essay on modernism and postmodernism

The shift from modernism to postmodernism essay.

Fredric Jameson’s postmodernism theory is considered to be “the effort to take the temperature of the age without instruments and in a situation in which we are not even sure there is so consistent thing as an ‘age,’ or ‘zeitgeist’ or ‘system’ or ‘current situation’ any longer,” it is supposed that the shift from modernism to postmodernism transpired from urban planning and architecture to various stylistic features of arts, literature, theater, film, music, dance, and painting, to MTV, CNN, and the internet. Cyberspace and part-human and part-robot fantasies are believed to be just as postmodern as the threat of nuclear and ecological self-destruction, globalization and deregulation, or the morbid projections of generation X. Given the plurality of interpretations, it is hardly surprising that “postmodernism” is often accused of being an illogical catchphrase. Above anything else, it has provoked highly opposing descriptions of its political goals, cultural functions, historical materialization, punitive location, and geopolitical realm. 1

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By way of examining the most pertinent theories of postmodernism (Irving Howe, Susan Sontag, Leslie Fiedler, Fredric Jameson, Ihab Hassan, François Lyotard, Jürgen Habermas, Andreas Huyssen), this paper brings to light an understanding of whether the term designates a certain aesthetic strategy, a historical period, or a particular way of thinking most prominently associated with modernism, pluralism and deconstruction. 2


Postmodernism is a style applied in architecture, arts, literature, and criticism established in active response to modernism, about other periods or styles in an excessively concerned way and a rejection of the idea of high art.

At the dawn of the 1980s and 1990s, the leading modification of postmodernism adapted traditional architectural details and styles in entirely original compositions, without the awkwardness and oddities of ironic postmodernism. Stern called this variant creative postmodernism or modern traditionalism. Venturi, Moore, and Graves all moved in this direction, joining other architects such as Graham Gund, Thomas Beeby, and Stern. A representative example of this design approach is Stern’s Observatory Hill Dining Hall (1982-1984) at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The dining hall combines red brick, white wood trim, and Tuscan Doric columns, referring to the adjoining buildings by Thomas Jefferson, but employs modern building forms and walls with large windows (Encarta, 2007). 3

Differences between modernism and postmodernism

  • Modernism flourished between the 1650 and 1950s. Empiricism and epistemological are the two dominant approaches in gaining knowledge. Empiricism, knowing through the senses, gradually evolved into scientific empiricism of modern science with the development of modernist methodology. 4 While epistemological approach uses reasoning or logic. “Modernism is an experiment in searching the veracity of a situation. It can be characterized by self-consciousness and reflexiveness. This is very closely related to Postmodernism (Sarup 1993).” 4
  • Frank Lloyd Wright, an American architect, wrote in 1910 that the modern building would be ‘an organic entity…as distinguished with that former insensate combination of parts…one great thing instead of a quarreling collection of so many little things.’ Similarly, Walter Gropius insisted that the modern building must be true to itself, logically transparent and virginal of lies on trivialities’ The prophets of modern architecture insisted time and again on the unity of the building, as the organic express of an inner principle, rather than the external imposition of from…Le Corbusier praised Michelangelo’s Capitol in Rome for the way that it heaps itself together, in unity, expresses the same law throughout, and wrote that a building was like a bubble which is perfect and harmonious if the breath has been evenly distributed and regulated from the inside. The exterior is the result of an interior.
  • Postmodernism occurs from the 1950s up to our present time. Postmodernism existed due to the insufficiency of the modern approaches to knowing, postmodernists support epistemological pluralism which makes use of multiple ways of knowing – scientifically and logically.

Ryan Bishop defines postmodernism in a brief article from Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology (1996) as a diverse movement, originating in aesthetics, architecture, and philosophy. “Postmodernism embraces a systematic skepticism of grounded theoretical perspectives. Applied to anthropology, this skepticism has shifted focus from the observation of a particular society to the observation of the (anthropological) observer.” 4

Postmodernity mainly focuses on the tensions of distinction and similarity erupting from processes of globalization: the accelerating circulation of people, the increasingly dense and frequent cross-cultural interactions, and the unavoidable intersections of local and global knowledge. “Postmodernists are suspicious of authoritative definitions and singular narratives of any trajectory of events.” (Bishop 1996: 993). Post-modern attacks on ethnography are based on the belief that there is no true objectivity. The authentic implementation of the scientific method is impossible.

