Soviet Union Information Bureau
IN literature, music, painting, sculpture, architecture and the theater the
new Soviet society may be said to he still in a transition stage. During the
first years in the arts generally there was a natural tendency to extreme
experimentalism. This has been succeeded by a steadying process, a settling down
to a creative interpretation of the new life. In all the arts there is a healthy
clash of diverse schools and tendencies. The experimental vigor has given rise
to many novel forms which have attracted attention in other countries. The
mechanics of the stage have had a particularly interesting development. In
motion pictures the dramatic realism of a number of Soviet productions has won
acclaim throughout Europe and America. In architecture there is a new realistic
note and the new buildings are distinctly modernistic and western, in contrast
to the rococo imitations and the flaring orientalism of Tsarist times. In
sculpture the aspiration is towards monumentalism and industrial application.
Painting, music and literature have been steadily orienting themselves to the
new conditions of life and already have attained to considerable solid
In all the arts visiting observers note that the creative forces are
vigorously alive, and questions of theory and practice are treated with unusual
breadth of vision. This is probably implicit in a society where the masses of
the population take a vital interest in the work of the artist.
THE THEATER.- The revolution has
resulted in a great transformation in the Russian theater.
During the last years of the old régime, growing restrictions on free
expression gradually divorced the theater from the realities of life. Symbolism
became a refuge of safety. The ballet flourished and drew from oriental themes a
gorgeous color and exoticism.
The Revolution flung the theater open to the masses, and the new audiences,
steeled by the civil wars, were indifferent to symbolism and to mild
introspection, and demanded themes representative of the new life.
The theater responded to the demands to a remarkable degree. For a time there
was a special emphasis on the mechanics of representation and this sometimes
took the form of eccentricity not unnatural in a time of general transvaluation
of values. New dramas of the struggle of the man with the machine lent
themselves to the passion for startling mechanical effects, and even the
classics were re-treated to accord with the new mode. Extravagant tendencies
were eventually curbed by the seriousness of the new mass-audiences. Their taste
was for dramas giving a coherent picture of the new Soviet society, and their
taste has prevailed. Stanislavsky's Art Theater, which at first continued to
play Chekhov and Maeterlinck in the old manner, eventually responded to the new
spirit and applied its naturalism to the production of Ivanov's "Armored Train."
At the other end of the scale the more advanced mechanistic producers gradually
relegated startling mechanical effects to their proper place and gave primary
emphasis to the play itself and the spoken word.
Of the outstanding producers, Meyerhold stands at the opposite pole from
Stanislavsky's naturalism. In the past ten years Meyerhold has not hesitated to
reshape the content of plays and to attempt every conceivable experiment in
staging and acting. In his production dependence rests upon the scenic artist
and the director rather than on the playwright. Tairov, in the Kamerny Theater,
has sought a modus vivendi between the methods of Stanislavsky and of Meyerhold.
There are 500 theaters in the Soviet Union with an annual attendance of
In addition to the formal theaters, a spontaneous amateur theater movement of
imposing proportions has grown up in the Soviet Union. Such performances take
place in factory, town and village clubs, in which the workers write, produce
and act plays portraying their life in the Soviet society. The most important of
these theaters is the M.G.S.P.S., conducted by Moscow trade unions, in which
plays like "The Humming of the Rails" and "Storm" have brought the factory and
the machine on the stage in strikingly realistic form. There are some 35,000 of
these club theaters in the cities and towns and 30,000 in the villages.
Contemporary life is also reflected in the performances of the troupes of "Blue
Blouses" of which there are about 10,000. They travel about the country to
perform before local trade unions and peasant clubs and their repertoire
includes songs, acrobatics, dancing and satirical sketches. An interesting
theatrical movement of broad proportions has also sprung up in clubs attached to
the Red Army.
A list of the principal Moscow theaters, with their successes of the past two
1). Bolshoi Theater, Teatralnaya Ploschad. This is the State
opera house and produces the classic operas and ballets, including "Boris
Godunoff," "Faust," "Carmen," "Eugene Onegin," "AIda," "Esmeralda," "Salome,"
"Don Quixote," "Lohengrin," "Love of the Three Oranges," etc. Also new ballets
such as "Red Poppy."
2). The Musical Studio of the Moscow Art Theater: 17 Bolshaya
Dmitrovka. Plays, lyric operas and operettas, including "The Daughter of Madame
Angot," "La Perichole," "Lysistrata," "Carmencita."
