A Birthday Present for Stalin: Shostakovich’s Song of the Forests (1949)
The early Soviet state promoted and shaped culture across the entire population, to a greater extent than any previous state. Alongside the mass literacy campaigns, choral societies were formed in many workplaces, instrumental teaching was provided, and professional musicians were sent to perform in factories and in remote villages under the rubric ‘art belongs to the people’. Composers competed to see their works published, and commissions for works on Soviet topics were given. The old cultural institutions, such as opera houses and conservatoires, were preserved, but not left unchanged. As the 1920s wore on, hopes for a successful revolution outside the Soviet Union were dashed, the opposition to Stalin was defeated, the New Economic Policy (NEP) came to an end and Stalin’s first Five Year Plan was implemented; in 1929 the groundwork was laid for the comprehensive state control of culture (Frolova-Walker and Walker, 2012), although it was not until 1936, with the creation of the Committee for Arts Affairs, that the system was fully operational (Maksimenkov, 1997).