In 1931 the Russian-American artist Louis Lozowick travelled with members of the International Union of Revolutionary Writers to Tajikistan, one of the new Central Asian republics of the USSR. In Tajikistan, Lozowick chronicled the ‘sovietization’ of the region, whereby the Soviet authorities were attempting to transform a feudal Muslim culture, in written accounts and in drawings that he subsequently reworked as lithographs. In this paper, I examine Lozowick’s representations of Tajikistan as curious touristic cum propagandist artifacts from a Soviet Grand Tour that idealize a process that was an ideological and military battleground. I situate these images within an iconography of Central Asian sovietization, especially evident in the magazine USSR in Construction, whereby cultural representations masked a brutal Civil War. For communist ideologues, sovietization would both modernize and enlighten an apparently backward populace via the ritualistic notion of ‘red hashar’, which denoted the Soviet appropriation of Tajik customs. If the ubiquitous pictorial motif was the happy Tajik tractor driver, then in reality anti-Soviet guerrillas violently opposed the campaign against traditional religious and gender mores, especially regarding the ‘paranja’ (veil) worn by Muslim women. Lozowick depicted the paranja as ghoulish, but showed unveiling as a liberatory act. His images of male Tajiks betray tensions in the imposed transition from warrior tribesman to a new proletarian collectivity. Lozowick’s representations are performative missives from the frictional borderlands of the USSR, part of an optimistic Comintern discourse that aimed to define the core identity of the Revolution by crystallizing sovietization at the margins.
Haran, B. (2013). Red Hashar: Louis Lozowick’s Representations of the Sovietization of Central Asia. In W. Carter, B. Haran, & F. J. Schwartz (Eds.), Re-New Marxist Art History, 260-282. Art/Books Publishing