russian translation, thus an old Wagnerian term was given a new lease of life thanks to the total cultural space of Socialist Realism. One unfortunate result of a Gesamtkunstwerk reading of art of the Stalinist period is the conclusion that no official painting, sculpture or monograph is a work of art in itself and that, therefore, these works are not sufficiently important as individual objects of study. To what extent can a specific history and context be dismissed or forgotten, and when should it be? Walking into any museum in Tashkent, Bishkek or Almaty one can see paintings of smiling faces all over again, but these faces do not include the familiar images of Lenin or Stalin. Does this mean then that they did not exist? As an overarching creator Stalin is existent in every smile that shines down on us from the official art of the period. Would it therefore be appropriate to remove all of these works into restricted access storage? Are they ultimately works of art at all? Were the Socialist Realists actually the authors of the works? Not entirely. Were they artists? Socialist Realism was at once an artistic method, a new all-embracing visual culture and a marketing strategy: ‘They were, after all, works that were first and foremost advertisements for the “global product” of communism.’38 The style of Socialist Realism can be seen as an ‘artistic experiment on an unprecedented scale’.39 This interpretation of such a meticulously invented and artificially supported style came into being while the style itself was still in use.40 As a style not entirely estranged from the overall art-historical process of the 1930s, Socialist Realism became a demonstrative acknowledgement of the symptomatic failure of traditional notions of social and artistic order. Socialist Realist paintings were, most straightforwardly, pieces of museum material. They were commissioned

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specifically for exhibition at official shows and, following this, for display in art museums. Yet these paintings were simultaneously anti-museum creations that consciously undermined the role of limited gallery space.41 In terms of both a Gesamtkunstwerk and traditional notions of quality it quickly becomes problematic to discuss Socialist Realism simply as an art form. It is, nevertheless, comparable with other mid-twentiethcentury art movements in Europe and the United States. In recent years, bined with Soc Art (Соц Арт) and contemporary works. In post-Soviet

exhibitions of Soviet art have become fashionable, especially when comdiscussions Soviet art is gaining a new historical status as a valuable document, much more so than it did during the existence of the Soviet Union. This curious development will inevitably resolve itself into either a material farce, followed by a rise in prices on the art market, or it might become a source of academic interest. For the moment it seems that the new post-Soviet art-historical elite is creating Soviet stars out of both official and non-conformist artists of the Soviet period for the benefit of 32. Gregory Shegal, Leader, Teacher, Friend (I.V. Stalin at the Presidium of the 2nd Convention of the Best Collective Farm Workers in February 1935), 1936–7. Oil on canvas, 340 × 260, © 2014, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

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both the curatorial and material aspects of art. Socialist Realism cannot be examined in terms of its popularity, since such a criterion is not applicable and no mechanism exists to establish the exact definition of popularity. One is therefore able to understand that art was not necessarily just an aesthetic structure in the Soviet Union, but a pedagogical project also. The Soviet pavilions of the World Art Exhibitions in Paris in 1937 and New York in 1939 constitute extremely vivid examples of the use of art for the purposes of promoting political structures. Paintings of happy workers and depictions of multi-ethnic friendships were supposed to convince the average Western viewer that all was jolly in the land of the Soviets. It is often forgotten that Clement Greenberg’s famous essay ‘AvantGarde and Kitsch’ (1939) was as much a condemnation of the popular culture of Western Europe and America as a critique of the art sector in totalitarian states and especially in Russia. Greenberg denounced anything with even a trace of realism as diametrically opposed to art, proclaiming that one of the main characteristics of kitsch is its ‘immediacy to the insensitive mind’.42 Therefore, in Greenberg’s view the masses in Soviet Russia were predominantly insensitive and the regime itself exploited this fact by injecting propaganda into low-level imitation art.43 Let us consider the examples of Soviet art that led this influential Western critic to such lengths in his denunciation of it. Official portraits and grand paintings on the subject of ceremonial conventions were the two most cherished types of art production during Stalin’s rule.44 A lot of them included Stalin himself as the main character. Painted in 1937, the year of the heaviest purges, Leader, Teacher and Friend (fig. 32) by Gregory Shegal shows Joseph Stalin gently offering a pleasant suggestion to the leader of the convention. Notably, both the speaker and chair in this painting are female, one of whom is quite clearly Russian while the other is Uzbek (as can be identified by her costume). Painted during the same year that millions of people were forcibly relocated or deported to labour camps, one sees in the painting a suggestion of both future economic growth and inter-ethnic collaboration. Measuring four by seven metres, the grand scale of Alexander Gerasimov’s Hymn to October (1942, fig. 19) deliberately ignores the fact that a war was being fought at the time. In a similar way to images such

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as Glory to the Great Stalin (1950, fig. 2) and others, Gerasimov’s work included a handful of national characters. These works are unmatchable in the scale and pomp with which they are executed. Even though an evaluation of each presents a set of questions relating to the scale of repressions and harsh economic conditions within the USSR, interest in the works lies in the role of some colourful characters placed predominantly in the foreground of the compositions, close to the picture frame. These paintings can be classified within the genre of history painting in Western art-historical terms. But which histories do they present? The importance of art and its status within the Soviet Union can be demonstrated by the appearance and success of art magazines such as Iskusstvo and Tvorchestvo, both of which covered art practices all over the Union. In a 1935 issue of Iskusstvo the Russian artist Pavel Radimov allegedly reports of his travels in Asia in an excited tone and promotes the need to develop the fine arts in the republics. He summarises that the republics need an ‘army of artists – army of teachers, builders of the new life’.45 While on a working visit to Central Asia, this Russian artist portrays himself as a gifted teacher for those nations still on the road to progress. A year later the same magazine reviews an exhibition of two hundred of Radimov’s paintings at the Museum of the Peoples of the USSR in Moscow. The exhibition was met with criticism as it presented mainly images of Central Asian girls in traditional environments and so lacked the Socialist content required by the cultural authorities.46 However, even in these circumstances the fact of the exhibition reveals a further role for any Russian artist working in Soviet Asia: that of educator to the undeveloped, and Russian cultural envoy responsible for educating the masses in the centre. The success of Socialist Realism required the easy dissemination of its images and this process formed one of the main weapons in the artillery of Soviet cultural practice. Paintings were not confined to museum display alone. Successful paintings would most likely be copied by the artist and then, most importantly, reproduced in art publications, the press and even school textbooks. This process was executed not just on a local scale, but also on a Union-wide scale. Soviet imagery was an apparatus of unification, indoctrination and exploitation at one and the same time.

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Depictions of happy and smiling Central Asians reached Russian centres, while images of Russian, and therefore wiser, men and women appeared in even the most remote peripheries. Copies or mechanical reproductions of artworks became far more potent in the Soviet system than the original works from which they had been taken. A non-reproduced work was, in essence, equal to a non-existent work and it seems that paintings were done primarily for the purposes of being included in a catalogue and/or article or for reproduction in poster format. The most useful tool in getting any public policy to work effectively is the establishment of a strong network for the dissemination of information. In relation to the nation-building process of the Soviet Union, the findings of scientific research were propagated via the mass media, literature – both professional literature and popular literature – and the arts. In a number of works one therefore sees the historic image of Central Asians as in tune with nature, or indeed dependent upon it, nomadic and, on a more subtle level, backwards. The costume soon becomes the only attribute of nationality left that the population might connect with. Soviet Realist paintings on the subject of the Friendship of Peoples constitute staged performances in which models in national costumes assume their prescribed roles. In Karpov’s painting Friendship of Peoples (fig. 5) the leaders depicted are Slavic in appearance. They are followed closely by figures in Caucasian costumes, then by Central Asians and finally, in the back, figures dressed in the costumes of people from the North. Similarly to Caucasians, Central Asians are rarely distinguished among themselves and are identifiable by their headwear and printed silk clothes. Costume dramas in paintings were especially favoured in the 1950s, as is seen in Ioganson’s Our Wise Leader, Dear Teacher (I.V. Stalin among the people in the Kremlin) (1952, fig. 31), and sometimes replaced the paraded equality of earlier works by the likes of Deineka. In Deineka’s Distinguished People of the Soviet State (1937, fig. 6) both Slavs and Asians are depicted dressed in white as they march hand in hand along with emancipated women – a subject matter typical of the period – and increasingly muscular men. The march towards freedom was not only depicted in paintings but also stimulated by them. In one of his interviews Edward Said reminds the reader that ‘history is not divine or sacred but is made

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by men and women.’47 The Soviet authorities would surely agree that in paintings such as Deineka’s the men and women represented do exactly that: they make history. As discussed in the introduction and chapter 1, Chuikov’s A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia was delivered to Moscow, given to the collection of the world-famous State Tretyakov Gallery and subsequently became an important work of Soviet art. However, this trajectory towards importance is not what made the image so influential. In the work, the nomadic past lies behind the girl in the form of a vast but nevertheless empty horizon. The bright future shines in front of her, accessible thanks to her residence in the emancipated present. The painting was given the highest award possible, the Stalin Prize, and once in the possession of such an accolade it entered the gold collection of the Soviet art industry, along with works by the great Soviet masters Alexander Gerasimov and Boris Ioganson. But more importantly it was ‘disseminated through copies and reproductions in editions of millions’.48 This distributive power of the Soviet state, combined with the fact that all the works were originally commissioned by it, provided for two of the main characteristics of Soviet art and established Chuikov’s work as the ‘product of totalitarian culture’s megamechanism’.49 The painting raises two very important issues relevant to the postWar Soviet era, namely those of childhood and the status of women in society. How is it possible to explain the fact that Socialist Realism portrayed young humans? Children depicted in Soviet paintings can be compared to those depicted in the products of American culture of the same period. The post-war world wished for a bright future on both sides of the Atlantic. The depiction of children in a certain way became a method by which to romanticise childhood, thus denying the actuality of the situation, namely the existence of thousands of fatherless and sometimes parentless children. It represented a hope, and in a way a reassurance and a desire on a state level, for the replenishment of a whole generation of young men and women lost during the war. Children in art represented both an idealised future and an infantilised present. The position of women and changes with regards to family values can be traced through the paintings of the period between the 1930s and

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1950s. In the 1930s the newly emancipated woman assumes a position of equality within the workforce while continuing to be a supportive, but equal, partner to the Soviet man. During the war women were involved in both industrial production and, to some extent, military operations. Strikingly, today the two most famous Kazakh soldiers of World War II are women: Aliya Moldagulova and Manshuk Mametova. Highly praised after the war, they became exemplars of courage and, more importantly, adopted the martyr-like qualities of the Soviet citizen in general and of the Soviet woman in particular. They exemplified the woman who had to give up her natural role of wife and mother. By the 1950s women did not stop working, yet the paintings of this period suggested a very different ideal. Supported by an industrial infrastructure and newly gained economic stability, women were encouraged, it seems, to re-embrace their roles as caretakers of the family home. For Central Asians this involved the relatively straightforward task of depicting the not-so-long-gone past, decorated with modern-day props, such as the automobile (fig. 33). The basics of oil painting, the new medium of expression, were learnt by most at a fast rate in Central Asia with all its traditional values. The 1930s saw not only art exhibitions and museum openings in the republics, but local artists also began exhibiting on a Union-wide level. During the 1940s the Great Patriotic War took a lot of artists away from their jobs, yet it also brought a lot of artists from Russian centres to Central Asia. This resulted in what can be called a blooming of artistic life during the 1950s and an explosion of artistic talent during the 1960s. On the road to Communism the Soviet State was very aware that ‘technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself.’50 Painted originals satisfied the criteria of propaganda purposes, namely to be easily reproducible and readable, even if sometimes ‘technical’ meant not only printed but also weaved. In 1936 Walter Benjamin wrote that ‘the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility,’ in reference to the ever-growing power of photography. In the same text he continues to say that ‘the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice

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– politics.’51 While Benjamin’s main preoccupation remained the withering aura of the original work of art and the changing nature of reception in the epilogue to his famous essay, he notes that in the age of mechanical reproduction the aesthetic and political cannot be viewed independently; he notes that in the case of Fascism aesthetics are introduced into political life, while in the case of Communism art is politicised.52 Soviet interest in internal exhibitions continued well beyond the 1940s. As the Cold War commenced, the Soviet Union became the world for its inhabitants. Movements outside the country were strictly limited and exchanges between republics, if they can be labelled as such, became the only form of intra-national communication for most. That said, such communication mostly meant observation from afar, something aided by the imaginative process of understanding through painting and literary description. All-Union Exhibitions played a vital role in forming the process of exchange. In Greg Castillo’s essay ‘Peoples at an Exhibition: Soviet Architecture and the National Question’ in Socialist Realism Without Shores (1997) it becomes clear that ethnographic and Orientalist imagery came to display Soviet nationality policies, and that this was especially explicit within the culture of Soviet exhibitions. This ethnographic aspect played a particularly significant role within internal exhibitions, while exhibitions abroad presented a more unified, or rather exclusively Soviet, image of the Soviet Union. Castillo points to a crucial aspect of this particularity of the Soviet situation, namely the ‘paradox of national identity as the driving force of emerging multinationalism’.53 In this way the author reveals the inherent tensions within a state that dreamed of, and pretended to embody, a unified collection of often conflicting nations. The need to sustain differences and roles of power led to the creation of theatrical nationalities as well as giving rise to militant nationalisms, the latter of which gained full force by the end of the twentieth century. The three grand Moscow exhibitions of 1923, 1939 and 1954 shaped the direction of Soviet architecture and art and with these they shaped intra-national dialogue. Through the changing patterns of these three

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shows one can trace the development of stylistic approaches on the part of Russians towards the Other and the Self. Based in the Soviet capital – a historical Russian city – these demonstrations of Soviet diversity displayed changing attitudes towards the modernity/tradition dichotomy. The first exhibition confirmed the continuation of a colonial outlook on behalf of one side onto the Others, while the dominant nation’s vision of progress affirmed the right to rule. Stalin’s statement of 1921 as the head of Narkomnats summarised the issue: ‘The essence of the nationality question in the USSR consists of the need to eliminate backwardness (economic, political, and cultural) that the nationalities have inherited from the past, to allow the backward peoples to catch up with central Russia.’54

33. Kamil Shayakhmetov, Midday, 1959. Oil on canvas, 115 × 174, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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If during the 1920s progress in architecture meant Constructivism, then by 1939 progression could be embodied by nothing but Socialist Realism. Contrastingly, the former called for the destruction of tradition while the other orchestrated its manipulation. While churches and monuments were demolished all over the territory of the Soviet Union, an architect was called to create a tradition that would reflect Soviet consciousness. The mixing and blending of the Soviet with the historic took place mostly in Moscow and was delivered into the republics in question to represent new and acceptable national styles of expression. In addition to staging an exhibition at home, the USSR took part in the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937 and, most notably, the New York World Fair in 1939. New York’s ‘The World of Tomorrow’ was the biggest fair to date and, according to its organisers, the most international. It seems that the pre-war USSR was seeking interaction with and recognition around the world. This was particularly evident in the Guide Book for the fair, which carried an advertisement for the Soviet pavilion. The advert stated that by visiting the pavilion one would be able to ‘become acquainted with the 170 million people of the Soviet Union’.55 Admission to the pavilion was free and the pavilion itself boasted the highest statue in the fair. In all these facts a message of acceptance (free admission) co-exists with an image of power (super-sized sculpture), which in turn relies on the communal nature of the Soviet mission; an image that the viewer is led to believe was supported by the 170 million Soviet people. The multinational nature of the Soviet Union was by no means elided. In the planning notes a request was made for a panel depicting a subject matter typical of that specific Soviet period: Dances of the Peoples of the USSR by Viliams.56 The national republics were to be further represented by traditional works from the applied arts. For example, Kazakhstan was asked to present a decorative carpet with a camel design as well as an ornament. Archival notes concerning preparations for the exhibition lay down clear requirements for a pavilion intended to represent a unified multinational country led by the Russian nation. A list is given of the works of Russian artists to be included, with a note adding that ‘the mentioned artworks should, of course, be supplemented with the works of masters of national arts.’57 The supplementary nature of non-Russian art

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at world exhibitions, and the insistence of its developing (rather than developed) standards at All-Union Exhibitions, point towards an explicitly centre-based approach towards art practices. The 1954 All-Union Exhibition in Moscow, conceived before Stalin’s death but staged after it, once again united new developments in architecture and design within one space; unification was no longer an issue. Even Russia gained its own national pavilion as part of the rise of growing Russian nationalism and, in extreme cases, of Great Russian chauvinism. The articulation of local traditions was possible only for a state fairly confident in its own overarching power. The USSR was being brought to an exhibition. It seems that the notion of the state and of the country was derived from seeing these grand agricultural exhibitions and from the myriad art exhibitions that travelled from one republic to another. The USSR replaced the world for the average Soviet citizen, while Socialist Realism presented an idealised image of this world and of its inhabitants.

Ideal Humans in the Multinational Context of the USSR In Soviet terms the notion of the ideal brings one back to the discussion of the new Soviet man or woman and back towards the desire to mould the Soviet nation. Even though being Soviet was not a nationality, it nevertheless possessed a unifying potential comparable to that of American nationality. It had no ethnic ground but included a variety of ethnicities within itself; for example, a Soviet Kazakh was as Soviet as a Soviet Russian. At the same time, the ideal Soviet was devoid of ethnic characteristics. Nevertheless, it is hard to escape the fact that this ideal Soviet person possessed predominantly Russian traits. In the West the Soviet Union is often referred to as Soviet Russia and all the citizens of multinational contemporary Russia and other former republics, including Central Asia, as Russian. After the official political division of the country into republics took place, and after decisions were made concerning economic strategy, there came decisions regarding art. A new country and new social organisations

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needed a new culture and that culture became heavily dependent upon the creation of new types of visual representation. In the 1977 overview of Soviet Art the authors mention the ‘demands of the time’ and link these to genres that had come to the fore, namely political posters, agitprop material on buildings, trains and more.58 During the 1920s some amount of freedom remained for artists and they were left to search for means by which to express themselves in ways that they believed were suited to the time and to avant-garde strategies. However, the active support of a break with old traditions, customs and social and religious structures meant that in no realm, and especially not in the realm of art, could arrangements continue in the same way. Artists were therefore aided and guided towards new ideals and the ways in which to appropriately represent them.59 A new hero had to be created and this hero could be of any nationality or from any professional background. However, specific forms of heroism could be associated with certain nations and he or she had to be young. This cult of youth is explained by Hans Günther in terms of the eternally young or the individual who never grows up. Such an individual would have to remain a son or a daughter to the wise fathers, namely the Party leaders, and most importantly to Joseph Stalin.60 The works of Socialist Realism raise questions about the Soviet approach to those issues surrounding gender, work and adulthood. One explanation for the large proportion of depictions of festivals and demonstrations containing smiling participants comes from Gleb Prokhorov in his Art under Socialist Realism. Prokhorov explains these works as representations of the perception during the Soviet era that the gathering together and subordinating of individuality to a collective was an ‘idyllic occasion’.61 The collective here could also mean international or homogenised, while the sentiment of national belonging formed a vital part of individuality. The subordination of the latter to the former meant a loss of memory on a large, and in some cases national, scale and inevitably the loss of individual forms of artistic expression. This loss of subjectivity can be related to the abuse of linguistic and cultural structures. Deineka’s Distinguished People of the Soviet State (1937, fig. 6) is an example of a painting that falls well within the structure of Socialist

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Realism. It is also a depiction of the variety of heroes that the country had to offer. Stern and happy men and women are presented as apparitions, just as the architectural ensemble towering in the background is as well. Ideals were reached neither within the social structure nor within town planning: the Palace of the Soviets, to which the painting’s background alludes, was never built. Although this work depicts the unity of various nationalities, it does not do so by way of the most straightforward of situations. All dressed in white, the characters seem at first to lose their costumes, a usual trait of the multinational myth. However, after a quick examination it becomes clear that the costumes are still there and that they have merely lost their colour. The Soviet metaphor becomes clear: people are united by a state, divided by nationalities and relieved of their identity. Keeping their national flavour, even the costumes lose their materiality and become nothing more than a dream. These men and women seem to step onto the spectator as they move towards an invisible goal. When confirmed by such an apparition, ideals become stark and clear, yet remain simply unachievable for the majority of the people. A young white man in the centre is one step ahead and all the others, women, men and children, all of different nationalities, have to follow suit; they never manage to catch up but, importantly, they always aspire to do so. Aspiration in itself is hardly a sin. Aspiration to an ideal of inequality is hardly a spectacular virtue. Aspiration to a masked inequality is just an expression of the mainstream, especially when it is based on official, state-supported art production. In Socialist Realism one sees ideals being taken far away from reality, and yet simultaneously they remain firmly based within it. In the introduction to the London edition of the publication of the debate that took place at the Soviet Writers’ Congress in 1934, in which the style of Soviet Socialist Realist literature gained its official formulation, we read that ‘the most valuable result of the congress was that it made known to both writers and readers the tremendous achievements of literature in the languages of national minorities.’62 Not only does this sentence underline the existence of minorities, but it also highlights that being part of the Soviet Union presented the possibility of development

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and achievement to these minorities. Literature and art in the various national republics were united by a ‘singleness of aspiration, singleness of ideas, singleness of aim’.63 The traditions of enlightenment, in which ideals based on the individual and on subjectivity, are as far removed from those aimed at by the Soviet state as possible. In Soviet paintings, however, enlightenment was presented as an apparent condition of the present, brought from one nation to all others and shared with them. In David Flekman’s metaphorical work Recovery of Sight (1957, fig. 1) a Kyrgyz woman is astonished to realise that she can see; a Russian doctor and a nurse look on as she raises her newly opened eyes. The emancipation of women, the spread of scientific knowledge and above all the gift of freedom are all suggested in this image. Like many others, it was created to be shown to both Kyrgyzs and Russians, to foster gratefulness in the former and to make the latter proud of the fact that Kyrgyzstan was part of the USSR. The Soviet Union was home to the most free of peoples as a union based on freedom and equality between its peoples and between nations. Once again, like many other works, the harsh realities of the situation and the costs of an actually unreachable freedom are avoided here. This avoidance highlights the double-sided nature of intra-national relations within the Soviet context. The status of women in Central Asia changed not only because family structures were revised heavily in the region during the period in question, but also because of the changing status of women all over the Soviet Union. Following the 1917 revolution laws concerning abortion, childcare and schooling, and access to all of these, underwent significant changes that enabled women to join the workforce. During Joseph Stalin’s rule the role of the family was given another important significance as the family became the basis for order within a totalitarian society. The family was envisioned as consisting of a man and a woman who were required to produce children together. In this way the new Soviet family formed the nucleus of the Union’s societal cell and worked to produce future generations of Soviet people. Yet all these fluctuations left Soviet women with an expanded number of possibilities, even if they did not provide them with an escape from household chores. The ideal woman of the Soviet Union was at once

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a good mother, a good wife and a productive member of society, or, in other words, a member of a workforce. In Gregory Shegal’s Leader, Teacher and Friend (1937, fig. 32) Joseph Stalin is shown giving a gentle suggestion to the chair of the convention. The speaker and the chair are both female characters and are both of different nationalities. Both these facts identify the work as a possible discussion piece relative to the depiction of Central Asians within Soviet paintings and the creation of certain stereotypes. Within such a discourse it is important to note that the Central Asian woman is dressed in a costume and that the two depicted women are placed in unequal positions of power: one is the chair of the event, the other a mere speaker. At the same time, the overarching ghost-like statue of Lenin occupies more than half the visual space of this composition, thus reminding the viewer of the closeness of those experiences had by all the people within the Union. Joseph Stalin’s appearance within this work as a follower of Lenin, and as the knowledgeable leader of the country, becomes an event that involves not only the people depicted, but also the various nationalities and their positions within the internal power structure of the Soviet Union. The emancipated Central Asian woman has been given a big chance in life, that of speaking at the convention for the best collective farm workers. Yet she appears to be strongly under the control of the state as she is interrupted in the middle of her speech by Stalin. Indeed, the whole of Central Asia is interrupted with her. Importantly, the speech is also feminised and performed and, following this, it is depicted. Stalin’s role within the painting is that of a central character who wields a kind of divine power over both people and nations. By 1937, the year in which the painting was made, over 40 per cent of the Soviet Union’s workforce comprised women. It seems that the emancipation of Soviet women, including Soviet Central Asian women, did not relieve them of their housework, but pretended to relieve them of it so that they would join the workforce outside of the home. Initial ideas concerning revolutionary emancipation called for a change in the structure of the family, which would give women increased equality with men, both inside the house and outside of it. Under Stalin’s power in the 1930s this commitment to such a form of emancipation diminished:

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‘Stalinist “emancipation” meant a double, even triple, shift for women, who were enjoined to work outside the home, undertake public political work, and devote themselves to the task of raising future communists.’64 Stalin’s reversal of Lenin’s family laws was shaped by his attitude towards women, as was his decision to abolish abortion rights in 1936. To take personal stories into account, Lenin’s wife was and is always portrayed as his devout partner, whereas Stalin’s wife committed suicide (or was shot in unclear circumstances). These two Soviet leaders held differing opinions in relation to questions of both nationality and gender. One artist in particular is seen as widely acceptable in current discussions surrounding official Soviet art: Alexander Deineka. His monumental images of Soviet men and women are undeniably Socialist Realist, yet they also appeal to contemporary exhibition curators. His compositional solutions and exaggerations of human proportions may be one reason for renewed attention in his work. He was one artist who came to represent the multinational nature of the Soviet Union. Yet in his portrayals Soviet Central Asians are not dressed in national clothing but instead walk alongside their Russian counterparts in contemporary outfits. Facial distinctions instead of theatrical costumes separate the characters. In 1937 (1937, fig. 34) the artist presents the viewer with a broadly expected and generally accepted image of the Soviet multinational state. Here we see a group of people surrounded by the various traits of industrialisation and marching towards an inevitable, yet invisible, goal. As one would understand and expect by this point in time, the

34. Alexander Deineka, 1937, 1937. Oil on board, 71 × 223, Perm State Art Gallery, Perm.

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white European-looking individuals march ahead of their Asian-looking counterparts. Deineka’s use of a lowered horizon gives the whole image an elevated status and dramatic feel. The message is clear: strong and healthy men and women of all nationalities are needed for the Soviet workforce. Deineka is famous for his scenes depicting activities of leisure, sport and war. What might have saved the artist from being branded a typical Soviet, soulless, art-producing machine is that he seems to have avoided using the genre of official portraiture. Consequently, his characters are ordinary people rather than leaders, even if they have been idealised. One may therefore assert that the multinational nature of the marches in Deineka’s paintings documents the fact that the nationality question was not confined to the very top levels of Soviet power, but that it managed to infiltrate the everyday lives of both Russian and Central Asian citizens. Deineka’s Distinguished People of the Soviet State, (fig. 6) 1917 (fig. 35) and 1937 (fig. 34), all painted in 1937, and Along Stalin’s Road: Stakhanovite Workers of 1938 (fig. 21), are all examples of depictions of the unity of the country and of the communal culture of the Soviet state. It is apparent that for Deineka, as for many other citizens of the Soviet state at the time, the Soviet Union meant more than just Russia and included a variety of nations. In fact, without these nations the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Art formed part of the Communist Party’s enterprise of both state unification and imperial expansion. The goal of the creation of one state for various unified, albeit unequal, nations was reached for a period of

35. Alexander Deineka, 1917, 1937. Study for a wall painting for the International Exhibition in Paris. Oil on canvas, 71 × 227. Perm State Art Gallery, Perm.

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almost seventy years. At the same time, the collapse of the Soviet Union was very much dependant on the separation of national republics and creation of independent states. One of the first independence days during the calendar year is celebrated by the Russian Federation (12 June). The question is from whom, or from what, does Russia believe itself to be independent? The Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan has one of the last independence days (16 December) in terms of the calendar year and was one of the last nations to exit the Union in 1991. What makes this nation believe that its existence within the Union could possibly be as or more favourable than its existence without? The nation as such is a modern invention and to say that the independence of one nation from another is a historic fact is simply senseless. Yet simultaneously the unifying aspect of neighbouring ethnicities may sometimes lie within visual and virtual forms of expression. For the Soviet Union Socialist Realism was a tool not only for depiction and instruction but also for self-examination. Through smaller aspects, such as the Asian strand within the mainstream style, the art of the Soviet period becomes a suitable document for the evaluation of relationships between nations and peoples, not only during the period discussed but for decades to come. The next step taken by this examination is towards looking at another aspect of the apparatus of Soviet art, namely the development of art schools in the Central Asian republics. This process was governed by the exclusively Socialist Realist tools of self-expression that had been taught to peripheral republics. This may possibly shed light onto why nations such as Kazakhstan are still torn by a double-sided attitude towards the history of its relationship with its biggest neighbour, Russia.

three teaching to see bringing art to the republics Of special significance for the development of art in the national republics is the assistance of the great Russian nation. … Assistance of the Russian nation, which has the richest tradition of forward realist art, plays a huge role in fast growth of national cultures…1

he creation of new art forms and practices within the territories of three Soviet Socialist Republics – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – was led by its teachers: artists who arrived in Central Asia from Russia, in effect helping to establish diverse and yet similar schools of painting within the republics. The periphery thus becomes an alternative centre of power, its follower and imitator, yet at the same time remains within the paradigm of the Orientalist image created by predominantly Russian artists. Learning is a two-way process involving both a teacher and a student. Both parties are involved in a process of exchange that inevitably transforms their identities. One corner of the Soviet Union was Central Asia, a country that is geographically both very close to Russia and very far away from Moscow. The 1920s and the 1930s brought heavy transformations to the area, which took place within the political, social and agricultural life of this region. The region was redrawn and new countries, or republics as they came to be known, were established. These transformations were tainted not so much by Communism but by imperialism, since the changes made were advised and enforced not from within Central Asia but from the Russian centre. Regulation of the representation of one nation by another is one of the main characteristics of an inherently unbalanced colonialist relationship. Such a regulatory system existed within the boundaries of the Soviet

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Union, especially during the period 1934 to 1953. The players in this case were Soviet Russia and Soviet Central Asia, or the Soviet West and the Soviet East. While not necessarily Orientalist, the images of this epoch nevertheless utilised familiar Orientalist strategies, such as an insistence upon the exotic, the barbaric, the infantile and the feminine. Socialist Realism was created as an official style and became the mode of depiction for all Soviet arts in 1934. By this time the USSR was already the largest state on the planet and included within its borders a whole array of nationalities. The erasing of nationalist sentiments and ethnic distinctions in order to create one nation was officially the goal of the Soviet state. In practice inequalities remained and in some cases even intensified, as compared to the Tsarist government. Taking a cue once again from Orwell, it is possible to say that all nations became equal, but some more equal than others. Two journeys – one to the East and one within the East – illustrate different outlooks within the same epoch. A 2005 exhibition in a private gallery in Moscow was accompanied by a catalogue titled A Voyage to Central Asia, which was brimming with colourful recollections, both abstract and figurative. Consequently, the journey seems by no means to have been painful.2 Yet in another publication, a novel by a Kazakh, Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, who recounts his childhood in the Kazakh steppes during the days of Stalin’s rule and titles his book The Silent Steppe (2006), the recollected journey is by no means rosy.3 For Central Asian art of the twentieth century, both the influence of Russian artists and Soviet expansionist strategies proved to be crucial. The latter meant not only the conscious spread of Soviet art institutions across the entire territory of the Soviet Union, but also that national artists had to be trained in each and every republic. The positions of teacher and student always remain in opposition, and it is important to understand the differences between teaching and learning, as well as the difficulties confronted when drawing lines within and between a nation or nations that were, until very recently, only one country.

