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Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931-1941 Hardcover – October 17, 2011
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In Moscow, the Fourth Rome—a series of linked essays following an adroitly plotted historical narrative—Clark recounts a scandalous episode in art history, while making a significant contribution to the understanding of 1930s European political culture. —J. Hoberman
As with all of Clark's previous books, this insightful and path-breaking Moscow sequel to her Petersburg will become an instant classic. Mixing ideology, literature, film, architecture, critical theory, politics, and everyday life, Clark has given us a landmark study, for no other book has encompassed the whole spectrum of Soviet cultural and intellectual history in the era of high Stalinism, conceptualized it so imaginatively and captured its pervasive terror. (Evgeny Dobrenko, University of Sheffield)
With her study of Stalinist "cosmopolitanism" and the dream of Moscow as the mecca of world culture, Clark once again blazes a new trail that many others will follow. Four high-profile Soviet intellectuals–the "cosmopolitan patriots" Sergei Eisenstein, Mikhail Koltsov, Ilya Ehrenburg and Sergei Tretyakov–served as intermediaries with world (particularly germanophone) culture and European leftist intellectuals in the era of the Popular Front, and their colorful stories provide the backbone of an enthralling narrative whose subjects range from literary translation and Soviet worship of the word to the Moscow show trials and the Spanish Civil War. (Sheila Fitzpatrick, University of Chicago)
A foundational challenge to the model of "insular Stalinism," this volume is essential to debates on trans-European cultural history and global cosmopolitanism. It will be an invaluable touchstone for a new generation of scholars to question the remnants of cold-war research. (Nancy Condee, University of Pittsburgh)
Clark's field is the vast canvas of 1930s culture as a whole, particularly the nexus between literature, architecture, and power. Her agenda is nothing less than to insert a largely missing international dimension to our understanding of Stalinist culture. It is difficult to overstate the implications of this trailblazing work. (Michael David-Fox, author of Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to Soviet Russia, 1921-1941)
This is an outstanding study of 1930s Soviet culture. The book argues persuasively that the perception of the late 1930s as a period of 'national Bolshevism' oversimplifies. Even as spy mania gripped the nation, Soviet culture strove to absorb world literature and art through translation, adaptation, and imitation. Clark's richly documented account, based on abundant archival sources, sheds new light on well-known phenomena of the period, such as Eisenstein's polymathy or Bakhtin's study of Rabelais, and points to intriguing oddities, for instance the obsession with transgressive love that played out against the background of the purges and the Spanish Civil War. (Catriona Kelly, Oxford University)
Clark's rich and wide-ranging book is not only a vivid portrait of Moscow, but also a whole tableau of the Soviet 1930s, seen through the live sand works of four of its most interesting and productive intellectuals, including Sergei Eisenstein. Collectivization and the purges cast a shadow over these years, which are, however, characterized by a far greater network of international relations than one might have imagined, and Clark's Moscow therefore reaches into Germany and France, and indeed as far as the United States itself. This account contributes to the rethinking of the Soviet experiment by demonstrating the cultural and intellectual excitement of what has otherwise so often been stereotyped as a period of terror and fear. (Fredric Jameson, Duke University)
Clark's revelatory portrait of a scintillating future-facing metropolis should dispel the gloomy myth of Moscow in the 1930s--bleak and gray beneath its pall of purges and trials. Instead, the city was "a city of light," where art and politics fused in its literature, film, and drama. Moscow seemed the successor to Rome, a center of art and power whose influence would overspread the entire globe...This is intellectual history at its best--simultaneously grand and intimate, discussing world trends while emphasizing the importance of individual figures, events, and works of art. (Publishers Weekly 2011-10-17)
"Cosmopolitan" is not the first adjective that comes to mind when thinking of culture in the Stalin era. But even the nightmare of totalitarianism can be complex, and Clark traces the efforts of regime-blessed Soviet cultural figures of the 1930s to foster a "transnational fraternity" with leftist European artists and intellectuals, comrades-in-arms against fascism who were enamored of Marx and fascinated by the Soviet "experiment." It was something of a two-way street, with Stalin, very much a hands-on impresario, allowing the import of Western film and literature, as long as the cumulative effect was to give his political vision imperial reach. As a result, for much of the decade, the exchange of ideas about theater, film, literature, journalism, and architecture was richer and more intense than one might have thought. As Clark demonstrates in this masterful tour of trends in Soviet culture and their echoes in Europe, the modified version of universalism tolerated by Stalin placed the Soviet Union at its center, and at the Soviet Union's center stood Moscow--the site and symbol of centralized Soviet power. (Robert Legvold Foreign Affairs 2011-11-01)
This is a bold work of broad reach that will likely have Russian-history professors sparring in the professional journals. (John Kappes Cleveland Plain Dealer 2011-11-27)
