Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931-1941

Sheila Fitzpatrick writes:

The standard story of the mid-1930s is that it was the era of the Great Retreat, when the Stalinist leadership abandoned revolutionary internationalism and settled for a Soviet version of Russian nationalism, while at the same time jettisoning avant-garde art in favour of traditional cultural forms. Clark proposes instead that we think of a Great Appropriation, involving a simultaneous embrace of European culture and Russia’s own cultural heritage. High culture, Soviet spokesmen claimed, had never been so warmly appreciated as it was in the Soviet Union: no other country honoured its culture-bearing intelligentsia so much. The commitment to European culture was symbolised by the rebuilding of Moscow in a monumental style that combined Renaissance with classical elements.

(LRB 8 March 2012)