3). Experimental Theater, 6 Bolshaya Dmitrovka. This is
another State opera house, including in its repertoire such operas as "La
Bohéme," "Rigoletto," "Lakme," "The Queen of Spades," "Romeo and Juliet," "The
Marriage of Figaro," "Don Juan." It also stages ballets, the best known of which
is "The Beautiful Joseph."
4). Mali Theater (The Little Theater), located on the
Teatralnaya Ploshchad (Theater Square). Produces serious plays and comedies,
classics as well as contemporary works. Its repertoire includes Ostrovsky's
"Forest"; Lunacharsky's "Bear's Wedding"; Griboyedov's "The Misfortune of Being
5). Moscow Art Theater, Kamergersky Pereulok. This celebrated
theater continues to be directed by Stanislavsky and includes in its repertoire
Maeterlinck's "Bluebird," Alexey Tolstoy's "Tsar Feodor Ivanovitch," Gorki's
"The Depths," Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya," Bulgakov's "Days of the Turbins,"
Vsevolod Ivanov's "Armored Train." The thirtieth anniversary of the Art Theater
was celebrated in Moscow, October, 1928.
6). Studio of the Moscow Art Theater, located at 2-7
Teatralnaya Ploshchad. Its repertoire includes Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and
"Hamlet," Strindberg's "Eric XIV," schylus's "Orestes," Andrei Byelyi's
"Petersburg," A. Tolstoy's "Death of Ivan the Terrible," and Babel's "Sunset."
7). Vakhtangov Theater, located at 26 Arbat. Its repertoire
includes "Turandot," Seifullina's "Vireneya," Victor Hugo's "Marion de Lornie,"
Bulgakov's "Zoikin's Apartment," Leonov's "Badgers," Sheglov's "Transatlantic."
8). Kamerny Theater (directed by Tairov), located at 23
Tverskoy Boulevard. Its repertoire includes Lecoque's "Girofle.Girofla," Oscar
Wilde's "Salome," Ostrovsky's "Storm," O'Neill's "Hairy Ape" and "Desire Under
the Elms," Hasenclever's "Antigone."
9). Meyerhold Theater, 20 Sadovaya Ulitsa. The most
experimental theater in the Soviet Union. Its repertoire includes Ostrovsky's
"Forest," Ilya Erenburg's "Destruction of Europe," Crommelynck's "Magnificent
Cuckold," Faiko 's "Bubus," Erdman's "Mandate," Tretiakov's "Roar China," and
Gogol's "Inspector General."
10). Theater of the Revolution, located at I 9
Bolshayaikitskaya. Its repertoire includes Faiko's "Lake Lyul," strovsky's "Soft
Jobs," Romasheva's "Air Pie," "Mattress," and "Krivorilsky's End," Bela Ilysh's
"Buy a Revolver," Glebov'S "Growth," Chijevsky's "Golgotha," Ivanov's
"Alphabet," Faiko's "Man with the Briefcase," Toller's "Hooray, We're Living,"
Yurin's "When the Cock Crows."
11). Moscow Trade Union Theater (M.G.S.P.S.), located at
Karetny Ryad. Its repertoire includes Shapovalensky's "1881" and "Mob,"
Voynich's "Gadfly," Bill-Belotserkovsky's "Storm," and Gladkov's "Cement."
12). The Korsh Theater, located at 3 Petrovsky Pereulok
(Petrovka). Its repertoire includes Lunacharsky's "Machinist and Official,"
Panyl's and Nivda's "Traders in Fame," Sardou's "Madame Sans-Gene," Chijevsky's
"Alexander I," Shkvarkina's "Journey Around the World," Shcheglov's "Hurricane,"
Ostrovsky's "Wolves and Sheep."
13). Proletcult Theater, located at i Chistoproodny
Boulevard. This is a workers' theater producing such plays as Glehov's "Power,"
Bivaly's "Rubber," and plays based on Jack London's works.
14). First Theater of Satire, located at 10 Gnezdnikovsky,
which plays satires and comedies like "Love," "Play," "Intrigues," and "Aren't
You a Hooligan, Citizen?"
15). Second Theater of Satire, located at the corner of
Sadovoy Boulevard and Brestskoy. Produces satires like the "Night Before
Christmas," and the "Queen of the Movies."
