Soviet-era erotic alphabet book from 1931 [Советская эротическая азбука 1931 года]

Untitled

.
Image: This threesome brought
to you by the letter «А» (1931)

untitled2

UPDATE: Apparently it was Giuliano Vivaldi behind the whole rumor that this collection was intended to “combat adult illiteracy,” as I put it here. He wrote: “I copied this from someone’s wall and added with a few exclamation marks that it was part of Stalin’s fight against illiteracy (joke intended). Since then my joke was cited as fact and traveled the internet.”

Consider me trolled! Still prefer to think of it having been conceived for that purpose.

Reproduced here are a bunch of scans from a fascinating erotic alphabet book printed in the Soviet Union circa 1931, made to combat adult illiteracy. By the sculptor and future People’s Artist of the USSR Sergei Merkurov [Сергей Меркуров], no less. For those of you who enjoyed my previous post on classic Soviet board-games from the 1920s, this should be right up your alley.

Ц, Ш

Ц, Ш

As my friend Jasmine Curcio points out, these images draw upon clear precedents in the phallic imagery of ancient Roman art. Throughout the ABC book one can find images of horny satyrs, indecent cupids, and flying disembodied cocks. Given Merkurov’s own fascination with ancient Greek and Roman art, this is hardly surprising. No doubt, all of these precedents were consciously invoked. Though it is admittedly somewhat interesting to see various dirty motifs cribbed from the style of Roman antiquity deployed for the purposes of a Soviet literacy campaign, which was itself such a distinctly modernizing project.

This should stand as definite challenge the false notion that the Soviet Union suppressed its citizens’ sexual desires, or was in the least conservative when it came to such matters. At least, not until Stalin achieved full control and instituted conservative policies. And, ironically, illustrated by the same man who’d later be commissioned by the Soviet government to sculpt a number of famous monuments to Stalin.

Ф, Ь

Ф, Ь

My friend Anna Khachiyan‘s reaction is worthy of inclusion here:

Thanks for sharing this — it is fantastic! All my years of tumblr trolling, and I’ve never seen anything nearly as good. And so artfully done, too. Alas, if only they had this much sex in real life.

But I must ask: What ever happened to the letter «Ж» in these drawings? This would be a difficult letter to navigate, sexually, but imagine the erotic possibilities!

Anyway, without further delay, some acknowledgments:

All of these great images are reposted from the brilliant Russian Livejournal account Isle of Crimea [Остров Крым]. I’d also like to thank Arya Moghadam for first bringing them to my attention. Credit is also due to Agata Pyzik, who first discovered them for the Anglophone world.

Needless to say, these are not safe for work. Enjoy. Continue reading

Ernst May, “City Building in the USSR” (1931)

Ernst May and collaborators, “The General Plan of Magnitogorsk — a settlement for 150,000 inhabitants attached to the Magnitogorsk industrial complex” (1931)

From Das Neue Rußland, vol. VIII-IX.  Berlin, 1931:

City Planning in Evolution

If there is any one area of endeavor in the USSR where the Revolution is still in full motion, then city building and dwelling construction must be considered first.  This is not surprising, for the replacement of a thousand-year-old social system by a new one is a process that will take more than just a dozen years to complete, or even to provide a clear and unequivocal direction.  Moreover, since the thorough reorganization of the the entire social life of the USSR, which covers on sixth of the land area of our globe, will vitally affect city development and housing everywhere, it follows that within the context of this general process of change it is at the present moment impossible to offer a panacea that would suddenly cure all the many ills accumulated over centuries and bring about immediate mature results.

Nevertheless, a number of theories have been advanced and are in hard competition with each other.  Some have been published abroad, and this in turn may have led to the impression that it is only these that represent the mainstream of Russian city planning.  Nothing could be more misleading!

So far there has been no firm commitment to one or the other system of city planning, and by all indications no such commitment should be forthcoming in the near future.  This does not mean that the field is dominated by a lack of planning or by arbitrariness.  The basic precepts of modern city planning, which in the past years have found wide acceptance in Europe, and which are now being implemented, have become the A to Z of planning in the USSR as well.  Clear separation of industry and residence, rational traffic design, the systematic organization of green areas, etc., are considered as valid a basis for healthy planning there as here; similarly, open-block planning is giving way to single-row building.

The Central Problem of the Socialist City

However, even though the general principles for the planning of Socialist cities have been established, the real problem is only beginning.  In other words, a city structure will have to be developed that in terms of its entire genesis as well as in terms of its internal articulation and structuring will be fundamentally different from the capitalist cities [189] in the rest of the world.  While our own cities in most cases owe their origin to commerce and the market place, with private ownership of land largely determining their form, the generating force behind the development of new cities in the Soviet Union is always and exclusively industrial economic production, regardless of whether in the form of industrial combines or agricultural collectives.  In contrast to prevailing practice in Europe, and with particular reference to trends in the USA, building densities in Soviet cities are not influenced by artificially inflated land values, as often happens in our case, but solely by the laws of social hygiene and economy.  In connection with this it should be pointed out most emphatically that the word ‘economy’ has taken on an entirely new meaning east of the Polish border.  Investments, which in a local sense may appear to be unprofitable, become convincingly [190] viable when seen from the vantage point of over all national planning by the state.

At this point I should like to point out most emphatically that among the innumerable misjudgments made abroad, none is more incorrect than that which assumes that work in the field of city planning and housing in the USSR is done without rhyme or reason, and that the ground has been cut out from under their feet.  The truth is that the economic and cultural reconstruction of all life in the USSR has no parallel in the history of mankind.  It is equally true that this reconstruction is being accomplished by a sober evaluation of all the realities, and it should be obvious to any observer that in each successive stage, matters recognized as desirable and ideal are being consciously subordinated to matters that are feasible and possible within the limitations of the present.  In the course of this discussion I shall return to this point on appropriate occasions.

Continue reading