Soviet Children's Picture Books from the Twenties and Thirties

Kto skoree (Which is faster) The IISH houses a rich collection of manuscripts, books and pamphlets documenting the social and political history of Russia and the Soviet Union. It is also home to a fine collection of Russian children's picture books from the 1920s and 1930s, which is presented here.

The collection numbers around 375 books. Subjects vary from friendly animal stories and everyday events in a child's life to educational texts and political themes such as Lenin, the Soviets and May Day celebrations. Cars, trains and airplanes often appear in the stories. Among the authors and illustrators many famous names can be found. In this collection there are texts by Vladimir Maiakovskii, Kornei Chukovskii, Samuil Marshak and Daniil Kharms.
The great variety of styles is immediately apparent when leafing through the collection: from sweet traditional drawings to avant-garde and socialist realism. Among the designers and illustrators is Vladimir Lebedev (1891-1967), an influential avant-garde artist, who was one of the most important designers for the Okna ROSTA. Eight of his books are included in this collection; some are collaborations with the famous poet and children's writer Samuil Marshak. Their subjects are mostly non-political. Included are: Bagazh (Luggage), Tsirk (The circus), Morozhenoe (Ice-cream) and the famous Slonenok, a translation by Kornei Chukovskii and Samuil Marshak of Rudyard Kipling's The Elephant's Child. Aleksandr Deineka (1899-1969) is represented by two pamphlets on political subjects: Pervoe Maia (The First of May) and Parad Krasnoi Armii (The Parade of the Red Army). Another important author in the development of the Soviet children's books was Vera Ermolaeva (1893-1938), one of the founders of the avant garde group UNOVIS. The collection contains eleven books with illustrations by Ermolaeva.
For a list of all titles, go to the bibliography.

From the collection, we show 52 book covers and some pages. Two books, Parad Krasnoi Armii (The parade of the Red Army) and Igra (Play), are reproduced completely. Below you can find small size images of all covers, divided into the following subject categories:

Animals | Child's life | Industry | Politics | Professions | Transport | Other subjects

All books can be consulted in the Reading Room.

Further reading:
- Grafiek en boekkunst uit de Sovjet-Unie. Tentoonstelling Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam 21.4-13.5.29
[Amsterdam] : Genootschap Nederland-Nieuw Rusland, [1929].
(IISH callno. N 1168/457)
- Evgeny Steiner
Stories for little comrades. Revolutionary artists and the making of early Soviet children's books
Seattle, Wash. : University of Washington Press, 1999.
(IISH callno. 2000/4404)

Els Wagenaar, November 2001