16). Blue Blouse-variety troupe, located at 9 Okhotnyi Ryad.
17). Jewish Kamerny Theater, 2 Mala Bronnaya Ulitsa. Its
repertoire is entirely in Yiddish and includes plays like "Two Hundred
Thousand," "Koldoony," "Trouhadec," "137 Children's House," and the "Tenth
18). Habima Theater Studio, located at 29 First Brestkaya.
Dramas from the life of the Jewish people, given in Hebrew, including the famous
19). Ukrainian Theater of Music and Drama, 13 Leontevsky
Pereulok. Its repertoire is entirely in the Ukrainian language.
There is an excellent group of theaters in Leningrad, while Baku, Tiflis, and
other capitals of the minor nationalities have their own theaters playing in the
MOTION PICTURES.- The motion picture
has assumed an unusual vitality in the Soviet Union. While the technical
resources of the Soviet studios are still markedly below Hollywood standards,
skilled direction has achieved a degree of artistry comparable to that of
pictures produced anywhere. The motion picture lends itself admirably as a
medium for depicting the mass dramas of the Revolutionary years, and the result
has been pictures such as "The End of St. Petersburg" and "October," which has
been shown with success abroad as well as at home, and the pre-Revolutionary
picture "The Cruiser Potemkin." The screen also is well adapted to the portrayal
of the drama of reconstruction in the Soviet Union, the new conquest of the
machine, the rise of factories and power plants, the bringing of education to
the villages, the emancipation of women among backward national units, etc. A
wealth of material has also been found in Russian history. In employing this
diverse material, directors such as Eisenstein, Pudovkin, etc., have achieved
In the spring of 1928 there were 8,767 motion picture display places in the
Soviet Union. Of these there were 1,500 commercial theaters, 2,767 club
theaters, 1,184 rural theaters, 2,496 ambulant displays and 420 miscellaneous.
The cities and towns had 57 per cent of these places of entertainment and the
rural districts 43 per cent.
Of the 1,800 theaters charging admission, 40 per cent were operated by trade
unions, 35 per cent by the Department of Education, 3 per cent by Sovkino (the
principal producing organization) and i per cent by private persons.
Of the total number of display places 6,459 were in R.S.F.S.R. (Soviet Russia
proper). Of these the commercial, club and rural theaters had a total attendance
of over 260,000,000 in 192728.
LITERATURE.- To the western world
modern Russian literature is chiefly known through translations of Tolstoy,
Dostoyevsky, Turgeniev, Chekhov, Gorky, and Andreyev. These classics are still
published in the Soviet Union. In connection with the centenary of Tolstoy's
birth the State Publishing House (Gosizdat) issued the great novelist's
collected works in Too volumes.
The writers of the new Russia naturally could not merely resume where their
classical predecessors left off. The October Revolution destroyed old values and
created new ones. In the early days of the civil war the young Russian writers
had to face the problem of reflecting in literature the profound social changes
which had taken place. A reaction set in against passive naturalism, and the new
literature sought to speak directly to the masses of the Russian people, to
proclaim their aspirations in vigorous imaginative terms, and to stir them on to
reorganize social consciousness. A striking example of this attempt of
literature to participate actively in the march of the new order is shown in the
works of Demyan Bednyi. The songs, poems, and agitational rhymes and satires of
this talented political poet were directed to the wide masses of the people.
Another poet who shaped the themes, form and language of his verse to the
mold of the Revolution, is Vladimir Mayakovsky, the leader of the Futurist
school in the Soviet Union. Mayakovsky, however, is much more sophisticated than
Demyan Bednyi. Raised in Russia's literary Bohemia, Mayakovsky brought to the
Revolution the technical experiments of futurism, as contrasted with Demyan
Bednyi's simple ballads based on old folk forms. Mayakovsky's "Left March,"
"Manifesto," "150,000,000 ," "Lenin" and "Mysteria Bouffe" express the new era
in strong, fresh rhythms, works and images.
The most eminent poet of the pre-revolutionary intelligentsia who tried to
understand the Revolution was Alexander Blok. In his gifted poem "The Twelve" he
treats the Revolution as a mystical phenomenon, a cyclonic collapse of culture,
a rebellious transvaluation of those values which had been sanctified by
religion. He envisions the transvaluation as experienced by a profoundly
suffering humanity. Blok approached the Revolution as an intellectual whose
imagination worked with religious images; and in that sense is generally
considered to have failed in grasping the full import of the new era.
