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.
socialist object was to become ‘an instrument and a co-worker’.17 Christina Kiaer’s impressive study of the objects of Russian Constructivism (an avant-garde stream that included productivism) indicates that the idea of the ‘comradely object’ not only opposed the commodity culture of capitalist countries, but also responded to the partial revival of market mechanisms under the New Economic Policy (NEP), introduced by Lenin in 1921 as a temporary measure to develop the economic basis for a Soviet industry ravaged by the Civil War. As Kiaer suggests, NEP policies such as
those who tried to turn an easel painting into a construction and poetry into the ‘literature of facts’ […] Neglecting the specificity of the artistic production of useful objects can not only lead to aesthetic nonsense and tastelessness, but also causes everyday troubles, physical discomfort and the waste of valuable materials.22 With the implicit reference to the ideas of Constructivism and the LEF group (particularly the 1925 volume Literature of Facts that included Sergei Tretiakov’s article ‘Biography of an Object’),23 this passage signals not only Matsa
recently prevailed in our architecture and applied art, and, on the other hand, to the asceticism of Constructivism that absolutely rejected any use of decorative means.17 Here, Kagan skilfully used forms of authoritative discourse to update the notion of socialist realism – mutatis mutandis, which could be applied to state socialism, in the spirit of de-Stalinisation. His goal was to correct the misdeeds of the recent past, arguing against corrupt Byzantine grandeur and advocating for a return to the original Bolshevik ethos, but avoiding what he perceived as the avant
of the Optical Planetarium and a Brief Guide to the Museum . Chicago : The Lakeside Press, R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co . Golinski , J. (  2005 ). Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science . Chicago, London : The University of Chicago Press . Gunther , R. T. ( 1932 ). The Astrolabes of the World, based upon the series of instruments in the Lewis
emphasised through a schematic outline of a deer. The body of porcelain depicts the animal body; thus, the ‘honesty’ of the material is embodied in the decoration’s subject. The objects produced in the early 1960s at the Leningrad Factory of Artistic Glass similarly demonstrate variations of contrast. Artistic glass of the Khrushchev era is often associated with simple transparent vessels, unornamented or with minimal geometric ornament. Boris Smirnov, a versatile artist and designer with experience of 1920s Constructivism, who joined the Leningrad Factory of Artistic
Contemporary Art, 1992), pp. 6–18, at p. 8. See also Victor Margolin, The Struggle for Utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, 1917–1946 ( Chicago, Ill. : University of Chicago Press, 1997); Christina Kiaer, Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism ( Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 2005); Sally Stein, ‘ The Composite Photographic Image and the Composition of
this function. Impeccable in theory, in practice this path was often prohibitively simplified: function was understood in a crudely utilitarian sense, while form was seen in a mechanical-constructivist sense: a chair is a prop for sitting, a suit is a cover for thermal defence of the body, and a tea service is a system of reservoirs for storing and moving liquids. A house is a machine for living.84 If in the time of the aesthetic turn such sneering allusions to Russian Constructivism and Le Corbusier’s functionalism would have placed Pereverzev in the camp of the