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