A poet completely different from any of the foregoing is Serge Yessenin,
whose premature death several years ago deprived Russian literature of perhaps
its most gifted lyricist. Yessenin's poetry had its roots in the village, though
it also showed the influence of the literary Bohemia in which he moved during
the last years of his life. He was the best product of the Imagist school, which
for a time had considerable vogue in early Revolutionary Russia. Though it used
different technical means, this school resembled Futurism in its Bohemian
tendencies, and its attempts to shock the reader by the novelty, surprise,
rudeness and even vulgarity of its images. The Imagists, however, did not break
with old esthetic traditions, as did the Futurists, who demolished the old
sthetics altogether and to that extent were revolutionaries in art. Because of
their preoccupation with the image, which they considered the basic element of
poetry, leading poets of the Imagist school, like Marienhof, Kusikov, Grusinov,
and Shershenyevitch, neglected revolutionary themes. These poets enjoyed a brief
fragile glory in the early days of the Revolution. Had Yessenin been merely an
Imagist he would have passed away with them. But he was more than that. Apart
from his superb lyric gifts, he expressed the psychology of the backward
peasant. In long poems like "Pugachev," "Inonia," "Pantocrator," he describes
the revolt of the peasants sweeping away city culture including the church and
preparing the way for a peasant paradise.
The storm and stress period of the Revolution was naturally favorable for
verse and unfavorable for prose. Short poems were the only possible vehicles for
the only people who were in a position to write, and who were still influenced
by the old culture of the nobility, the bourgeoisie and the city intellectuals;
it was the inevitable medium for the individualistic romanticism of transition
writers. The end of the civil war brought sufficient leisure for sustained
prose, and the Soviet Union produced a number of novels which were in effect
memoirs of the civil war.
Among the best of these is Furmanov's "Chapayev," describing a revolutionary
workingman, and "The Revolt," dealing with the civil war. In these chronicles
the method is naturalistic, depending on documents and facts which speak for
themselves. Both these books breathe a spirit of grandeur, but their power is
derived almost wholly from the facts they present.
The civil war is treated romantically in Lehedinsky's "A Week," which has
been translated into English. A similar method is employed by Serafimovitch in
"The Iron Stream." The romanticism of these writers is far from the European
type associated with mysticism and pacifism. These authors portray the heroism
of a great historical era and implicitly celebrate the will to act, the
collective effect of the masses overcoming enormous difficulties. Both
Seraflmovitch and Lehedinsky are Communists and are counted among the socalled
"proletarian writers." One of the pre-revolutionary novelists who describe the
civil war from the liberal intellectual's point of view is Veresayev whose
"Deadlock" has been translated into English.
The peace following the civil war encouraged the development of the so-called
"FellowTravelers," writers of various types and talents who were not themselves
of the new order, but who accepted the Revolution, and were willing to "travel"
along with it. They came from the peasantry, the intellectuals and the urban
middle-classes. These writers lacked the active spirit of the Revolution
animating the works of Demyan Bedny1, Mayakovsky, Serafimovitch, and Lebedinsky.
They retained a good deal of pre-revolutionary passivism, being content to
portray events as they saw them, without seeking to extract their full social
implications. Their works show great technical mastery. The "Fellow-Travelers"
also wrote their first books around the civil war from which they had just
emerged. Among the best of their novels are Vsevolod Ivanov's "Armored Train"
and "Colored Winds"; Yakovlev's "October"; Babel's "Red Cavalry" and "Tales";
Seifullina's "Virineya" and "Dung"; Artyom Vesyolyi's "The Homeland";
Malishkin's "The Fall of Dair"; Leonid Leonov's "Badgers," and Boris Pilnyak's
"Leather Jackets" and "The Naked Year."
The last of these works appeared at a psychological moment. It was the first
novel which set itself the task of reflecting Russia's social life in the throes
of the civil war.
Among the intellectuals of the old régime who personally accepted the new,
but whose works could only skim the surface of Revolutionary Russia, is Alexey
Tolstoy. His "Alita," "Engineer Garin's Hyperbole" and "Azure Cities" are
wellplanned, plastic and entertaining. A writer of a similar caliber is Fedin,
whose "Towns and Years," deal with the civil war, and "Transvaal" with the
village under NEP (the new economic policy, after 1921).
