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Open Access (free)
Design and material culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s–80s
Author: Yulia Karpova

The major part of this book project was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 700913.

This book is about two distinct but related professional cultures in late Soviet Russia that were concerned with material objects: industrial design and decorative art. The Russian avant-garde of the 1920s is broadly recognised to have been Russia’s first truly original contribution to world culture. In contrast, Soviet design of the post-war period is often dismissed as hackwork and plagiarism that resulted in a shabby world of commodities. This book identifies the second historical attempt at creating a powerful alternative to capitalist commodities in the Cold War era. It offers a new perspective on the history of Soviet material culture by focusing on the notion of the ‘comradely object’ as an agent of progressive social relations that state-sponsored Soviet design inherited from the avant-garde. It introduces a shared history of domestic objects, handmade as well as machine-made, mass-produced as well as unique, utilitarian as well as challenging the conventional notion of utility. Situated at the intersection of intellectual history, social history and material culture studies, this book elucidates the complexities and contradictions of Soviet design that echoed international tendencies of the late twentieth century. The book is addressed to design historians, art historians, scholars of material culture, historians of Russia and the USSR, as well as museum and gallery curators, artists and designers, and the broader public interested in modern aesthetics, art and design, and/or the legacy of socialist regimes.

Open Access (free)
Soviet things that talk
Yulia Karpova

.53 The Bureau was responsible for designing public transport including river boats, railway carriages, Moscow trolley buses and, most prominently, the atomic-powered icebreaker ship Lenin (designed in 1953–55).54 Meanwhile, some restructuring occurred within the Moscow and Leningrad Unions of Soviet Artists (MOSKh and LSSKh). The sector of decorative-ornamental art in MOSKh was renamed the ‘section of ­decorative-applied art’ and divided into three sub-sections: decorative-­ ornamental works, textiles and applied art.55 This section, like its counterpart in Leningrad

in Comradely objects
Yulia Karpova

industrial enterprises for one year. The topics for graduation projects for the academic year 1959–60, given out by MVKhPU in September right after the issuing of the resolution, were all related to practical subjects – mass housing, public buildings, public transport and factory equipment. The projects for the palace’s interior perfectly suited the Party-led campaign to update the architectural, social and cultural landscape of the Soviet capital city. During the academic year, over thirty-three students were expected to design furniture, lamps, lattice screens, fountains

in Comradely objects