Marina Balina

Stories of Little Brothers: Depicting Proletarian internationalism in Soviet Children’s Literature of the 1920s-1930s

Aleksandar Bošković
Autonomous Animals Animated: Samozveri as A Constructivist Do It Yourself Book

This chapter focuses on the unrealized publication of Sergei Tretyakov’s poems Autoanimals (Samozveri, 1926) with photo illustrations by Aleksandr Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova, examining it as an early Constructivist pedagogical photopoetry dispositive (dispositif, apparatus). Having predecessors in the two 1922 editions—El Lissitzsky’s unique children’s book “Suprematist Tale of Two Squares in Six Constructions” published in Berlin, and Varvara Stepanova’s illustrations of “mechanical Charlot” (Charles Chaplin) published in Aleksei Gan’s short-lived but innovative journal Kino-Fot in Moscowthe 1926 blueprint of the unpublished photo-illustrated poetry book for children appears as an early prototype of what would in the 1930s become a customary socialist everyday object known as the Soviet do-it-yourself book (kniga-samodelka).

Загадки_Маршака.tiffThe chapter demonstrates how Rodchenko and Stepanova conceived their photo-illustrations for Autoanimals as a continuation of two existing design practices: homemade cutout toys and children’s photopoetry books. Even in the first publication of Tretyakov’s poem in the journal Pioneer (No. 22-23, 1926) accompanied by Boris Pokrovsky’s hand-drawn illustrations, one finds the editorial note that was aimed to help young readers by suggesting that they can make heroes out of the most ordinary household objects: “You can invent innumerable autoanimals. As you can see from the drawings, it is easy to make them.” At the same time, constructivist and photographer Rodchenko was looking for a method to steer away from traditional drawing. He tried to illustrate Tretyakov’s book Samozveri with photographs of humorous figures cut from paper, thus following the gesture proposed both by Lissitzky (“Do not read” but instead “take papers, columns [rods], blocks” and “fold [arrange], color, construct,” 1922) and his close friend and wife, Varvara Stepanova, whose costume designs suggested the cutout technique as one of the most communicative and practical models of constructing objects for everyday use. While continuing the constructivist practice of implementation of “art in everyday life,” as displayed in the 1925 booklet of the same title, Rodchenko and Stepanova’s project pushed the already known Soviet photopoetry book towards the cineptic, bioscopic book—a concept that has already been envisioned (although largely in promisory, if not utopian terms) by El Lissitzky (“Topographie der Typographie,” 1923). The photographic illustrations make a supplementary dimension to Tretyakov’s text: a kind of pocket-theater where the animals are stylized toys that seem to come alive and invite children to construct them and invent their own stories. Tretyakov’s auto-animals thus become animals “acted out” and give the unusual impression of photography turned into film by presenting different plans of one and the same subject. This use of photography also allows children to immediately visualize how the animal figures are made of cardboard and to intuitively experience animating them.

I argue that Tretyakov-Rodchenko-Stepanova’s project, although depleted of any overt ideological content, essentially belonged to the “left,” experimental flank of children’s books: it functioned as an “alternative cinematic apparatus” (Levi, 2010) and a constructivist pedagogical dispositive for education of Soviet children in the spirit of playful, practical, and independent individuals of the nascent communist collective. These cutout paper toys were imagined not to confine the viewer to a specific position; they invited her to take charge and create her own visual experience—they invited play, stimulated imaginative activity, and incited world-making. I assert that Autoanimals was conceived to function as a dispositive for the production of toys as children’s media devices (dispositifs), the cultivation of practical technical skills, and the stimulation of play through which the child both animates these new dispositifs (toys) and develops a sense of self in relation to the surrounding world.

Alexey Golubev
The Working Body and Its Prostheses:  Anatomy of Class in the Early Soviet Children’s Literature

The proposed contribution will examine the classed body of early Soviet children’s literature. After the Bolshevik revolution, artists working on children’s book illustration faced a challenge to find new artistic forms and conventions that were appropriate for consumption in a society that became particularly sensitive to the questions of class. In addition, children’s literature became an important part of the state politics of literature that, during the 1920s and early 1930s, proclaimed “class consciousness” as an important part of socialist upbringing. As the result, early Soviet illustrators of children’s books embarked on a search of aesthetic forms that could appeal to their new audiences, but would also perform didactic functions understood in terms of social reformism and emancipation. The proposed article will examine, in particular, how the working class body was represented in illustrated children’s books. It will treat different schools of and individual approaches to children’s book illustration as anatomy atlases that sought to chart and understand the physical, economic and political functioning of the working body in its relations with industrial production as well as other classes and social groups.

Helena GosciloЗагадки_Маршака2.tiff
The Radiant Path to the Thrice-Ninth Kingdom of the Soviets: Converting the Enemy

 As sundry scholars have noted, during the late 1920s and 1930s writers, critics, educators, and politicians waged impassioned polemics about the desirability of creating fairy tales for Soviet children—a goal that the early Soviet period already had begun to question. If in 1924, amid the increasingly widespread belief that the genre “reflected the ideology of the ruling classes” by glorifying tsars, exacerbating unhealthy flights of imagination, and disseminating bourgeois ideals (Oinas 1978, 77), Nadezhda Krupskaia ensured that libraries removed fairy tales from their shelves, children’s literature of the era managed to convert the paradigm of the fairy tale into propagandistic formulas focusing, not on princes/ses, overt magic, and animism, but on enlightened children themselves (whether textual protagonists or readers) as the everyday progressive heroes of the Soviet utopia that served as the equivalent of the magical thrice-ninth kingdom. They fulfilled the tasks of fairy-tale protagonists as well as magic helpers with the help of Soviet principles purportedly grounded in a full and happy life of unanimity, education, and work. Like their folkloric predecessors, they embraced a teleology in the cause of which they persisted despite all obstacles, and at narrative’s end shared their success with the deserving (i.e., those willing to be Sovietized). De-fantasizing narratives for children paralleled secularizing religion for the entire population while maintaining a hierarchized belief system in place.

