Esenin, Sergei. Isus' Mladenets [The Infant Jesus]. Petrograd: Segodnja, 1918, illustrations by Yelena Turova
Chukovsky, Kornei. Tarakanishche [The Giant Cockroach]. Leningrad: Raduga, 1922, illustrations by Sergei Chekhonin
Marshak, Samuil. Vchera i segodnya [Yesterday and Today]. Moscow-Leningrad: Raduga, 1925, illustrations by Vladimir Lebedev
Preobrazhensky, S. John Boss [John Boss]. Izdatel'stvo Ryazan', 1925, illustrations by Alexander Lopukhin
Lenski, Vladimir. Kak na Rusi lapti perevelis' [How Woven Shoes Died Out]. Moscow-Leningrad: Raduga, 1925, illustrations by Vasili Svarog
Polonskaya, Yelizaveta. Pro pchel i pro Mishku-medvedya [About Bees and Mishka the Bear]. Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1926, illustrations by Boris Pokrovsky
Marshak, Samuel. Bagazh [Luggage]. Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1929, illustrations by Vladimir Lebedev
Shitkov, Boris. Pro slona [About the Elephant]. Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1930, illustrations by Nikolai Tyrsa
Tarakhovskaya, N. Metropoliten [The Subway]. Moscow: Gosizdat, 1933, illustrations by Andrei Brei
Bianki, Vitali. Gde raki zimuyut [Where the Crabs Spend the Winter]. Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1935, illustrations by Valentin Kudrov
Tolstoy, Leo. Novaya azbuka [The New Alphabet]. Tula: Otdel narodnogo, 1918
Yefimov, Ivan. Mena [The Exchange]. Moscow: Gosizdat, 1929, illustrations by the author
Samokhvalov, Alexander. Foma peremenchivyi [Thomas, Change Yourself]. Moscow: Gosizdat, 1929, changing illustrations by the author, and 82 others, various sizes, original pictorial wrappers, the majority worn, covers repaired or loose or chipped
Poster. Sovetskaya repka [Soviet turnip]. Moscow, n.d., 675 x 500mm., coloured lithographed illustrations, framed and glazed
A full list of the collection is available upon request.
Shili-Byli: Russian Children's Books 1920-1940, pp. 7-24
This extensive collection of Russian children's books formed the core of the major exhibition "Shili-Byli. Russian Children's Books 1920-1940" at MAK, Vienna, October 20, 2004-February 20, 2005. Natalia Stagl loaned the majority of the exhibits from her collection and contributed a major article in the accompanying catalogue, "On Children's Literature in Russia in the 1920s and 1930s". The premise behind this exhibition ["Once upon a Time", in English] was not merely a chronological look at the children's books of this avant-garde period, but the recognition that the upheavals and changes in Russian society were reflected in the children's books of the period. Many writers and artists turned away from the constraints of adult literature to use the medium of children's literature to mirror the changes taking place. As art became a vehicle of the State and its protagonists had to suffer constraints of freedom, so they turned to children's books to infiltrate the political system in subtle fashion: Stalin appears as a cockroach, and birds could be seen as a symbol of hope. As society changed beyond all recognition the artists helped lead the way in comprehending new processes such as mechanisation and electricity, in understanding the new role of "the farmer", "the proletariat", "the worker". Human beings were shown as free, with the new machines as their great helpers. The years between 1920 and the early 1930s saw a great flowering of the illustrated children's book, free from the suppression that came in towards the end of the 1930s.
The unsuccessful 1905 Revolution ushered in a new era in children's books with the first attempts at introducing children to truly Russian tales, as seen in the works by Bilibin and Benois (see lots 87-89). Periodicals designed for children began to appear, such as New Satirikon with illustrations by Vladimir Lebedev. There remained still a class element to children's books, with elaborate works such as The Little Tsar exploring fantasy, and cheaper books such as The Fearless Goat depicting a simple life in the country. Very few children's books were issued between 1917-1919, partly due to the chaos caused by the War and the Revolution, partly due to the scarcity of paper, and partly because no-one had developed an appropriate style of literature for children that reflected the huge changes in society.
The 1920s was dominated by Avant-Garde artists such as El Lissitzky who wished to spread their beliefs through the unfettered medium of children's books and for the first time the traditional text/picture structure was radically altered. The illustrations and design became equally or often more important than the text. For the first time children were regarded as a serious audience: the artist could educate them about the changes in society. The artist's life also altered after the Revolution, for with potential buyers of art gone and museums with no budgets, children's literature was for many the only way of reaching the market.
Children's books were generally produced in large quantities at this time, as the literacy campaign grew and production costs shrank, although few have survived today. Lenin's wife Krupskaya herself took charge of the production of literature for children, showing the importance the State gave to the genre, which ironically was purged and restricted relatively late compared to adult literature.
The official Union of Soviet Writers decided upon the themes suitable for children's books: for instance specialist books for girls, or books of fairy tales were banned, to be replaced with "new heroes" such as "the worker", "the miner", "the farmer" or "the proletariat". Good children did not go to Heaven but rather to the May Day Parade in Red Square. Whole stories were dedicated to new articles such as "the iron", "the fire engine", "the screw" or "the cooker" and their role in the wondrous new mechanized society. Surreptitiously the theme of "David v Goliath" crept in (a metaphor later for the individual v Stalin and the State); for instance a robin kills a giant roach in The Giant Roach.
By the mid-1930s, however, Stalinism had pervaded even into the realm of children's literature. The Union of Soviet Writers had become more didactic over which themes were appropriate; the political fairy tale was replaced by a politically didactic text and the wonderful flowering of Russian children's books was over. Authors and artists who had been allowed freedom were purged, as was the State publishing house for children's literature, with several authors and illustrators dying in the Gulag. Even Lebedev who had survived criticism of his Constructivist style in the mid-1930s succumbed to political pressure in order to survive.
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