This history has two protagonists: Hannes Meyer and Arkady Mordvinov. While both had close ties during the first phase—Meyer himself served as a key witness to overcoming the Bauhaus—in 1950/51, Meyer stood in the ideological dock for a position that he believed to have long left behind in the Soviet Union, without being able to partake in the discussion. His former fellow traveller and student, Mordvinov, at that point the president of the Soviet Academy of Architecture, had become his judge. Whatever shady political tricks Meyer might have played, no matter how strongly he may have been involved in political intrigues and disappointed his fellow travellers,1 he was not capable of capitulating as an architect. That is also a reason why very few of his buildings were realised. In this text, I limit myself to the first chapter of this history
1919–1929: Mutual Resonance between the Bauhaus and Soviet architecture
The beginning of the relationship between the Bauhaus and Soviet architecture following World War I and the revolutions in Russia and Germany is marked by the mutual declarations of internationalism and the departure to a new world; by the cables between the Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Workers’ Council for Art) in Berlin and the Department for Visual Art (IZO) at the People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment; and by the names of Bruno Taut, Walter Gropius and Adolf Behne and of Wassily Kandinsky, the commissioner of the IZO for Germany. After in January 1919 Kandinsky had sent the ‘Art Programme’ of the Russian government to Walter Gropius in Weimar and the Arbeitsrat für Kunst in Berlin, among others,2 via an emissary3 who had set off to Germany in December 1918, it was also Kandinsky who first reported on the Bauhaus in the Russian press and on the fact that Gropius’ response to the Russian programme of an ‘integration of the arts under the roof of architecture’ was very positive, as Kandinsky notes in his essay ‘Architecture as Synthetic Art’ (1920).4), in: Художественная жизнь (Artistic Life), No. 4,5, 1920, p. 23f.] There were evidently mutual influences between Gropius’ programme for the Bauhaus and Kandinsky’s proposals for the Moscow Institute of Artistic Culture (InKhuK).5 However, Kandinsky was defeated in the internal dispute at the InKhuK by the radical constructivists around Aleksander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova and Lyubov Popova, who rejected Kandinsky’s theoretical work ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Art’ (1911). Kandinsky ultimately left Moscow in December 1921 and travelled to Berlin via Riga. He accepted Gropius’ call to the Bauhaus as early as in June 1922 and was therefore no longer a contact partner in Russia.