How did the romance of the unfulfilled melt nostalgia for the USSR into a new genre? Part 1

How did the romance of the unfulfilled melt nostalgia for the USSR into a new genre? Part 1

The release of “Atomic Heart” was not just a high-profile event in the history of Russian game development – it most clearly reflected an interesting cultural trend of the last dozen years. Since the beginning of the 2010s, futuristic images and plots in an emphatically Soviet style have become increasingly common in Runet in various forms. This became especially evident near the end of the decade with the mass spread of music in the style of retrowave — the Russian offshoot of which became Sovietwave, stylized to the tunes and rhythms of Soviet pop music. Well, now Soviet retrofuturism can already be called mainstream, even without particularly resorting to owls and globes. He expresses nostalgia for the positive features and characteristic details of the Soviet era — but since the beginning of the 90s, this nostalgia has managed to change a lot. What happened to her?

Cover of one of the most popular collections of Sovietwave music on YouTube

Many began to regret the fact that the USSR no longer exists immediately after its collapse. For broad sections of Russian society, which managed to “fit into the market” after decades of planned economy and ride the wave of change, the first post-Soviet years were sometimes poor and scary. The previously immovable fell, many, including well-educated specialists, could not quickly find themselves in new realities. This caused a lot of the most negative emotions, including among people who are far from communist views in the strict sense of the word. The Soviet nostalgia of those times took very dark forms for many people: in the genre of “Stalin is not on you” and “Kirdyk to your America”, which, as the side that won the Cold War, was blamed by many for what was happening.

Gennady Zykov’s painting “The World on the Ruins of Soviet Civilization” from 1992 reflected the worldview of not all, but many residents of the former USSR

Life in zero gradually became better and more fun — but nostalgia for the Soviet Union often remained colored by harsh tones. LJ during its heyday became the arena of endless bitter disputes between “liberals” and “patriots”: if the former often saw in the USSR a totalitarian regime with elements of Kafkaesque absurdity, the latter saw a shining ideal… in which “they would all be sent to Kolyma to clean the snow “. The ferocity of disputes over whether the USSR was hell on earth or an earthly paradise led to the radicalization of positions – and many nostalgic for the Soviet era, whose main positive aspect of the Soviet country was Stalin and his era.

Post-apocalypse combat Stalinobus performed by Dahr

Most often, however, it was a deliberate trolling of opponents: for example, the 2010 Stalinobus action was primarily a way to troll the LJ “liberals” by one of the party’s LJ “patriots”. On the other hand, “liberals” against the background of jokes about “a hundred million eaten by Stalin” saw in those nostalgic for the USSR purely “Stalinists” like the parodies of Yevhen “Badcomedian” Bazhenov: eager to send all democrats to ten years of execution in uranium mines, and also revive the USSR by fire and sword with the punishment of all “ungrateful” under the Soviet march from the third “Red Alert”.

(and most likely in the version from “Radio Tapok”)

However, even then, not all of those who were nostalgic about the USSR had in mind “Stalin’s iron hand” and “telling Kuzkin’s mother to everyone.” Everything was much more complicated.
Back in 2007, Victor Argonov and the group “Complex Numbers” released the techno-opera “2032: Legend of the Unrealized Future”: a mixture of Soviet retrofuturism with cyberpunk in the rhythms of nostalgic synthpop – ten years before it entered the world and Russian.

However, her optimism was… relative. Everything starts quite bright, positive and even utopian, but then the USSR, which survived, arranged for the insidious imperialists “Our Soviet Union will punish” in accordance with the spirit of the era. However, the finale was not at all in the spirit of books about pathetic hitmen or the finale of the campaign for the USSR in “Red Alert 3”: humanity was inadvertently threatened along with the planet in the process no worse than in “Doctor Strangelove”.

“Winter. The run is over. And there is no one to find the fault of specific persons. And there is nothing to ask the birds that fell from the sky. Only the circumstances are to blame for what has become everyone’s fate – this way.”

However, in general, it was about a techno-utopia in the Soviet futuristic style: integrated with the State Plan and the entire Soviet economy, ASGU, which thinks of a neural network, managed to organize the USSR very well. If it weren’t for a series of fatal mistakes, everything could have gone completely differently in that plot. Yes, already in 2012, Argoniv painted a bright and sympathetic image of a developed neural network, which is capable of amazing things, but does not fully understand whether it is a full-fledged person or not.

The ASGU neural network in the usual form Japanese schoolgirl Soviet pioneer

However, technoopera “went in” quite moderately in the then LJ magazine, as a niche project for connoisseurs. At the end of 2010, moderate and peace-loving supporters of a positive attitude towards Soviet history loudly announced themselves in LJ by launching the creative contest “USSR-2061”. Creative people were invited to express in graphics, literature and other forms of art their ideas of what a surviving Soviet Union might look like before the century of Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight.

If for lovers of the brutal sides of the USSR, Stalin was the central figure of Soviet history, then those who appreciated the Union for more peaceful things united more quickly around the image of Gagarin.

