Socialist Realism Art and Sorela Architecture
Socialist Realist art is easy to find in Prague metro stations. Walls in several of its vestibules are adorned with socialist realist works of art. Characteristic murals in Smichov railway station and sgraffito on the façade of Hotel International all show Socialist Realism art at its best. Sorela is architecture based on Stalinist design.
Socialist realism and Sorela developed in the Soviet Union and was the state-dictated style for art works and architecture from 1932 until 1988. Since Czechoslovakia was a communist-ruled country, Socialist realism-style was forced upon the country. Now, more than thirty years after the Velvet Revolution there are still traces of Socialist Realism in Prague.
Socialist Realism: best be forgotten?
Soon after 1989, Soviet influence was wiped out as nobody wanted to be reminded of a destructive regime. Today, some of the art will be preserved. Smichov railway station is a good example. It is a hideous building but typical of the period and inside are interesting Socialist Realist murals. The station and the area around it will be redeveloped and a new station will be built. The old station will be incorporated in the new and the murals will remain as a reminder of dark days in the past.
Socialist Realism and Communist Values
Socialist Realism depicts communist values. The works of art often show an educational message; the beauty and bliss of working in the fields or in a factory; individuals working for collective good. Paintings show happy, muscular peasants and workers in factories. All works of art resemble each other because the artist’s own input was not a part of Socialist Realism.
The most important thing for an artist was to be faithful to the party doctrine. Creativity was not appreciated. Neither could the artists portray realistic life, because anything that reflected negatively on Communism had to be avoided. Safe subjects were flowers, sunlight, the body, youth, peasants, industry, and new technology. All works of art had a didactic function and showed a glorified picture of communist values.
Socialist Realist Art in the Metro
Check out the Socialist Realist art in following metro station:
Florenc, line C: mosaic
Jinonice, line C: relief
Dejvicka, line A: wall sculpture
Hradčanská line A: relief
Andel line B: mural depicting friendship bonds between Moscow and Prague
Haje line C: mosaic in the vestibule and a statue of two cosmonauts outside the station
Chodov, line C: life size statue of a worker, outside the station
Holesovice main line station: portrait of Julius Fucik, journalist and writer, an active member of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
More about Prague metro as a tourist attraction
The Stalin Monument, huge statue in Social Realist-style, dominated Letna Hill until 1992 when it was blown up. This group statue glorified Jozef Stalin. This communist dictator was popular after World War II for defeating the Nazis but there was also a dark side to his reputation. Everyone who threatened his position of power was eliminated.
Read here more about the Stalin Monument
Sorela Buildings in Prague
The development of Czech functionalist architecture ended in 1948 when the Communists took over because Functionalism was a dangerous western style in the eyes of the Communists. From 1948 onwards, the only permitted style was Sorela, short for Socialist Realism Architecture. Sorela was based on Stalinist architecture. Cities were built to a general development plan and characterized by wide street and squares to be used as assembly places and for parades. Stalinist architecture produced pompous and cumbersome buildings.
The Communists had plans for Prague. Blocks of houses between the Klementinum and Parizska street were earmarked for demolition that never took place neither was the Charles University building, opposite the Rudolfinum, replaced by a tower. There are very few Sorela buildings in Prague. One of them is Hotel International in the Dejvice district and another is Hotel Jalta on Wenceslas Square.
Socialist Realism Fine Arts
In Socialist Realism art sculptures and figures in paintings depict highly idealized persons. Artist could not portray life the way they saw it. In Communist ideology, people were either wholly good or wholly evil and things were either right or wrong. There was no in between. It was idealism against realism. Life was filled with happiness and health. Therefore, painting portrayed happy peasants harvesting or happy workers in factories producing useful products. Sculptures depicted labourers, schoolchildren and guards.
Socialist Realist Art in Prague
1. The frieze above the entrance door to an apartment building on Blanicka Street 5 shows an educational piece of propaganda. A happy proletarian family: the mother nurses a newborn baby, the father draws up designs for a new steel factory, the children engage in sporting and musical activities.
Blanicka is a side street of Vinohradska in the Vinohrady district and a ten-minute walk from Wenceslas Square.
2. Reliefs on the façade of Korunni 98 show factory workers consulting a work sheet. The mural reliefs on either side of the entrance to the Police Station.
Korunni is also in the Vinohrady district. Continue Vinohradska Street and turn right at Nitranska Street, cross Sleska and turn left into Korunni. Number 98 is on the right side.