In This Review

Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931-1941
Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931-1941
By Katerina Clark
Harvard University Press, 2011, 432 pp

“Cosmopolitan” is not the first adjective that comes to mind when thinking of culture in the Stalin era. But even the nightmare of totalitarianism can be complex, and Clark traces the efforts of regime-blessed Soviet cultural figures of the 1930s to foster a “transnational fraternity” with leftist European artists and intellectuals, comrades-in-arms against fascism who were enamored of Marx and fascinated by the Soviet “experiment.” It was something of a two-way street, with Stalin, very much a hands-on impresario, allowing the import of Western film and literature, as long as the cumulative effect was to give his political vision imperial reach. As a result, for much of the decade, the exchange of ideas about theater, film, literature, journalism, and architecture was richer and more intense than one might have thought. As Clark demonstrates in this masterful tour of trends in Soviet culture and their echoes in Europe, the modified version of universalism tolerated by Stalin placed the Soviet Union at its center, and at the Soviet Union’s center stood Moscow -- the site and symbol of centralized Soviet power.