Guns, Money and the Muse: New Patronage in the Russian Civil War, 1919–1922
War and revolution 1914–1922 contributed to shaping not only the aesthetic, but also the organizational framework of Soviet culture. The violence of World War 1 forced artistic mobility, creating new networks between East and West and producing aesthetic flourishing on the southwest borderlands of the former Russian empire. More consequential, however, were the frontline encounters between the Red Army and formerly imperial artists. These unexpected connections created new forms of patronage and the beginnings of a new relationship between state institutions and the arts. This chapter discusses this dynamic between art and war through the story of Ukrainian theatre director Les’ Kurbas and his troupe of actors fleeing war-torn Kyiv in 1920. Red Army patronage would enable Kurbas’ group to rise from an unknown avant-garde studio to the most heavily subsidized theatre company of early Soviet Ukraine. Live performance, guns and politics on the borderlands created the beginnings of the new Soviet artistic infrastructure.