In the early years of the USSR, socialist festivals—events entailing enormous expense and the deployment of thousands of people—were inaugurated by the Bolsheviks. Avant-garde canvases decorated the streets, workers marched, and elaborate mass spectacles were staged. Why, with a civil war raging and an economy in ruins, did the regime sponsor such spectacles? In this first comprehensive investigation of the way festivals helped build a new political culture, James von Geldern examines the mass spectacles that captured the Bolsheviks' historical vision. Spectacle directors borrowed from a tradition that included tsarist pomp, avant-garde theater, and popular celebrations. They transformed the ideology of revolution into a mythologized sequence of events that provided new foundations for the Bolsheviks' claim to power. This title is part of UC Press's Voices Revived program, which commemorates University of California Press’s mission to seek out and cultivate the brightest minds and give them voice, reach, and impact. Drawing on a backlist dating to 1893, Voices Revived makes high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship accessible once again using print-on-demand technology. This title was originally published in 1993.
James von Geldern is Chair of Russian Studies in the Department of German and Russian at Macalester College.