Postmodernism has meant a renewed awareness of the suppressed linguistic or connotative dimension in architecture”

It is not difficult to imagine how these “progressive and conventional” categories could be applied to a series of examples of orthodox modern architecture in defense of a theory of “simplicity and consistency” in architecture. However, it is also apparent that these categories could be listed with the provision that each of the different kinds of anticipation should not be fulfilled. In Man’s Rage for Chaos , Morse Peckham gives a distinctive list of categories with the provision that the anticipation should not be fulfilled and calls them “discontinuities”. In Peckham’s theory, “discontinuities” are a defining characteristic of art.

Robert Venturi , author of Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (Museum of Modern Art, 1966), is one of the most noted architects of the Philadelphia school and Professor of Architecture at Yale. Though he completed only a few commissions, his ideas have been extremely influential and his projects widely published.

He writes: I prefer ‘both-and to ‘either-or,’ black and white, and sometimes gray, to black or white. A reasonable architecture arouses various levels of meaning and combinations of focus; its space and its elements become readable and workable in several ways at once. (p. 23.) 5

He sees “orthodox modern architecture” as illustrated by “either-or,” where, for example, a support is seldom an enclosure. The examples that he presents of both-and-in architecture include the ceilings of Sir John Soane’s secular chambers which are “both rectangular and curvilinear, and domed and vaulted.” (p. 36.) Also referred to is pre-cast concrete construction which can be continuous yet fragmentary, flowing in profile yet surfaced with joints.” (pp. 36-37.) 5

“ The most obvious and frequently remarked – on form of pluralism in postmodernist architecture is its openness to the past”

The last quarter of the 1970s reinforced a recent trend in architecture toward pluralism of styles. Modernism does not dominate anymore, in the sense of high-technology, smooth-skin, metal-and-glass geometric formalism. Previous extensive retort against historical styles, regional forms, and traditional materials has now changed to enthusiasm for them. There is a renewed interest in local character, in richer artistic experiences, and a greater diversity of materials, colors, patterns, textures, and methods of construction, although some of the more conservative architects condemn this trend. 6

American architecture at the beginning of the 21st century has avoided the single-style sterility that International Style modernism threatened to impose. Instead, it remains open to a myriad of design approaches, suitable to a wide variety of locations, functions, and symbolic messages.


In theory and early designs, deconstruction included the dismantling of architectural elements and the reorganization of their constituent parts. In these designs, architects did not concern themselves with the physical laws of the real world, and most of their early proposals were impossible to be built. Later on, actual buildings came into being from some of these ideas, and the architects had to address the realities of construction and the weight of materials. The resulting buildings were typically disjointed in form, and they dramatically contradicted standard conventions of design and construction.

Architect Frank Gehry has enjoyed the playfulness deconstructivism allows. Gehry’s designs vary from a kind of ascetic modernism in the early 1970s to increasingly asymmetrical compositions in the late 1980s and 1990s, with colliding angular forms and other unusual juxtapositions. As the geometries of his buildings became more intricate and he introduced compound curves, Gehry and his staff depend increasingly on computer-aided design, adapting software developed in France for aircraft design.

The intriguing forms of Gehry’s architecture attracted worldwide attention, and he received a commission for the Vitra International furniture assembly plant and museum (1987-1989) in Weil am Rhine, Germany. The museum portion of the building provides a good example of Gehry’s use of curving and intersecting volumes and spaces. A second facility for Vitra (1988-1894) near Basel, Switzerland, also incorporates curving forms, with portions covered in sheets of zinc metal.