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Central Asia and the Great Russian Brother Socialist Realism possessed a certain quality which is quite rare for artistic styles, namely its specific and prescribed international nature. Socialist Realism was meant to be a superior and supra-national style that enabled members of all the Soviet Union’s nationalities to be able to ‘develop their art […] and national forms’.4 This insistence on development will reappear again and again, particularly in relation to the art of Central Asia. Introduced in the 1930s, Socialist Realism’s homogenous style quickly spread across the country and in 1977, when compiling a brief history of Soviet Socialist art, the authors of Art of the Nations of USSR note that the 1940s and 1950s were ‘characterised by a flowering of art in many national republics […] [during a period characterised by] the rise of Soviet Art’.5 A direct successor of the Russian Academy of Arts, which was originally established in 1757, the central Academy of Arts in Leningrad was given a new role and a new title in 1947: the Academy of Arts of the USSR. Its new role was to promote Socialist Realism and by 1957 it was possible to stage an All-Union Art Exhibition in Moscow. Twenty years later a reader would be able to learn that by 1957 Central Asia managed to produce artists whose skills were comparable to, and in some instances no less significant than, those of ‘the masters of Moscow and Leningrad’; especially notable was the ‘rich decorativeness of the paintings by the artists from Uzbekistan’.6 Socialist Realism therefore was a style that originated in Russia, and Russian artists were considered its masters, while representatives from other republics had to strive to acquire similar techniques and produce works of a quality comparable to that of the artists at the centre of the Soviet Union’s artistic life. The more similar their works to those executed by the Russian masters of the centre, the more recognition they would achieve. In this case, art becomes part of the overall colonising strategy, while the Russian masters can be seen as representatives of this colonising mission. A major theme in the works of artists who depicted Central Asian subjects was the relationship between the native population and what one after another of the official documents called ‘the great Russian

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nation’. One early example of this theme as it was addressed during the period discussed is Sergei Bogdanov’s Chess Players (1935, fig. 36). On the right we see two men with distinctly Asian features representing two Kazakhs, and on the left a man and a youth with Slavic facial features represent two Russians. In this instance the two nations are seated, both visually and metaphorically, at the same table. If their facial differences are strong, then differences in their clothing are not, thus signalling a certain closeness and perhaps alluding to the overarching Soviet nature of both ethnicities. The chess game itself is an expression of intellect. Though the game is competitive, the competition is not based on physical prowess and is not, therefore, an expression of war. The two sides are shown engaged in conversation. Chess wasn’t commonly played in pre-Soviet Central Asia, whereas Russians are famous for their chess-playing abilities. Consequently, the assumption is that here the Russian side assumes the role of teacher. This work is essentially an example of art influenced by the Soviet propaganda of both interaction between nationalities and acceptance of those Russian abilities – whether cultural, social or scientific – which allowed them to spread progress throughout the country. The painting is characteristic of its time in both subject matter and visual presentation. In the pre-war years intra-national integration within the Soviet Union was favoured. Created only a year after the introduction of Socialist Realism as the official style, and a year before the spread of deadly Stalinist purges, artworks of 1935 possess the remnants of what was then called a formalist style, and what now might better be described as a Cézanne-inspired aesthetic. The Russification of the arts and of language became especially harsh in the mid-to-late 1930s when those aspects of national cultures and languages which remained differentiated from the ways of the ‘Great Russian brother’ were proclaimed archaic, dying and even counterrevolutionary.7 Propaganda of nationalistic views was regarded as a threat to the state and could lead to imprisonment or execution. During World War II a different strategy was employed and the Party began to stress the multi-ethnic nature of the Soviet population.8 At a time when Soviet Government and the Communist Party needed as much support as possible in defeating Nazi armies, the state could not afford nationalistic

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outbreaks and confrontations within itself. Following the war, Stalin returned to a policy of Russification.9 Russian-speaking intellectuals and researchers were present in Central Asia long before the October Revolution. However, as in other areas of the country, the late 1930s brought widespread purges, and members of the intellectual elite, who were mostly interested in the history and antiquities of Central Asia, perished one by one. From the 1930s onwards artistic life was guided and monitored either by newly arriving artists and art historians from Russia (or other western parts of the Soviet Union, such as Ukraine), or by those who had been present in the region previously and had successfully adapted to the new system and rules. One such artist was Aleksei Bortnikov. He studied in Kazakhstan under the Russian ethnographer and artist Nikolai Khludov in pre-Soviet times. His painting Khludov on Dzhailiau (1960, fig. 37) depicts the Russian man at work in the middle of an idyllic country scene.10 Here luscious

36. Sergei Bogdanov, Chess Players, 1935. Oil on canvas, 107 × 123, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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green fields are occupied by nomadic Kazakhs while women and children surround the Russian man, curiously inspecting how they and their lands are being depicted. This painting is of a late date and it shows a continuation of the construction of an artistic tradition, in this case in Kazakhstan. Khludov is shown as the country’s first significant artist,11 demonstrating the fact that the figures of both Khludov and Bortnikov remain heavily influential within Kazakh art history. Khludov was the teacher of the first Kazakh national artist Abylkhan Kasteev, whose works will be discussed in the next chapter. Khludov on Dzhailiau clearly portrays this Russian artist as an outsider and as a foreigner to the land he occupies, but at the same time his presence is apparently welcomed by the native population.

37. Aleksei Bortnikov, Khludov on Dzhailiau, 1960. Oil on canvas, 100 × 150, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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Unlike photographs from the pre-Soviet period, which suggest a certain discomfort in the Kazakhs being portrayed, the Kazakhs in this painting are excited at the prospect. Here I may say that Khludov represents the Russian artist in general or, when one notes the date of the work, even the Soviet artist. He is an artist who is close to his subjects, has superior artistic abilities when compared to his subjects and is eager to teach. The eagerness with which one side accepted the new society and with which the other side offered it are also favourite themes in paintings of the Soviet era. The previously described work by David Flekman, Recovery of Sight (1957, fig. 1), is a depiction of just such an exchange. Here we see a doctor’s room in which an Asian (Kyrgyz) woman stands in the centre while a Slavic (Russian) nurse and doctor inspect her. Her eyes are opened for her so that she can see light, probably for the first time. The painting is a direct metaphor for the emancipation of both Kyrgyzia as a nation and the Kyrgyz woman as the previously oppressed gender. Of course, issues concerning medical procedures, access to care and social infrastructure are all brought in. As is clear to the viewer, all of these were unavailable in pre-Soviet times. With this painting Flekman scores very highly on the Socialist Realist scale as the message of the painting and the directness of its delivery are highly praised. However, there are certain characteristics that separate this image from countless others, especially those images created in the Soviet centre. The Asian woman is placed in the centre of the composition and her face is particularly illuminated. The Russian medical professionals are very eager to help her and are happy at the result of their operation. There is a clear two-way interaction between the characters. So often in Soviet paintings the Central Asian character seeks the attention of the more highly regarded Soviets, walks on the sidelines and is dressed in bright colourful clothes. Yet here the woman is Soviet in the way she is dressed, central to the actions of the other characters in the composition and independent in her reactions. Her facial features are the only signifier of her nationality. This way the painting both gives the Asian woman a new independent role as a Soviet citizen and strips her of her perceived national constraints. The transformation is complete and a new human is born to praise the Soviet state and to work for its benefit.

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Exploitation, Labour and Industry The concept of Empire is posited upon unequal relationships. As these relationships are unbalanced they require a certain amount of support at all times. In the USSR this was achieved through a constant demonstration of dominance and simultaneous denial of it. If one looks at a Soviet-era mosaic (1963, fig. 38) in the middle of Bishkek city (previously Frunze), the capital of Kyrgyzstan, one sees an image of a community prospering within the terms of the intra-national friendship.12 Happy members of different nationalities are taking part in a festive march in various national costumes and all are gathered around two couples in modern dress. Clearly any immediate association between person and nationality could only be achieved through the depiction of what was considered to be a national costume. However, why would a union of nations be celebrated through the persistent accentuation of difference? The 1930s was a decade of dramatic transformation in Central Asia following the completely politicised delimitation that took place in the 1920s. By the end of the 1930s, and after the agrarian and economic reforms, some areas lost half of their indigenous population through famine and emigration. Traditional ways of life were constantly and decisively disrupted. National languages changed alphabets several times while at the same time losing their precedence in favour of what became the new lingua franca: Russian.13 If half of the population was lost, then the half that was left found its rights quickly curtailed and needed to adapt to new ways of life alongside a growing immigrant, mostly Russian, community. Situated to the far south of the USSR, Uzbekistan was historically the heart of Central Asia. In the 1920s, following the October Revolution and three centuries under Russian Imperial control, Central Asian authorities hoped to create an independent state. Yet the result of Soviet rule was quite different. In 1924 the territory formerly known as Turkestan was divided into separate, but not independent, entities or Soviet Socialist Republics. Changes that took place within Central Asia were always hailed as progressive. These included the emancipation of women, the abandonment

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of religion, the introduction of compulsory education for children and adults and the widening of access to professional medical care. In short, all these led to a dramatic change in family values while simultaneously producing a more organised and more prepared workforce. This workforce included women and young skilled professionals from the area in order to complement and support those who were sent from Russia. Among the large number of paintings stored in museums in Central Asia one sees numerous and typical examples of Soviet propaganda that are concerned with labour, for example, Yuri Zaitsev’s Building Site in Balkhash at Night (1935, fig. 26). This painting depicts an actual event and, at the same time, represents the government’s policy of quick and massive economic rejuvenation, which was said to be spreading to Central Asia and therefore benefiting the area. The scene takes place at a massive building site at night-time. One can see a large number of workers, machines and rising buildings in the background, all under strong artificial lights. This image was supposed to illustrate the active, round-the-clock work that was taking place across Central Asia. Artists, in this case Zaitsev, were sent on trips to construction sites like this one to record Soviet achievements in the making. However, such recording of industrial activity is not unusual for any state or country. The peculiarity here is that the medium used is not photography, despite being widespread by this time, but oil painting. Evidence of heavy construction under artificial light on the one hand, and the outdated mode of recording an image on the other, both point to the fact that the act of recording was not the main purpose

38. Mosaic, 1963, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, photograph by Aliya Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen, 2005.

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of this piece. The presentation of this activity in a form recognised as high art was perceived as bringing the depicted up to the same high status. This building project was not just another construction built thanks to the back-breaking effort of the Soviet people, but a glorified, even somewhat religious, sacrifice for the creation of the new world. Furthermore, while photographs appeared in the press and disappeared the next day, oil paintings were destined for museum walls and so for eternal and repeated consumption by thousands of Soviet people. In the 1930s a lot of attention was placed on the industrial achievements of the new state, another example of which is found in Fedor Bolkoev’s Building a Bridge across the River Irtish in Semipalatinsk (1934, fig. 39). This painting, created the same year as Socialist Realism was established as the official style for art, seems to retain features of the art of the late 1920s in its somewhat simplified mode of visual portrayal.

39. Fedor Bolkoev, Building a Bridge across River Irtish in Semipalatinsk, 1934. Oil on canvas, 70 × 130, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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We see a huge man-made structure towering above the river and a nearby town, overpowering everything around it. It is more a celebration of human technical achievement – so popular around the world during this period – than of Soviet might. The grandeur of the depicted structure is still the grandeur of the early part of the twentieth century in its desire for simple and purposeful construction; Soviet neoclassicism was yet to come. Free and compulsory education for the masses was introduced across the whole territory of the Soviet Union in the 1930s. On the one hand, such education developed widespread literacy and so aided in the creation of a skilled labour force. Yet on the other hand, education provided a strong platform for propaganda. Education was not gendered in form, as schools were predominantly co-educational. However, notions of social order and moral behaviour were nurtured within the school curriculum. So in this sense these new Soviet schools were reminiscent of European state schools in the nineteenth century.14 In terms of racial and ethnic distinctions and colonial doctrine the Soviet government under Stalin had one clear outlook and the Russification of all areas of life within the territory of Central Asia was well underway by the 1950s. Education, electrification, the construction of railways and the building of new apartment blocks all served the neoimperialist purposes of the Russian centre. Developing and utilising the rich natural resources of Central Asia, such as coal, aluminium, oil, gas, gold, and so on, was just one part of the goal, while relocating large sections of the population across the whole of the USSR was another. For example, Kazakhstan hosted the largest of Stalin’s horrific labour camps, KarLag, which was strategically positioned next to coal-rich Karaganda. However, relocation also included nonprisoners and a large number of Russians and Ukrainians were settled here in order to work in the new fields and new factories. Furthermore, the so-called unreliable nationalities, such as Caucasians, Poles, and later Germans and Koreans (as well as Jews, Greeks and Tatars), were relocated here in order to be removed from the various borders and main centres. In this situation the Central Asians themselves became second-class citizens within what were historically their own territories.

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Depicting Central Asia at this time meant pointing towards a feminised territory and infantile natives. These included images of rich natural resources, rural landscapes, virgin lands, new cotton fields, and the destruction of existing ways of life (the latter being depicted through implication) on the one hand, and images of the incapable, uneducated, barbaric natives on the other. The newly emancipated Eastern woman became a metaphorical blank onto which all sorts of information could be projected. The image of a young girl subsequently became an even better model in the eyes of the Soviet state-builders. Semion Chuikov’s Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia is an obvious example of the new woman of the future. However, countless other Russian artists working in Central Asia also attempted depictions of the female subject. Sergei Bogdanov’s Portrait of a Kazakh Woman in National Costume (1935, fig. 27) is an almost ethnographic portrayal of a sombre Asian woman, fully clothed with her head covered and her eyes turned away from the viewer. This is the same artist who painted Chess Players (1935, fig. 36), and the difference between the portrayal of the Kazakh men and a Kazakh woman is significant in numerous crucial ways. First, to compare the costumes, while the men are dressed in undefined Soviet clothes the woman wears national, read ‘archaic’, attire. The men are engaged in a recreational activity and interact with the Russians, whereas the woman is on her own and avoids the viewer’s gaze, although she is clearly being presented to it. An image by Sergei Kalmykov titled A Girl with Melons (1948, fig. 12) strongly contrasts with this work. This depiction – executed by an artist famous for surrealist paintings of extra-terrestrial beings – presents a fit young girl walking along the train lines. Although she does not face the viewer, the artist sees her as a strong human being, active and self-assured. Of course, due to her walking away from the viewer with the simple, un-politicised, purpose of delivering melons, this girl never became a symbol of Soviet Central Asia as the girl in Chuikov’s A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia did. In fact, the painting is also a representation of the contrast that the artist saw between fast-developing new infrastructures (train lines) and the simple down-to-earth local attitudes

40. Sergei Kalmykov, Strakhilad, 1946. Oil on cardboard, 55 × 35, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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towards them. In this case a girl walks barefoot along the lines carrying two heavy melons – natural products of this rich land – while the same land on which she walks is being modernised and transformed. However, the girl’s closeness to nature (barefoot, fruit in hands) is a nod towards the established nineteenth-century tradition of gendered depictions of Asia or the Orient. For an example of Kalmykov’s other work see fig. 40, Strakhilad (1946). This artist was controversial, as his works, although never politically oppositional, did not fit into Soviet standards by far. Nowadays he is praised for his independent attitude towards art and for the unusual style in which he worked. He has indeed influenced many Kazakh artists, especially of the late Soviet and post-Soviet generations. However, he did not have students or followers during his lifetime. Another image of a young woman is by Vladimir Rozhdestvensky. Portrait of a Young Woman (1945, fig. 16) presents an image of an Asian young woman in a tidy dress with a red ribbon in her well-kept hair and a school bag in her hands. She looks away from the viewer while in the background a green garden is visible. This is as much a proper Asian woman, shy and calm, as it is a figure of the Soviet future, strong in resolve, ready to study and learn, and emancipated from the tyranny of family, nationality and religion. Acceptable to both Soviet morals and to some extent Asian morals, she is most notably acceptable to maleorientated morals as she is both emancipated (with her open face and engagement in the social activity of learning) and submissive in her posture and gaze. She is a Soviet heroine, but she is also a Central Asian heroine. The line is therefore drawn between East and West, giving this (and any other) girl a future, while leaving her within an Oriental framework. Images of Asian women contrast dramatically those of men. Abram Cherkasskii, a Ukrainian artist who arrived in Kazakhstan in 1941 at the start of World War II, taught the majority of the first wave of Kazakh artists. His own works show a strong commitment to Soviet ideals. In his Factory Worker (1950s, fig. 41) the viewer is faced with an image of a strong Kazakh man with eyes that look at something that is to us distant and invisible; he is full of purpose and resolve. In the background the

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landscape is filled with machinery and signs of construction. The horizon is lowered in such a way that the figure of this man becomes monumental, elevating his status to that of a true Soviet hero. This Asian man, whose ancestors were nomadic animal herders, rises above the past to construct his land’s future. The same artist paints another image of a Kazakh male in Portrait of Senior Stableman Ushkempirov (1950, fig. 42). Here the illustration is that of a common man and it is executed with an almost humorous approach towards the depiction of the Asian man. Filled with sunshine, this man is not only a Soviet hero but a son of his land doing what his ancestors knew how to do well, namely tend the horses. Both men, however, are shown to be assertive and independent. The visual accent on their faces and the colour scheme of both works suggest affinities with the Russian nineteenth-century school of portrait paintings and works such as those by Ilya Repin.15 Whether or not today we might see the first man as a brain-washed cog in a Soviet industrial machine and the second as a free spirit, both are residents of Soviet Kazakhstan. They are residents of its actual physical territory and of its imaginary representation as envisaged and recorded by artists of the period. In Pavel Verkhovtsev’s Portrait of the Hero of Socialist Labour D. Serikov with Children (1950, fig. 43) the bringing together of generations and genders is presented in a closely framed composition. In a bright

41. Abram Cherkasskii, Factory Worker, 1950. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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white shirt the central character is an older man who bears a significant number of medals on his jacket. His children or grandchildren surround him, all looking at a newspaper in his hands. We can see one girl and one boy, both of whom are wearing red scarves.16 The setting possesses Central Asian tropes, such as the piala (a tea bowl) on the table and the geometric textile in the background. The man is wearing traditional headwear (tyubeteyka). This is a work that once again portrays the crossover of traditional cultures and the new Soviet reality. The fact that all three characters can read is an affirmation of the civilising effect of Soviet power, while any national traits become nothing more than decorative

42. Abram Cherkasskii, Portrait of Senior Stableman Ushkempirov, study, 1950. Oil on canvas, 66 × 60, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

43. Pavel Verkhovtsev, Portrait of the Hero of Socialist Labour D. Serikov with Children, 1950. Oil on canvas, 89 × 67, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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details in the backgrounds of their lives. The newspaper is in Kazakh; however, the alphabet is already Cyrillic (changed from the Arabic alphabet used previously). Nationality and ethnicity seem to be present, yet they are overshadowed by new Russian-influenced identities. A number of paintings deliver more than one message, including moments of enlightenment, the meeting of the old and the new, the heroism of the new life, and the happiness of living in a nationless state (where nationality plays one of the main roles in every aspect of life, ranging from art practices to job applications). All of these were subjects available to painters in the Soviet Union. To typify the Russian presence in Central Asia as mere colonialism would not, however, be either fair or true. Art-historical literature of the time, and also of today, notes that the tradition of oil painting did not exist in this part of the Soviet Union prior to the creation of the USSR. What this meant for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan was that the acceptance of Russian culture and Russian domination was facilitated by the fact that the means by which this was thrust upon the people was Russian in origin. The period between the 1930s and 1950s in the Soviet Union was heavily characterised by its leader, Joseph Stalin. It was a time of repression and of transformation, a time of World War II and the USSR’s victory, which then led to the Cold War. The Soviet Central Asia of this period by no means sat on the periphery of all these processes. It served as a location for labour camps in the 1930s and as a mining field to provide for the huge country. It also functioned as a cotton field for the whole of the Union and, importantly, cotton was not just used to produce textiles, but was employed for military purposes as well. During the war, Central Asia provided shelter for artists, writers and poets from Leningrad and Moscow and supplied the front with soldiers. Yet the paintings of this period present an image of progress without pain. In his foreword to the catalogue of Dream Factory Communism Max Hollein notes that Soviet art was mainly a form of advertising for Communism.17 Western observers noted that art, together with films, press coverage and mass exhibitions, were all part of Soviet propaganda. The word ‘propaganda’ nowadays bears very strong Cold War connotations. So how are we to treat and approach art, something which not

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only served as a means for demonstrating power but which held power within itself?

Semion Chuikov: Daughters of Soviet Kyrgyzia (or Lolitas of the Soviet East) Recently Kyrgyz authorities requested that UNESCO be associated with the celebrations of Semion Chuikov’s hundredth-anniversary celebrations. The official statement states that ‘Semion Chuikov’s creative work has contributed to the mutual enrichment of cultures and better understanding among peoples through the language of the arts.’ This is the same artist who during Soviet times received wide acclaim and the highest possible awards, and was instrumental in establishing the first art gallery in Soviet Kyrgyzia. His favourite subjects were Kyrgyz landscapes and young Asian girls. A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia (fig. 3) was, and still remains, one of the main images to spring out in the minds’ of post-Soviet peoples at the mention of Central Asian art of the Stalin period. Already briefly discussed, the original painting was created in 1949 by the artist Semion Chuikov, who was born in Kyrgyzia, but of ethnic Russian origin and educated in Russia. It was exhibited in Moscow and in 1949 was given the highest award for an artwork, the Stalin Prize. Such recognition of the work immediately gave it an almost iconic status and lead to the widespread dissemination of copies. There are at least three painted versions in existence. But more importantly, there are countless photographic reproductions. In terms of public memory the illustrations produced within schoolbooks and distributed right across the USSR were especially effective. To this day ‘Kyrgyzia’ is to Russians a girl lost amid the steppes. The Chuikov image is of a solitary female child walking across an empty field towards an invisible goal. She holds her head high and her hand tightly clutches some unidentified books. Each detail is given the utmost importance in the piece. Made up of primary colours, the composition culminates in the bright red scarf on the girl’s head; her mind is clearly possessed by the Soviet or Communist doctrine. The shape of the costume is modest, undeniably feminine and devoid of any national

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connotations. Yet her face is definitely Asian and slightly rounded; she is no doubt a well-fed Kyrgyz child. Her stance and gait show her to be in good health and possessing physical strength. The background shows an idyllic and peaceful landscape under a clear blue sky. The girl is at once a Central Asian emancipated heroine, the new future of the Soviet woman and the forever young and forever feminine image of the Soviet East. Yet she is also the object of the Russian gaze, which can be identified as male, adult and progressive. The relationship signified is that of parent and child, of educator and student, of powerful male and subjugated female. When the image of a whole nation, even one so small a nation as Soviet Kyrgyzia, rests heavily on one oil painting of a girl walking through an empty steppe clutching a book in her hand, there must be very powerful forces of representation at play. The daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia is walking away from the imperialist past and towards an imaginary future. The painting now rests at the State Tretyakov Gallery in the Russian, and previously Soviet, capital city of Moscow. However, at the time of writing it is not on display. This painting had a lot of power in an almost political sense: it had the power to grip people’s minds, to alter, or create perceptions, to be seen, to be remembered and to be loved. This power rested upon the significance of several diverse factors, such as the appropriateness of the painting’s subject, the painterly style, the celebrity of the artist and the means for dissemination available when all the aforementioned factors had successfully been put together. This Soviet Kyrgyz girl is not shown as a barbaric creature of the East, nor is she dressed up in special costume. In fact, she is not even an example of the exotic feminine. She is a new woman and her Asian features, together with her modern costume, exemplify her belonging to part of a larger whole. Being a Soviet girl, she wears a red scarf. Chuikov was not an ordinary Soviet artist. He is heralded as the founder of the painterly tradition in Kyrgyzstan and he was the head of the Artists’ Union there, as well as a Soviet Academician. However, he did learn his trade at VKhuTeMas-VKhuTeIn, an institution at which he was taught by, among others, Robert Falk and various prominent

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avant-garde artists or so-called formalist artists of the early twentieth century. Formalism was not a positive characteristic in the Soviet art world. In fact it proved extremely damaging to any artist’s reputation and career. Chuikov is known to have stated that he did not learn the skills of painting at VKhuTeIn, but the skills of being an artist and feeling like an artist. Yet the red, white and blue combinations that are so strikingly obvious in this work might be traced back to an origin in Constructivist compositions; one may even notice the third primary colour in the yellow of the earth behind the girl. The girl, of an undefined age and with a plump face, tight grip and upright posture, is neither conventionally attractive nor barbarically repulsive. This apparent ambivalence or non-specificity is further echoed in the landscape. Do we see a steppe or a field, or a steppe that is to become a field? The girl’s attitude is double-edged and she is both a proud woman and a stubborn child. She represents the new Soviet Kyrgyzia to the public of the time and is essentially a metaphorical blank on which all sorts of new information can be inscribed. For us, she is also an image of the young Soviet Kyrgyzia, as her past is being continuously erased and her future is uncertain. Did this image deliver a certain message? Was it a message of progress, emancipation and reassurance? Was this a message deemed necessary for all schoolchildren to receive at the time and much later on also? A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia was not alone in its protagonist’s desire to gaze. Yet there is a problem. Chuikov renders the girl’s gaze impotent and allows the viewer the pleasure of a much more powerful and overwhelming gaze. With the angle of the composition her figure pushes up into the sky and she becomes a monument to illusive freedom and a reminder of an obliterated past. Her safety in the middle of the field is somewhat uncertain as she is too alone, too tidy and too proud.18 The girl in Chuikov’s painting is forever young. The model for his painting has, however, aged. It seems that her schooling, if it took place at all, brought the Communist utopia into the village, rather than the young girl into the future. This girl from Soviet Kyrgyzia was allowed to look ahead, but never managed to walk out of the village she was born in. According to Matthew Cullerne Bown’s recollections of his travels in

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Kyrgyzia, the woman who posed for the image was still residing in the same place Chuikov allegedly found her forty years earlier.19 Nevertheless, the artist became a celebrity and there is now a museum dedicated to his life and art in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.20 Chuikov’s other works can be divided into two distinct groups: moralistic history paintings and images of young girls. Among the first group is From Old to New (1931, fig. 44), which follows the highly praised Soviet theme of contrasting traditional or archaic modes of life and those of the new Soviet state. In this painting a family, dressed in what one immediately assumes is traditional clothing, is pictured with a loaded horse and a few sheep as they encounter a group of younger Kyrgyzs. The latter are working in a collective manner and producing wheat on a large scale. Being one of Chuikov’s earlier works, the painting is executed in an obviously simplified manner. The artist does not seem to have developed either a formalist or Socialist aesthetic yet, even if his subject matter very much propagates the new state. In another work, Kyrgyz Uprising against Tsarism of 1916 (1934–6, fig. 45), the artist returns to a historical date, the uprising of 1916, an

44. Semion Chuikov, From Old to New, 1931. Oil on canvas, 143 × 197.5, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

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event that extended across the whole of Central Asia. In Soviet history it was presented as the uprising of the poor against Tsarist rule, yet in post-Soviet history we learn that the uprising was in fact a multi-class uprising against Russian colonisation of the steppes. This painting is an example of another popular Soviet genre, namely officially approved history. In later Soviet times, especially during harsh Stalinist purges, history would gradually be narrowed down towards a focus on the postrevolutionary Soviet era. However, in this example we see an attempt to re-write Kyrgyz history to suit Soviet, and in this case Russian, goals. The Kyrgyz poor are assumed to be united in their fight against Tsarism with their Russian and other Soviet brothers. Chuikov was himself the son of an employee of a pre-revolutionary Russian military hospital.21 Although he often stated that he was Kyrgyz inside, he seems to have remained very much Russian.

45. Semion Chuikov, Kyrgyz Uprising against Tsarism of 1916, 1934–6. Oil on canvas, 177 × 266, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

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There are other works, such as The Airplanes are Flying (1942, fig. 46) and Morning, that work on the level of metaphor, albeit quite directly. The former depicts an almost barren landscape and a group of poor teenage boys gazing at a flying machine, a clear symbol of the new age, which remains invisible for the viewer. Once again the old and the new, and the simple and the progressive are contrasted while the devastations of World War II are hinted at. In the latter painting the artist presents a young woman with a small child gazing into the sunrise. The image is full of hope and is a metaphor for new beginnings. Taking into account the fact that the work was painted two years after the end of World War II, this new beginning is perhaps not just for Kyrgyzia but instead for the whole of the Soviet Motherland. A more controversial strand of Chuikov’s oeuvre is his persistent depiction of young girls in paintings similar to A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia, such as Komsomol-Girl.22 Painted five years before his most famous painting, Komsomol-Girl depicts a proud-looking young girl in simple clothing and with a white scarf on her head. She is already more of a young woman than a child and her resolve signals her understanding and acceptance of Soviet rule. In other such works the girls are less dignified and more common, such as in two works involving a slice of watermelon, A Kyrgyz Girl Eating a Watermelon23 and A Daughter of a Chaban (1948–5624).25 Both works depict teenage girls holding or eating a typically Central Asian fruit. The earlier work is similar in composition to A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia as it presents a girl in a natural setting walking across a field. The latter and later work is more obviously a carefully structured composition in which the girl remains still; her face is fully visible and the slice of watermelon she holds is untouched, almost as if it forms part of a still-life composition. Watermelons are widespread in the southern regions of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and grow throughout Uzbekistan. For the majority of mid-twentieth-century children growing up in rural areas, they were the only available food when in season (late summer and early autumn), along with bread. Yet knowledge of the art-historical use of the watermelon as a symbol of erotic femininity might push a reading of these works further than just interpretations of them as depictions of everyday life. They are

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expressions of the artist’s desires and also of his artistic views. Chuikov was acquainted with the art of both Russian pre-revolutionary Orientalists and their European colleagues. An image of a young female, even if not naked, portrays a male fantasy about both Eastern women and Eastern lands. Here emancipation and possession go hand in hand.

Soviet Orientalism? Or Orientalism as an Alternative? For the average Soviet Muscovite the people of Central Asia existed largely within the borders of the canvas. They were a distant people with whom most Soviet Muscovites had little or no contact and so their

46. Semion Chuikov, The Airplanes Are Flying, 1942. Oil on canvas, 136.5 × 175.5, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

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knowledge and reception of Central Asians was shaped almost solely by the images exhibited in the All-Union Exhibitions. Such forms of depiction and processes of consumption can otherwise be described as a type of Orientalism. The word Orientalism (or in its Russian form Vostokovedenie) was made controversial by Edward Said in the 1970s and has been used in Russian and Soviet art-historical studies quite liberally, without the assumption of any political connotation. The varied literature on the subject mainly comprises descriptions of works by Russian (or other) artists that depict Central Asia and the Caucasus.26 Quite notably, publications available on the subject refer to a specific strand of Russian, or Soviet, Orientalism. This is the strand that involves classic (in the European sense) depictions of exotic architecture, natives in rich or unusual costumes, sun-filled landscapes, and so on. In essence, all the subjects that bring Said’s critics to say that at least some Orientalists admired and glorified the East rather than just seeing it as the barbaric Other. In the fast-changing political climate that characterised the relationship between the centre and the periphery of the Soviet Union during the early twentieth century, the art sector, as well as the social sector, went through a period of identity construction. The world-renowned Russian avant-garde was looking to break with tradition and establish new forms of art practice and societal organisation. In her article ‘Beyond Orientalism’ (2007) Jane Sharp argues that the nature of the relationship between Russian and non-Russian artists was not characterised by Saidian Orientalism, but instead constituted a search for each party’s position and identity.27 In a conscious move, Russian artists explored Russia’s East in order to be able to understand Russia’s own position as the East of the West. Sharp points at the fact that Said bypassed the Russian example in his study of Orientalism and at the same time reveals her understanding of the late avant-garde’s specific interest in Soviet Asia. Russian artists of the early twentieth century are shown by Sharp to have propagated an anti-European and pro-Asian stance, along with a ‘more open view of cultural traditions’.28 Both Eastern (in this case Georgian) and Russian artists are shown to have felt they needed to possess multiple identities.29 Sharp argues that the Russian avant-garde

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was post-Orientalist rather than Orientalist in character, as its practice and goals were to lead the effort of adaptation and change in ‘the strategies of cultural and self-identification’ in the Russian and later Soviet East (Caucasus and Central Asia).30 The idea of leadership, however, may hint at the Orientalist nature of the Russian artists’ practice, even if one accepts that Russia and its avant-garde were both Orientalised. This further complicates the nature of Russian and later Soviet Orientalism in relation to the European and American West, thus creating a doubleremoved phenomenon, that is to say the Other of the Other. While landscape and architecture are often main themes in Orientalist painting, within its Soviet strain a major role was instead given to the depiction of Central Asians. These represent the most memorable works of the period and are especially crucial for this study. This phenomenon was especially pronounced in Uzbekistan, where the majority of the most significant Russian artists of the early twentieth century came to reside during the 1930s and 1940s. Robert Falk’s With a Suzanne Background (1943, fig. 47) has clearly been inspired by Matisse in its combination of colour and arabesques in both the background and the costume.31 The subject itself is flattened while the figure is generalised. Obviously, the painting does not possess any Socialist messages and, not surprisingly, the painting belongs to the Art Museum in Nukus. This museum constitutes a famous collection of Russian avant-garde art in Karakalpakstan, which sits in the west of Uzbekistan, far from any metropolitan centres. Most of Falk’s works on Central Asia ended up in either this regional museum or in private collections. His treatment of the canvas and paint, along with the non-Socialist nature of the subject, went against Socialist Realist doctrine. However, Falk did briefly teach in Samarkand in Uzbekistan and his particular speciality was French art. Today, he is regarded as one of the most significant Russian artists of the period both by the museum establishment and by the market. His unpolitical Orientalisation of the Soviet East is an example of the problematic nature of Soviet Orientalism. Even though all forms of depiction of the Other would be questioned by Said and his followers in the late 1970s, in the late 1940s in the Soviet Union this particular Europeanised strand of Orientalism was deemed inappropriate.

