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Was Soviet culture superior to Western culture?

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Soviet cogitations: 216
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 27 Jul 2013, 05:04
Ideology: Other Leftist
Pioneer
Post 04 Aug 2013, 19:42
In the West, many people believe that Soviet culture was dull, drab, stuffy, and riddled with propaganda. On the other hand, Western, capitalist culture is more vibrant because it allows for more creativity and the market selects for quality. The fact that Soviet and Eastern Bloc youths wanted to listen to rock 'n' roll and wear blue jeans is a testament to the superiority of Western capitalist culture.

I am increasingly skeptical about the above-stated viewpoint. I have seen some Soviet/Eastern Bloc popular culture and in some cases it is as good or better than what was produced in the West. My favorite film is probably “Dersu Uzala” (1975), a Soviet-Japanese co-production. I am currently reading a very good book entitled "Beliy Bim Chernoe Ukho" or “White Bim Black Ear”, which was written by Soviet author Gavriil Troyepolsky. Aleksandr Ptushko was a great animator and produced many wonderful fantasy epics.

On the other hand, Western popular culture has degenerated significantly in the last few decades. Reality television, cookie-cutter music, mindless special effects films, and general tastelessness seem to abound. Marketing dominates the arts and we are treated to the same boring junk year after year. Yet, people continue to consume this cultural dross so capitalist firms continue to produce junk culture.

Don't get me wrong, I have my guilty pleasures too, but I never imagined we would see such a cultural wasteland, especially in the United States. Is this the logical result of capitalist domination of culture? Do people in the post-Soviet space miss the older, more conservative but perhaps higher-quality popular culture of the communist era?
Soviet cogitations: 1533
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 10 Oct 2007, 15:55
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Party Member
Post 06 Aug 2013, 06:37
I can't answer whether or not people in the former Soviet states miss Soviet culture. Perhaps the older generation does, but this isn't anything new. In every society one can say that the older generation is nostalgic for how things were in their day. I do agree with you though, Western culture, especially American culture is very dab. Most genres of music are very repetitive and have to do with sex or partying. Every other movie is some super hero movie, bound to be number one at the box office! Video games are growing increasingly gimmicky. I can go on and on...
We have beaten you to the moon, but you have beaten us in sausage making.- Nikita Khrushchev
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Soviet cogitations: 4431
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 07 Aug 2013, 20:11
Answering your question Piccolo: yes, people do miss Soviet culture, here in Russia anyway. Television is filled with old Soviet movies, serials and cartoons. On trains and subways you often find people reading old Soviet-era novels. In Russia this is an obvious response to several negative factors that aren't as obvious in the West: 1) Russia had a 'great and rich' culture in the Soviet past, and people (anyone aged 30 and over) remember this. In the West, the degeneration has been more gradual, occurring in my estimation over about a 30 year period. 2) While Western culture may have degenerated toward 'entertainment' over culture as of late, in Russia this process has gone a step further, as do most capitalist excesses here. As even many anti-Soviet critics agree, contemporary Russian popular culture (1990s to the present) is hypermaterialist, hyper-cookie cutter garbage, hyper-desensitized and meaningless. It continues to be produced and marketed, but finds many people simply turning off central programming and turning inward.

I'm glad you're enjoying some old gems from the Soviet period. I've always seen the internet as a means for Westerners to tap into what was going on 'on the other side of the Wall' in a way they never could while it was around. Actually, the subject of how Soviet people seemed to know more about the West than their counterparts did about the East is an interesting one, considering the stereotype of 'the free society' vs. 'Soviet totalitarianism' but that's a subject for another topic...

I would say what is occurring in the West today is very much connected with the degeneration of Western modernity (traditional concepts of liberalism and capitalism). You guys are absolutely right that market rules determine in a nearly absolute manner what gets developed and released today. From the corporate executive's standpoint, it's much easier to make sequels, prequels, reboots and hyped-up action films and romantic comedies because it's a guaranteed return on investment. Most people don't think or worry so deeply about the cultural products they consume, and so the cycle continues. The decline of critical thinking skills in education, together with a general apathy toward social and political subject matter, and the desire for abstract fluff that takes the mind off daily worries all work to fuel this post-modernist pyre.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
Soviet cogitations: 2051
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 24 Jun 2011, 08:37
Party Bureaucrat
Post 07 Aug 2013, 20:49
I have sort of an odd question about soviet films and whatnot. Since this was ostensibly owned and produced by the state, what happened to the ownership / copyrights of these things post 91 ?
Soviet America is Free America!

Under communism, there is no freedom; you are not free to live in poverty, be homeless, to be without an education, to starve, or to be without a job
Loz
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Soviet cogitations: 11879
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 08 Aug 2013, 01:06
Here's an old but good thread that deals with this issue:
viewtopic.php?t=44395

Although there's no doubt that Western popular ( American and British mostly ) culture was superior to whatever the Soviets had. Soviet movies were good but there's a dozen Western films for every Soviet classic. Let's not mention rock and other popular music, fashion and so on and so forth. E. Block folks in general prefered that to what was produced in their own countries.

