I commend The Times for the articles on the exhibition of Impressionist paintings loaned to us by the Soviet Union. I do, however, object to their being characterized as a "Soviet art exhibit." These paintings were created in France by Frenchmen before World War I, purchased by Russian pre-revolutionary art patrons, and confiscated by the Soviet state after the revolution in 1917.
I think that it is important for us to realize that in the 70 years of its existence, the Soviet state has not managed to produce any art--written, painted or sculpted--that is worthy of being exhibited. Tourists are invariably shown museums like the Hermitage, full of great art, created before the Soviet state came into being.
Government entities in the Soviet Union keep a gimlet eye on creative arts to make sure that anything not in strict conformance with the current party line on art never sees the light of day. Nonconformists, by and large, are no longer shot or imprisoned as they were in Stalin's days--they are given the option of emigration, away from their roots and culture, but free to create. The most important former Soviet artists, writers, and sculptors today live in the United States and France.
My point is that a society that oppresses art as much as the Soviet Union should not be given the credit for the glorious French art that belongs to the Soviets only because they stole it from the owners.