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Transnationale Őffentlichkeit im Russischen Berlin

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Of the Avant-garde revues that came and went in the 1920s, Veshch was the most spectacular. Published in Russian, German and French by Ilja Ehrenburg and El Lissitzky, it was an international rallying call to avant-garde artists who had been scattered by the Great War. Conceived as a forum for exchange between young Soviet artists and western European masters, transcending national boundaries, Veshch had no analogues among either the émigré or the Yiddish publishing projects in Berlin. It deliberately contrasted with the nostalgic tone of the former while not identifying with the latter’s striving for a new Jewish style.

But was Veshch really the enfant terrible of the publishing scene in Russian Berlin? The revue appeared at a time when Berlin was emerging as the epicentre of Russian creativity. Both soviet and émigré artists, driven from Russia by lack of resources and ideological pressure, created for themselves a shared public space in Berlin, where they were able to retain communication with each other. The intensity of this communication is the most distinguishing feature of Russian Berlin, which was a kaleidoscope, constantly refreshed by the flow of migrants and ideologies, a scene of dynamic exchange rather than a closed system of emigrant culture. This is the starting point for our present study of Russian Berlin, the aim of which is twofold. Firstly we show how editors of Veshch opened to their Western counterparts a communication space that had hitherto belonged to soviet and émigré Russians. We discuss Veshch as a mouthpiece of Soviet-Russian Constructivism which, released from its ideological background, was greeted as an energizing formula for a new visual and constructive approach to ‘form’, and thus became an innovative phenomenon for all of Europe. Secondly, we propose that the spirit of scholarly assembly and cross-fertilization that Veshch embodied was rooted deeply in the milieu of eastern European Jews. While both Lissitzky and Ehrenburg were moving gradually towards a “pure” international and universal style, 1920s Berlin saw the last stage of their attempt to reconcile intimate Jewishness with radical avant-garde.
Translated title of the contributionA Shared Public Space: The Avant-garde revue Veshch – Gegenstand – Object in 1922 Berlin
Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)37-48
JournalOsteuropa
Volume58
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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