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Category Archives: CCCP

Впервые появившись в СССР в 1922 году, джаз стал самостоятельно развивающимся музыкальным явлением. Для советских музыкантов возможности встреч и общения с американскими джазовыми музыкантами были ограничены. Основные знания о джазе они получали, слушая граммофонные пластинки. Джаз выжил, несмотря на репрессии и критику со стороны такого гиганта пролетарской культуры, как Максим Горький. В период ‘хрущевской оттепели’ слушатели получили более широкий доступ к джазовой музыке. В 70-е годы джазовые музыканты из СССР начали гастролировать на Западе. Их мастерство и техника исполнения производили неизгладимое впечатление на западную аудиторию.
Вагиф Мустафа-заде родился в 1940г., в городе Баку – столице тогдашней Азербайджанской ССР. Одними из первых музыкальных увлечений для него стали джаз (который он слушал по BBC) и мейхана (особый вид музыкально-поэтического творчества). Вагиф Мустафа-заде начал играть на фортепиано в возрасте трех лет и позднее получил классическое музыкальное образование. Однако именно джаз навсегда остался его самой большой страстью. Не ограничиваясь традиционной джазовой импровизацией, он смешивал ее с элементами мугама – основного жанра народной азербайджанской музыкальной традиции. Вагиф Мустафа-заде стал лауреатом многих Всесоюзных джазовых фестивалей: ‘Таллин-66’, ‘Джаз-69’, ‘Донецк-77’, ‘Тбилиси-78’. В 1978 году на Международном конкурсе джазовой композиции в Монако он завоевал первую премию за композицию ‘В ожидании Азизы’. Вагиф Мустафа-заде скончался от сердечного приступа в Ташкенте. Ему было 39 лет. Посмертно ему было присвоено звание Заслуженного Артиста Азербайджанской ССР. *Вагиф – арабское слово, означает ‘очень умный’.

Having first arrived in 1922, Jazz in the USSR was an independently developing phenomenon. Soviet musicians had limited opportunities to meet with American contemporaries, and most of their learning came from records. Despite being criticised by such greats as Maxim Gorky and periods of official repression, jazz survived. In the post Stalin era Soviet audiences got more exposure to jazz music. By the 1970’s, when Soviet musicians were travelling to the west, they were astonishing their new audiences with their technical abilities.

Vagif* Mustafazadeh(Вагиф Мустафа-Заде 1940-1979) was born in 1940 in Baku, capital of what was then Azerbaijan SSR. His early musical interests were jazz (heard via BBC broadcasts) and Meykhana rhythmic poetry. He had started to play piano at the age of 3 and received a formal musical education. Jazz remained his main passion, however. Dissatisfied with improvisational jazz, he began to fuse jazz with Mugam, a traditional Azeri music. He won awards at various All-Soviet Union Jazz Festivals (Tallinn-66, Caz-69, Donetsk -77.Tbilisi-78). In 1978 at Monaco he won the first prize at the 8th International Competition of Jazz Composers for his composition Waiting for Aziza.

Mustafazade died of a heart-attack shortly after a concert in Tashkent. He was 39. Following his death he was made an Honoured Artist of Azerbaijan SSR.

*Vagif is an Arabic word that means Extremely Knowledgeable.

Many thanks to Mrs. Kartoshka for the excellent translation.


Abstract Composition- 193?

Abstract Composition-1932

Abstract Composition

Mikhail Mikhailovich Tarkhanov, (Михаил Михайлoвич Тарханов, 1888-1962) was born in Ukraine.
When thinking of the art of the Soviet Union it is easy to focus on Social(ist) Realism and The Constructivists. In the early days, however, the avant garde flourished, particularly at Vkhutemas ( Вхутемас: Высшие художественно-технические мастерские), the institute in Moscow at which Tarkhanov studied.
V.I Lenin admitted that abstractions in art weren’t really his thing, and doubted the ideological soundness of such work, ‘but what do I know?’ he quipped, ‘I’m an old man’. Later regimes though, were less tolerant of this perceived decadence, and in the 1930s Tarkhanov, whilst producing officially sanctioned graphic designs , privately developed his style of abstract composition, which he called Picturesque-Textured Improvisations.

Vasili Kirillovich Nechitailo (Василий Кириллович Нечитайло) was born near Rostov-on-Don, in 1915. He was an academically grounded painter, studying at the Surikov Institute. During The Great Patriotic War (1941-45) Nechitailo was amongst the artists evacuated to Samarkand, (now Uzbekistan) – far away from any danger from the advancing Germans. The rationale for this was that the Soviet Government considered these young artists to be ‘cultural assets’ and desired to protect them from possible harm. Returning to Moscow when the tide of war turned in the favour of The Soviets, Nechitailo eventually graduated in 1944. It was only then that he began to exhibit. Following this 13 years of formal artistic training he himself later embarked on an 8 year career as a teacher at the Surikov Institute. Nechitailo died in Moscow in 1980.
Rather than inexpertly write about Nechitailo’s style I’ll just let this selection of paintings speak for themselves.

