In the mid 1930’s the works of a certain composer by the name of Dimitrii Shostakovitch continued to catch the eye and heart of the public with his opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. This opera was centered around a woman who has an affair, due to her loveless marriage, ends up causing the death of her husband and his father, and also was the turning point in Shostakovitch’s career. Due to the impressively high grossing nature of this controversial and musically diverse production he was viewed as “The premier Soviet composer” until one fateful day, when Stalin watched this production.
After walking out of a performance of this show Stalin wrote an editorial entitled “Chaos Instead of Music” in which he basically said that Shostakovitch had not only not lived up to the Soviet standard of opera, but also musical production. Stalin went on to say that the works of Shostakovitch were “leftist” or followed in the works of Meyerhold, which in a nutshell, accused him of being against the Soviet way of life, therefore endangered his life. It is recorded in Shostakovitch’s logs that he took up sleeping in the doorway of his apartment in case he was arrested in the night so that his children would not see. Even though the public and professional critics were enchanted by his modernist styles and creative writings, this condemnation by the most powerful man in the USSR caused his ample stream of funding to dry up almost instantaneously.
It is speculated that Stalin not only disliked his works, but also used him as an example to the other artistic producers of the nation. His message was clear, and rather definite. There would be no criticism, or anything remotely critical aimed at the government, or the Soviet way of life. Shostakovitch eventually found favor in the eyes of Stalin and the public once more with the production of his Fifth Symphony, and continued to write in this conservative style until the death of Stalin in 1953.