Proletarian Music and Modernism in the Context of N. A. Roslavets’ Post-Revolutionary Activities


The article focuses on N. A. Roslavets’ social and creative activities after the October Revolution in the sphere of proletarian music. A comparison between the composer’s creative work and the events of his biography shows that his musical works for the proletarian masses (from about 1922) began markedly later than his social work (from 1917). Public manifestations of Roslavets’ creative intentions indicate that he engaged in proletarian music to counteract the agitational music-making for the proletariat of the early 1920s. An analysis of his music demonstrates, however, that Roslavets used his unconventional style in his proletarian music as well.  As a result, the author draws three conclusions. First, Roslavets’ participation in proletarian music was not a compromise but was positioned by him as a new ideological and aesthetic direction of creativity. Second, Roslavets’ proletarian music differs markedly from that of other “proletarian composers,” above all in his enduring commitment to his atonal technique and its unexpected juxtaposition with tonal means. Finally, the phenomenon of proletarian music in Roslavets’ interpretation does not look like the opposite of modernism but is a derivation of its ideological and artistic foundations.


1. Pravda. 1923. “Assotsiatsiya proletarskikh muzykantov [The Association of Proletarian Musicians].” Pravda, August 26, 6. (In Russian).

2. Belyy, Viktor A. 1928. “«Levaya» fraza o «muzykal’noy reaktsii» (po povodu stat’i N. Roslavtsa «Nazad k Betkhovenu») [‘Leftist’ Phrase about ‘Musical Reaction’ (on the Article ‘Back to Beethoven’ by N. Roslavets)].” Muzykal’noe obrazovanie [Music Education], no. 1, 43–47. (In Russian).

3. Vlasova, Ekaterina S. 2010. 1948 god v sovetskoy muzyke [1948 in the Soviet Music]. Moscow: Klassika-XXI. (In Russian).

4. Gryadushchee. 1921. “Deklaratsiya, prinyataya plenumom Vserossiyskogo Ts. K. Proletkul’ta 19 dekabrya 1920 g. [Plenary Declaration of the All-Russian Central Committee of Proletkult, December 19, 1920].” Gryadushchee [The Future], no. 4–6, 53–59. (In Russian).

5. Dianov, Anton M. 1919. “Muzykal’nye otkliki [Musical Responses].” Gorn [Furnace], no. 2–3, 106. Available at: (accessed September 1, 2022). (In Russian).

6. Gojowy, Detlef. 2006. Novaya sovetskaya muzyka 20-kh godov [The New Soviet Music of the Twenties]. Translated from German by Natalia O. Vlasova. Moscow: Kompozitor (In Russian).

7. Gorbunov, Vladimir V. 1974. V. I. Lenin i Proletkul’t [Lenin and the Proletkult]. Moscow: Izdatel’stvo politicheskoy literatury. (In Russian).

8. Kaltat, Lev L. 1927. “O podlinno-burzhuaznoy ideologii gr. Roslavtsa [On the Truly Bourgeois Ideology of Mr. Roslavets].” Muzykal’noe obrazovanie [Music Education], no. 3–4, 33–37. (In Russian).

9. Krasin, Boris B. 1918. “Zadachi muzykal’nogo otdela [Tasks of the Music Department].” Gorn [Furnace], no. 1, 58–61. (In Russian).

10. Lapina, Irina A. 2013. Petrogradskiy Proletkul’t. 1917–1932 [Petrograd Proletkult. 1917–1932]. St. Petersburg: Asterion. (In Russian).

11. Lebedinskiy, Lev N. 1924. “Beglym ognem [With Rapid Fire].” Muzykal’naya nov’ [Musical Virgin Soil], no. 8, 13–18. (In Russian).

12. Lobanova, Marina N. 2011. Nikolay Andreevich Roslavets i kul’tura ego vremeni [Nikolay Andreevich Roslavets and the Culture of His Time]. St. Petersburg: Petroglif. (In Russian).

13. Lyubimov, Grigoriy P. 1919. “Narodnye orkestry i ikh znachenie v muzykal’nom prosveshchenii mass [Folk Orchestras and Their Importance in the Musical Education of the Masses].” Gorn [Furnace], no. 2–3, 99–105. (In Russian).

