Red Rites: Wedding and Funeral Ceremonies in the Soviet Union
Where: Morbid Anatomy Museum
424 Third Ave. Brooklyn
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An Illustrated Lecture by Angela Wheeler
“Reds ‘Wedding Palace’ Will Vie With Churches” blared an American newspaper headline in 1961.
The Cold War press speculated wildly about the Soviet Union’s newest social innovation: secular venues for weddings and funerals. Were they a dystopian attempt to churn out rites of passage on an assembly line? Or was Moscow capitulating to public demand for religious ceremonies and bourgeois decor? In fact, these institutions were only the latest in the Soviet Union’s decades-long campaign to bring the milestones of life in line with the dogma of the state while still acknowledging the need for meaningful rituals.
Along with the new socialist sacraments came a fascinating genre of architecture that survives today: atomic age “wedding palaces” and birth registration centers, brutalist crematoria, and sprawling memorial parks. Committees dedicated to “new traditions” even produced elaborate party-approved ritual scripts, creating a sense of solemnity without resorting to religion.
From revolutionary proclamations to extravagant palaces, this illustrated lecture explores the politics, rituals, and architecture that shaped Soviet rites of passage.
Angela Wheeler’s work on heritage, national identity, and architectural history in the former Soviet Union has appeared in Calvert Journal, Retrograd, Pidgin, and Estonian Art Magazine. Her exhibition on Soviet Georgian architecture, “Beyond the Ruin,” was recently on display at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute. Angela is currently writing about mosques of Russia and the Caucasus for a forthcoming book on global Islamic architecture.Buy tickets/get more info now