ABSTRACT

According to historian Peter Fritzsche, resistance has become a central motif of historical writing, as it effectively develops an active historical subject and enables delineation of “the particularisms of identity in the shadow of the great homogenizing endeavors of the state.” 1 This partially explains the deep entrenchment and broad spread of the discourse of ‘dissent’ in studies of Soviet culture, especially in analyses written after the fall of the Soviet Union. 2 In visual arts, the model of dissent (until the 1990s the term ‘unofficial art’ was preferred) was formed according to Moscow’s art scene, where quite an extensive alternative non-public art life emerged outside the official structures around the late 1950s and early 1960s. Furthermore, or even more than the motifs or stylistics of works of art expanding accepted limits—be it religious or erotic subject matter, the disreputable side of Soviet life, the formalist approach, or a similarity to contemporary Western art trends, etc.—this dissent was defined by artists’ non-affiliation with official art institutions. As a rule, artists considered unofficial were not members of the fine arts sections of the Artists Union, they did not take part in official exhibitions, they were not subsidised by the state, and their works were not purchased for public collections.