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Joseph Stalin
was a Soviet revolutionary and political leader; ruling the Soviet Union as its
dictator from 1922–1952. He initiated a series of five-year plans to transform
the Soviet Union into a modern industrialised country. He was fearful that if
they didn’t modernise, the country would be destroyed by its capitalist
neighbours. He ruthlessly implemented his plans; giving factories strict
targets, which many workers found impossible to accomplish. This ended in
imprisonment or execution. ‘Stalin ruled by terror and with a totalitarian grip
in order to eliminate anyone who might oppose him. He expanded the powers of
the secret police, encouraged citizens to spy on one another and had millions
of people killed or sent to the Gulag system of forced labour camps.’
(History.com, 2009).

Additionally,
everyone had to praise Stalin. Newspapers credited him with every success, history
books were rewritten to give him a more important role in the revolution,
people would applaud whenever his name was mentioned, and parents would teach
their children to love Stalin more than themselves as they were too scared to
go against him. I will be exploring the effect Stalin had on Russian Oberiu and
how that influenced our performance.

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Stalin was one
of the most murderous dictators in history. In 1936 The Great Purge began and
lasted for two years. Stalin wanted to remove threats to his power base. He
reached out to every level of Soviet society, executing ninety-three of the one
hundred and thirty-nine Central Committee members and eighty-one of the one
hundred and three generals and admirals. Three million people were accused of
opposing Communism and were sent to the Gulag, (system of labour camps).

Stalin wanted to
remove threats, but these threats were a figment of his imagination. This
introduced a new form of terror, as the boundaries of those being oppressed
were non-existent. This meant no-one dared protest for fear of retribution.
‘Photographs and history books were changed to eliminate even the memory of
people who had been arrested.’ (BBC, 2014). The secret police imposed Stalinism
and encouraged people to inform on one another. Stalin was determined to bring
every aspect of life under his control. He enforced socialist realism, meaning
he was subject to flattering artwork, literature and music. His name was also
part of the Soviet national anthem. His government controlled the Soviet media,
and his picture was everywhere. Therefore, Soviet society was hostile to what
Oberiu was trying to accomplish in 1927. From this, we decided to add a
durational section at the end of our piece with a Stalin voiceover to show how
much power Stalin had over the Soviet Union.

Although Stalin
was in control of Moscow, in Leningrad (where Oberiu was based) ‘the
literary-artistic and philosophical circles of the hold type had been
preserved, circles in which creative and spiritual quests continued as if there
had been no interruption from revolution and war.’ (2000, p.65) Therefore, in
1927, Oberiu was able to make ‘frequent appearances at the union of poets, in
the Institute for Art History, in student dormitories, and even in the military
barracks.’ (1987, p.20). However, after a successful performance of ‘Elizabeth
Bam’ in the Leningrad House of the Press. The officials supervising organised
literary evenings became terrified. Calling ‘the Oberiu evening “extreme zaum,”
“nonsense,” and “frankly cynical confusion.” (1987, p. 21) Subsequently, Oberiu
was only able to appear on small stages and in obscure meeting places.

 In the 1940s the siege of Leningrad had begun.
Yakov Druskin, who was ‘the only member of the group to survive the war years, walked
across the mutilated city to Kharms’s apartment. Kharms’s wife, Marina Malich,
gave Druskin a suitcase with Kharms’s and Vvedensky’s papers. He tied the
suitcase to a child’s sledge and pulled it back home. This is how the greater
part of their surviving work came down to us.’ (Kjellberg, 2014)  He kept them hidden until the 1960’s when Soviet
scholars became interested in the Oberiu. We’ve included the idea of the
suitcase and we’re having someone coming out of it. But, the person is not an
Oberist they’re a member of Stalin’s secret police.

Russian Oberiu
only lasted three years (1927-1930) due to Stalin. His purges and Socialist
Realism prohibited the development of any ‘leftist’ or ‘radical’ public
artistic groups. Both Vvedensky and Kharms were imprisoned several times due to
their writing. On New Year’s Eve, 1931, Vvedensky was taken off a train to
Moscow and arrested and Kharms was arrested at his apartment. They were
‘charged with counter revolutionary agitation in the form of zaum poetry and
sabotage in the field of children’s literature.’ (2006, p.xviii-xix). They were
released in 1933 and were allowed to write children’s literature again but not
any other public literary activity. This meant their efforts to publish
resulted in barely anything. In 1941 when Leningrad was invaded, the NKVD
arrested all suspicious characters, Kharms included. He later died due to
starvation in 1942. We developed the notion of Kharms and Vvedensky standing up
for what they believe in and becoming imprisoned by it and society. We created
a section where we stand up for what we believe in and end up getting trapped.

It is believed
‘that if social and political pressures in Soviet Russia after 1928 had not
warped the development of Russian Culture, an absurdist black-humour movement
like that of Kharms and Vvedensky might have become a major current.’ (1987
P.12) This concludes, Stalin did have a substantial effect on Russian Oberiu’s
imaginative freedom. Had Stalin not been a murderous dictator, then Russian
Oberiu would have thrived in Leningrad. Instead, in 1928, after a successful
show and bad newspaper review, Oberiu writers had to succumb to writing
children’s literature. They were producing leftist work and Stalin demanded
literature of socialistic realism. Therefore, ‘Authors well known in Russian
literary circles in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s had been effectively
decreed out of existence by the Soviet authorities during the Stalinist era.’
(1987, P. vii) Oberiu was eliminated in 1930 by the Soviet Union. However,
Yakov Druskin managed to keep it alive by hiding the suitcase full of Kharms’s
work. In the 1960s, ‘Polish and Czech theatre people and journalists found out
about Kharms’ and Vvedensky’s works, tracked down some of their writings in
Russia, and translated and published a few of them.’ (1987, p.4)  In the 1970s ‘through publications in the West,
and thanks to a group of devoted archivists, rediscoverers, editors, scholars
inside the soviet union the lost literature began to be recuperated.’ (1987, p.
viii.)

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