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19 November 2018

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Book Review

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Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design

Michael Idov, ed.

Aiming to profile icons of “Soviet magpie modernism,” editor Mikhail Idov and writer Bela Shayevich, aided with guest columns by the likes of Vitaly Komar, Lara Vapnyar and Gary Shteyngart, have collected an amazing treasure trove of historical artifacts in this handsomely designed new book.

While not exactly iPhones or ‘68 Mustangs, these icons are “the things with which the last three generations of Soviets grew up.” The photos drip with nostalgia, and the texts are wonderfully offbeat, e.g. “In the Soviet Union, collapsible drinking cups were a common sight. Coincidentally, so were collapsed drunks.”

The reprint of the ad with hip young Russians heading toward their diminutive Zaporozhets car is alone worth the price of the book. Yet there are countless info tidbits on everything from the indestructible Raketa watch to Krugozor magazine to the Zaporozhets that had a removable floor (for ice fishing). You can also read about the first Soviet PC, vertushkas, and the revered beveled drinking glass (designed by none other than Vera Mukhina), and of course the venerable Ural motorcycle.

In short, this is an ideal reference work for young Russophiles who missed the Soviet era, and a walk down memory lane for those who didn’t.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: July/Aug 2011