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date: 14 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the development of retrospective styles in Soviet architecture during the Stalin era, from the 1930s to the early 1950s. This highly visible manifestation of communist visual culture is usually interpreted as a reaction to the austere modernism of 1920s Soviet avant-garde architecture represented by the constructivist movement. The project locates the origins of Stalin-era proclamatory, retrospective style in prerevolutionary neoclassical revival architecture. Although functioning in a capitalist market, that neoclassical reaction was supported by prominent critics who were suspicious of Russia’s nascent bourgeoisie and felt that neoclassical or neo-Renaissance architecture could echo the glory of imperial Russia. These critics left Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution, but prominent architects of the neoclassicist revival remained in the Soviet Union. Together with the Academy of Architecture (founded 1933), these architects played a critical role in reviving classicist monumentalism—designated “socialist realism”—as the proclamatory style for the centralized, neoimperial statist system of the Stalin era. Despite different ideological contexts (prerevolutionary and Stalinist), retrospective styles were promulgated as models for significant architectural projects. The article concludes with comments on the post-Stalinist—and post-Soviet—alternation of modernist and retrospective architectural styles.

Keywords: neoclassical revival, prerevolutionary Russian architecture, constructivism, socialist realism, Stalin-era architecture, Academy of Architecture, post-Soviet architecture

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