After logging in, you'll be able to save your favorite works of art in this section. Read more about “My Collection” in the “Project” section.
Push slider to the right
Registration successful.
Username already exists!
Passwords do not match!
Slider error
You are almost done. To activate your account, please click the link in the activation email which has been sent to your email address ( )
A new password has been sent.
Sovietizing Architecture and Instilling the Principles of Socialist Realism
Marija Drėmaitė
The Sovietization of Lithuanian Architecture
The final issue of Savivaldybė (Municipal Government), published in July 1940, promised “a flood of grandiose socialist construction” in the very near future. A systematic and sweeping reform of architectural life had arrived on the heels of the Soviet occupation. All three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) saw a restructuring of architecture management and administration, the centralization of the design process, the introduction of ideological (re)training of architects and changes to academic programs, and the dismantling of private property and the traditional self-regulating system of “client-operator-user”.
Few construction projects were completed before the start of the Nazi occupation in June, 1941, and those that were finished were oriented toward meeting new social priorities: the first architectural and construction projects in Soviet-controlled Lithuania were a housing complex for workers in Aukštieji Šančiai and a much trumpeted residential workers’ colony in Kaunas. Though the 40-unit building could hardly be considered an innovation when compared to pre-war modernist designs, propaganda channels used it to paint an alluring picture of the future prosperity of the proletarian state. A plan designed in 1940 envisioned a broad campaign for the construction of similar buildings in Vilnius (five apartment buildings with 24 units each), Šiauliai (two 24-unit buildings), Jurbarkas (four 8-unit buildings), Panevėžys, Telšiai (one 24-unit building), etc. The project was interrupted by the outbreak of war with Nazi Germany on June 22, 1941. The return of the Red Army in July, 1944, however, meant a resumption of the new doctrine of architecture and urban planning for many years. During the first post-war decade (from 1944 to 1955), architecture was tasked primarily with rebuilding and redesigning war-ravaged cities, but new principles of design and aesthetics were also being introduced.
The Stalinist period’s imprint on Soviet architecture most vividly embodies the true nature of totalitarian art. According to art historian Igor Golomstock, the state proclaimed art, and culture in general, as a tool for its own ideological purposes, monopolizing all forms and modes of artistic life through the creation of an all-encompassing system of control and arts management. The Stalinist arts doctrine, known as socialist realism, was the law of the land in the USSR for decades, from 1932 to 1955. Both of these years, marking the beginning and end of the doctrine’s influence, coincide with radical changes taking place in Soviet culture that had nothing to do with evolution in art, but were rather the result of a “revolution from above”. In order to comply with a decision of the Communist Party Central Committee in 1932, all artists and those employed in the arts—architects, writers, painters, sculptors, filmmakers—were required to establish unions that, in turn, had to adhere to established “correct” artistic trends. Art and literature were required to reflect Soviet reality as the regime imagined it to appear. Architects, now forced into attending urban planning institutes, were also trained to adhere to “correct” ideological guidelines, but it became particularly difficult for them to choose from creative tools that properly corresponded to the (socialist realist) principle of “true to life” design. The road to more classical architectural representation was paved by the older and more officially established generation of Soviet architects known for their conservative tastes. Constructive modernist designs were replaced by a more historical, classical, and academically imperial style.
The neoclassical aesthetic that was the distinguishing characteristic of Stalinist architecture (or socialist realism, also sometimes called the Stalinist Empire style) was not a unique phenomenon. A similar architectural approach manifested itself in many countries around the world in the 1930s. In countries with no ties to socialism whatsoever, this was a natural modernized classical alternative to modernism itself. In totalitarian countries, however, such as Germany, Italy, and in particular the USSR, this representative and monumental style became predominant. Lithuania has spared the first wave of socialist realism, only to be impacted by a second, post-war, architectural wave newly dubbed the “Soviet Victory style”. All focus in the years between 1945 and 1950 was devoted to the reconstruction of Lithuania’s cities, but from 1950 to 1955 the new stylistic program finally established its roots.
Architectural propaganda in post-war Lithuania was rather slow to develop. There was no specialized publication dedicated solely to architecture in the first decade after the war. Only the rare exhibition article about the more significant achievements in Soviet architecture would appear in regular cultural publications (Literatūra ir menas) or in official periodicals (Tiesa, Sovetskaya Litva, Švyturys). Only one significant propaganda book was published in this period—Jonas Kumpis’ Socialistinė miestų statyba ir architektūra Tarybų Lietuvoje (Socialist Urban Construction and Architecture in Soviet Lithuania), released in Vilnius in 1950.
