Alexandr Pushkin: Father of Modern Russian Literature
December 1, 2012 — 13:06

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A C Pushkin

Commemorating 100 years from the 1837 death of A C Pushkin



Scenes from the Tales of A C Pushkin

This commemorative poster honoring Alexandr Pushkin shows scenes from some of the  tales he told. Even though he lived nearly 200 years ago, his tales are still among the most loved of all Russian stories. Translated videos of many of his works are posted,   and even today, new translations are being released; translators still vying to produce the finest Pushkin translations. Even 1950’s adaptations of Pushkin’s stories for Soviet television hold viewers in rapt attention.


A 1950s production of Pushkin’s The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish


According to Wikipedia writers:

Alexander Pushkin is seen as having originated the highly nuanced level of language which characterizes Russian literature after him, but he is also credited with substantially augmenting the Russian lexicon. Where he found gaps in the Russian vocabulary, he devised calques. His rich vocabulary and highly sensitive style are the foundation for modern Russian literature. His talent set up new records for development of the Russian language and culture.

He became the father of Russian literature in 19th century, marking the highest achievements of 18th century and the beginning of literary process of 19th century. Alexander Pushkin introduced Russia to all the European literary genres as well as a great number of West European writers. He brought natural speech and foreign influences to create modern poetic Russian. Though his life was brief, he left examples of nearly every literary genre of his day: lyric poetry, narrative poetry, the novel, the short story, the drama, the critical essay, and even the personal letter.

From him derive the folk tales and genre pieces of other authors: Esenin, Leskov and Gorky. His use of Russian language formed the basis of the style of novelists Ivan Turgenev, Ivan Goncharov, and Leo Tolstoy.

Alexander Pushkin became an inseparable part of the literary world of the Russian people. Translated into all the major languages, his works are regarded both as expressing most completely Russian national consciousness and as transcending national barriers. Pushkin’s intelligence, sharpness of his opinion, his devotion to poetry, realistic thinking and incredible historical and political intuition make him one of the greatest Russian national genii.

Tsar Dadon meets Shemakha

Tsar Dadon meets Shemakha. This is an illustration from “Tale of the Golden Cockerel”

Tsar Dadon meets the Shemakhan queen (illustration to The Tale of the Golden Cockerel, 1906) Artist: Ivan Bilibin The soldiers in Bilibin’s painting are like those pictured on the commemorative poster. The other drawings on the poster depict scenes from some of Pushkin’s  other tales.

Fairy tales, however, were only part of  Pushkin’s contribution.  It is said that Pushkin created the language of modern Russian poetry. His personal life was became difficult because he had numerous conflicts with authorities who disapproved of his liberal views. He, like Lermontov,  was killed in a duel.

Translated sample of Pushkin’s poetry, written in 1829:

To the Bust of the Conqueror

In vain, you’re seeking errors here:
The hand of art has camouflaged
The marble of lips with a smile, smeared,
Ice of a brow – with a rage…
In fact, this image is two-faced.
The same was and that mighty king:
Used to his soul’s controversies,
A face and life – of Harlequin.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, July 10, 2004

A Pushkin residence

Pushkin’s short time home on the Arbat, today it is a Pushkin museum

The blue Empire-style house on the Arbat was home to Pushkin for a short time in the spring of 1831. Ulitsa Arbat is a walking street favored by Russians and tourists alike.

The museum houses various pieces of original furniture from the Pushkins’ apartment and exhibits an array of original manuscripts and first editions of the writer’s works.

Suggested retail price: $1000USD

Address: Ulitsa Arbat 53, Moscow
Tel: (095) 241-9295
(095) 241-4212
Metro: Smolenskaya
“Moscow, Moscow,” Lermontov wrote, “I love you like a son.”
December 1, 2012 — 10:13

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Mikhail  Yurevich Lermontov

Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov commemorated in this 1941 lithograph


Mikhail Lermontov, Poet, Writer, Artist, Military Officer and Hero

1941 marked the centennial of the death of Mikhail  Yurevich Lermontov. He was an officer and military hero, but Lermontov’s  greatest contributions to the history of Russia were his poetry and paintings.  The writer’s house-museum (see the bottom of this post) was home to the young poet during his years as a student at Moscow University, when he became so absorbed with his writing that he failed to sit his exams. The house contains much of the original furniture, many sketches and watercolors by Lermontov himself, and an extensive library full of works by his favorite authors; from Lomonosov, Krillov and Pushkin to Rousseau, Goethe, Shakespeare and the English Romantic poet Lord Byron.