Substitutions that transformed fairy-tale topoi into less flagrantly fantastic analogues proved relatively simple, as evident in the metamorphosis of the fundamental topos of the fairy-tale journey along an incident-rich road into a colorful journey abroad, likewise teeming with events and exotica. The device served the triple function of educating young readers about foreign cultures (particularly the victims of imperialism), complying with the period’s official doctrine of internationalism, and signposting that route with a series of adventures that invariably appealed to children. Pedagogy, political orthodoxy, and cultivation of genre popularity blended most efficaciously. And in cases of air travel, such stories additionally could participate in promoting advances in Soviet aviation, soon to become Stalin’s military-industrial obsession. Works by such a motley set of authors as Agniia Barto, Nilolai Zobolotskii, Nikolai Tikhonov, S. Poltavskii, G. Shaposhnikov, and Lev Zilov (illustrated by Sergei Chekhonin, Georgii Echeistov, Nikolai Lapshin, V. Orlov) permitted right-thinking Soviet Pioneers to aid ‘less developed’ cultures by traveling virtually or physically to Africa and Asia, where they could bond with and liberate their less fortunate counterparts: i.e., eliminate “the oppression of blacks and Chinese” (Steiner 1999, 99;  Balina 2015) by teaching them invaluable lessons in proletarian solidarity and the inestimable benefits guaranteed by the Soviet way of life.

The international status of America, unlike that of ‘primitive’ countries that fueled discourses of class solidarity, required a different concept of the voyage, which writers solved by the simple strategy of reversing direction: American boys dissatisfied with privileged and therefore meaningless capitalist society eagerly sought refuge and life’s meaning in the utopian USSR. In the incontrovertible black-and-white terms of V. Maiakovskii’s book for small children, “Chto takoe khorosho i chto takoe plokho” (1930), the USSR and its small citizens comprised the first, whereas the US unambiguously qualified as the second. Illustrated by Boris Kustodiev, three narratives fostering communist values through a contrast to America’s benighted sociopolitical system narrated through a ‘revolutionary journey’ appeared in the mid-1920s, two tracing American boys’ flight to the USSR, and one offering a myth of origins that showcased a mini-history of the Soviet Union’s birth and development around the life of its patron saint, Lenin—the ‘sacred text’ that infuses the Soviet project with its righteous significance. These stories parallel one of the decade’s most famous films, Lev Kuleshov’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924), where the signally named, condescending Mr. West visits the Soviet Union, to be humbled by realizing its superiority. For a painter of Kustodiev’s aesthetics, political allegiances, and cultural reputation (his solid fame rested on his paintings of the merchant class), the requisite illustrations presented a profound challenge: to convey to children in visual, instantly communicable terms narratives simplistically endorsing communist values. As my chapter argues, Kustodiev’s mode of tackling the task primarily involved solutions that were largely aesthetic and focused on specifics allowing for humor and an original treatment of color and (following precepts of the influential graphic artist Vladimir Favorskii) as he adjusted to the demands of the new Soviet state—an accommodation required of artists who earlier also had belonged to Mir Iskusstva and even the Constructivists, whose heyday ended with the debates about children’s books, their contents, and their illustrators.

Thomas Keenan
New America: the Brave New New World of Soviet Civilization in Soviet Children’s Books, 1919-1932

This chapter will look at a series of books published between 1919 and 1932 that represent Soviet civilization as something that looks like a socially and ideologically corrected America. These publications redeploy a set of visual topoi used to represent one reality outside the reader’s empirical experience – America (the United States) – in their representation of an imaginary reality of another category – the aspirational reality of the yet to be built Soviet civilization. Using the exhilarating novelty of the American built environment with its unparalleled feats of engineering to excite the enthusiasm of the young Soviet reader, these books contrive a variety of devices to excite that enthusiasm in an ideologically pure way and to transfer that enthusiasm to the Soviet project. This chapter will focus on the ways in which several books produced by a number of different text authors and illustrators reinflect the same visual vocabularies they use to represent America to represent the Soviet civilization their juvenile readership is charged with building.

Collectively the books examined in this chapter instantiate a complex of visual topoi for representing America – the world’s second youngest civilization, the Soviet civilization being the youngest. This complex consists of urban landscapes crowded with the engineering marvels of what was then the world’s most industrially advanced nation (skyscrapers, airplanes, automobiles, elevated urban railroads, massive bridges) and the blank canvas of the vast open rural expanses of the New World. These same topoi are redeployed to represent the aspirational Soviet civilization to be built (first) on Russian soil, an aspirational world the young readers of these books are charged with realizing, though in many cases the topoi are reinflected to communicate the political and ideological purity of the second new-civilization project.

Altitude and speed are the two primary vectors for the expression of a creative force that has manifested first in the building of the American civilization, but will ultimately find its sublime expression in the newer and supremely just Soviet civilization. Several of these books envision a Soviet landscape that achieves the same triumph over gravity depicted in Soviet illustrators’ American cityscapes, with towering skyscrapers and soaring airplanes. Others represent the speed and energy of American life (manifested often in state-of-the-art automobiles and locomotives) being rechanneled for the realization of the Soviet vision. Interesting combinations of visual and verbal signals communicate a distinction between the two built environments so similar in the exhilarating audacity of their unprecedented outsize scale. Through a variety of devices, in its enormity and exponential disproportion to the individual citizen the American built environment emerges as one that alienates the individual, as the expression of a malignant hypertrophy of a greedy idle minority and its exploitative domination of the masses, whereas an aspirational Soviet built environment on the same scale is represented as the grand achievement of a massive and all-inclusive collective of which every individual is a tiny but beneficiary constituent. These include visual and verbal identifications of Soviet skyscrapers as products of the coordinated labor of a massive collective built for the benefit of that same collective, visual and verbal representations of towering structures bowing before more modest but equally necessary and valuable structures, and a greater uniformity of the towering structures constituting Soviet cityscapes relative to a more fanciful motley variety of their American counterparts.

The chapter will contextualize these works within the broader conflicted relationship of early Soviet thought and culture to the American phenomenon. Close readings of images and accompanying text will be considered in relation to relevant currents in the contemporary political and cultural discourse, which included a sense of close kinship with the world’s second youngest civilization itself born of an act of violent self-determination against an old European monarchic power, an abhorrence of the socioeconomic inequalities and abuses of American capitalism mixed with rapturous admiration for America’s audacious transformation of humanity’s environment through fantastic feats of contemporary engineering, and a sense of an urgent imperative to rechannel a force conceived of as an American energy in the construction of the new Soviet world. The contemporary concepts of “amerikanizm,” “amerikanizatsiia,” and of the Soviet civilization under construction as a “novaia (proletarskaia) Amerika” will figure prominently in this examination, which will contemplate the extent to which these books and their images are translations for a juvenile audience of circulating ideas about the relationship between the Soviet and American experiments. These ideas, specifically, are those that the energy and audacity responsible for America’s massive productivity and breakneck innovations in engineering were an elemental force which was not itself the product of the capitalist system, but a force which was per se devoid of ideology and could be channeled to drive the same processes in the new socialist state, and the idea that the energy and daring that empowered Americans to transform their environment and to impose their will on the natural world could be redeployed in a socially and ideologically pure form to build a fundamentally novel reality in the nascent Soviet civilization.