New System of Architecture and Construction
A new system of architecture and construction was imposed upon Lithuania based on the practices already in place in the Soviet Union: key decisions were to be made by an Architectural Affairs Board under the jurisdiction of the Soviet Lithuanian Council of Ministers, and the most important architectural issues were to be decided by an Architectural Council, and by architectural commissions attached to the offices of the senior architects in each city. These organizations and project coordination institutions were tasked with managing design work orders, introducing technical design rules and standards, and overseeing the complete planning and design process.
Because the so-called “nationality issue” was quite a central one in Lithuania at the time, leading posts in architectural management were filled with ethnic Lithuanians who were loyal to the Communist Party and who had experience training and working throughout the Soviet Union. A former lecturer at the Kuybyshev (now Samara) Construction Institute, architect Jonas Kumpis (aka Jan Kumpikevicz, 1895–1960), was appointed to head the Lithuanian SSR Architectural Affairs Board. In 1945, Kumpis appointed an ethnic Lithuanian from Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Vladislovas Mikučianis (1913–2000), as Senior Architect for the city of Vilnius. Reforms in architecture were also greatly affected by a considerable scarcity of architects. Post-war emigration, deportations to Siberia, and the repatriation of many ethnic Poles back to Poland resulted in the loss of the majority of trained and certified architects. The demand for architects was particularly acute in Vilnius, prompting Mikučianis to invite numerous specialists from Leningrad and Moscow, including Vsevolod Veselovsky, Giovanni Rippa, Lev Kazarinsky, Viktor Anikin and his wife Lidia, Anatoly Kolosov, among others. This led to the development of two groups of architects in post-war Lithuania: one dominated by newly arrived designers, the other by local architects. Of the Lithuanian architects from the inter-war period, only a handful of notable representatives remained: Steponas Stulginskis, Feliksas Bielinskis, Adolfas Lukošaitis, and a few others. All of them were “dug in” in Kaunas, working in different institutes and endeavoring, over time, to establish themselves in academic or instructional work rather than in active design.
The most consequential measure taken during the introduction of the new architectural program was the centralization of design through the establishment of a state-run design system. Designs for various buildings, complexes and territorial projects were assigned to institutes that specialized in various types of architectural work: “Pramprojektas” for industrial projects, for example, or “Žemprojektas” for landscaping, “Miestprojektas” for urban design, “Komprojektas” for public utilities, “Kolūkprojektas” for collective farming, etc. To be sure, nothing remained of private architectural firms in Soviet Lithuania. An important element in strengthening oversight over architecture was the integration of Lithuanian architects into the “architectural life” of the greater Soviet Union. In 1945, an order of the Architectural Affairs Board of the USSR Council of People’s Commissars established a branch of the Soviet Architects’ Union in Lithuania: the Lithuanian SSR Union of Soviet Architects. The Architects’ Union was meant to operate along the lines of an ideological training school, thus during the first post-war decade architects were required to attend a brief course on the history of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), participate in Sunday seminars on dialectical Marxism, and sit in on lectures given by special guest speakers from Moscow and Leningrad.
Once it became clear that reeducating the pre-war generation of Lithuanian architects was not an easy proposition, the process of Sovietizing Lithuanian architecture was directed at architectural education. The corps of professors at the Architectural Department in Kaunas (renamed the Kaunas Polytechnic Institute, or KPI, in 1951) was dominated by pre-war specialists, including Steponas Stulginskis, Stasys Sčesnulevičius, Feliksas Bielinskis, Klaudijus Dušauskas-Duž, Mečys Kleinas, Adolfas Lukošaitis, and Vladimiras Zubovas. The first lecturers of the Architectural Studies Program established at the State Art Institute in Vilnius in 1944, included Jonas Kumpis, Vladislovas Mikučianis, and two young graduates of the university in Kaunas, Simonas Ramunis and Eduardas Budreika. This latter institution of higher education better suited the concept of Soviet architectural training, which recognized only architects graduating from an arts academy, over those finishing technical schools, as properly qualified to design architectural complexes and projects of high artistic quality. Despite many restrictions, students were able to learn about pre-war Lithuanian modernist architecture and about Western modernism from few foreign magazines and journals, as well as from the stories told to them by some of their teachers. This generation, whose strong academic foundation combined with a deep yearning for modernism, soon replaced the ranks of newcomers from outside Lithuania and ushered in the modernist architectural movement in Lithuania.
