Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Additions to the Cotsen’s Collection of Soviet Illustrated Children’s Books


The following are some highlights from recent additions to
the Cotsen Children’s Library’s growing collection of Soviet illustrated books for young readers.

Baraban (Drum). Author Mikhail Ortsevi; Illustrations by M. Purgol’d. Moscow; Leningrad: Raduga, 1926.


Domna (Blast Furnace). Author Nikolai Asanov; Illustrations by G. Echeistov. Moscow:
Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, 1930.


Nas mnogo (There many of us). Auther Margarita Il’inichna Ivensen; Illustrations by A. Brei.
Moscow: OGIZ-Molodaia gvardiia, 1932.


Kak postroili gorod (How the city was built). Author: Esther Solomonovna Papernaia.
Illustrations by A. Poret, L. Kapustin. [Moscow]: Molodaia gvardiia, 1932.


Shimpanze i martyshka (The Chimpanzee and the Marmoset). [Moscow]: Gosudarstvennoe
izdatel’stvo, 1930.


Konveier (The Assembly Line). Alexander Nikolaevich Abramov. Illustrations by Laptev. [Moscow]: OGIZ-Molodaia gvardiia, 1931.


Pro pchel i pro Mishku medvedia; Muraveigrad (About the Bees and Teddy Bear; City of Ants). Author Elizveta Polonskaia; Illustrations by B. Pokrovskii. Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoe
izdatel’stvo, 1926.


Barabanshchik sovkhoza (The Sovkhoz Drummer). Author Nadezhda Alexandrovna Pavlovich; Illustrations by M. Siniakova. [Moscow] OGIZ-Molodaia gvardiia, 1931.


Бригада художников

Princeton University Library has acquired a complete set of the 13 issues of the journal Бригада художнков (Artists’ Brigade) issued between 1931 and 1932. The journal was published towards the end of the first five year plan (1928-32) by ФОСХ (Федерация объединений советских художников – Federation of Associations of Soviet Artists) and documents a specific moment in the ongoing Soviet cultural revolution and the ongoing evolution and reconfiguration of artistic groupings.

Much like its contemporary publications such as Советское искусство (Soviet Art) – which focus on the role in Soviet culture and society of art writ large – Бригада художников assumes a posture that looks back at a superseded pre-Revolutionary visual art and forward to the full maturation of the still evolving visual art and design of the new civilization under construction. Most of the articles contemplate the status quo of Soviet visual art and design and formulate prescriptions for its ideologically correct evolution and maximally impactful deployment. The line between past and present is marked in pieces addressing abandoned pre-Revolutionary visual art: “Искусство вчерашнего дня” – Yesterday’s art, “Конец мансарды” – The Death of the Atelier. Others address the fundamentally different evolving visual art of the new civilization with its new ruling class: “В поисках новой формы” – In Search of a New Form; “Творческий метод пролетарского искусства” – The Creative Method of Proletarian Art. The issues’ most salient preoccupations are questions of the representation of the new reality using traditional media (“Пятилетка в живописи” – The Five-Year Plan in Painting), new media and techniques such as photomontage, resolution of contemporary disputes and organizational issues surrounding ideological and aesthetic orthodoxy (“Классовая диференциаия художников” – Class Differentiation of Artists; “Петерстройка литературно-художественных организаций” – The Restructuring of Literary and Art Organizations), and visual art and design’s place among and relationship to the other arts in the totally reconceived artistic and cultural landscape of the new Soviet civilization (“Роль и место художника на театре” – The Role and Place of the Artist in the Theatre).

On the whole the issues foreground the agitational and educative functions of the new visual art and design in new genres such as the poster, the new “book for the masses” and the new children’s book: “Оформлению плаката надо учиться” – Poster Design is a Learned Art; “Проблемы оформления массовой книги” – Problems of Designing Books for the Masses; “Детская книга на перепутьи” – The Children’s Book at a Crossroads (which discusses the artist’s or illustrator’s new role as co-author).

Among others, covers were designed by El Lissitzky, Solomon Telingater, the Stenberg Brothers, and Mechislav Dobrokovski.

This purchase was made with contributions from the Slavic and Art funds. The issues are housed in the Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology.


Nabokov’s Tiutchev in the Princeton University Digital Library

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From the Private Library of Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov: Ф.И. Тютчев. Стихотворенія. Берлин : Книгоиздательство “Слово”, 1921

A second volume from the private library of Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov has been digitally imaged and is openly available for consultation in the Annotated Books collection of the Princeton University Digital Library.

This copy of a 1921 Berlin edition of verse by Fedor Ivanovich Tiutchev, purchased by Princeton at auction at Christie’s in London in 2010, was owned by Vladimir Nabokov, and bears the underlinings, circlings and marginalia he left surrounding the texts of several poems contained therein. Scholars interested in Nabokov’s engagement with the pre-Revolutionary Russian literary canon can now consult high-resolution digital images of the book in the Annotated Books collection of the Princeton University Digital Library. Among the poems noted and/or annotated by Nabokov in this volume are “Слезы”, “Вечер”, “Проблеск”, “Сумерки”, “Вчера, в мечтах обвороженных”, “Люблю глаза твои, мой друг”, “Сон на море”, “Весенняя гроза”, “Видение”, “Как неожиданно и ярко”, “Ночное небо так угюмо”, and “Умом России не понять”. Please note: these digital images of manuscript marginalia from Vladimir Nabokov’s private library are made available courtesy of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library. The copyright (© 2014) for this manuscript marginalia is held by The Dmitri Nabokov Estate and this material is being made available electronically by generous permission of The Wylie Agency LLC. Users may not make unauthorized reproductions.

Nabokov’s Copy of Eugene Onegin – Now Online!