Sooner or later Soviet literature was bound to turn from the civil war to the
reconstruction period. The best known novel reflecting this transition is Feeder
Gladkov's "Cement." The romanticism which marked the proletarian literature of
the first period still clings to this book; but this time the problems of the
new society are correctly approached and lines are projected pointing to
socialist construction. A number of realistic works dealing with the period of
peaceful economic growth followed, notably Lyashko's "The Blast Furnace," and
Lidin's "The Ships Are Coming."
Soviet writers also began to portray the new types of people evolved by the
new society. Excellent portraits are presented in Lebedinsky's "To-morrow" and
"The Commissars"; Tarassov-Rodionov's "Chocolate." Lyashko's novel "The Break"
presents the psychology of the Communist worker; while Seifullina's "Virineya"
and Gladkov's "Cement" portray types of Soviet women. A number of well-written
novels deal with the Soviet youth, notably Malashkin's "The Right Side of the
Moon," Panteleimon Romanov's "Without Flowers," and Ognyev's "Diary of a
Communist Schoolboy," which has been translated into English.
The peasantry, also, has its place in the new Russian literature. One of the
best writers on village life was Neverov, whose "City of Bread," dealing with
the famine period in Tashkent, has been translated into English. Fedin's
"Transvaal" in a bizarre manner describes the well-to-do peasantry. The
transition of the village from the old to the new life is sketched in
Karavayev's "The Bears," and "The ChestnutColored Skin," and in Akulshin's
"Unbound Sheaves" and "Village Whispers." A strange spectacle of village life is
presented by Klichkov in "The Sweet German" and other works, which are poems in
prose rather than novels. Vsevolod Ivanov in "The Secret of Secrets" has also
essayed to portray the present life of the Russian peasant.
In addition to these and numerous other books describing Russian life since
1917, there have appeared a number of imaginative works revaluating the past in
the light of contemporary ideas. Thus the seventeenth century peasant revolt is
the theme of Chapigin's "Stenka Razin"; the 1825 revolt is portrayed in Marich's
"The Northern Lights" and in Tynyanov's "Kyukhla"; the Revolution of 1905 in
Yevdoki mov's "Bells"; pre-Revolutionary Moscow in Andrel Byelyi's "The Moscow
Crank," and "Moscow Under the Blow"; the period of October 1917, in Artyom
Vesyolyi's "Russia Bathed in Blood" and other works. The historical novel is
rapidly becoming one of the most favored forms of literature in Soviet Russia.
The stabilization of Soviet economy in the past few years has matured the new
writers considerably. Even their approach to civil war themes reveals a
different perspective. Thus Fadeyev's "The Smashup," which relates the story of
a group of "partisan" peasants (guerrilla fighters) in Siberia during the civil
war, is free of naturalism and romanticism. The novel is ripe and realistic and
the images correspond to the contents.
Of late the futurist poet Mayakovsky has been experimenting with long epics
as in "Lenin," and in personal lyrics like "It." Others have also attempted
epics, notably Bagritsky in the "Thoughts About Opanas," and Selvinsky in his
constructivist poem "Ulyalyayevshchina." Pasternak, a lyric poet whose "Sister
Is My Life" made him famous, has published a long psychological poem entitled
"Spektorsky" and a historical poem "Lieutenant Schmidt."
The best known of the younger poets are Bezymensky, Utkin, Zharov and
Svetlov. The futurist group, headed by Mayakovsky and Brick, has produced
several talented poets, including Aseyev and Kirsanov; while the lyrical school
of which Yessenin was the best representative has found adherents in Oreshin and
The following works of fiction and poetry by contemporary Russian writers
have been translated into English and are available in the United States:
1. Flying Osip: (International Publishers, New York). A
collection of short stories, including tales by Boris Pilniak, Vsevolod Ivanov,
Seifullina and others.
2. Russian Poetry: An Anthology (International Publishers). A
collection of poems from Pushkin to the present time, including verses by
Mayakovsky, Yessenin, Bezimensky, Marienhof, Ilya Erenburg, Alexander Blok and
3. Azure Cities: (International Publishers). A collection of
short stories by Alexey Tolstoy, Pilniak, Panteleimon Romanov, Ivanov, Lyashko,
Babel, Seifullina, Volkov, Zoshchenko and others.
