On 26th October 1932, a chosen elite of fifty writers was mysteriously invited to the art deco mansion of Russia’s greatest living novelist, Maxim Gorky. The tall haggard writer with the grizzled moustache, now sixty-four, met the guests on the stairway. The dining room was filled with tables covered in smart white cloths. They waited in excited anticipation. Then Stalin arrived with Molotov, Voroshilov and Kaganovich. The Party took literature so seriously that the magnates personally edited the work of prominent writers. After some small talk, Stalin and his comrades sat down at the end table near Gorky himself. Stalin stopped smiling and started to talk about the creation of a new literature.
…. Playing with a pearl handled knife and now suddenly ‘stern’, with a ‘taste of iron’ in his voice, Stalin proposed: ‘The artist ought to show life truthfully. And if he shows our life truthfully he cannot fail to show it moving to socialism. This is, and will be, Socialist Realism.’ In other words, the writers had to describe what life should be, a panegyric to the Utopian future, not what life was.
…. ‘You produce the goods that we need,’ said Stalin. ‘Even more than machines, tanks, aeroplanes, we need human souls.’
…. The writers, Stalin declared, were ‘engineers of human souls’.
- from Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Simon Sebag-Montefiore