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Controversial Political Content
Socialist Realism contains references to and descriptions of controversial political ideologies as they are relevant to the subject of the page, which may be distressing for some people. User discretion is advised. This page exists for the purpose of documentation. The administrators and moderators do not necessarily endorse the philosophy associated with the aesthetic.

Socialist Realism was an art movement of idealized realistic art that originated in the Soviet Union, serving as the official style of the country throughout 1932 and 1988, particularly during Stalin's rule[1]. After World War II, it was also adopted by other countries part of the Eastern Bloc (like East Germany, Yugoslavia, North Korea, the People's Republic of China, etc). Although the art was realistic, it should not be confused with the Realism art movement as it is a highly idealized and propagandistic depiction of communist and socialist values, as well as its leaders and political figures.


The origins of Socialist Realism are deeply rooted in 1870s Russian Realist Art[2]. Its distinct style started to emerge during the Russian Revolution of 1917, when the Russian Revolution happened and the Bolsheviks came to power[3]. The Bolsheviks believed that art should be used to educate and inspire the masses, and they promoted the development of a new art style that would reflect the values of their new Socialist state. So, Socialist Realism was developed as a new trend among many artists from the USSR. A major inspiration for this art movement was the Peredvizhniki, a group of Realist artists from Russia whose art flourished during the 1870s. They did not share the same ideology as the Socialist Realists, as they were Democrats, and Marxism wasn't established in Russia at the time. However, their art techniques were reminiscent of what Socialist Realism became.

During the early 1930s, the Soviet government officially adopted Socialist Realism as the country's official art and literature style, and it became the most dominant influence in Soviet popular culture. Soviet artists and writers were expected to depict the world in a way that was consistent with the goals of the Soviet state, and any work that was deemed to be "counter-revolutionary" or anti-Soviet was strictly prohibited and faced censorship. However, despite its influence, popularity, and enforcement, Socialist Realism faced criticism from creative artists and other intellectual philosophers. Many artists and writers felt that the movement was ruining creativity and imposed strict limits on what could be depicted in art and literature. Other artists argued that Socialist Realism was a form of propaganda that served the interests of the Soviet Union and not its citizens. This led to underground art movements being created throughout the republics of the Soviet Union. For example, in Ukraine, an underground art scene surged, which included the popular Ukrainian New Wave movement. In East Germany, which was also a Socialist country at the time, an art movement known as "Capitalism Realism" emerged to challenge censorship and state control, and in the Soviet Union in general, a style influenced by western Pop Art surged, known as Sots Art.


Some visuals prominent in Socialist Realism include:

  • Heroic depictions of Socialist leaders, politicians, peasants and the working class, etc.
  • Teamwork and cooperation to achieve an "utopian" Socialist society
  • Technological advancements (such as exploring space)
  • Communist symbolism (including Sickle and Hammer, red flags, etc.)
  • Elements relating to nation-building and Soviet nationalism
  • Propaganda relating to the military (soldiers, weaponry, moments in Soviet history, etc.)
  • Highly visually realistic paintings
  • Idealization of Communist parties and ideologies


Modern day usage[]

Although Socialist Realism is mostly considered a thing of the past, it still has a strong presence in some countries that are still deemed "socialist states", including North Korea (whose specific art genre is known as Juche Realism), Laos, Vietnam and the disputed territory of Transnistria, which is home to a lot of art relating to Soviet Nostalgia.

Juche Realism[]

Jucherealism (2)

"Farewell" by Park Ryong Sam

Juche Realism is the specific variant of Socialist Realism that was developed in North Korea[4], and as its name implies it promotes the Juche ideology, developed by the country's former leader, Kim Il-sung. Juche Realism is characterized by its focus on realistic depictions of everyday life in North Korea, often portraying scenes of workers, farmers, and soldiers engaged in activities that promote self-reliance and a sense of nationalism. Juche Realism art is intended to glorify the North Korean state and its leaders, and to promote the Juche ideology and its principles; national self-reliance. However due to this, the information avaiable in this art movement is quite restricted due to the North Korean's government strict policy on interaction with the international world. Juche Realist artworks are relatively rare to find outside North Korea, however, in 2016, an art exhibition regarding Juche Realism was held in the American University Museum[5].


Although Socialist Realism didn't have an international impact, trends relating to Socialist Realism were estabilished in the Soviet Union (particularly gaining major success in Russia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine), as well as other Socialist states of the time, including East Germany, Poland, Albania, Czechoslovakia, China (PRC), North Korea, Laos, Vietnam, etc. Despite this style being very widespread in Socialist countries, it also influenced some artists from Western countries, particularly French artists who symphatized with the Socialist ideology. However, there were always exceptions. Yugoslavia was among one of the most important Socialist countries which rejected Socialist Realism and allowed its citizens to have more freedom of artistic expression.

In modern-day aesthetics[]

The modern Sovietwave and Laborwave aesthetics are heavily influenced by Socialist Realism. These aesthetics often incorporate imagery and symbols from Socialist Realist art, such as red flags, hammer and sickle symbols, and images of soldiers, political figures, workers and Soviet peasants. However, they also use these elements in new and creative ways and give them new meanings. For example, Sovietwave artists often use Socialist Realist imagery to create Retro-Futuristic visions of the Soviet Union. Laborwave artists often mix elements of Socialist Realism with Vaporwave.


Until the very last years of existence of the Soviet Union, the Soviet media was heavily censored, like in most of the other authoritarian states of the time. Consequently, a number of art movements - particularly underground ones (for example, Ukrainian Underground art) opposed Socialist Realism, even outside the communist world.

Some of these movements included:



  • Ivan Vladimirov
  • Igor Grabar
  • Wojciech Wiss
  • Eugene Lanceray
  • Konstantin Yuon
  • Pyotr Konchalovsky
  • Fedir Krychevsky
  • Mykhailo Boychuk
  • Karpo Trokhymenko
  • David Kakabadze
  • Ilarion Pleshynskyi
  • Vasyi Kasiyan
  • Leonid Muchnyk
  • Aleksandr Deyneka
  • Yervand Kochar
  • Veniamin Kremer
  • Nikola Martinoski
  • Alexandru Ciucurencu
  • Oleksandr Pashenko
  • Dmitry Nalbandyan
  • Volodymyr Bondarenko
  • Sattar Bahluizade
  • Sergiy Grigoriev
  • Serhij Schyschko
  • Sun Mu
  • Andrzej Wróblewski


  • Ballad of a Soldier (1959)
  • Chapayev (1934)
  • Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
  • October (1927)
  • Battleship Potemkin (1925)
  • Chapaev (1934)
  • The Youth of Maxim (1935)
  • Shchors (1939)
  • We are from Kronstadt (1936)
  • Road to Life (1931)
  • Ivan (1932)
  • Valerii Chkalov (1941)
  • Tanker "Derbent" (1941)
  • Alexander Nevsky (1938)
  • Minin and Pozharsky (1939)
  • Bogdan Khmelnitsky (1941)

TV Shows[]

  • Deutschland 83 (2015)
  • Chernobyl (2019)

Video Games[]

  • Disco Elysium (2019)
  • Metro 2033 (2010)
  • Hong Kong '97 (1995)