Socialist realism is a style of realistic art that was developed in the Soviet Union and

became a dominant style in various other socialist countries.

It is characterized by the glorified depiction of communist values, such as the

emancipation of the proletariat, by means of realistic imagery.

Although related, it should not be confused with social realism, a type of art that

realistically depicts subjects of social concern.

Socialist realism was, to some extent, a reaction against the adoption of "decadent"

styles, such as Impressionism and Cubism. It was thought by Lenin that the non-

representative forms of art were not understood by the proletariat and could therefore

not be used by the state for propaganda forms.  

Since 1935 form and content were often limited, with erotic, religious, abstract,

surrealist, and expressionist art being forbidden.

The restrictions were relaxed somewhat after Stalin's death in 1953, but the state still

kept a tight rein on personal artistic expression. In 1974, for instance, a show of unofficial

art in a field near Moscow was broken up and the artwork destroyed with a water cannon

and bulldozers. ‘Unofficial art’ refers to art made in the Soviet Union between 1950 and

1980 that does not fit into the Socialist Realism doctrine. These artists had to operate

secretly and often had little contact with each other

Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika facilitated an explosion of interest

in alternative art styles in the late 1980s, but socialist realism remained in limited force

as the official state art style until as late as 1991. It was not until after the fall of the

Soviet Union that artists were finally freed from state censorship.

This gallery will give you some idea of the kind of works, influenced by Socialis Realism.

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Socialist Realism  1934-1991

1935

1959

1950

1959

1958

1944

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1961

1947

1957

1950

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1939

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1971

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1991

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1979

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1950

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