More appropriate forms for adapting the European tradition were shown by Pavel Benkov, whose works are analysed in the next section of this chapter. However, a few other examples of early works will also be especially beneficial for the comparison. Two works by Russian artists reveal their search for new art forms and new forms of beauty in the East, these are Alexander Nikolaev’s (Usto-Mumin’s) Spring32 Viktor Ufimtsev’s To the Train (1927, fig. 48). The first of these is the expression of a homoerotic vision of the Other presented in a neo-classical merging of the European Renaissance, Russian icon painting and Persian

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miniature traditions. The second uses foreign or exotic materials for the purposes of formal experimentation. While state-favoured artists like Semion Chuikov and Pavel Benkov devoted much of their art to images of Central Asian women, the region’s previous generation of Russian artists did not shy away from images of men. Nikolai Rozanov’s Uzbek with a Chilik33 and Vladimir Rozhdestvensky’s Portrait of an Uzbek Man34 both depict representatives of the native population in rich costumes and with various other decorative tropes of ethnicity (for example a chilik – an Uzbek pipe). They dramatically contrast

47. Robert Falk, With a Suzanne Background, 1943. Oil on canvas, 100 × 74, the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art named after I.V. Savitsky, Nukus. Photo courtesy of Gayane Umerova, © the estate of Robert Falk.

48. Viktor Ufimtsev, To the Train, 1927. Oil on canvas, the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art named after I.V. Savitsky, Nukus. Photo courtesy of Gayane Umerova.

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with the works by Cherkasskii and Verkhovtsev (figs 41–3) in which men are shown as social beings engaged in the construction of the new world. Uzbek men in Rozanov and Rozhdestvesky’s paintings conversely reside in the old world, happy and content to continue this existence. These are works that arguably show the interest Russian artists took in the life in the Soviet East as an alternative to life in the Soviet centre. They certainly don’t depict strong personalities or acknowledge equality; in a way they suggest that life as it is here, with all its traditionalism and archaism, is enviable. This stance neither leans towards Soviet ideals, nor leans towards the East. This form, especially since it comes from predominantly male artists, is more of a personal preference for a system where certain freedoms are granted and certain rules forgotten. Another view is shared by Russian women artists in the Soviet East. The 2005 exhibition in which I encountered most of these works was titled ‘The First Women Artists of Uzbekistan’.35 Although there were some Asian women artists, and these are discussed in the next chapter, most of the ‘First Women’ came from Russia. Nadezhda Kashina’s early work Children Enter the New Life36 is a very curious and joyful work divided into blocks of flat bright colour and which therefore exhibits the artist’s affinity with Russian avant-garde aesthetics. Her works from the 1940s and 1950s exhibit clear Socialist Realist tendencies. In Success of the Team37 we see a group of four Uzbek women near a cotton field with bags of produce. They are discussing an article, of which they are the subject, in a newspaper. While the women are clearly dressed in traditional dress and all wear headwear, they are nevertheless shown as being a significant part of the Soviet system. This was a system that praised high yields in the fields and in factories at any cost and engaged women in active labour outside of their homes. Clearly happy and proud of herself, the Asian woman is shown as an important factor in the building of the Soviet economy, as is the famous Uzbek produce of cotton. Perhaps due to the access she had to female members of society, Kashina continued to depict women and children throughout her career. In 1949 she painted Lunch Break38 and in 1953 she created A Dance Lesson.39 All of these joyful compositions signal a prosperous and happy life in Soviet Uzbekistan in which women openly interact with one another

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in the new society. Although we do not see multi-gender compositions, we notice the artist’s preoccupation with the new position of the Central Asian woman. In Lunch Break women are shown in a natural setting among rich greenery and fruit; however, they are also engaged in intellectual activity as they discuss an article or publication. The artist is showing us something that was for her personally very exciting – that is, the emancipation of women across the Soviet Union. The degree to which the works avoid penetrating the issue or questioning the extent of the changes made and their impact on society is obviously a sign of Soviet control in the arts and demonstrates the limited gaze this female artist decided to have in relation to reality in Soviet Uzbekistan. Later, in 1971, she paints Samarkand Madonna,40 a composition that in format strongly resembles her early works. This includes a strange mix of religious connotations in both the title and the use of a mosque-shaped background, belated formalist experimentation and nostalgia for a lost period in the history of Russian and Soviet art. The painting’s Central Asian woman occupies a role inside a home and is defined by a religious and historical framework. While the woman artist finds a new freedom of expression, however limited it maybe be, she chooses to depict a female subject who represents the opposite of her socially engaged compatriots of the 1940s and 1950s. Another artist working at the same time was Zinaida Kovalevskaya, partner of Pavel Benkov. She worked in a recognisably Impressionist style, as shown in her study Children41 and her painting Landscape with Children.42 Together with Benkov she set up the first art school in Samarkand. In a much brighter and more colourful work, Tomato Picking,43 the subject is similar to that of Benkov’s famous work, Girlfriends (1940, fig. 13). However, Kovalevskaya’s work seems to be less about the friendship of nationalities and more about richness of colour. This is a rare multi-gender composition and its hazy Impressionist style lends itself well to the depiction of the Central Asian sun, while the social message is that of communal happiness in work. These characters are not at leisure, yet their facial expressions suggest that they would not be jollier should they be anywhere else but here. Carrying heavily loaded baskets of tomatoes, one girl is seen exchanging gazes with a young man. A certain richness of life and the presence of women suggest Soviet advances, while an

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abundance of produce and the people represented portray the Soviet East as the land of plenty. An unusual work from another woman artist, Elena Korovai, titled National Talents44 shows five Uzbek men engaged in an artistic activity. Presented decorating an unspecified interior, these men are experienced in their work and, unlike those represented by Rozanov and Rozhdestvensky, they do not blend into the decorative background. The man on the right holds a tea bowl in his hand and is seen wearing a medal on his coat. This is the only obvious suggestion of a Soviet context within the situation. Otherwise these Asian men are shown engaged in skilled labour, unlike countless Soviet heroes, who work in fields and factories. These five characters seem to possess a certain look of superiority and seem to possess access to restricted knowledge. They are not blank sheets of paper for the Soviet state to write on and seem unchanged by the new power’s prizes and titles while quietly continuing with their regular activities. In

49. Maria Lizogub, Fairytale, 1958. Oil on canvas, 155.5 × 133.5, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

50. Leonid Leontev, Bazaar at the Collective Farm, 1940. Oil on canvas, 155 × 200, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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this group Korovai finds for herself an almost Renaissance-inspired sense of the artist’s collective studio. All of the artists discussed so far in this section worked in Uzbekistan but we can also find two comparable examples in Kazakhstan. Female artist Maria Lizogub painted various private scenes, such as Fairytale (1958, fig. 49). In the style of nineteenth-century Russian realism and using thick layers of paint, Lizogub depicts a scene in which two distinct generations, namely grandmother and granddaughter, are engaged in a shared activity. Following existing Orientalist structures, Lizogub places the characters in a dimly lit enclosed space which is covered in decorative blankets and carpets. The woman is dressed in traditional Kazakh dress for a woman of her age. Of course, the artist conveniently forgets that this attire would be unnecessary in such a private setting. The girl pays great attention to her grandmother’s story. The title could refer to the story being told or to the setting itself, which is almost idyllic in its calmness. Undisturbed, the two generations of Asian women, whose worlds are so far apart, stretch a cord of connectivity between themselves.

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The look on the older woman’s face is composed and stern and perhaps even resolved – does this represent an acceptance of both change and the passing of time? Certainly the style in which the work is painted, as well as the certain quaintness of a composition involving a girl and her grandmother, suggests that this is just another utilisation of Central Asian themes in order to create an easily accessible work. This is a very poetic interpretation of Soviet Central Asian reality and one that avoids admissions of a harsh reality. Yet it is probable that the grandmother’s story is one of suffering and loss, particularly in light of the famine of the 1920s. Still, her story is perhaps also one of joy with regard to her granddaughter’s freedoms and possibilities thanks to advances in education and the emancipation of women. As with other paintings of the period, this work contains a potential revelation, while at the same time remaining firmly within the Socialist Realist framework. Another artist working in Kazakhstan in the Stalinist period is Leonid Leontev. His work Bazaar at the Collective Farm (1940, fig. 50) has been included in the catalogues of the State Museum of Arts of Kazakhstan throughout the Soviet years and even up until now. His painting is once again a light and bright naturalistic depiction of a setting in Central Asia. Full of various characters, it orchestrates a meeting of the traditional and the new. We see men and women wearing modest clothes and headwear, while in the midst we also see a quietly self-assured girl, and a man wearing a revealing white top. On the left side a girl is shown in an unusual stripy shirt – most usually used when depicting sporting events – and is possibly a guest from Russia. Leonev continued to be fascinated with the sun-drenched colours of the East. In his Grandfather and Grandson (1963, fig. 51) the treatment of the painterly surface becomes flat and the colours remain diluted, with only some bright accents coming through. These are examples of what I would call Orientalism as an alternative, or the East as an alternative; that is to say they represent an alternative to the centre with its purges and official art restrictions. There is no clear political message, not even a strict reliance of Socialist Realist rules of painterly composition, but instead there exists a certain aura of escapism.

51. Leonid Leontev, Grandfather and Grandson, 1963. Oil on canvas, 104 × 76, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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This depiction of a famous Central Asian phenomenon – that is, the bazaar – lends a sense of exoticism to the territory. While for the Russian artist it was an instant attraction, a bright spot in an otherwise often barren landscape, for the Central Asian viewer this amounted to an unusual amount of attention being granted to something very ordinary. Both the above examples and countless others from Soviet Orientalism prove Jane Sharp’s assertion that Russian and Soviet depictions of the East differed from European versions of the same. Soviet artists were not only involved in depicting the East for the purpose of showing it to the centre: they were in fact creating images for consumption by the native population. Their search for their own identity, or escape from it, led these artists into the process of creating the Central Asians’ view of themselves. Even though this view might have seemed unusual or unexpected, it nevertheless influenced future generations of native artists in the region.

Pavel Benkov: Soviet Impressionism The works of the two most significant Russian artists, both working in Uzbekistan at the time, highlight the differences drawn between Soviet Orientalism and Orientalism as alternative. These are Pavel Benkov and Alexander Volkov. Through the prism of political associations even the most harmlesslooking image of two girls in a vineyard enjoying themselves becomes politicised. In Girlfriends (1940, fig. 13) was Pavel Benkov celebrating an innocent friendship between a Russian and an Uzbek girl and using it to metaphorically represent the same between the two nations in general, or was he alluding to the voluntary and happy surrender of the riches of Uzbekistan to the Russian eye and pocket? Benkov was a Russian working in Uzbekistan as an artist and teacher of art. He completed an enormous amount of work in the development of an Uzbek school of painting, which corresponded to the demands set out by the central authorities for naturalistic and realistic depictions of Soviet life. At a time when a large proportion of the population was going through either relocation or purges, the paintings were required to illustrate the joy that the ‘unbreakable union of free republics’ was bringing the people.45 The

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Soviet Union had to be shown to be the only place to live and be happy, regardless of ethnic background. Benkov came to Uzbekistan from Kazan in Russia and helped to create Samarkand Art College, which he also taught at during 1930s and 1940s. The manner of painting the artist worked in and his preferred subjects were neither overtly political nor strictly Socialist Realist. Some may say that his works are examples of a belated Soviet Impressionism. Benkov must have kept in his memory nineteenth-century Russian paintings such as Girl Gathering Grapes near Naples (1827, fig. 52) by the great Russian master Karl Briullov. What’s even more likely, considering that he had lived in Paris for eight years, is that Benkov took inspiration from the Orientalist works of the French Impressionists, such as PierreAuguste Renoir’s Mademoiselle Fleury in Algerian Costume (1882, fig. 53). Nevertheless, all this did nothing to distract him from the need to address contemporary social issues such as intra-national friendship and economic prosperity. In Girlfriends the viewer is faced with two teenage girls admiring a particularly full vine of grapes. The setting is Central Asia and the majority of characters are Uzbek workers engaged in gathering grapes at what we assume is a collective farm. The sun is shining through the trellis of vines above their heads and their clothing is particularly exotic and bright. However, while all these characteristics are similar to those in the painting Tomato Picking,46 executed by the artist’s companion Kovalevskaya, there is one significant difference: one of the two girls in the centre of the composition is not Uzbek. Her dress is different, she has blonde hair and we can see that her legs and her arms are revealed. This girl is a Russian friend of the Uzbek girl on the left. Originating as an Impressionist and Orientalist take on a Central Asian theme, this painting gains a political and social status. The girls represent two distinct nationalities and their friendly exchange is a metaphor for friendship between nations. The Russian girl is shown as a consumer of this rich picking, like Russia was the consumer of Uzbek and Central Asian natural resources. This painting unifies the differing themes of Socialist Realist art already discussed in this chapter: first is the friendship of the peoples, and especially of natives and Russians;

second is the richness of the Central Asian land and the possibilities it offers for production exploitation; third is the apparent Orientalisation of Eastern lands and its people as expressed through the presentation of them in a decorative and attractive manner which highlights exotic features, shapes and colours. Therefore, this painting becomes a most exemplary illustration of this theme, together with Chuikov’s Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia. Both works present the native in the acceptable Socialist Realist way, giving them a specific new Soviet Central Asian identity. Both are by artists who actively taught at Central Asian educational establishments. In a Soviet publication, Eldest Soviet Artists on Central Asia and the Caucasus (1973), we read that ‘Benkov was among those Russian artists, whose selfless and fruitful artistic and pedagogical practice speeded up the victory of the cultural revolution in the republic [Uzbekistan].’47 Benkov is seen not only as an artist, but as a driving force behind the construction of a new Soviet life.

52. Karl Briullov, Girl Gathering Grapes Near Naples, 1827. Oil on canvas, 62 × 52.5, © 2014, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

53. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mademoiselle Fleury in Algerian Costume, 1882. Oil on canvas, 126.5 × 78.2, Sterling and Frencine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Bridgeman Images.

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In other works the artist addresses street scenes in Uzbekistan. In 1932, before the official introduction of the Socialist Realist doctrine, he paints House with Water Bearers,48 which is, one might say, a typically lyrical Orientalist image characterised by bright colours, attention to detail in its depictions of architecture and the clothing of the inhabitants, and a certain examination of the exotic – something the artist had not seen in his native land. In 1944 Benkov paints Scene of the Past,49 which is much greyer than the House with Water Bearers. The inhabitants are mostly women who are covered by layers of clothing, the street is unpaved and the houses are shabby. We no longer see a fascinating scene but instead see a setting which is supposed to show Uzbekistan before it became part of the Soviet Union. Indeed, the title reveals its purpose. It seems that within a decade the attitude of the artist towards traditional Uzbek life has shifted to fall into line with Soviet doctrine. In a similar way, a comparison between his portraits reveals an undercurrent of political and social sentiment. Yet in 1929 he paints A Clerk from Bukhara,50 a lavishly dressed figure from a disappearing but beautiful past, possibly with a slightly evil but simultaneously captivating gaze.51 Both resentment and admiration are given to the character. By 1947 the main character in Benkov’s work becomes a shy Uzbek in Girl with a Dutar.52 While her face is revealed, unlike the inhabitants of Scene of the Past she is also shown looking away from the viewer; this is no longer an assertive Asian person. Freed by Soviet power, she is content with being defined by that power. Benkov did not paint the magnificent architecture of Samarkand and Bukhara, for which both towns are famous. He also didn’t concentrate on portraits of Soviet officials. He stayed in the safe space in between the crudely political and the mildly Orientalist. His works were done in an artistic style that leaned more towards European Impressionism than Russian Realism. However, being on the outskirts of the Soviet empire, he allowed himself a certain freedom in this respect. The East allowed him to express his personal visions of art, which he absorbed from his days at art college in St Petersburg between 1901 and 1909 and his travels in France, Spain and Italy. In a way, the fact that he chose to follow, albeit belatedly, an Impressionist aesthetic enabled him to dissolve within the Soviet system.

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In a variety of ways he has influenced future generations of Uzbek and Central Asian artists, both those who studied under him in the art college of Samarkand and those who viewed his art in the National Museum in Tashkent. He passed on his own Orientalist mentality to the native population, which then engaged in a process of self-Orientalisation, something that is discussed further in the next chapter. Being among the most exhibited artists of his time, and indeed of today, Benkov produced artworks that continue to fascinate viewers across the nation. Like other official Soviet artists, he avoided themes of struggle or hardship, even of technological transformation, but concentrated on friendships between people and nations and on cultural and societal transformations, especially those related to the position of women. He left behind a patchy and mostly invented view of Soviet Uzbekistan.

Alexander Volkov: Alternative East or Late Modernism In Hoeing of Cotton (early 1930s, fig. 25) Alexander Volkov at first glance presents a strange hybrid of modernist primitivism and Socialist Realist subject matter, both of which were concerned with the depiction of labour. However, upon closer examination it becomes clear that the modernist aesthetic the Russian artist brings with him from earlier artistic experiments will not coincide with Soviet requirements of representation. The aesthetic and content of Volkov’s work is not dissimilar to Diego Rivera’s monumental pieces of late 1920s (fig. 54).53 In Volkov’s attempt at the then popular theme of cotton production, Uzbek workers are squashed together in such a way that it seems their next move will inevitably be to hit one another. This example of an alternative and often forbidden stride in Soviet art dramatically contrasts with Andrei Mylnikov’s In Peaceful Fields (1950, fig. 55), which is twice the size of Volkov’s work. Both paintings are now in the collection of the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg. However, they entered the collection at different dates. The latter work, and others similar to it, would end up in an official exhibition centre almost immediately after creation. In contrast, Volkov’s painting only came to such a centre in 1981 through a donation by his son. In the 1930s his works were not deemed worthy of exhibition in the larger museums

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and remained within the family or in the possession of local collections, far away from Moscow’s watchful eye.54 In Eldest Soviet Artists on Central Asia and the Caucasus (1973), Volkov is presented as a pioneer of the Soviet tradition of depiction of the East.55 Russian by ethnicity, he was born in Uzbekistan and devoted his life to painting and teaching there. Yet in the 1965 edition of the catalogue of the Uzbekistan Art Museum there is no mention of Volkov. The same publication presents Ural Tansykbaev, an artist discussed in the next chapter, as the leading Uzbek landscape painter.56 The paths and fates of these two men, who started as friends and like-minded artists, led in opposite directions towards irreconcilable differences. Although born in Turkestan (the former name of the Central Asian territories), Volkov received his education in St Petersburg and Kiev in Ukraine and was particularly influenced by monumental church frescoes,

54. Diego Rivera, Threshing, 1928, detail from the Ministry of Education frescoes (1923-1928), Mexico City, Mexico. © 2015 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./DACS, De Agostini Picture Library/M. Seemuller/Bridgeman Images.

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the tradition of icon painting and artworks by the Russian symbolist Mikhail Vrubel. He came to Tashkent to work as an artist and teacher much earlier than his Russian colleagues, in 1916, one year before both Russian revolutions. His works remained openly flat and often abstract or semi-abstract. His subject matter evolved from a utilisation of Central Asian motifs for decorative or formal purposes to the portrayal of new economic and social orders. However, the artist’s insistence on the use of flat simplified forms and bright colour did not win him official support. In the 1920s Volkov’s works, such as Three Musicians (1921–2, fig. 56) and Fruit Sellers (1928, fig. 57), began to exhibit a dark Cubist aesthetic. His subject is Oriental males and their traditional activities. In the 1930s the emphasis shifts towards agricultural production, especially cotton. Hoeing of Cotton and Cotton Harvest (1931, fig. 58) display a much lighter and brighter palette of colours and lose any abstraction almost entirely. Flat areas of colour and simplified shapes alternate with modelling and shading, giving the figures a feeling of three-dimensional monumentality. Squashed into the picture frame, characters are engaged

55. Andrei Mylnikov, In Peaceful Fields, 1950. Oil on canvas, 200 × 400, © 2014, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

in a new collective form of social activity, namely labour and production on a massive scale. The foregrounds of both compositions are occupied by large portrait-like figures, the backgrounds are full of human activity and all natural landscape is obliterated. The mood is uncertain. While men in the first image resolve to accomplish their hard work, women are shown with differing facial expressions that vary from the hint of a smile to a certain air of sadness in the central character. In the second composition Uzbek women are shown holding the cotton harvest in their hands, bowing towards the viewer in a gesture of offering. Compare this to Nadezhda Kashina’s Success of the Team in which women are seen smiling and actively discussing their success. Volkov’s scene is almost eerily quiet as further work continues in the background and the massive Socialist production plans break the backs of these Uzbek women. Volkov spent fifty years in Uzbekistan and his relationship with the land and the country went beyond that of the Self and the Other. Having been educated in both Russia and Ukraine singled him out, but his willing immersion in Eastern culture manifested itself in such compositional traits as vertical perspective – a feature typical of Persian miniatures and Chinese watercolours. The abstracted shapes and inverted 56. Alexander Volkov, Three Musicians, 1921–2. Oil on canvas, 80 × 90, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty. Photo courtesy of Andrey Volkov, © the estate of Alexander Volkov, Moscow.

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perspectives of some works may be linked to his interest in the Russian icon-painting tradition, while colour schemes link him to either European Post-Impressionist schools or examples of Russian Symbolism. The monumentality of his work and tight framing of his subjects may be due to his interest in wall paintings in Kiev’s churches. He brought with himself a mix of cultural influences and artistic backgrounds, Central Asia being one of them. Being far from the artistic and political centres of the Soviet Union, he was allowed to work undisturbed, even if his works were not commissioned or acquired by large museums or institutions. His impact on the next generation of native Uzbek artists might have been lesser in

57. Alexander Volkov, Fruit Sellers, 1928. Tempera, oil and varnish on canvas, 102 × 102, © State Museum of Oriental Art, © the estate of Alexander Volkov, Moscow.

58. Alexander Volkov, Cotton Harvest, 1931. Oil on canvas, 125 × 139.5, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, © the estate of Alexander Volkov, Moscow.

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extent than that of his contemporary Pavel Benkov, but he also had a school of followers. However, some of these did have to resort to Socialist Realist methods during the harshest Soviet period, which occurred under Stalin’s rule. While Volkov was obviously preoccupied with the changing atmosphere in the republic, his works didn’t deal with friendships between nations or active transformations in the social sphere, or even with the issue of national identity. He did not compare the past and the future or address the Sovietisation of the labour process. His works reveal the effort and strain inflicted by such labour, but do not openly talk about the Soviet nature of it. Retrospectively, he has influenced our understanding of Uzbek and Central Asian identities and the modifications of these during the Stalinist period. However, as his work did not receive wide coverage in exhibitions during those years, he probably did not take a place in the ‘museumification’ of national identity.

Museumification of National Identity Judging an artist by what he or she has done is a norm in art history. Judging an artist by what he or she has not done is a special process reserved for the history of twentieth-century totalitarianism. Should artists who didn’t comply with the rules be treated as heroes? Are artists who did comply worthy of study? What can be dismissed and forgotten, and when should it be? Walking into a museum in Tashkent, Bishkek or Almaty one sees smiling faces in all the paintings, but these works don’t include the familiar images of Lenin or Stalin. Does this mean that they didn’t exist? Stalin, for example, can be said to be existent in every smile shining down from official art from the 1930s to the early 1950s. Would it be appropriate then to remove these into restricted access storage as well? An exhibition called Art and Power: Europe under the Dictators, 1930–45 that took place in Britain and Europe in 1995, and its accompanying eponymous catalogue, led the reader to believe that Stalin was in fact following Lenin’s line, as both these leaders, similarly to Hitler, believed that ‘in a revolutionary society, culture had to be engaged with the party.’57

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The Soviet system for commissioning art was complex and inescapable. Any artist, whether Russian or Central Asian, had to go through a number of steps in order to get his or her works officially accepted and exhibited. Stalin’s attitude towards the role of art and mass culture in the re-education of the people certainly points to the fact that he believed that when given a certain amount of publicity, visual information can alter people’s minds. Most interestingly in this case such information does not have to be true or even believable. The creation of a new public was, however, not altogether Stalin’s idea. As Boris Groys points out, culture under Stalin inherited the Russian avant-garde’s belief that ‘humanity could be changed and was driven by the conviction that human beings were malleable’.58 Reforming Tsarist Russia into the Soviet Union was not a small task. The truly massive scale of reform called for incredible imagery to be distributed to all corners of the vast country. Artists of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s omitted any tensions from their work in favour of cheery depictions of Eastern lands and people. The transformation of perception was supposed to originate in the viewer’s contact with the image. Hence the belief that positive imagery led to a positive perception of the situation. At the same time, any diversion from such imagery was considered dangerous. The Soviet Union offered citizenship to everyone who lived within its territory regardless of ethnic background. However, such citizenship involved the introduction of new norms of behaviour. One such norm was learning to speak the language of intra-national communication within the Union. Another, learning to read the imagery offered through films, photomontages and paintings. For artists to be part of the Artist’s Union they had learn to paint in the chosen Socialist Realist format. Such rigidity of the painterly canon was not new for Russian artists, who since the times of icon painting, through Imperial commissions, and towards the avant-garde’s all-enveloping dream, were used to being issued narrow corridors for artistic manoeuvre. Today, to be seen as contemporary in the West an artist from Central Asia is expected to make videos and installations, preferably involving naked bodies and some sort of political dissent, the more the better. Quite possibly, this contemporary art today has as little to do with the everyday reality of Central Asians

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as the official art of the 1930s had during its time. Their similarity also lies in the result they produce on the viewing audience. Since both are viewed predominantly by outsiders – of Russian or Western origin – the image that they form becomes the main source of an imaginary truth for its beholders. A total visual space formed the basis of totalitarianism in the Soviet context.59 The image that Soviet paintings brought with them was that of a virtual experiment on the grand scale, reliant on the amount of imagery produced and the means of their dissemination. The reality of Socialist Realism lay not in portrayal but in projection since this form of art was backed by a political power that had in its capacity the ability to realise the image and, in short, equate the virtual with the material. Socialist Realist paintings of the Soviet East possess a certain ambiguity which rests somewhere between their exoticism and utopianism, and the suggestive departure from old modes of Orientalist art to a seemingly equalising Socialist Realist canon. However, there were apparent tensions within this strand as some artists received commissions and Union-wide fame, while others were omitted from exhibitions and publications. This artistic and cultural process of selection and elimination inevitably brought with it a new form of vision; an officially accepted vision of history, nationality, ethnicity and identity. The fact that this vision was communicated through the medium of oil painting and destined for a museum wall led to a certain museumification of national identities, both in Central Asia and across the Soviet Union. While in Uzbekistan artists paid a lot of attention to changes within everyday life, and to some extent continued the Orientalising process even if within a Socialist Realist mode, in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan the social and political changes that these nations went through were recorded in history paintings. Vladimir Obraztsov created a series of paintings devoted to the anti-Tsarist period, set within the pre-Soviet territory of Kyrgyzia. A Rebel (1931, fig. 59) depicts in no uncertain terms a confrontation between a young Socialist-minded man with a broken red

59. Vladimir Obraztsov, A Rebel, 1931. Oil on canvas, 98 × 98, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

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flag in his hand and a Tsarist gendarme, with two well-off informers standing by. The simplified manner of modelling and wide brushstrokes are typical of the brief Soviet period before the establishment of Socialist Realism as official style in 1934. However, the content obviously supports the Communist Party and the October Revolution. The image was created to prove that the native population of Kyrgyzia was involved in the class struggle as much as the people of Russia, and that the Sovietisation of Turkestan (Central Asia) was not a form of occupation but of liberation and support. Obraztsov’s other works, Partisans (1932, fig. 60) and On the Road to China (1933, fig. 61), also address the themes of class struggle and hardship as they existed in the early part of the twentieth century. These are all works that were supposed to provoke feelings of anger in the native population against the Tsarist Russian and Tsarist native oppressors of the past. They intended to whip up anger against the native’s own history and inspire joy at the new Soviet liberation and way of life. The introduction of Soviet power and the liberation associated with it was once again addressed much later by two artists working in Kyrgyzia, 60. Vladimir Obraztsov, Partisans, 1931. Oil on canvas, 70.5 × 99, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

61. Vladimir Obraztsov, On the Road to China, 1933. Oil on canvas, 71.5 × 85.5, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

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I. Belevich and Gapar Aitiev – the former being Russian and the latter Kyrgyz. Within their large-scale composition The Soviets Have Arrived (1963, fig. 4) the two artists present a scene of celebration. Lenin’s image and red Soviet flags are flying in the air, hovering above the crowd. There is jubilation at the news that the new power is in place. People are shown hugging and smiling at each other, except some of the more wealthily dressed figures to the right of the composition. Hovering on the right here is a red banner bearing writing in Arabic script for the native population and a red flag, bearing the Russian inscription ‘All Power to the Soviets’ with a hammer and sickle emblem, flying high across the blue sky. Lenin’s image is presented in the form of a black and white photograph or print. While a link to the central power in Moscow is established through this image, it also signals the remoteness of the land. While in depictions of the Russian Revolution the figure of Lenin stands on the barricades, in this depiction of a small but jubilant Kyrgyz revolution Lenin’s image is

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a mere copy, just as the revolution itself is a copy with the Kyrgyz nation following in the steps of the Great Russian brother. Another significant theme for Soviet artists in Central Asia was the interaction between generations, with the Soviet hero getting perpetually younger. In Aleksei Bortnikov’s A Letter from Collective Farmers (1949, fig. 62) there is a clear sense that the central character, a young Kazakh man in modern dress, is admired and respected by his peers, young and old alike. The man wears a medal on his jacket and dictates a letter. He is in charge of the collective and in charge of the nation’s future. In order to break with the old traditions and establish a new social order, the Soviet powers educated young men and women, thus

62. Aleksei Bortnikov, A Letter from Collective Farmers, 1949. Oil on canvas, 191 × 281, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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forming new Soviet citizens. For a person with a Central Asian mentality, a scene like the one portrayed in A Letter from Collective Farmers would have differed greatly from traditional societal structures, in which respect for elders was paramount, with any significant decisions being taken by them. The new Soviet Central Asian man was formed on museum walls and in factories and collective farms simultaneously. Nikolai Krutilnikov’s Portrait of the Hot Masonry Specialist D. Makaev (1951, fig. 63) shows just this type of Soviet hero. This strong, stern Kazakh man is at his place of work, not in a nomadic pasture but at a Soviet factory, and he looks into an invisible distance, proud of his achievements and devoted to the economy of his country. Judging from the title, this is not a generalised portrait but the portrait of a specific individual. This man is an example to others around him as an image of human sacrifice and accomplishment. He is the new Kazakh hero; not a figure from history but a neighbour or friend. These strands – the denunciation of history, the changing role of generations and the creation of new heroes – all led to upheavals in societal and family structures across Central Asia. The new roles given to men and women were presented to the native population in a progressive light. More importantly, they facilitated the tighter controls and higher production rates necessary for the central powers. Central Asians were taught to admire high art as new art galleries opened across the region in the late 1930s. Within this high art they were then shown the new Self. This process of the creation of identities was further advanced by the establishment of national schools of painting in which native artists learnt how to depict their new nations by following the examples of their Russian masters. The curious marriage between Socialist Realist art and Orientalism within the Soviet context has been seen to provide a visual shield to the massive transformations that Central Asia went through during the course of the twentieth century. The exploitation of both the territory and cultural visual language of the population led to the creation of hybrid identities. Orientalist clichés such as the exoticisation and feminisation of the East have been shown to merge with Socialist Realist

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approaches towards the new Soviet citizen and his new Soviet reality. At the same time, the limiting notion of a power-based art system led to the creation of alternative yet no less Orientalising practices in Soviet painting. At the same time, the straightforward applicability of postcolonial methodologies within Orientalism as a symptom is rendered problematic. The totalitarian state has been shown to have utilised so-called superior and inferior ethnicities, thus undermining the humanity of both at the same time.