Gehry’s approach transpired in his striking design for a branch of the Guggenheim Museum (1991-1997) in Bilbao, Spain. The computer became an essential part of the design and construction process by simultaneously solving design problems, developing construction details, working out structural technologies, and keeping track of building costs. Rare titanium metal came on the market as the Russian government sold its titanium reserves to raise urgently needed finances. As a result, Gehry could purchase this costly metal and have it fashioned into thin sheets to cover the curving surfaces of the Bilbao Guggenheim. The lightweight and reflective titanium surface accentuate the building’s sculptural masses, which shimmer in sunlight (Encarta, 2007). 7

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Designed by American architect Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opened in 1997 in Bilbao, a city in northern Spain. The building’s curvaceous form is made even more unusual by the rippling reflections on its titanium surface.

Encarta Encyclopedia

Pablo Sanchez/REUTERS

Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opened in the Basque city of Bilbao, Spain, in October 1997. Located on the city’s waterfront, the modern art museum offers a dramatic contrast to Bilbao’s industrial setting.

Erik Samper/Liaison Agency

United Airlines Terminal

Designed by German-American architect Helmut Jahn, the United Airlines Terminal in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport opened in 1987. Flashing lights above and curving colored glass to each side provide a stimulating visual environment for airline passengers as they move between the terminal’s concourses. Jahn’s design transforms the functional elements of steel, glass, and lighting into visually expressive, ornamental forms.

Sony Building, New York

American architect Philip Johnson strongly influenced the rise of the postmodern style of architecture. His design for the AT&T Building (now the Sony Building), constructed in New York City in 1984, had a particularly strong impact. The building’s architectural devices, such as the use of allusion in its Renaissance detail and Chippendale-style pediment, make it a symbol of postmodern architecture.

Guy Gillette/Photo Researchers, Inc.

1. “Milich, Klaus. “Theories of Postmodernism .” Trustees Dartmouth College 2004. Web.

2. “Reed, T. V. “Theory and Method In American Cultural Studies.” 1997. Web.

3. “Hoffman, Louis, Ph.D. “Premodernism, Modernism, & Postmodernism: An Overview.”

4. “Weiss, Shannon et al. “ Postmodernism and Its Critics .” Web.

5. Lobell, John. “Both-And” A New Architectural Concept”. Arts Magazine. 1968.

6. “Pluralism. Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation.”

7. “Roth, Leland M. “American Architecture.” Microsoft® Encarta® 2007 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2006.”

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IvyPanda. (2021, September 8). The Shift From Modernism to Postmodernism.

