Beau Monde: State and Stage on Empire's Edge, Russia and Soviet Ukraine, 1916-1941


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation traces how the involvement of artists and art officials shaped both the arts and the state in interwar Soviet Ukraine through the story of theater director Oleksandr “Les” Kurbas (1887-1937). The transformation of Kurbas’ theatre and social milieu shows that the Soviet attempt to separate artists and audiences by ethnos managed to inhibit, rather than encourage, cultural exchange. Soviet Ukraine, home to an explosion in the arts in the 1920s, never amounted to more than a province—artistically and politically—by the late 1930s. Ultimately, it argues that the crucial factor for creativity may not be primarily the degree of freedom accorded by a state, but rather the meaning ascribed to art by officials, audiences, and artists.