Soviet plane-spotting head-gear

Drakegoodman scanned this 1917-ish photo of Soviet planespotters in exotic headgear; according to a commenter, the binox are focused at infinity "so that when you found the source of the sound by turning your head, you could see the aircraft creating that sound."

WTF (via Bruce Sterling) Read the rest

Spy-gadget photos from Berlin's Stasi museum

Egor Egorov visited Berlin's Stasi Museum and extensively photographed its collection of spy-gadgets from the Cold War (like the squeeze-bulb-operated jacket-button camera above). They're great photos, and at an impressively high resolution. Read the rest

Statue of Stalin to be reinstated in Gori, Georgia

A statue of Josef Stalin in his hometown of Gori, Georgia, pulled down in 2010, will be re-erected, thanks to prime-minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire who is friendly to Russia. Read the rest

Soviet board-games, 1920-1938

Ross sez, "If you loved the Soviet erotic alphabet, you're going to love this. Mind-blowing graphics, and hilarious titles. Interesting historical presentation and contextualization also."

My favorites among these include the “electrification” board-game, the chemical war game, and the Reds vs. the Whites game. You can tell that they reflect the immediate experience of devastating world war, revolution, and bloody civil war, followed by a project of social engineering and economic modernization the likes of which the world had never seen. The only other thing I’ll say is that, from an aesthetic perspective, one can see the change in the officially-sanctioned styles from the more avant-garde lines, shapes, and typography to the cartoon realism of caricatured figures in the Sots-art of the 1930s. Enjoy!

Soviet board-games, 1920-1938: Games of revolution and industry (Thanks, Ross!) Read the rest

Porno art-deco Soviet alphabet

A reader writes, "Someone was nice enough to scan the pages of a Cyrillic alphabet book from the 1930's. The book encouraged adult literacy through erotic drawings of figures in various acts of copulation. Note: flying penises, lesbian acts and cloven hoofed demons appear. Male homosexual acts, do not."

These images are obviously NSFK (not safe for Kremlin). The artist was Sergei Merkurov, who went on to become a People’s Artist of the USSR. As the accompanying text notes, it's a fascinating look at the libertine sexuality of the pre-Stalinist period.

Update: Ross Wolfe comments, "There actually are a couple male homosexual acts in the Soviet erotic alphabet. Specifically, these occur in the letters Й and З, though you have to pay close attention. And the latter is potentially even more scandalous, with a small satyr fucking what looks to be either a young boy or dwarf from behind. No penis is actually shown, but the short hair and lack of tits suggest its masculinity."

Soviet-era erotic alphabet book from 1931 [Советская эротическая азбука 1931 года] Read the rest

Soviet space-race magazine covers

Norman sez, "When the space race raged in the 1950s, fantastical visions of the future of travel were everywhere. Magazines like Popular Mechanics ran speculative articles about the rockets and space stations that would take civilization to the stars, and the accompanying artwork blurred the line between fiction and plausible reality. This art had a real affect on the space race in both the United States and Soviet Union; where Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, and Disney's Tomorrowland set the tone for the US space program, the Soviet Union's most influential art may have come from the magazine Tekhnika Molodezhi."

They've collected more than 200 covers, some of them absolutely stonking. If this is your sort of thing, try our archive of sovkitsch posts, and including a couple space-themed ones.

The Incredible Space Art of Russian Magazine Tekhnika Molodezhi Read the rest

Russian Polar Expedition watch photo, 1969

Here's a beautiful, super-hi-rez, freely usable photo of a 1969 Russian Polar Expedition watch -- an absolutely droolworthy bit of horological sweetness. (Click to embiggen)

Russian Polar Expedition watch from 1969 - produced by Raketa [Sosoev/Wikimedia Commons]

(Thanks, Jim!) Read the rest

Disturbing trailer for doc on Soviet dog-reanimation experiments

Charlie made a disturbing video backed by Kurtz's "Everything Burns Alike," featuring footage from Experiments in the Revival of Organisms, a 1940 documentary on the horrific experiments of Dr. S.S. Bryukhonenko at the Institute of Experimental Physiology and Therapy, Voronezh, U.S.S.R. Charlie explains: "In Dr. S.S. Bryukhonenko's lab, he drained all the blood from dogs until they were dead for a full 10 minutes. He then pumped blood back in to revive the dogs back to their normal selves. The full documentary is horrifying, but fascinating. In the experiment, they also pumped blood through a decapitated dog head and it licked its mouth, reacted to sounds, etc."

Experiments in the Revival of Organisms: A Trailer (Thanks, Charlie!) Read the rest

Soviet futuristic illustrations of the 1970s

On IO9, Vincze Miklos rounds up some of the finest sovkitsch futuristic imagery from three 1970s issues of the Soviet YA technology magazine Youth Technics (1, 2, 3) and other sources, presenting a gallery of streamlined jetpack socialism.

