Reading the metro: socialist realism and Sverdlov Square station, 1938
Constructed in successive stages beginning in 1935, the Moscow metro was designed to be the foremost transportation system in Stalinist Moscow as well as a symbol of socialist might and a metonym for the future socialist society. Soviet officials heralded the metro as an underground palace promoting the values of socialism, and the artwork therein was meant to reflect these values. When Sverdlov Square station opened in 1938, it was decorated with bas-sculptures in the newly sanctioned socialist realist style; the artist, Natalia Danko, chose to depict pairs of male and female folk dancers from seven of the largest nationalities of the Soviet Union. Her sculptures celebrated an idealized view of folk culture that sought to glorify the Soviet state by reflecting ideals such as “the joy of every day life” and “the friendship of the peoples.” This thesis employs semiotics to reveal the ambiguity with which viewers may have read these signs, and to demonstrate the polyvalent nature of artistic production. Semiotic theory is useful in order to show how the official discourse of Socialist Realism could be both contested and reinforced through public art. The thesis contends that the Moscow metro, one of the superlative Soviet projects of the 1930s, can be understood as an ambiguous space where meaning was open to diverse interpretations.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeNoble, Bram; McCannon, John; Biggs, Lesley
Copyright DateNovember 2009