A new exhibit in Moscow offers a colorful way to trace early Soviet history in Central Asia and the Caucasus. “Posters of the Soviet East: 1918-1940,” which opened this month, features 241 original propaganda placards that targeted the Muslim lands of the former Soviet Union with exhortations on public health, industrialization and class consciousness.
The 1920s saw an unfettered flowering of creativity in these regions, especially among Russian-trained artists based in Tashkent and Baku. While central publishing houses in Moscow and Leningrad were shifting to Socialist Realism, artists in the periphery continued the avant-garde movement, combining it with local traditions, according to the exhibit’s curator, Maria Filatova. She sees the colorful posters from the 1920s and early 1930s, with their longer texts and multiple figurines, as direct decendents of local calligraphy and miniature traditions.
Filatova feels the relative freedom of the 1920s makes the work from that decade artistically more interesting compared to what followed. The work is also revealing about that period in early Soviet history, when “socialist ideas coexisted with Islamic ideology.”
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.