In terms of works of illustrated children’s literature this chapter will look at Malen’kie stroiteli, 1919; Grishkiny puteshestviia, Amerika, 1923; Iunost’ idi!, 1923; Bol’shevik Tom, 1925; Dhimmi Dzhoi v gosti k pioneram, 1925; Spor mezhdu domami, 1925; Detskii internatsional, 1926; Kol’ka i Lenin, 1927; Dom i domishko, 1930; Neboskreb, 1930; V. Maiakovskii – detiam, 1931; Zheleznye puteshestvenniki, 1931; Kem byt’, 1932. Other primary sources will include pronouncements on America in various genres by Aleksandr Blok, Nikoali Bukharin, Sergei Esenin, Aleksei Gastev, Lenin, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Karl Radek, and Stalin.

4757112.tiffMichael Kunichika
The Camel and the Caboose: Viktor Shklovsky’s Turksib and the Pedagogy of Uneven Development

How do you teach children lessons in political economy? And how do you teach them to prefer trains to camels? Such a pair belongs to the vast developmental differences found throughout the landscape of the 1920s and 30s, differences that marked not only the persistence of the past, but also its continual appeal. My article proposes to examine Viktor Shklovsky’s book Turksib (1930), in which we find Shklovsky’s idiosyncratic take on these questions. His work participated in something of a total Soviet media campaign, elaborated in a range of cultural products, which propagandized the construction of the Turkestan-Siberian Railway. Perhaps better known by Viktor Turin’s film Turksib (1930), the construction was one of the central projects of the first five year plans, marking, among various other things, a particularly acute confrontation between industrialization and the Central Asian steppe, and thus, a confrontation between the Soviet modernizing project and the various nationalities inhabiting the region.

In Shklovsky’s hands, representing these multiple confrontations takes multiple forms in Turksib. The work is at once an adventure tale of commodities; a geography lesson; a travelogue replete with signs of the past and future, and of local dramas generated by uneven development, with the latter understood not only as an economic category but a narrative motor. Set alongside Shklovsky’s narrative, where he lays out his case for the promise of Turksib, the book’s graphic designers V. Lantsetti and M. Seregin placed an image on each page, with a caption to each image supplied by Shklovsky. The images, which included both drawings and photographs, do not typically illustrate the passage on its corresponding page. Frequently, they either anticipate themes and figures discussed later in the work; or they narrate their own particular stories of modernization, rail construction, and Central Asian life. Indeed, this lack of correspondence between the images and the passages make the relationship between the two seem fairly helter-skelter, their lack of symmetry or their non-synchronized placement—themes and images on similar topics can be pages apart—suggest that the book creates various parallel narratives to follow, rather than reflexively subordinating the images to Shklovsky’s primary narrative. Considered together, however, both the images and Shklovsky’s texts (both the primary narrative and the captions), reveal various techniques on instructing a readership—and indeed a child readership—not only on the challenges of uneven development in Central Asia, but also on the modes by which one engages with images in the first place, which is to say, the distinct relationship between vision and modernity.

With respect to the concerns of the volume, I should note that it is not entirely clear what age group Shklovsky’s Turksib imagines. It is not as visually resplendent as other children’s books of the period, and its narrative range covers subjects on agriculture, the necessity of economic integration, and Central Asian topography and geology. It even contains seemingly stray anecdotes on a ficus in the desert, or the competition between flax and cotton production. In any case, the work’s claim on a childhood audience, and indeed, on forming the readerly subject of its pedagogy, can be discerned through the multiple narrative and figurative structures at work within Turksib—from its adventure tale of common goods (obyknovennye veshchi) to its zoomorphism of machines—to the various ways it instructs its readers on a proper relationship with modernization and with the persistence of the past. I propose, then, to examine Shklovsky’s work on its own formal terms, but also in conjunction with other cultural products, chief among them Turin’s film Turksib, travelogues and travel films to Central Asia during the period. On one level, Shklovsky’s work extends the various travel narratives the writer had produced throughout the decade, and so certain features of his Turksib can be situated in relation to the author’s preeminent concerns: at this stage of the paper, I expect to consider his investigation into the formal features of narrative (in relation to such texts as Tret’ia Fabrika, Tekhnika pisatel’skogo remesla, and Marko Polo); the engagement with the status of things, or veshchi; the affiliation of writing with particular crafts. To this end, my paper tracks three features of the work as they indicate an interest in children’s literature: the first is what Shklovsky refers to as a “physiognomy of things,” or “thing portraiture,” which gives countenances to inanimate objects and thus elaborates the affective relationship a child should have with objects. Secondly, I track how Shklovsky encodes his own writerly development, in particular by focusing on two of his cardinal images, flax (len) and cotton, which serve as metaphors for the task of writing at distinct points and under distinct pressures. Lastly, I want to consider how Turksib attempted to think through a pedagogy of images in relation to two of the prevailing “naïve” eyes of the period, that of the primitive nomadic eye (as represented by the Kazakh nomads), and the innocent eye of the child (as the work potentially imagines it). Taken together, these themes enable us to see how a pedagogy of images could be constructed in relation to ethnography, and how Turksib, both book and film, grounded the very historicity of its readership in vision.

Yuri Leving
The Silent Cinema and Talking Books: Soviet Artists as Cineastes

 The obvious fact that most of the Soviet illustrators, apart from being professional artists, have also been attentive and eager moviegoers needs no special proof; it is possible to discern in their work some particular devices and even traces of broader cinematic aesthetics borrowed from a highly fashionable new medium. While the discussion of how literature has influenced film has become a cliché, in my paper I will reconstruct the “shot reverse shot” paradigm, i.e. consider an immediate effect of the early Soviet movies (by Vertov, Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and others) on both literature and the art of book illustration concurrently produced for the Soviet children, with examples from the Princeton collection.

Maria Litovskaia
«Делай все сам!»: скучные картинки в региональном подростковом журнале первой пятилетки

«Делай все сам!» В названии подросткового журнала, выходившего в Свердловске в 1928–1931 году, в свернутом виде заключены важнейшие положения доктрины воспитания подростков  этого времени:  активность  – всеохватность – самостоятельность – фамильярность. Конец 1920-х – середина 1930-х годов – период резкого заземления революционной утопии временной привязкой и конкретикой пятилетних планов («будничное социалистическое строительство»). Обучение не через развлечение, но через приобщение к общему делу. Активность подростков переводили в конструктивно-технологическое русло.  Улучшение рабочего быта и оборудования школ, борьба с взрослыми членами семьи за новое ведение домашнего  хозяйства,  профессиональная ориентация – вот задачи, предлагаемые подрастающему поколению юнтехов – политически подкованных советских школьников, готовящих себя к общественно-полезному труду, связанному с промышленным развитием страны.