63. Nikolai Krutilnikov, Portrait of the Hot Masonry Specialist D. Makaev, 1954. Oil on canvas, 61 × 51, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

four learning to be the natives learn to paint, or the arrival of soviet identities

he three republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan were new Soviet political creations, and fierce battles for identity and survival (artistic or otherwise) were fought within them. Alongside the self-representation, self-fashioning and internal processes that took place in Central Asia, how far did the teaching process affect receptive students? Learning to be or learning to present oneself as a thinking being, able to argue for one’s own presence in the Soviet society of nations, was a process that took place at an accelerated rate during the Stalinist period. Massive transformations took place in Central Asia during the discussed period. The contexts of the learning process and art production included a transition from nomadism, forced collectivisation and its consequential widespread famine, the colonisation of both land and language, the transformation of societal structures, purges of the intelligentsia, the creation of Gulag labour camps, mass migration, World War II and the intense modernisation of industrial production, transport infrastructures and social services. Artists such as Abylkhan Kasteev and Ural Tansykbaev were among the very first generation of locals to join the profession and invariably received Russian instruction. Since an organised system of fine art education did not exist in Central Asia prior to the twentieth century, most of the new schools and colleges were formed during Soviet times. The first generation of Central Asian artists was trained in the studio schools

64. Kanafiya Telzhanov, Lenin, c. 1960. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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of artists such as Nikolai Rozanov (Tashkent, Uzbekistan and Frunze (now Bishkek), Kyrgyzstan) and Nikolai Khludov (Alma-Ata (now Almaty), Kazakhstan), the latter of which, in Alma-Ata, existed until the early 1930s. Following the central reform of art organisations in 1932 various official art institutions and departments were established. The artists whose works are discussed here were educated in a variety of these, including Alma-Ata Art College, Alma-Ata Teacher Training Institute, Dzhalal-Abad Teacher Training Tekhnikum, Samarkand Art Tekhnikum and Tashkent Art College.1 Although their education took place in the 1940s they frequently returned to these institutions to teach in the late 1950s and 1960s, thus replacing the original Russian-led staff groups. In the early 1950s a significant number of these officially approved artists were educated at art colleges in Russia, including the 1905 Art Tekhnikum, the Surikov Institute in Moscow and the Repin Institute in Leningrad. Consequently, Central Asian art schooling during the first part of the twentieth century was heavily dependent upon both Russian artists and, later on, Russianeducated Central Asians. In learning how to depict themselves and their compatriots against the background of their country, these artists created an image of Central Asia that was spread across the Soviet Union; a number of their works were included in the All-Union Art Exhibitions from the late 1940s onwards. Personal presentation also went through a phase of invention as family histories were forged, forgotten or framed in a new light. The public presentation of these Soviet citizens’ own nation and own ethnic origin had to be invented, not only because nationhood itself was a new creation but also because the whole concept of art and visual representation was a new phenomenon for the majority of Central Asians. Victims or victors: where did Soviet history leave the now disintegrated Soviet Central Asia? More importantly, is it possible to separate the selfrepresentation and self-understanding that occurred during this period from the Soviet cultural structures that created the foundations upon which they were constructed?

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National versus Soviet: From History to Everyday Life As a result of the overtly colonial attitude Moscow exercised towards the Asian republics of the Soviet Union, the people residing within these territories became the victims of progress. Here progress is defined as a dramatic change of economic and social conditions involving the denial of some or all fundamental rights for Central Asians. Socialist Realist art played an important part in the process of the creation of new national identities. Not only was the depiction of a new Central Asia regulated and certain imagery encouraged by Moscow, but national schools of art were required to teach their students to work in the Socialist Realist style: self-representation was now channelled through an officially monitored stream. In terms of art and literature the relationship between the centre and the periphery can quite clearly be seen in a ‘letter from a Tartar writer’ quoted by Maxim Gorky in his speech at the Soviet Writers’ Congress in 1934. How genuine this letter was cannot be confirmed. However, the fact of its inclusion and publication means that it represents the opinion of non-Russian, or more precisely non-Slavic, writers and artists as it was desired by those in power. From it we learn that ‘The great October Revolution has given us writers of the oppressed and backward nations unlimited possibilities,’ and that these writers believe that they have and want to know of their ‘shortcomings and errors (of which we have more than others)’.2 Official descriptions of Central Asian works ranged from praising their decorativeness to expressing admiration for the ability of artists to recreate the true circumstances of the life of people in the USSR’s distant lands. Talking about various works by artists working in Kazakhstan, the authors of Art of the Nations of the USSR state that they show the ‘workers of Kazakhstan, the life of which takes place in nature and they are connected with it by thousands of threads’.3 Not only did the authors see those paintings of the endless steppes as poetic descriptions of reality, but they desired that the reader believe the reality itself was poetic. If the tension between national and Soviet can be expressed in more straightforward terms it would be shown as a contrast between past

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and present, the so-called archaic and the progressive. Carpets, textiles, ceramics and jewellery were all traditional decorative art forms for Central Asia. But it was oil painting that became an important political tool in the arena in which national and state interests were played out. In a situation that involved forced mass migration, the clashing of cultures, linguistic experimentation and economic reform of drastic proportions, art played a significant role in altering people’s perceptions of both themselves and the world. A Kazakh, Kyrgyz or Uzbek was no longer able to be proud of his or her ethnicity, yet still had to present himself or herself as different from Russian, even though everyone was Soviet. Hence the appearance of slight differentiations: one was no longer Uzbek or Soviet, but Soviet Uzbek. These new national yet Soviet identities were very artificial entities, based as much on a mixture of ethnic and geographical factors as they were on the image of such nations in both the press and official artworks. In short, the ‘total art space’ that was, arguably, the goal of the Soviet propaganda apparatus spread into the area of national representation in Central Asia as strongly as it did into the personality cult across the USSR. ‘[N]ational (or any other) identities are the results of historical processes rather than primordial qualities.’4 Some historians of the Soviet Union use the term Muslim in relation to Central Asia. For example, William Fierman does so in Soviet Central Asia: The Failed Transformation (1991).5 Most notably, Michael Rywkin in Moscow’s Muslim Challenge: Soviet Central Asia (1982 and 1990) regards Central Asia as a growing problem and calls it a minority region.6 The titles of these studies suggest a bias towards the Central Asian region. In The Establishment of National Republics in Soviet Central Asia (2003) Arne Haugen uses the term Central Asian in a more accurate way: he argues that the identity of the peoples of this geographical area were, and still are, defined more by their familial, clan and ethnic connections rather than by religious outlooks. It is also notable that religion was not the basis for divisions between the republics. In his work on strategies adopted by the Soviet regime in relation to the national question, Haugen notes that ‘the state that the internationally-minded revolutionary Socialists established developed into the greatest nation-building polity ever.’7 Soviet delimitation of the

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1920s led to the replacement of the large multi-ethnic entity that was Central Asia with a group of republics, the borders between which were based on ‘main ethnic divisions’.8 Within the art practice of the period the most obvious step towards Sovietisation and the creation of a new identity entailed a repicturing of history. History painting in Moscow and St Petersburg (Leningrad) had been established in the eighteenth century. In the territories of Soviet Central Asia history painting came to represent an important stage within the developing art tradition. The most prolific artists of the genre resided in Kazakhstan and of them the most notable was Kanafiya Telzhanov. Telzhanov studied at both the Alma-Ata Art College and the Repin Institute in Leningrad,

65. Kanafiya Telzhanov, I.V. Stalin in the Caucasus in 1902, 1950. Oil on canvas, 67 × 90, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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therefore receiving part of his art education in Russia. Classic Soviet themes and portraits are depicted in many works of his, such as I.V. Stalin in the Caucasus in 1902 (1950, fig. 65), Iliich’s Order (1962, fig. 66) and Lenin (c. 1960, fig. 64). In all three paintings the central role is given to leaders of the Soviet Union. While the earlier painting depicts Stalin at a moment in his life that forms part of the hagiographic personality cult, the two later works show a return to the admiration of the revolutionary leader Lenin (who was often referred to in the Soviet Union as Iliich). Unusually, Stalin is shown not at the height of his power, but in his early years as a revolutionary in the Caucasus.9 Perhaps for a young Soviet Kazakh artist this image of the feared, but revered, totalitarian dictator seemed to be in close proximity with what he saw as his own nation’s

66. Kanafiya Telzhanov, Iliich’s Order, 1962. Oil on canvas, 167 × 194, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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aspirations; while Stalin was organising anti-Tsarist revolts in Georgia, Kazakh revolutionaries were doing the same in Central Asia. In 1952 Telzhanov painted Red Cavalry of Amangeldy (fig. 67). The painting depicts Amangeldy Imanov (1873–1919), a Kazakh anti-Tsarist (and anti-Russian) revolutionary, who was one of the leading figures of the 1916 revolt and later became one of the first Soviet Central Asian heroes after siding with the pro-Bolshevik movement. In contrast with Stalin’s image, Amangeldy is shown riding high on a horse with an army of eager men following and supporting him. Within the Kazakh painterly tradition artists would continue to utilise the image of a hero on horseback (or just the image of horses) well beyond the Socialist Realist or even Soviet periods. This obsession is clearly revealed and demonstrated in contemporary artist Erbossyn Meldibekov’s work Monument to a Hero (1999, fig. 68) which centres on the absence of the real hero and the fastchanging identity of the false, temporary heroes.

67. Kanafiya Telzhanov, Red Cavalry of Amangeldy, 1952. Oil on canvas, 89 × 150, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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Soviet authorities faced a significant dilemma concerning representations of the early revolutionary period. First of all, the revolts that took place in 1916 across Central Asia and the following Civil War coincided with the Russian Revolution. While the economic reasons for both uprisings may have seemed similar, the Central Asian revolt also involved feelings of national liberation and the revolt itself was directed against the Russian occupation. Therefore, writing a new history for Soviet Central Asia involved erasing the link between anti-Tsarist and anti-Russian sentiment. Young Kazakh artists were encouraged to depict themes and subjects that illustrated the benefits brought to the region by Soviet rule, while avoiding dangerous anti-Russian references. An example of this is a painting by Kamil Shayakhmetov titled Tokash Bokin Confiscates

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Livestock from the Bais (1958, fig. 69).10 While on the one hand it portrays the preceding generation’s class differences and the gap between rich and poor, the painting also exhibits selective and possibly inventive attitudes towards national history. Tokash Bokin (1890–1918) was indeed involved in confiscations of livestock from rich Kazakhs and, allegedly, the subsequent distribution of these to poorer families. While his story may sound like that of Robin Hood, Bokin was not an outlaw and was actually involved in the Bolshevik movement and very much in support of it. The portrayal, therefore, is that of a Soviet hero. While there is always a difference between rich and poor, the economic position of the average Kazakh in Turkestan (Central Asia) at the start of the twentieth century was further dramatised by the Russian occupation of their lands, cutting of regular pasture routes, and so on. At the same time, this painting brings to mind another round of confiscations,

68. Erbossyn Meldibekov, Monument to a Hero, 1999. Mixed media installation with horse’s hooves, 80 × 200 × 60, courtesy of the artist, © Erbossyn Meldibekov.

69. Kamil Shayakhmetov, Tokash Bokin Confiscates Livestock from the Bais, 1958. Oil on canvas, 195 × 295, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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which took place in 1932–3. Similarly to the first confiscation of 1918, those of 1932–3 were linked to Bolshevik-Soviet powers. However, in the 1930s they led to the greatest famine in Kazakhstan and indeed genocide: the loss of an estimated two million people, the majority of whom were Kazakh, and a further 200,000 people of other ethnicities. Following a forced collectivisation that covered the entire territory of the Soviet Union, the confiscation of livestock from primarily stock-raising nomadic communities brought about this devastating result. Such differences between the depictions and the realities of the repressed in the paintings of the period signal the inherent purpose of Soviet art. Socialist Realist images are often associated with utopian visions of the present and the future, while in this example utopian visions of the past were used to serve the present. A utopian past was created in order to complement Soviet ideals of history and to further unbalance the creation of national identity. All of the works that have already been discussed portrayed Central Asian history as taking place within an almost barren landscape. While this feature persists in portrayals of Kazakhstan and other Central Asian republics, there are a couple of exceptional portrayals of architectural structures both in Uzbek and Kazakh paintings of the period. In Uzbekistan, a territory famous for its rich architectural heritage, the issue is addressed by artists such as Zarifa Saidnosirova and Ashraf Razykov. Saidnosirova is a rather unknown figure within Uzbek art history. Her The Mausoleum of Iassavi in Turkestan11 was shown in the exhibition devoted to the ‘First Female Artists of Uzbekistan’. The work excludes any human presence and instead focuses on architectural ruins. It shows a large-scale structure seemingly composed of a variety of clusters, barely standing and in need of urgent attention. The writing and design on the outside of the building seem blurred and simplified. Nevertheless, this is an attempt to portray an important pre-Soviet historic monument. While the painting is small in size, the scale of the portrayed structure is suggested. The mausoleum occupies almost the entire picture frame, without allowing much space for the foreground or background. Possibly executed while Saidnosirova was still a student, this painting displays an interest in depicting a physical structure without, it seems, any conscious social connotations.

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Another Uzbek work, this time by male artist Ashraf Razykov and sentimentally titled Spring in Samarkand,12 uses an architectural landmark as a backdrop in a landscape composition. The painting’s perspective minimises the impact of the monument, suggesting its role not only as a background for paintings, but also possibly as a mere background to the life of Soviet Uzbekistan. While always present, historic sites became decorative tourist attractions rather than places of active social use or signifiers of memory for the native population. History is not erased but diminished in its importance for the new Soviet being. Russian artists, as seen in the previous chapter, are not interested in the portrayal of such monuments and rather concentrate on the poverty of pre-Soviet life and the excitement of new social transformations. Both the early Soviet avantgarde and the Soviet Orientalists adopt the colours and designs of Central Asian applied arts and architecture as compositional elements within their work, rather than as the subjects of it.13 Both Saidnosirova’s and Razykov’s paintings significantly contrast with works by the nineteenth-century Russian Orientalist Vasilii Vereshchagin, whose most striking images of Central Asia always included architectural elements, for example in Celebrating a Victory (1872, fig. 70). While Vereshchagin’s paintings display a mix of Orientalist tropes, such as the barbarity of the natives, the ruinous condition of the grand monuments of the past, and so on, Uzbek artists approached their own heritage in a matter-of-fact way, as if its importance was no longer relevant nor inspiring. For Vereshchagin and his contemporaries, medieval Eastern architecture, together with Central Asian cultural traditions, posed a certain threat in the form of a unifier for anti-Russian confrontational forces such as the army in particular or society in general,14 while for Soviet Uzbeks these monuments seemed to have lost their appeal. Architecture itself played a significant role in Soviet society, as discussed extensively by Vladimir Paperny in Culture 2 and by other authors since. Simulations of a national architectural style started to appear in the national republics themselves and in Moscow quite early on. Paperny uses an image of the Uzbekistan pavilion as an example,15 as it demonstrates a merging of the neo-classical grandeur of Stalin’s years and stylised national motifs. This new architectural and decorative form, mostly manifest in

official governmental buildings, scientific buildings such as the Academy of Sciences in Almaty and cultural buildings such as music halls, theatres and conservatories across Central Asia, spread across the newly Orientalised area to demonstrate to the native population the Soviet interest in sustaining national traditions while channelling such traditions through grand imported forms and architectural constructions.16 While on the outside the image of the republics’ capitals was changing and historic monuments continued to gradually disappear into the past, a more intimate, internal story was brewing in the issue of Central Asian identity formation. Aisha Galimbaeva, a female Kazakh artist, addressed the issues of home and work; her paintings are almost entirely devoted to women and their changing roles in the family and society. Her works were executed during the late 1950s yet they still display a strong Socialist Realist content. Galimbaeva addressed similar issues to those raised by Russian artists of the time, including labour and intra-national relations. In two similar but contrasting works, National Talents (1957, fig. 71) and Textile Factory Workers (1951–60, fig. 11), Galimbaeva’s main subjects are women involved in producing some sort of a fabric. It was 70. Vasilii Vereshchagin, Celebrating a Victory, 1872. Oil on canvas, 195.5 × 257, © State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

71. Aisha Galimbaeva, National Talents, 1957. Oil on canvas, 100 × 130, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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indeed a widespread Soviet phenomenon for textile factories to almost exclusively employ women. However, while the first image shows three women inside a yurt, a traditional if archaic setting, the second image portrays the interior of a modern factory. While manual and machine labour can be contrasted here, this is not the only point of comparison. In the first image the inspector in the group is an older, and therefore more experienced, Kazakh woman wearing a traditional dress and headwear. In the second image this central role is occupied by a blonde Russian woman of a similar age to the two Kazakh women at her side. Her superiority of knowledge comes, one assumes, from her past experience at similar factories. Both the Kazakh and Russian characters of this scene are shown engaged in the happy, collaborative labour processes that were so central to the Soviet economy. Another direct reference to production in Kazakhstan is made in Galimbaeva’s A Guest from the Virgin Land (1961, fig. 72).17 Here we have another bright and cheerful image of Soviet everyday life. A young woman wearing modern clothes, specifically a bright red shirt and a medal, is shown visiting her older relative who is depicted wearing traditional

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attire. While no longer in a yurt, these two women are engaged in the familial activity of drinking tea, and huge aport apples are displayed on the table.18 This is a metaphorical meeting of the new and the old, of the heavy production and agriculture of North Kazakhstan and the luscious apples and warm families of Southern Kazakhstan. Progress and tradition are seated at the same table in a harmonious atmosphere, while in the background lurks the underlying knowledge that everything traditional is soon going to disappear. Tradition itself goes through transformations within Soviet art. Once again Galimbaeva’s works can be used to illustrate these transformations. Two works, A Portrait of a National Craftswoman B. Basenova (1958, fig. 73) and Song of Kazakhstan (1962, fig. 74), are useful in discussing changing attitudes towards tradition in Kazakh society. The first painting shows a particular person known for her decorative designs for textiles and felt-work. This elderly woman is shown in traditional headwear and she is engaged in an artistic creative activity, something often associated in the West with the masculine domain. Even though the character is shown as an empowered and independent woman, at the same time her energy is directed at creating decorative pieces that are non-confrontational and non-political. Song of Kazakhstan shows a group of women in what may seem to be traditional costumes but which are in fact stylised interpretations usually used for concerts and performances. These women are all Kazakhlooking and are placed in an idyllic natural setting among blossoming trees and with mountain peaks in the background. Mountains would become an often-repeated theme in Kazakh art and were mostly associated with south-eastern Kazakhstan where the proportion of the native population was larger than in the north and north-west of the republic. Mountains came to represent a sense of nationality as linked to a distinctive landscape. Without certain national references, this image resembles works by the French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir or Russian nineteenthcentury artists such as Konstantin Korovin and Viktor Borisov-Musatov.

72. Aisha Galimbaeva, A Guest from the Virgin Land, 1961. Oil on canvas, 100 × 150, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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It seems that tradition, if it can be spoken of in relation to this painting, becomes extremely stylised; it no longer involves decorative art but becomes decorative itself. In this circle from traditional to ornamental, Central Asian culture takes on an Orientalised appearance. However, this appearance was not created by Russian artists but by native artists, the latter of whom had learnt to be Soviet and might therefore be termed post-Kazakh.

73. Aisha Galimbaeva, A Portrait of a National Craftswoman B. Basenova, 1958. Oil on canvas, 120 × 103, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

74. Aisha Galimbaeva, Song of Kazakhstan, 1962. Oil on canvas, 141 × 167, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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The Challenge to Tradition: The Patriarchal Family versus the Soviet Friend The emancipation of women is often cited as a positive outcome of the Sovietisation of Central Asia. However, throughout the whole territory of the USSR Stalinist emancipation, to quote Lisa Kirschenbaum, meant a ‘double, even triple, shift for women, who were enjoined to work outside the home, undertake public political work, and devote themselves to the task of raising future communists’.19 Early revolutionaries and Bolsheviks of the 1920s wished to change the basic structures of Russian, and later Soviet, society. One way of doing this was through the disintegration of the family. Stalin, however, reversed this process. In his vision of a closely monitored society the family would serve as the main tool through which to keep the population in order. What unites both the early Soviets and Stalin’s apparatchiks is the use of the term ‘emancipation’ in order to hide the real goal of a total modernisation and mechanisation of society. Children in this society would play two vital roles, both as agents helping to increase adult responsibility and, astonishingly, as the main informants against their parents and older siblings. Childhood ceased to be innocent and, just as in other spheres of Soviet society, became highly politicised. Courage, endurance, unselfishness and conformity were the main characteristics that the Soviet state desired to develop in its children.20 The theme of utopian visions in relation to childhood is closely linked to Russian literary and artistic traditions of the nineteenth century. In his The Battle of Childhood: Creation of a Russian Myth (1990), Andrew Wachtel explains that in Russian literature and pre-revolutionary culture childhood was linked to the Golden Age, something that was seen to have happened in the recent rather than distant past. Therefore childhood as a theme became the means by which interpretations of the past could be provided.21 In terms of the new Soviet focus on images of children, it is possible to suggest that the so-called Golden Age remained linked to childhood. However, since in new Communist art and literature children represented the future, they became signifiers of a new Golden Age: that of the utopian Communist dream.

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The Soviet family formed only part of the overall state structure for educating children. Children were taught that attitudes within the family were only acceptable if they were in harmony with the purposes of the state.22 Therefore loyalty to the state was considered much more important than loyalty to the family. The weakening of blood ties was propagated on a national scale, with children being used as weapons in ideological battles.23 Beyond the family, newly formed institutions such as Soviet schools and pioneer camps enforced an ideology of allegiance to the USSR. In spending less time with the family, each child was consequently spending more of it within a Soviet education apparatus geared towards raising a new and different generation of human beings. This insistence on loyalty to the state went against two main levels of identification for Central Asians. On the one hand, within these traditional, partially nomadic, partially Muslim societies, national or ethnic identification had a very strong and deep-rooted history. On the other hand, family values, traditions and laws were extremely structured and closely adhered to. Uprooting both familial links and ethnic loyalties meant a complete destruction of the past and therefore of the existing identity of Central Asians. Such destruction was a Soviet goal for both the region and the whole of the Soviet Union. Loyalties and links were only encouraged if they were to the Soviet state and the Communist Party. One such loyalty can be represented through images of sport. As shown by Mike O’Mahony in Sport in the USSR: Physical Culture – Visual Culture (2006), sport or fizkultura (physical culture) played a vital role in Soviet society and in the formation of the new Soviet individual.24 It took its place among accepted themes in Socialist Realist painting. In Fizkulturniki (1938, fig. 75) two Kyrgyzs are shown dressed in sportswear in the middle of a stadium. The artist, Gapar Aitiev, was one of the first Kyrgyz artists and the National Museum of Arts in Bishkek is named after him. Presumably a man and a woman – based on their hairstyles – the two figures possess similarities in figure and clothing. Their attire is highly revealing and they are participating in a social and physical activity together, outside of the space of the traditional family or even outside of traditional forms of friendship.

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These sportsmen are shown as heroes of the new Soviet Krygyzia; they are elevated to an almost monumental level. The painting shares certain similarities with the works of well-known Soviet Russian artists Alexander Deineka and Alexander Samokhvalov, both of whom produced a significant number of works depicting Soviet fizkultura.25 Fizkulturniki demonstrates the adoption of already existing Soviet modes of representation for sporting activities by a Kyrgyz artist. Young men and women are shown clearly as Soviet citizens, even if they have Asian complexions. By 1938, one year before the start of World War II, the Soviet Union had already actively engaged in preparations for possible military action. The physical fitness of both men and women was among the top priorities of the state. However, in a Central Asian context the image of such an overtly new activity for society, which engaged both men and women, also symbolises a departure from the traditional patriarchal society of the past and the adoption of new Soviet modes of social interaction. Quite different, then, is an image of motherhood by Uzbek artist Rakhim Akhmedov titled Mother’s Contemplation (1956, fig. 76). Of a

75. Gapar Aitiev, Fizkulturniki, 1938. Oil on canvas, 99 × 143, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

76. Rakhim Akhmedov, Mother’s Contemplation, 1956. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Photo courtesy of Gayane Umerova, © the estate of Rakhim Akhmedov, Tashkent.

significantly later date, this work shows a stylistic departure from the simplified shading, colour and form aesthetic of earlier examples of Socialist Realism. Borrowing from both Russian Realism of the nineteenth century and European Impressionism, this work grants attention to the facial expression, physical pose and mood of the sitter, thus creating a metaphoric image of societal expectations and perceptions. An aged woman is shown modestly dressed; her head is covered and her eyes are directed to the side so that she does not confront the viewer.

77. Kamil Shayakhmetov, Youth Brigade, 1960. Oil on canvas, 200 × 142, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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Although the painterly style and aesthetic of the picture have direct links with Russian and Soviet painting traditions, the image itself has a resolutely different message from those expected at that period. The depicted is not a young helpless girl, nor is she a factory worker. She is also not a Soviet hero but is instead a representation of Central Asian morality. Respect and admiration for elders and closeness to nature are advocated on the one hand, and the position of women in society and simple living conditions on the other. The past, it seems, is the subject of the painting rather than the usual utopian future. The contemplative sadness of the sitter suggests a certain level of regret, the nature and reason of which is left open to the viewer’s reading. While the two paintings discussed above present two very differing pictures of Soviet Central Asia, some other works aim to unite the worlds of different generations. One artist in particular concentrated on this matter, namely Kamil Shayakhmetov. Kazakh artist Shayakhmetov studied both in Kazakhstan and Russia and his painterly style and subject matter are resolutely Socialist Realist. While the locations depicted in his paintings are diverse, there is always the feeling of a meeting of two worlds. For example, in Youth Brigade (1960, fig. 77) we see the metaphorical portrayal of a friendly interaction between nationalities and genders. While on the one hand the painting depicts the new position of women as part of the workforce and on a par with that of men, on the other hand the two central characters also represent two nationalities, namely Russian and Kazakh. Not unlike Pavel Benkov’s previously discussed Girlfriends (1940, fig. 13), this painting is about intra-national friendship and cooperation, and about the voluntary unity of different cultures. Shayakhmetov absorbed the tradition of depicting such a harmonious coexistence from Soviet art of the 1940s and 1950s, the years of his art education, and translated it into his own work. Therefore this accord takes on a much more pronounced form, beyond metaphorical depictions; a Kazakh artist is seen making images that utilise and confirm the assumptions and stereotypes projected by Russian artists of the previous generation. While Youth Brigade deals with a meeting of nationalities and of the Self and the Other, his other works represent, in very direct form, a meeting of generations within one ethnic group, the Self meeting the

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Self, as it were. In both In the Native Village26 and To the Shepherds’ Celebration (1962, fig. 78) the artist tries to convey links and differences between the older and younger generations of Kazakhs. The youths’ clothes and postures are significantly different, especially in relation to the traditionally minded elders. In both works the central position on the picture surface is given to young men dressed in bright shirts, yellow and orange respectively. While women are shown as central characters, their attire hints at the position of women in pre-Soviet society and the significance of that often-cited Soviet achievement of emancipation. The artist shows that the transformation has not taken place. However, these are not critical images and seem instead to be suggesting acceptance not only of the new but also of the old, thus allowing for coexistence and dialogue, rather than an insistence on progress that brings destruction. In Shayakhmetov’s famous work Midday (1959, fig. 33) the central characters are a mother and a child. An eternal image of future and peace, based on both Eastern and Western art-historical examples, this Socialist Realist painting aims to present an image of the Soviet utopia as seen by a Kazakh artist. While technical progress is visible in the background – a

78. Kamil Shayakhmetov, To the Shepherds’ Celebration, 1962. Oil on canvas, 135 × 284, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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green automobile parked by the side of a yurt suggests motorisation, roads and infrastructure – the central role is given to the reincarnation of the timeless image of humanity’s unity with nature. All the central characters in the image are women of different ages involved in a variety of common nomadic activities, such as milking a horse and spinning wool. There is the presence of a watermelon, a fruit favoured by Russian artists in their attempts at Orientalisation (see Chuikov, Kalmykov, and so on). However, it is not in the hands of a young girl facing bashfully away from the viewer while being presented to him – artists who use this method are invariably male – but instead the red fruit is in the hands of a boy who is going on about his daily life, ignored by the women and ignoring them. Midday puts women back into their traditional pre-Soviet roles, while not denying the process of emancipation. In a way, it is the image of a Kazakh man’s desire for a return to the stability associated with tradition, while accepting the transformations that are inevitable in the Soviet world. While an adult male figure is absent from the composition, his presence is suggested not only as the father of the child who is the centre of attention, but also as an artist in particular and creator in general and, inevitably, as a viewer and consumer of this idyllic image and idyllic lifestyle. Departing from an overtly Orientalised image of women, this Kazakh artist did not escape from revealing his own perception of gender relations and so inevitably he became involved in the process of identity creation. At the same time, could this scene be seen as the ‘midday’ of Soviet Kazakhstan? Already the horrors of collectivisation and World War II are in the past. Happy faces and a plump baby are depicted against the blue sky, thus presenting a reassuring picture of a nation prospering in its own land and looking forward to a bright future. But, as with all Socialist Realist painting, this is to be expected. The question really is what did this happiness cost and how it was achieved, if at all? It is a successful visualisation of Susan Buck-Morss’s words: ‘the dream of culture for the masses has created a panoply of phantasmagoric effects that aestheticize the violence of modernity and anaestheticize its victims.’27 The exploitation of human labour and land, or natural resources, formed part of the system of governance that promised industrial abundance and sociological prosperity for the future.

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Depictions of this and similar themes by Central Asian artists point to the support given by the authorities of the time to presenting such views of happiness, unity and prosperity. However, it also reveals myriad tensions inherent in the tradition of art that was rapidly learnt by Central Asian artists. While giving them the option of self-representation, rather than representation by another, the new art form also came with limitations. One of these limitations was Socialist Realism and another, its direct predecessor, the Russian tradition of Orientalism. While contemporary reality had to be filtered through the rosy prism of officially recognised art, any representation – of the past or the future – was tinted with pre-existing visions of Central Asia or the Russian ‘Orient’ as created by previous generations of Russian artists. While museums and galleries established in the late 1930s exhibited art by Russian artists for the natives to view, Russian artists were actively involved in establishing and running teaching academies across the region. This process of teaching and learning impacted not only on the artistic style developed by new native artists, but also, arguably, altered their view of contemporary reality and their own ethnicity.

Literacy, Language and Education The questions of national consciousness and national identity were raised by various Central Asian intellectuals prior to the 1917 October Revolution. Colonisation was seen as an inescapable fact, but also as something that threatened the very existence of these nations. Ironically, these intellectuals, most notably Chokan Valikhanov and Abai Kunanbaev, came from privileged backgrounds and received Russian schooling. In his study of the origins of modern Kazakh nationalism, Steven Sabol inquires into the socio-political, economic and cultural aspirations of the Kazakh nineteenth- and early twentieth-century intelligentsia. There has been only a superficial analysis of modern Kazakh nationalism in the cases of both Soviet and Western scholars.28 This was in part due to the official line held by the coloniser, who did not wish for the development of such inquiries: the 1930s purges of both the national intelligentsia and Russian scholars working on the ancient history of the region supports this claim.

