Comradely objects

Design and material culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s-80s

By Yulia Karpova

Comradely objects

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3987-0
  • Pages: 232
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: February 2020
  • BIC Category: DESIGN / History & Criticism, ART / Russian & Former Soviet Union, ART / History / Contemporary (1945-), Former Soviet Union, Ussr (Europe), Society & social sciences / Material culture, The arts / Art & design styles: from c 1960
  • Series: Studies in Design and Material Culture


The Russian avant-garde of the 1920s is broadly recognised to have been Russia's first truly original contribution to world culture. In contrast, Soviet design of the post-war period is often dismissed as hack-work and plagiarism that resulted in a shabby world of commodities. This book offers a new perspective on the history of Soviet design by focusing on the notion of the comradely object as an agent of progressive social relations that state-sponsored Soviet design inherited from the avant-garde. It introduces a shared history of domestic objects, hand-made as well as machine made, mass-produced as well as unique, utilitarian as well as challenging the conventional notion of utility. This is a study of post-avant-garde Russian productivism at the intersection of intellectual history, social history and material culture studies, an account attentive to the complexities and contradictions of Soviet design.


'Through exploring everyday objects, Karpova offers an accessible means of understanding the complex world of late Soviet design.'
Museum Worlds

'In this thoroughly researched, lucidly written, and well-illustrated book, Yulia Karpova illuminates the history of design in post-Stalinist Russia. [...] Throughout her study, Karpova unearths a number of such transformations, thereby adding significant nuances to the field of Soviet art history, history of design, and study of material culture.'
The Russian Review, Masha Kowell, Los Angeles, CA


Introduction: Soviet things that talk
1 The aesthetic turn after Stalin
2 Technical aesthetics against the disorder of things
3 Objects of neodecorativism
4 From objects to design programmes
5 A new production culture and non-commodities
Select bibliography


Yulia Karpova is assistant archivist at Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives, Budapest

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