Взросление напрямую связывается с пониманием экономических и политических задач СССР и непосредственным участием подростка в экономической деятельности страны. Снимается конфликт между взрослым миром и миром подростка, он заменяется идеей плодотворного сотрудничества. Условие для подростка: чтобы на равных принимать участие во взрослой жизни, надо понимать ее содержание.   Решать эту проблему призваны книги и периодические издания, которые становятся своего рода учебными пособиями по политэкономии, экономической географии и т.п., где «сухой» текст для лучшего усвоения и понимания расцвечивается диаграммами, схемами и т.п. наглядными изображениями.

Взрослая жизнь не является, но кажется скучной, если она непонятна. Скучные тексты экономических планов или политических решений в текстах для подростков должны быть упрощены до внятной схемы, и здесь важнейшую роль играет наглядность объяснения.  Политэкономический текст раскладывается на составляющие, которые, в свою очередь, визуализируются. Текст подкрепляется изображениями, формируется набор визуальных образов советской, скажем, индустриализации, обладающих высокой степенью условности, и не нуждающихся в дальнейших пояснениях (этот набор будет работать до конца существования СССР в открытках, плакатах и т.п.): изображение завода, ЛЭП, ГЭС, стройки, советского (флаги, памятники Ленину) города, «карты пятилетки» как наглядной схемы ближайшего развития.

Кроме учебной, изображения выполняют также инспирирующую функцию: передают ощущение азарта взрослых, перестраивающих мир, радость созидания нового мира,  а также его видимую незавершенность (карты перспективного развития), дающую возможность подростку принять участие в дальнейшем государственном плановом строительстве. Они позволяют сделать наглядным настоящее продолжающееся время, в которое подросток может встроиться. Главная функция изображений – миромоделирующая: подросток входит в мир взрослых, где главное – работа. Чтобы она была интересной, необходимо понять ее государственный смысл. Работа может выглядеть невзрачно или даже некрасиво, но в перспективе общих целей страны это видение наглядно – через изображение – меняется: землекоп становится человеком, который дает свет людям.

два_брата2.tiffЧитателю-подростку открывается своеобразная картина мира, в котором смыслоопределяющую роль играют лозунги, а структурирующую – графики и схемы. Нарастает «безлюдность», изображение «живого» человека сменяется изображением созданных им механизмов, зданий и т.п. Образы жизни,  динамичной самой по себе, строящейся, недавно возникшей, устремленной в будущее  (недострой). Неказистость изданий, скорее всего, объясняется элементарной недостаточностью издательской базы конца 1920- х годов. Но, возможно,  характерный для «реконструктивного периода» отказ от индивидуалистической декоративности, понимаемой как буржуазность, приводит к предельному аскетизму, который задается как норма.

Полиграфически текст «ДВС» от первого номера к последнему меняется на глазах: фигуративные иллюстрации практически исчезают: вместо них появляются фотографии, карты, чертежи, то есть визуальному ряду придают характер достоверности. «Конструктивистские» приемы верстки сменяются все увеличивающимся количеством плотно сверстанного текста. Подчеркнуто неактивное использование приемов текстового дизайна формирует особую  семиотику журнального текста. Необходимость приобщения к государственному знанию для «настоящего советского человека» не нуждается в дополнительной актуализации. Все, о чем повествуется, является равно значимым, на повышенную важность того или иного положения указывает его повторение в виде цитат или заголовков. Подчеркнуто сдержанное оформление издания было сориентировано на традиции научных журналов, несомненно, обладавших специфической поэтикой оформления. Традицию строгости оформления «перехватили» советские партийные издания; таким образом культура и наука, то есть «высокая» духовность, символически соотносились  с «высокой» идеологией.

Материал: журналы «Делай все сам» (Свердловск), «Живая театрализованная газета» (Пермь), приложение к газете «Всходы коммуны» (Свердловск).

Stephen M. Norris
Young Soldiers at Play: Soviet Children’s Books and the Red Army

My article examines two early Soviet children’s books that both focus on the role of the Red Army. The first, Nikolai Smirnov’s 1927 children’s book Dlia chego krasnaia armiia features two boys, Ivan and Stepan, who observe the Red Army marching, defending their socialist motherland in trenches, flying airplanes, working telephones, firing a howitzer, riding in the cavalry, driving motorcycles, fighting in tanks, dispensing gas, wearing gas masks, shining floodlights, and standing guard. Throughout the tale, Ivan and Stepan ask questions of each other, drawing the young reader into the story. Smirnov’s story narrates the role the Red Army plays in defending the Soviet motherland and makes army work appear to be fun and exciting. Accompanied by lively, visually arresting illustrations by Galina and Ol’ga Chichagova along with bold words that help young readers learn the Red Army’s jobs, the story concludes with a Red Army commander encouraging the boys to learn that the Red Army exists for them and that they too can aspire to be part of it. As he notes, however, the actual Red Army is not a game, for its soldiers must defend the country, its workers, and peasants. At home, however, the boys could play at soldiers. After observing the Red Army in action, the book concludes that “when they [Ivan and Stepan] played Red Army, they knew what the Red Army was needed for and how it worked.”

Smirnov’s story highlights a theme that appears in several early Soviet children’s books: namely, how good Soviet children are encouraged to play soldiers and in doing so, to understand the Red Army’s defense of the socialist motherland. In addition to Smirnov’s story, my article also analyzes Evgenii Redin’s and Valerian Shcheglov’s 1928 book, Krasnoarmeets Vaniushka, which narrates the metamorphosis of a young man from peasant into Red Army soldier. Vanya’s journey is one best understood as the change Ivan and Stepan from Smirnov’s book would have to undergo in order to stop playing at soldier and to become a true Red Army man. To interpret these two works, I adopt Michael Baxandall’s concept of the “period eye” in order to identify the distinctive visual clues of the Soviet 1920s, focusing on those related to the Red Army. Early Soviet children’s literature that stressed the serious fun of being in the Red Army, I argue, helped to foster Soviet invented traditions such as the budenovka and in doing so, helped to foster a Soviet way of seeing. In a very short time, as I posit, Soviet officials and cultural figures fashioned a repetitive invented tradition associated with the Red Army and its representative soldier. The institution itself served as a school for socialism, a site for inculcating the values of the Soviet system and for stressing the need to defend the motherland from its enemies and to protect the growth of socialism within its borders.

