Country Listing

Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


The CPSU used the mass media and the arts to enhance its control over society. The justification for such controls was developed by nineteenth-century Russian revolutionary writers who sought to transform Russia through the politicization of literature. Literature and literary criticism were to provide means to challenge tsarist authority and awaken the political consciousness of the population. Specifically, radical writers and artists used "critical realism" (the critical assessment of society) in literature, theater, music, and other forms of creative expression to denounce the authoritarian system. Later, the early Soviet government integrated "critical realism" into its policies to serve as a foundation for the politicization of the media and literary worlds in the early Soviet government.

When Lenin and the other Bolshevik leaders governed the country, however, they employed the concept of critical realism to exercise political control over culture rather than to inspire writers and artists to question Bolshevik rule. In its early years, the government established political guidelines for media and the arts. In the late 1920s, the regime determined that its enforcement of stringent publication criteria would be executed by an organization formed by the government. The regime chose to use literature as its model for politicization of the media and the arts and in 1932 formed the Union of Writers to enforce the doctrine of socialist realism over all writing. All modes of creative thought and artistic expression required approval by the regime's authoritative bodies, rigidly structured after the Union of Writers, for every kind of mass media and form of art. Under Stalin's leadership, socialist realism dictated the content and form to which writers and artists had to adhere. Since Stalin's death in 1953, successive regimes had relaxed the restrictions of socialist realism. In the period after Leonid I. Brezhnev, hitherto prohibited articles and literary works passed CPSU regulations. In the late 1980s, socialist realism was more liberally interpreted; it still, however, retained the basic tenets instituted by the Bolshevik leadership.

Data as of May 1989