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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)
Janet Wolff

photograph from 1953. Postscript [ 239 ] As he and the presenter meet and go to eat together at a restaurant, his story is told in voiceover, both by Otmar Weber and by Claude himself. [ 240 ] In 1939 he was sent to Wissembourg in France, to stay with his (and my) great-uncle Julius. Originally called Kurt Levy, he was renamed Claude by a cousin. He survived the war and the occupation, sometimes in hiding. He has spent the rest of his life in Alsace. Widowed in 1994, he seems to be very close to his daughter and his granddaughter. In 1957 he met his sister Hannah in

in Austerity baby
Open Access (free)
Janet Wolff

Constable sketch. But it is, of course, people who create a neighbourhood, and during the sixty years I have known Didsbury it has always been blessed with a great variety of people of all income levels and occupations ... It has had a sizeable Jewish community since the last century due to Sephardic settlement when the city was cotton king of the world. It has also always attracted teachers, journalists, writers, musicians and others in the entertainment world, including the BBC ... If you believe in the ‘genius loci’, the spirit of a place, then the Didsburys of this

in Austerity baby
Yulia Karpova

various consumer groups. Each group was defined by the following characteristics: living conditions, income, family size, type of settlement, occupation, ‘cultural level’ (education and aesthetic sensitivity), age and national traditions (gender was conspicuously absent from their study).62 The results of the questionnaire revealed significant dissatisfaction with currently available goods in terms of appearance, performance, size and ease of use. According to a senior VNIITE researcher, these findings would help designers improve the typology of radio devices and

in Comradely objects
Open Access (free)
Janet Wolff

what she refers to as ‘the spinster code’ up to the 1930s, a period in which, as we have seen, opinion Austerity baby turned away from single women, a real contrast with the situation a few decades earlier: With the pioneering example of Florence Nightingale behind them, unmarried women were by the 1880s actively defining a positive image of themselves in occupations outside the family and outside the traditional work of governess and companion. These spinsters did not perceive themselves as burdens on family or society; they saw their new roles as nurses

in Austerity baby
Open Access (free)
Janet Wolff

Williams, historian of Manchester Jewry, records, this included Dutch and German Jewish merchants, who had come to England in connection with the textile industry. ‘By the Census of 1841, at least seventy-six Jewish persons were engaged in the Manchester cotton trade – forty-six as merchants, or perhaps commission agents, and twenty as commercial clerks.’ The area in those years, according to one source, was ‘a pleasant and genteel place in which to live’. It had been largely rural, local occupations being primarily smallholdings and cottage industries associated with

in Austerity baby
Open Access (free)
Janet Wolff

. These, I think, are the most interesting kinds of memoirs. Still, each writer must confront the question of how to deal with the personal – how much to tell, how intimate the detail, how to judge the style of writing. The life as linear, chronological narrative is by now exposed as entirely artificial. Traditional memoirs still take that form, based on the belief that this is how to tell the story of a life – birth, family members, education, adolescence, occupation and so on. It isn’t the timeline that’s a problem here but the fact, so obvious now, that the choice of

in Austerity baby
Open Access (free)
Tania Anne Woloshyn

.10  Advertisement for the ‘Vi-tan’ mercury vapour lamp. In Sun Bathing Review , 4:17 (1937), 180. Hawk Editorial, publisher of H&E Naturist magazine, www.henaturist.net . The foldable, illustrated colour pamphlet of c . 1936 promoted the ‘Vi-tan’ as an essential device of preventive medicine for all workers in industrial areas and those in indoor, sedentary occupations

in Soaking up the rays
Open Access (free)
Tania Anne Woloshyn

climatic conditions. Hardening the body ensured increased virility for the truly fit man. Those who worked sedentary occupations and stayed chiefly indoors were, according to Hill, doomed to a ‘loss of breeding power’. 151 The statement is not surprising. As we have seen already, one of Hill’s major arguments for regular exposures to ultraviolet radiation was that it increased the sexual power of citizens (see epigraph). This

in Soaking up the rays