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  • Art Movements

Postmodernism and Modernism

Updated 21 July 2021

Subject Art Movements

Downloads 36

Category Art

Topic Modernism ,  Postmodernism

Modernism refers to a college of thought that was developed late in the 19th century and prolonged up to the beginning of the 20th century. Postmodernism is a concept that used to be advanced after the Second World War. Many think that postmodernism concepts took over modernism concepts. My argument is that this is now not true. Although the two theories are different, we are always trying to negotiate between their concepts. First, the modernism era used to be characterized by literature, art, music, and the applied arts. The postmodernism generation was marked by technology developments and the use of media. We live in an era where the two ideas work together. Elegance and simplicity are two characteristics that characterized art in the postmodern and modernity era. Creating remarkable art requires the use of one's imagination whether you live in the modern or postmodern period. The field of art has implemented several technological advancements from the postmodernism era. Artists use the available technology today to deliver their music or paintings to us. They blend modernism and postmodernism concepts. A closer analysis at industrialization and the development of intellectual thinking will prove that we are still in a modernism era. Modernism was characterized by industrialization and enlightenment. Postmodernism theories will tell us that we have surpassed the modern era. This is not actually true. The world is yet to fully transform into an industrialized base. There is still a capacity to develop more industries. Industrialization is defined as transforming an agricultural economy to one that relies on manufacturing of goods. Some economies in the world are yet to be fully industrialized. Man’s intellectual ability has no limit for full development. Therefore industrialization and enlightenment are still taking place. According to modernism, there is much we can learn from the past. The present benefits a lot from the past. Postmodernism argues that there is no relationship between the past and the present. These two concepts are what people use in decision making. We are aware of things in the past that have the capacity to influence the present. We also have events in the past that cannot have an influence on the present. Modernists believe that our history is important as there is much we can learn from it. We all saw the devastating effects that the world underwent after World War 1. No one would want the world to have such a war again. Postmodernism argues that the past is not relevant in the present. This is also true as some events that took place in the past cannot influence any activity today. Just because we know of the effects of World War 1 and World War 2, it doesn’t mean that the World is safe from World War 3 taking place. Thus in postmodernism, there is no chance that the present will rely on the past. The two World Wars provide a vital historic lesson. It shows that we are affected by modern and postmodern themes. Modernism used logical and rational methods to gain knowledge. Postmodernism was based on an irrational thought process. Our actions are either based on rational or irrational thinking. This shows that we are always trying to balance modern and postmodern themes. Postmodernism is unscientific as it is based on chance and transience. Modernism bases its arguments on science and reason. For instance, if a flood occurred today, science will show that climatic conditions caused it, in line with modernism themes. Postmodernists are very political and will argue that the floods took place due to poor planning. They might say that a town had not prepared adequately and that the flood could be avoided. We will all end up following the two concepts. We will implement methods that will reduce flooding in a town, but we know that heavy rains cause a flood. This shows that we are constantly balancing between the two theories. Modernism and postmodernism views on various social structures can be seen to crash if closely analyzed. According to postmodern views, family structures are not only weak but have become unimportant. In the modernism era, families were an important pillar of society. The rate of divorce today is higher compared to previous periods. Families have become weak, but they remain a basic unit in society. Thus we blend in a series of postmodern and modern concepts. In the past, it was unusual for people to grow up without getting married and kids but it has become a new trend. Thus the view that this is a postmodern world is a successful one ( This does not result in uncertainty and chaos in social structures as postmodernists would argue. People still get married and get kids, maintaining those modern world concepts are still being upheld. Postmodernism did not take over from modernism. Modernism still exists, and the concepts of the two themes still coexist together as we have seen. We have thoughts that fit into the idea of modernism and those that fit in the concepts of postmodernism. It is, therefore, true that we are always balancing modern and postmodern themes. Work Cited "Assess the View That We Are Now Living in a New Post-modern Era - A-Level Sociology - Marked by" Get Coursework & Essay Homework Help at Marked by, Hoffmann, Gerhard. From Modernism to Postmodernism: Concepts and Strategies of Postmodern American Fiction. Amsterdam [u.a.: Rodopi, 2005. Print.

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essay on modernism and postmodernism

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Modernism and Post-Modernism History

By: Editors

Updated: August 21, 2018 | Original: August 16, 2017

A visitor looks at enigmatic American artist Andy Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans" at the Tate Modern in London 05 February 2002. A major retrospective of the controversial Warhol's work is expected to be a highlight of the English capital's cultural year. AFP PHOTO/Nicolas ASFOURI / AFP / NICOLAS ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

Modernism in the arts refers to the rejection of the Victorian era’s traditions and the exploration of industrial-age, real-life issues, and combines a rejection of the past with experimentation, sometimes for political purposes. Stretching from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, Modernism reached its peak in the 1960s; Post-modernism describes the period that followed during the 1960s and 1970s. Post-modernism is a dismissal of the rigidity of Modernism in favor of an “anything goes” approach to the subject matter, processes and material.


The shift to modernism can be partly credited to new freedoms enjoyed by artists in the late 1800s. Traditionally, a painter was commissioned by a patron to create a specific work. The late 19th century witnessed many artists capable of seizing more time to pursue subjects in their personal interest.

At the same time, the growing field of psychology turned the analysis of human experiences inward and encouraged a more abstract kind of science, which inspired the visual arts to follow.

With shifts in technology creating new materials and techniques in art-making, experimentation became more possible and also gave the resulting work a wider reach. Printing advances in the late 1800s meant posters of artwork widened the public’s awareness of art and design and ferried experimental ideas into popular culture.

Officially debuting in 1874, Impressionism is considered the first Modernist art movement. With leaders like Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir , the Impressionist's use of brief, fierce brush strokes and the altering effect of light separated their work from what came before it. The Impressionists’ focus on modern scenes was a direct rejection of classical subject matter.

