Thursday, May 9, 2019

Loss, Sacrifice and Victory -- Second World War Art of the Soviet Ukraine

May 9th is celebrated in many countries of the former Soviet Union as Victory Day. It was the day in 1945 that the USSR accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. Given the incredible hardships, destruction and the depravity of the fascist invaders that the Soviet people had endured this was a triumphant end to a long and terrible struggle.

Known as the Great Patriotic War in the USSR the Second World War left deep social scars and trauma that it took many years for the Soviet Union to recover from, though the rebuilding of the country and the economy in the wake of the war is one of the great accomplishments of Soviet socialism. It would be less than a generation before the USSR would launch the first satellite and then the first man and woman into space. (See also: A look at the Soviet space program on the anniversary of Gagarin's flight)

Here we look at a  portfolio of the work of Ukrainian artists, many of whom were Red Army veterans, that tackles powerful themes around this time of great sacrifice. It was published in the USSR in 1972.

Much of this work is very moving and even haunting. The sorrow of loss in Mother, the somber sadness of  the piece War,  the perseverance and resilience of  Farewell Salute and In the Name of Life. 

But there is also bravery of Communists, Forward!, the joy of  the painting May, 1945, the triumph of We Have Won! 

We have translated the titles of the works from the original Ukrainian and, where possible, the names of the artists.

Here is an excerpt from the text accompanying the portfolio:

When the Great Patriotic War began, close to 300 Ukrainian artists became tankers, gunners, sailors, infantrymen, and partisans. Next to the machine gun, they always held a brush, a pencil, a cutter. Ukrainian artists fought on all fronts: at Stalingrad and near Moscow, on the Leningrad, Central, Western, Voronezh, Byelorussian and Ukrainian fronts.
Along with the entire Soviet Army they were there for the difficult path from the Volga to the Elbe and the Danube. The heroism of the Soviet soldiers, the tense situation of front life, the intense episodes of fighting -- in which there were participants who were artists -- left unforgettable impressions that gave inspiration for creativity both during the war and after its victorious completion.
The works presented here take us back to those terrible years, but they also bring up patriotic feelings and give rise to confidence in the invincibility of our Socialist Motherland.

Mother, A. O. Plametikitsky 

Partisan Leaders, O. M. Artamonov

Sacred War

Farewell Salute, M. Chepik

This Must Never Happen Again! - I. M. Lomphkin

Soldiers' Duma

During the Years of Occupation - V. I. Zabashta

To the West!

The Defenders of Odessa - Victor Poltavets

Here They Were to Die - S. I. Kosheva

War - O. Lopukhov

Calm - V. I. Odaynyk

Relics of Brest

At Dawn

Communists, Forward!

Breaking Away! - L. I. Chichkan

The Land is Free! - M. G. Belsky

In the Name of Life

Budapest, 1945 - A. M.  Devyanin

Crossing the Dnieper - V. I. Masyk 

We Have Won! - O. V. Crow

May, 1945

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