Two of the most striking manifestations of the Soviet culture of image were the children’s book and the poster. Both managed to blur the boundaries between propaganda and art in a captivating way, through the alliance between experimental aesthetics and the radical socialist ideology that extended from the Revolution of 1917 to the early 1950s.
Shaping this way, a distinctly Soviet civilization where the appearance of a new type of graphic art takes center stage to educate in favor of a collective future. It was so, that the first attempts to put Russian children’s literature at the service of communist ideology were made just a few months after the October Revolution.
The 1930´s were characterized by an ideological offensive not only within politics and economics, but also within the new children’s literature that by this time began to flourish. The distance taken from children’s books with fairy tales was not an accident. This call to revolutionize children’s illustration played a central role in political struggle of socialism. Instead of fairies and anthropomorphic crocodiles, children’s literature focused on practical concerns like farming, industry, solidarity and the construction of a great Soviet Union around the world.
In How Senka Ezhik made a knife(1928) we are shown the industrialization of Soviet societies. The story, written in verse, begins with the description of an industrial town and how its people awaken early in the morning and happily, at the sound of the whistle, go to work in the factories.
смех и песни у ворот.
Вот ребята –
через поле,через сад
идут в ногу всю дорогу,
словно в праздник
On the whistle
the people goes,
laughter and songs at the gate.
Here are the guys –
through the field, through the garden
keep the pace all the way,
like a holiday
on the parade.
The story continues telling us about Senka Ezhik. Senka is a boy that after breaking the last knife that his family has at home, decides to go to the factory to correct the damage caused by making a new one. Teaching this way not only responsibility as a necessary value but also, the work ethic in an emerging society, allowing children to immerse themselves in the industrial world of their future.
– Вот так штука!
Зх, тьі, Ежик,
поломал последний ножик.
Если б бьіл отец твой жив,
у нас бьіли бьі ножи.
А с тебя вот, что возьмешь?
Зх, тьі, горе!
Зх, Тьі, Еж!
Here’s the thing!
broke the last knife.
If your father was alive, we will have more knives.
And from here, what will you do?
The call to Literary Realism, which praises men and women and their ability to create a new world with the help of reason, was the starting point in the creation of the Communist Party’s literary agenda, where the idea that Soviet ideologies were faster to learn through the “language of images.”
*images from Cotsen Collection at Princeton´s Firestone Library