The diaries of Fedorovich Putiakov give a rare glimpse into the life of an ordinary Red Army soldier serving on the Eastern Front during World War II. While serving near Leningrad Putiakov was arrested for “anti-Soviet activity” and his writings were used against him during his trial.
Putiakov’s journals describe a bleak experience, the main challenges he faces on the front are the cold (Putiakov says it was -28 degrees one day), lack of food rations, and poor sanitary conditions. He recounts, “Today they say 100 grams of bread will be added to our rations as well as other kinds of food. Right now there is hope for life. One can wait for the spring and summer. It is simply hard to guess what comes next. At the moment we are completely inoperative.” Another journal entry from 23 January states, “There is nowhere to do the washing. We were forced to do it right here, in the dugout. I melted some snow and washed my head, less so the rest of my body. It seems like everything has eased up. I hadn’t washed myself since 26 December.” It is incredibly difficult to imagine the conditions Putiakov and other soldiers were facing, many brave men were able to endure knowing what was at stake if they lost to the Germans. However the most difficult conditions to endure for many soldier were human factors. For Putiakov it was his own leadership he viewed as the biggest threat. “In this company many people have already died, all at the hands of Sergeant Major Orlov, Lieutenant Zakrutkin and others. They uphold the prison-like conditions.” He continues, “I am going to take measures. Otherwise I will die. Today my face swelled up. I feel terrible Hunger. As ill luck would have it my half-rations of bread were stolen. Scoundrels, Lord, Lord, when will this torture end? I have become something inhuman.” These intense words by Putiakov reveal what drove him to take action to try and better his situation. Unfortunately, taking action lead to his arrest and execution on 13 March 1942.
I was very moved by the hardships Putiakov endured during his time in the Red Army. The amount of threats these soldiers faced were tremendous. You were in danger constantly, not only were you facing horrible conditions while you fight a genocidal enemy intent on wiping out your home, but many threats came from your superiors and even fellow soldiers. When you do not trust the men responsible for your life and the people fighting next to you I can see why Putiakov was driven to take action.
Russian Avant-Garde was a large wave of modern art that directly clashed with the state sponsored form of Socialist Realism. Beginning in the late 1800’s in Imperial Russia, the broader Avant-Garde topic included smaller movements such as Suprematism, Constructivism, and Russian Futurism The movement reached its peak popularity during the Russian revolutions of 1917 and 1932. Many of the most popular artists emerged from the Ukraine area.
Futurism was an artistic movement that followed the principals of the “Manifesto of Futurism” which emphasized modernism and a rejection of the past. Prominent themes in these artworks included industry, machinery, violence, and youth.
The piece Revolution, (1917) is by David Burliuk who is also the co-author of A Slap in the Face of Public Taste which is said to be the start of the Russian Futurism movement. Burluik grew up in the Ukraine and trained at the Royal Academy in Munich. It is said the two things most important in Burluik’s life were his wife and his country. His focus was in art, architecture, and poetry, he was also involved in many art groups.
This piece is interesting because it features different shapes and textures. I believe the metal objects speak to the modernization and industry themes of the Russian Futurist movement. The title Revolution most likely has something to do with the figures at the bottom trying to kill each other.
A key figure in the Russian ‘Revivalist’ movement, Viktor Vasnetsov, considered the co-founder of Russian folklore and nationalist painting, created possibly his most famous work “Bogatyrs” in 1898 which depicts mythical Russian knights Dobrynya Nikitich, Ilya Muromets and Alyosha Popovich. These three men were a famous trio of knights who served Prince Vladimir I of Kiev. Each man was known for a specific trait: wits, courage, and spiritual power.
Vasnetsov began his life in a remote village in Eastern Russia. He was influenced by his father Mikhail who was a member of the priesthood, had an academic background in the sciences, and was an icon painter. At a young age Viktor began to paint landscapes and village life. In 1867 he was admitted to the Imperial Academy of the Arts but rebelled with other members of the Peredvizhniki and later joined the movement in Paris where he became fascinated with illustrating Russian fairy tales. He later returned to Moscow where many of his most famous works were created. In 1884 Vasnetsov was commissioned to paint frescoes in St. Vladimir’s Church in Kiev. He faced many critics for this project and some of his other works. During his later career Viktor spent time working on mosaics and in architecture.
I enjoy this painting first, because of the backstory these three Knights have. I find it very similar to many stories told today where there is a group of soldiers who have strengths that make them an effective team (ex. Kelly’s Heroes) . Second, I see Vasnetsov’s portrayal of the knights as a snapshot of an adventure undertaken by the knights, the painting itself is a moment in a long story. Third, the painting would be something interesting to experience, I cant think of anything more fun than gearing up in a full suit of armor with your two best friends to go out into the wilderness and slay your enemies.
A. K. Lazuko Victor Vasnetsov, Lenningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1990, ISBN 5-7370-0107-5