Discourse of Socialist Realism and Some Peculiarities of Georgian Soviet Literature

The world history remembers numerous past civilizations which have been studied over the ages by the scholars specialized in various fields of research. Today, the Soviet era an integrated part of which Georgian Soviet literature resting on the principles of socialist realism had been, is already a "past civilization". It is a finished historical type which is characterized with its own specific features. According to the common view, we have long needed the in-depth analysis of the Georgian Soviet literature. The truth is that works of literary criticism rapidly become "obsolete". It is not surprising that from the vantage point of present day the studies in the Soviet apologetic literature are scientifically out of date and practically useless. When trying to evaluate the literature of socialist realism under the Soviet period, the post-Soviet literary criticism turns to be in a certain way radical with judgements so typical for the Soviet period. The only difference is that if earlier each and all were liked, now everything is frequently disapproved without distinction. Such antonymy of evaluation necessitates an up-to-date, unbiased study of the literature of socialist realism. There should be determined: what the true and false values of the epoch of socialist realism were; what was its art ideology; its experience and place in the context of the world literature is to be also evaluated from the vantage point of today; conceptual theoretical and historical analysis of the Soviet literature must be conducted; essential and necessary trends of its historical development must be revealed; both apologetic and nihilistic extremes during evaluation are to be overcome; the empirical material which helps us to make the problem more concrete and show the trend of universal importance should be obtained.

When it concerns class, party, ideological criteria of socialist realism, one cannot help mentioning that conjuncture versions of socialist realism laid the foundations of artistic works which conditioned the conflict shown in the work; the system of sociologistic scheme of the characters. The writers became more and more like military units of fast response who in the shortest time had to respond the appeals of party and the Soviet government.  Thus, for example, when the party declared the policy for industrialization and collectivization, the Soviet literature immediately started to reflect the ebullient enthusiasm of the time:

/The machine struggles and rotates/ there is a competition between the plants/ the Soviet industrialization is being created/ in our verses and poems/ [Georgian... 1984:50].

And again, the Party declared that the cotton culture would be developed in Georgia and literature quickly responded to this initiative:

/The cotton is tacking hopes in the fields / a sound rings out/ cotton, cotton, cotton/

[Chikovani, 1933: 258].

A company against the maze as "backward" agricultural culture was launched and there appeared K.Lortkipanidze's novel entitled "Down with Maize Republic" but as soon as "rehabilitation" of this culture occurred the title of the novel was also changed into "Kolkhetis Tsiskari".

  Now the party declared great terror and the works of literature conducted the ideas and policy of the intensification of class struggle. The immorality of some writers had no limit. Poets glorified the KGB, death sentence:

/Hurrah to the G.P.U. - your verdict/ is written in a Bolshevik way/ As a political poet- / You must do your mission:/ all saboteurs of socialism/ must be sentenced to be shoot/ Hurrah  to the G.P.U. - your verdict/ is written in a Bolshevik way/

[Naroushvili, 1931: 21].

Thus the subject of the art of socialist realism was not the life with all its diversity and dialectic contradictions but the existence of ideological law. Socialist realism, which was introduced not only the main but the only type of art, essentially represented a false form of realism, its profanation, pseudo realism.

Socialist realism had its own relation to traditions. The Soviet literary critics tried to create an illusion as if the writers of socialist realism were logical successors of their national literature. This view can be shared only partially because in the majority of cases it looked like negation of traditions rather than their continuation. This trend found its manifestation in the literature too. One of Alio Mirtskhulava's verses is called "The Leap forward to the Sun". The allegorical image of the sun meant the happy future of the mankind, communism which cradle had been rocked in the north, in the Daryal gorge.  In author's view, only the "fast horses" can cope with the hardships which Communist society is to overcome, i.e. "desert environment, dark gorge", Nobody else can manage this, neither "Merani" (Pegasus), nor "Lurja horses" (blue horses): /This desert environs/ this dark gorge/ neither Merani, nor Lurja horses can pass/ Go there! Fast horses/ Let me pass the boundary/ / Go there! Let me pass the Daryal gates/

[Georgian... 1984:27]

The cited passage clearly shows the author's attitude to traditions and, in his view, which ideological and aesthetic experience is effective in communist epoch and which is unproductive and incapable. The poet clearly states that to achieve the Bolshevik goals classical heritage is not available, i.e. neither "Merani", nor "Lurja horses".