Quote:
I would say what is occurring in the West today is very much connected with the degeneration of Western modernity (traditional concepts of liberalism and capitalism). You guys are absolutely right that market rules determine in a nearly absolute manner what gets developed and released today. From the corporate executive's standpoint, it's much easier to make sequels, prequels, reboots and hyped-up action films and romantic comedies because it's a guaranteed return on investment. Most people don't think or worry so deeply about the cultural products they consume, and so the cycle continues. The decline of critical thinking skills in education, together with a general apathy toward social and political subject matter, and the desire for abstract fluff that takes the mind off daily worries all work to fuel this post-modernist pyre.

I agree. There's certainly a trend of degeneration of pop-culture that has been going for decades now. But there's still a lot that's good. And old rock, Hitchcock, whatever is something that's known to most people in the world, that's still a part of the cultural millieau we've grown up in.
Soviet cogitations: 216
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 27 Jul 2013, 05:04
Ideology: Other Leftist
Pioneer
Post 08 Aug 2013, 04:33
Thank you comrades for the great responses.

runequester wrote:
I have sort of an odd question about soviet films and whatnot. Since this was ostensibly owned and produced by the state, what happened to the ownership / copyrights of these things post 91 ?


This is an extremely interesting question. Are all Soviet films in the public domain? Or have some of them been purchased by private entities and placed under the protection of intellectual property law? This is a very interesting issue.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 08 Aug 2013, 18:42
In the past 10 years or so, the Russian government has been buying back and winning back in court most of the production of the Soviet era. Those Soviet-era companies that still exist (Mosfilm, Soyuzmultfilm) own the rights to their films, but they are either semi or fully state-owned today.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
Soviet cogitations: 2408
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 01 Nov 2003, 13:17
Ideology: Other
Forum Commissar
Post 12 Aug 2013, 00:58
Soviet culture was not superior due to its socialist character. I would dare to argue that the Soviet Union simply served as an incubator for Russian culture. It was free from outside influence to develop to its height. Traditional Russian culture is obviously superior to contemporary Western popular culture.
Soviet cogitations: 216
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 27 Jul 2013, 05:04
Ideology: Other Leftist
Pioneer
Post 12 Aug 2013, 04:18
Thanks everyone for the great responses.

Political Interest wrote:
Soviet culture was not superior due to its socialist character. I would dare to argue that the Soviet Union simply served as an incubator for Russian culture. It was free from outside influence to develop to its height. Traditional Russian culture is obviously superior to contemporary Western popular culture.


That is a very interesting point. I would perhaps add, though, that it was precisely the socialist nature of the Soviet economy that helped to preserve and advance traditional Russian culture by protecting it from the destructive force of the market. The market seems to have a tendency to destroy traditional culture unless it can find a way to profit from it, and in the cases where a profit can be made, the culture is distorted (see Disney's distorted adaptations of European folktales to suit the American market).

I think it is questionable whether traditional culture can be preserved under capitalism. Once social conservatism was weakened in the West in the late 20th century by a combination of the New Left and various business interests, Western culture has only gotten worse. Western social conservatives should have a more favorable view of the Soviet Union since it did a better job of preserving traditional culture than most Western countries.
Loz
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Soviet cogitations: 11879
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 12 Aug 2013, 07:28
Quote:
Traditional Russian culture is obviously superior to contemporary Western popular culture.

Since when? A peasant feudal culture ( that's "traditional Russia" for you, just add a pinch of aristocratic snobs and urban kleinburgers ) obviously can't be superior to Western culture in any way. That's what Lenin clearly understood, that Russia was backwards in every way, i'll dig for a source later.

Quote:
I would perhaps add, though, that it was precisely the socialist nature of the Soviet economy that helped to preserve and advance traditional Russian culture by protecting it from the destructive force of the market.

Russia underwent such a transformation in a few decades of Soviet rule that people like Zinoviev could cynically write about a "h. sovieticus", and the official state propaganda spoke of a new Soviet man. The Soviet culture, and every culture is in short superstructure, of course also changed a lot. Orthodoxy, one of the pillars of "Russianess" for example had almost died out by the 70s.
Soviet cogitations: 12389
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 18 Apr 2010, 04:44
Ideology: None
Philosophized
Post 12 Aug 2013, 07:36
I'm with Loz all the way on this one. "Traditionalism" is, at the bottom, nothing but chauvinism. Examples: the Teabaggers in America, the Wahabis in Saudi, and the Putinite Boyar oligarchs in Russia. A Communist should be a citizen of the world, not of any one nation or culture or creed. Any culture that is incompatible with Socialism is a culture that needs to disappear.
Miss Strangelove: "You feed giants laxatives so goblins can mine their poop before the gnomes get to it."
[+-]
Soviet cogitations: 59
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 04 Nov 2009, 17:36
Pioneer
Post 19 Aug 2013, 00:36
Loz wrote:
Although there's no doubt that Western popular ( American and British mostly ) culture was superior to whatever the Soviets had. Soviet movies were good but there's a dozen Western films for every Soviet classic.

