Abstract: The article reveals links between the Russian Orientalists of the nineteenth century and the Soviet artists working both in USSR’s Russian and Central Asian parts. It points out discrepancies between official policies of the Soviet government in relation to nationalities’ question and the actual politics of doublestandards made visible through the means of high art. The analysis of artistic education demonstrates the prevailing need to ascertain cultural superiority by one side over the other, where artists from the Soviet centre arrived to instruct those in the Soviet East. Stereotypes feed into the official propaganda creation alongside the images of progress. Painting and photography were used to accentuate exotic attractiveness of Central Asia on the one hand and its agricultural potential on the other. The formation of art historical methodology and the creation of fine art schools and institutions in the region were happening alongside the colonial use of the Central Asian land and resources. The USSR’s continuing use of imperialist rhetoric in relation to Soviet Central Asia is shown to have affected the artistic depictions and cultural relations between Soviet East and Soviet West. Current analysis of meaning and use of the resulting images forms part of the investigation into the formation of identities in the Soviet and post-Soviet Central Asia.
Keywords: Propaganda, Russification, Nationalities, Identities, Intra-national relations, Cultural domination.
In Semion Chuikov’s A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia (1948) in which a young girl is depicted walking through empty fields, the artist has allegedly portrayed a whole nation, namely the young Soviet republic of Kyrgyzia. Chuikov’s painting presents a metaphor for the idea of one nationality for the benefit of the other. The painting travelled to Moscow while another artist’s copy remained in its country of origin. The metaphoric nature of the painting is not simply a modern invention, but such a reading is also recorded in the 1948 exhibition catalogue of the artist’s paintings.1 Presentation and re-presentation were crucial characteristics of the art exchange that took place between Soviet Central Asia and Moscow from the late 1930s to 1950s. This exchange points towards the continuation of neo-imperial, intra-national relationships within the wider Soviet territory.