Red Merchants: Soviet Export of Religious Art under Stalin


ACLS Fellowship Program




This study is the first monograph to examine the odyssey of Russian religious art from the man-made chaos of the 1917 Revolution to the creation of Soviet museums of early Russian art, and then to the sale of this national heritage abroad to finance Stalin’s industrialization. It is not, however, merely a study of one more Machiavellian dimension of Stalinism that placed the objects of a repressed church at the service of the godless state. By exploring the marketing strategies employed by Red merchants to promote icons as a new art commodity in the world market, this study challenges the stereotypical view of Stalinism as “marketless.” Stalin’s mass sales laid the foundations for the world market in Russian icons. The project contributes to a scholarly understanding of the economy of Soviet socialism and conceptualizations of Stalinism and Soviet socialist modernity.