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Artistic autonomy and the Soviet Cultural project: the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballet companies, 1953-1968

Ezrahi, C.F.; (2009) Artistic autonomy and the Soviet Cultural project: the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballet companies, 1953-1968. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

How did Russia's formerly imperial ballet fit into the Soviet cultural project? This dissertation analyzes how the Kirov and Bolshoi ballet companies negotiated the restrictive and intrusive framework set for artistic creation by the Soviet regime, focusing on the period between 1953 and 1968. It shows how the ballet companies re-claimed artistic autonomy in a system which sought to deny it. What does ballet's resistance to being 'Sovietized' tell us about the relationship between artistic thought and practice on the one hand, and Soviet ideology and politics on the other hand? How can we conceptualize the Soviet experience of the Kirov and Bolshoi ballet companies as a case study analyzing the potential for artistic autonomy and cultural continuity under the Soviet regime? I propose the concept "artistic repossession" to grasp ways in which artists "repossessed" or creatively adapted and redefined what the Soviet regime sought to control: artists had no choice but to accept the political organizational structures and ideological frames which the regime imposed on cultural production, but they could learn to exploit them for their own, artistic ends. No matter how unequal the relationship between artistic creativity and political power appeared to be in the Soviet Union, it was a two-way relationship of mutual influence that included the potential of artistic subversion of political-ideological power. The Soviet fate of ballet forms an important part of Russian cultural history but scholars have largely ignored this subject. This work is the first archival study of the Kirov and Bolshoi ballet companies for the period under investigation. Extensive field work was conducted in archives in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The period between 1953 and 1968 is of particular interest because it was a golden era of Soviet ballet, shaped by a new generation of talented dancers and choreographers.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Artistic autonomy and the Soviet Cultural project: the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballet companies, 1953-1968
Language:English
Additional information:Pending digitisation
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > SSEES (School of Slavonic and East European Studies)

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