The results of the first competition were tallied in February 2011. Not all works could be called masterpieces — but “USSR-2061” resounded loudly in the spaces of LJ. Contrary to the expectations of many who were particularly skeptical of the very idea of ​​doing something positive about the USSR, almost everything presented was emphasized as peaceful and optimistic. No Soviet star cruisers plowing the expanses of the Big Dipper to the fear of the imperialist aggressor, no red star space marines with big guns under Stalinist flags. The works presented at the competition were all about the peaceful exploration of space.

Tits for more pictures from the first contest “USSR-2061”

Of course, this was largely determined by the very concept of the contest — but, it would seem, the idea that lay on the surface, that nostalgia for the USSR can relate primarily to images of scientific, technical and social progress, dreams of a peaceful future for humanity and ways to stars, not imperial power and the struggle against countless external and internal enemies, for the first time in the post-Soviet history of Russia sounded so vividly, sympathetically and consistently. And if, among historical figures, Yuri Gagarin was the closest to the idea of ​​the competition, then among the fictional characters, Alisa Seleznyova became the main symbol of this trend from the very beginning – of course, in the cult version from “Guests from the Future”.

The contest “USSR-2061” became the first swallow of a new cultural phenomenon, which gradually began to gain momentum. In its basis, it was not difficult to notice a whole complex of images, as well as memes and traces of late Soviet culture: from the beginning of the 60s to the end of the 80s. First, it concerned the totality of the original tradition of Soviet science fiction. The Strugatsky brothers, Ivan Efremov, and Kir Bulychev were the idols of a huge number of Soviet intellectuals, primarily technical specialties.

Under the sauce of NF in the perestroika USSR, they even managed to publish a strange retelling of “The Lord of the Rings” by Zinaida Bobir: framed by a plot about how a group of scientists from Stanislav Lem’s novel investigates a mysterious artifact in the form of a ring with an inscription in an unknown language.

By the end of the history of the USSR, there was a whole network of clubs for fans of science fiction, relevant books were read to tens of millions of Soviet citizens, and film adaptations often turned out to be hits. Hard-core humanitarians often grimaced, considering SF a low genre for “researchers of junior high school age”, but in other circles it was literally obscene not to read Strugatskyi or Bulychov.

“The Secret of the Third Planet” based on the novel by Kir Bulychev was published in 1981 and immediately became one of the favorite cartoons of Soviet science fiction fans – especially among young people

The second source of inspiration for the renewed Soviet aesthetics of techno-romanticism and scientific optimism of the 2010s was the graphic tradition of Soviet works on the space theme: propaganda posters, postcards, stamps, book covers, educational programs about space, its exploration of the Soviet cosmos. In the late USSR, technoromanticism reached its peak twice: in the Thaw of the early 1960s and in the mid-1980s, when hopes for the Soviet Union’s exit from the crisis were linked to the widespread use of computers.

“Soviet Cybernetics”, a painting by Anatoly Horbenko, 1984

But in other periods of Soviet history, the images of a scientist and science were very popular, hopes for the victory of communism were even at the ideological level inseparable from scientific and technological progress, and in practice scientists of technical specialties were a rather privileged group. Especially those who worked on strategically important tasks such as nuclear and space programs.

Stick to more Soviet posters promoting scientific and technological progress

Against the background of the realities of the late zero years, which Serhii Kalugin described with the lines “bars, cars, bankers and *****, advertising, format, NTV…” all this looked like a window into another world – where the future could seem bright, progressive and beautiful, and not to hang the sword of Damocles of dystopia over the world of the endless cycle of office Sansara. Well, the third source of inspiration was… late Soviet music. From the cult no less than Alisa Selezneva’s “Beautiful Far Away” and the crushing tracks of Eduard Artemiev to the hits of VIA, Tsoi and even Alla Pugacheva in places.

However, already at the turn of the zeroes and tenths, the aesthetics of Soviet techno-optimism was far from reduced to one “USSR-2061”. When ZhZhshniki began to look for something else in the same spirit, they came across a number of artists who did not participate in the specified competition, but painted in a direction that can be called Soviet dieselpunk, often with elements of pin-up. First of all, it is worth mentioning Oleksiy Lipatov, who started painting in this way before this beginning became mainstream: since 2009.

Tits on other works of Lipatov, including some 16+

The works of the same time performed by the artist Volodymyr Kazak, known on the network as Waldemar von Kozak, turned out to be a little less sublime and romantic, somewhat more ironic and strongly pin-up. In him, Soviet dieselpunk took surprisingly grotesque, but bright and very expressive forms – however, like almost everything else in his work, from the plots of Russian folk tales to parodies of movie hits of the 60s. In the first half of the 2010s, he was very popular, first in LJ, and then on social media platforms.

Tits on other works of von Kozak, including also a little 16+

Unlike Lipatov, von Kozak is prone to the macabre, dark and black humor in some places: the work beats the “nursery poem” about “stars in a row”, evpocha

The works of Lipatov and von Kozak set a trend in optimistic Soviet aesthetics both for retrofuturism on the border of diesel and atompunk, and for the introduction of eroticism, which is not characteristic of puritanical Soviet art. Later, it will be developed by several more iconic for the author’s genre, but we will talk about this, as well as many other things, in the next part.

Stay with us, friends!

Be the first to learn about new promotions and promo codes from our Telegram channel 💰

Related posts