Heroisch schön. Körperkonzepte im ausgehenden Zarenreich und in der frühen Sowjetunion
Searching for the origins of Soviet body concepts, this article focusses on the Russian reception of the dancer Isadora Duncan (1877–1927) and the critical discourses on culture in late Imperial Russia. With her first performances in St. Petersburg, the »laboratory of modernity« (Schlögel), Duncan became the focal point of body-centered debates on sexuality, dance, fashion, the »New Man«, the relationship between Russia and Europe, popular and elite culture as well as art and life. At the beginning of the 20th century, Russian cultural critics regarded Duncan as the embodiment of the new Russia. In the early Soviet Union she actually did establish a dance school for the children of workers in Russia and collaborated with the main ideologue of the militarized fizkultura movement. This article examines the body concepts developed by leading Soviet cultural and political figures in order to show how Duncan’s ideas of a natural, free, healthy and beautiful body were linked with paramilitary drill and discipline. The essay develops the thesis that this was no contradiction in terms or a change in the initial concepts of the body, but rather part of the dialectical nature of the Enlightenment aim of freeing the body.