Some of the most famous images of Soviet futurism come out of the 1920s and 30s, when the Revolution was young and propaganda posters were like stark works of realist art. But the nation continued to produce works of incredible futurism throughout its reign — including during the trippy period before the Iron Curtain fell in the late twentieth century. Here are some visions of tomorrow, from the USSR in the 1970s.

The groovy socialist world of 1970s Soviet futurism Read the rest

Soviet TV advertisements from the 1970s and 1980s

Here's 53 minutes' worth of Soviet commercials from the 1970s and 1980s, produced by what's billed as the USSR's sole advertising agency.

Rotting Soviet-era themepark in the heart of Berlin

Dark Roasted Blend has a beautiful gallery of Spreepark PlanterWald (originally called Kulturpark Planterwald) a Soviet-era abandoned themepark in central Berlin, which is gracefully rotting away. This is a Boing Boing/Cory Doctorow trifecta: abandoned themeparks, Soviet kitsch, and urban exploration. Yes, please!

When it opened in 1969 as Kulturpark Planterwald, it was the "only constant entertainment park in the GDR, and the only such park in either East or West Berlin". However, the Berlin Senate did not seem to have provided for enough parking space... which is quite silly, all things considered. Plus, the forest around the park was deemed to be doomed from the impact of visiting crowds. In any case, the socialist and then private owners were left with a bunch of debt and the place got suspended in limbo... But the story does not end there (read on).

Surreal Abandoned Amusement Park in Berlin [Avi Abrams/Dark Roasted Blend] (via Kadrey) Read the rest

Soviet space-program Christmas cards

"Soviet Christmas card" sounds like a mere kitschy improbability, but what if I told you that they were space-race-themed Soviet Christmas cards? It's a Christmas miracle, dude.

Old Soviet Christmas card collection (via Richard Kadrey) Read the rest

Fake ads from MAD Magazine

The Vintage Ads LJ group's challenge this week is to find great fake ads. As always, Man Writing Slash comes through with a great compilation post, this one featuring some classics from MAD Magazine. I always liked the Stalin one here.

Mad Magazine "Ads" Read the rest

Pioneers at the ready, Leningrad

On Retronaut, Viktor Bulla's "Pioneers defense drill, Leningrad." It dates from 1937, four years before the Siege of Leningrad, and that makes the weirdness vivid and poignant. So many of the children here would have died in the Siege, or lived through it in the civil defense force, eating wallpaper paste and digging trenches. How brave and ready they must have felt in 1937, though.

Pioneers defense drill, Leningrad Read the rest

East German advertisements of the 1950s and 1960s

On the Vintage Ads LJ group, the always-great Man Writing Slash has posted a marvellous collection of East German advertisements that combine propaganda and sales-pitches and appear to have dropped out of a parallel universe.

East German Ads, 1950s/1960s Read the rest

Karl Marx on a MasterCard

The German bank Sparkasse Chemnitz asked its readers to choose from among 10 designs for its next MasterCard issue. The overwhelming winner was this Karl Marx card. Priceless.

It's not just cheap irony, either. As Reuters reports, "A 2008 survey found 52 percent of eastern Germans believed the free market economy was 'unsuitable' and 43 percent said they wanted socialism back."

The Karl Marx MasterCard Is Here. It Needs A Tagline. (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Update BlueGirl sez, "saw your piece on the Karl Marx Mastercard and laughed that I photoshopped just such a thing back in 2010, along with a Che Guevara Visa and a Emma Goldman Mugshot Discover Card -- the card with payback." Read the rest

Rasputin's Bastards: epic, psychic cold war thriller

Rasputin's Bastards is David Nickle's latest book, an epic novel from one of horror's weirdest voices. During the cold war, the Soviets established City 512, a secret breeding experiment intended to create a race of psychic supermen. It worked far, far too well. The dreamwalkers of City 512 may have given lip-service to their masters, but in truth, they were occupied with their dreaming, the sleeper agents whom they could ride like loas, the succesive generations of dreamwalkers, each more powerful than the last, and their own power-struggles.

Now the cold war is long past, and the final act is upon the world. The Babushka, one of the great powers of City 512, has established a stronghold in a fishing village in the remotest northern reaches of Labrador. Her enemies are legion, and some of them don't even know what side they're on. The dreamwalkers have always had the power to trap their enemies in false identities and false memories, and the main characters of Rasputin's Bastards are never quite sure who they are, what has happened to them, what is real, and what is poisonous illusion.

Nickle's book is an enormous tale, bewilderingly complex, but with lots of twists and turns that reward close attention. It is grotesque, violent, and exciting, with a supernatural tinge that is his hallmark.

Rasputin's Bastards Read the rest

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