4. Literature and Revolution: Critical Essays by Leon
Trotsky. (International Publishers.)
5. Diary of a Communist Schoolboy, by Ognyev: (Payson and
6. The City of Bread: by Alexander Neverov (H. G. Doran).
7. Cement, by Feodor Gladkov (International Publishers), a
novel of the reconstruction period.
8. Three Plays by A. V. Lunacharsky (E. P. Button & Co.).
This volume by the Soviet Commissar of Education contains "Faust and the City,"
"The Mag1," and "Vasilisa the Wise."
9. The Naked Year, by Boris Pilniak (Payson & Clark).
10. The Communist Undergraduate by Ognyev (Payson & Clark), a
continuation of the adventures of Kostja Rjabtzev, the hero of The Diary of a
11. The Road to Calvary, by Alexey Tolstoy (Boni & Liver
Music.- Though one of Russia's youngest
arts, music is among those most highly developed. It originally grew out of the
demands of the old aristocracy in the seventeenth century, seeking to imitate
the aristocratic culture of western Europe. It was natural, therefore, that the
first branch of music to reach excellence in Russia should be the opera, closely
related as it was to the imperial court. Musicians of the Neapolitan school,
such as Arraya, Galupp1, Cimarosa, and Paisiello, serving at the Tsar's court,
produced Russia's first operas. These were followed by French importations. It
was only toward the end of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth
centuries, when the nationalist sentiments fanned in Europe by the French
Revolution found an echo in Russia, that native composers began to transform the
material of Russian folk song into operas. The greatest of these early Russian
composers was Mikhail Glinka, whose works were composed for the court, the
nobility, and the new merchant class.
These early composers found themselves burdened by the atmosphere of feudal
disintegration of the court and the nobility. They were creating over the heads
of their audiences, and some of them, like Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky, were
forced to succumb to western influences. However, stronger men, like
Moussorgsky, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakoff, cut loose from the debilitating
influences of the upper classes, and drew power for their compositions from the
folk songs in which the Russian people voiced their aspirations. These two lines
of development, one rooted in the sophisticated music of Western Europe, the
other in native popular music, persisted throughout Russian compositions up to
1914. By that time Russian music began to achieve a synthesis of the two strains
in the musical symbolism of Scriabine, the gay experiments of Stravinsky and the
neo-classicism of Prokofiev.
On the eve of the World War the leading Russian composers were known
throughout the civilized world. The works of Moussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Borodin,
Glazounov, Stravinsky, Scriabine, and Prokofiev were performed in European and
American cities. Russia possessed a rich musical tradition. The Revolution of
1917 found the musical intellectuals unprepared to grasp the significance of the
historic change. Composers like Racbmaninov, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Medtner;
conductors like Koussevitsky; pianists like Orlov and Borovsky; singers like
Chaliapin remained abroad. Some of these attempted to work under the Soviet
régime, but the musical world was weakened for a time by the civil war and the
famine. At the same time, the Revolution created an immense musical audience
which demanded the best possible concerts. To satisfy this mass demand for
music, the Commissariat of Education created a special department which rapidly
organized orchestras, singers' troupes and concerts.
The new audience of Red Army soldiers, students, and workers were not
satisfied, however, with the old pot-pourri type of program, making a hash of
opera selections, western classics, and Russian music from Glinka to Prokofiev.
There arose a need for a new repertoire and a musical content more in accord
with the new times. There was a demand for songs and orchestral pieces suitable
for the great revolutionary openair festivals. The earliest efforts in this
direction were made by the Proletkult, a workers' organization for encouraging a
specifically proletarian culture. Later Moscow saw the organization of the
Composers' Association, which sought to express the Revolution in music. At
present the State Publishing House issues many new musical compositions, and has
the collaboration not only of the talented musical youth, but also of older
composers like G. Krein, Gliere, and Gnessin.
