Russian Modernism (1890–1934) By Douglas Clayton, J.
Russian modernism arose as a rejection of positivism and the realism of the major nineteenth-century Russian novelists such as Lev Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Ivan Turgenev. In its first phase it was marked by a rekindled interest in poetry, mysticism, and symbolism. There was also a tendency to seek a fusion of different forms of artistic expression: poetry, music, painting, and theatre. Playwrights reflected the move away from naturalism towards the theatricality of commedia dell’arte and metadrama (the play within the play). In prose there emerged a new decorative style and new themes such as sexuality. The Russian Revolution of 1917 signalled an important shift towards the avant-garde. Poets adopted radical new poetic forms, glorified the new machine age or hearkened back to the pre-historical roots myth, and experimented with invented, abstract language. Prose writers shifted towards a stark new factual style that incorporated documents and slogans. Their themes were the revolutionary changes in Russia and their own inadequacy in the face of the new Soviet man. The avant-garde received its death-blow with the promulgation of Socialist Realism as the mandatory style for all publishing authors at the All-Union Writers’ Conference in 1934.