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.

Kathryn Cassidy

This chapter explores representations of cross-border mobilities in the Ukrainian-Romanian borderlands. In 2007-2009, cross-border trading and shopping had established themselves as an important part of the local economy and integral to daily life in local communities. Nestled within the thousands of border crossings that were made every day were feelings of shame on the part of those living on the Ukrainian side of the border. This shame was relational across two levels: firstly, as a personal shame in the practices involved in cross-border small trading – the payments of bribes, the flirtation with Romanian customs officials and interactions with money-changers; secondly, a more general, collective sense of shame that such practices should be taking place across a border, which had previously sheltered Soviet citizens from the humiliations of living under late socialism in Ceausescu’s Romania. The chapter elucidates how for the villagers involved the intersection of these levels of shame emerged in dominant narratives of the trade, which not only challenged elite level nation-building in Ukraine, but also made use of existing narrative forms, primarily anecdotes and jokes. What emerges is a much more complex theoretical understanding of the trans-temporality of shame at the border.

in Migrating borders and moving times
Open Access (free)
Yulia Karpova

Epilogue A considerable amount of the work on this manuscript was undertaken in Denmark, where I stayed as a postdoctoral fellow at Aarhus University in 2016–18. As one of the leaders of European product design and a country with a profound national design mythology, Denmark is a magnet for a design historian. Exploring the European context for the comradely objects of late socialism, I frequently visited the library of Designmuseum Danmark Copenhagen. One afternoon in the autumn of 2016, during a lunch break in the museum café, the librarian Anja Lollesgaard

in Comradely objects
Catherine Baker

, silent, White Western outcast masculinity’ became ‘a fantasy echo of escape from one's own cultural and societal confinement’, rejecting rather than reiterating hegemonic ideology. This fantasy about escaping the cultural stagnation of late socialism might become, in the 1990s, a fantasy of escaping the violent imposition of ethnicised borders in which listening to a pre-war band singing about the dream of identification with Shane would not have been an identification with masculinist militarised nationalism but an escape from it (Jelača 2014 : 254). Even within the

in Race and the Yugoslav region
Yulia Karpova

thingness [natural’naia veshchnost’] with illusory space’.61 Apparently speaking of this new synthesis, Voronov referred to the material environment of late socialism beyond the factory floor, shop windows and prefabricated flats. The impulse for ‘synthetic’ and non-utilitarian ceramics came, unsurprisingly, from the Baltic region, which since the 1950s had set the tone for Soviet decorative art. In 1971 Vilnius was the first Soviet city to host the All-Union Symposium of Ceramic Artists (the first such conventions of KARPOVA 9781526139870 PRINT.indd 179 20/01/2020 11

in Comradely objects
Open Access (free)
Soviet things that talk
Yulia Karpova

/design collectives based in the two cities that concentrated a lot of creative forces – Moscow and Leningrad. Alternative geographies of Soviet design and material culture that would dispute this book’s theses will be extremely valuable for studies of late socialism as well as for the general discussion of the global vs. the local in the history of design. Chapter outlines The chapters proceed in a non-linear chronology. They trace the entangled development of the two professional spheres concerned with objects: industrial design and decorative art. Chapter 1 expands on the

in Comradely objects
Yulia Karpova

sense of the multiplicity of Soviet objects and of creating hierarchies of things and uses – ‘objectively defining the necessary and sufficient minimum of items, capable of providing a contemporary level of comfort’.93 It was, therefore, an expressive element of what Serguei Oushakine calls ‘Soviet productivism’ – a cultural practice of late socialism that echoed the ideas of the 1920s theorists and focused on rationalising the relations between sensuous characteristics, forms and the social functions of things.94 Conclusion By the mid-1950s the rapid changes in

in Comradely objects
Yulia Karpova

of vibrant things in the Soviet Union signalled the growing self-reflexivity of applied artists and anticipated the extensive debates about design criteria that would unfold throughout the following decades in late socialism. Up-to-date materialities As studies of socialist material culture clearly demonstrate, design in socialist countries was an integral element of socialist modernity. Notably, the landmark exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum that manifested the growing interest in socialist design was entitled (quite provocatively) KARPOVA

in Comradely objects