Russian Art & Anti-Semitism: Yevtushenko vs. Khrushchev; A Speech by Mikhail Romm
EXACTLY one year ago, on December 1, 1962, Nikita S. Khrushchev paid an unexpected visit to the Manezh gallery in Moscow, to inspect a special exhibit of abstract and semi-abstract paintings by a group of young Soviet artists. His angry reaction, couched in expletives and obscenities, immediately became the sensation of Moscow, and the events of the succeeding six months revealed more clearly than ever before the nature of the ferment that has been agitating major segments of the Soviet intelligentsia in the last few years. They supplied evidence of three truly sensational developments (of which close students in the West had been increasingly aware but of which the general public was largely ignorant): that the younger generation of intellectuals and creative artists, supported by a considerable number of middle-aged and even a handful of elderly established literary figures, were making an effort to expand the area of their freedom to write, paint, and sculpt; that this effort was being combatted by many Stalinist artists and officials of the artistic unions and enterprises; and that the Communist Party leadership, divided in its counsels on how to cope with the phenomenon of a rebellious young intelligentsia, was exerting some pressures, clamping down on certain “excesses,” exacting some grudging and ambiguous self-criticism from a few-but was settling for now into an indecisive muddle.
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