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Title: In Search of Socialist Culture: Art and Politics in Krakow and Leipzig, 1918-1989
Authors: Kunakhovich, Kyrill
Advisors: Kotkin, Stephen
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Cultural policy
Socialist culture
Socialist realism
Soviet Bloc
Subjects: European history
East European studies
Slavic studies
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In the aftermath of World War II, state officials in Eastern Europe devoted unprecedented attention to the arts. They funded thousands of artists, established guidelines for creative production, and bussed factory workers to cultural institutions. This dissertation investigates what such efforts aimed to accomplish and what they actually achieved. It focuses on cultural life in two major cities of the Soviet Bloc: Krakow in Poland and Leipzig in East Germany. Using administrative reports and transcripts, it examines how local officials understood the concept of "socialist culture" and what they did to realize it on the ground. At the same time, it considers the effects that officials' actions had on each city's cultural scene. Case studies explore what it meant to be an artist in Krakow and Leipzig, and also how ordinary residents engaged in cultural life. In sum, this dissertation follows the interactions among three sets of actors - officials, artists, and city residents - analyzing how these groups influenced one other and shaped culture at the city level. Through the lens of two cities' cultural scenes, it examines the trajectory of the socialist project, the nature of the Soviet Bloc, and the transformative power of art. The dissertation traces socialist culture's evolution over the twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on the years 1945-1975. After WWII, state officials began to construct a cultural system meant to accelerate socialist development. Drawing on local customs and traditions, they treated art as a tool of social engineering, and forced workers into constant contact with artists. These efforts produced a tangible effect: by the mid-1950s, the arts scenes in Krakow and Leipzig had come to resemble one another while diverging sharply from the West. Having created a transnational socialist culture, however, state officials discovered that it did not accomplish their main goal - to turn workers into communists. They tried a different approach amid a wave of de-Stalinization in 1956, emphasizing grassroots initiative and consumer choice. Over the subsequent decade, both Krakow and Leipzig developed new cultural forms that reflected global trends yet remained distinctively socialist. This second phase of socialist culture was considerably more popular than the first, but it was no more successful in promoting communism. By the mid-1970s, state officials had come to doubt whether culture could influence politics at all. New regimes in Poland and East Germany cut funding to the arts and gradually abandoned the program of socialist culture.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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