20 (1)
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2020
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catalogue – 43669
ANTINOMIES
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Nędza-Sikoniowska Kinga

Abstract. The article raises the problem of sharp turning points in the Soviet urban discourse that occurred with the moment of Stalin's strengthening in power and after his death. The analyzed urban material was limited by three perspectives: (1) the city's creator (architect and authority), (2) urban space (architectural culture), and (3) the official discourse. The article substantiates the point of view according to which, and despite the radically different formal languages of the avant-garde, the Stalinist style, and late Soviet modernism one can see behind them a single “content”, namely, the phenomenon of the Soviet city. The changes concerned only the discourse (in our case, urban planning, and architectural one); the main paradigm of the culture did not change: it was remaining uncompromisingly modern. The article follows the tradition of the critical analysis of modernity – developed both by the members of the Frankfurt School and by postmodernists – but expands the concept of European modernity into Soviet culture. The Soviet metanarrative was based on the belief in the possibility (and necessity) of comprehensive and rational constructing of the reality. It had the character of a total and uncompromising project. And it is the uncompromising nature of Soviet modernity that dooms it to failure. To trace this process, the article explores the relationship between modernity and utopia – both uncompromising and rejecting the legitimacy of the past in favour of a rational plan. Any attempt to realize utopia means changes in the initial, ideal, theoretical plan, and official Soviet culture – fundamentally uncompromising – carefully concealed that fact (lie and violence become an institution). However, the official discourse and the real image of the Soviet city diverged more and more. The only way for the rapprochement of life and official culture could be an abrupt shift in the dominant discourse playing at the same time the central mobilization role (the pathos of a radical new beginning, according to W. Welsch).
Keywords: modernity; utopia; revolution; Soviet city; Soviet culture; avant-garde; Stalinist architecture; late Soviet modernism.

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