“Talking” Buildings
Soviet Lithuanian architects were also faced with the issue of bringing the requisite amount of “socialist content and national form” to Soviet architecture. The objective of this Soviet architectural concept was to design structures that were easily recognizable, i.e. to make architecture serve the socialist political system and a given ethnic republic. The cornerstone of the policy was striking the right balance between classical architecture and folk art styles: classical structures and elements embodied the imperial Soviet style, while the issue of national identity was to be addressed by adapting and applying ethnographic ornamentation details. When compared to modern architecture’s characteristic language of form, volume and materials, the architecture of the Stalinist period was more “literary” in its approach: its socialist origin was emphasized through the use of explicit symbols, inscriptions, slogans and references crafted from sculptural ornamentation—all meant to be easily recognizable to all Soviet citizens. Though architecture is among those art forms most distant from the art of verbal expression, Soviet buildings were nevertheless meant to “talk”.
The mixing of Soviet symbology with folk art motifs was one of the more peculiar traits of socialist realist decor. Soviet emblems (the hammer and sickle, the five-pointed star, Victory medals and orders awarded for service in the Great Patriotic War, shields, swords, helmets, flags, Soviet coats of arms, etc.) and symbols representing art, music, technology, aviation, naval power, sports and other fields were all thrown together with folk art motifs. The use of ornamentation based on “national forms” was especially encouraged, but it also received its share of criticism, since it usually meant the limited use of just a few interpretations on the same theme—in Lithuania, for example, multiple variations and styles of tulips. The mixture of Soviet and national ethnic details is quite evident in the façade of the Kaunas Youth Theatre (now the National Kaunas Drama Theatre, designed by Kazimieras Bučas in 1956–1959), which includes finely detailed folk art decoration and figures wearing national folk costumes.
Many architects considered the mechanical incorporation of ethnographic details into building façades of entirely incompatible structures (high-rise buildings) or made with entirely different materials (masonry, plaster, cement) to be a primitive undertaking and one that had nothing in common with folk art traditions. Nevertheless, a unique movement soon emerged in Lithuania: the adaptation of applied folk art in interior design—a trend closely associated to the pre-war “national style” and to art deco. This approach is clearly evident in the work of architect Simonas Ramunis, who studied under former Vytautas Magnus University professor and architect Jonas Kovalskis, one of the most renowned designers of art deco interiors in Lithuania and pre-war Kaunas, including the design of the Kaunas Officers’ Club. Ramunis’ “national style” interiors for the vestibule of the State Drama Theatre or the offices of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers were acknowledged as suitable “national form” solutions for architectural design.
The pinnacle of the socialist realist trend to mix national and socialist symbols with classical compositional elements was Soviet Lithuania’s pavilion at the All-Union Agricultural Achievements Expo in Moscow, designed between 1950 and 1954 by an architectural team that included Kazimieras Šešelgis, J. Kumpis, A. Lukošaitis, and S. Ramunis. The designers incorporated many “national” elements typically used at the time: replicas of rural Lithuanian cottage porches, folk fabric patterns, doorways and window openings that resembled wooden carvings, wooden folk architectural ornamentation molded in cement, and sculptures and reliefs featuring agricultural symbols or figures of Lithuanians dressed in national costume.
Simonas Ramunis, who was in charge of designs for the pavilion’s interior, invited two young architects, the brothers Algimantas and Vytautas Nasvytis, and a large number of Lithuanian artists to assist him. Keeping with the agricultural theme of the overall exposition, they designed relief sculptures for the pavilion entitled Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Sheep Farming, and Pig Farming, as well as stained glass pieces on communist themes, featuring Soviet Lithuanian partisan Marytė Melnikaitė, Soviet General Ivan Chernyakhovsky, and Lithuanian revolutionary and communist activist Vincas Mickevičius-Kapsukas. National art deco style decorations and wooden furniture pieces were incorporated into the vaulted, classically composed space.


Write a comment
No comments.

Sources and links

Vaidas Petrulis
„Gyvenamasis namas darbininkams ir tarnautojams“
[[item.description]] [[item.details]]
You have subscribed successfully.
Patikrinkite savo pašto dėžutę ir paspauskite nat gautos nuorods norėdami patvirtinti užsakymą.