Vol. 16 (2023): XVI International Symposium Contemporary Issues of Literary Criticism Socialist Realism in Literature and Art
Socialist Realism and Soviet Discourse

Decorative Art of the Latvian SSR, Searching the Way Between Party-Mindedness and National-Mindedness

Imants Lavins
The EKA University of Applied Sciences (EKA)

Published 2023-12-11


  • Applied art,
  • folk art,
  • ornament,
  • socialist realism,
  • ideology


The basic principle of socialist realism was the belief in the political ideals proposed by the ruling Communist party (party-mindedness) of the Soviet Union, enriched by national-mindedness and ideinost (ideological-content). Already since the early 1930s, in the Soviet Union every single cultural worker in every single discipline of art had to strictly follow the method of socialist realism. The canon of socialist realism was equally applicable to fine art as well as applied art, the specific function of which was supposed to be purely utilitarian use. Decorative art in the national republics of the Soviet Union usually took the forms of folk art, and decorative art since the beginning of the 1960s was perceived as an integral component of Soviet culture. The essence of Soviet culture had already been formulated several decades earlier, and it had to be socialist in content and national in form, emphasizing the importance of national traditions.

It was possible to treat this principle in various, even very disparate ways, so the problem of adherence to the party principles and the manifestastion of national distinctiveness was an inexhaustible topic of theoretical and practical discussions. Conceptual ambiguity, as well as very different visions among artists, theoreticians, as well as party officials, did not allow to develop a unified theory of applied art. Due to the afore mentioned ambiguity and the pluralism of opinions artists of applied art could enjoy some space of freedom for creativity, without directly violating the canons of socialist realism.

The author of the paper examines and analyzes the development of professional decorative art in the Latvian SSR of that time, ideological currents in art theory, and center–periphery relationship.