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Wednesday, May 4, 2011
by PopMatters Staff
by Kanan Makiya
Foreign Affairs (May 2011)

“But what exactly makes something totalitarian art? In his important and encyclopedic tome on the art produced under the twentieth century’s four most brutal political systems—the Soviet Union, the Third Reich, Fascist Italy, and the People’s Republic of China—Igor Golomstock makes it clear that he is writing not about “art under totalitarian regimes” but rather about “totalitarian art,” a particular cultural phenomenon with its own ideology, aesthetics, and style. This type of art did not arise because of common threads running through Soviet, German, Italian, and Chinese culture; the cultural traditions of the countries, Golomstock holds, are “simply too diverse” to explain the stylistic and thematic similarities among totalitarian works. He collects these similarities under the term “total realism,” a genre that has its roots in the socialist realist art of the Soviet Union after 1932, when Stalin decreed it the only type of art acceptable.”


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