Proletkult (Ukrainian acronym for proletarska kul’tura ‘proletarian culture’). A leftist mass movement in the immediate postrevolutionary period, which originated in Russia in 1917 and was carried over into Ukraine. Proletkult's theoreticians (including A. Bogdanov and V. Pletnev) were opposed to classical traditions; they considered them bourgeois and inimical to the proletariat. They believed that a ‘purely proletarian’ culture was to be created ‘in the laboratory.’ Driven by an imperative to educate the masses in the new form of culture, the organizers established a system of reading groups and workshops in literature, drama, and the visual arts. Their mass and largely nonartistic nature fostered the production of meager works by dilettantes and graphomaniacs. Vladimir Lenin recognized that such production could result in a general cultural breakdown, and came out against the Proletkult in 1920. Nevertheless it continued to be active, particularly in Ukraine, where it led the assault on Ukrainian culture. Initially it worked under the auspices of the People's Commissariat of Education and the All-Ukrainian Organizational Bureau of the Proletkult, which in 1922 briefly issued a Russian-language monthly, Zoria griadushchego. Many of the leading activists of the movement in Ukraine were Russians (eg, A. Gastev, G. Petnikov) and were among those opposed to Ukrainization. Proletkult's orientation to the masses was similar to that of the organizations Pluh and Hart; it differed, however, in its national orientation. The Neoclassicists (led by Mykola Zerov) and members of Vaplite (led by Mykola Khvylovy) opposed the Proletkult's mass orientation and its members' ignorance. Their opposition was reflected in the Literary Discussion of 1925–8, although by that time the Proletkult was in decline.

Ivan Koshelivets

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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