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Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design Hardcover – April 12, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"...the newly published Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design is a vital field guide to the peculiar tribe. With archival photographs and essays by America’s favorite Russians—Komar, Shteyngart, Idov (the editor of the volume)—“Made in Russia” explicates the meaning behind dozens of consumer objects popular in the U.S.S.R.— collapsible drinking cups, electric hair dryers, Sputnik—the pride of the superpower. Had it been published a little sooner, it could have spared me years of confusion." ~The New Yorker

"Author Michael Idov has amassed the amusing creations from his childhood in Soviet Russia, culminating in this book, Made In Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design (Rizzoli). The book is a collection of delighted insights, personal essays from leading Russian writers such as Gary Shteyngart, and quirky images curated by Idov, who was 15 when the curtain fell." ~Flaunt

"It’s true that Iron Curtain motifs tend to conjure humorless functionality (c.f. ‘Iron Curtain’) or high kitsch, but this big-hearted compendium proves that even as the USSR began to disintegrate, it managed, through objects and toys and technologies, to articulate a national sensibility as confounding, elusive, and magical as the Pyramid Milk Carton." ~BlackBook

"Most Americans probably think of Soviet design as dreary and bland, the ultimate expression of function over form. But the bygone empire was full of quirky, charming and influential design objects as well. In the new book Made In Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design (out April 12, by Rizzoli International Publications), Russian essayists delve into the history of Soviet style by examining 50 peculiar artifacts of the USSR, including ancient arcade games, radios that received only one station and cars built with ice fishing hatches." ~Popular Mechanics

"Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design (edited by New York's Michael Idov) a fascinating visual trip behind the Iron Curtain." New York Magazine

About the Author

Michael Idov is a contributing editor at New York Magazine and the author of the 2009 novel Ground Up, published in English as well as Idov's own Russian translation. His essays have appeared in numerous publications including GQ, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic. He lives in New York City.

Boris Kachka
is a journalist and author whose writing has been published in New York Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Russia! Magazine.

Vitaly Komar
ia a conceptual artist and, together with Alexander Melamid, one of the founders of the Sots Art movement. His work has appeared at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and at the Venice Biennale.

Gary Shteyngart
is the best-selling author of fiction including The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Absurdistan, and Super Sad True Love Story. His writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, and The New York Times.

Lara Vapnyar
is the author of the novel Memoirs of a Muse and a collection of short stories, There Are Jews in My House. Her work has been  published in The New Yorker and Harper's Magazine.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Rizzoli (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847836053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847836055
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #727,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By LarryA on April 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Apparently, despite what we were told in the West decade after decade, Russia did place a great emphasis on the visual design of their everyday world. Written by four Russian ex-pats, this book attempts to establish the former Soviet Union as a design powerhouse.

The book deals mostly with consumer items from the era of Sputnik to the collapse of the Soviet government in the late 1980's, with a bulk of that being fixed upon the 1960's and 70's. Russian designers were placed in the crux of creating visually appealing goods with the Soviet penchant for utilitarian function. Throw in the factors of limited manufacturing resources and dedication to Russia's then leadership in the space race, and a very distinctive style begins to emerge: clean, simple and very straight foward.

The authors choose a good cross section of items to examine: the Aeroflot logo, the infamous Zaporozhet automobile, a hygienically dubious soda machine, and a popular television show for children among them. Eschewing the drone of academia, each item if accompanied by an essay with a pithy or sardonic tone. When describing the notorious Russian cigarettes, Belomorkanals, he writes that they were filled with "a substance that was swept up from the floor of a long closed tobacco factory."

Where the book is lacking is in its format. Most books on design are large, full color, with glorious photographs. This book is the sized to fit a pocket, with most items represented by one single B&W stock photo. Two slender inserts of color plates improve the situation only slightly.

The final word on Soviet design? No, but a good starting place for those who are interested.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul E. Richardson VINE VOICE on June 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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.

As reviewed in Russian Life
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Anna Kezer on May 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great tribute to things all strange, ugly, and ubiquitous in the Soviet Union. Each story contains a photograph of the subject, its history of joining the culture, and sometimes an interesting essay with one of the writer's perspective of what the subject meant to them in the days of their youth.

I greatly enjoyed a trip back the memory lane and the light humor of the stories. Highly recommend to anyone interested in a quick tour into particulars of an everyday life of Soviet Union.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Long on June 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It's interesting to read what Americans think about Soviets all these years later. Having grown up during the tail end of the of the Cold War, I was used to hearing the American media characterize Soviet culture as being drab, Soviet technology as being clunky, and the Soviet people as being more or less unattractive and dull.

What is especially sad is seeing such stupid caricatures perpetuated to this day by books like this. The pictures in this book depict interesting items of Soviet pop culture and industry, revealing a side of Soviet life of which most Westerners were (and are) unaware. The pictures make this book interesting. But the text -- well, that's another story. At every turn we are reminded how dull, drab, and behind the "capitalist" countries the Soviet Union was. Even when praise is to be offered for something, it's generally attributed to the influence of the West, such as this commentary on a popular Soviet magazine for youth: "Like many good things, Krugozor appeared as the result of one of Nikita Kruschev's trips to the West."

Essentially, this book reads like a piece of propaganda produced by someone unaware that the Cold War is over.
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Format: Hardcover
Radio producer Roman Mars and I profiled Idov this book on the design podcast "99% Invisible." If you're interested in Soviet design, you can hear some of the items so well described in the book: the magazine-with-a-record "Krugozor" and the children's program "Spokoinoi Nochi Malyshi" in particular. So take a listen--it's an intriguing lost world that Idov and his fellow essayists bring to light so well. I do hope there might be publisher interest in a sequel, as this volume just scratches the surface of everyday Soviet life.

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