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However, it was also in part due to the contradictory nature of Central Asian nationalism at the beginning of the twentieth century; its exponents were increasingly faced with the dilemma of balancing the requirements of progress and maintaining a distinctive national identity. Therefore, the initial reaction of most of them to the October Revolution was positive and supportive, rather than cautious. Language plays a vital role in the formation of a collective or national consciousness. Spoken and written language was one of the main areas of focus within the cultural politics of the Soviet state. It is not by accident that in Kazakhstan the native language was spoken only by the minority in the second half of the twentieth century. At the beginning of the century the Kazakh intelligentsia placed great hope in language, especially printed material and overall literacy, as a basis for and ‘critical means to liberate the people from colonial oppression’ and promote ‘proto-national cohesion’.29 Benedict Anderson argues that ‘imagined communities’ can be formed and dismantled by means of the conscious manipulation of language. One such example would be the creation of ‘languages of power’ in nineteenth-century Europe; that is, printed languages. In this case power is linked to ‘print capitalism’.30 In the case of the Soviet Union it can be said that for a certain period of time the language policy of Russification proved to be extremely effective. For example, it saw the introduction of not only the Russian language but also the Russian script for native languages in Central Asia. This meant that the unity the Central Asian nations held with other Turkic-speaking people was gradually lessened. To heighten Soviet consciousness at the expense of Islamic identification, the Soviet authorities first imposed an anti-Islamic, compulsory Romanisation of the previously Arabic alphabet during the 1920s. Following this, Stalin’s reign brought Russification and the compulsory use of the Cyrillic alphabet during the 1930s.31 In pre-Soviet Central Asia or Turkestan, as it was known then, several very similar languages were spoken. Divisions between languages held only vague geographic and social borders. The largest parts of Central Asia shared Turkic-based languages, some so similar they could be described as dialects of the same language. Literacy was not

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widespread, but it did exist: books and newspapers were published and schools took in children of various backgrounds. On the one hand, Soviet education policy aimed at increasing literacy across Central Asia, yet on the other it strove towards a decreasing reliance on religious and nationalistic texts. The Russification of official documents and eventually of the education system, especially within the territories of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, meant that Russian gradually emerged as the language of both everyday communication between individuals and the official language of state institutions and papers. The process of teaching underwent a general overhaul in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and remained high on the agenda for the Union’s entire existence. The unified system of schooling came into force with an officially approved programme that was rolled out across the Soviet Union. While the standards of both school and university teaching

79. Sabyrbek Akylbekov, Liquidation of Illiteracy, 1938. Oil on canvas, 107 × 143, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

80. Kanafiya Telzhanov, Change, 1955. Oil on canvas, 67 × 52.5, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

were much higher in Moscow and Leningrad, other republics opened their own education establishments. A quota was put in place for the number of gifted students from across the country who should enter the best institutions. This move further differentiated between centre and periphery education. The realm of art education can be addressed in two different ways: art education itself and the depiction of education in art. All of the artists whose works have been discussed in this chapter received their education either from Soviet or Russian artists residing in Central Asia, or at art institutions in Moscow and Leningrad. Therefore their education was inherently biased in terms of national self-identification. While Orientalism in its European sense was seen as an alien phenomenon – the admiration

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of Eastern lands was not seen as a worthy Soviet goal – new forms of Socialist Realist Orientalism arguably involved a vision of Central Asia as a progressively transformed space. The Sovietisation of Central Asia became the main concern in art and, therefore, in art education. Themes that were given to artists to depict reflect this. Artists were required to portray images from collective farming to construction sites, and from portraits of Soviet heroes to the improved everyday life of common Soviet citizens. Subjects such as labour camps, military testing, overuse of land, nationalistic conflict, and even personal life, were not accepted by the Soviet and Communist Party art establishment. Artists who were themselves students observed a transformation in the education system and depicted themes that were positive about and propagated the Soviet system. Images of their native countries therefore became distorted in the hands of these artists. For example, Sabyrbek Akylbekov’s Liquidation of Illiteracy (1938, fig. 79), created when the artist was just out of a Moscow art college, shows a scene in a village school. The students at the table are not young boys and girls, but adults. What is curious is whether these people were able to write and read or not prior to the Sovietisation of Kyrgyzstan, or are they in fact shown learning the new Cyrillic scripts? The title suggests that the students depicted are in fact illiterate and, therefore, implies the progressive nature of the Soviet presence in Central Asia. A more typical depiction of education and new, or newly discovered, literacy usually involved young girls – not unlike Chuikov’s A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia. A notable example of an artist adopting such depictions is Kanafiya Telzhanov, who was seen previously in this chapter to engage with history paintings and political portraiture. Another strong strand in his work is the depiction of young children coming to education for the first time, as seen in Change (1955, fig. 80) and In a Sunny Land (1960, fig. 17).32 While in the first work the gender of the child is uncertain, the second is most definitely a depiction of a girl. Despite tackling similar subject matters, the two works aspire to different goals. In the first one a stark difference between generations is suggested: a child in the foreground and an elderly couple in the centre of the background exchange gazes and share a certain unease at being separated. The title

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of the work suggests a departure from one lifestyle to another, from one generation to the next. It is notable that it is the grandparents, not the parents of the child, who bring the child to school, thus underlining the difference between generations, but also, possibly, suggesting that both parents are at work or are no longer alive. A complete loss of parents or, more precisely, of the parents’ generation is seen in the second work, In a Sunny Land. There is only one character in the composition, and she is neither assisted by adults nor within confines of a school. The young girl is shown to be deeply engrossed in her book. She wears a red pioneer’s scarf around her neck and in this way the role of the Soviet education system is underlined. The metaphor of sitting by the door can be read as her aspiration to learn and is a nod towards the bright and sunny future. She is not only an image

81. Kanafiya Telzhanov, For the First Time, 1954. Oil on canvas, 57 × 67, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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of Soviet childhood, but also a representative of her country and her republic. One gathers from the painting that young pioneers like her would build sunny futures for their lands, for the Soviet lands. In another work Telzhanov utilises the female image most prominently. For the First Time (1954, fig. 81) shows a young girl, dressed in a national dress, and standing shyly between the door and her new teacher while another child peers from behind the door. The teacher is shown sitting with her back to the viewer. However, it is obvious through her profile, her hair colour and its style that she is of Russian origin. Kazakhs and Central Asians in general are known for their musical abilities. In fact, the two fine arts introduced to Kazakhstan during Soviet times that gained the most success and were developed the furthest were opera and classical music. However, there existed a wealth of national instruments and folk music in the area before the Soviet introduction of concert halls and musical academies. In Telzhanov’s painting we assume that we see a young girl with a natural musical talent. Perhaps she has even been taught by her relatives to sing and play national instruments; this is suggested by her dress, which was often used in traditional and folk performances. She arrives at school, an area outside of her comfortable home, and is required to interact with a Russian music teacher who will teach the girl to play piano, or possibly to sing to piano music. Here the piano represents a form of positive advancement introduced by the Soviet and Russian system of education. In a way it plays the role of mediator between national talent and a Western, therefore apparently civilised, recognition of it. In a similar way Central Asian artists were taught painting instead of traditional applied arts. This of course enabled them to participate in All-Union Exhibitions in order to represent their republic, although within a limited framework, through their own eyes and with their own brush. Central Asian performers of opera and classical music today take part in worldwide tours and exhibit their skills in concert halls equipped for specific instruments and voices. However, their own national forms of singing and their traditional instruments can only be found in peculiar Central Asian-themed events and these hardly find a wide audience. Similarly, Central Asian visual artists today find that exhibiting art that takes

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Western forms, such as video, installation and performance, leads to wider demand abroad than traditional applied art forms, the latter largely being objects that are sold as souvenirs rather than as artworks. These traditions in performance and the visual arts of today both originated in Soviet Socialist Realism as it was introduced and taught to the indigenous population of Central Asia from the 1930s onwards. This stark difference between the processes that took place and their impact poses difficulties in creating a fixed opinion about the period between the 1930s and 1950s. This period brought transformations to Central Asia and its inhabitants that ranged from devastating to great. As a result the economic and cultural situation in the region completely changed. And now the independence that came in 1991 continues to reveal the various damaging as well as positive effects of Soviet colonisation. However, as the term ‘colonisation’ suggests, none of the transformations was voluntary and all involved the political or economic goals of the Soviet centre.

Land, Agricultural Production and Nostalgia In the first years that followed the Revolution, the Bolsheviks, and later the Communist Party, were keenly interested in Central Asian land for agricultural and other purposes. During Soviet times the territory was used as a dumping ground for a variety of relocated ethnic groups both before and during World War II; it became a site for labour camps, including one of the largest, KarLag; it acted as the location of the Virgin Land project; it functioned as an experimental ground for a variety of agricultural innovations, some of which led to drastic ecological transformations; and it was also used for military purposes, including nuclear tests. While the building of factories and the industrialisation of agriculture allowed for higher production rates, it also brought significant changes to the environment and society. Central Asians were encouraged to see transformations as progress, yet they were also expected to surrender their lands and transform or abandon traditional methods of farming, most notably animal farming in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

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In the 1930s state policies such as collectivisation brought famine, which cost an estimated one and a half million lives. Later, the appropriation of land led to the creation of such enormous projects as the Semipalatisk Test Site, where regular underground and overground tests of atomic weapons were conducted for four decades.33 While in theory the whole territory of Central Asia belonged to various Central Asian nations, in practice both significant decisions and the day-to-day running of the republics were supervised and directed by the central authorities in Moscow. In fact, one of the defining moments in the history of the Soviet Union is the December revolt of 1986, in which Kazakhstan saw uprisings against Moscow’s decision to appoint a Russian leader, Gennady Kolbin, to the republic following a very successful rule by a Kazakh leader, Dinmukhamed Konayev, for twenty years. The revolt did not yield any direct results at the time, yet it remains a cornerstone of both the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the rise of the Kazakhstani movement for independence. Being arguably one of the defining elements of national identification, land or territory is also a vital part of statehood. Borders can provide both security and tension. Following the revolution the area previously known as Turkestan was divided into five republics, a process completed in 1936. Since then, the five entities have kept their borders almost intact. The delineation of borders during the early twentieth century was directed from Moscow under consultation with local governments. However, in the case of Kazakhstan the final demarcation of all its borders only took place in the 1990s. Soviet authorities kept the borders flexible as some territories were passed from one republic to another, often depending on the decisions of the person in power in Moscow.34 Delineation, appropriation and the use of land are all extremely complex issues, which continue to pose significant problems to contemporary governments in Central Asia. During Soviet times the issue of land also became one of the key themes in art. Artists were encouraged to address the issues of agricultural and technological progress on the one hand, while on the other they can be seen expressing their own nostalgia for the pre-Soviet age; during this earlier period nature and man were perceived to have been in closer harmony.

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Sabyrbek Akylbekov created a number of works on the subject of agriculture and his paintings form a good example of the genre. Threshing (1936, fig. 82) is a depiction of abundance and labour. The picture shows modern machinery, traditional horse-led transport and human labour, all of which involve both men and women. It can be viewed as a typical Socialist Realist painting of the 1930s as it displays both a Socialist theme and a Realist handling of this theme. The style in which the painting is made resembles that of Russian artists of the earlier part of the twentieth century, as seen in works such as Pavel Kuznetsov’s In the Steppe. Lying inside Koshara.35 However, the subject matter is distinctly different.

82. Sabyrbek Akylbekov, Threshing, 1936. Oil on canvas, 104 × 154.5, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

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In another work Akylbekov addresses animal farming, something central to Central Asian life. The title The Kolkhoz’s Flock (1939, fig. 83) reveals that the subject depicted is in fact part of the Soviet collective farm system. Flocks of animals with young shepherds is a classic subject in painting and forms part of a European pastoral tradition. However, in Akylbekov’s work the message is not religious, erotic or pastoral but sociopolitical. The depiction of state farming and its successes was one of the goals of the Soviet state and it was encouraged across Central Asia. The date of the painting is only seven years later than the famine that resulted from forced collectivisation, yet the painting suggests prosperity and continuity, thus obliterating historic tensions and difficulties. Akylbekov continued working with the theme of agriculture after World War II, painting works such as In Beetroot Fields (1957, fig. 84). This work, similar to The Kolkhoz’s Flock, illustrates the union of manual and machine labour. However, the artist’s painterly style has been altered. Perspective, the treatment of figures and the painterly surface in general have all been matured to correspond with Union-wide Socialist Realist standards – here painting moved gradually closer towards the photographic imitation of reality on the canvas. Naturalism is favoured as a style, while the subject matter continues to indicate prosperity, labour and production. Notably, all the characters in this painting are female, possibly due to the changed nature of the workforce; a large number of men were lost during World War II and at the same time new factories attracted mostly male personnel. The line of the horizon is a faint line in a glorious mountain range. Gradually, alpine landscapes will become the focus of artistic attention in both Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. In the late 1950s, after the death of Stalin and a slight relaxation of the official regime, artists across the Soviet Union began to experiment, starting with subject matter. For the majority of official artists, who exhibited at the republic-level and at All-Union Exhibitions, the scope for experimentation was limited. The genre of landscape started to be used as a form of expression for these restricted freedoms. For example,

83. Sabyrbek Akylbekov, The Kolkhoz’s Flock, 1939. Oil on canvas, 51.5 × 72.5, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

84. Sabyrbek Akylbekov, In Beetroot Fields, 1957. Oil on canvas, 100 × 160, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek.

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Zakir Inogamov utilised an agricultural landscape as a setting for a semi-private scene in A Call for a Tea Break.36 The attention is shifted from the landscape itself to the character in the foreground. Although the viewer cannot see her face, this woman is clearly of Eastern (Uzbek) origin, with her dark hair, complexion and traditional dress (including trousers under a long skirt). The scene is linked to the process of labour but takes place as this process stops for a moment. The artist seems to revel in Oriental detailing, from the woman’s dress to the shape of the teapot, and there are even watermelons. Linking Russian traditions of painting with his vision of a proper scene of rest, the artist moves the Socialist Realist traits of the painting – trucks, electricity pylons and busy workers – into the background. The haystack in the foreground becomes less of an image of production and more one of a comfortable place offering respite from work. Kazakh artist Moldakhmet Kenbaev, who studied at Moscow’s premier art institution, the Surikov Institute, goes even further in his

85. Moldakhmet Kenbaev, Conversation, 1958. Oil on canvas, 100 × 200, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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treatment of landscape. In his painting Conversation (1957, fig. 85) the artist takes out any suggestion of Soviet agricultural production. Two Kazakh men, each on horseback, are shown riding calmly and purposelessly through a vast steppe. Their only occupation is that of conversation. The mountains form a dramatic backdrop to this scene, thus marking the setting as Southern Kazakhstan. In his attempt to move away from pro-Soviet propaganda works, Kenbaev does not address tensions, divisions or problems. He places these representatives of the Kazakh nation, and arguably metaphors of Kazakh identity, into a timeless zone reminiscent of the Golden Age of nomads. Freely roaming the steppes, these men are comfortable on horseback from having ridden since childhood and they are not angry or confrontational. Still, neither do they accept the progress offered to them by the Soviet state. Instead, they take respite from modernity in their native land. The landscape does not include any signs of industrialisation. This retreat into timelessness will persist in the process of the formation of national identity in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century in the form of landscape painting, and later film-making. However, the insistence on the traditional, which often also involved archaic elements, led to self-imposed stereotyping linked to Central Asian identity. While Kazakh artists moved to large-scale emptiness in their landscapes as a form of a counter-reaction to overtly Socialist Realist impositions from the centre, for Russian and international audiences such depictions and self-depictions suggested an abundance of empty and unutilised land. This was indeed one of the reasons why nuclear and atomic testing was conducted so extensively in Kazakhstan: it was a territory deemed both vast and empty enough for such experimentation. To this day attitudes towards land in Central Asia are very varied. While the nuclear testing site was officially closed in August 1991, the year of the Soviet Union’s final disintegration and Kazakhstan’s independence, other issues, such as water usage, remain unresolved. Kazakh artists continue to utilise landscape as a main genre in both traditional realistic painting and within contemporary artworks. Self-stereotyping and selfOrientalising, even if only ironically, is rife within these works. By working in what was an imported European/Soviet visual arts tradition

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Central Asians were, and still are, playing into the game of depiction. They have achieved this through self-depiction and the creation of accepted, and even expected, images by Russia and the West, while at the same time leaving scope for multiple readings and ironic subtexts.

Abylkhan Kasteev: Primitive and National At a conference dedicated to the art of Abylkhan Kasteev in honour of the artist’s centenary in 2004, one of the papers proposed that Kasteev should be looked at as an individual.37 This may seem all at once a very common, expected and anachronistic idea. In the era of post-postmodernism, or simply post-Communism for Kazakhstan, to ask the question ‘who was the author?’ seems almost irrelevant. Yet the answers, or indeed propositions, lead to some fruitful conclusions regarding not only the image of the artist but the image of any artist at that time, and the creation of an epoch of stereotypes. As we learn from articles, not only did Kasteev paint an almost stereotypical image of his land and its history, but he became the embodiment of a certain stereotype himself. An examination of Kasteev’s works and attitudes towards them represents, in almost an exaggerated form, the issues that were linked to Central Asian art as a whole. The main contrast exists between a so-called dilettantism in the Soviet version of the history of the Central Asian art and the image of a true artist in the Kazakh version. Kasteev’s art covers a wide array of subject matters, from animal farming to new cities, from history to contemporary life and from portraiture to landscape. Being one of the first artists of his nationality, he explored all available routes in painting. His stylistic mastery remained peculiar, trapped between ethnographic precision, simplified modelling and colour coordination. And while his style changes gradually between the 1930s and 1950s, his subject matter remains consistent. His early works, such as Hunter with a Golden Eagle (1935, fig. 86), show an almost ethnographic interest in his own local land. Hunter with a Golden Eagle depicts traditional dress, forms of transportation such as the horse and means of living such as hunting. It certainly illustrates the artist’s interest

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in precision and careful detailing. Other works of the same period include Haymaking (1934, fig. 87) and Collective Dairy Farm (1936, fig. 88), both of which deal with aspects of farming, a subject native to the Kazakh people yet tackled from a Soviet perspective. They are, therefore, depictions of both the new reality of Soviet life and an allusion to the nation’s past. Collective Dairy Farm shows several people still engaged in the business of producing dairy products, a branch of animal farming. They are depicted living in a yurt in vast green fields with high mountain peaks in

86. Abylkhan Kasteev, Hunter with a Golden Eagle, 1935. Oil on canvas, 100 × 80, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

the background, a trait of many depictions of Kazakhstan. Yet as the title suggests, what is portrayed is not a family-run business but a collective farm or kolkhoz – these were introduced into all the territories of the USSR as a result of collectivisation in the 1930s. This depiction underlines links with the past, while bringing Kazakhstan into the Soviet present. In Haymaking the artist avoids drawing attention to any character and instead presents us with a wide viewpoint which looks downwards onto the scene, almost as if from a truck or particularly high haystack. The subject matter seems to be a landscape, thus suggesting an abundance of space and land for farming possibilities. In Collective Dairy

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Farm humans are brought further into the foreground, while one particular character is shown peering at the viewer. This curious element, a sort of punctum, is discussed at length by Bayan Barmankulova in her essay devoted to the painting. She points out that this boy’s gaze, the sheet of paper at his feet, the importance of white elements in the painting and the strong sense of harmony in the scene all suggest a variety of meanings, thus going beyond a simple interpretation of the painting as a genre scene. One of these readings could be the meeting of old and new worlds, the juxtaposition of reality and imagination. However, as the author points out, it is unclear whether these meanings were consciously created by the artist or the result of an intuitive process.38

87. Abylkhan Kasteev, Haymaking, 1934. Oil on canvas, 80 × 60, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

88. Abylkhan Kasteev, Collective Dairy Farm, 1936. Oil on canvas, 60 × 61, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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From the 1930s and through to the 1950s Kasteev devotes a number of canvases to portraits of national historic figures. Within his portraiture the transformation of style seems most dramatic. Portrait of Kenesary (1935, fig. 89) and Portrait of Amangeldy (1937, fig. 90) both exhibit different degrees of simplified modelling and display a characteristic interest in minute detail, both in the figure and background.39 The artist depicts Amangeldy Imanov (1950, fig. 91) in another portrait composition thirteen years later. Already having taken part in a number of All-Union shows in Moscow, this Kazakh artist is seen to have adapted his technique, giving

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it depth and a careful examination of facial features; both of these are features inherited from Russian Realism of the nineteenth century, yet characteristic of Socialist Realism during the 1950s. The background is almost entirely obliterated, while the subject is shown less as a military leader and more as an educated fighter for the cause; he holds a scripture in his hands while his contemplative gaze is directed into the, for the viewer, unseen distance. An even more striking change takes place in the artist’s work during the late 1940s to early 1950s as the artist devotes his work to the Soviet, not Kazakh leader. In 1950 he paints A Gift for Comrade Stalin (fig. 23). The setting is the middle of lush green hills and is similar to that of all the other discussed works. However, the subject is quite different. In the scene two women hold up a carpet for inspection by two men. These men are not examining the physical qualities of the object, but the likeness of Joseph Stalin, whose image is woven into the carpet. One man holds a sketch for the composition and we see a newspaper article showing Stalin’s black and white photograph lying to the right-hand side of the other man. Neither the two women, who, we assume, made the carpet, nor the two inspectors have actually seen Comrade Stalin. The only image of him they have seen is the one printed in newspapers or painted by artists. The remoteness of Soviet Kazakhstan is underlined both by the large empty expanse of the background and the gesture of the Kazakh people; here a gift is made for a man and a leader they have never seen and will never be able to see. This remoteness of Soviet power is juxtaposed with the utilisation of Soviet subjects in traditional art forms. The link between traditional and fine art is further revealed, as we know that the sketch for the carpet was done by Kasteev himself. In fact, Kasteev created a number of sketches for wool carpets, some of which were purely geometric while others bore official Soviet subjects, such as the portrait of the Soviet leader. Through this depiction Stalin is delivered into the Kazakh steppes, together with Moscow’s Kremlin, which is seen in the background of the carpet.

89. Abylkhan Kasteev, Portrait of Kenesary, 1935. Oil on canvas, 71 × 55, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

90. Abylkhan Kasteev, Portrait of Amangeldy, 1940. Oil on canvas, 143 × 65, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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Spatial and temporal divisions are broken down and the Empire takes full hold by uniting the centre with periphery. Nevertheless, in this case the gesture originated from the periphery. The portrait on the carpet will not hang in the yurt in the hills but will be sent to Moscow, thus uniting the Kazakh hills with the capital. The periphery thus remains unrepresented as its produce is directed not to show itself, but to present the centre to the centre. The painting also reveals the position of women in society, both Kazakh and Soviet. While men are the creators or artists and inspectors of the gift, their energy is applied to the intellectual component of the production of carpets. By contrast, women are shown as manual producers only responsible for the physical creation of the object. They are responsible for following the close guidelines provided by the men. Once again, our readings of the paintings of the Soviet period are obviously influenced by feminist, postmodern and other theories that have come into force in the late twentieth century. However, the actual conscious goals of the artist himself remain elusive. It is almost unavoidable to suggest that paintings by Kazakh artists, Kasteev especially, are not just Socialist Realist realisations of the Communist dream, but are in fact Soviet Kazakh realisations of their understanding of the long nomadic history in the alien medium of painting. Perhaps the admiration of the sky, the extensive attention paid to the horizon, and in general to nature and to land in the works of Kazakh artists from the earliest years to today are together nothing more, though nothing less, than a translation of ancient nomadic and shamanistic beliefs in the powers of the sky and the earth (Tengriism). It may be said that the colours blue and green themselves in Kazakh artists’ hands are not the same as they are in those of Western or Russian artists, and indeed viewers. Blue is symbolic, not in the ‘sense of freedom’ generally accepted in heraldry, but in a deeper spiritual sense. In the Kazakh language the word for the colour blue is nonexistent or, more precisely, it is the same as the word for green. The earth (green) and sky (blue) were inextricably linked for ancient nomads, and this link is translated into language and, arguably, 91. Abylkhan Kasteev, Amangeldy Imanov, 1950. Oil on canvas, 136 × 109, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty. (A version of this painting is at the STG.)

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into the visual sensibilities of the artists. It is unavoidable to notice that the same blue-green Kasteev used in his numerous landscapes is now the ‘national’ colour, as it is the colour of the revered flag.40 While dilemmas such as ‘talent versus genius?’ remain high on the agenda for Kazakhstani art historians, it seems rather doubtful that the question of purpose, though not in its universal or superhuman sense, will ever battle its way through.41 The production by Kasteev of typically propagandist works is excused by art historians today through the positioning of his ‘conscious’ production in contrast to his ‘subconscious’ depictions of nature, land and people.42 However, his works that concern modernity are also worthy of examination. While the works already discussed in this section all depict the countryside, there are some that deal with new urban and town spaces. Construction of the Building of the Kazakh Concert Hall (1940s, fig. 92) offers a view of the centre of Alma-Ata, the Soviet-era capital of Kazakhstan. The 1930s were over by this point and nationality policy,

92. Abylkhan Kasteev, Construction of the Building of the Kazakh Concert Hall, 1940s. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

93. Abylkhan Kasteev, On an Alpine Ice Rink, 1955. Oil on canvas, 100 × 150, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty.

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which involved the politics of Russification and the overall undermining of national cultures within the whole of the USSR, started to take a stronger hold. Here one notices that the structure is no longer that of an overpowering machine typical of paintings of buildings and construction sites of the 1930s (see figs 26 and 39), but rather an example of the neoclassical architecture that would dominate in the late Stalin period and beyond. This painting is loaded with suggestive meaning. A colourful park full of fresh blooming flowers is pictured in the foreground. No workers are shown but instead we see people of various ages seemingly enjoying the fruits of Soviet transformation already. Flowering Kazakhstan is now filled with electricity and light, which is offered through elaborate lampposts. The building itself is no longer an industrial site but a place where the artistic talent of young Soviet Kazakh musicians will be displayed. Soviet transformations in infrastructure, education, culture and society are all highlighted in this simple composition. Leisurely activities became a significant theme in Soviet art of the time as a rise in living standards was supposed to be represented through images of holidays and workers’ weekends. Leisure time was also deemed

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to be a significant source of societal integration and it was considered necessary that it be regulated. Leisure was also a new form of activity. Where leisure as such had previously existed, it was not as structured and monitored as in the new Soviet context. One of the officially approved leisurely activities was sport. Kasteev’s painting On an Alpine Ice Rink (1955, fig. 93) unites the subjects of sport, leisure, construction and Soviet achievement. This painting depicts the Medeu speed skating and bandy ice rink situated south-east of Alma-Ata, 1,691 meters above sea level. The stadium held international championships from the early 1950s to the late 1980s and has struggled financially since the collapse of the USSR. During Soviet times, however, it was regarded as one of the major achievements of the Soviet state. Indeed an amazing construction, it held a variety of sporting and cultural events, whilst also serving as a major weekend attraction for families during wintertime. Kasteev depicts Medeu during an international competition – as is suggested by the flags of various countries that can be seen in the foreground of the composition. However, the title draws the viewer’s attention to the structure itself and thus implies a pride that is taken not only in the Soviet state in general, but in Soviet Kazakhstan in particular. Kasteev seemed to be genuinely excited about the introduction of this enormous building into his native mountainous landscape. At the same time this artist, being one of the first Kazakh Socialist Realists, introduced a certain structure into the art scene of the republic. While he studied under a Russian artist his own works possessed an air of truth thanks to his role as a native artist. However, due to his own interests, this so-called truth lay in depictions of construction and Soviet advances, history and portraiture, and new forms of human relationship with the region’s land, namely collective farming. In Kazakhstan, artists of both his and the following generation were noticeably more interested in depicting Soviet transformations in all spheres of life than in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Kasteev was not the very first, nor indeed was he the only Kazakh artist of his time. Yet admiration for his art is constant in both critical essays from the 1930s onwards and the art market of Kazakhstan today. This admiration, we might assume, was an artificial construction during

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the existence of a Soviet Kazakhstan, yet it also managed to continue for almost two decades after this Soviet period. Of course, one of the reasons for this is that for the Kazakh art elite there is no Giotto to look back to; the first real native painter with the blood and soul of Kazakhstan was Kasteev, above all a native ethnographer of the Kazakh lands. The existence of this artist, Kazakh by nationality, was not just a positive coincidence for the authorities that supported him but was also very useful fact. How could anyone fifty or even a hundred years later challenge the fact that he, Abylkhan Kasteev, a native Kazakh, ‘a true artist’, had depicted his own nation in the most correct and true way? This is not to say that his depiction was in any way wrong or false, as no artwork can be inherently wrong. However, it is notable that the possibility of Kasteev’s art being incorrect or inappropriate was deemed as non-existent. Kasteev’s own life poses a real problem for any contextual analysis of his art: it seems to illustrate the Socialist dream as a Socialist reality. Born in 1904 to a poor family, he lived through the October Revolution as a shepherd. His mother was involved in producing various traditional decorative ornaments. These two factors are often linked with his later professional life, specifically his interest in and understanding of nature and his love of colour. He only started his art education in 1929 when he arrived in the capital of the Kazakh SSR, Alma-Ata, and joined the school-studio of Nikolai Khludov, a Russian artist who had been living and working in Central Asia for a number of years. Indeed, Khludov is credited with the initiation of the painting tradition in Kazakhstan. With such a background Kasteev would not have experienced any obstacles in his career path during the early years of the USSR. Since his ancestral line did not include any aristocratic or wealthy individuals, he was able to continue with his chosen pursuit without prejudice. His art was supported both by the Soviet centre and within the republic. In 1976 G.A. Sarykulova notes that by the 1940s Kasteev was producing work that showed strong contrasts between the dreadful Tsarist past and the bright Soviet present.43 In art-historical essays Kasteev comes through as an amazingly talented painter whose art miraculously united the age-old national and ethnic traditions of the Kazakhs with painting, a new medium that

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became available to them only in the 1930s. Not only is he discussed in terms of mastering all genres of painting, from landscapes to urban scenes, from portraits to war paintings, from horse-riding to hunting, he is also seen as a great creator, who brings socio-cultural values, such as that of eternal balance, to his finished artworks.44 Where did his artworks stand in the context of Soviet Kazakhstan? Today they are valuable paintings and at the time of their creation they were images of Kazakhstan for Kazakhs. They were at once images of happiness and stability, of the spiritual within the material, of eternity within a limited frame. Most of all they were artistic realisations of Socialist Realist reality on the one hand and the Socialist Realist dream on another. However, there was a great difference between these two, and this difference escaped Kasteev’s art, leaving a perceptible tension.

Ural Tansykbaev: Avant-garde Road to Socialist Realist Dream Being relatively removed from the centre of the USSR, Central Asia also happened to become a safe haven for the late Russian avant-garde. After the revolution a number of artists believed that the changes that took place were achieved in part due to the artistic revolution of the previous years. This led them to the conclusion that artists would be now at the heart of the processes that would shape the cultural life of the young state. However, their art didn’t receive a large following from the working class.45 During the 1920s the state wasn’t actively involved in contemporary artistic processes, giving rise to the existence of a number One publication, Авангард остановленный на Бегу [Avant-Garde

of artistic organisations that competed between themselves.

Halted Midway] (1989), draws attention to the ambiguous position

of Soviet Central Asia. It attempts to re-create the history of one museum and with it a story of that art which did not conform to the Soviet norm and which found its refuge among the historic artefacts of ancient Turkestan. The fact of the existence of this museum in Nukus (Karakal pakstan, a region of Uzbekistan) leads to an understanding of the specificity of the Soviet South-East. Being an important producer of raw

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goods for the Soviet Union, it was at the same time far enough removed from Moscow to allow a certain amount of freedom. The authors mention that ‘the peripheral position of Uzbekistan allowed the artists in this republic to maintain the revolutionary principles in art for longer than in other areas.’46 The artists cited in the volume are almost all of totally non-Asian nationalities. Their life stories reflect the complex relationships Russia had with Central Asia before and after the Revolution. The articles in official publications on the art and culture of Central Asia during the 1930s to 1950s range from those that accentuate the glorious, yet nevertheless feudal past; the developed, yet too decorative applied arts sector; the progressive, yet sometimes underdeveloped newly emerged fine arts scene. Critics hailed a dramatic departure from nineteenth-century ‘bourgeois Orientalism’. In fact, the depiction of women and men by Russian artists residing in Central Asia centred upon the exotic and the traditional, whether in relation to an imagined or invented past. The remaining members of the now abolished Russian avant-garde continued their artistic experiments. Residing in Central Asia they found it possible to continue their work thanks to fewer interruptions occurring in lands located far from Moscow. They genuinely admired the area and its people, albeit in a more or less decorative sense. Finding their mentors in the figures of Matisse and Gauguin, artists such as Robert Falk preoccupied themselves with the fate of art first and foremost. This proves that the notions of the Western Orientalist fantasy spread into Central Asia, bringing pictorial flatness, which in this context is itself a symbol of the ‘temptation of the Orient’.47 Over the course of the expansion of Socialist Realist doctrine some themes were gradually transformed. The image of the Uzbek, for example, went through a series of alterations, from Alexander Nikolaev’s (UstoMumin’s) Bridegroom (1920s, fig. 28) to Ural Tansykbaev’s Portrait of an Uzbek. Both images are by artists who resided in Uzbekistan – one Russian, the other native. The first work utilises a mixture of Renaissance and avant-garde aesthetics for the creation of a somewhat homoerotic vision of the East. The second presents quite a different view of an Eastern man, as his exaggerated gesture is at once inviting and yet decisively strong, tense and almost confrontational. However, when Tansykbaev’s painting was

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reproduced in the 1934 issue of Iskusstvo magazine the accompanying article said, ‘The new world of revolutionary ideas […] has clashed with a low level of development, and conservatism of artistic form.’48 The suggestion is made that Tansykbaev’s work is a representation of this clash. An artist had the choice to disregard criticism and stay out of the official process, but he or she would consequently find no routes through which to sell or exhibit. A comparison of two paintings that can both be categorised as landscapes is illustrative of the tension typical for Ural Tansykbaev’s career as an artist. One is Nomad Encampment (1931, fig. 94) and the other is Native Land (1951, fig. 30). The two paintings have a period of twenty years separating them. The figure of Tansykbaev provides an example of a newly transformed type of artist moulded during this period. Nomad Encampment presents us with an image of a Golden Age and of a time and place where man and nature exist in a close and balanced coexistence. The shapes of man-made yurts echo those of nearby hills and camel humps. The absence of the sky allows a downward viewpoint and our concentration falls on an elongated female figure in the foreground. The earth itself reminds the viewer of human forms and the colours are stark and almost artificial. This landscape is at once a representation of a possibly real encampment and at the same time has an air of unearthly artificiality. The components – the mountains, yurts, animals and nomads – are present, yet the composition seems to deny them any meaningful existence. The whole image reminds one of the planet Solaris in Stanislaw Lem’s eponymous novel and Andrei Tarkovsky’s film: a planet that had in its power the ability to create a virtual realisation of people’s deepest dreams, and so a simulacrum of reality, yet it could not provide the spiritual substance of the real.49 Nomad Encampment may fit in rather comfortably with the works of early twentieth-century Post-Impressionists such as Cézanne and Matisse. However, it was painted at a later date and was not only Post-Impressionist, but also Post-Constructivist when taking Russian art history into account. Tansykbaev was not a Russian artist, yet he was aware of the

94. Ural Tansykbaev, Nomad Encampment, 1931. Oil on canvas, © State Museum of Oriental Art, © the estate of Ural Tansykbaev.