The Lermontov commemorative poster depicts scenes from the poet’s stories and his life.  An example of his poetry is included below.


An angel was crossing the pale vault of night,

and his song was as soft as his flight,

and the moon and the stars and the clouds in a throng

stood enthralled by this holy song.

He sang of the bliss of the innocent shades

in the depths of celestial glades;

he sang of the Sovereign Being, and free

of guile was his eulogy.

He carried a soul in his arms,

a young life to the world of sorrow and strife,

and the young soul retained the throb of that song

-without words, but vivid and strong.

And tied to this planet long did it pine

full of yearnings dimly divine,

and our dull little ditties could never replace

songs belonging to infinite space.

-Translated from the Russian by VLADIMIR NABOKOV

Title:  Four Poems by Lermontov
Author(s):  Lermontov; Vladimir Nabokov
Source:  Russian Review, Vol. 5, No. 2  (Spring, 1946), pp. 50-51
Publisher(s): Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Editors and Board of Trustees of the Russian Review

A 1941 article, also by Vladamir Nabakov, printed in  Russian Review outlines many details of Lermontov’s short life. Please also visit the links on my List of Relevant Sites and learn more about Mikhail Lermontov.

Lermontov’s “The Angel” put to music by Oleg Pogudin


Tiflis is one of Lermontov’s paintings of much-loved Russian landscapes



Dagestan is one of Lermontov’s paintings of much-loved Russian landscapes












Examples of Lemontov’s paintings. The two scenes pictured are among those depicted in the poster.





Lermontov museum

Lermontov’s home near the Arbat during his University years

Address: Ulitsa Malaya Molchanovka 2, Moscow 121069
Tel: (095) 291-5298
(095) 291-5996
Metro stop: Arbatskaya
Women’s Rights in the 1936 USSR
December 1, 2012 — 7:27

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Women's Right to Work

International Communist Women’s Day commemorates women’s right and duty to work on March 8 of every year

“Working women of all countries, get into the front lines with the fighters against fascism and capitalist exploitation!”

So says the woman in this poster. Women in the workplace was so important to the Soviets that this poster was reprinted as late as 1950. It commemorates International Communist Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8 of every year.

Woman factory worker. From "Stalinism as a Way of Life" yale/edu

Factory worker collection from 1939 World’s Fair “Stalinism as a Way of Life”

Women ‘s right and duty  to work was established by the rules of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917. Then, when war developed with Germany, the USSR needed workers to replace the men gone off to war. Women were needed in the work force in many countries during the war years, but in the newly formed USSR so many men had been arrested or starved during the previous decade,  that the USSR was in even greater need of workers  than most other countries during the 1930s.  Women were called, in posters like this one, to fill many of the jobs that had formerly been given exclusively to men.

According to M Pichugina, In the 1936 book, Women in the USSR:

Women are accorded public honor for good work or the attainment of greater proficiency or skill.

A number of professions which were regarded for centuries as being strictly “mens'” jobs” are now being “captured” by women. Before the Revolution, women were forbidden to hold positions of any importance on the railroads. Now there are over half a million women working on the railroads in the U.S.S.R., many of them occupying key positions. Among these women railroad workers there are 400 station masters, 1,400 assistant station masters, and about 10,000 railroad engineers and technicists.

Any Soviet working woman or collective farmer who has the desire and who shows the necessary organizational abilities has the opportunity of becoming the manager of any Soviet enterprise.

The U.S.S.R. has its women engineers, physicians, fliers, scientists and executives. There is no branch of industry, agriculture, science or art, and no phase of executive or government work in which women are not employed. There are more than 100,000 women engineers and technicists employed in large-scale industry or in the building trades in the Soviet Union, whereas in all the other countries of the world combined there are less than 10,000 women engineers.



 woman driving tractor. From "Women in the USSR" 1936 by M. Pichugina.

Woman driving tractor. From “Women in the USSR” 1936 by M. Pichugina

The employment of women had much to do with the establishment of “Kindergartens”. Women were given a two month leave for child-bearing, after which time, childcare was provided by the Kindergarten.

Do Not Ever  be Late for Work

The catch was, showing up for work late more than three time, absenteeism, or a refusal to work, resulted in imprisonment. Any babies born in the women’s prison were permanently removed to “Kindergartens.”  Most of the women were never reunited with their children or other loved ones.


gulag  women living in  barracks

Gulag women living in overcrowded, poorly heated barracks.Courtesy of the International Memorial Society.


