The time of perestroika can be justly called a period of socio-cultural eclecticism. The previously-prevailing monistic model of society, with the “guiding and directing” role of the Communist Party, was gradually crumbling. The void became filled by previously-rejected great-power chauvinistic ideas as well as all manner of ideological garbage that rose to the surface. All this mental junk brought along with the sweeping changes is reflected in the composition consisting of three painted torsos. The most solid and widest torso is distinguished by the emblem of the defunct Soviet Union inscribed on its swollen belly. This torso also features other Soviet symbols, from the Kremlin to Stalin’s profile. The drawings on the heroised athletic torso are centred on monarchy-loving Slavophile ideas (the double-headed eagle, Saint George, and military accessories). The torso of the gaunt man with a sunken breast indicates his deprivations and suffering caused by consumption, his malnourishment and poor living, and the drawings resembling prison tattoos quite match the image. The sheen on the torsos features the shades of a single warm earthy colour, and the graphic drawings on the skin are duly proportioned with each other. The experiment in combining the incompatible is a success precisely due to the visual formula – three objects side by side, inseparably united yet each self-contained. As a whole, the symbolic triad has tragicomic undertones.


Brief annotations to the image

PERESTROIKA, as a concept combining the ideas about the need for transformations and the actual implementation of these ideas in the USSR in 1985-1989, which resulted in more openness, the democratisation of the society and a growth of economic efficiency. The tripartite slogan of the day was “perestroika, democracy, glasnost [the latter meaning openness and transparency]”. This triad inspired many quips and puns that became a part of urban lore – it was compared to Nikolai Gogol’s “winged troika”, and to the ruling political elite, and even to a famous trio of crooks featured in a celebrated Soviet/Russian film – the Coward, Fool and Pundit.