Dlia chego Krasnaia armiia and Krasnoarmeets Vaniushka serve as two examples of how the Soviet childscape–a concept I adopt from Clive Gamble’s work on early humans–was formed and how it sought to grow its children into vigilant, playful, cultured, militarized men ready to fight for the socialist motherland. The books, along with other visual and textual examples invoking the Red Army soldier with his budenovka, attempted to produce an affective response among young readers through “seeing and doing” and by “making war fun.” Although the real Soviet child and how he might have reacted to these books remain elusive, early Soviet children’s books helped to create a visual childscape centered on modeling young soldiers who would go on to defend their socialist motherland.

Serguei Oushakine
Running Blankets, Jumping Pillows and Other Agentive Objects of Early Socialism

The essay will focus on various biographies of objects produced in the 1920s-1930s for the pre-school and elementary school children. Framed within different narrative genres – from animation and anthropomorphisation to studies of material culture – these books often approached things, objects, and material substances not only from the point of their use-value, but also as independent agents of social change. Similar to contemporary scholars of new materialism, authors of early Soviet books for children tried to envision, depict and narrate modalities of relations with the world of material things, which retain their vibrancy and their agentive power.

By looking at such books as Nikolai Agnivtsev’s Винтик-Шпунтик (1925) and Твои машинные друзья (1926), Ilya Ionov’s Топотун и книжка (1926), and Lev Zilov’s multiple picture books about daily objects, I want to explore how these stories articulated and visualized a peculiar relationship between materiality and affectivity.

Kevin M.F. Platt
From Revolutionary Dynamism to Plan and Program: Visualizing Temporality in Soviet Children’s Culture

Children of the early Soviet era lived in an era tense with historical eventfulness. Soviet children’s literature not only made young readers aware that they were the heirs of the earth-shattering transformations of the revolutionary epoch, it called upon them to participate actively in revolutionary reorganization of society, up to and including the momentous labors of the first five-year plan. Yet the sense of historical temporality was itself undergoing rapid change in Soviet society during this era, as is reflected in the visual and textual representations of temporality and historical event in Soviet children’s literature. From the start of the 1920s, images of revolution and revolutionary activism in picture books and illustrated children’s literature are charged with the dynamism of revolutionary struggle between the recognizable negative spaces of past society and the open horizons of a future that appears radically undefined and filled with possibility. At the end of the 1920s and into the 1930s, however, a different mode began to dominate visual representation for children of historical event and social transformation. Especially in relation to the topic of socialist construction during the first five year plan, temporality gains lucidity and definition in images of known futures to be constructed by means of plans and programs, measured in charts and graphs, and situated in maps. This contribution will describe the changing phenomenology of historical temporality via examination of representations of historical event and process for Soviet children.

Birgitte Beck Pristed
Paper Projections: The Materiality of Early Soviet Children’s Books

This article investigates the political and pedagogical significance of paper and its aesthetic implications for Soviet children’s books. With the advent of digital media and e-reading, paper has lost its status as the given and transparent medium of literature and this has sparked a new media and book historical interest in the material of paper.1 Informed by the insights of media and book historians, the article supplements the approach to the illustrated Soviet children’s book as a dual visual-verbal representational mode by including also its tactile aspects. The article claims that beyond its direct visual-verbal propaganda message, also the very “paperness” of the illustrated Soviet children’s book had an ideological function, and it demonstrates how the paper-book in itself, as a printed publication, worked politically.

The material nature of the book as an object gains a special importance when it comes to children’s literature, because the child “grasps” its surrounding world hands-on. Though characterized by extreme shortage, low quality, and high fragility, Soviet paper was not just for reading, but also a surrogate for expensive and inaccessible manufactured toys, and children used paper to craft, color, and construct models. The issue of paper and what is today perceived as a shift from printed to electronic communication were already topics of vivid discussion at the Soviet playground of the 1920s.

Examining the do-it-yourself children’s book by the two artists Fedor Kobrinets’ (1907-1977) and Isaak Eberil’s (1909-1942) Knizhka-kino-seans o tom, kak pioner Gans Stachechnyi Komitet spas (A Cinema Book about Hans Who Saved the Striking Committee) from 1931, the article further analyses intersections between paper and film. The book obviously imitates the picture frames of silent movies and represents an extreme reduction of the complex film language of Eisenstein’s Strike. The children readers are instructed how to cut up the old medium of the book and create a new film out of it in a double act of destruction and construction. The little paper film sizes down the abstract silent cinema to comprehensible mini-objects that possess the tangible quality of a picture book.

The Soviet period was an époque of paper. Though Soviet propaganda primarily highlighted iron, steel, and electrification as vehicles of the new era of Communism, modernization was intrinsically linked to the expansion of paper demand. Electrification sparked the industrialization of Soviet paper production. Paper was needed for political agitation such as pamphlets and posters, for the expansion of bureaucracy, party decrees, files, documents, tram talons, library index cards, but first of all, for the state establishing of a mass printed press and mass publishing of literature and children’s literature.

Hence, the spread of electronic media in the early 20th century did not replace paper but expanded paper demand. From an aesthetic point of view, new electronic media, such as film and radio, and “old” printed books are usually considered separate modes of artistic expression. In several cases, Soviet children’s books display an ideolgical competition between the old and new media, resulting in the children’s book paradoxical self-destructive wish to overcome its own mediality, as seen in the example of Nikolai Agnivtsev’s Okti︠a︡ brenok postrelenok (1925) with illustrations by Ivan Maliutin.

Soviet paper was characterized by being a shortage good throughout the entire Soviet period. The paper production increase of the 1930s’ rapid industrialization was accompanied by an import stop of foreign, “capitalist” paper. State control over the scarce paper resources became a political instrument, used for executing indirect censorship. There was a high discrepancy between the utopian completeness of the Communist idea and its materialization in lower-end print products; between high artistic ambitions and the symbolic status of literature and its incarnation as pulp.