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Countries and Peoples Absorbed by Lenin’s Dreams and Stalin’s Ambitions
November 24, 2012 — 16:39

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the great Stalin

Stalin celebrates his united republics

Stalin overshadows Lenin in this poster, and exhorts the nations of the Soviet Union to be thankful.


According to historians, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was the world’s largest and longest-lived socialist state to date. From 1922 to 1991, the Soviet Union went through many changes, which included variations in border limits, territorial annexations, and political control. At the time of its creation in 1922, the Soviet Union was a single unit that included Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, along with the Transcaucasia Republics, which included Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.  The peoples in this poster represent those incorporated republics.


Additional changes were made to the Soviet Union group throughout the years, until the final group was announced in 1956(see map below). By then, 15 countries had become part of the Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. The nation of Russia itself was the most powerful of all the republics, and the one maintaining control over the territory and the main political decisions.

See the documentary, Stalin Declassified


In this poster, the people appear to be very happy with their place in the USSR, and historians agree that there was a certain euphoria to the great socialist undertaking, but it is also known that during the establishment of Collectivism in Ukraine and other republics taken over by Stalin, it is estimated that somewhere between 2 and 10 million people died of starvation, and  an additional  estimated 700,000 people during the years from 1932—1940 were shot. According to Wikipedia’s account of Stalinism:

“There were show trials in every republic of the USSR. State prime ministers, Party secretaries, officials academics, lawyers were all purged. Exiles from Poland, Germany and elsewhere were imprisoned or shot, including Bela Kun, the leader of the Hungarian revolution in 1919, who was shot in 1936. During this period 1 in 18 of the population were arrested.

The terror extended to every aspect of society. It was coupled to the coercion of the peasants. It would be all the more effective if it could be coupled to ideological goals, such as increased production, and tied in with traditional scapegoats, such as “wreckers” and kulaks. When in August 1935 a miner, Aleksei Stakhanov, was alleged to have hewed 12 tons of coal in six hours, Stalin created the cult of Stakhanovism, and used it to “encourage” managers to make attempts on records.”(Copyright © Blacksacademy – July 2005)



Photo of Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov Time Magazine December 16, 1935

 See the original newsreel: Year of the Stakhanovite (I can’t embed this one).

Suggested retail price: $1500USD

Demyan Bedny’s perspective on 1937 Germany
November 24, 2012 — 15:18

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The Nazi Threat

Lithograph depicting the difference between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

This poster’s title says, “With us…with them…” Translated from Russian by Petr, webmaster at Propaganda Posters, it quotes some of the poetry of Demyan Bedny:

The path of our country is bright and great, heroic… everything is full of a hurricane of creativity… Our happiness of living was created by STALIN – he made [our happiness] the law… Young geniuses are born… and elderly look at them with pride.

The fascist’s path is full of dark clouds, their air is poisonous… Everybody who wears swastika looses human face and acquires the look of a beast… fascism… provides rest at prisons only, they throw their cultural heritage into fire, the youth is to get dum and the elderly have only one way to escape from suffering – to die…. but the proletariat will crush the fascism!

Demyan Bedny is a pseudonym for  Yefim Pridvorov. It means “Damian the Poor”.  Bedny was an ardent supporter of Communism and much of his work lauds the Communist state. Understandably, his poetry has not been widely translated.

Some historians and the journals of  Eufrosinia Kersnovskaya give another perspective on the people’s views of the time. Ultimately, the Soviets, with all their ambitious industrialization projects and tight control, did repel the German advance on the Soviet Union and helped to weaken the German efforts toward the end of WWII.

remembering lost prisoners

Remembering prisoners during the Great Purges who passed through these Butovo woods en route to the trains to Siberia.




ABOVE: The girl in the photograph in the woods outside Butovo is remembering those who died in the NKVD firing range of Butovo during the Great Purges. Butovo was a processing center for “enemies of the state” during several years. It has been documented that on some days, more than 500 prisoners were shot in a single day. There, trains also loaded boxcars full of prisoners en route to Siberia from the Moscow area.

village become cemetery

Journal page of Eufrosinia Kersnovskaya, titled the village that became a cemetery.

Eufrosinia Kersnovskaya’s journal page titled,“Village that Became a Cemetery” depicts the effect of Stalin’s Great Purges one village.


