Here’s a photo catalogue of some of the relics found at our dacha. With a tribute to one of the most influential children’s books of all times – the Soviet Children’s Encyclopedia.
A 1940 Tula samovar with the remains of burnt pine cones (not seen in the photo). No electricity needed and no plastic – just wood and metal. Not in use now as it is all rough inside but I cleaned it anyway. More on samovars here.
Some postcards and a telegram from the Soviet times. And yes, my Mom’s cousin used to congratulate his Granny on the anniversary of the Revolution. A telegram was a common means to quickly congratulate someone on just about everything or to inform somebody of something. People used to cherish words, didn’t they? And here’s a selection of Soviet envelopes, mostly 1980s:
Children’s Encyclopedia, 1964-1969, 2nd edition. Along with other typical books of the Soviet period owned by many families, has been the main source of information for several generations before the Internet came :). Purchased through subscription by post (one of the way to acquire quality books in the Soviet times) for my mother. Each year two-three new volumes appeared: a subscriber would get a postcard informing them of the arrival of the new book to pick up at the post office. Used by my sister and me until 2000s. Now retired to dacha, a source for Brezhnev’s times official interpretation of history, arts, politics etc etc. I remember leafing and actually reading these brown books with non-realistic photos (both in terms of what they represent and how they do it – the colour photos are too Technicolor!), realizing already back the that the information should be handled with vigilance.
There’s a website with all the 12 volumes (text and photo) of the Children’s Encyclopedia second edition. And in case you might be interested, here’s a complete list of them, containing all that a Soviet child should (and could) learn from the official sources. Can you imagine how carefully and never-by-chance all these pictures were chosen and every single word was polished? Kids are our future… They will live in communism! (thought to come in 1980)
- volume 1 Earth (1965)
- volume 2 Celestial Objects. Numbers and Figures (1964)
- volume 3 Matter and Energy (1966)
- volume 4 Plants and Animals (1965)
- volume 5 Machines and Industry (1965)
- volume 6 Agriculture (1967)
- volume 7 Human (1966)
- volume 8 From the History of Society (1967)
- volume 9 Our Soviet Motherland (1969)
- volume 10 Foreign Countries (1968)
- volume 11 Language. Literature(1968)
- volume 12 Art (1968) – used longer than the rest, as the art is timeless!
The volume which seemed most outdated and useless in the 1990s, the 9th volume on USSR, now seems the most interesting out of the 12. Titled ‘Our Soviet Motherland’, it tells the history of the country since October revolution with all those cliches of the Soviet republics and pictures of their happy live in the almost communist world. Not a single photo or word on Stalin. Lots of Lenin and brownish-red communist-themed paintings instead.
“Morning of a Five Year plan. Building the Magnitogorsk Metal Works”. I wouldn’t like my mornings to be like this either:
Seems like Magnitogorsk (literally City of magnet) was a pretty inspiring sight for the book’s authors. The caption says that Magnitogorsk gives more cast iron than the entire pre-Revolution Russia.
1967. Parade of pionery on the Red Square (young firefighters and international folk).
My favourite colour pages – on Armenia (above) and Georgia (below). Always envied the girl eating fruit and marveled at the guys in national costumes!
Next step on the revolutionary evolution of a Soviet citizen, once you’ve said good-buy to your oktyabrenok and pinoer years, – the Scientific Communism. Yes, there were departments, entire institutions dedicated to this curious science. It was an obligatory course at any department. And nobody could graduate without passing a state exam (i.e. the qualification exam) in SC.
Bored by studying Scientific Communism? Try reading some hilarious satire underneath its cover, like Ilf’s and Petrov’s Twelve Chairs (the notoriously satiric book on the NEP period in USSR (1921-1928)) – without risking of being caught reading inappropriate literature during the Scientific Communism lectures! The original book cover is missing – as well as the contents of the Scientific Communism manual 🙂 It was my father who created this cover because the book was so old it lost its original one.
Dacha is full of relics. Some of them are still in use. Some are packed away into the attic… And for a change some dacha rain recorded from the second floor. Love rainy summer days at dacha!
Psst, there’s a 1930s Stalin’s portrait (on a metal plate!) up there in the attic! When asked, Grandpa said that was ‘for the memory’. Then he added with a certain bitterness in his voice: “He was our hero back then, you know”.