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works of artists such as Kazimir Malevich and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin. In this light the early professional development of this young Central Asian artist is not surprising, since for him there was no other painterly tradition to learn from but the Russian school in combination with traditional Central Asian decorative arts. The flatness and brightness of this composition can be traced back to both. Further development by the artist took him a long way from avantgarde aesthetics. After the end of World War II, in which the Soviet Union, including Central Asia, suffered heavy human losses (somewhere in the region of twenty million lives, of which over one million were Central Asian), Tansykbaev’s art takes on a strongly Realist direction. To be more precise, the artist becomes a Socialist Realist, as is demonstrated by the second painting. Native Land is a large-scale composition with a farreaching view of the new world. Lush green slopes are undeniably inhabited by humans, with houses, roads, bridges and electricity pylons all visible. Once again we see a female figure somewhat raised above the other small figures in the centre of the composition. Yet this time it is not a woman, but a young girl. The width of the composition is provided by the clear blue sky. The colours vary between shades of green and blue and are muted and naturalistic. The overall representation recalls an enhanced photograph. The image is an example of a Socialist Realist landscape, designed to represent at once happiness and progress, the present and the future, or indeed the future in the present. The stark difference between the first and the second works is in itself an illustration of Soviet power over the artist in particular and over Soviet visual production in general. If we agree with Boris Groys that Socialist Realism was the attempt to create dreamers who would dream Socialist dreams, then, in this light, Solaris may be mentioned again. Through the means of art, the Soviet state tried to create a simulacrum of reality to replace actual reality. It aimed to surround its viewers with this simulation and plant it in their own minds. Tansykbaev’s repeated illustrations of vast steppes and valleys full of lush green vegetation, as well as traits such as modernity, electricity and cars, were regarded as model depictions of the Soviet East. Endless and empty, his landscapes were arguably expressions of the application

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of existing outsider stereotypes by a local, indigenous artist. At the same time they provided proof to the central government and to Central Asian viewers that while progress was a reality, the land was still abundant. Tansykbaev is an example of an artist whose painterly style changed dramatically during the introduction of Socialist Realism. In his interviews and recollections he mentions the return to the real as his own form of reaction to the devastation caused by war. At the same time one cannot escape the feeling that such a transformation had a strong connection with the official requirements of the art organisations of the time. Tansykbaev certainly received Soviet acclaim and became both the Chairman of the Uzbek Artists’ Union (1956–60) and a Soviet Academician. He was also awarded the title ‘People’s Artist of the USSR’. Notably, his early works, which were done in what was called a formalist style, are often deemed to be undeveloped. In the published collection of essays on Ural Tansykbaev there is hardly a mention of the period before World War II, the period during which he was working in a nonSoviet style. However, in his early years as an artist he worked closely with colleagues and teachers such as Alexander Volkov. Today his works are part of the collection of the national art museum in Uzbekistan, including To the Nursery.50 He also has a museum dedicated to his life and art where works from early periods and later periods are displayed together, thus presenting one of the most dramatic transformations in a Soviet artist’s career that I have ever seen. Here late modernist studies of 1930s and 1940s51 neighbour such Socialist Realist ‘Russian’ works as Little Birch Tree52 and such ‘Central Asian’ ones as Mountain Pasture.53 While stylistically the transformation is noticeable, it is also obvious that both his earlier and later works display no interest in the reality of the situation with its repressions, famine and war. By working in the genre first of the Russian avant-garde and later of Soviet Socialist Realism he does not create an image of Soviet Central Asia, but instead presents its simulacrum. This dangerous process, in which depiction ceases to depict and art serves a political purpose, led to the establishment of an image and identity for Soviet Central Asia that has persisted through the latter part of the twentieth century and which continues to hold to this day.

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Is there a logical explanation for the self-Orientalising processes that take place on the streets of Central Asian cities today? As capitalist forms of exchange arrived within the fields of art and design, not only did Oriental modes not depart, but in fact they were transformed into much less complex forms than those employed by Soviet artists. Choices that seemed to be governed by the totalitarian state apparatus of art order and art selection seemed obviously artificial, yet now constitute the material and often critically unquestioned artistic heritage of the modern period. Today, while the Socialist content of Soviet artworks is easily modified and channelled by selection for exhibition, the national form is used in order to fuel nationalist sentiments in both the cultural and political fields. Drawing a line between teacher and student may have seemed easy in the 1950s, yet analysing the process today in such terms has led to an understanding that even the most outward learning process involves a form of selfinvention. The Central Asian nations came out of the Soviet system as fully formed independent states with often contradictory, and yet no less persuasive, nationalist claims. Crucially, some stemmed from forms of national self-determination invented during the Soviet period. These inventions and their legacy at times manifest themselves in a less-than-peaceful manner and make the analysis carried out here both urgent and timely.

five de-stalinisation and beyond stalin to borat

here has never been a better time or place to be looking at the art of Central Asia. Orientalism as a term and a movement is being revisited and re-evaluated in both Russia and the West. Conferences and exhibitions are organised in honour of, or sometimes to dishonour, the late Edward Said and his seminal work of 1978, Orientalism. At the 2010 Association of Art Historians conference at least three sessions were dedicated to related themes, whereas in the preceding five years there had not been a single one.1 A strengthening of argument in both academic and political circles has led to increasing confrontations between the East and the West, and questions relating to the Soviet system of art production and the processes of identity formation influence art production in Central Asia today and the current image of Central Asia as it is seen abroad. From the turmoil of the 1930s, through to the establishment of tight Soviet control over Central Asia, and towards the beginnings of the nuclear age and the space age, visual art has been shown to have shaped Stalin’s Gesamtkunstwerk vision for the USSR. The redeployment of Orientalist tropes of representation played a crucial role in depicting relationships between the centre and the periphery within the empire that was the USSR. By continuous questioning it has been possible to reveal the successes and failures of identity formation through the apparent self-fashioning of the Central Asian subject. Other propositions have also become clearer: for example, paradoxical nationalistic processes can be seen to stem from the Soviet nationalities policy, which in itself was contradictory. The Socialist action of simultaneously creating nations and destroying nations

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does not leave us with a clear-cut resolution, yet possibly explains the turmoil faced by the post-Soviet region after the dissolution of the USSR. Further questions have therefore come to light and may, for now, remain unanswered. Why do Soviet images remain so potent both in Russian and Central Asian minds? Is Stalin’s legacy a form of nostalgia or a continuous imagining process fuelled by the modern media which operates in a similar fashion to the Soviet propaganda machine? Does this mean that Soviet-style relationships between Russia and Central Asia might possibly resurface in an outward form? Finally, does this process of channelling the authorial voice through existing methodological paradigms support or challenge nationalistic forms of thinking? Critically, it is most revealing to question the possibility of underlying nationalist sentiment than let it remain unexplained, for unanalysed tensions pose a greater threat than those which are systematically addressed and archived. The image on the cover of a recent special issue of Russian magazine Expert on the post-Soviet situation in the former Soviet republics captures a concise history of the Soviet world.2 The articles on Central Asia are illustrated with images of young women in colourful national costumes, primitive dwellings and small children.3 It is over twenty years years since one country split into fifteen, in 1991, and since so-called brothers became just neighbours. It is telling that Russia still feels comfortable in expressing its judgements. However, more crucially, the imagery used to support these judgements comes directly from the archive of stereotypes that originates from the early years of Soviet empire-building, from the 1930s through to the 1950s. One may say that the power structures that lay behind 1930s official paintings robbed them of their high-art status; they were no longer just museum objects or collectible materials, but provided the basis for posters and book illustrations. The image of Soviet Central Asia was not only about the East itself, but about the educating mission of the Russian brother. In the late 1980s and 1990s this educator was replaced with the likes of George Soros, not of course without very similar underlying economic and political connotations. In this light, popular culture of the mid-twentieth century as it occurred in the form of so-called official art has transformed itself into

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the popular culture of the early twenty-first century in the form of a highly acclaimed comedy: Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.4 This film therefore becomes another strand within the long-standing utilisation of the image of such countries for the achievement of a certain outside goal.5 On the other hand, as has been pointed out by Professor Sarah Wilson,6 it also continues a well-established and permissible Western tradition, namely that of inverting East and West for critical purposes, which extends from Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes (1721) to Andre Malraux’s La Tentation de l’Occident (1926).7 In this light Borat is brought into the realm of high culture.8 This everlasting West-on-East chain of misunderstanding, misuse and misrepresentation can in the end be seen as a well-structured game in which the ultimate receivers at the end of the chain are hardly aware of the source of their opinions. Without these (mis)representations there would be no knowledge of the Other to be reckoned with. Within Western imagery the Central Asians of today are not so different from the Central Asians of Stalin’s art.

After Stalin? The sovereignty of Socialist Realism could no longer hold following the death of its mentor and the country’s totalitarian leader, the ‘Emperor Joseph’.9 With it went the unified style that had been emphasised so much during the preceding years. However, art remained very much a public affair in both of its fields, namely official art and private art (the latter of which can be seen as alternative). In trying to capture the essence of the Soviet epoch the organisers of Agitation for Happiness called totalitarianism a ‘virus’ and so associated the word with Socialist Realism. It is therefore possible to imagine that this so-called virus was exterminated after Stalin’s death. Yet this is not true when taking into account two of the most notable examples of the Soviet government’s response to alternative forms of art: Nikita Khrushchev’s harsh critique of the 1962 Manezh exhibition and the so-called 1974 ‘bulldozer exhibition’– an exhibition organised by artists in an outside space, which was destroyed by the order of the government using machinery that included bulldozers.

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Following Stalin’s death and Khrushchev’s denunciation of the personality cult, the rewriting of historical literature became inevitable, as did the assessment of the appropriateness of museum collections. However, as Kazakh historian Aizhan Kapaeva writes in 2004, ‘the history of the USSR was written and approved by the authorities. All clear and laid out. Deviation from the dogma was seen as a step towards nationalism.’10 The national question was one of the most difficult for the USSR and remained unresolved throughout its existence. It could be argued that it provoked the process of the dissolution of the country, which started in 1986 with uprisings in national republics and was complete in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, the process of representation did not end with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Post-Soviet exhibitions of Socialist Realism played their role in establishing or disintegrating views and opinions concerning art and policy during the Soviet period: from the first critical exhibition in St Petersburg’s Russian Museum in 1994 titled Agitation for Happiness: Soviet Art of the Stalin Epoch, through to Dream Factory Communism: The Visual Culture of the Stalin Era, held in the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt in 2003 and, more recently, L’Idéalisme Soviétique: Peinture et Cinéma 1925–1939, in Liège, Belgium, as part of the Europalia Russia festival in 2005, and its expanded version Struggle for the Banner: Soviet Art Between Trotsky and Stalin, 1926–1936 held in Moscow in 2008.11 All of these were grand exhibitions involving established curators and resulting in carefully constructed catalogues.12 The first of the four, Agitation for Happiness, which took place in St Petersburg in 1994, was a conscious attempt to break with tradition, both in the sense of the artworks exhibited and the way the exhibition was presented. By 1994 nonconformist art and contemporary art of the time was far from secret. The titles of the catalogue’s essays speak for themselves, from Vladimir Gusev’s ‘Where is deception, and where is truth’, to Eugene Petrova’s ‘Art of the disputed time’. The catalogue formed a critique imbued with a sense of admiration and reflection and was divided into ten sections: official portraits, ceremonial conventions, meetings and talks, labour, celebrations, peaceful life, childhood, sport, friendship of the

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peoples, army and war, and underground. Using its extensive collection of Soviet art, the Russian Museum managed to start and inspire a variety of post-Soviet reinterpretations of the art of that period. It revealed that even though such art, with all its possible visual attractiveness, formed part of the regime of terror, it was nevertheless due for deconstructive analysis just as much as the regime itself.13 Agitation for Happiness was the only one of the four discussed exhibitions to make a note of the depiction of various nationalities within Soviet painting – this occurred in the Friendship of the Peoples section. Other Central Asian appearances existed in other sections, within large-scale works by the Soviet masters Alexander Gerasimov, Gregory Shegal and Boris Ioganson, all of whom had been much revered during Stalin’s reign. However, a linking of these two phenomena and an attempt to evaluate the resulting tensions never found their way into these or any of the other catalogues. The Frankfurt exhibition was curated by Boris Groys and Zelfira Tregulova and included Soviet paintings, posters, architectural drawings and films together with critical works by post-Soviet artists. This exhibition formed an evaluation of Soviet visual culture as a whole. It linked what is generally accepted as aesthetic in the West, for example posters, with praised works, such as early Soviet cinema, and further discussed works that are generally condemned, for example, grand Socialist Realist paintings and neoclassicist buildings. All this was combined with the careful inclusion of post-Soviet works that address the previous historic and cultural period in a directly confrontational, reflective or ironic way. Gathered from a variety of collections and museums, the works represented the cream of Soviet artistic production together with what was shown to be the most powerful critical artistic post-Soviet forces in the figures of Erik Bulatov and Ilya Kabakov. The most notable, and probably the only, Central Asian appearance in this catalogue comes dancing out of the corner in Pavel Malkov’s Politburo of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party at the Eighth Extraordinary Congress of Soviets. Juggling two hats, this man is both in the company of the select main players and yet far from being accepted by them. The exhibition at Liege, which formed part of the Europalia Russia festival in 2005 in Belgium, and its expanded version in Moscow’s Manezh

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exhibition hall in 2008, aimed at a selective presentation of Soviet art to be exhibited in a positive and acceptable form. Ekaterina Degot, an established curator in Russia, utilised paintings from the first part of the twentieth century. Using more surprising and unexpected examples than the two previous exhibitions, this exhibition divided the presentation into sections, not unlike the aforementioned St Petersburg exhibition of eleven years earlier. There were numerous appearances of Central Asians in multinational compositions, from Stepan Karpov’s 1923–4 Friendship of the Peoples to Alexander Deineka’s 1937 spectacular ode to modernity, itself titled 1937. Once again, no mention of the Central Asian question, or the broader issue of nationality, was in sight. At the same time smaller exhibitions, such as David Elliot’s and Matthew Cullerne Bown’s show in Oxford in 1992, the catalogue for which had A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia on its cover, and Leonid Shishkin’s commercial exhibition in Moscow, A Voyage to Central Asia (2005), highlight the fact that there exists an abundance of relevant material. Matthew Cullerne Bown spent a large amount of his time researching artists who lived and worked in Central Asia for the purposes of producing his A Dictionary of Twentieth Century Russian and Soviet Painters, and for finding new and alternative Soviet material. Though romantic and strongly Orientalist in its outlook, Shishkin’s exhibition united early and late periods of Soviet history, thus providing Soviet Orientalism with the sense of possessing a traceable historic tradition. The assessment of and approach towards Soviet Orientalism seems to lie outside the interests of grander curatorial projects. Socialist Realism, along with its post-Soviet critiques, is incapable of accommodating its own underlying strand of the depiction of the Other, as well as the inherent tension which arises in the collision between self-reflection and postcolonial critiques dependent on Western theory. With Communist Russia being an Eastern counterpart to the capitalist West, and Socialist Realism a counterpart to a variety of Western art forms, an Eastern strand within an Eastern form of art becomes a double-removed concept. The importance and relevance of the discourse surrounding this subject manifests itself in an attempt to consider the connection between the artistic and political histories of the now long-gone USSR.

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Recent social developments in Russia and in other post-Soviet states have increased the uncertainty surrounding examinations of Soviet history. While in Europe, the UK and the US, the Soviet period is widely regarded as a series of disasters and dramatic mistakes, in Russia, and to some extent in other post-Soviet republics, opinion is far less unified. The figure of Stalin is the most notable example of a part of Soviet history that attracts nuances in opinion. The intelligentsia – especially those who emigrated outside of Russia – might voice strong criticism of Stalinism, but popular opinion seems to do completely the opposite. This issue was highlighted by a competition called ‘Name of Russia’ held by a national television station in 2008, in which Stalin was on the list of 500 candidates and came in third most popular.14 Indeed, ‘a survey from late 2006 found that 47 per cent of Russians viewed Stalin as a positive figure, and only 29 per cent as a negative one.’15 The figure of Stalin is, undoubtedly, associated with the Great Terror and World War II, or the Great Patriotic War, as it was known in the Soviet Union. Even the older generations in Kazakhstan, a country which suffered from famine, migration and dramatic social upheavals under Stalin’s rule, regard him not with contempt but with appreciation and admiration for his status as a strong leader. This view, though often not shared by younger generations, is nevertheless discussed and sustained within families, if not by the official government. Is it possible that the propaganda deployed during Stalin’s rule, including that exhibited within Socialist Realism, has withstood both Khrushchev’s denunciation of the personality cult and the post-Communist deconstruction of Soviet visual practices? Related to Stalin’s image today is the idea of the Soviet Union as a whole, and with it, that of Soviet Central Asia. In the Western media Russia is portrayed as a successor to the Soviet Union – something mostly achieved by highlighting a succession of negative traits – while Central Asia commands a less certain attitude. There is an increased interest in the exploration of the region, and at the same time a strong sense of its further alienation from the West, both geographically and culturally. Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat is just one example in which the region is used not as a real location, but as a fictional construction. While Stalin’s propaganda art was geared towards creating a virtual reality to replace the

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situation in Central Asia with a compilation of stereotypes and projections both half-true and half-invented, Borat disposes of any links with the truth and insists that the Other is simply a tool in understanding and criticising multiple Selves.16 Central Asia is predominantly visible to the Western gaze through the screen of Russian history. Central Asians are keen to explore both their ancient history and its contemporary modifications within society, while Western critics insist on seeing, for example, Kazakhstan as just a centre for Stalin’s Gulag and Soviet nuclear testing. The Central Asian stereotype consequently varies significantly inside and outside of the region as facets of it are Central Asian, Russian and Western. While the first two stereotypes are based significantly, if not consciously, on Soviet Socialist Realist imagery, the latter relies on a mix of real and portrayed Stalinist horrors as well as Borat-style self-serving Western misrepresentation.

From Kasteev to Meldibekov While the road from Stalin to Borat is the most visible outside Central Asia, inside it has two other defining figures, at least within the sphere of art: Abylkhan Kasteev and Erbossyn Meldibekov. Both Kazakhs, Kasteev was one of the first indigenous Central Asian artists within the territory of Central Asia, while Meldibekov is the region’s most notorious contemporary artist working in the international art world today. In Kazakhstan the question of national identity remained a characteristic feature of art throughout its development during both the Stalinist and post-Stalinist periods. While Kasteev and his contemporaries and followers worked within the limiting framework of Socialist Realism, after the death of Stalin the grip this style held on art institutions loosened, especially outside of the Soviet centre. Tensions between the real and the abstract, the Self and the Other, and the so-called acceptable and the unusual were all nurtured in Kazakh art of the 1960s, a time when freedom, however elusive, first became imaginable. Yet the next generation of artists proved to be asking similar questions in their works – questions related to national identity – even though these questions were still enclosed in oil paintings.

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The 1970s and 1980s were the years of both realisation and revolt. One of the most renowned artists of the period was Zhanatay Shardenov. He reassessed and approached the depiction of nature in a style different from that which was considered the norm in the Soviet Union. Born in the north of Kazakhstan, not far from where the new capital Astana is now, Shardenov spent his adult years in Almaty, the then Soviet capital. His landscapes, such as High up in the Mountains (1972, fig. 95) and Autumn17 are now legendary. The mountainous landscape, as previously discussed, is a significant subject for Kazakh artists and forms a point of reference for identity formation for Kazakhs, particularly in Southern Kazakhstan. In Shardenov’s works mountains and even pastures, such as in Shepherd,18 are significantly different from those depicted in earlier works of Kazakh art. The vastness seems to disappear and thick, short and harsh brushwork comes in its place. Was he a Kazakh Van Gogh, someone misplaced in both time and space? Although a member of the Artist’s Union in Kazakhstan, Shardenov seems to have been overtaken by the power of nature,

95. Zhanatay Shardenov, High up in the Mountains, 1972. Oil on card, 49 × 71, collection of Nurlan Smagulov, Almaty.

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something he expressed in a way that was accessible and permissible at the time. If, by this time, painting was becoming anachronistic in the West, Shardenov could hardly have known; even less could he allow himself to work in techniques and forms outside of oil painting. In a rapidly changing world he preserved the continuity and integrity of his own artistic practice. By the end of the 1980s, and certainly by the beginning of the 1990s, the entire world was being transformed. The Soviet Union went through perestroika under Gorbachev and then collapsed and disintegrated in 1991. The Central Asian republics each gained independence. The 1990s produced chaos and uncertainty within the political, economic and social life of the region. Yet economic crisis only stimulated the revolution in art. Two artists emerged in the overall sea of exploding creativity; these were Sergei Maslov and Rustam Khalfin, both of whom are now deceased. Both men continued to paint, yet painting alone could no longer accommodate all their creative energy.19 In the words of Kazakh art critic Irina Yuferova, the 1990s were a ‘sweet decade of hope’.20 Maslov was drawn towards schisms and contrasts within society. His art practice utilised the notion of irony in order to portray and criticise the broken world around him. In his slide-film Baikonur-221 the artist draws out disproportionate differences between Kazakhstan’s traditional past and cosmic present. Baikonur, located in Kazakhstan, was the largest rocket launch site in the former Soviet Union. The artist places traditionally dressed or naked figures onto a moon-like surface, juxtaposing figures of Kazakhs, Russians, cosmonauts and aliens. Maslov also produced oil paintings, but his work seems only to undermine this traditional way of creating art. A large proportion of his art practice was ephemeral, including extremely new and, for the period, controversial installations, happenings and performances. 22 Being at the forefront of the new avant-garde in Kazakhstan, he gained little recognition outside peculiarly segregated art circles. By the 1990s art no longer seemed to attract governmental interest, nor was it perceived to be contentious, thus allowing almost total creative freedom. However, it took another ten years for Maslov to gain international recognition, which eventually happened posthumously: his works were first exhibited

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within the first Central Asia pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2005, curated by Viktor Misiano. In stark contrast to Maslov, his contemporary and fellow artist Rustam Khalfin devoted all his energy to finding a balance between abstraction and the Self. Inner human nature, points of view and points of vision and, most importantly, his own skin and skin of others, as seen in performance Skin of An Artist,23 interested Khalfin far more than the ephemeral nature of social interactions. He experimented by using his own body and the space surrounding it. Just like Maslov, Khalfin found that the canvas could only provide a limited field for artistic expression. He organised performances and filmed them. Thus the Kazakh tradition of video art was established. Khalfin’s Northern Barbarians, Part 2. The Love Races,24 created together with Yulia Tikhonova, is a now legendary pseudo-historic and openly erotic video piece which attracted a lot of attention at the first Central Asian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2005. An exhibition of some of Khalfin’s works took place in London in 2007 at the White Space Gallery.25 It was the first exhibition of its kind to present Central Asian contemporary art in Britain and so highlighted the limited access that the British public has to post-Soviet Central Asia. The varied nature of both Maslov’s and Khalfin’s works was symptomatic of the split in personalities and an artistic tension that has its origins in the Socialist Realist period of Kazakh art. A strong sense of the need for social involvement counters an exploration of a fragile identity, both personal and national, which utilises both factual and invented histories. Nomadism, tradition and modernity find their way into Western-inspired forms of art production. Notably, neither Maslov nor Khalfin was Kazakh by ethnicity, highlighting yet another trait of Kazakhstani and, to a lesser extent Central Asian, identity; this identity is based on a mix of nationalities and ethnicities, all of whom came to call Kazakhstan their home. Both Maslov and Khalfin have sadly passed away, closing with the end of their lives a certain page for Central Asian art, while leaving a heritage of art practices and artworks to inspire future generations of artists in the region as well as outside of it.

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A whole generation of artists emerged from Kazakh art faculties in the 1990s who insist, just as their teachers, on the continuation of a naturalistic tradition in art, especially in painting. The main themes and preoccupations of these artists can be divided into the philosophical, the beautiful and the nationalistic. Erbolat Tolepbay is one artist who believes in the emotional and philosophical power of paintings. His works seem to always glorify the presence of the artist’s gesture and the ephemeral nature of the world, for example Summer Walk.26 Umirbek Zhubaniyazov creates almost Disney-like images of the pseudo-national past-present in Kezdesu.27 Bakhytkhan Myrzakhmetov pursued a very fashionable route, that of the construction of a heroic national past and heroic nationalism in his Tarkhan.28 One reaction to these grand paintings can be observed in the works on paper by Saule Suleimenova. Escaping the pathos and myth of the Golden Age, Suleimenova traces the colourful and the grey of the

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everyday in works such as A House on Vesnovka (2003, fig. 96). Neither abstract nor Realist, her works draw from myriad artistic traditions. Perhaps for the first time, Kazakh national ornament is part of that mix. However, Suleimenova does not concentrate on any one particular source; the unification of East and West comes naturally, almost by accident. This accidental trait in her works is most certainly a carefully planned and staged effect, and perhaps comes as the result of her understanding of art practices both in Kazakhstan and abroad. In her series, Kazakh Chronicle (2008, fig. 97), Suleimenova addresses the layering of identity processes: utilising photographs of writings on walls and gates, she paints over them images drawn from nineteenth-century ethnographic photographs, chance encounters with strangers, villagers and town-dwellers – all gathered to compose a fragmented view of Kazakh-ness. Finally, the two most prolific artists visible on the international scene, as well as at home, are Almagul Menlibayeva and Erbossyn Meldibekov.

96. Saule Suleimenova, A House on Vesnovka, 2003. Wax engraving, 130 × 180 (65 × 90 each of four parts), State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty, photo courtesy the artist and Tengri Umai Gallery, © Saule Suleimenova.

97. Saule Suleimenova, Three Brides, part of the Kazakh Chronicle, 2008. Acrylic on photographs laid on vinyl, 100 × 140, private collection, London. © Saule Suleimenova.

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Another legendary piece of Kazakh video art is Almagul Menlibayeva’s Apa (2003, fig. 98), which rarely goes unnoticed. This video was shown at the Central Asian pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale and at other exhibitions across Europe and in the UK. Furthermore, Waldemar Januszczak asked the artist to re-enact the performance for his film on Kazakh contemporary art, Kazakhstan Swings (2006, ZCZ productions for More4).29 Seven seemingly nude women rise above snow ‘skirts’ in the middle of a vast winter landscape. A return to the tradition of the depiction of landscape can be sensed and a departure from rigid forms of social behaviour is also present. Apa, however unusual it may seem, is a form of departure from the past. In Kazakh Apa means grandmother. Shamanism, exploration of common human roots and appreciation of human beauty are all themes common to Menlibayeva’s art. However, her main concern seems to be the clash between notions of freedom and identity, obvious in her works such as recent Genogramma (2009, fig. 99). Her videos have as much to say about the rest of the world as about the artist’s native land. Mirage-like performances challenge Western stereotypes of Asian female beauty and the body as commodity in order to highlight the absurdity of modern-day cultural frameworks.

98. Almagul Menlibayeva, Apa, 2003. Video, 4”. Courtesy of the artist, © Almagul Menlibayeva.

99. Almagul Menlibayeva, Genogramma, 2009. Lambda print,100 x150. Courtesy of the artist, © Almagul Menlibayeva.

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Erbossyn Meldibekov, on the other hand, is keen to highlight his links to Central Asia. His works reflect directly on the situation in the post-Soviet region as well as in neighbouring Afghanistan. One of his most recognisable works, a photograph titled My Brother, My Enemy (2001, fig. 100), is an exploration of self-hatred and the misuse of national identities within Central Asia, both of which lead to tensions within countries and even wars between them. He is an artist whose work is shown widely in international biennales and exhibitions, while at home he is largely unknown to the general public. This poses a number of questions not unrelated to general art processes in the region. How relevant is the nationality of the artist in today’s globalised world? May we, for example, say that Meldibekov is a Kazakh artist, knowing that his art practice has little in common with contemporary society in Kazakhstan?

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He is an Asian artist, a self-proclaimed barbarian of the art world.30 His performances, photographs, videos and installations are all drenched in violence, war, segregation and antipathy. Beautifully staged and carefully crafted, his artworks possess a menacing undertone. Do his images reveal Asia’s dark inner nature or Europe’s stereotyping process as it is directed towards Asia? Is he criticising new post-Soviet governments in Central Asia for their totalitarianism or for their weakness? A soft-natured person, Meldibekov creates tough art pieces. An exhibition of carefully chosen works by this artist took place in London in 2009 yet generated little resonance.31 The outside world reads these works as a critique of the Self. Meldibekov is an artistic Borat, an intriguing Kazakh artist, the ultimate form of the West’s Other. He is menacing but harmless and foreign but comprehensible. If Kasteev was the first Kazakh professional artist of the mid-twentieth century, Meldibekov is the first Kazakh international artist of the twentyfirst. Kasteev was the first Soviet Oriental to paint within the Soviet Orientalist framework. Meldibekov creates pieces and generates ideas that function within the globalised art market. Both of these artists function, or have functioned, within artificial contexts, thus revealing the ability to utilise their own national and ethnic backgrounds in order to captivate the outsider. Yet both seem to share an ultimate aim: the construction of Kazakhstan’s identity and image within the wider art world outside of their homeland.