Study of a Man (1949)

Lubotchka the Postlady (1958-1959)

Girl with an apple (195?)

Team Leader (1965)

Blue Shadows(1976)

I don’t know much about the life of Robert Ivanovich Sturua (1916-198?). From the Georgian SSR, he is now more commonly referred to as Robert Sturua Snr, as his son of the same name is a distinguished theatre director.

Portrait of a Spouse(1946)

Elene (1960)

Sanjuro- Samurai proto-cowboy.

Cowboys can crop up anywhere, not just in The Old West.
During the 1950’s and 60’s Western Movies began to draw on other sources. Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was particularly influential. Toshirō Mifune frequently appeared as a solitary, nameless hero upholding traditional values of justice against morally dissolute foes.

Sukhov- Red Army Cowboy.

Discussing his Soviet cult classic The White Sun of the Desert director Vladimir Motyl acknowledged the influence of Stagecoach and High Noon . He described the film as being a “cocktail” of Russian folktale and a Western. Visually, with it’s stark landscapes , the film resembles the work of Sergio Leone.

This used to be a hell of a good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it…

In Easy Rider Wyatt (as in Earp -Peter Fonda) and Billy (as in The Kid– Dennis Hopper) ride through familiar Western landscapes on their motorcycles.

Whenever I post pictures of women on this blog Mrs Kartoshka becomes agitated. Why? It’s not jealousy – not one of them can hold a candle to her. It’s because they are usually brunettes. Mrs Kartoshka is a blonde. The contempt with which blondes regard brunettes is monumental.

So- I have selected this picture for two reasons: because like Mrs Kartoshka she is a blonde, and because like Mrs Kartoshka she is a Russian Venus. I should point out however that Mrs Kartoshka is about 50kg with her hat and coat and boots on, whereas this lady is more generously built.

The painting is Русская Венера (Russian Venus) by Boris Mikhaylovich Kustodiev (Борис Михайлович Кустодиев:1878– 1927).
Kustodiev, who was known for illustration, stage and graphic design as well as his paintings, provides the link between traditional Russian realism and the classically influenced realism of the Soviet era. He studied under the great Russian painter Repin, who wrote I have great hopes for Kustodiev– praise indeed.
Kustodiev’s political awareness was awakened by the 1905 Revolution, and he produced satirical works in response to those troubled times.
Themes of traditional Russian life filled his work, indeed the times that Kustodiev spent away from Russia (he studied in France and Spain and later went to Switzerland for medical treatment) strengthened his love of his homeland.
From 1916 onwards Kustodiev was paralyzed from the waist down by spinal tuberculosis.

Westerns, of course, were not only made in the USA. So, what comes next, a feature on Spaghetti Westerns? Later perhaps, but here is a strange Soviet/ Cuban collaboration from 1972.
Всадник без головы (The Headless Horseman)was based on a novel by the Irish-American adventure writer”Captain”Thomas Mayne Reid (1818 – 1883). The novel was an adaptation of a South Texas folk tale.

The movie was filmed in Cuba- local actors (dubbed from Spanish) playing the Hispanic carachters and the black slaves. The Caucasians and Native Americans are played by Soviet actors. Leading man (and Soviet heartthrob) Oleg Borisovich Vidov was born in Moscow in 1943. In 1985, he defected to the U.S. You’d have to go a long way to find a more handsome cowboy.

Good advice for the people of The Soviet Union! Smoke Cigarettes suggests the poster.

Plastov, Arkady Alexandrovich(Аркадий Александрович Пластов 1893 – 1972) was a Social Realist painter of the Soviet Union.
Plastov was born near Simbirsk (the birthplace of V.I Lenin that now bears his birthnam
e- Ulyanovsk). His family were traditionally icon painters. Plastov studied in Moscow from 1914-1917 and then returned to his home village.
During the Soviet era there was a strict adherence to social(ist) realism, and Plastov’s work is a great example of this artistic doctrine. He documented the building of socialism- the development of the kolkhoz collective farming system and the era of the five year plan . His work also showed the effects of The Great Patriotic War on the people of rural Russia.
Spring (Весна) was painted in 1954. The painting is considered a turning point in the history of Soviet art, marking a departure from socialist realism, reflecting the political relaxation in the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev, an era which came to be known as the Khrushchev Thaw.

The ЗАЗ-968 Zaporozhets was produced from 1972 to 1980. Here is the charming ЗАЗ-968A, featuring a smaller engine and intended, it would seem, for the female driver.
Note: Since I wrote the above Mrs Kartoshka has informed me that the ЗАЗ-968 A was usually the car of older people, and that women drivers in the Soviet Union were not a common sight outside of Moscow and Leningrad.