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Title: Stalinist monumental art and architecture, and the 'immortalization of memory'
Author: Kalashnikov, Antony
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 4191
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis analyzes the "immortalization of memory" policy of the Stalinist regime in the USSR (1932-1954), a program that sought to ensure that contemporaneous events and individuals would be remembered by posterity, in perpetuity. "Immortalization," I argue, was carried out through the construction of dedicated monumental art and architecture, which were built to last for centuries and were placed under a strong preservation regime. The research proposes a new way to interpret the style and form of Stalinist monumentalism, heretofore analyzed solely in terms of its immediate propaganda functions. I argue that historicism did not pander to backwards-looking, conservative tastes, as is commonly assumed. Rather, Stalinist monumental artists and architects sought a trans-temporal language that would be understandable to posterity, turning to "timeless" styles, whose supposed universality was "proven" by their continuous use throughout the centuries. I also argue that the development of Stalinist monumental practice in many respects revolved around the often contradictory strivings that monuments remain at once distinctive and relevant to posterity. Sensitivity to "immortalization" challenges the idea that Stalinist visions of the future can be contained in the "striving-towards-communism" model. I argue that the "immortalization" myth was not specific to Stalinism but was a shared response to wider processes of modernization: secularization of ideas about death (whereby "immortal" memory filled the existential vacuum left by declining belief in immortal souls) and rapid social change (in which communication with an imagined posterity gave a sense of stability). Insofar as these problems were particularly pronounced in a society undergoing rapid industrialization, and ruled by a militantly atheistic regime, "immortalization" dynamics achieved impressive dimensions in the Stalinist Soviet Union. This finding (that "immortalization" was a shared, transnational discourse, inflected in the Stalinist context) supports the emerging understanding of Stalinist culture as an expression of "radical modernity".
Supervisor: Healey, Dan ; Jones, Polly Sponsor: Clarendon Fund ; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Art history ; Architecture history ; Cultural history ; History