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Gigantomania

GIGANTOMANIA

Gigantomania is the creation of abnormally large works. Gigantomania dominated different areas of political and cultural life in the Soviet Union and was a feature of other totalitarian societies (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, communist states of Eastern Europe, and modern China).

According to the Marxist theory, socialism must triumph historically over capitalism. Soviet rulers attempted to prove the superiority of the socialist system by the creation of gigantic industrial complexes, huge farms, colossal buildings, and enormous statues.

Enormous new cities and industrial centers were erected in the Soviet Union from the end of the 1920s through the 1930s. Historian Nicolas V. Riasanovsky wrote, "Gigantic industrial complexes, exemplified by Magnitostroi in the Urals and Kuznetsstroi in western Siberia, began to take shape. Entire cities arose in the wilderness. Magnitogorsk, for instance, acquired in a few years a population of a quarter of a million."

However, the execution of the Five-Year Plans, industrialization, and the forced collectivization of agriculture were accompanied by a huge number of human victims. Gulag prisoners working in terrible conditions built many of the huge projects.

Gigantism and monumental classicism became the typical features of Soviet architecture starting in the 1930s. All other architecture styles were suppressed in the Soviet Union. Historian Geoffrey Hosking points out that in the Soviet architecture " neoclassical forms gradually became distorted, more extended in size ." As the result of thisdistortion, many large buildings were erected, as exemplified by the tasteless "wedding cake" style skyscrapers built in Moscow after World War II.

The same standard was used in Soviet sculpture and art. Huge monuments of Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin were erected in every sizable city. Many Soviet artists created paintings showing gigantic images of the communist leaders with tiny figures of the common people in the background.

Gigantomania began in Stalin's time, but continued after his death. During the 1960s to the 1980s two huge sculptures depicting the warrior "Motherland-Mother" were erected by sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich near Kiev and Volgograd. According to Soviet doctrine, art should show the super-human accomplishments of the new socialist man, who was depicted as a huge muscular and overpowering human being. Even women were sculpted as enormous figures with rugged masculine physiques.

These works are now generally thought to be the vulgar creations of dilettante artists; showing the exceedingly poor taste of the all-powerful Soviet leaders who commanded their creation.

See also: architecture

bibliography

Bown, Matthew Cullerne, and Taylor, Brandon, eds. (1993). Art of the Soviets: Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture in a One-party State, 19171992. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Groys, Boris. (1992). The Total Art of Stalinism. Avant-Garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship, and Beyond, tr. Charles Rougle. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Hosking, Geoffrey. (2001). Russia and the Russians. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

London, Kurt. (1938). The Seven Soviet Arts. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Riasanovsky, Nicolas V. (2000). A History of Russia, 6th ed. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ryabushin, Alexander and Smolina, Nadia. (1992). Landmarks of Soviet Architecture 19171991. New York: Rizzoli.

Victoria Khiterer

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