Propaganda, Monument

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Propaganda, Monument


a plan set forth by V I. Lenin for developing monumental art after the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, including an outline of measures to be taken by the Soviet government to implement the plan.

The origin of monument propaganda was the Apr. 12, 1918, decree On Removing Monuments Erected in Honor of Tsars and Their Servants and Developing a Project for Monuments Dedicated to the Russian Socialist Revolution (On Monuments of the Republic). The decree provided for the removal of monuments that had no historical or artistic value, as well as for the creation of works of revolutionary monumental art. By May 1, 1918, a number of monarchical monuments had been removed or closed, festive decorations for many cities had been designed, and a temporary monument to K. Marx was unveiled in Penza (sculptor E. V. Revde’). The implementation of monument propaganda was complicated by great organizational and technical difficulties, as well as by sabotage by the bourgeois intelligentsia.

A list of new monuments proposed for erection in memory of revolutionaries and progressive cultural leaders of all times and peoples (consisting of 69 names) was approved by the Council of People’s Commissars on July 30, 1918. The first of these monuments to be erected was in memory of A. N. Radishchev (sculptor L. V. Shervud, unveiled in Petrograd on Sept. 22, 1918). A copy of the monument was unveiled in Moscow on Oct. 6, 1918 (now located in the A. V. Shchusev Museum of Architecture, Moscow). The celebration of the first anniversary of the October Revolution was marked by the unveiling of many new monuments and memorial plagues with agitational inscriptions, as well as by the decoration of cities (Moscow, Petrograd, Saratov, Vitebsk) and certain villages. The installation and unveiling of monuments were regarded as important political events; for agitational and educational purposes these occasions were ceremonial and were made a part of political meetings. Lenin spoke several times at such meetings, including one held on Nov. 7, 1918, to mark the unveiling of a monument to K. Marx and F. Engels (sculptor S. A. Mezentsev) in Revoliutsiia Square and the memorial plaque To Those Who Fell in the Struggle for Peace and the Brotherhood of Peoples (sculptor S. T. Konenkov, now in the Russian Museum, Leningrad) in Red Square in Moscow.

Propaganda monuments were created primarily as temporary works and were made from inexpensive materials (plaster of paris, concrete, wood). The best monuments and plaques were subsequently to be executed in “eternal” materials. In 1919 and 1920, at the time of the country’s difficult military and economic status, the actual execution of propaganda monuments was curtailed. However, various other forms of monument propaganda developed: design competitions for monument projects were held, stonelaying ceremonies of future monuments took place (to K. Marx, A. I. Herzen, la. M. Sverdlov, and others in Moscow; to K. Liebknecht, R. Luxemburg, and the Paris Commune of 1871 in Petrograd), and architectural ensembles were redesigned and new monuments were added to them (in Petrograd the monument To the Fighters for the Revolution [1917-19, architect L. V. Rudnev] and a landscaped garden [1920-23, architect I. A. Fomin] were added to the Field of Mars).

Propaganda monuments of this period dealt primarily with the themes of the international brotherhood of the working people (monuments in the national republics, the decorations for the Comintern congresses and the Congress of the Workers of the East, and mass theatrical pageants) and the transition to peaceful labor (monuments and pageants devoted to the “liberation of labor”).

With the consolidation of Soviet power, the plan of monument propaganda was implemented in Kiev (by the May 7, 1919, decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR), Samarkand, and several other cities. In 1920 the plan was implemented in the Urals, Siberia, and Azerbaijan, and in 1921 in Armenia and Georgia. In 1922, with the improvement in the Soviet Republic’s economic status, there was a resurgence of monument propaganda, particularly in connection with the fifth anniversary of the October Revolution. In 1922 and 1923 monuments made of durable materials were erected; these monuments, which are still in existence, include those to A. I. Herzen and N. P. Ogarev (cement with granite chips, sculptor N. A. Andreev) and K. A. Timiriazev (granite, sculptor S. D. Merkurov) in Moscow to N. A. Nekrasov (bronze, sculptor V. V. Lishev) and V. Volodarskii (bronze and granite, sculptors M. G. Manizer and L. V. Bleze-Manizer, architect V. A. Vitman, unveiled in 1925) in Leningrad, and to the fighters for the revolution (granite, sculptor B. D. Korolev, unveiled in 1925) in Saratov.

Monument propaganda was used in monuments that immortalized V. I. Lenin, for example, the monument to him on Lenin Square in Leningrad (bronze and granite, 1926, sculptor S. A. Evseev, architects V. G. Gel’freikh and V. A. Shchuko).

Monument propaganda provided primarily for the development of the monumental decorative art forms that were used for agitational purposes in the struggle for the victory of the new system and for the enlightenment and education of the popular masses. It was a means of changing the appearance of Soviet cities and provided new artistic forms for the new way of life. Monument propaganda was a social imperative that attracted the collaboration of the creative intelligentsia with Soviet power and facilitated the intelligentsia’s reeducation in the spirit of revolutionary ideas. Many propaganda monuments (including projects that were not carried out) played an enormous ideological and educational role: they attracted the attention of the masses to questions of art and introduced a number of new ideas about art, architecture, and city planning that greatly influenced the subsequent development of Soviet art.

Monument propaganda proposed a broad synthesis of the arts (architecture, pictorial art, literature, theater, music), resulting in mass theatrical pageants and “symphonies of factory whistles.” It stimulated the growth of monumental decorative art, which had lagged behind other artistic genres during the prerevolutionary period.

In a broad sense the entire history of Soviet monumental art represents a continuation of the Leninist plan for monument propaganda. Participation in the implementation of monument propaganda was a great practical school for many masters of Soviet art. Monument propaganda was one of the most important stages in the history of Soviet artistic culture. It was in this plan that the principles of partiinost’ (party-mindedness) and narodnosf (close ties with the people) in Soviet art were clearly defined for the first time.


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Za lenin’skym planom: MonumentaVnaia propahanda na Ukrai’ni v pershi roki radians’koi’ vlady. Kiev, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.