Nature, Narod and Emotion: Engaging Socialist Realism and the Arts in Kyrgyzstan

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Maureen Pritchard


Abstract: In aiming to rethink the project of socialist realism while shedding new light on the arts in Kyrgyzstan, this article highlights the project of the pre-Soviet Russian avant-garde as it morphed into that of Soviet socialist realism and the way in which this project changed alongside the conditions of post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan. In presenting continued engagement with the Soviet project through the persona of a single artist and composer, Alexei Alexandrovich Agibalov, this article offers a glimpse of the ongoing historical circumstances within which contemporary artists live and create. The affective experiences, memories, and engagements with the natural world presented in this article offer a rare glimpse into the individual world of Soviet and post-Soviet artists. They also provide insight into the larger histories and social processes from which art extends. The same Soviet cultural policies which brought about the concept of narod and the resulting constructions of ethnicity and nation have also formed a distinctive artistic tradition –socialist realism- with which contemporary artists, knowingly or unknowingly, remain closely engaged.

Keywords: Socialist Realism, Russian guitar, music, Soviet composers, Shostakovich, ethno-nationalism, Kyrgyzstan

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Author Biography

Maureen Pritchard, The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London. Department of Anthropology