Any work of socialist realism, irrespective of the author and genre it belongs to, is to be oriented to the ultimate goal - communism. The whole work and the life of its protagonist was the portrayal of the realization of this Purpose. The events described in the work and characters may solve global issues or more modest tasks but even this modest task is to be organically combined with common purpose - building of communism and representation of reality in its "revolutionary development". Proceeding from all this, it is natural that the typical feature of the work of socialist realism must be a happy ending, which in order to differentiate from the happy ending well known in literature and art can be termed as "socialist realist happy ending".

The socialist realist happy ending is an artistic reflection of "Marxist happy ending" which was proclaimed by the Communist Party. Proceeding from this teaching, a happy ending was considered only when the ultimate goal is achieved and the communism will be built. Besides this, there also exist comparatively modest, intermediate goals (winning in socialist contest, fulfilment of a five-year plan in three years, etc.). In a communist society the authorities do not care about the fate of a concrete person. Therefore, the ending of a work is not oriented at the fate of a protagonist. The fate of a protagonist is one's own personal tragedy and it is not essential for the aesthetics of socialist realism. Socialist realism had the same approach to a man as the Soviet regime for which a man had only static function. Hence, not the fate of a protagonist determines the "socialist realist happy ending" but the fate of a common goal, common cause. If the protagonist sacrifices life for this goal and its realization is not brought into question then everything is all right, there is a happy ending. However, if everything is under question, the aesthetics of socialist realism does not admit such case. For example, Rodion Korkia's 12-year-old protagonist was killed in the battle ("The Salt Cradle"). But the revolution triumphed and years later when his corpse was accidentally found it was buried with revolutionary honour and the young hero was even posthumously rewarded with a Red order: "He lay holding his gun. The hand was on the wounded heart. Blood had dried on his chest. The salt preserved his body so well that it looked as if the small solder was asleep.  What was his name? Who knows?! The cannons were roaring, when the coffin was carried. The children followed the coffin with flowers in their hands. The waves were softly rolling in as if they were rocking their son. The small horseman lay in his coffin with a rifle and Red Order was radiating in his blood dried chest," [Korkia, 1968: 13].

The works of socialist realism make emphasis on ideological aspect of the function of the title and realization of the happy ending. The creation of a cheerful optimistic way of life in actual reality of socialist realism becomes an additional and special function of the title. Proceeding from the basic method of socialist realism, any work of art was required to provide a depiction of bright future which must have been evidenced from the very title of a work. Although officially and theoretically this requirement was not fixed anywhere, but the writers themselves, proceeding from the total ideological and aesthetic system, arrived to this conclusion. Here are some typical titles of the works of socialist realism: "Down with Maize Republic" (K.Lortkipanidze), "Steps" (P.Chkhikvadze), "The Daybreak" (D.Shengelaia), "The Unbeaten Caucasus" (G.Abashidze), "The Mountains Awake" (E.Zedgenidze), "The Floors" (P.Chkhikvadze), "The Hero" (A.Chachibaia), "To New Georgia" ((A.Abasheli), "To Georgian Bolsheviks" (G.Leonidze), "To New Colchida" (I.Mosashvili), "The October Beacon" (Alio Mirtskhulava), "The Spring of Mankind" (Stefane Mkhargrdzeli), "The Crown of Mankind" (Kale Bobokhidze), "It was born as an Eternal Sun" (Teymuraz Jangulashvili), etc.

In the structure of a work of socialist realism with a happy ending from ideological viewpoint of special importance was also the ending of the work of art, the last monologue of a dying hero or words. It was just at the end of a work as it is in a speech delivered at the meeting loud proclamations were heard, the pictures of a happy future or the utopian pictures of communism were depicted; the characters glorified "big" or "small" heroisms of the builders of communism; the dying hero used to say the final words from which the revolutionary and communist pathos was expressed. The small revolutionary protagonist from the above mentioned Rodion Korkia's novel is leaving this world with the following words:

"Hurrah! - heard from the trench. - Long live the Soviet Georgia! Ours are crying! - occurred to a small boy. - So we have won! Oh, if only I could stand up! I would meet Frunze... Then I would retell my Mom about this...