The Great Purges

Eufrosinia Kersnovskaya

Former Killing Ground becomes Shrine

Butovo Execution and burial site

some of the lost

Faces of some of the people who were lost during the Great Purges of 1937.

Photos of a few of those arrested and never found after the Great Purges. These photos are on display at a shrine honoring victims of the Great Purges of 1936-7. It opened in Butovo, Russia in 2007.

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Workers of All Countries, Unite!
November 24, 2012 — 10:54

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Workers of All Countries, Unite!
This poster, commemorating industrial advances in 1936,  urges, “Workers of all countries, unite.”

Among its articles on Stalin, Wikipedia says of The Industrialization movement during the years from 1932—1942:

“Stalin’s “Five-Year Plans” called for a highly ambitious program of state-guided crash industrialization and the collectivization of agriculture.

With seed capital unavailable because of international reaction to Communist policies, little international trade, and virtually no modern infrastructure, Stalin’s government financed industrialization both by restraining consumption on the part of ordinary Soviet citizens to ensure that capital went for re-investment into industry, and by ruthless extraction of wealth from the kulak landowners.

“Common and political prisoners in labor camps were forced to do unpaid labor, and communists and Komsomolsk members were frequently “mobilized” for various construction projects.

“The Soviet Union used numerous foreign experts, to design new factories, supervise construction, instruct workers and improve manufacturing processes. 521 factories were built between 1930 and 1932. In spite of early breakdowns and failures, the first two Five-Year Plans achieved rapid industrialization from a very low economic base. While it is generally agreed that the Soviet Union achieved significant levels of economic growth under Stalin, these gains were accomplished at the cost of millions of lives.“

Historians agree that Five-Year Plans during these years substantially helped to modernize the previously backward Soviet economy. New products were developed, and the scale and efficiency of existing production greatly increased. Some innovations were based on indigenous technical developments, others on imported foreign technology.  Despite the great costs, the industrialization effort allowed the Soviet Union to fight, and ultimately win its WWII conflicts.”

journal page Siberian traintriacks

From Eufrosinia Kersnovskaya’s journal page Siberian train-track construction

ABOVE: An entry called,  “On the Railroad” from one of the 12 journals of Eufrosinia_Kersnovskaya. The journals describe her life during 1939—1952. She spent 12 years in Soviet prisons because she was the daughter of a Ukrainian landowner. She produced 680 drawings of her recollections.


A modern gulag

A modern gulag

Many labor camps, “Gulags”, like this one, although now somewhat more humane, are still in operation.  It is not uncommon for political and other prisoners to be housed in camps like this one. This camp is located near the Ural Mountains. You can see some of the prisoners standing on the walkway.

Visiting the gulag

Visiting the gulag

In this group picture, the girls you see in the second row of the lower photo and the men with longer hair are visitors.

BELOW: Compare the idyllic 1936 poster with Kersnovskaya’s entry, “Entering Labor Camp”.



Industrialization movement

The USSR 1936 – 1938 “The Great Purges

Black’s Academy Article on “The Great Purges”



the prision yard

In the prision yard


Original lithographs are sold out. Highest quality reproductions can be produced upon request.

Five Year Plan
November 24, 2012 — 9:57

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five year plan introduced

The Great Party of Lenin and Stalin 1937

The city in the background looks pretty, but many would say the reality wasn’t. January 1, 1937 marked the last year of the second 5-Year Plan and announcement of Socialism’s Third 5-year plan.

Stalin’s first 5-year plan  established collective farming and had gotten most of the peasants organized into collective farms. The idea behind collective farms was that the landowner class would be eliminated. The plan didn’t work as well as expected and millions of people died or were sent to labor camps, some for not going along with the plan, others of starvation.

The second 5-year plan continued to emphasize industrialization,  but, by then,  food shortages were pronounced because the great emphasis on the industrialization effort was out of synch with the tremendous and widespread dearth of basic necessities.

Many historical sites describe what happened during those years. Caroline Brooke refers to a few of those writings in her article, “May You Live in Interesting Times”. Below is an excerpt.

