The Return: Post-War Masculinity and the Domestic Space in Stalinist Visual Culture, 1945-53
© 2015 The Russian Review
Following the end of the Great Patriotic War, an estimated twenty-five million people were left homeless and countless more were left dealing with the realities of single-parenthood, fatherlessness and bereavement. This article will chart the attempts to both articulate and obfuscate the impact of this loss on the family in contemporary visual culture, focussing primarily on the conceptualisation of the Soviet soldier as a father. It will argue that the War represented a fundamental shift in the imagining and portrayal of fatherhood: the use of the family as a motivational tool in fighting against the Fascists had intrinsically tied masculinity to paternity and patriotism, and this new focus on the Soviet man as a family man would be carried into the post-war period. Running parallel to the increased emphasis on the Soviet male in the domestic space, it will also be shown that the demographic reality of the post-war family was articulated in numerous works of the period, through the representation of the single mother with her children and the introduction into the home of the ultimate surrogate father, Stalin himself. The degree of control which the Soviet state exercised over cultural production–particularly during the years of Stalinism–is well-known and this has led to an acceptance that Soviet culture therefore offered a monochrome and uniform vision of Soviet identity and experience. The representation of the domestic space in the aftermath of the Great Patriotic War challenges this perception. As the material for this research has been gathered from images found in the popular press, the fact that these works were not only being created but were then being circulated to a mass audience requires us to reconsider our totalising perceptions of Soviet cultural production, and demands a far more nuanced analysis than seeing Socialist Realism, even under Stalin, as being completely devoid of social reality.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Wiley via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 74, Iss. 1, pp. 117–143