The article examines the cultural situation in Europe and Russia between 1914 and 1945 and its understanding by Russian intellectuals who belonged to the artistic sphere. The analysis of the concepts and discourses of national identity is inscribed in the pan-European process, characterized by Trencheni as a “conservative revolution” and “quasi-imperial paradigm”. The author states that the collapse of the Russian Empire and the reformatting of the imperial idea in the 1920s and 1930s were the main factor that caused the formation of nation-building concepts. Based on the concept of “imperial modernization”, Arnason described the main directions of artistic strategies in the period of Stalinism. The inseparability of the ideas of cultural / aesthetic nationalism in the late imperial period (1905-1917), the search for national identity among the emigrants and the nationalist turn in Stalinist cultural policy on the eve of World War II are revealed. The author also demonstrates the close connection of imperial and nationalistic discourses in the late imperial and Soviet periods of Russian history. It is proved that the symbolic resource of philosophical and aesthetic modernism during the Russian Silver Age was actively used in the Stalinist cultural policy on the eve of the World War II. The author analyzes the intelligent ideas of “Eurasianism” (P. Suvchinsky, A. Lurye, A. Losev, N. Trubetskoy, etc.) born by the Revolution, Civil War and World War I as a reaction to the Soviet project of nation-building and global expansion and as an alternative to them. At the same time, the author finds that the anti-Western, anti-bourgeois trend of thoughts of the “Eurasians” in substantiating the national specifics of Russian culture and the special international mission of Russia was very close to the aesthetic and political content of the works of the leading masters of the late 1930s, such as Sergey Prokofiev and Sergey Eisenstein.
Key words: Russian modernism, Stalinist cultural policy, “Eurasianism” in art, Prokofiev, Eisenstein, imperial modernization, cultural nationalism.