“For the majority of urban (USSR) residents, the most distinctive feature of the 1930s was not the mass arrests and show trials of 1936-8 but the sharp fall in living standards that accompanied the switch to economic planning at the beginning of the decade. This was a period of chronic shortages, and the ordinary city-dweller had to learn how to hunt and gather in an urban environment in order to secure the basic necessities of life. Ultimately it was the planned economy that lay at the root of most of the problems of the 1930s for ordinary people: the inflated bureaucracy, the housing crisis, food rationing, interminable queues and grinding poverty. And it was these problems that gave rise to many of the distinctive features of urban life detailed in this volume: the emergence of a privileged class and the development of unofficial distribution networks such as the black market, patronage and Mat. But this was not just a time of great scarcity, it was also a period of construction. The 1930s were a time of transition in urban Russia: the era in which most of the amenities of modern cities – public transport, sewage systems, street lighting  were only just being established. It was also – at least for some – a time of great enthusiasm: an age of heroism, utopianism, optimism and considerable boasting about the exaggerated achievements of the workers’ state. The regime sought not just to modernize, it also aimed to civilize its subjects, and political leaders saw themselves in the role of a cultural vanguard. Indeed, the 1930s would witness the official redefinition of the category ‘intelligentsia’, to include not just the educated cultural elite, but also the managerial class, recently promoted from the factory bench. Things did not always work out quite as the authorities planned them: the communal housing system, for instance, far from encouraging communal attitudes and practices among residents had the absolute opposite effect, generating feelings of envy and covetousness between neighbors. There were some problems that the authorities generated for themselves: they were anxious, for example, to know what people were thinking, yet they had themselves created a climate in which people felt unable to express their opinions freely in public. Similarly, the regime had a genius for making enemies and never successfully ‘developed. . . effective mechanisms for allowing errant sheep back into the fold’. If the stigma of enmity could never be removed, then those whom the regime had identified as enemies would have to create new identities – to ‘mask’ themselves in order to avoid further persecution. Paranoia about ‘hidden enemies’, and the regime’s inability to accept the possibility that people could be rehabilitated, thus contributed to the creation of a vicious circle of fear and loathing. An inflated bureaucracy, as Trotsky pointed out, becomes a necessary evil during times of scarcity when distribution is an essential administrative task. And yet the Soviet bureaucracy, corrupt and inefficient as it was, served as a useful safety valve for the authorities in these difficult times: a lightning conductor for complaints by ordinary citizens. It would become an officially sanctioned object of attack, particularly during the terror year of 1937.”

Author: Caroline Brooke

Source: Contemporary European History, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Feb., 2003), pp. 119-127

Published by: Cambridge University Press



horse intenstine harvesting



EA_Kersnovskaya wrote a dozen journals of her experiences in the USSR, beginning in 1939, when she was taken to prison for being a landowner’s daughter. Her journal page below shows a pair who will eat well that day because they had found a dead horse frozen in the ice. They are harvesting the intestines for food.


Commemorating KOMSOMOL –the Young Communists Club
November 23, 2012 — 11:01

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Young Communists Club

Lithograph of activities of the Young Communists Club, Komsomol


By 1936 the Young Communists Club, Komsomol, was providing organized activities for young people, as this poster shows.

According to an Encyclopedia Britannica on the subject of Komsomol:

“Komsomol  was started in  1918 in order to band together various youth organizations that had previously been involved in the Russian Revolution. When the military phase ended, a new purpose was set in 1922—to engage the members in  sports, education, publishing activities, and various service and industrial projects. The Komsomol was an organization for young people aged 14 to 28 and its other purpose was to spread Communist teachings and preparing future members of the Communist Party.”

As interest declined over the years the Komsomol lost popularity and was officially ended by Gorbachev.

Closely associated with this organization were thePioneers (All-Union Lenin Pioneer Organization, established in 1922), for ages 9 to 14, and the Little Octobrists, for the very young. The Komsomol ceased activities under Gorbachev, but if you watch YOU-Tube shorts on the subject of Komsomol, you can see that the KOMSOMOL still has a place today and, like Communism,  the concept is regaining some popularity.


KOMSOMOL 90th Anniversary

Комсомол 90 лет. Komsomol 90 years October 24, 2008


Sisters Tolmachevy in concert in Red Square  November 23, 2007


a Komsomol lapel pin

A Komsomol lapel pin showing Lenin’s face.


BELOW: Eufrosinia’s Kersnovskaya’ journal page showing a  memory of her life during the years 1939-1952. There was a great contrast between life for the families of party members and that of people outside of the city.  Looking closely you can see that all the children are sharing one bed in their small house.

page from the journal of Eufrosinia Kersnovskaya

Kersnovskaya’s version of life in 1936


For more modern Russian history from a Russian perspective, go to:

Sean’s Russia Blog

Russia Today

Suggested retail price: $1000USD