Katerina Clark refocuses our attention on the streets, books, buildings, festivals and fantasies that Moscow's citizens actually inhabited during this most strident decade of Soviet nationalism and parochialism, one in which most Soviet citizens lost the right to travel abroad, but in recompense gained the "knowledge" that there were native Russian forerunners of everything worthwhile. In nine enormously erudite chapters, Clark builds the compelling case for her thesis that this decade of insular Stalinism and the Great Terror was also a highpoint of Soviet cosmopolitanism...Clark's great contribution is to show that the conflicting impulses towards insular nationalism and cosmopolitanism coexisted and shaped each other in unexpected ways. In some places, the precision and originality of Clark's argument is nothing short of revelatory...The main point of Moscow, the Fourth Rome may be larger than its relevance to Soviet history. It reminds us that the dominant characteristics of our own cultural moment--which we eagerly acknowledge as transnational, global and ineluctably cosmopolitan--could also potentially coexist with powerful countervailing programs of isolationism and chauvinism. It demonstrates the crucial importance of comparative literary and cultural studies in the 21st century. (Yvonne H. Howell Times Higher Education 2011-11-17)
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Katerina Clark here explores the vast landscape of the 1930's in the Soviet Union, with an emphasis on Moscow. She discusses architecture, the cult of the written word (literature, journals, letters, Stalin's writings, plays), and photography; she also mentions music and film, but these are not the primary cultural modes on which she chooses to focus. She discusses the Popular Front (Soviet cultural and direct involvement in the Spanish Civil War), Brecht and his influence, Gorky, the Purge Trials, socialist realist literature, Stalin's writings, Stanislavsky, and many other fascinating subjects in order to paint a vivid picture of the cultural trends of the time. There is also a fascinating exploration on the peripheral regions in popular imagination (esp. the Arctic). Although it is hardly a bright and optimistic period in human history, it is an important one. Today, we often lump fascism and communism into a totalitarian definition, yet in the 1930's (until the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) these two ideologies were diametrically opposed. Much of this opposition, before the outbreak of war, took place on the cultural front, and many intellectuals in the West as well as in Moscow itself felt that communism was the best antidote to the threat of fascism.
This is quite a unique and fascinating addition to the cultural history of the period. Bravo for a passionately-researched volume. The book is extremely well-written, and it should appeal both to hardcore Soviet history buffs as well as more casual readers. I also highly recommend The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual by the same author, which is THE book on socialist realism in literature as well as a fantastic read all around. There is also a fascinating new addition to socialist realist art in the stunning volume Socialist Realisms: Great Soviet Painting 1920-1970.
At the very least I don't think you can priviledge cultural analysis over politics in the 1930s, as seems to be the case here.
I'm not impressed with Clark's grasp of the visual arts.
While the claim was also that individuals such as Sergei Eisenstein, Sergei Tretiakov, Mikhail Koltsov and Ilya Ehrenburg were going to be used as exemplars to illustrate the connections between Soviet politics and culture, for me they drift through this book like ghosts.
Perhaps the "Fourth Rome" metaphor was not the focus to chose, particularly since the author seems to abandon it fairly quickly.
More like 2.5 stars, as only specialists are really going to have cause to wade through this concoction.
She also has an enormous tendency to read things into events and works of art with little foundation. Her interpretations of the films of Eisenstein are in my opinion off the deep end. As well her attempts to link acting theory with the presentation of the purge trials.
There is an attempt here as well to carve out a seperate world for the artists and intellectuals of the Soviet Union and its friends abroad in the era. And an attempt to re-create the doublethink that allowed the cultural elite to often look the other way. Its all the more ironic in that this seperation of art from politics goes against the core beliefs of the subjects of the study. They usually saw art and culture as inherently and absolutely political.
Its easy to understand the author's point of view. Much of several decades worth of literary and cultural studies scholarship is joined at the hip to analysis, concepts and academic traditions that often have their roots in Stalin's soviet union. To "save" soviet civilization from stalinism is to also save generations of cultural analysis from oblivion.
The test of this book's premise is that nobody would write a similar book on Italy or Germany in the 1930s. Nobody would dare seperate the crimes of fascist states from the cultural world of their capitals or the international influence of their cultural worldview. Nobody today would write an ode to the lost intellectual wonders of Southern American Plantation Society that excluded its foundation on slavery from discussion. Some slight word substitution from one of the mainstream reviews makes the point:
"----'s revelatory portrait of a scintillating future-facing metropolis should dispel the gloomy myth of Berlin in the 1930s--bleak and gray beneath its pall of purges and trials. Instead, the city was "a city of light," where art and politics fused in its literature, film, and drama. Berlin seemed the successor to Rome, a center of art and power whose influence would overspread the entire globe..."
In the end, carving out a different world for soviet intellectuals and their friends during the 1930s doesn't work. In a system where the state was all, thats simply impossible. And the author should know better than to attempt it.