September 20, 2008
Concrete brain of Homo Sovieticus
Whielki Krasnals "Concrete brain of Homo Sovieticus / based on the work of Monika Sosnowska". 2008. Oil on canvas. 90 x 100 cm
Recent activity of the Polish artist Monika Sosnowska inspired us for reflections about Homo Sovieticus.
The artist, who succeeded in the Venice Biennale 2007 and has just her show in Schaulager in Basel, contributed to rising one of the most aggressive fractions of commerce in Polish contemporary art. She uses our sad history and grey PRL (previous socialistic system) past refering to socmodern aesthetics only for career and money reasons.
For western art institutions this is just attractive and exotic because they didn't experience that reality. And for us this is socialistic kitch.
Whielki Krasnal "Concrete mask of socmodern Polish contemporary art/ from the Great Poles series / Monika Sosnowska". 2008. Oil on canvas. 50 x 60 cm
"Homo Sovieticus (pseudo Latin for "Soviet Man (human)") is a sarcastic and critical reference to a category of people with a specific mindset that were allegedly created by the governments of the Soviet bloc. The term was coined by well-known Soviet writer and sociologist Aleksandr Zinovyev as the title of his book of the same name.  A similar term in Russian slang is sovok (Совок), which is derived from Soviet but also means scoop.
The idea that the Soviet system would create a new, better kind of person was first postulated by the advocates of the Soviet system; they called it the "New Soviet man". Homo Sovieticus, however, was a term with negative connotations, invented by opponents to describe what they said was the real result of Soviet policies. In many ways it meant the opposite of the New Soviet man, someone characterized by the following:
Indifference to the results of his labor (as expressed in the saying "They pretend they are paying us, and we pretend we are working"), and lack of initiative.
Indifference to common property and petty theft from the workplace, both for personal use and for profit. A line from a popular song, "Everything belongs to kolkhoz, everything belongs to me" ("все теперь колхозное, все теперь мое"), meaning that people on collective farms treasured all common property as their own, was sometimes used ironically to refer to instances of petty theft. The Law of Spikelets, which made stealing from the collective punishable by ten years’ imprisonment, was a failed attempt to break this attitude.
Isolation from world culture, created by the Soviet Union's restrictions on travel abroad and strict censorship of information in the media (as well as the abundance of propaganda). The intent was to insulate the Soviet people from Western influence; instead, "exotic" Western culture became more interesting precisely because it was forbidden. Soviet officials called this fascination "Western idolatry" (идолопоклонничество перед Западом).
Obedience or passive acceptance of everything that government imposes on them (see authoritarianism). Avoidance of taking any individual responsibility on anything."