Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
The physical imposition of Communist rule in Central Asia was accompanied by parallel attempts to expand the Soviet footprint in the realms of ideology and aesthetics. This paper discusses the Sovietization of Central Asian applied art: specifically, the way that Soviet political messages and symbols were actively promoted and incorporated in traditional art production - such as ikat silk and other textiles, carpets, skull caps and pottery - in the period 1920-1960. In this way, decorative and applied art became a platform to communicate Soviet ideas and ideology. Yet it would be incorrect to assume that hammers and sickles, tractors and Kremlin towers, were used by Central Asian artisans only under compulsion to decorate their works. These symbols and ornaments also became part of the artisans' repertoire, absorbed into their sensibilities and modified according to their traditional canons of taste (as had been happening for centuries in a region at the crossroads of many political, cultural and aesthetic influences). Furthermore, the process of incorporating messages about Soviet aspirations and ideals in their art works could reflect artisans' genuine pride of country - as, for example, in the spontaneous appearance of space symbols on hats and dresses in honor of the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. This paper explores the different semantic, aesthetic and psychological currents at work in the reaction and commentary of Central Asian artisans as Soviet power and ideology gripped their region.