Profit rather than politics: The production of Lenin monuments in Soviet Latvia

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The archived documents on outdoor sculpture commissions in Soviet Latvia reveal that the thesis of art having been colonized by the Communist party is too simplistic. Sculptors and architects had vested business interests in monument production. Until the mid-1950s, the cream of academically-educated Latvian sculptors was sidelined by Russians who mass-produced concrete replicas of statues portraying Lenin or Stalin. The majority of the works came through the mass production of works of visual propaganda in the Māksla art factory. Also, less-talented local sculptors were able to find a role satisfying the demand for cheap, decorative sculpture. Looking for ways to access this market, the local art elite invented aesthetic and semiotic arguments in support of the original, locallymade, Lenin sculptures that would be cast in permanent materials and could serve as the spatial organizers of new communist rituals in the urban environment for which they won municipal commissions resulting in the reconstruction of central squares in Latvian towns. What this means is that artists driven by their mercantile interests and not by ideology played an active part in elaborating the aesthetics of communist ideology, and therefore provided support for the dominant discourse of power relations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-276
Number of pages30
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


  • Communist ritual
  • Economy of arts
  • Monuments
  • Sculpture
  • Socialist realism
  • Soviet

Field of Science*

  • 5.8 Media and Communication
  • 6.2 Languages and Literature
  • 6.4 Arts (arts, history of arts, performing arts, music)

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


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