"Cosmopolitan" is not the first adjective that comes to mind when thinking of culture in the Stalin era. But even the nightmare of totalitarianism can be complex, and Clark traces the efforts of regime-blessed Soviet cultural figures of the 1930s to foster a "transnational fraternity" with leftist European artists and intellectuals, comrades-in-arms against fascism who were enamored of Marx and fascinated by the Soviet" "experiment." It was something of a two-way street, with Stalin, very much a hands-on impresario, allowing the import of Western film and literature, as long as the cumulative effect was to give his political vision imperial reach. As a result, for much of the decade, the exchange of ideas about theater, film, literature, journalism, and architecture was richer and more intense than one might have thought. As Clark demonstrates in this masterful tour of trends in Soviet culture and their echoes in Europe, the modified version of universalism tolerated by Stalin placed the Soviet Union at its center, and at the Soviet Union's center stood Moscow--the site and symbol of centralized Soviet power." -- Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs, 1st November 2011
Katerina Clark refocuses our attention on the streets, books, buildings, festivals and fantasies that Moscow's citizens actually inhabited during this most strident decade of Soviet nationalism and parochialism, one in which most Soviet citizens lost the right to travel abroad, but in recompense gained the "knowledge" that there were native Russian forerunners of everything worthwhile. In nine enormously erudite chapters, Clark builds the compelling case for her thesis that this decade of insular Stalinism and the Great Terror was also a highpoint of Soviet cosmopolitanism...Clark's great contribution is to show that the conflicting impulses towards insular nationalism and cosmopolitanism coexisted and shaped each other in unexpected ways. In some places, the precision and originality of Clark's argument is nothing short of revelatory...The main point of Moscow, the Fourth Rome may be larger than its relevance to Soviet history. It reminds us that the dominant characteristics of our own cultural moment--which we eagerly acknowledge as transnational, global and ineluctably cosmopolitan--could also potentially coexist with powerful countervailing programs of isolationism and chauvinism. It demonstrates the crucial importance of comparative literary and cultural studies in the 21st century." --Yvonne H. Howell Times Higher Education 17th November 2011
About the Author
Katerina Clark is Professor of Comparative Literature and Slavic Literature, Yale University.