Central Asia, Soviet Art, Orientalism: Discourses and Images Whilst the areas of Central Asia, Soviet art and Orientalism diversify further in academic circles, there is a notable increase in interest in each: in particular Central Asian studies and forms of identity creation, Socialist Realist art and Soviet history and, finally, Orientalism in the Soviet context. In this vein, in 2008 the Oxford Society for the Caspian and Central Asia held a series of seminars including presentations on film and art, the

100. Erbossyn Meldibekov, My Brother, My Enemy, 2001. Colour photograph. Courtesy of the artist, © Erbossyn Meldibekov.

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latter being given by myself. The Courtauld Institute of Art in London held a conference titled ‘Framing the Other: 30 Years After Orientalism’ in April 2008,32 which attempted to reveal contemporary criticisms of various art forms, including those outside the expected Eastern paradigm, using Edward Said’s text as inspiration. In Kazakhstan the Soros Centre for Contemporary Art in Almaty held an international conference in June 2008, ‘Destination Asia: Eastern Orientalism’, which dealt with issues of contemporary art in India, Pakistan and Central Asia. At the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Bonn, Germany, a large conference held in October 2008 and titled ‘Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies on the Caucasus and Central Asia: Between Scholarship and Politics’ brought academic studies and contemporary political discourse into one discussion space. A special event dedicated to one artwork was held at University College, Oxford in May 2008. Young Kazakh sculptor Alibek Mergenov’s Kokpar (2006, fig. 101) was discussed by the artist and Dr Nariman Skakov in detail, revealing the ways in which this sculpture explores themes of twentieth- and twenty-first-century cataclysms, bloodshed and conflicting ideologies, balancing these with witty compositional elements.33 The apocalyptic vision of East–West confrontation (Nomad versus Roman) is further dramatised by the problem of postmodern ethnicity – where the past and the future (rollers attached to horses’ hooves) are irreconcilable. The Kazakh national game of Kokpar is transformed into a global game of power. The year 2009 started with a conference in March at New College, Oxford titled ‘National Identity in Eurasia: Identities and Traditions’ and which dealt as much with post-Soviet identity as a whole as it did with various national identities in the region. Central Asian architecture and film were discussed in two separate papers. At the University of St Andrews a postgraduate event held in November 2009, ‘Central Asia and Caucasus Studies in the UK: Focusing on Communities, Societies and States’, excluded culture and art from its discussion. General Soviet studies and, in particular, events involving Socialist Realism are well represented across Britain in universities in Bristol, Cambridge, London and Oxford, with regular seminars and conferences. Orientalism is gaining its own momentum: for example, the Courtauld Institute of Art, which does not

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have a separate course dedicated to study of either Orientalism-related subjects or Eastern art forms, held a conversation between Barbad Golshiri and Layal Ftouni titled ‘“Unveiled” Unveiled: Dismantling or Reproducing the Orientalist Canon?’ and was organised by Dr Sarah Wilson to coincide with and deconstruct the Unveiled exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in May 2009. In 2011 the Russian Institute for Cultural Research in Moscow held an international conference, ‘Orientalism/Occidentalism: Languages of

101. Alibek Mergenov, Kokpar, 2006. Aluminium, height 70 cm. approx. Courtesy of the artist, © Alibek Mergenov.

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Cultures vs. Languages of Description’, organised by Dr Evgeny Steiner. Its claim that ‘Orientalism, the European interpretation of the East, bears negative connotations in some Asian societies and among certain Western scholars,’ provided further proof of Russia’s inability to deal with its own colonial past.34 An exhibition at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, ‘Russia and Orientalism’, revealed Russia’s historic interest in its Other – Central Asia and the Caucausus – and highlighted the underlying motives for this interest.35 It is obvious that discourses surrounding both Russian Orientalism and Central Asian art and culture have intensified over the last decade, while at the same time there is a lack of integration between the two fields. Cultural production largely remains outside discussions on Central Asian and wider post-Soviet identities, although cultural and visual creation is not peripheral to the construction of national and personal identities in this region. Orientalist paradigms have been redeployed within art and propaganda production within the USSR, and while political structures governed both art production and nationality policy during Stalin’s rule, today regional and international politics govern visual imagery and cultural processes in Central Asia and across the globe. Stalinist terror, World War II and the Soviet nuclear programme were all contexts for Socialist Realism. War in Chechnya, war between Russia and Georgia, conflicts between Central Asian states, war in Afghanistan and Iraq are not just contexts for contemporary visual imagery and art, but they are also contexts for contemporary analyses of the Soviet past. Any questioning of the preceding epochs reveals conflicting meanings, and issues of colonialism, totalitarianism, progress and identity are at once thrown into the open. However, one question, which is more revealing than any possible answer, can be asked in this instance: was there such a phenomenon as Socialist Realist Orientalism? Depicting Central Asia is no longer the domain of Socialist Realist artists, but Orientalism haunts both the process itself and its discourse. The coexistence of contradictions and their dialectical antagonism exemplifies both the forms and the symptoms of our contemporary condition.


preface 1





John E. Bowlt, Nicoletta Misler and Evgenia Petrova, eds, The Russian Avant-garde: Siberia and the East, exh. cat., Milan: Skira, 2013. Aliya Abykayeva-de Tiesenhausen, ‘Treasuring the past for the sake of the future’, Treasures of Kazakhstan: An Exhibition of Kazakh and Russian Art from the Kasteev State Museum of Arts and a Private Collection, exh. cat., London: Christie’s, 2010. Aliya Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen, ‘Out of the Ordinary: Orientalism as an alternative’, Meruyert Kaliyeva, Andrey Volkov, eds, Alexander Volkov: Of Sand and Silk, exh. cat., London: Christie’s, 2012. At the Crossroads: Contemporary Art from Caucasus & Central Asia (sale exhibition), London: Sotheby’s, 2013. At the Crossroads 2: Contemporary Art from Istanbul to Kabul (sale exhibition), London: Sotheby’s, 2014. Between Heaven & Earth: Contemporary Art from the Centre of Asia, exh. cat., London: Calvert 22, 2011. L’Officiel Art, speciale Russie, Ukraine, Georgie, Turquie, Iran, Azerbaidjan, Kazakhstan, Paris: 2014. John E. Bowlt, Nicoletta Misler and Evgenia Petrova, ‘Fire and Ice’, in The Russian Avantgarde, p. 19.

introduction 1


The first Central Asia pavilion at the Venice Biennale was staged in 2005, curated by Viktor Misiano (a critic and curator from Russia) and titled Art from Central Asia: A Contemporary Archive. It included artists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It was a great success and prompted further re-exhibitions of the material (in Warsaw and Moscow) as well as attention from, among others, Waldemar Januszczak, who in 2006 made a television programme for the UK channel More4, titled Kazakhstan Swings. In 2007 the pavilion was curated by Yulia Sorokina (a curator from Kazakhstan), titled Muzykstan: Media generation of contemporary artists from Central Asia and included artists from the three republics and Tajikistan. In 2009 the pavilion was curated by Beral Madra (a curator from Turkey), titled Making Interstices and included artists from four republics. See bibliography for details of catalogues. East of Nowhere: Contemporary Art from post-Soviet Asia at Foundation 107, Turin, Italy (29 May–27 September 2009) was curated by Enrico Macelloni, Valeria Ibraeva and Rosa Maria Flavo. It included 32 artists from Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

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6 7

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Gleb Prokhorov, Art Under Socialist Realism: Soviet Painting 1930–50, East Roseville: Craftsman House, 1995, p. 6. Ibid., p. 118. Caradog Vaughan James, Soviet Socialist Realism: Origins and Theory, New York: St Martin’s Press, 1973, p. x. Ibid., p. xii. Boris Groys, Искусство Утопии: Gesamtkunstwerk Сталин, Статьи [Art of Utopia: Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin, Essays], Moscow, KhZh, 1993 [2003]. No suitable translation of the title was found for the Russian or English editions: in Russian it remained Gesamtkunstwerk Сталин; in English it became The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-Garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship, and Beyond, trans. Charles Rougle, Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 1992. Boris Groys, Art Power, Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 2008, p. 4. Ibid., p. 5. Ibid., p. 9. Groys, ‘Educating the Masses’, in Art Power, pp. 146–8. Vladimir Paperny, Культура 2 [Culture 2], 2nd edn, Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2006. Susan Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe: the Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West, Cambridge MA and London: MIT Press, 2000 (2002). Susan Buck-Morss, in Vladimir Paperny, Culture 2, p. 384. Ibid., p. 384. Boris Groys, in Vladimir Paperny, Culture 2, p. 381. Ibid., p. 381. Paperny, Culture 2, p. 162. Ibid., pp. 168, 170. Evgenia Petrova, Scientific Director of the State Russian Museum, uses the word ‘virus’ to describe totalitarianism, and describes Socialist Realism as an art form of totalitarianism. See Evgenia Petrova, ‘Art of the Disputed Time’, in Агитация за Счастье: Советское Искусство

21 22 23

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Сталинсой Эпохи [Agitation for Happiness: Soviet Art of the Stalin Epoch], exh. cat., State Russian Museum, St Petersburg and Documenta, Kassel, 2nd edn, Bremen: Edition Temmen, 1994, p. 20. Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe, p. 158. Groys, Art Power, p. 9. Maxim Gorky et al., Soviet Writers’ Congress, 1934: The Debate on Socialist Realism and Modernism in the Soviet Union, London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1977, p. 9. Ibid., p. 9. These are three of the main exhibitions of Soviet art to have occurred outside the former Soviet bloc since the disintegration of the USSR. Boris Groys and Max Hollein, eds, Dream Factory Communism: The Visual Culture of the Soviet Era, exh. cat., curators Boris Groys and Zelfira Tregulova, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Hatje Cantz, 2003. L’Idéalisme Soviétique: Peinture et Cinéma 1925–1939, exh. cat., curator Ekaterina Degot, Musee de l’Art wallon, Liège, Europalia Russia, 2005. Russia! Nine Hundred Years on Masterpieces and Master Collections, exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2005. The most notable exception was a 1992 exhibition in Oxford, organised on the basis of the private collection of Matthew Cullerne Bown who, in spite of publishing several works on Socialist Realism, remains largely excluded from the academic community, probably due to his status as an art dealer. As the title of the exhibition makes explicit, the content reached beyond the usually Russian-centric domain. Elliot, David and Matthew Cullerne Bown, eds, Soviet Socialist Realist Painting – 1930s–1960s. Paintings from Russia, the Ukraine, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Kirgizia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1992. Arne Haugen, The Establishment of National Republics in Soviet Central Asia, New York and London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, p. 6. There is a certain void within the international field of cultural (and other) research, which

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manifests itself in the absence of bipolar divisions prevalent during the Cold War era. While terms such as post-Communist or former-Soviet and former-East come into use, no applicable equivalents for the West have come into force. The issue is beginning to be raised, especially as part of dedications to the twentieth anniversary since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Most notable is probably ‘Former West’. According to organisers, ‘the project aims at articulating the processes of the West “becoming former” that, however unacknowledged by the West itself, began with the demise of the Cold War construct of a bipolar world in 1989’ (formerwest.org, accessed 08/11/09). While the suggestion of an anachronism in relation to oil painting as a medium for art production is biased by contemporary perceptions of art history, I use the term to underline the schism between the art and social practices of the Soviet period, which was above all characterised by its striving towards industrialisation and technological progress in all spheres. However, I fully acknowledge the difficulty and danger presented by the term as highlighted, for example, by George DidiHuberman in Confronting Images: Questioning the Ends of Certain History of Art, tr. John C. Goodman, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004, p. 41. Slavoj Žižek, Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? Five Interventions in the (Mis)use of a Notion, London and New York: Verso, 2002. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 13. Accounts of Greenberg’s delineation of high art and kitsch often overlook the author’s view of Socialist Realism as the main example of kitsch. Greenberg was writing at the time when the Soviet pavilion was open during 1939 New York World Fair (discussion with Dr Sarah G. Wilson, 10/05/05). Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of

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Nationalism, rev. edn. London and New York: Verso, 1998, pp. 1–7. Ibid., p. 3. Ibid., p.6. Ibid., p. 154. Hobsbawm and Ranger, The Invention of Tradition, p. 9. Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly, Conversations with Žižek, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004, p. 141. William Fierman, ed., Soviet Central Asia: The Failed Transformation, Oxford: Westview Press, 1991, p. 293. Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 12. Gulnar Kendirbai, Land and People: The Russian Colonization of the Kazakh Steppe, Berlin: Anor, 2002, p. 69. Michael Rywkin, Moscow’s Muslim Challenge: Soviet Central Asia, rev. edn, London, New York: ME Sharpe, 1990, p. 44. The issue of contemporary monuments in Almaty is further analysed by me in a paper presented at the AAH Annual Conference, 2008: ‘From War Memorial to the Beatles: Locating Kazakh Monu-Mentality’. It shows that while national identity is heavily propagated, nationalism is kept at a lower level of exposition. The 1986 revolt, which has a specific memorial dedicated to it, was a Kazakh nationalist uprising against a Moscowappointed ethnically Russian head of republic. Mikhail Rostovkii, ‘To Russia – With Love. Interview with the ambassador of Kazakhstan, Nurtay Abykayev’, Moskovskii Komsomolets, 30/06/08. ‘Europe: the Fifties Legacy’, special issue, Third Text, vol. 20, issue 2, 2006, Routledge. Cover image taken from a 1937 cover of the journal SSR na stroike [The USSR in Construction]. The article traces the shifting attitude towards exhibiting nations from the 1923 Moscow Agricultural and Cottage Industries Exhibition, through to the 1939 All-Union Agricultural exhibition and culminating in the 1954 exhibition. It traces changes from a colonial/ anthropological mode to a ‘shrine to the cultural

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commonwealth’ and to the creation of new cultural traditions and manipulations of them. Therefore, not only new architecture was being formed, but a whole new set of references, all of which were to be accepted as historic and original. Greg Castillo, ‘Peoples at an exhibition’, in Thomas Lahusen and Evgeny Dobrenko, eds, Socialist Realism Without Shores, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1997, p. 101. Igor Golomstock, ‘Socialist Realism and Fine Art’, in Hans Günther and Evgeny Dobrenko, eds, Соцреалистический Канон [Socialist Realist Canon], St Petersburg: Academicheskii Project, 2000, p. 136. Ibid., pp. 134–45. Mikhail Ryklin, ‘Metrodiscourse’, in Günther and Dobrenko, eds, Socialist Realist Canon, pp. 713–28. Boris Groys, ‘Fight against the museum’, in Marina Balina, Evgeny Dobrenko and Yury Murashov, eds, Советское Богатство: Статьи о Культуре, Литературе и Кино. К шестидесятилетию Ханса Гюнтера [Soviet Wealth: Articles on Culture, Literature and Cinema. For the sixtieth anniversary of Hans Günther], St Petersburg: Akademicheskii Project, 2002, pp. 37–51. Lynn Mally, ‘Stalin’s comedy of manners’, in Balina et al., eds, Soviet Wealth, pp. 83-96. Natasha Droubek-Meyer, ‘MassMessage/Massage of the Masses: Soviet (Mass-) Media in the 30s’, in Balina et al., eds, Soviet Wealth, pp. 124–137. Karen L. Kettering, ‘Sverdlov Square Metro Station: “The Friendship of the Peoples” and the Stalin Constitution’, in Studies in the Decorative Arts, vol. 7, no. 2, Spring–Summer, 2000, pp. 21–47. Organised by the author and Melanie Vandenbrouck-Przybylski, with the support of the Research Forum of the Courtauld Institute of Art. Organised by the Soros Centre for Contemporary Art, Almaty, 2008. Thanks to Professor Sarah Wilson’s chance finding of the French edition of this largely




unknown book in a secondhand bookshop in Paris. Yurii Dombrovskii, Хранитель Древностей [The Curator of Antiquities], 1966 (http://www.lib.ru/PROZA/DOMBROWSKIJ/ke eper.txt, last accessed 01.05.09). Regnum Information Agency, Мир прощается с Солженицыным. Казахстан безмолвствует. [The World says farewell to Solzhenitsyn. Kazakhstan keeps silent], 05.08.08, http://www.regnum.ru/news/1036520.html, last accessed 30.07.09. Dzhandosov was a Kazakh revolutionary who supported Soviet ideals. However, he later expressed his opinions about the need for providing an adequate amount of land for Kazakhs. This and other opinions lead to his arrest in 1937 and execution in 1938.

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For the list of archives consulted, please see the bibliography. Hans Günther, ‘Totalitarian state as a synthesis of arts’, in Günther and Dobrenko, eds, Socialist Realist Canon, p. 7. Günther quotes Walter Benjamin, who proposed the politicisation of art in retaliation against the aestheticisation of politics. However, the politicisation of aesthetics in a Soviet context created, in turn, both the art of the establishment and that of the opposition. Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe, p. xi. Thematic plan of commissions for plays, ballet, music pieces and works of visual art; Directives of Comrade Stalin, 9 February 1946, Archive of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 708/11/N1653, pp. 80–9. The National Anthem of the Soviet Union (also known as the Soviet Hymn) was officially adopted in 1944. The lyrics were written by Sergey Mikhalkov (1913–2009) in collaboration with G. El-Registan (1899–1945) and the music was composed by Alexander Alexandrov (1883–1946). After Stalin’s death it remained without lyrics, as Stalin’s name was removed. From 1977 a new text was adopted. However,

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the first lines remained unchanged: ‘The unbreakable union of free republics/Great Russia has welded for ever.’ The Hymn was performed at all large celebrations and the lyrics were taught in schools across the USSR. ‘Caucasian’ in the context of a discussion of the USSR stands for the peoples of the Caucasus: Georgians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis, as well as other Caucasian ethnicities within Russia. The Soviet North was populated with the indigenous peoples of Siberia, who were often depicted (especially in popular anecdotes and jokes) as primitive and uncivilised. Photographs of the interior and exterior of the Uzbekistan Pavilion at the VSKhV (All-Union Exhibition), 1939, Moscow. Architect Stepan Polupanov. Recent exhibitions, notably Dream Factory Communism, signify both an increased need for a re-evaluation of the era, and a surge in the phenomenon of nostalgia, both of which are surfacing following the passing of two decades since the disappearance of the Soviet way of life and Soviet (and anti-Soviet) forms of art production. Baki Urmanche, a Tatar by origin, resided in Central Asia for a number of years during the 1940s and 1950s. Herschel Alt and Edith Alt, Russia’s Children: A First Report on Child Welfare in the Soviet Union, New York: Bookman Associates, 1959, p. 79. 1959 was the year of the first exhibition of American art in Moscow. The late 1950s also mark the beginning of the period that became known as the ‘Thaw’. In Soviet accounts of history Tatars and Mongols are given one unified name: TataroMongol. David Elliot, ‘The Photograph in Russia: Icon of a New Age’ in David Elliot, ed., Photography in Russia 1840–1940, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, London: Thames and Hudson, 1992, p. 16. Elena Barkhatova, ‘Realist and Document: Photography as Fact’, in Elliot, ed., Photography in Russia, p. 41.


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Leonard Doyle, ‘American inequality highlighted by 30-year gap in life expectancy’, the Independent, 17.07.08. Joseph Stalin, Leninism Issues, 10th edition, p. 424. Quoted in Iskusstvo, 1937, No. 6. John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith, eds, Nationalism, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. 18, 34. In a sense it did, eventually. As a result of the common fear, the population both in Moscow and Leningrad, as well as in the Central Asian steppes or Caucasian mountains, was united in an unbreakable bond of memory and grief. Yurii Ivanov, ‘Самый грандиозный тост’ [‘The most grandiose toast’], Zerkalo Nedeli, No. 19 (648), 19–25.05.07. Conversation between the author and Professor Boris Groys, 06.12.06, London. Philip Longworth, Russia’s Empires, Their Rise and Fall – From Prehistory to Putin, London: John Murray, 2005, p. 242. Ibid., p. 242. Friedrich Engels, letter to Karl Marx, in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Letters on Russia, vol. 27, p. 241. Quoted in A.A. Saliev, ed., Изобразительное Искусство Киргизстан [Fine Art of Kyrgyzstan], Frunze: Kyrgyzstan, 1987. There is a variety of views on the relationship between art and identity creation across totalitarian regimes of the 1930s; most recently in Jean Clair, ed., The 1930s: The Making of ‘The New Man’, exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 2008. Conversation between the author and Professor Boris Groys, 06.12.06, London. Linda Nochlin, ‘The Imaginary Orient’, in The Politics of Vision: Essays on Nineteenth-Century Art and Society, London: Thames and Hudson, 1991, p. 50. While a planned economy and forced industrialisation proved successful (in terms of growth rate and performance) during the 1930s (thus avoiding the widespread economic crash seen in the West), other areas, most notably the collectivisation of farming, led to a drastic famine (1932–3) which

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affected both western and eastern parts of the Soviet Union. N. Mashkovtzev, Выставка Картин «Киргизская Колхозная Сюита», 1936–1948, народного художника Киргизской ССР Семёна Чуйкова [Exhibition of paintings ‘Kyrgyz Kolkhoz Suite’, 1936–1948, by the People’s Artist of the Kyrgyz SSR Semion Chuikov], exh. cat., Moscow, 1948, p. 13. K. Usubalieva, Русские Художники о Киргизии [Russian Artists on Kyrgyzia], Frunze: Kyrgyz State Museum of Fine Arts, 1963. Good machine treatment is the basis for a good harvest, 1930s, Uzbekistan. Colour poster, the Russian Museum of Ethnography, St Petersburg. Every piece of broken fallow for cotton is a blow to a bai – saboteur and opportunist, 1930s. Colour poster, the Russian Museum of Ethnography, St Petersburg. Ural Tansykbaev, Uzbek, 1927. Oil on canvas. Image taken from magazine Iskusstvo, No. 6, 1934, p. 31. Cover of the magazine Iskusstvo, No. 2, March 1951, bearing an illustration of a painting by O. Tatevosyan, I.V. Stalin’s Reception of Cotton Kolkhoz Workers of Uzbekistan in 1935, c. 1950. Государственный музей искусств Узбекской ССР [State Museum of Arts of Uzbek SSR], exh. cat., 14th edition, Ministry of Culture of Uzbek SSR, Tashkent, 1954, pp. 4–5. Matthew Cullerne Bown, A Dictionary of Twentieth Century Russian and Soviet Painters, 1900–1980s, London: Izomar, 1998, p. 31. Andrey Mylnikov, Plenty, 1955. Panel for the mosaic at the Vladimirskaya underground station, St Petersburg, Russia. Oil on canvas, 385 × 608.5, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg. Romy Golan, Modernity and Nostalgia: Art and Politics in France between the Wars, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995, p. 116. Ibid., p. 115. Henri Matisse’s artworks, which often utilised colourful textiles and were related to Orientalist aesthetics, can be used as both a comparison and

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precedent for works of Soviet art such as Konchalovksy’s Portrait of V.E. Meyerhold, 1938. V. Chepelev, ‘Painting in Soviet Uzbekistan’, Iskusstvo, 1934, No. 1, pp. 21–52. RGALI, Российский Государственный Архив Литературы и Искусства [Russian State Archive of Literature and Art], Moscow. See bibliography for numbers of consulted collections. GARF, Государственный Архив Российской Федерации [State Archive of the Russian Federation], Moscow. See bibliography for numbers of consulted collections. Alex de Jonge, Stalin and the Shaping of the Soviet Union, New York: William Morrow, 1986, p. 157. Ibid., p. 161. Fierman, Soviet Central Asia: The Failed Transformation, p. 27. Ibid., p. 28. For most of the first post-war decade Moscow withheld the concessions to non-Russians’ national pride that it had granted during the war. One manifestation of this in Central Asia was the campaign against the Turkic national epics in 1951–2. Not until the 1970s did national policy become more flexible. See Fierman, Soviet Central Asia: The Failed Transformation, p. 28. Yuri Slezkine, ‘Primitive communism’, in Lahusen and Dobrenko, eds, Socialist Realism Without Shores, p. 310. Art and Power: Europe Under the Dictators, 1930–45, exh. cat., The South Bank Centre, London, 1995, p. 33. See also Jean Clair, ed., The 1930s: The Making of ‘The New Man’. Ibid., p. 33. While Joseph Stalin was not of Russian origin himself, and was in fact Georgian, he was not Asian or Muslim. Art and Power, p. 187. Mikhail Ryklin, ‘Metrodiscourse’, in Günther and Dobrenko, eds, Socialist Realist Canon, p. 727. Igor Golomstock, ‘Socialist Realism and Visual Art’, in Günther and Dobrenko, eds, Socialist Realist Canon, p. 137. Iskusstvo, Moscow, No. 6, 1934.

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Max Penson, First Train, Chirchik, 1928. Gelatine silver print, 25 × 45.5, Private Collection. ‘Image of a Cotton Fields Hero’, Iskusstvo, 1949, No. 1. A. Zamoshkin, ‘Artists of Central Asia’, Iskusstvo, 1949, No. 5, p. 11. Ibid., p. 17. S. Chervonnaya, Взаимодействие художественных культур народов СССР. Проблемы Социалистического Реализма [Interaction between Artistic Cultures of the Peoples of the USSR. Issues of Socialist Realism], Moscow, Izobrazitelnoe Iskusstvo, 1982, p. 105. Evgenii Lanceray, Asia, c. 1934. Wall-painting, Kazan train station, Moscow, Russia. Illustrated in the magazine Iskusstvo, No. 4, 1934, p. 42. Iskusstvo, Moscow, No. 4, 1934. Rywkin, Moscow’s Muslim Challenge: Soviet Central Asia, pp. 259–60. All three artists were male, two Russians working in Kyrgyzia and Uzbekistan respectively, and the latter Kazakh in Kazakhstan. Linda Nochlin, ‘The Imaginary Orient’, p. 51. Iskusstvo, 1947, No. 1. Semion Chuikov, Выставка Картин «Киргизская Колхозная Сюита», 1936–1948, народного художника Киргизской ССР Семёна Чуйкова [Exhibition of paintings ‘Kyrgyz Kolkhoz Suite’, 1936–1948, by the People’s Artist of the Kyrgyz SSR Semion Chuikov], exh. cat., Moscow, 1948, p. 6. Sergei Kavtaradze, ‘Битва под Москвой: от первой шахты к первому поезду’ [‘Battle under Moscow: from the first tunnel, to the first train’], in ‘Московскому Метро 70 Лет’ [‘70 Years of Moscow Metro’], WAM, No. 14, 2005, pp. 10–20. Georgii Motovilov, Kneeling Uzbek, c. 1952. Porcelain relief sculpture. Prospekt Mira underground station, Moscow Metropolitan, Moscow, Russia. Natalya Danko, National Costumes, c. 1938. Porcelain relief. Kievskii Vokzal underground station (former Ploshchad Sverdlova), Moscow Metropolitan, Moscow, Russia.

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Michael Ryklin, ‘Metrodiscourse’, in Günther and Dobrenko, eds, Socialist Realist Canon, p. 713. For an analysis of French colonial imagery of the early twentieth century see Golan, Modernity and Nostalgia, pp. 106–7. Natalya Danko, in ‘Artists in the Metro’, Iskusstvo, 1938, No. 6. The concept of modern Empire is examined in length by the authors, yet they present the claim that ‘the United States does not […] form the centre of an imperialist project,’ with which it is increasingly hard to agree. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2001. Longworth, Russia’s Empires, p. 256. B. Veirman, ‘Artists of Uzbekistan’, Iskusstvo, 1947, No. 6. Ibid.

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Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe, p. xi. The Russian word театрализованное is otherwise translated as ‘adapted for the stage’. However, the use of ‘theatrical’ in this instance seems more accurate. Mikhail Ryklin, Пространства Ликования: Тоталитарианизм и Различие [Spaces of Exultation: Totalitarianism and Difference], Moscow: Logos, 2002, p. 18. Ibid., p. 167. Ibid., p. 240. Herschel and Edith Alt, Russia’s Children: A First Report on Child Welfare in the Soviet Union, New York: Bookman Associates, 1959, p. 74. For example, Kazakh Art Gallery named after T. Shevchenko was opened in Alma-Ata in 1935 (now Kasteev State Museum of Arts, Almaty). The first works to enter the collection were transferred from the State Russian Museum, Leningrad and the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. The Museum’s collection includes works by all major Russian and Soviet artists. See Сокровища Русского Искусства: Государственный музей искусств имени

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А. Кастеева Республики Казахстан, Алматы [Treasures of Russian Art: State museum of arts named after A. Kasteev Republic of Kazakhstan, Almaty], Moscow: Belii Gorod, 2004. See David King, The Commissar Vanishes, New York, 1997. Agitation for Happiness, p. 63. Yet interestingly the movement of the march is directed away from the viewer, forcing the viewer to visualise himself or herself in a position outside of the represented spectrum of individuals. This particular painting is therefore a tool for bringing about the idea of overall inequality; the viewer is never a member of the march and never part of the elite. B.V. Veimarn, V.N. Chepelev and N.G. Karakhan, Художники Узбекистана [Artists of Uzbekistan], exh. cat., Moscow, Leningrad: Iskusstvo, 1937. Ibid., p. 4. Ibid., p. 8. Ibid., p. 9. V. Chepelev, ‘Painting in Soviet Uzbekistan’, Iskusstvo, 1934, No. 6, pp. 21–52. S. Temerin, ‘Soviet Ornament’, Iskusstvo, 1948, No. 6. P. Lebedev, ‘World Importance of Soviet Fine Art’, Iskusstvo, 1948, No. 1, p. 30. Semion Chuikov, Morning, 1947. Oil on canvas, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek. Pavel Malkov, Politburo of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party at the Eighth Extraordinary Congress of the Soviets, 1938. Oil on canvas, 324 × 282, State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia. Yulia Razumovskaya, Types of the Old Bukhara, 1926. Watercolour on paper, 51 × 30, Private Collection. Abylkhan Kasteev, Stalin 70 Years, design for a carpet, c. 1948. Watercolour on paper, private collection. Boris Groys, ‘Fight against the museum, or demonstration of art within the totalitarian space’, in Soviet Wealth, pp. 37–51.



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Texts by Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault can be utilised to show how this was explained by Western European philosophers. Slavoj Žižek, ‘Introduction’, in Mapping Ideology, Slavoj Žižek, ed., London and New York: Verso, 2000, pp. 18-19. Ibid., p. 17. Очерки Марксистско-Ленинской Эстетики [Essays on Marxist-Leninist Aesthetics], 2nd edn, Moscow: Academy of Arts of the USSR, 1960, pp. 386–97. Lynn Mally, ‘Stalin’s Comedy of Manners’, in Soviet Wealth, pp. 83–96. For accounts of exports see Sean McMeekin, History’s Greatest Heist: The Looting of Russia by the Bolsheviks, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009 and Robert C. Williams, Russian Art and American Money, 1900–1940, Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1980. Conversation between the author and Professor Boris Groys, 6.12.06, London. For example, Kazakh Art Gallery named after T. Shevchenko (now Kasteev State Museum of Arts) received Mountains surrounding Lepsinsk (1969–1970s) by Vasilii Vereshchagin from the State Tretyakov Gallery. The latter received paintings by Semion Chuikov, most famous of them A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia (1948). Svetlana M. Khromchenko, Восток в Творчестве Московских Художников 1970s–80s [The East in the Works of Moscow Artists, 1970s–80s], Moscow: The State Museum of the Arts of the Nations of the East, 1985. Shostakovich, Symphony No. 5 in D minor, op. 47. First performed on 21 November 1937 in Leningrad. Slavoj Žižek, Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?, p. 127. Agitation for Happiness, p. 12. The three parameters specified for Socialist Realism in 1934 were the ‘truthful depiction of reality and human beings, humanism, and people-ness as well as party-mindedness’. See O.I. Sopotsinskii, ed., Искусство Народов СССР, 1917–1970е [Art of the Nations of the USSR, 1917–1970s], Leningrad: Aurora, 1977, p. 10.

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Gorky et al., Soviet Writers’ Congress, 1934, p. 24. Notably all works on the Russian avant-garde, beginning with Camilla Gray, The Great Experiment: Russian Art, 1863–1922, London: Thames and Hudson, 1962, prefer to differentiate and cut it off from its immediate successor, Socialist Realism. ‘What Is an Author?’ (1969), in Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, ed. Donald F. Bouchard, trans. D.F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon, Ithaca and New York: Cornell University Press, 1977, p. 124. Ibid., p. 123. Max Hollein, Foreword, in Groys and Hollein, eds, Dream Factory Communism, 2003. James, Soviet Socialist Realism: Origins and Theory, p. xii. This view was taken first in the West. Notably, Boris Groys’s work first came out in German (1988) and only later in Russian in 1993. That is, if we can accept Foucault’s provocative suggestion that ‘Déjeuner sur l’Herbe and Olympia were perhaps the first “museum” paintings.’ In Foucault’s view they were ‘the first paintings in European art that were […] an acknowledgement of the new and substantial relationship of painting to itself, as a manifestation of the existence of museums and the particular reality and interdependence that paintings acquire in museums.’ ‘Fantasia of the Library’ (1967), in Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, p. 92. Clement Greenberg, ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’ (1939), in Art and Culture, Critical Essays, Boston: Seacon Press, 1965, pp. 3–21. Notably, Greenberg had never been to the USSR. The tradition of the official portrait was very popular during Tsarist times and subsequently mutated into a Soviet form in the twentieth century. Pavel Radimov, ‘Letters from Asia – Turkmen Trip’, Iskusstvo, 1935, No. 2, pp. 152–6.




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‘Exhibition of the works of Pavel Radimov. Central Asia: Ashgabad, Khorezm, Khiva’, Iskusstvo, 1936, No. 4. Gauri Viswanathan, ed., Power, Politics and Culture: Interviews with Edward Said, London: Bloomsbury, 2001. Igor Golomstock, ‘Socialist Realism and Visual Art’, in Günther and Dobrenko, eds, Socialist Realist Canon, p. 135. Ibid, p. 136. Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936), in Illuminations, London: Fontana Press, 1992, p. 214. Ibid, p. 218. Ibid, p. 234–5. Greg Castillo, ‘Peoples at an exhibition: Soviet Architecture and the National Question,’ in Lahusen and Dobrenko, eds, Socialist Realism Without Shores, p. 91. Quoted by Castillo, ibid., p. 94. RGALI, Ф. 5673, оп. 3, дело 35, Official Guide Book, NY World Fair 1939 ‘The World of Tomorrow’, 3rd edn, NY: Exposition Publications, pp. 126–7 (лист 63–4). RGALI, Ф. 5673, оп.1, дело 111, Зал Искусство, Советский Павилион на Международной Выставке в Нью Йорке 1939, лист 113. [Hall of Arts, Soviet Pavilion at the World Fair in New York 1939]. Ibid., лист 239. Sopotsinskii, Art of the Nations of the USSR, p. 8. Ibid., p. 10. Agitation for Happiness, p. 75. Prokhorov, Art under Socialist Realism, p. 86. The title of the book reveals the author’s argument that Socialist Realism was not as much an artistic style, but an ideological tool. Gorky et al., Soviet Writers’ Congress, p. 9. Ibid., p. 9. Lisa A. Kirschenbaum, Small Comrades: Revolutionising Childhood in Soviet Russia, 1917–1932, New York and London: Routledge Falmer, 2001, pp. 134–44.