Subsequent movements such as Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, and De Stijl were just a sampling of those following the experimental path started by Impressionism.

essay on modernism and postmodernism

The Dada movement took experimentation further by rejecting traditional skills and launching an all-out art rebellion that embraced nonsense and absurdity. Dadaist ideas first appeared in 1915, and the movement was made official in 1918 with its Berlin Manifesto.

French artist Marcel Duchamp exemplified the haughty playfulness of the Dadaists. His 1917 piece Fountain , a signed porcelain urinal, and his 1919 L.H.O.O.Q. , a print of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa with a mustache penciled over it, both turn their back on the very idea of creating art. In doing so, Duchamp predicted Post-Modernism.

Abstract Expressionism

essay on modernism and postmodernism

Modernism reached its peak with Abstract Expressionism, which began in the late 1940s in the United States. Moving away from commonplace subjects and techniques, Abstract Expressionism was known for oversized canvasses and paint splashes that could seem chaotic and arbitrary.

Each Abstract Expressionist work functioned as both a document of the artist’s subconscious and a map of the physical movements required to create the art. Painter Jackson Pollack became famous for his method of dripping paint onto canvas from above.


essay on modernism and postmodernism

The transition period between Modernism and Post-Modernism happened throughout the 1960s. Pop Art served as a bridge between them. Pop Art was obsessed with the fruits of capitalism and popular culture, like pulp fiction, celebrities and consumer goods.

Begun in England in the late 1950s but popularized in America, the movement was informed by former Abstract Expressionists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg , who had metamorphosed into the Neo-Dada movement of the late 1950s.

Rauschenberg’s 1960 sculpture of Ballantine Ale cans pre-dated Pop artist Andy Warhol ’s famous Campbell’s Soup cans. Warhol gained further fame from his haunting silkscreen portraits, most famously of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe , while Pop Art compatriot Roy Lichtenstein plundered comic book panels for his paintings.


Post-modernism, as it appeared in the 1970s, is often linked with the philosophical movement Poststructuralism, in which philosophers such as Jacques Derrida proposed that structures within a culture were artificial and could be deconstructed in order to be analyzed.

As a result, there was little to unite Post-Modern art other than the idea that “anything goes” and the preponderance of unusual materials and mechanical processes for expression that feel impersonal, though often employing humor.

At the heart of Post-Modernism was conceptual art, which proposed that the meaning or purpose behind the making of the art was more important than the art itself. There was also the belief that anything could be used to make art, that art could take any form, and that there should be no differentiation between high art and low art, or fine art and commercial art.

essay on modernism and postmodernism

Post-modern work in the 1970s was sometimes derided as “art for art’s sake,” but it gave rise to the acceptance of a host of new approaches. Among these new forms were Earth art, which creates work on natural landscapes; Performance art; Installation art, which considers an entire space rather than just one piece; Process art, which stressed the making of the work as more important than the outcome; and Video art, as well as movements based around feminist and minority art.

The 1980s saw the rise of appropriation as a much-used practice. Painters like Jean-Michael Basquiat and Keith Haring directly mimicked graffiti styles, while artists like Sherrie Levine lifted the actual work of other artists to use in their creations. In 1981, Levine photographed a Walker Evans photo and represented it as a new work questioning the very idea of an original photo.

Post-modern art has since become less defined by the form the art takes and more determined by the artist creating the work. American artist Jenny Holzer, who came to prominence in the 1970s with her conceptual art made from language, embodies this model.

Holzer’s “Truisms” are deceptively simple sentences that communicate complicated, often contradictory, ideas, such as “Protect me from what I want.” She has also produced a body of work on the American government’s use of torture during the Iraq War. Holzer’s curation of text, rather than any visual motif, is the consistent aspect uniting her work.

Some art historians believe the Post-Modern era ended at the beginning of the 21st Century and refer to the following period as Post Post-Modern.

