The changing of the times shows the tragic destiny of the Russian peasantry which is expressed through a family being told by NKVD officers, the all-powerful law enforcement agency, that they have to leave their land and village in the name of collectivisation and the settlement of new land. Kugach was very interested in the complexity and tragedy of the period. His painting is not a political statement as he understood the necessity of the collectivisation program but a simple expression of the human drama of people caught up in such historic events. The tragic moment is underlined by the austere pallet and facial expressions of the group of people, as well as the desperate hand gesture of the main character. This moment is given even more relevance as it is put in stark contrast with the white backdrop of the harsh Russian winter. The artwork was almost bought by the Ministry of Culture during the state exhibition at the Manege in 1988, but Kugach decided not to sell the painting as he did not want it to be sent to regional museums. In addition, he still wanted to make some corrections to the artwork.
Oil on canvas (?)
200 × 250 cm; 79 × 98¾ in.
Kugach was born in Suzdal. His artistic education started at the Moscow Art Institute and the Surikov Moscow State Academy Art Institute, where he studied amongst others under I. E. Grabar and S. V. Gerasimov. In 1950 Kugach moved to the countryside in the Tver region, which became an inspiration for his work. He focused on the representation of village and country life, which for him were an expression of the nation's prominence. He also depicted typical Russian subjects such as dachas and birch woods with a particular attention to the impact of light and the seasons. Kugach was a recipient of the Stalin prize, Repin Prize and the State Prize of the USSR. In 1948–1951 he taught at the Moscow State Surikov State Art Institute. Yuri Kugach is consider ed one of the 'patriarchs' of Russia realist art. He has worked in many styles and has touched a wide range of themes, but he is best known as the painter of Russian rural life. Until his last days he lived in Tver region and continued to paint landscapes. His works are owned by the State Tretyakov Gallery, Kiev Museum of Russian Art, and many regional museums.