Visions, wars, and utopias of the Russian Avant-Garde

Nina Gurianova*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


While the aspiration to harmony, utopian in its essence, became a distinctive feature in the particular vein of modernist aesthetics, interested in constructive principles, which came to the fore after the October Revolution in the early 1920s, another line, which will interest me the most in this essay, had been predominant during 1912-17, and developed in quite a different direction, striving for dystopia, dissonance, and the absurd. The metaphor of war in the pre-revolutionary avant-garde was paradigmatic to the concept of innovation and directly linked to the rather symbolic "destruction" of previous achievements. A deeper understanding of avant-garde ideology - on social, political, and aesthetic levels - appears when contextualized in relation to World War i. Natalia Goncharova's series of lithographs Misticheskie obrazy voiny [Mystical Images of War] (1914), Pavel Filonov's artist book Propeven o prorosli mirovoi [Canticle of World Flowering] (1915), Olga Rozanova's linocut portfolio Voina [War] (1916), and Aleksei Kruchenykh's album of collages Vselenskaia voina [Universal War] (1916) were among the most profound artistic responses to the war. These unique works represent three different artistic explorations of the theme, as reflected in neoprimitivist, futurist, and suprematist aesthetics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-214
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Anarchy
  • Russian avant-garde
  • Utopia
  • War

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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