Matthew Feldman – Selling Sacralized Socialism: The USSR in Construction and Modern(ist) Propagations of Faith under Stalin

oxfordbrookes3 northhampton3

Sacred Modernities: Rethinking Modernity in a Post-Secular Age

18 September 2009

speaker_matthew-feldmanMathew Feldman (University of Northampton)
‘Selling Sacralized Socialism: The USSR in Construction and Modern(ist) Propagations of Faith under Stalin’

This paper will centre upon an analysis of the Soviet magazine USSR in Construction, which was published in English, French, German, Russian and later Spanish between 1930 and 1941 (although the magazine was relaunched in 1949 and changed to The Soviet Union from 1950, it was a wan shadow of its 1930s heydey). The avant-garde composition of this illustrated monthly, in addition to the contribution of leading artistic modernists in Stalin’s Russia (including Koltsov, Gorki, Rodchenko, Stepanova and Lissitsky), suggests that great importance was placed upon the international propaganda value of this publication. The heroic images of Soviet five-year plans and the innovative format of USSR in Construction – from photomontages and pullouts to colour images and massive centrefold posters – is in stark contrast to the murderous collectivisation and purges then taking place under Stalin.  The paper will analyse this modernist magazine from a dual heuristic perspective, namely modernism as a form of palingenesis and as an important aspect of ‘political religion’. In exploring these areas, the paper will return to the etymological genesis of the term propaganda: the propagation of a faith, in this case, that of an industrialised workers’ paradise marching toward a socialist utopia.

Dr Matthew Feldman is Senior Lecturer in 20th Century History at the University of Northampton and edits Wiley-Blackwell’s Compass: Political Religions (religion-compass.com). He has written extensively on revolutionary modernism in Europe and America since World War One, on subjects ranging from Samuel Beckett’s influences to post-war fascist ideology. He is currently completing a monograph for Palgrave on comparative Anglophone propagations of ideological faith between the wars, Modernism and Propaganda.

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