Academically-written history may be the most objective way of conveying the past, but there are several aspects of life for which other cultural languages are perhaps better suited to mediate. A history textbook, for instance, may give a clear overview of the sequence of battles comprising a war, but what it meant to participate in those events as a soldier oftentimes remains unfathomable in such accounts. People often turn to artistic languages in order to conceptualize historical turning points, controversial events, and the traumatic experiences of the past.
Artistic texts allow for the mediation of emotions and atmosphere, the recreation of a lost world in its multitude of details, meditation on the experiences of everyday life, and so forth. The relation between human beings and artistic texts is largely rooted in empathy. This is precisely why art allows us to view the past through the eyes of its characters, and creates the illusion that we have been given the opportunity to see the past in exactly the way they did.
Even in Stalin’s era, a countless number of artistic texts were created — both those that represent that period as a revolutionary and triumphant one, as well as those which speak about its horrors and tragedies. All of these pieces have something to teach us about that era. As long as we do not forget that we are dealing with an author’s subjective creation, one that is dependent on his viewpoint, the context of the piece’s creation, and the means of expression of the artistic language — then artistic texts may be indispensable supplements to academic history, allowing us to further understand the past.