socialist realism, Soviet artistic and literary doctrine. The role of literature and art in Soviet society was redefined in 1932 when the newly created Union of Soviet Writers proclaimed socialist realism as compulsory literary practice. As conceived by Stalin, Zhdanov, and Gorky, socialist realism prescribed a generally optimistic picture of socialist reality and of the development of the Communist revolution. Its purpose was education in the spirit of socialism. Its practice is marked by strict adherence to party doctrine and to conventional techniques of realism. Socialist realism has been widely condemned as stifling to artistic values. After the death of Stalin in 1953 some relaxation of strictures was evident, although socialist realism continued as the official doctrine. A similar approach to the creation of art and literature was also enforced for a time in the People's Republic of China.
See studies by A. Tertz (tr. 1961) and C. V. James (1973); M. Slonim, Soviet Russian Literature (rev. ed. 1967).