Prokofiev was the composer of numerous popular works. Among his best known works are the children's tale, "Peter and the Wolf," his film scores for two of the films of Sergei Eisenstein, Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible, and his ballet, "Romeo and Juliet," which contains some of the most inspired and poignant passages in his whole output. However, there were numerous political and choreographic problems, and the premiere was postponed for several years.
The ballet was thought to have been composed around 1935 or 1936, on commission by the Kirov Ballet. The original version had a "happy" ending, but was never publicly mounted, partly due to increased fear and caution in the musical and theatrical community in the aftermath of the two notorious Pravda editorials criticizing Shostakovich and other "degenerate modernists." Suites of the ballet music were heard in Moscow and the United States, but the full ballet premiered in Brno, Czechoslovakia, on 30 December 1938. It is better known today from the significantly revised version that was first presented at the Kirov in Leningrad on 11 January 1940, with choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky. Prokofiev objected to this version.
Like many Soviet artists, Prokofiev had troubles with the authorities over his style of music. He was one of the targets of the Zhdanov Doctrine (also called zhdanovism or zhdanovschina, Russian: доктрина Жданова, ждановизм, ждановщина)–a Soviet cultural doctrine developed by the Central Committee secretary Andrei Zhdanov in 1946. It proposed that the world was divided into two camps: the imperialistic, headed by the United States; and democratic, headed by the Soviet Union. Zhdanovism soon became a Soviet cultural policy, requiring that Soviet artists, writers and intelligentsia in general had to conform to the party line in their creative works. Under this policy, artists who failed to comply with the government's wishes risked persecution. The policy remained in effect until 1952, when it was declared that it had a negative effect on Soviet culture.
The first decree was largely aimed at writers. A further decree was issued on 10 February 1948. Although formally aimed at Vano Muradeli's opera The Great Friendship
, it signaled a sustained campaign of criticism and persecution against many of the Soviet Union
's foremost composers, notably Dmitri Shostakovich
, Prokofiev and Aram Khachaturian
. They were accused of formalism
and being "anti-popular."