Karl Marx: Image and Symbol

15 May–20 Jun 2018All exhibitions

The exhibition has been organized on the occasion of Marx's 200th anniversary. Karl Marx (1818–1883), the German philosopher, economist, politician, revolutionary movement theorist developed the idea of the need for the working class liberation from the capitalists’ oppression which could be achieved through a social revolution, as he himself believed. According to him, the transition to communism was inevitable. His teachings, Marxism, gained popularity in many world’s countries during the second half of 19th – early 20th centuries. In the Russian Empire, Karl Marx's ideas on class struggle and proletarian revolution, the abolition of private property were adopted by the Bolshevik Party headed by V. Lenin. The Bolsheviks, self-proclaimed representatives of the proletariat's interests, sought a radical reconstruction of the social structure.

Following the coup of October 1917, the Soviet Government began to actively impose Communist ideology, and took steps to perpetuate the memory of its founder. V. Lenin put forward a program for the development of monumental art as extremely instrumental for revolutionary propaganda and the establishment of a new worldview. According to the Decree of the RSFSR [Soviet Russia] Council of People's Commissars ‘On the Republic’s Monuments’ (dated April 12, 1918) the monuments to people who had outstanding merits in the field of revolution and social activities, as well as in the field of philosophy, literature, science and art were erected throughout the country. Lenin personally oversaw the implementation of the plan for monumental propaganda and demanded to regard the monuments to the greatest personalities of the revolution, Marx and Engels, as an absolute priority. On November 7, 1918, a temporary monument to K. Marx and F. Engels (artist: A. Mezentsev) was opened in Moscow. On the same day, the first monument to K. Marx by A. Matveev was opened in front of the Smolny Institute building in Petrograd [St.Petersburg bore this name in 1914–1924]

The monuments commemorating K. Marx emerged throughout the Soviet State. Over time, a canonical image of the German philosopher was formed, which was present in all areas of the society's life. Marx pictures or bust sculptures could be seen in the majority of Soviet institutions. He was presented as the teacher of the world proletariat. Many streets in cities and towns were named after Marx. Libraries, factories, sovkhozes (State farms), theatres, universities and other organizations were named in his honour.

In the Soviet Union, he became an important symbol of the dominant Communist ideology, the ruling Communist Party, the idea of building a brighter future. Marx was usually depicted along with his colleague and co-author F. Engels, and often with V. Lenin, as the “continuator of his cause”. 1930-ies – early 1950-ies saw the figure of Joseph Stalin join this triumvirate. This way, the idea that Lenin and Stalin did not only inherit Marx’s cause, but also made a significant contribution to the development of his teachings, was brought home to the population.

Throughout the whole Soviet era numerous pieces of art in different forms and genres featuring K. Marx were created. In the Soviet Union, his portraits could be seen everywhere, in paintings and graphics, on banners, badges and commemorative medals, posters and postcards, in books and brochures. It should be mentioned that it was an idealized image, far from his real self, with his passions, weaknesses and doubts.

Every Marx’s anniversary was a pretext for an upsurge of the State’s interest in Marx’s personality. New monuments were erected, artworks created, books published and postage stamps produced, songs were written in his honor. The 150th anniversary of Karl Marx was celebrated in 1968 on a large scale. However, despite the massive official propaganda, the founder of communist ideology was gradually becoming obsolete.

Late 1980-ies and early 1990-ies saw major political changes occur in the USSR. The basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism were questioned, and then dropped altogether by a significant part of society. Marxism-Leninism was no longer a State ideology. Marx, who once had been an iconic figure, lost his halo. You can still come across his monuments in many Russia’s towns. However, the diehard followers of Communist ideology who regard him as the symbol of their creed and the unquestioned authority are few in number.


Публикация от: 07.05.2018 15:12:45