14. Anonymous. n. d. “Narodnye universitety Rossii v nachale XX stoletiya [People’s Universities of Russia in the Early 20th Century].” In Istoriya Eletskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta imeni I. A. Bunina [History of Bunin Elets State University]. Available at: (accessed January 14, 2022). (In Russian).

15. Nikolaeva, Lyudmila S. 1997. “Teoriya i praktika Proletkul’ta. 1917–1932 [The Theory and Practice of the Proletkult. 1917–1932].” Ph. D. diss., Lomonosov Moscow State University. (In Russian).

16. Anonymous. 1926. “O stat’e tov. N. Roslavtsa [On the Paper by m-r N. Roslavets].” In Na putyakh iskusstva [On the Paths of Art], edited by Viktor M. Blumenfeld, Valerian F. Pletnev, and Nikolay F. Chuzhak, 193–94. Moscow: Proletkul’t. (In Russian).

17. Pchelkina, Lyubov’ R., and Andrey I. Smirnov. n. d. “Muzyka i muzykal’nye tekhnologii avangarda [Music and Musical Technologies of the Avant-garde].” In Entsiklopediya russkogo avangarda [Encyclopedia of Russian Avant-garde]. Available at: (accessed April 08, 2022). (In Russian).

18. Roslavets, Nikolay A. 1920. “Kul’t-rabota Rabisa [Cultural Work of RABIS].” Vestnik rabotnikov iskusstv [Bulletin of Art Workers], no. 2–3, 46–48. (In Russian).

19. Roslavets, Nikolay A. 1924. “Sem’ let Oktyabrya v muzyke [7th Anniversary of October in Music].” Muzykal’naya kul’tura [Music Culture], no. 3, 179–89. (In Russian).

20. Roslavets, Nikolay A. 1924. “Nik. A. Roslavets o sebe i svoem tvorchestve [N. A. Roslavets About Himself and His Work].” Sovremennaya muzyka [Modern Music], no. 5, 132–38. (In Russian).

21. Roslavets, Nikolay A. 1925. “Gde russkie kompozitory? [Where are the Russian Composers?]” Vestnik rabotnikov iskusstv [Bulletin of Art Workers], no. 4, 2–3. (In Russian).

22. Roslavets, Nikolay A. 1926. “O psevdo-proletarskoy muzyke [On Pseudo-Proletarian Music].” In Na putyakh iskusstva [On the Paths of Art], edited by Viktor M. Blumenfeld, Valerian F. Pletnev, and Nikolay F. Chuzhak, 180–92. Мoscow: Proletkul’t. (In Russian).

23. Sokhor, Arnol’d N. 1959. Russkaya sovetskaya pesnya [Russian Soviet Song]. Leningrad: Sovetskiy kompozitor. (In Russian).

24. Shuvalov, Nikolay. 1923. “O muzykal’nom nasledstve, o ‘kursakh’ i izdatel’stve [On Musical Heritage, on ‘Courses’ and Publishing].” Muzykal’naya nov’ [Musical Virgin Soil], no. 2, 10–14. (In Russian).

25. Yudin, Mikhail V. 2001. “Deyatel’nost’ Moskovskogo Proletkul’ta v 1918–1925 gg. [Activities of the Moscow Proletcult in 1918–1925].” Ph. D. diss., Moscow State Pedagogical University. (In Russian).

26. Edmunds, Neil. 2000. The Soviet Proletarian Music Movement. Oxford: Peter Lang.

27. Ferenc, Anna. n. d. “Roslavets, Nikolay Andreyevich.” Grove Music Online. (accessed January 14, 2022).

28. McKnight, Charles M. 1994. “Nikolaj Roslavets: Music and Revolution.” Ph. D. diss., Cornell University.

29. Yamamoto, Akihisa. 2020. “Music for the Proletariat: The Proletkul’t’s Musical Policies and Practice at the Early Soviet Union.” The Annual Review of Musicology and Music Studies 10, 107–18.