The Daily Heller: Russian Mag Culture During Stalin, Before Putin

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There are many who misguidedly idolize the past and present Soviet Union, and did so even under Joe Stalin before he launched his reign of terror. Some optimists were betrayed that a revolution founded on a modicum of workers paradise idealism turned into such a bloody disaster and an enslaving world power. Some people hold onto the ideal. Others hold onto the ghost of what might have been. Vlad Putin desperately holds onto an imperial birthright mythology.

Howard Garfinkel and Larry Zeman, the gents who run my favorite antiquarian wellspring of Soviet documents, Productive Arts, have done a remarkable job of salvaging the artifacts of the mythic or golden years of USSR propaganda, when artists retained a thread of individual dignity. Replacing the current with the past is not the intention of their archival pursuits, but preserving history is. Despite the unleashing of Stalin’s terror-state, Soviet graphic design at best expressed hope for an international promise and a wishful positivism of the revolution that failed to materialize except through some of the artifacts left behind.

The magazines and newspapers in Productive Arts’ current catalog are aimed at institutional and individual collectors who are putting the pieces of 20th-century Russia together. Here are some recent offerings. A taste, not a meal, but satisfying to be sure.

Russie d’Aujourd’hui. (Russia Today.) This was Organ of the Association of Friends of the Soviet Union. 63 issues from 1933 (including first issue) through 1939. Journal of French origin in the French language. Large format (14 x 10 1/2″), and the most lavish of the domestically published Soviet journals. Articles covering all the contemporary events, issues and personalities from the Soviet Union, replete with photo illustrations throughout.

Posted inHistory The Daily Heller