Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary: Children’s Books and Graphic Arts

In Nina Sakonskaia's Mamin most (1933), children and adults collaborate to "model a new world."

In Nina Sakonskaia's Mamin most (1933), children and adults collaborate to "model a new world."

Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery
1100 E. 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois
August 22, 2011—December 30, 2011
Mon.-Fri., 9:00 a.m.­-4:45 p.m.
Sat: 9:00 a.m.-12:45 p.m. when University of Chicago classes are in session.

The Soviet Union was a world in pictures. Its creation in the wake of the Russian revolutions of February­–March and October–November 1917 was facilitated by a vibrant image culture based largely on new media technologies. Its periodic re-makings ­– during Stalin’s Great Leap Forward (1928–1932), World War II (1941–1945, the Thaw (1956–1964), Perestroika (1987­–1991) – were all accompanied by new media revolutions.

Two of the most striking manifestations of Soviet image culture were the children’s book and the poster. Both of these forms testify to the alliance between experimental aesthetics and radical socialist ideology that held tenuously from the 1917 revolutions to the mid-1930s—and did so much to shape a distinctly Soviet civilization. The children’s books and posters in “Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary plot the development of this new image culture alongside the formation of new social and cultural identities, from the beginning of Stalin’s Great Breakthrough in 1928 to the reconstruction and regrouping that followed World War II.

“Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary,” drawn entirely from the collections of the University of Chicago Library, was created by the collaborative efforts of eight graduate students, one former undergraduate and two faculty members at the University of Chicago. Led by Professor Robert Bird, the participants, representing a range of academic disciplines, from history to art history and Russian literature. discuss topics such as “The Collective,” “The Individual,” “Transportation,” “Do It Yourself,” and “Military Preparedness,” and individuals including Aleksandr Deineka and Vladimir Mayakovsky.

An associated web exhibit is available online.

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