Socialist Realism, an art ideology enforced by the Soviet state as the official standard for art, literature etc., was defined in 1934 at the First All-Union Congress of Soviet writers. It was based on the principle that the arts should glorify political and social ideals of communism. (Slogan on painting above says: ‘Our young hearts are beating for our nation'.)
It covered all areas of the arts including music, all the visual arts, writing.
Introduced after the Soviets ‘liberated’ Poland after WW II, lasting up until the late 1950s, socialist realism, in practice, was mostly a patronizing celebration of all things ugly and pompous.
Whereas art directly after the Bolshevik revolution was avant gardist, challenging, modernist, socialist realism was made to be 'simple' - in the same way that the word 'accessible' means to today's liberal - so even ‘simple workers’ could understand its meaning.
In popular music this led to songs being produced with lyrics about happy tractors and steel mills. I imagine the lyrics went something like:
We love concrete, we love steel,
We love working in the fields,
Hey ho, hey, ho!
We love working down the mine,
We love working all the time!
Hey, ho, hey ho!
We love building roads of tar
For General Secretary’s big car
Hey ho, hey ho!
Socialist realist architects were the biggest criminals. You can avoid a rotten painting by not going to a gallery; you can avoid crap music by covering your ears, but architectural monstrosities cannot be so easily ignored.
Here is a selection of some of the wonderful stuff you can still see in Warsaw today.
Palace of Culture and Science: This is the Stalinist legacy by which everything else should be measured. It was a gift from Stalin. The Poles didn’t want it, but you don’t refuse a present from Uncle Joe. Not unless you actually appreciate the outdoor life in a gulag, that is.
Around its base, and on the outside of various other buildings (the Stalinist plac konstytucji having so many of these figures you could fill up a Communist Party Congress with them) are homoerotic, in the same way as when George Orwell in Road to Wigan Pier describes miners taking a shower after a hard days grind at the coal face. These figures are meant to represent the strength of the proletariat but they just end up looking a bit camp.