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.