History of Modern Art. H.H. Arnason and Marla F. Prather . Modern Art: Impressionism To Post-Modernism. Edited by David Britt. Art of the Western World. Michael Wood. What Is Modern Art? Metropolitan Museum of Art . Modernism. Tate .

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essay on modernism and postmodernism

Postmodernity mainly focuses on the tensions of distinction and similarity erupting from processes of globalization: the accelerating circulation of people, the increasingly dense and frequent cross-cultural interactions, and the unavoidable intersections of local and global knowledge.

2178 In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were two major movements in the visual fine arts, which are Modernism and Postmodernism. Some people believe that postmodernism was a response to modernism and therefore consider them as two aspects of the same movement.

743 Words3 Pages Modernism and postmodernism are two types of evolution that manifest certain divergence between them and they are based on the shift in cultural and social behavior around the world. Both modernism and postmodernism took place in late 19th and 20th centuries.

Updated 21 July 2021 Subject Art Movements Downloads 36 Category Art Topic Modernism , Postmodernism This sample was provided by a student, not a professional writer. Anyone has access to our essays, so likely it was already used by other students. Do not take a risk and order a custom paper from an expert.

Essays and criticism on Postmodernism - Postmodernism. Select an area of the website to search ... Essays in Modern German Literature and Thought (New York: Meridian Books, 1959), 172.

Stretching from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, Modernism reached its peak in the 1960s; Post-modernism describes the period that followed during the 1960s and 1970s. Post ...

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    Cheerleading requires much physical demand from the body just as any other sport would. Cheerleading, in general, is a team effort. There are many sides to cheerleading, which make it a versatile sport. When it comes to cheerleading there's more to it than what meets the eye. 917 Words.

  13. Stand Cheer Reflection

    Cheerleading gets argued about being a sport every day, and if you think standing on the sidelines of a real sports team game, yelling you`re very wrong. The whole stadium is yelling and cheering, a bunch of girl voices don 't make that much of a difference. Cheerleading is very much not a sport, especially high school cheerleading.

  14. Cheerleading Observation Report

    Reflective Essay About Cheerleading 1009 Words | 5 Pages. At the end of the routine, we all cheered with joy at our unexpected accomplishment. I was so proud of how far we had come in only a week. I was overjoyed to have shared that moment of excitement with all of my cheer sisters. No one recognizes cheerleading as a sport, but we work just as ...

  15. Cheerleading Essay Examples

    Browse essays about Cheerleading and find inspiration. Learn by example and become a better writer with Kibin's suite of essay help services.

  16. Reflective Essay: The Loss Of The Cheerleading Team

    Reflective Essay: The Loss Of The Cheerleading Team. 588 Words3 Pages. Throughout my high school years, I have been involved in countless organizations and clubs; from student government, to sign language club, to peer helping, there has always been a meeting or task to occupy my time. I had never experienced being turned down by a group that I ...

  17. cheerleading reflection paper

    Reflection Paper On Cheerleading. Decent Essays. 987 Words; 4 Pages. Open Document. Over the summer the 2017-2018 cheerleading team went to the UCA cheer... for cheerleaders are seen as a reflection of the school. ... Exemplification Essay: How Cheerleading Is A Sport.... My strengths in this paper would have to be my ability to relate to the ...

  18. Reflection

    reflection - Free download as Word Doc (.doc / .docx), PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. reflection ... My Assignment two paper was a difficult one to write. ... Being a member of cheer nation really gave me some background information so my examples that I give are relatable to the subject and first hand experiences ...

  19. Reflection Paper On Cheerleading

    1.Reflection Paper On Cheerleading In the competitive and cutthroat world of sports, being crowned the ultimate champion in your particular division is what athletes desire most. Whenever I reflect upon my previous cheer teams, I can only ever remember trying to outscore the other competitors, or trying to win a championship title.

  20. Moscow Metro: Atlantic photo essay

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  22. Elektrostal

    History. It was known as Zatishye (Зати́шье) until 1928. [citation needed] In 1938, it was granted town status.[citation needed]Administrative and municipal status. Within the framework of administrative divisions, it is incorporated as Elektrostal City Under Oblast Jurisdiction—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts.

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