As part of their political education, Pioneers took part in all stages of paper circulation. Pioneers were frequently presented as paper boys, distributing the pioneer press. But pioneers were also responsible for collecting recycling paper. Soviet recycling campaigns presented pioneers as destructors of old “bureaucratic” paper, contributing to its re-fabrication as new paper, a carrier of new culture and Soviet literacy. Children’s books such as M. Il’in’s Chernym po belomu: Rasskazy o knigakh (Black Across White: Stories about Books) (1928) and Ekaterina Zonnenshtral’’s and Konstantin Kuznetsov’s Ia Pechatnik (I am a Printer) (1932) explained the history of the book and paper production to children, and instructed them how to become active printers and create their own wall agitation newspapers. However, when we say that something is “just on paper,” it has a negative meaning of not being physical and real. Participatory reading and interaction with paper did not give Soviet children any actual political agency. Despite their tangibility, the paper books and models remained virtual projections.

cropped-4747706.tiff_.jpgKatherine Hill Reischl
Aeroplanes to Aerosleds: Mobility and Mobilization in Children’s Books

Since the first decades of the 20th century and the rise of new rapid forms of transportation planes, trains, and automobiles have formed a universal cornerstone of children’s literature. Looming large and small, they quickly became the universal icons of modernity. But most essentially for the developing USSR, a country which linked industry and transportation with its own nation building during the First Five-Year plan, the visualization of the power of “automobility” – a fusion of the human, technological, and cultural spheres –took on profound ideological significance.[1] This chapter considers the visual language of the Soviet children’s book as children are mobilized to ride the rails, fly airplanes over uncharted territories, and zoom across the icy expanse between Moscow and Leningrad on an “aero-sled.” Here, the problems of imagining transportation parallel the shifting ideological and artistic discourses in a critical moment in Soviet history, iconic and dynamic symbols of both ideological control and empowering imaginative mobility.

The progress of this story will move chronologically, from 1922-1936, beginning with the constructivist children’s books by Smirnov and the Chichagovy sisters, as this author/illustrator collaborative sought to “organize life” in their art for children, quite often, through transportation. A close analysis of the graphic design, typography, and subject matter of the books Puteshestvie Charli (1924) and Put’ na sever (1924) serve to establish a new Soviet visual language of transportation — drawn from, and in exchange with, the visual language of the iconic constructivist journals of the moment, Veshch’ (1922) and Kino-fot (1922).

By way of contrast, the chapter will turn to consider an alternative presentation in Kharms’ Igra (1930). Modeling a different automobility, children play at being an airplane, steamer, and automobile. Kharms’ book, illustrated by V. Konashevich, opens the childish imaginative potential to be (auto)mobilized anywhere, but in a fashion distinctly empty of Soviet character. Thus, the book would come to add emblematically to an already growing list of non-ideological books for the former OBERIU member. The thematics identified in Kharms’ Igra come into sharp relief when considered alongside the organized presentation of systematized transportation during the First Five-Year Plan in M. Il’in far-reaching Rasskaz o velikom plane (1930). Utilizing the “building blocks” of the constructivist children’s books, both in aesthetic and content, and echoing the “open” scale of imaginative play in the likes of Kharms’ Igra, Rasskaz o velikom plane shows how “automobility” actively shaped a new Soviet ideological geography.

But the most novel contribution of this chapter will be in the discussion of the “aero-sled.” The aero-sled—part airplane, part snowmobile – is presented in this chapter as an innovative and emblematic mode of distinctly Soviet transportation. Following a short history of the transportation technology and its characteristics, we track its progress between 1927-1936, from the pages of the journals Za rulem and 30 dnei, to Sergei Tret’iakov’s young readers’ ocherk Polnym skol’zom (1930) to Roman Karmen’s photo-illustrated children’s book, Aerosani (1931), and finally to the 1936 film Semero smelykh. By plotting the aerosled at key points in the imaginative geographical schematic already established in the chapter, the aerosled is presented as the apogee of empowered movement within both a systems of Soviet automobility for children – capturing the technology and imaginative spheres of both the airplane and ground transportation, thus also securing its place in Soviet ideology writ-large. In a land blanketed in snow, the Soviet child is empowered to conquer her world with the hybridized propeller of Soviet iconography/ideology – forward and through any impediments that might be in her path.

Larissa Rudova
To Exploit or to Cherish: The Ambivalent Nature Discourse in Soviet Illustrated Children’s Books of the 1920s and 1930s

In his 1931 letter to Maxim Gorky, the author Mikhail Prishvin wrote, “Only yesterday my children’s stories, ‘Hedgehog,’ ‘Little Willow Tits,’ Rooks,’ and others were considered classics, but now nobody would accept a story of this kind for publication because my animals do not act according to the general line . . . I myself begin to think about the insignificance of hares and birds in the context of the grand construction . . . I think my animals make journals more cheerful because you see people behind them, but behind the articles of our reorganizers of art, you cannot see people at all” (Prishvin 1963, 360). Prishvin, one of the most influential children’s nature writers before the Bolshevik revolution, dedicated his creative life to conveying “the soul of nature” and living in harmony with it. His letter to Gorky reflects his frustration with the Soviet government’s aggressive treatment of nature as an enemy that should be fought, subdued, and conquered rather than understood, cared for, and protected. Prishvin’s letter also reveals the peculiar situation in Soviet children’s literature at a time when ideology and industrialization took priority over humans and the natural world.

Since the launching of the first Five-Year Plan the Soviet government increasingly viewed a contemplative attitude toward nature as an impediment to its modernity project that shifted the role of man from passive observer to becoming nature’s master. Soviet culture was expected to document this extraordinary transformation. It is therefore not surprising that the literature of the period adopted “revolutionary romanticism and pathos” (Bolotova 2005, 103) in representing man’s war against nature. Children’s literature was no exception to this trend, and many children’s books supported the discourse of “colonization” “exploration,” “subjugation,” “transformation,” and “conquest” of nature and visually enhanced the text by evocative pictures of advanced technology and aggressive industrialization. Educating their young readers about the virtues of modernization, these books spread the message that love and protection of nature were nothing but outmoded holdovers from the old world in the rapidly modernizing socialist country.

Yet, despite the concerted attempt of new children’s literature to privilege man and machine over nature, the old tradition of nature writing for children proved to be lasting and strong. It relied on an “ecological”—sensitive and thoughtful—treatment of the world and enjoyed great popularity. The focus of my paper is on these two parallel discourses and the conflicting messages they sent to their young readers. I argue that Soviet children’s literature never succeeded in creating a uniform model of treating nature according to the party line. Even in the most environmentally destructive years of Stalin’s industrialization, the “ecological consciousness” of children’s literature was never fully suppressed or replaced by the spirit of modernizaton.