....Hurrah! - heard from the trench.

-          Comrades, I cannot go out of the trench, can I? - and the tears rolled down his cheeks.

It was dawn in the sky.

-          Hurrah! - heard from the trench.

The small soldier made a move once more, gave a sigh and exclaimed:

-          Hurrah!

After this the salt soil embraced him and closed the mouth, the red morning came in the trench" [Korkia, 1968: 12].

In a majority of cases a happy ending in the socialist-realist works can be evaluated as "forced optimism". It is one of the major components of the literature of socialist realism where misfortune and troubles are either not shown or outweighed by positive elements. The socialist realist heroes and heroines were wonderful people with stainless reputation, but the scoundrels were as black as night.  Another key element of socialist realism was a happy ending which must be one more evidence that socialist world was the best one among all possible worlds.

It should be mentioned that happy ending is not an exclusive finding of the socialist world. In modern world it is sometimes considered as an American phenomenon, though the roots of this type of utopia must be sought in the distant past which was reflected in the remarkable specimens of folklore. This is also evidenced from Georgian tales and especially their endings. Beginning from the 20th century Georgian cultural world had already had new type of a happy ending in the form of "socialist realist happy ending". If the tale characters are fighting against the devi, dragons, tailed old women... and win, the characters in socialist-realist works are fighting against those who opposed the ideology of Marxism and party, against the traces of the bourgeois past in its consciousness ... and win. In both cases this is perceived as a fight between good and evil. However, in the first case it is really the fight between good and evil but in another case it is an imitation of it.

On the path to an ultimate goal - communism, we can find numerous paradoxes in the Soviet reality: to be no boundaries in future, the Soviet regime was building new and new boundaries between the states; for all people be happy in future, the Soviet regime was brutal to thousands of people; in order for the labour be free in future, numerous people were forced to hard labour, etc. Works of socialist realism glorified this regime and tried to establish the overall happiness and optimism. This attitude did not oppose the norms of socialist realism because all these hardships were obligatory to reach the "Purpose" and served a goal of achieving the communist happy ending.

The main differentiating feature of the concept of socialist-realist happy ending from the happy endings of other types and epochs is that it was oriented at Marxist doctrine and ultimate goal of the mankind, communism.

In the works of socialist realism, like in any other verbal composition the events can be depicted which happened in the past, happen in the present or will happen in the future. From this viewpoint the most productive and functionally loaded is the present. In the works of socialist realism the events are mainly happening in the present ("Kolkhetis Tsiskari", "Gvadi Bigva", etc.). The aesthetics of socialist realism is practically most easily realized in such works. Things are more complicated when a writer describes the remote past. One needs more effort to present the historical facts and events or invented stories in conformity with the method of socialist realism. In this case, its aim is to show the vector of world's history development as a movement for communism and find such moments in the world history which would strengthen its positions. Here of great assistance to the reader was also the criticism of Marxism which was seeking and it must be said that "found" the "progressive core" in historical personages, historical facts and events which make the mankind close to their dearest Purpose - communism even when mankind was not aware of communism.

The writers avoided describing communism as already happened fact. Of other numerous reasons for this perhaps the primary is subjective factor. The writers themselves may explain this fact as "communist modesty" as if the representation of communist overall happiness and upheaval was beyond their artistic imagination. But probably more important is the other thing: they could make a fatal mistake while presenting artistic description of communism and Party would never forgive them this.

The epoch of socialist realism has been ended. Georgian literature is not the voice of the communist party any more. It has returned its aesthetic function and the possibility of free creative development. New epoch has come. The culture of each epoch has its own concept for society and person, own paradigm. This paradigm greatly determines the life of the epoch which creates the invariant of the relationship of power, society and personality. The concept of a world and man is changed and improved from epoch to epoch. After socialist realism the culture of the post Soviet space is in search of a new paradigm.

1 G.P.U. is the same as OGPU (All-Union State Political Board), the KGB's predecessor.


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