Visualizing the Early Soviet East: Posters, Politics and Pioneers in Central Asia (1917-1939)


Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowships in the History of Art


Art and Design History and Theory


In the two formative decades of the USSR, Moscow adopted a seemingly liberal approach to the propaganda art of the fluid Central Asian periphery. This study of Interwar-period posters and placards demonstrates that early Soviet frontier politics revolved around the concept of "governable Otherness." Aiming to construct an ethnographic imaginary rooted in cultural and ethnic diversity, the Bolshevik government let Central Asian poster artists draw from their local traditions and Silk Road heritage. Mongol-era miniature, Islamic architecture, nomadic ornament, and Kazan’s avant-garde merged with the idioms of Socialist Realism. The project highlights the agency of Central Asian artists who, much to the government’s chagrin, rapidly expanded their designated areas of experimentation. From Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan to Tatarstan and Siberia, artists became bold innovators in poster art, reshaping Central Asia from a far-flung frontier to an artistic center and a hotbed of cross-cultural exchange that Moscow could no longer fully regulate.