While encouraging new Revolutionary music, the Soviet Government felt the
necessity of continuing the rich heritage of the past and making it accessible
to the people of Russia. Operas and concerts throughout the country bring to the
worker and peasant the compositions of Glinka, RimskyKorsakoff, Moussorgsky,
Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Stravinsky and Prokofiev, as well as the German, French
and Italian classics. The Moscow, Leningrad and Odessa opera houses flourish on
a subscription basis. Many of these subscriptions are taken by trade unions
which distribute the tickets among workers. Symphony orchestras have developed
in workers' clubs from Moscow to the remotest provinces. Moscow, Tiflis,
Leningrad, Odessa and other cities celebrated the Beethoven festival with
splendid concerts. An interesting development has been the growth of leaderless
The attempt to find new expression for the Revolution in the opera and ballet
has taken two directions. The Leningrad opera bases itself on contemporary
music, on the conviction that only contemporary music is fit for the new
audience. It specializes in Schreker's "Distant Bells," Strauss's "Salome,"
Prokofiev's "Love of the Three Oranges," and the ballets of Stravinsky and
Kshennick. On the other hand, the Bolshoi Theater, with its branches, deeply
rooted as it had been in the imperial régime, moved much more slowly toward
modernism. It revived and tried to improve its productions of Boris Godunoff,
Faust, Carmen, Lohengrin and similar classics. It attempted to make up for its
conservative repertoire by modern staging and by re-writing the librettos.
While giving excellent productions of old and new classics, the Soviet opera
has experienced great difficulty in creating new operas reflecting the
Revolution in music. Several were indeed produced in Leningrad and Moscow, but
none of them went beyond the experimental stage. The situation is a little
better in the Caucasus, where the Soviet Government's policy toward the culture
of minor nationalities gave rise to the first native operas of that region. Two
musical dramas by the Georgian composer N. Palishvili scored considerable
success, while the Armenian composer N. Spenderyantz is working toward the
creation of a national form. New Turkish operas have been performed in Baku,
while in the Ukraine the native composers Yanovsky and Zolotaryev are working on
The era of peace and reconstruction following the civil war permitted the
successful development of new concert music, reflecting the new social order. N.
Myaskovsky has composed three symphonies of a high order. Myaskovsky is a
musical descendant of Glazounov. The influence of the Eastern sections of the
Soviet Union is felt in the compositions of Gliere, who has developed Turkoman
melodies and more recently prepared a ballet with Chinese musical themes. The
Jewish composer, Alexander Krein, has composed a symphony remarkable for its
wealth of melody and harmony, while Mikhail Gnessin, another Jewish composer,
has written a number of sketches paying tribute to those who perished in the
cause of the Revolution. The compositions of N. A. Roslavets attempt to express
the collective will of the people by organizing tonal elements independent of
Among the new composers who are influenced by the neoromanticism of Medtner
are Anatole Alexandrov; while the influences of Scriabine and modern western
expressionism are discernible in the compositions of Polovinkin, Shirinsky,
Protopopov, Knipper, Kryukov, Mosolov and Shebalin. The traditions of Ravel and
Debussy, mixed with strong oriental influences, are continued by Gregory Krein.
A group of excellent Leningrad composers, educated in the traditions of
Rimsky-Korsakoff, Moussorgsky, Borodin and Glazounov, has produced the
neo-classic composer of symphonies Shestakovitch and the extreme modernist
Shcherbachov. A moderate style characterizes the compositions of Steinberg and
Weisberg. One of the few who still compose for the organ is Kushnarev, who calls
himself a polyphonist; while Dyeshovy has made some daring experiments in the
opera and ballet.
Museums.- There are some 500 museums in
the Soviet Union, maintained by the Federal, State or local authorities. These
include scientific and historical museums as well as museums devoted to art.
The art museums became greatly enriched as a result of the Revolution.
Upwards of 200,000 objects of art, formerly stored in private collections or
buried in storehouses, became public property. During the past few years the
museums have been renovated and extended and the exhibits rearranged. The first
comprehensive inventory of the country's objects of art has been undertaken.
Among the principal museums are the following:
Moscow: The Tretiakov Gallery, including Russian paintings of
great historical and artistic value. First Museum of Modern Western Painting,
containing the former collection of S. I. Shchukin, one of the finest modern
collections in the world. Second Museum of Modern Western Painting, containing
the former collection of I. A. Morozov. Museum of the Revolution, a historical
arrangement portraying the struggle for freedom in Russia.
Leningrad: Hermitage Museum, Russian Museum, Stroganov
Palace, Sheremetiev Villa, Palace of Art (including Museum of the Revolution).
Other museums include: Museum of Ukrainian Art, Kharkov;
Museum of Art, Kiev; The Book Museum and the First, Second and Third National
Museums of Art in Odessa.