Heart of a Dog

The Speech and Physique of “The New Soviet Man” As Portrayed in “Heart of a Dog” and in Agitprop Posters College

The gradual and horrifically strange mutation of the titular canine of Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel Heart of a Dog into a ‘New Soviet Man’ provides an ideological counterpoint to the instantaneous and handsomely familiar appearance of that same model citizen in the pre-war USSR’s visual propaganda. Through the lens of social science fiction, Bulgakov could be said to argue that whatever changes, progressive or regressive, that the Communist regime might impart upon the minds and bodies of the Russian people, they shall arrive slowly and fitfully, and might very well be accompanied by unmanageable violence. This stands in contrast to the official narrative of Soviet agitprop, which called for a rapid and thoroughly controlled transformation of society. This narrative is particularly exemplified by tersely-worded campaigns promoting literacy, and by depictions of Russian workers who are physically and morally exalted to the point of hero-worship.

Two aspects of the Soviet citizenry that were most crucial to propagating and supporting the communist way of life were given particular attention in visual propaganda throughout the first decade of Stalinism: their impressionable voices and their laboring bodies. From the vantage point of...

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