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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.

Yulia Karpova

Soviet industrial projects were hazardous for the environment, one should be cautious about presuming KARPOVA 9781526139870 PRINT.indd 143 20/01/2020 11:10 144 Comradely objects that all social practices under state socialism were outright unsustainable. The image of state socialism as wasteful – not only literally but also ­symbolically – owes a lot to the Western narrative that emerged soon after the formation of the Soviet bloc and that matured around the time of its collapse. After her emigration from Hungary to the US, sociologist Zsuzsa Gille noticed the

in Comradely objects
Open Access (free)
Tania Anne Woloshyn

, the material remnants of everyday life … do not have a stable meaning, decreed by their makers and frozen in their formal structure (materials, style, technique). Instead, meaning emerges through social practices, including an object’s representation in various media, its connection to shared customs, and its significance to the people who own or operate it. 64

in Soaking up the rays
Yulia Karpova

only a matter of aesthetics but also a powerful marker of social stratification and a tool for building symbolic hierarchies.97 In his celebrated book, Pierre Bourdieu presented taste as a key component of habitus – the generative principle for social practices and simultaneously the system of their classification. He argued: Taste, the propensity and capacity to appropriate (materially or symbolically) a given class of classified, classifying objects or practices, is the generative formula of life-style, a unitary set of distinctive preferences which express the

in Comradely objects