Mass Spectacle

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mass Spectacle


a staged spectacle in which large masses of people take part as actors or spectators.

Mass spectacles are usually held outdoors—in squares and streets, in parks, and in stadiums. Ancient Greek festivals, competitions, and games, such as the Olympic and Pythian games, are striking examples of mass spectacles. In the Middle Ages, the mass spectacle took the form of the mystery play. In 17th-century England, May Day celebrations were staged; the principal event of such celebrations was a play about the legendary folk hero Robin Hood. During the French Revolution there were propaganda mass presentations imbued with revolutionary enthusiasm. Representatives from 83 departments of France took part in a festival on the Field of Mars on July 14, 1790.

In Russia, the mass spectacle was initially associated with village holidays and folk traditions. During the 15th and 16th centuries, mass spectacles became part of the church service. New and large-scale forms of mass popular celebrations arose after the October Revolution of 1917. Between 1918 and 1921, the following large-scale presentations were staged: “A Mass Spectacle About the Third International,” “Mystery Play About Liberated Labor,” “Toward a World Commune,” and “The Storming of the Winter Palace” (all in Petrograd), and “The Struggle of Labor and Capital” (in Irkutsk). These mass spectacles were staged by major Soviet directors, including N. V. Petrov, K. A. Mardzhanov, and N. P. Okhlopkov. In subsequent years, mass spectacles based on a particular theme and staged at stadiums became very widespread. During the Sixth International Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow in 1957, the solemn opening ceremonies of the festival were held at a stadium and the final rally and performance was held in Manezh Square. In Sevastopol’ in 1961, there was a mass performance of Prologue, about the defense of Sevastopol’ in 1854-55; in this performance, the most important episodes of the battles of this heroic city during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) were also recreated.


Lunacharskii, A. V. “O narodnykh prazdnestvakh.” In his Teatr i revoliutsiia. Moscow, 1924. Pages 63-67.
Istoriia sovetskogo teatra, vol. 1. Leningrad, 1933. Pages 264-90.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Rampant government corruption, nihilist celebrations of military power, and culture reduced to mass spectacle: these markers of our time appear in the book in grotesque yet immediately recognizable forms (though, strangely, the most dystopic element of contemporary Israel, the ongoing military occupation, is all but absent from the book).
Women features a photograph of a massive, synchronized group exercise--individual action reduced to an every mass spectacle. Public Strains cover is no more comforting: another photograph, this one depicting distant figures obscured by a blizzard.
So instead of a mass spectacle, we had to shoot everything in close-up and cut in shots of audience cheering from the afternoon.
Courseware that supports enriched lectures on topics like "Iconographic Mussolini and the Cult of Personality," "Fascism as a Secular Religion and the Sacralization of Politics," "The Orchestration of Consensus Through Mass Spectacle," and "The Myth of Rome and the Politics of Symbols," not only serves to complement the traditional or classical works in the field, but it offers a more ample and nuanced re-visioning of Fascist history, and, perhaps more importantly, it extends the interpretive boundaries of the discipline by recommending a more positively postmodern comprehension than is possible in conventional history writing.
But even though most Chinese will be unable to leave their living rooms to view in person the 300 million yuan (36.1 million dollar) festivities, this will not detract the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from staging a mass spectacle.
The Catholic Mass is a spectacle, Mallarme believed, but not a mass spectacle in the Wagnerian sense.
One form of experimental theatre was the mass spectacle involving thousands of participants without any clear distinction between the cast and the audience.
For these works, Hawkins has taken the circus as subject, and it's appropriate to read them as brooding, phantasmagorical, and rather Victorian allegories of a contemporary epoch that has given itself over to those late-empire staples, mass spectacle and decadence.
A year in advance of the frenzied mass spectacle of Brangelina, Siber's juxtaposition of these posters--Pitt shown standing with his gun placed near his groin, Jolie with her smaller pistol tucked into her garter--and the pedestrians of Paris is both funny and pathetic.
Giving rise to a resolutely personal present, Holler's perceptual zones remain anti-historical, anti-utopian, and, again, imperceptible to those who are not direct participants--no small feat in a society governed by mass spectacle and quantifiable duration.
Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov) What could have been a stunt--an eighty-plus-minute tracking shot through the Winter Palace--becomes deeply elegiac, gliding from mass spectacle to serenity.