Volume 71 Number 3 Abstracts

Delayed Discovery or Willful Forgetting? The Reception of Polish Classical Modernism in America

Steven Mansbach

Polish modern art was collected by leading figures within America’s cultural vanguard. Most prized the art’s stylistic innovation; they were likely unaware of the ideological charge that animated modernism’s makers. By the end of the 1930s, numerous exhibitions of Polish art had been mounted in the United States; however, few concentrated on strikingly innovative works, preferring instead traditional themes, genres, and styles. Nonetheless, Poland’s modernist efforts garnered popular success at the New York World’s Fair of 1939. The modern art from other central and eastern European nations was actively promoted by its makers, who had immigrated to the United States. Poland’s modern art did not benefit from a similar presence, its modernists having mostly elected to remain in their native land. The paucity of Polish artists in 1930s America compromised their chance to exercise an influential role just as the United States was consolidating an international canon of modern art.

Avant-Garde Anachronisms: Prague’s Group of Fine Artists and Viennese Art Theory

Naomi Hume

The Czech Group of Fine Artists published their journal, Umělecký měsíčník (Art Monthly, 1911-1914) to justify their abstraction and their interest in French cubism in response to criticism that denigrated their work as incomprehensible and foreign. In this article, Naomi Hume argues that the Group’s strategy was fundamentally at odds with how avant-gardes have been understood to operate in scholarship on modernism. Rather than asserting a break with the past, the Group applied new Viennese art historical approaches-particularly those of Alois Riegl, Max Dvořák, and Vincenc Kramář-to draw parallels between their work and prior art objects that departed from mimesis. They equated their radical style with what Riegl called anachronisms in art’s development, moments when an independent will to form emerges from the mainstream. By bringing French cubist ideas into dialogue with the inherent spirituality of their own national tradition, the Group saw themselves as reinvigorating Czech art.

The Shattered Self of Komsomol Civil War Memoirs

Sean Guillory

The Russian civil war was a fratricidal climax of seven years of war and revolution that fractured Russian society. Its traumatic effects on postrevolutionary life are beyond measure. In this article Sean Guillory examines memoirs of Komsomol civil war veterans to illuminate the ways the war shaped their sense of self. Guillory argues that veterans’ memoirs reveal a shattering of the self where their efforts to narrate their experience as agents of war was overshadowed by their transformation on the battlefield into instinctual beings, imprisoned by emotions, senses, nerves, and muscles. Guillory engages the scholarship on the Soviet self and subjectivity by calling attention to the ways trauma produces a “darker side” of the self, and in particular, how the body serves as a long-term depository for experiences of loss, disorientation, and deprivation.

Exile, Gender, and Communist Self-Fashioning: Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasionaria) in the Soviet Union

Lisa A. Kirschenbaum

Focusing on the Soviet exile of the Spanish communist and orator Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasionaria), Lisa A. Kirschenbaum brings into dialogue two topics often treated in isolation: Soviet subjectivities and the self-understandings of international communists. During the Spanish civil war, the Soviet media popularized Ibárruri’s performance of fierce communist motherhood. The article traces Ibárruri’s efforts in exile to maintain and adapt this public identity by analyzing sources in two distinct registers, both of which blurred the boundaries between public and private selves: Ibárruri’s “official” correspondence and her interventions in party meetings. Reading such sources as sites of self-fashioning, Kirschenbaum argues that Ibárruri was at once empowered and constrained by her self-presentation as the mother of the Spanish exiles. Ibárruri’s case both internationalizes understandings of Stalinist culture and suggests the possibility of a history of international communism structured around the interconnected and diverse lives of individual communists.

Socialist Senses: Film and the Creation of Soviet Subjectivity

Emma Widdis

In this article, Emma Widdis suggests that a sensory history is a crucial counterpart to the recent emotional turn in Russian and Slavic scholarship on Russian and Slavic history and culture. In particular, the Soviet revolutionary project was a unique attempt to create new models of human experience to correspond to the new political order-an attempt to shape sensory experience itself. Widdis suggests that the still-young medium of cinema was a privileged site for the investigation of new models of sensory perception, for the working out of the problematic relationship between the body, the mind, and the world that had such ideological potency in early Soviet Russia. Linking close readings of little-known films from this period to a broader analysis of the discursive field within which they operated, Widdis suggests that, in the period of transition between 1928 and 1932, intensified sensory (and particularly tactile) experience emerged as a new and revolutionary mode of being in the world.

Deer in Headlights: Incompetence and Weak Authoritarianism after the Cold War

Lucan A. Way

Based on a detailed analysis of Belarusian politics and the rise of Aliaksandar Lukashenka in the early 1990s, this article explores the sources, character, and impact of authoritarian incompetence and skill on regime outcomes after the Cold War. One type of incompetence-deer in headlights-emerges out of the disorientation and persistence of older regime practices in the face of rapid political change. This type of incompetence was one important but largely unrecognized source of political contestation in the former Soviet Union and other parts of the developing world in the early 1990s. Rapid change in the international environment that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War created novel demands that existing autocrats often did not know how to deal with-even when they had the structural resources to survive. The result was greater contestation and more incumbent turnover than would have existed otherwise.