PRINT February 2011


Nikolai Suetin, design for a Unovis podium, 1921, gouache and whitening on black paper, 14 x 10 1/2".

BY THE LAST DECADE of the Soviet Union’s existence, collectives were everywhere. As Oleg Kharkhordin tells us in his extraordinary study of the dialectic of collective and individual in Russia, the term kollektiv had come to designate the basic unit of Soviet society, “the most familiar and mundane reality of Soviet life.” Such groups, whether in factory, farm, or office, numbered some two and a half million in 1984. But it had not always been so. Far from an ordinary or universal feature of everyday life, the Soviet collective started out on the extreme fringe: Both before and after the October Revolution of 1917, it had a highly specific meaning as a “group linked to the proletarian revolutionary cause.”¹ And it is this revolutionary mode—rather than the ubiquitous collective of the Brezhnev stagnation—that has become a vital precedent for contemporary manifestations

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