Shostakovich A Yurodivy Case Study

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Within the Russian cultural imagination there exists a character archetype known as a “Fool of Christ”, or more simply, a yurodivy. Yurodivies were people who would engage in shocking, unconventional behavior to challenge accepted norms. Only through unorthodoxy and controversy could the yurodivy highlight the problems ailing man. A yurodivy could utilize their own actions, literature, or art to communicate discontent. The yurodivy had a certain immunity, safe within their eccentricity, that allowed them to speak out against societal ills. In the Soviet Union, speaking out against the government or society was a death sentence, if not a one way ticket to a Siberian prison, or gulag. In such an oppressive atmosphere, a yurodivy would have to …show more content…
Solomon Volkov argues that Shostakovich was anti-Soviet, diametrically opposed to the Stalinist regime, who communicated dissent through hidden messages coded within his music. Laurel Fay, an American musicologist, disagrees with Volkov, stating that Shostakovich was a devout communist who respected and feared Stalin’s regime, and relied on Stalin’s favor to continue composing even as fellow artists and musicians were purged from the state and from memory. Fay argues that Shostakovich has been propped up as anti-communist to increase his appeal to Western audiences. Allan Ho presents Shostakovich as a sarcastic critic of the Soviet state, who was wise enough to understand open dissent could cost him his life, and thusly concealed his rebellious thoughts within his music and personal interactions. Each of these scholars submits that Shostakovich used his music as a vehicle for his personal feelings or beliefs, but fail to acknowledge the contradictions that arise when comparing his early compositions to the ones written near the end of his …show more content…
Despite all this, Shostakovich found himself denounced by the government not once, but twice, declared an enemy of the people, and the recipient of threats, both veiled and overt. Born in Leningrad in 1906, Shostakovich grew up in a radically and rapidly changing Russia. During his studies at the reputable Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) Conservatory, artists were encouraged to, much like the revolutionaries, reject traditionalism and embrace modern, innovative approaches to art. Traditional music was too closely associated with tsarism, and previously favored composers such as Tchaikovsky fell out of favor and were closely censored. However, as the fledgling Soviet Union attempted to assert its unified culture and personality, the perceived chaos of modern art had to be regulated. Artists had to submit their compositions to the newly formed Ministry of Culture and receive their permission before premiering any art to the public. Music was expected to reject Western styles and focus on traditional Russian themes, the glory of the Soviets, and the promotion of communist ideals. Where young composers such as Shostakovich were once encouraged to pursue new ideas in music, they were now stifled. Shostakovich found himself falling in and out of favor as

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