Russian Satirical Magazines–Soviet Style

Buzotër (The Troublemaker), nos. 1-3 (1924), 4-28 (1925), and 1-24 (1926). Three complete years, bound in two volumes, of a heavily illustrated Russian satirical magazine that ran from 1924 to 1928.buzoter-2-edited


When the first Russian Revolution broke out in 1905, writers and artists leapt at the chance to fill the void opened by the sudden collapse of censorship. No less than 309 new satirical magazines started publication during the brief window of 1905/1906, though most survived only for a few issues before being shut down and (in many cases) their editors being put in prison. The lavish use of color illustration make these underground papers a startling document of the intellectual ferment, but also the artistic sophistication of a milieu that suddenly had the opportunity to express itself boldly and in the public domain. Most of the artists who contributed to this first generation of radical satirical magazines were associated with the revival of Russian arts and internationbuzoter-3-editedal currents of the Symbolist movement, most strongly represented by the Mir Iskusstva group, which was heavily involved in the revolutionary outpouring of art and vitriol. While many of them later avoided association with the Bolshevik revolution and the Bolshevik regime, artists such as Evgenii Evgenievich Lansere, Isaak Izrailevich Brodskii, and Msislav Valerianovich Dobuzhinskii participated in the artistic outpouring after 1917, although by then a younger generation of Futurists, Constructivists, and Suprematists led the charge (at least until they were suppressed under Stalinism and the doctrine of “Socialist Realism.”

Buzotër is a fascinating product of the ecclectic currents at work in the early years of the Soviet Union. The magazine itself displays strong similarities to the satirical magazines of 1905/1906, in format, content, and the strong use of color in bold illustrations not only on the covers but also in between. Yet stylistically, much of the caricature here is inflected through the lens of later movements–Constructivism, Expressionism, and Dada are particularly apparent–and many of its contributors belonged to the younger generation that had declared its independence from Mir Iskusstva and Symbolism already before the First World War. Among the new “Troublemakers” contributing to the magazine were Vladimir Ivanovich Lebedev, Aleksei Radakov, Nikolai Kupreianov, and others.


For an extensive sampling of complete issues from the first wave of Russian satirical magazines, see our link from the digital library:

Architectural Fantasies of the “Soviet Piranesi”

Iakov Chernikhov, Architekturnye Fantazii: 101 Kompositsiia v Kraskakh, 101 Architekturnaia Miniatura (Leningrad: Mezhdunarodnaia Kniga, 1933). 102 pp., 101 leaves of color illustrations.

Fantasy #67: Linear Resolution of 3-Dimensional Architectural Rendering in Axiometric Perspective

Fantasy #67: Linear Resolution of 3-Dimensional Architectural Rendering in Axiometric Perspective

Between 1929 and 1933, Iakov Chernikhov published three major works that together compose a vivid documentation of Constructivist architecture in Soviet Russia. It was above all the last of these, Architektura Fantazii, that earned him the reputation of being “the Soviet Piranesi.” Featured here, the color plates at the back of this volume capture the chernikhov-9-editinterplay of architecture, painting, interior and graphic design that was a hallmark not only of Russian Constructivism, but also of many other modernist movements–De Stijl, Bauhaus, Elementarism, to name a few–that likewise strove to integrate the creative arts in a way that would not only reflect the new utopian societies they imagined, but would actually serve as vehicles for their realization as well.

Chernikhov’s bold use of line, color, empty space, and multivalent form seems to blur the distinction between painterly abstraction and  architectuchernikhov-1-editral drawing, much as Lissitzky’s prouns had done a decade or so earlier, but from the other direction. A latecomer to Contstructivism , Chernikhov had himself long been interested in relations between painting and architecture. After graduating from the Odessa School of Art in 1914, he moved to Petersburg, where he initially continued his studies in painting at the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, but in 1916 he switched to architecture and eventually graduated as a certified practicing architect in 1925. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Chernikhov devoted much time to teaching at various Soviet schools, where he focused on providing his students with a necessary introduction to “graphic literacy,” devising courses on “Methods of Depiction,”  “Projection Sketching” and “Projection Drawing” while simultaneously striving to compile an “Encyclopedia of Geometric Drawing” and “A Course on Curves.” The fruits of these efforts appeared in two large textbooks published at the end of the decade, Osnovy Sovremennoi Arkhitektury (Fundamentals of Modern Architecture, 1929-30) and Konstruktsiya Architekturnykh i Mashinnykh Form (The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms, 1931). But his Architectural Fantasies remain unrivaled as an expression of his vision, inspiring generations of architects in the later twentieth century and beyond.

chernikhov-2-edit2Earlier this year, Beinecke acquired Chernikhov’s first two textbooks (check out the “Uncataloged Acquisitions” search engine on the Beinecke’s homepage), for which the Fantasies now make a fine companion volume as welll as an exquisite addition to the General Modern Collection’s holdings of Russian Constructivism and European avant-garde architecture.