Under its policy of internationalism, the Soviet Union tried to eliminate racism right from the beginning — aggressively instituting domestic and international policies of equality, humanism, and anti-colonialism.
The reality on the ground did not always reflect those ideals: ethnic conflict, xenophobia, and antisemitism were pervasive during the Soviet years. Yet these conflicts were many times suppressed or kept in check by the state.
But that’s all easy to forget given Russia’s steep rise in racist and xenophobic violence over the last decade.
Why did this breakdown of internationalism and equality occur? That’s a question that New York-based Russian artist Yevgeniy Fiks is trying to reflect on in his latest exhibition at Winkleman Gallery in New York titled The Wayland Rudd Collection.
In his conceptual project, Fiks collected hundreds of images of Africans and African-Americans in Soviet visual culture. He then asked contemporary artists and writers from Russia, the United States, and countries in Africa to respond to them in any form (including artwork) and to question today’s state of racial equality globally.
Here’s a small batch of Soviet propaganda images in Fiks’ collection. You can view the full collection and artists’ response at Winkleman Gallery.
1. “Greetings to the fighters against fascism!”
by V. B. Koretsky, poster, 1937
2. “Africa Is Fighting, Africa Will Prevail!”
by V.B. Koretsky, poster, 1981
3. “He carried Africa in his heart (Lumumba).”
by V.B. Koretsky, poster
4. “USSR is the shock brigade of the international proletariat.”
by G. Klutsis, poster, 1931
5. Sketch for the mural of the club named after Dzerzhinsky
by Brigade of Vkhutein, 1928
6. To the Fight!
by B. I. Prorokov, poster, 1950s
7. N.S. Khrushchev’s Meeting with American Workers
by Dmitri Oboznenko and Yaroslav Serov, 1961
8. “The Dawn of Freedom Cannot Be Extinguished!”
by V. Karakashev, 1967
9. Playing Ball (Octobers)
by G. I. Bublev, late 1920s
10. “People of Africa Will Overpower the Colonizers!”
by Kukryniksy, poster, 1960
11. Soviet Constitution Day
by Sergei Luchishkin, mural, 1932
12. “I will never forget a friend if we became friends in Moscow!”
V.V. Sachkov, postcard, 1964
13. A Song of Peace (Paul Robeson in Pickskills, NY)
by Valentin Polyakov, Igor Radoman, and Khaim-Shats, painting, 1950
14. All Flags Will Visit Us
by A. Deineka, painting, 1964
15. “70-year Anniversary of the African National Congress of South Africa”
by A. Shmidstein, postal stamp, 1982
16. Mothers of the Worlds
by A.N. Kuznetsov, mozaics in the Subway station “Prospekt Mira” in Moscow, 1970s
17. “The Great Lenin Showed Us The Way!”
by V. Boldyrev, poster, 1969
18. “We Are Young Leninists”
by V. M. Konashevich, 1925
19. Under Capitalism… Under Socialism…
by V.B. Koretsky, poster, 1948
20. “We live in a free Africa!”
by Nina Vatolina, poster, 1964
21. “Capitalism is doomed!”
by E. Artsrunyan, poster, 1966
22. Internatioanl Congress of Women
by R.V. Suryaninov, poster, 1963
23. “Higher the banner of proletarian internationalism!”
by O. Savostuk, poster, 1958
24. “International Day for the Protection of Children”
Postal stamp, 1958
25. “USSR is for the total disarmament!”
by V.B. Koretsky, poster, 1959
26. “Damn you, Capitalism!”
by K. Ivanov, poster, 1975
27. Children of the Hero of the Congolese People, Patrice Lumumba — Fransua, Patrice and Julianna
by N. Osenev, postcard, 1961
28. “Fighter for the freedom of South Africa, Nelson Mandela”
postal stamp, 1988
29. “Workers of all countries and the oppressed colonial peoples.”
by V.B. Koretsky, poster, 1932
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