So quantity is more important than quality when talking about culture?
Loz
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Soviet cogitations: 11879
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 19 Aug 2013, 00:47
Sure, since we're talking about pop culture and since Soviet movies managed to win only a handful of Oscars and there's only a few of them on the IMDB top 500 list. I think that Hollywood had better movies both quality and quantity wise.
[+-]
Soviet cogitations: 59
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 04 Nov 2009, 17:36
Pioneer
Post 19 Aug 2013, 01:59
So you are judging Soviet movies based on the number of Oscars (American award) won and the IMDB (English language website) list?
Loz
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 19 Aug 2013, 02:33
Pretty much, yeah. What's worth of Soviet cinema was and is recognized in the West and elsewhere.
Other movies like that Soviet classic The irony of fate and so on are popular with Russians but otherwise not really worth much, just like the American analogue It's a Wonderful Life.
Let's not even mention the fact that Soviet movies were censored, and had to be approved by the authorities.
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Soviet cogitations: 59
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 04 Nov 2009, 17:36
Pioneer
Post 20 Aug 2013, 00:43
So what does censorship have to do with the quality of movies? It seems to have had a positive effect overall. There is no censorship now and movies from the former USSR are mostly crap...
I don't understand why a movie can be considered worthy only if it is recognized in the West. Many Soviet movies were not even seen in the West. Also, many movies are recognized, but did not win an Oscar or make the IMDB list.
Loz
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Soviet cogitations: 11879
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 20 Aug 2013, 00:54
Quote:
So what does censorship have to do with the quality of movies?

A lot. Censored art is at best castrated art.

Quote:
It seems to have had a positive effect overall. There is no censorship now and movies from the former USSR are mostly crap...

True. But that has more to do with complete and total cultural and every other degeneration of the f. USSR than with removing the state-imposed bans of certain themes in cinematography.

Quote:
I don't understand why a movie can be considered worthy only if it is recognized in the West.

If a movie is recognized in the West it's usually recognized in the whole world. I think it's safe to say that f. ex. most Indian ( and India makes more movies than any other country ) movies are crap no one outside that country can relate to. Real art knows no borders.

And BTW i've watched most of the important Soviet movies, even some of the more obscure ones like Taxi Blues and Malenkaya Vera from the 80s. Most movies on this list worth anything are at least heard of in the West, and those that aren't, i'd dare to say, aren't heard of for a reason.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinema_of_ ... #1960s-70s
Soviet cogitations: 216
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 27 Jul 2013, 05:04
Ideology: Other Leftist
Pioneer
Post 20 Aug 2013, 02:47
@Loz,

I understand what you are saying, but how much of Western cultural dominance is due to political/economic dominance and factors such as advanced marketing and established market power by certain old Western entertainment companies? Also, Western entertainment companies now produce work that is intentionally broad and shallow so that it can be marketed across the globe. This probably explains why Hollywood produces so many simplistic films such as superhero movies. Everyone can relate to "good guy vs. bad guy" special effects bonanzas. I don't hate all of modern Western culture, I even like some aspects of lowbrow Western culture. However, I don't see much great art coming out of the West anymore. I have not been moved by a Western film in a long time.
Loz
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Soviet cogitations: 11879
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 20 Aug 2013, 06:52
But even when we talk about Western cultural dominance we have to take into account that fact that economic superiority doesn't neccessarily translate into superior cultural production ( and culture is superstructure ). Otherwise Germany, without doubt the most dominant country in Europe, would also be the strongest when it comes to films and music and so in, which it isn't. There's less than 10 good movies produced in Germany in the last 10 years, and German series are synonimous for crap. As for music they only have Rammstein and some other bands. The French and British for example, or even the Romanians ( Romanian films have won a lot of awards in the last few years ) are much stronger when it comes to popular culture, or at least just cinematography.

Quote:
Also, Western entertainment companies now produce work that is intentionally broad and shallow so that it can be marketed across the globe. This probably explains why Hollywood produces so many simplistic films such as superhero movies.

Sure. But there are still a lot of good ones.
And besides, where were the best movies about revolutions, communism and famous communists ( Che etc. ) made. IMO at least, in the West.
The Soviets for some reason never made anything similar to Reds, or the movies about Spain in the 30s and so on and so forth.
The most famous Soviet films, aside from B. Potemkin perhaps, don't even deal with revolutionary themes per se, but rather focus on WW2 and Russian etc history or everyday life and life dramas.
Soviet cogitations: 2408
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 01 Nov 2003, 13:17
Ideology: Other
Forum Commissar
Post 20 Aug 2013, 07:58
In what respect is British popular culture within the last ten or twenty years superior to Russian popular culture? Also just because films win awards does not mean they are objectively something good. The reason non-English speaking films do not win Oscars is because the Oscars are mostly oriented towards Hollywood. You cannot say that the contemporary Anglo popular culture (not folk culture) is anything really to hold up as an example. Most of the music is buzzing noises and beeping sounds. The films are an endless array of bang bang CGI thrillers. What makes Western popular culture so appealing?
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