Considering Gorky’s instrumental role in forging new children’s literature after the revolution, I will discuss his ideological views on nature and their impact on children’s authors. Gorky believed in man’s superiority over nature and was an enthusiastic supporter of the “new ‘second nature’ produced by man, science, and technology” (Gorky 1986, 215). He encouraged children’s authors to address the theme of “second nature” and emphasized the role of book illustrations in lending weight to the text’s message. Curiously, but not unexpectedly, Gorky supported children’s authors and book illustrators of both models: pro-industrialization and pro-nature.

Using children’s books from the 1920s and 1930s, I will discuss the interaction between texts and illustrations in the framework of the ideological and aesthetic approaches to nature education. The aesthetic of militant books about the exploitation of nature (e.g., Mikhail Il’in/ill. Mikhail Razulevich, Samuil Marshak/ill. Grigorii Bibikov) will be analyzed vis-à-vis the aesthetic of humanized and often anthropomorphized nature created by Vitalii Bianki, Evgenii Charushin, Vladimir Durov, etc.

Marina Sokolovskaia & Daniil Leiderman
Seeing Lenin’s Double : The Visuality of Soviet Childhood

This paper will examine Soviet children’s books and personal accounts around the public response to the death of Lenin in the 1920s. Lenin’s passing prompted enormous popular processions, declarations of mourning and anger, emotion and abashment, sorrow and mania. For the Party leadership both the sheer scale of feeling and the problem of channeling this feeling away from antisocial behavior were acute challenges. Children’s books proved a crucial medium for diverting the trauma of Lenin’s death into a stately cult of personality. In the process, Soviet children’s books developed a visuality exemplified by Pavel Dorokhov’s extraordinarily popular How Petun’ka rode to see Ilich [«Как Петунька ездил к Ильичу» ], which saw three separate publications (1925, 1927 and 1929) each illustrated by a different artist.

In Petun’ka, the protagonist leaves the orphanage to attend the mourning throng to Lenin’s body. The scene when Petun’ka witnesses Lenin’s body in person is crucial to the text, but isn’t emphasized in the illustrations, which instead offer an image of Petun’ka staring at a portrait of Lenin, on the wall in the orphanage. This image of the child communing with the portrait of Lenin recurred in numerous Soviet children’s books. In these narratives, the portraits brought the runaway children back home, forging both a visual and a bodily link between the child, Lenin and their new society. As the embodiment of home, as well as a link to Lenin, the portrait sought to console and resolve the children’s direct experience of dead bodies—and not just Lenin’s—shaping a visuality that sublimated the traumatic experience of  life in the epoch of Revolution into a stately image of paternalistic authority.

The gap between the materiality of Lenin’s corpse in both children’s books and accounts and the stately portraits that illustrated the narratives, was central to this visuality. The images show children in communion with portraits, but their narratives revolve around leaving home for Lenin, fantasies of touching Lenin, of finding his body and bringing it home. Children’s narratives, games and rituals surrounding Lenin’s death show that the imposed visuality around Lenin’s death took hold, but in a deeply uncanny way. Children adopted Lenin as a character in grim games that seemingly profaned the stolidity of the nascent cult of personality around Lenin, but were socially acceptable as children’s play, framed by the accounts as expressing their pure love for Lenin.  The writers of popular books on Lenin contributed to the uncanny elements, with grotesque physical detail (for instance “Lenin and the Peasantry” by I. Kuznezov, 1925 opens with a disturbing description of Lenin’s arterial hardening), and scenes that are as terrifying as they are heart-warming. Thus, the central encounter in Petun’ka has Lenin’s portrait wink at the protagonist, in a friendly gesture that inevitably evokes Nikolai Gogol’s The Portrait and its’ less than friendly wink. The Soviet writers and artists shaping the new visuality around Lenin’s death sought to offer the portrait as a home for the trauma of the generation of vagrant children produced by the Revolution. However, the outcome was a perverse domestication and appropriation of Lenin’s image that kept all the excesses of visceral memory that the Soviet writers hoped to repress. Instead of bringing children away from the strangeness and trauma of their childhood experience and into proper Soviet adulthood, books like Petun’ka contaminated the image of Lenin with literary, fairy tale and other associations from the uncanny abysses of Soviet children’s experience.

Maria Starkova-Vindman
En-gendering the New Soviet Child: Representations of Gender in the Early Soviet Children’s Press

This article examines gendered aspects in the representation of young Soviet citizens in the 1920s’ children’s press and, in particular, a new approach to depicting a female child and a female ideal in popular magazines such as Pioner and Murzilka, political posters and several children’s books from the Princeton collection. Aimed at a total re-edification and reconstruction of society, these publications also promoted a new definition and visuality of childhood. I consider the visualised new physicality of exemplary Soviet children, particularly the Young Pioneers and Little Octobrists, as a representational code of the new ideology, which also effectively appropriated pre-existent signs and symbols. I discuss the gendering of the New Child, as a signifier of the New Soviet era and identity, in the contexts of the post-revolutionary militaristic ethos, which affected conceptualisation of masculinity, pedological debates defining virtuousness in the young, as well as social reforms aimed at eradicating the divide between the sexes. The resulting image of a female child, as promoted in the Pioner magazine in the mid-1920s, was one of the earliest visual representations of a new female ideal in Soviet culture, and was framed by two dominating narratives: the reduction and masking of the sexual matter, rejecting the traditional features of femininity, and the masculinisation. I view this particular, militarised, masculinisation (and the resulting asexuality in the female image) as a code for the sovietisation process. The propagated prevalence of the social over the biological, however, did not result in eradicating assumptions about gender differences. Rather, I argue, the selected examples reveal a discrepancy between the adopted slogans and representational codes. They show how visualising androgynous aspects in female children could continue to connote the idea of gender hierarchy, laying the foundation for the retreat to a more traditional gender representation, both in children and adults, of the later Stalinist period.

Sara Pankenier Weld
Man and the Machine: Wonders of the Modern World in Early Soviet Picturebooks

The title of the 1927 picturebook Seven Wonders [Sem’ chudes], with text by Samuil Marshak and illustrations by Mikhail Tsekhanovsky, recalls the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World;” however, in place of colossal monuments of ancient civilization, this Soviet picturebook offers to Soviet children everyday wonders of modern reality, such as trains, trams, and the telegraph. Similarly, Marshak and Tsekhanovsky’s The Mail [Pochta] (1927) celebrates the miracle of modern mail, while Ilya Ionov and Tsekhanovsky’s Topotun and the Book [Topotun i knizhka] (1926) displays the magic of machines, robots, and the modern book. In their celebration of modern/Soviet technologies, these books continue in the thematic and aesthetic vein of Marshak’s earlier collaboration with influential illustrator Vladimir Lebedev, Yesterday and Today [Vchera i segodnia] (1925), which employs avant-garde illustrations to visually and verbally oppose the newfangled technologies of the early twentieth century with outdated practices of the past. Clearly, these books make the rhetorical assertion that modern Soviet reality rivals that of the ancient world, placing communism at the vanguard, and uniting, for a time, its ideals with avant-garde aesthetics. At the same time, however, such Soviet picturebooks also demonstrate, in content and form, or text and image, a love for modernity and the machine that also stands in opposition to the human form and individuality. This chapter will examine the theme of man and machine in early Soviet picturebooks depicting the wonders of the modern world and illustrated by Mikhail Tsekhanovsky.

