Episode 25: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design

There’s something that links most of the everyday objects presented in “Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design.” But it’s hard to tell exactly what that is just by looking at this collection of wobbly dolls, drinking glasses, primitive arcade games, and arsonistic space heaters. The essence, argues editor Michael Idov, is the system that built them: a post-WWII economy, mostly closed from the rest of the world, trying to transform its tank and grenade factories into places that churned out Western-style consumer goods. Idov grew up in Soviet Latvia with “some pretty terrible stuff,” but he believes the experience makes him, and other Soviet citizens, hyperaware of good design when they see it. Julia Barton explores the good, the bad, and the weird products of the former empire.

The Vesna 309-4 cassette recorder (© Ilya Popenko, Made in Russia by Michael Idov, Rizzoli, 2011)  “None could quite stack up to their foreign counterparts in sound quality, but, like so many things made in the USSR, they were unbreakable. The final advantage was this: if your Soviet stereo was being reluctant, hitting it always worked.” -Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design.

VesnaCassette

Morskoi Boi Arcade Game (© Museum of Soviet Arcade Games, Made in Russia by Michael Idov, Rizzoli, 2011) “From afar, the game appears to be as complex as a submarine itself, with its blue tin cabinet covered in mysterious, bright yellow and red gauges. Upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that this is just a box covered in stickers…” -Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design.

ArcadeGame

Sputnik radio ad (© TASS-Photo, Made in Russia by Michael Idov, Rizzoli, 2011)

Sputnik

BK0010-01 Home Computer (Viacheslav Slavinsky creative commons 3.0) “In short, the BK is the reason your company’s IT support team is fifty percent Russian…its bare-bones severity…laid the foundation for the emergence of the might Russian hacker.” -Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design.

 

BKElectronika

Closing theme from Soviet TV’s “Good Night, Little Ones”

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