Russia’s Art Scene the artistic gap of the Soviet Union has had a lingering impact on its people – although the traditionally Russian turrets and frills of rococo architecture are gradually replacing the Stalinist constructivism of its buildings, few people associate Russia with its thriving arts scene or with the creative liberty of its people.
In fact, for many, the only recent access they have had to the country has been through media reports about Pussy Riot and the heavy-handed ruling of its orthodox oligarchy – whilst Russian literature and ballet remain world class pursuits, cultural stereotypes are gradually shifting to reveal an unexpected artisan counterculture beneath.
Forget the vodka and the Faberge eggs; forget the Cossack hats and the sugar plum fairy, forget every blinkered Russian association you’ve ever had – Russia is changing.
Thanks, in part, to the underground social lens of the internet and its ability to give the unrepresented a platform for expression, Russian creatives are emerging in their thousands and their talents are an emblem of things to come.
Russia’s Art Scene Creative Russia
The western parts of Russia have started adopting the European penchant for urban minimalism – whilst a vast majority of the east is still uninhabitable tundra.
This makes the momentum of cultural movements a very trying task indeed – particularly when the provinces are traditionally regarded as creative deserts, until recently – and indeed, until the offending Pussy Riot protests – there has been little interest in the artistic endeavours of Russians or of Muscovites.
Despite a new wave of bars and restaurants mixing Shoreditch eclecticism with Scandinavian simplicity, this effort to break away from the bleakness of the soviet era is rarely recognized.
And yet, when Pussy Riot threw open an alternative window, a global interest was born.
And as the Calvert Journal beautifully illustrates, Russian’s are taking full advantage of the spotlight.
From Yekaterinburg, an industrial city with a critically regarded contemporary dub scene in the Urals, to the artists and designers taking over ex-communist factories; new festivals of architecture, art and photography are helping to regenerate the creative community.
Artur Lomakin, creator of the label Forget Me Not, finds inspiration in the grey anonymity of Moscow’s suburbs, whilst street artist Timofei Radya uses the city of Yekaterinburg as his canvas.
Ultra-cool projects like PPCM (Ping Pong Club Moscow) are progressively countering the culture of the Soviet era by reviving a sport that was once banned.
“We’re cool in every sense of the word,” says Daria Yastrubitskaya, co-founder of the Ping-Pong club. “We’re just having a good time and we want people to have a good time with us. If you want to play, play – if you want to hang out, hang out – that’s all we’re about.”
For young Muscovites, especially those into alternative music, the last few decades have been a barren landscape in terms of nightlife.
Despite a brief underground grunge clique that emerged in the 90’s, you’re more likely to find outdated DJs mixing the Fratellis with Brimful of Asha than any kind of cutting-edge music scene – thankfully, that’s all about to change.
What started out as a group of friends throwing house parties in southwest Moscow, RAD is quickly becoming an electronic collective that is, above all else, passionate about Russia.
The whole identity of RAD’s releases was an attempt to play with Russianness, make the most of it: every release came with a collage made from real Soviet newspapers, says Zaynetdinov, a RAD DJ.
And that’s the beauty of this new found creativity – Russian art and music has always been molded by its tumultuous heritage and this ever-increasing originality is a testament to its progression.
In times of compulsory conformity, innovation and experimentalism are forcibly evacuated. But now, with an alternative window propped firmly open by balaclava-clad feminists, Russia is finally able to stretch its creative bones.
A Miniature Guide to Moscow
Where to Stay: Godzilla is Moscow’s largest and best-known hostel. It was the first independent hostel to open in Moscow and has been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek and The Daily Telegraph. Shared rooms start at $16 a night.
What to See: Check out the metro. Whilst this might not sound like the most riveting of excursions, some of Moscow’s metro stations need to be seen to be believed. Novoslobodskaya, Mayakovskaya, Novokuznetskaya and Kievskaya are highly recommended.
Where to Eat: Enjoy the urban-rustic delights of Moscow’s first supper club. Stay Hungry is situated in a stately apartment and every meal is prepared by a different chef. Whilst the menu is important, its chief concern is to unite like-minded individuals and encourage new friendships.
Where to Go: Organise a hire car or jump on the train and visit Sergiyev Posad. Situated on the Golden Ring just 70 km north east of Moscow, this city is dominated by the Trinity Monastery of St Sergius Lavra – one of the largest and most important monasteries in Russia.