Pages from два_брата.tiffThe opposition of man and machine becomes particularly clear in Topotun and the Book, where child and robot-machine are initially at odds, but then forge an alliance. Eventually readers witness how humans and children become more machine-like, even as the child hero, and the reader by implication, learns to treat modern technologies with appropriate wonder. The cover of Topotun and the Book shows the book’s boy protagonist Tolya in a robot-like pose with hands joined as if in obeisance to the machinery before his smooth and blank face. Yet the first illustration juxtaposing the boy Tolya and the robot Topotun displays the boy in an extremely vulnerable pose, with a bare head and bent limbs fending off the threatening robot as his chair topples beneath him. One needlelike leg of the robot appears to impale the boy through his stomach, although a mature awareness of perspective in the otherwise flattened and aperspectival composition registers the robot’s leg as being behind the boy. Still, it is a threatening image dominated by the dynamic and mechanical form of the robot, while the boy’s human body is flesh-toned, bare, and vulnerable, revealing details like his hair and the outstretched fingers of one hand. Significantly, the boy seemingly threatened by the robot does not wear his red Pioneer kerchief. The next sequence of images in the book, however, show Tolya growing to understand and respect the wonder of machines. In these images he dons a cap and kerchief, following proper Pioneer form, as his body disappears more and more. Most invisible of all is the body of the identically uniformed Pioneer on a cover illustration labeled Soviet Children [Sovetskie rebiata], which is shown on an interior page that displays the wonders of publishing in the modern era. The child on this cover, as Evgeny Steiner notes (97), has not only lost his face, hands, and individuality, but his entire body too. In the progression from “Yesterday” to “Today,” and from human to machine, man, woman, and —now— child have lost their old world individuality. In so doing, Tsekhanovsky thus goes beyond even Vladimir Lebedev’s illustrations of uniformly leftward marching proletarian children, who, despite worker’s garb, a red kerchief over a scouting uniform, or a red kerchief on a girl’s head, remain variable or individual; not to mention the degree of variation present in Lebedev’s proletarian ice cream sellers in Ice Cream and his own variable postmen in the earliest editions of The Mail. Instead, Tsekhanovsky reduces the child to a bodiless uniform, thus rendering the child as a mass-produced human series closer to that envisioned by Lebedev on the cover and interior illustrations of Yesterday and Today. Tsekhanovsky’s illustrations for L. Savelyev’s Pioneer Charter [Pionerskii ustav] (1926) go even further in making man into machine and the body into a uniform. Soviet children here become a collective of Pioneer uniforms, a collection of geometric shapes that are mass-produced and mechanically printed. In short, man has become a cog in the wheel of the communist machine, and the child also, if not even more so.

Erika Wolf
Removing the Veil: LEF Photography in the Magazine “Pioneer”

In 1928, the young journalist Leonid Volkov-Lannit (1903-1985) contributed a series of polemical articles on photography to the journal Novyi LEF (New Left Front of the Arts)culminating in “Veil on Photo” (Fata na foto). Attacking aestheticizing approaches to photography, he championed the documentary, reportorial function of photography as a weapon that would facilitate the construction of the new everyday life and outlined a practical program for its realization. In the early 1930s, Volkov-Lannit implemented aspects of this program in his work as designer, writer,  and managing editor of the magazine Pioneer, an illustrated weekly literary and cultural publication of the All-Union Pioneer Organization, the foremost communist children’s group. The contributions of other writers associated with LEF to Pioneer have been well documented and led later Soviet writers criticize the magazine in this period for being rife with “factographism.” However, the visual dimensions of the journal’s transformation during this same period have been largely ignored.

This essay begins by reviewing the engagement of the LEF group with the Pioneer movement from the early 1920s and the involvement of a variety of LEF writers with the magazine Pioneer.  It also summarizes debates about photography that took place within the pages of Novyi LEF in 1928 and that led Volkov-Lannit to articulate his vision of LEF photography. The core of the essay assesses the deployment of photography within the pages of Pioneer in 1930-31 in terms of Volkov-Lannit’s proposed program and considers how the magazine employed photography as a weapon in the construction of the new life, encouraging its young readers to take up photography as a tool for achieving social change. The  content and presentation of photographs in Pioneer are considered in terms of the cultural politics of the First Five-Year Plan. Shortly before Volkov-Lannit joined the magazine, the newspaper Pioneerskaia pravda waged a campaign against Pioneer, after which its basic content turned away from “children’s play” to promote the class war through coverage of show trials, reports on the political leadership, and the represenation of children’s political activities. The related visual transformation of the magazine is demonstrated through analysis of spreads and related texts published in the magazine. From the outset, Pioneer presented itself as a modern illustrated children’s magazine. It made engaging use of photography, but it is difficult to discern anything specifically socialist in the imagery, which often resemble bourgeois scouting publications. After Volkov-Lannit began to work on Pioneer, a marked shift took place in the presentation and content of photographs. Photographic spreads became more explicitly visual, with less reliance on captions or other explanatory text. The content also transformed, with growing content related to the political activities and engagement of Pioneers, often presented in an international context that included the class struggle of children in Germany and the United States. The magazine also encouraged its readers themselves to become photo correspondents by providing technical guidance and calling for the submission of photographs to the publication, in effect encouraging their self-representation.

While this analysis of photography in Pioneer demonstrates the basic implementation of Volkov-Lannit’s program, it was admittedly short-lived. At the end of 1931 Volkov-Lannit left Pioneer to become the managing editor of Smena, the popular illustrated magazine of the Komsomol. Furthermore, while Pioneer encouraged its readers to take up photography and serve as photo correspondents, there is no evidence that the magazine published any such photographs. Presumably, the technical quality of any submitted photographs was too poor for publication, while the basic premise of self-representation was at odds with an increasingly repressive state.