About the Author

Vera Otdelnova

E-Mail: Veritsa@mail.ru


Vera Otdelnova is a PhD Student at the State Institute for Art Studies, Moscow, and is working on doctoral research dedicated to the union of visual arts of Moscow in the 1960s and 1970s. She investigates institutional practices of Socialist Realism, particularly such problems as the relationship between the artist and the state in the USSR, the forms of their collaboration, and the different strategies that helped artists to escape from state control. Otdelnova has published scientific articles in Russian and international peer-reviewed volumes.

Contributions by Author: Vera Otdelnova

11/30/2017 _Perspective

Marginality as a Space of Freedom

Some Notes on the Popularity of Naïve Art Among Soviet Painters in the 1960s and 1970s

The term ‘marginality’ initially appeared in American sociological theory in the 1920s to describe the behavior of groups of immigrants who were living on the border of two cultures. Accepting the main rules of lifestyle customary among Americans, they also preserved many traits of their local tradition; thus, they could assimilate different elements of these two cultures. [1] In the end of the 1960s, after the civil unrests and strikes in Europe and the USA, the meaning of the term ‘marginality’ became associated with a program of escapism and protest against the sociocultural norms dictated by the establishment. [2] Movements like the hippie phenomenon were uncommon within the Soviet Union at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s, but this period was nonetheless marked by rising disappointment in the politics of the Communist party among the Russian intellectual and creative milieu. The origins of this process have been repeatedly discussed by both Russian and international scholars. [3] It is common to speak about a conservative turn taken by the new state leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1964. Brezhnev’s cultural policy was marked by a campaign against ‘the blackening of the Soviet past,’ a number of arrests of the dissidents, and an increase of censorship. Alienation from the West, an absence of international exhibitions, and a lack of information about contemporary art led Soviet artists to cultural isolation. The peak of the crisis in the relationship between the government and intellectuals, however, is usually dated to 1968. It is concerned with the incursion of the Soviet tanks into Czechoslovakia and the repression of the Prague Spring. Although there was only one public protest, involving eight Moscow citizens in Red Square, many intellectuals were shocked by the intervention and described it as the final failure of the Thaw. [4] A hidden disbelief in the state political system was common among artists. The Soviet art scene, homogeneous during the Stalin era, began to crack apart in a number of places after the 1953 death of that dictator. Several groups and studios that did not accept the officially supported method of Socialist Realism surfaced in Moscow. In the mid-1960s, their activity was prohibited, and the activists went underground. Another artistic community, considered by scholars as marginal, consisted of non-professional or naïve artists. By the 1970s, naïve art had become quietly popular among Soviet artists. Art historian Ksenya Bogemskaya noted: “By their existence, a primitive, naïve…