SOVIETSPrevious project Next project
205x165 mm hardback
Published in 2014
10% goes to the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal.
Soviets features previously unpublished drawings from the archive of Danzig Baldaev, alongside classic propaganda photographs made by Sergei Vasiliev for the newspaper Vercherny Chelyabinsk.
Baldaev's caricatures, dating from the 1950s to the period directly before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, harshly satirise the iron rule of the Communist Party, depicting its winners and losers, its systemic corruption and stagnation, and the effects on the ordinary Soviet citizen. The drawings document the crumbling socialist structure, and the ever-increasing hardships tolerated by a population whose leaders pursued an unattainable ideal. All the horrors and absurdities of Soviet life are here, from the war in Afghanistan (The Shady Enterprise), to the drinking (Alcoholics and Shirkers), to dissent (Censorship, Paranoia and Suspicion).
Vasiliev's photographs by contrast, portray the fantasy world that the Party leaders tried and failed to wish into being: one in which workers happily fulfilled their five-year plans while stirring parades of soldiers and weapons rumbled through Red Square.
This book examines in fascinating detail both the official fiction and the austere reality of life under the Soviet regime.
...disturbing alternative take on the later years of the doomed Soviet experiment. As well as an important document in its own right, I think it will have great value as a tool for educators. The cliché of a picture being worth a thousand words really does apply here. Strongly recommended.
In Moscow's Shadows
Danzig Baldaev was a Soviet prison guard with a remarkable hobby: he labored for decades over an oeuvre of drawings that probed every taboo of Soviet society... He satirized Soviet life on every spare scrap of paper. He was an exemplary citizen journalist but for one oppressive fact: he could not reach an audience.
Journalism for Change
Case Study interview in Grafik magazine.
Soviets covers so much that it’s hard to summarize its value for students of Soviet-era or post-Soviet Russian literature and culture. The broad range of figures in Baldaev’s drawings and Vasiliev’s photos goes a long way toward filling in gaps on aspects of Soviet life that I never had a chance to witness or learn about. Vasiliev’s photos, all black and white, many depicting official parades, sporting events, and workers ... make a beautiful complement to Baldaev’s drawings, particularly because it’s often difficult to decide which angle on Soviet reality feels more realistic. Or absurd.
Lisa Hayden Espenschade. Lizok’s Bookshelf blog