Baltic accent

2018 Vol. 9 № 1

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The Art of «Leftist Obscenity» as a Way to Discredit the Imperial Regime: the Works of Eisenstien, Babel, and Lunacharsky



This study deals with the method of ‘leftist obscenity,’ which emerged within left art in the early Soviet period. The article aims to define this method, describe its procedures, and identify the purpose it served at the time. The author assumes that ‘leftist obscenity’ arose within pro-Soviet art, when the Soviet government was seeking legitimation, which was impossible without discrediting the imperial regime. ‘Leftist obscenity’ was intended to discredit the imperial regime and to give a new perspective on the imperial heritage. The method aimed to diminish and ridicule that heritage. This was achieved by causing ‘high’ (objects of religious worship or imperial power) and ‘low’ (objects relating physiological processes or sexuality) phenomena to collide within the same space or image. This article provides a definition of ‘leftist obscenity’, traces the emergence of the phenomenon, and analyses S. Eisenstein’s film ‘October’, A. Lunacharsky’s essay ‘Why we guard the palaces of the Romanovs (travel impressions)’, and I. Babel’s short story ‘The Road.’ The analysis of these works shows how the method of ‘leftist obscenity’ was employed in practice and leads to the conclusion that the method worked by producing a comic effect, which is easily communicated to the modern reader or the viewer.


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