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‘Многонациональный характер Советского Искусства’ [‘Multinational character of Soviet art’] in Очерки Марксистско-Ленинской Эстетики [Essays on Marxist-Leninist Aesthetics], 2nd ed., Moscow: Academy of Arts of the USSR, 1960, p. 388. Путешествие в Среднюю Азию [A Voyage to Central Asia], exh. cat., Leonid Shishkin Gallery, Moscow, 2005. Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, The Silent Steppe: The Story of a Kazakh Nomad under Stalin, trans. Jan Butler, London: Stacey International, 2006. Sopotsinskii, Art of the Nations of the USSR, p. 11. Ibid., p. 13. Ibid., p. 15. Fierman, Soviet Central Asia: The Failed Transformation, p. 27. Ibid., p. 28. For most of the first post-war decade Moscow withheld the concessions to non-Russians’ national pride that it had granted during the war. One manifestation of this in Central Asia was the campaign against the Turkic national epics in 1951–2. Not until the 1970s did the national policy become more flexible. See Fierman, Soviet Central Asia: The Failed Transformation, p. 28. Dzhailiau is a Kazakh word for green pastures or green dales. Significantly, the painting was on display at the National Museum when I visited. The date of the mosaic coincides with the centenary of Kyrgyzia becoming part of the Russian Empire. Rejecting the fact that for the most part Central Asia already possessed a lingua franca (since four of the Central Asian languages are of Turkic origin), which was discouraged by Soviet authorities. As described by Linda A. Pollock in her foreword to Marilyn R. Brown, ed., Picturing Children: Constructions of Childhood between



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Rousseau and Freud, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002. This is the artist who belonged to the Itinerant group and criticised the Tsarist regime. He was widely praised and exhibited during Soviet times. He was also erroneously used by Greenberg in ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’ to illustrate the drawbacks of Socialist Realism. Notably, the girl is wearing her red scarf on her head, possibly a trait suggesting Central Asian modesty in the covering of her head. Hollein, foreword, in Groys and Hollein, eds, Dream Factory Communism, 2004, p. 8. Was Chuikov making subtle or hidden comments on the situation, or is the reading of this iconic image being stretched too far? From a conversation with Matthew Cullerne Bown during my time as an assistant at his Izo Gallery, London, in 2004. However, the harsh contemporary art market prefers the son to the father. Ivan Chuikov became one of the most renowned unofficial artists of the 1970s. His works can be found in London auction catalogues (Christie’s and Sotheby’s). It is known that Chuikov senior was not against his son’s underground experiments (discussion with Boris Groys). However, in his autobiography (archive) he states that he was born into a poor family. This was a trick used often in Soviet times in order to avoid purges and (class) discrimination. Semion Chuikov, Komsomol-Girl, 1943. Oil on canvas, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek. Semion Chuikov, A Kyrgyz Girl Eating a Watermelon, 1941. Oil on canvas, 97 × 75, private collection. Semion Chuikov, A Daughter of a Chaban, 1948-56. Oil on canvas, Kyrgyz National Museum of Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, Bishkek. Chaban is a Kyrgyz word for shepherd. See, for example, M.B. Myasina, Старейшие Советские Художники о Средней Азии и Кавказе [Eldest Soviet Artists on Central Asia and the Caucasus], Moscow: Sovetsky Hudozhnik, 1973; Путешествие в Среднюю Азию [A Voyage

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to Central Asia], exh. cat., Leonid Shishkin Gallery, Moscow, 2005; Russian Orientalism: Central Asia and the Caucasus, Sphinx Fine Art, London, 2009. Jane A. Sharp, ‘Beyond Orientalism’, in Rosalind P. Blakesley and Susan E. Reid, eds, Russian Art and the West: A Century of Dialogue in Painting, Architecture, and the Decorative Arts, Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2007, pp. 112–33. Ibid, p. 117. This juggling, however, only seemed to satisfy the Russian avant-garde in Russia. On arrival in the West – to Paris in the case of Natalia Goncharova – her identity as an Eastern import became crucial to her practice. This proved to be problematic as Europe exercised its Orientalist views of Russia and expected certain productions from a Russian artist that were in line with the stereotype. Jane A. Sharp, ‘Beyond Orientalism’, p. 130. Suzanne is a decorative textile widely used at home in Central Asia, particularly Uzbekistan. Alexander Nikolaev (Usto Mumin), Spring, 1923. Tempera on board, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Nikolai Rozanov, Uzbek with a Chilik, 1927. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Vladimir Rozhdestvensky, Portrait of an Uzbek Man, 1930s. Oil on canvas, the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art named after I.V. Savitsky, Nukus. Held in the spring of 2005 at the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Nadezhda Kashina, Children Enter the New Life, 1922. Oil on canvas, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Nadezhda Kashina, Success of the Team, 1948. Oil on canvas, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Nadezhda Kashina, Lunch Break, 1949. Oil on canvas, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Nadezhda Kashina, A Dance Lesson, 1953. Oil on canvas, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent.




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Nadezhda Kashina, Samarkand Madonna, 1971. Oil on canvas, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Zinaida Kovalevskaya, Children, 1947. Study, oil on canvas, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Zinaida Kovalevskaya, Landscape with Children, 1940s. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Zinaida Kovalevskaya, Tomato Picking, 1949, 150 × 180. Oil on canvas, Private Collection. Elena Korovai, National Talents, 1935–6. Oil on canvas, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. A line from the Soviet Hymn. Zinaida Kovalevskaya, Tomato Picking, 1949, 150 × 180. Oil on canvas, private collection. Myasina, Eldest Soviet Artists on Central Asia and the Caucasus, p. 17. Pavel Benkov, House with Water bearers, 1932. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Pavel Benkov, Scene of the Past, 1944. Oil on canvas, 133 × 142, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Pavel Benkov, A Clerk from Bukhara, 1929. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. A similar figure personifies a religious cleric in a caricature for Mashrab magazine in 1925, now in the Ethnographic Museum in St Petersburg. Pavel Benkov, Girl with a Dutar, 1947. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. The Mexican artist’s work was known to his Soviet colleagues by the 1930s. He would later send his paintings to tour the USSR in 1954. Today the State Tretyakov Gallery has in its collection 39 paintings and 50 works on paper by the artist. Myasina, Eldest Soviet Artists on Central Asia and the Caucasus, pp. 28–30. Музей Искусств Узбекистана [Museum of Art of Uzbekistan], guidebook, Toshkent: Uzbekiston, 1965. Art and Power, p. 33.

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Boris Groys, ‘Utopian Mass Culture’, in Groys and Hollein, eds, Dream Factory Communism, p. 23. Boris Groys, ‘Fight against the museum, or demonstration of art within the totalitarian space,’ in Balina et al., Soviet Wealth, pp. 37–51.



four 1

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Tekhnikum is correctly translated as technical college or training college (Oxford Russian Dictionary). However, Matthew Cullerne-Bown uses the word without translation in his Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Artists. Gorky, Soviet Writers’ Congress, pp. 59–60. Sopotsinskii, Art of the Nations of the USSR, p. 115. Haugen, The Establishment of National Republics in Soviet Central Asia, p. 6. The author believes that the idea of ‘national’ for Central Asian peoples is bound to Islam; see p. 27. See Rywkin, Moscow’s Muslim Challenge: Soviet Central Asia. Haugen, The Establishment of National Republics in Soviet Central Asia, p. 1. Ibid., p. 2. This was the artist’s graduate work at the I.E. Repin Institute of Paitning, Sculpture and Architecture of the USSR Academy of Arts in Leningrad. Bai is a Kazakh and Kyrgyz word for a wealthy man. They were mainly landowners. Zarifa Saidnosirova, The Mausoleum of Iassavi in Turkestan, 1925. Oil on canvas, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Ashraf Razykov, Spring in Samarkand, 1940s. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. The most notable exception is the work of Vasilii Vereshchagin. See Lebedev, Andrey K., Василий Васильевич Верещагин: Жизнь и Творчество [Vasilii Vasilievich Vereshchagin: Life and Art], Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1958.



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Stepan Polupanov, Summer House in Front of the Uzbekistan Pavilion at the VSKhV (All-Union Agricultural Exhibition) – now a pavilion ‘Soviet Culture’, photograph by Vladimir Paperny, 1979, reproduced in Vladimir Paperny, Culture 2, Moscow, 2006, p. 171. A discussion of the continuation of the use of Orientalised forms in architecture (this time, however, as a form of kitsch) was presented by Alim Sabitov, ‘Китч в современной городской среде Казахстана’ [‘Kitsch in the contemporary urban environment of Kazakhstan’], at the National Identity in Eurasia: Identities and Traditions Conference, New College, Oxford, 23.03.09. The Virgin Land was the name used for the territory of the steppes in northern Kazakhstan, which had been extensively cultivated since 1954, especially for the production of large amounts of wheat. For this project large numbers of Russian and Ukrainian workers were sent to settle in Kazakhstan, leading to dramatic changes in the ethnic balance of the population within the republic (by 1970 there were one million more Russians in Kazakhstan than Kazakhs: 5,522 million and 4,343 million respectively). Aport was a famous extra-large apple variety for which southern Kazakhstan was famous and which the region supplied to the Kremlin. The territory of Kazakhstan in general is known as the origin of the apple species, making them an object of national identification and pride. Kirschenbaum, Small Comrades, p. 134. Alt and Alt, Russia’s Children, p. 16. Andrew B. Wachtel, The Battle of Childhood: Creation of a Russian Myth, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990, p. 202. Alt and Alt, Russia’s Children, p. 78. Judith Harwin, Children of the Russian State: 1917–1995, Aldershot: Avebury, 1996, p. 16. Mike O’Mahony, Sport in the USSR: Physical Culture – Visual Culture, London: Reaktion Books, 2006. Several good representative examples can be found in O’Mahony, Sport in the USSR.

notes / 273 26

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29 30 31 32







Kamil Shayakhmetov, In the Native Village, 1961. Oil on canvas, 130 × 180, State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan named after A. Kasteev, Almaty. Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe, p. xi. Steven Sabol, Russian Colonization and the Genesis of Kazak National Consciousness, London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, pp. 1–2. Ibid., p. 6. Anderson, Imagined Communities, pp. 45–8. Sabol, Russian Colonization and the Genesis of Kazak National Consciousness, p. 48. The Russian word Smena, which is the title of the first work, can be translated as Change and also as Shift, as in morning shift or evening shift. Semipalatinsk Test Site (or Semipalatinsk Polygon) in Eastern Kazakhstan was the Soviet Union’s primary testing venue for its nuclear weapons. Testing began in 1949 and ceased only in 1989. The most recent example of the resulting conflict is the war between Georgia and Russia over territories that were separated during Stalin’s rule. Pavel Kuznetsov, In the Steppe. Lying inside Koshara, 1915–16. Tempera on cardboard, 56.5 × 70.5, Private Collection. Zakir Inogamov, A Call for a Tea Break, 1957. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. R.T. Kopbosinova, ‘О “простом” в искусстве. Феномен “осознанно-неосознанного” в творчестве А. Кастеева’ [‘On “simple” in art. The phenomenon of “consciously-unconscious” in the art of A. Kasteev’] in Художник и Эпоха. А. Кастеев и Изобразительное Искусство Центральной Азии XIX – XX веков [Artist and Epoch. A. Kasteev and Fine Art of Central Asia of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries], collection of conference papers, Almaty, 2004, p. 14. Bayan K. Barmankulova, ‘Структурный анализ картины А, Кастеева “Колхозная Молочная Ферма” (1936)’ [‘A Structural Analysis of A. Kasteev’s painting Collective Dairy Farm (1936)’], in Artist and Epoch, p. 14.



41 42 43



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Kenesary Kasymov (1802–47) led the anticolonisation revolt (against joining the Russian Empire) in 1837–47, proclaiming restoration of Kazakh statehood; he was known as the ‘last Kazakh khan’. Amangeldy Imanov (1873–1919) was a key figure in the 1916 revolt against Tsarism and was later proclaimed as one of the first Soviet heroes for his role in pro-Bolshevik activities during the subsequent Civil War. Victor and Elena Vorobiev, in their ironic photographic installation Kazakhstan. Blue Period (2002–5), present a collection of images of flags, sky, everyday objects and outside public spaces all affected by the ‘national’ colour (fences, graves, posters and even rubbish bins). The work was presented at the first Central Asian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2005. R.T. Kopbosinova, ‘On “Simple” in Art’ in Artist and Epoch, p. 16. Ibid., p. 16. G.A. Sarykulova, ‘Довоенное творчество А. Кастеева’ [‘Art of A. Kasteev in the pre-War period’] (an abridged version of an article published in Iskusstvo magazine, N6, 1976), reprinted in Artist and Epoch, pp. 36–7. R.A. Ergalieva, ‘Абылхан Кастеев как основоположник национальной художественной школы Казахстана’ [‘Abylkhan Kasteev as the founder of national art school of Kazakhstan’], in Artist and Epoch, pp. 17–20. E.F. Kovtun, M.M. Babanazarova and E.D. Gazieva, Авангард Остановленный на Бегу [Avant-Garde Halted Midway], Leningrad: Aurora, 1989, p. 2. Ibid., p. 48. See Sarah Wilson, Matisse, 1992, Barcelona: Ediciones Poligrafa, 1992, p. 17 for a discussion of the double-sided nature of Matisse’s Orientalist images in which flatness, spirituality and fantasy coexist. V. Chepelev, ‘Painting of Soviet Uzbekistan’, in Iskusstvo, No. 6, 1934, p. 31. The novel was written in the 1960s while the famous adaptation by Tarkovsky was completed in 1972. A less successful American adaptation was made in 2002.

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Ural Tansykbaev, To the Nursery, 1933. Oil on canvas, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Ural Tansykbaev, A Study, 1942. Oil on canvas, 23 × 16; A Study, 1936. Oil on canvas; Memorial House-Museum of Ural Tansykbaev, Tashkent. Ural Tansykbaev, Little Birch Tree, 1957. Oil on canvas, Memorial House-Museum of Ural Tansykbayev. Ural Tansykbaev, Mountain Pasture, 1953. Oil on canvas, Memorial House-Museum of Ural Tansykbayev.

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five 1






‘New Perspectives on the Art of the Middle East: From Ancient History to the Contemporary’, ‘Visual Culture of the Medieval Middle East: Islamic Art History Now?’ and ‘China and the West: The Reception of Chinese Art across Cultures from the 15th Century to the Present’, AAH10 Conference at the University of Glasgow and the Glasgow School of Art, 15–17.04.10. Cover of Expert magazine, special edition ‘Life after USSR: 14 essays on post-Soviet countries’, 25–31.12.06. Illustration to an article by Dmitrii Glumskov, ‘Time before and time after (Tajikistan)’, Expert magazine, 25–31.12.16, 2006, pp. 56–7; Illustration to an article by Dmitrii Glumskov, ‘A Break for a Protest (Kyrgyzia)’, Expert magazine, special edition ‘Life after USSR: 14 essays on post-Soviet countries’, 25–31.12.16, p. 66. Promotional poster for Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, 2006. Film directed by Larry Charles; screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, and Dan Mazer; producer Sacha Baron Cohen. Film directed by Larry Charles; screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, and Dan Mazer; producer Sacha Baron Cohen. Personal conversation with the author, 2009.

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Personal conversation with the author. Most poignantly, Boris Groys has already discussed the comic as a ‘walking museum’ full of valuable insights (personal conversation with the author). Agitation for Happiness, p. 19. Aizhan Kapaeva, Культура и Политика: государственная политика в области культуры в Казахстане во второй половине 1940х–1991 гг. [Culture and Politics: State Politics in the Realm of Culture in Kazakhstan, second half of 1940–1991], Almaty: Atamura, 2004, p. 7. Ekaterina Degot, ed., Борьба за Знамя: Советское Искусство Между Троцким и Сталиным, 1926–1936 [Struggle for the Banner: Soviet Art Between Trotsky and Stalin, 1926–1936], exh. cat., Manezh, Moscow: Museum of Contemporary Art Publication, 2008. See bibliography for full details. Hubertus Gassner, Evgeniya Petrova and Irmgard Schleier, Introduction, Agitation for Happiness, p. 10. While my sources in Russia informed me of rumours that Stalin’s name in fact came first in the competition, and was removed in order to avoid any subsequent issues, even third position is of major importance in any analysis of the popular Russian view of Soviet history. Shaun Walker, ‘Why is Stalin still popular in Russia, despite the brutality of his regime?’, Independent, 14.05.08. The film brings out complex issues of identity and stereotypes as it utilises multi-level relationships between the US, the UK and Europe, including the role and image of Jews in these societies post-9/11. Zhanatay Shardenov, Autumn, 1974. Oil on cardboard, 70 × 50, Pavlodar Art Museum, Pavlodar, Kazakhstan. Zhanatay Shardenov, Shepherd, 1970. Oil on cardboard, 50 × 70, Private Collection. Rustam Khalfin, Pulota, late 1990s. Oil on canvas, 80 × 60, private collection; Sergei Maslov, Myths of Kazakhsani Mass-Media, 1997. Oil on canvas, 60 × 80.

notes / 275 20

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Irina Yuferova, ‘The 1990s: sweet decade of hope’, in Art from Central Asia: a Contemporary Archive, exh. cat., Central Asia pavilion, Venice Biennale 2005, curator Viktor Misiano, Bishkek: Kurama Art, 2005, pp. 68–72. Segei Maslov, Baikonur-2, 2002. Slide-film. Sergei Maslov, performance, late 1990s. Rustam Khalfin, Skin of an Artist, 1997. Writing on sheepskin, poem by Saule Suleimenova, part of performance. Rustam Khalfin and Yuliya Tikhonova, Northern Barbarians, Part 2. The Love Races, 2000. Video, 10’’. Nadim Samman and Aliya AbykayevaTiesenhausen, eds, Rustam Kkalfin: Seeing through the Artist’s Hand, exh. cat., White Space Gallery, London, 2007. Erbolat Tolepbay, Summer Walk, 1999. Oil on canvas, 120 × 80. Umirbek Zhubaniyazov, Kezdesu, 2000. Oil on canvas, 130 × 100. Bakhytkhan Myrzakhmetov, Tarkhan Zhanibek, 1998. Oil on canvas, 150 × 120. The author assisted this production by fixing meetings with Kazakh artists across the country in Almaty, Chimkent, Karaganda and Astana in January 2006. His utilisation of an image of the ‘barbarian’ is not unlike that employed by the Russian artist Oleg Kulik in the 1990s. Meldibekov’s image supplements the notions of the post-Soviet barbarian with an image of an ‘Eastern’ or ‘Oriental’ man – highlighting connotations of threat, terrorism, despotism, etc. Erbossyn Meldibekov: The (Dis)Order of Things, exh. cat, curated by Sara Raza, Rossi & Rossi, London, 2009. Organised by the author and Dr Melanie Vandenbrouck-Przybylski. ‘Alibek Mergenov’s Kokpar: Kazakh Horsemen of Apocalypse at Play’, chaired by Thomas Welsford (Harris Manchester College, Oxford), discussant Nariman Skakov (University College, Oxford), University College, Oxford, 30.05.08. Call for papers for the International Conference: Orientalism/Occidentalism: Languages of


Cultures versus Languages of Description, hosted by the Russian Institute for Cultural Research in Moscow, 23–5.09.10. Received by the author via email, 14.09.09. A glimpse of examples of Russian Orientalism could be seen in 2009 at the Sphinx Fine Art Gallery in London at their exhibition ‘Russian Orientalism and Constantinople’ (February–March). The exhibition was accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, Russian Orientalism: Central Asia and the Caucasus, exh. cat., Sphinx Fine Art, London, 2009.


archives and libraries

(funds 5446, 5673, 6822, 6892, 7523, 7543, 9476, 9479, 9499)

Almaty, Kazakhstan Book Library of Kasteev State Museum of Arts National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan Central State Archive of the Republic of Kazakhstan (collections 1736, 1890, 1308, 1242, 1736, 1792, 1755, 1676, 1758) Archive of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (fund 708) Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Central State Archive of Kyrgyz Republic (fund 1603)

Tashkent, Uzbekistan Central State Archive of Uzbekistan (funds 2285, 2287, 2296, 2304, 2305, 2320, 2665, 2715)

periodicals ArtChronika Istroricheskii Arhiv Iskusstvo Tvorchestvo WAM

London, UK The British Library The National Art Library The Courtauld Institute of Art Book Library Moscow, Russia Book Library of the State Tretyakov Gallery Russian State Library [RGB – Rossiiskaya Gosudarstvennaya Biblioteka] Russian State Archive of Literature and Art [RGALI – Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennii Arkhiv Literaturi i Iskusstva] (funds 297, 298, 312, 313, 316, 613, 634, 681, 962, 2020, 2082, 2309, 2329, 2459, 2694, 2926, 2940, 2941, 2943) State Archive of the Russian Federation [GARF – Gosudarstvennii Arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii]

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Nationalism, rev. edn, London and New York: Verso, 1983 [1998]. Andrews, Julia F., Painters and Politics in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–79, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, University of California Press, 1994. Антология Искусства Казахстана: живопись [Anthology of the art of Kazakhstan: painting], Almaty: Zolotaia Kniga, 2004. Antoshenko, A.M. and L.G. Plakhotnaya, Библиография по изобразительному искусству Казахстана (1928–1971) [Bibliography on fine art of Kazakhstan (1928–1971)], 1st edn, Alma-Ata, 1971. Applebaum, Anne, Gulag: a History of the Soviet Camps, London: Allen Lane, 2003. Art and Power: Europe under the Dictators, 1930–45, exh. cat., The South Bank Centre, London, 1995. Art from Central Asia: a Contemporary Archive, exh. cat., Central Asia pavilion, Venice Biennale 2005, curator Viktor Misiano, Bishkek: Kurama Art, 2005. Art Museum of the Uzbek SSR. Painting, Leningrad: Aurora Art Publishers, 1975. Искусство Советского Союза [Art of the Soviet Union], Leningrad: Aurora, 1982 (1985). Художник и Эпоха. А. Кастеев и Изобразительное Искусство Центральной Азии XIX–XX веков [Artist and epoch. A. Kasteev and fine art of Central Asia of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries], collection of conference papers, Almaty, 2004. Художники Советского Узбекистана [Artists of Soviet Uzbekistan], Tashkent, 1959. Babakhanov, M.B., ed. Актуальные Проблемы Истории и Историографии Средней Азии (Вторая Половина XIX–Начало XX в.) [Current problems of history and historiography of Central Asia (second half of the nineteenth–early twentieth centuries)], Dushanbe: State Tadjik University, 1990. Balina, Marina, Evgeny Dobrenko and Yury Murashov, eds, Советское Богатство: Статьи о Культуре, Литературе и Кино. К шестидесятилетию Ханса Гюнтера [Soviet wealth: articles on culture, literature and cinema. For

278 / central asia in art the sixtieth anniversary of Hans Gunther], St Petersburg: Akademicheskii Project, 2002. Banks, Miranda, ed., The Aesthetic Arsenal: Socialist Realism Under Stalin, Long Island City: Institute for Contemporary Arts, P.S. 1 Museum, 1993. Barmankulova, Bayan K. and E. Gavrilova, eds, Акварель Казахстана [Watercolour of Kazakhstan], Alma-Ata: Oner, 1989. Barthold, W., Turkestan: Down to the Mongol Invasion, 2nd edn, London, 1958. Bate, Jonathan, ‘Poet in a time of terror’, Sunday Telegraph, July 10, 2005. Benjamin, Roger, Orientalist Aesthetics: Art, Colonialism, and French North Africa, 1880–1930, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2003. ———, ed., Orientalism: Delacroix to Klee, London: Thames and Hudson, 1997. Benjamin, Walter, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936), in Illuminations, London: Fontana Press, 1973 (1992). ———, Moscow Diary, ed. Gary Smith, trans. Richard Sieburth, Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1986. Berdyaev, Nicolas, Towards a New Epoch, trans. Oliver Fielding Clarke, London: Geoffrey Bles, 1949. Berlin-Moscau/Moskva-Berlin: 1900–1950, exh. cat., Berlinische Galerie, Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Photographie und Architektur im MartinGropius-Bau, Berlin and the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; Munchen: Prestel, 1995. Bhabha, Homi K., The Location of Culture, London: Routledge, 1994. Blakesley, Rosalind P. and Susan E. Reid, eds, Russian Art and the West: a Century of Dialogue in Painting, Architecture, and the Decorative Arts, Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2007. Bonnell, Victoria E., Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters Under Lenin and Stalin, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Borovskii, Alexandr, G. Polikarpova and K. Brandt, Пионеры Фотографии [Pioneers of photography: Russian and Soviet photography from the Swiss

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Page numbers in italics refer to figures

Abikeyeva, Gulnara 31 Abykayev, Nurtay 263n44 Aitiev, Gapar 22, 23, 94, 177, 201, 202 Akhmedov, Rakhim 202 Akiner, Shirin 31 Akylbekov, Sabyrbek 210, 212, 217–19 Alt, Herschel and Edith 42 Anderson, Benedict 21, 24, 209 Balina, Marina 26 Barkhatova, Elena 43 Barmankulova, Bayan 225 Baron Cohen, Sacha 32, 247 Belevich, Iosif 22, 23, 177 Benjamin, Walter 36, 115–16 Benkov, Pavel 56, 58, 72, 154–5, 157, 162–6, 172, 205 Bhabha, Homi 17 Bogdanov, Sergei 98, 101, 130, 131, 138 Bokin, Tokash 191 Bolkoev, Fedor 136 Borisov-Musatov, Viktor 196 Bortnikov, Aleksei 131–2, 178 Bown, Matthew Cullerne 57, 147, 246, 262n26 Briullov, Karl 163, 164 Buck-Morss, Susan 6–10, 207 Bulatov, Erik 245 Castillo, Greg 27, 116 Cézanne, Paul 236 Chepelev, Vladimir 61, 89

Cherkasskii, Abram 140–1, 142, 156 Chuikov, Ivan 270 n20 Chuikov, Semion 15, 16, 53, 71–5, 89, 114, 138, 145–51, 155, 164, 207, 212 Danko, Natalia 46, 66, 76 Deineka, Alexander 39, 40, 75, 78, 86, 87, 113, 120, 124–5, 202, 246 Degot, Ekaterina 16, 29, 246 de Jonge, Alex 63 Dobrenko, Evgeny 26 Dombrovsky, Yurii 31, 32 Droubek-Meyer, Natasha 29 Dzhandosov, Uraz 33, 264n60 Elliott, David 43, 65, 246, 262n26 Falk, Robert 153, 154, 235 Fierman, William 186 Flavo, Rosa Maria 261n2 Flekman, David xiv, 11, 122, 133 Foucault, Michel 29, 108, 269n41 Ftouni, Layal 259 Galimbaeva, Aisha 54, 55, 194–9 Gauguin, Paul 235 Genghis Khan 43 Gerasimov, Alexander 79, 111–12, 114, 245 Giddens, Anthony 48 Golomstock, Igor 27, 67

288 / central asia in art Golshiri, Barbad 259 Goncharova, Natalia 271n29 Gorbachev, Mikhail 250 Gorky, Maxim 185 Greenberg, Clement 20, 111, 263n32, 269n43 Groys, Boris 3–9, 28, 29, 31, 49, 51, 95, 104, 106, 108-9, 173, 238, 245 Günther, Hans 36, 120 Gusev, Vladimir 244

Korovai, Elena 158 Korovin, Konstantin 196 Kovalevskaya, Zinaida 157, 163 Krens, Thomas 29 Krutilnikov, Nikolai 179, 181 Kugach, Yuri 3, 4 Kulik, Oleg 275n30 Kunanbaev, Abai 208 Kuznetsov, Pavel 217

Hardt, Michael 76–7 Haugen, Arne 17, 186 Hitler, Adolf 77, 172 Hobsbawm, Eric 23 Hollein, Max 144

Lacan, Jacques 29 Lahusen, Thomas 26 Lanceray, Evgenii 71, 75 Lebedinskaya, L. 46 Lem, Stanislaw 236 Lenin, Vladimir I.12, 22, 44, 49, 63, 109, 123, 124, 172, 177, 188 Leontev, Leonid 159–160, 161 Lizogub, Maria 158, 159

Ibraeva, Valeria 261n2 Imanov, Amangeldy 189, 226, 273n39 Inogamov, Zakir 220 Ioganson, Boris 106, 107, 113–14, 245 Irwin, Robert 30 Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV) 43 James, Caradog V. 3 Januszczak, Waldemar 254, 261n1 Kabakov, Ilya 245 Kaganovich, L.M. 75 Kalmykov, Sergei 56, 57, 138–40, 207 Kapaeva, Aizhan 244 Karazin, Nikolai 53 Karpov, Stepan 37, 38, 113, 246 Kashina, Nadezhda 156–7, 169 Kasteev, Abylkhan 92, 93, 183, 222–34, 248, 257 Kasymov, Kenesary 226, 273n39 Kenbaev, Moldakhmet 220–1 Kettering, Karen L. 29 Khalfin, Rustam 17, 250–1 Khludov, Nikolai 53, 131–3, 184, 233 Khmelko, Mikhail 48–9 Khrushchev, Nikita 106, 243–4, 247 King, David 83 Kirschenbaum, Lisa 200 Kolbin, Gennady 216 Konayev, Dinmukhamed 216 Konchalovsky, Petr 59–60, 62

Macelloni, Enrico 261n2 Madra, Beral 261n1 Malevich, Kazimir 12, 238 Malkov, Pavel 90, 245 Mally, Lynn 28, 102 Malraux, Andre 243 Mametova, Manshuk 115 Maslov, Sergei 250–1 Matisse, Henri 235–6, 266n38, 273n47 Meldibekov, Erbossyn 189, 190, 248, 253, 255–7, 275n30 Menlibayeva, Almagul x, 17, 253–5 Mergenov, Alibek 258, 259 Meyerhold, Vsevolod E. 59–60 Mikhailov, Valerii 33 Misiano, Viktor 251, 261n1 Moldagulova, Aliya 115 Montesquieu (Baron de) Charles-Louis de Secondat, 243 Motovilov, Georgii 76 Murashov, Yuri 26 Mylnikov, Andrei 166, 168 Myrzakhmetov, Bakhytkhan 252 Nechitailo, Vasilii 3, 4 Negri, Antonio 76–7

index / 289 Nikolaev (Usto-Mumin), Alexander 99, 101, 154, 235 Nochlin, Linda 51 Obraztsov, Vladimir 174–7 O’Mahony, Mike 201 Orwell, George 45, 95, 128 Paperny, Vladimir 5–9, 193 Pavlov, Ivan 82 Penson, Max 59–61, 69, 85, 86 Petrov-Vodkin, Kuzma 238 Petrova, Evgenia 262n20 Prokhorov, Gleb 3, 120 Putin, Vladimir 66 Radimov, Pavel 112 Razykov, Ashraf 192–3 Renoir, Pierre-Auguste 163, 164, 196 Rivera, Diego 166, 167 Rozanov, Nikolai 155, 158, 184 Rozhdestvensky, Vladimir 71, 73, 140, 155, 158 Ryklin, Mikhail 28, 65, 76, 81–2 Rywkin, Mikhail 186 Sabitov, Alim 272n16 Sabol, Steven 208 Said, Edward 17, 31, 152–3, 241, 258 Saidnosirova, Zarifa 192 Samokhvalov, Alexander 51, 52, 202 Shade, Aza x, xi Shardenov, Zhanatay 249–50 Sharp, Jane 152, 162 Shayakhmetov, Mukhamet 128, 190–1, 204–6 Shegal, Gregory 110–11, 123, 245 Shishkin, Leonid 246 Skakov, Nariman 258 Smirnov, Boris 53 Solzhenitsyn, Alexander 32 Sorokina, Yulia 261n1 Soros, George 242 Spivak, Gayatri 17 Stalin, Joseph 3, 35, 41, 44, 47–9, 63–4, 83, 95, 103, 107–9, 117, 119, 120, 122, 123, 131, 144, 172–3, 188, 200, 209, 227, 241, 243–4, 247 Steiner, Evgeny 260 Suleimenova, Saule 252–3

Tansykbaev, Ural 56, 79–80, 100–102, 167, 183, 234–40 Tarkovsky, Andrei 236 Telzhanov, Kanafiya 72, 74, 182, 187–9, 211–14 Temerin, S 89 Tikhonova, Yulia 251 Tolepbay, Erbolat 252 Tregulova, Zelfira 245 Tsyplakov, Victor 3, 4 Tzopf, Maria K. 85–6 Ufimtsev, Viktor 154, 155 Urmanche, Baki 40, 42, 72, 265n10 Valikhanov, Chokan 208 Vandenbrouck-Przybylski, Melanie 264n55 Varisco, Daniel M. 30 Veimarn, B. 80 Vereshchagin, Vasilii 53, 193, 194 Verkhovtsev, Pavel 141, 143, 156 Viliams 118 Volkov, Alexander ix, 96, 100, 105, 162, 166–72, 239 Vorobiev, Victor and Elena 273n40 Vrubel, Mikhail 168 Vuchetich, E. 69 Wachtel, Andrew 200 Warraq, Ibn 30 Wilson, Sarah 243, 259 Zaitsev, Yuri 97, 101, 136 Zamoshkin, A 69 Zhubaniyazov, Umirbek 252 Žižek, Slavoj 19, 24, 97, 107

aliya abykayeva-tiesenhausen is an art historian specializing in twentieth-century and contemporary Central Asian art. She holds a PhD from the Courtauld Institute of Art.