Vasili Neyasov depicted an idealized Soviet "shock worker" in his 1959 painting "A Guy from the Urals." Socialist realism was the only officially approved style in all art forms for much of the Soviet Union's history.
President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the State Department to issue temporary visas to "those of superior intellectual attainment, of indomitable spirit, experienced in the vigorous support of liberal government, and who are in danger of persecution or death at the hands of autocracy."
The Art of Departure
Well into the 20th century, the United States suffered
from a sort of cultural inferiority complex. While the nation grew into an
industrial power, many Americans feltwith some justificationthat it
lagged behind Europe in artistic and scientific achievement. Most
Europeans, in turn, regarded the United States as a cultural backwater. It
would take the contributions of immigrantsmany of them fleeing repressive
regimes in their homelandsto lift America to global preeminence in the
The last decades of the 19th century and the first decades of
the 20th century were a time of great innovation in all the arts.
Traditional forms gave way to new onesfrom cubism in painting to the
12-tone works of composer Arnold Schoenberg. Sigmund Freud's concept of the
subconscious fueled movements like Surrealism, while left-wing ideals
increasingly informed the work of European artists and writers, such as
Bertolt Brecht. Meanwhile, the death, destruction, and
suffering wrought by World War I led many artists, like George Grosz, to
explore the dark side of the human condition in their work.
The years after the war saw the rise of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in
Germany. These regimes sought to control not only their subjects' freedom
of action and movement, but their freedom of thought and expression as
well. The Nazis suppressed any art that did not conform to their idea of
Germanic Kultur, and their anti-Semitic ideology put all Jewish artists at
risk. After 1933, thousands of artists, writers, musicians, academics,
scientists, actors, directors, and designers fled Germany and the countries
that came under its domination. Many of these refugees had trouble winning
admission to America because of the restrictive immigration laws of the
time and anti-immigrant feeling among many Americans. President Franklin
Roosevelt ordered the State Department to issue temporary visas to "those
of superior intellectual attainment, of indomitable spirit, experienced in
the vigorous support of liberal government, and who are in danger of
persecution or death at the hands of autocracy." More than 3,000 people
received these visas before the outbreak of World War II put most of Europe
under Nazi control. The impact of the refugees from Fascism and Nazism on
American intellectual life is incalculable. From scientists like Albert
Einstein to composers like Kurt Weill to writers like Thomas Mann, they collectively represented the single greatest transfer of talent the world has ever seen.
The end of World War II saw the fall of Nazism and Fascism, but the Soviet
Union remained a totalitarian state until the introduction of Glasnost in
the mid-1980s. The Soviet Union's Communist leadership stifled any creative
activity that did not adhere to its ideological standards, or which
betrayed the slightest hint of dissent. Those who did not toe the party
line faced imprisonment, internal exile, or confinement in mental
hospitals. The situation was similar in the Soviet Union's satellite
nations in Eastern Europe and in other Communist nations, like Cuba.
In the decades of Cold War following World War II, the United States
welcomed hundreds of creative refugees from the communist world. Some, like
writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, were exiled by the Soviet government;
others, like dancers George Balanchine and Mikhail Baryshnikov, defected or
otherwise managed to escape from their communist homelands.
Source: Destination America by Charles A. Wills, Bibliography