From the Private Library of Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov: Сочиненія Александра Пушкина. Юбилейное изданіе пушкинскаго комитета подъ редакціей проф. М.Л. Гофмана. Berlin : In Kommission Petropolis-Verlag, 1937

A valuable addition has just been made to the Annotated Books collection in the Princeton University Digital Library: a copy of a 1937 selected works of Alexander Pushkin edition owned by Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov. The book, purchased at auction at Christies in June 2010, features Nabokov’s copious autograph marginalia and contains, among other things, the copy of the Russian text of Eugene Onegin he used when producing his famous and controversial translation of Pushkin’s novel in verse. The text of Eugene Onegin is the most heavily annotated section of the volume and per se a document of major import given the abiding scholarly interest in Nabokov’s bilingualism. This text and the others in the volume will also be of significant interest to the broad scholarly population studying the influence of the pre-Revolutionary Russian literary legacy on Nabokov’s oeuvre and literary subjectivity. Therefore, in the interest of making the contents of this manuscript document maximally accessible while protecting the document itself from excessive wear and tear, and with the generous permission of the Wylie Agency which represents the Nabokov Estate, Princeton is making freely available these high-resolution digital images of all 1,098 pages of the volume. Another annotated book from Nabokov’s library – a volume of Tiutchev poetry – is scheduled to be added to the collection soon. Please note: these digital images of manuscript marginalia from Vladimir Nabokov’s private library are made available courtesy of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library. The copyright (© 2014) for this manuscript marginalia is held by The Dmitri Nabokov Estate and this material is being made available electronically by permission of The Wylie Agency LLC. Users may not make unauthorized reproductions.

1914 Edition of Works by Khlebnikov with Prints by the Burliuks

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Велеміръ Владиміровичъ Хлѣбниковъ. Творенія томъ І 1906=1908 г. Москва : Гилея, 1914 (Velimir Vladimirovich Khlebnikov. Works. Volume I 1908-1908. Moscow : Gileia). Princeton University Library has acquired a copy of this very rare 1914 imprint from the Futurist press Gilea, containing works by Khlebnikov, essays on Khlebnikov and his work by Vasilii Kamenskii and David Burliuk, and prints by David and Vladimir Burliuk. At the end of the volume is a section (“Книги русскихъ футуристовъ. Каталоги издательствъ. 1908-1914 г.г. Москва-С.-Петербургъ.”) advertising Futurist publications from a number of Moscow and St. Petersburg presses (“Гилея”, “издательство Еуы”, “издательство Журавель”, “издательство Г. Кузьмина и С. Долинскаго”). This “first” volume was apparently the only one published.

This purchase was made with contributions from the Art and Slavic funds. The book is housed in the Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology. No other copies listed in OCLC.

СССР на стройке

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Princeton University Library has acquired an almost complete set of the 11-year run of the Gosizdat illustrated magazine СССР на стройке, published from 1930-1939 and for one additional year in 1949. This set is missing 1936 № 10, and 1949 №s 4-6, 8, 11-12.

This periodical, initially conceived as an illustrated supplement to the literary magazine Наши достижения (Our Achievements), was published in 5 separate editions: the Russian-language edition for domestic consumption, and for-export editions in English, German, French and Spanish. In the magazine’s early years its primary target audience was existing or prospective Western business partners capable of establishing or maintaining the trade relationships critical for the success of the young Soviet state. A heavily illustrated large-format color magazine that was very expensive to publish, СССР на стройке/ USSR in Construction/ USSR im Bau/ URSS en construction/ URSS en Construcción was funded and distributed largely through the State Bank of the USSR (Gosbank), which oversaw all Soviet trade arrangements with foreign entities. All 5 editions were published in two distinct variants – a regular version and a luxury version with better print quality on higher quality paper. The expensive luxury issues were, as a rule, bought up by Gosbank and distributed free of charge to existing or prospective foreign business partners, while the regular edition was sold to other foreign populations (e.g. communist or socialist organizations abroad, communist-sympathetic persons and organizations).

Consisting primarily of photographic images, the magazine was presented as documentary rather than representational; if Communism’s detractors took issue with Soviet propaganda, in this new magazine they were presented not with inevitably inflected verbal or pictorial renderings, but with irrefutable mechanically captured images of a purely objective reality. The preponderance of image over text also had the advantage of lending the publication a certain versatility. The sparsity of text left interpretation to the mind of the beholder, allowing the magazine to communicate a range of messages to a diverse readership – from the politically neutral advertisement of the Soviet Union as an excellent trade partner and supplier of primary materials for a wide variety of industries, to more ideologically charged assertions of the inherent moral superiority of Communism or statements of the success of the Soviet project and its superior viability vis-à-vis its capitalist rivals.

The magazine was of great importance as a foreign trade relationship building tool in the early 1930’s. This was particularly true up until the U.S. recognized the Soviet state in 1933. Before that U.S. entities’ ability to trade with – and in particular to buy from or extend credit to – the Soviet Union was greatly restricted, which created a trade asymmetry disadvantageous for the Soviets who were major importers of American industrial technology. After the United States’ recognition of Soviet statehood corrected this imbalance, and with the rise in Germany of a regime aggressively hostile to socialism, the primary target audience for the deluxe edition of the magazine became the new Soviet high-level administrators and captains of industry. By the mid 1930’s, the Soviet professional elite culled from the pre-Revolutionary bourgeois professional classes had been replaced by one composed of citizens of more proletarian origins plucked from the lower ranks. From the mid 1930’s, some scholarship suggests, СССР на стройке was produced first and foremost to glorify the achievements and bolster the confidence of these newly elevated and therefore inexperienced leaders and promote the perception that the Soviet project of social, economic and industrial transformation was a resounding success. Particularly in the second half of the 1930’s, Constructivist artists such as El Lissitzky, Sophie Lissitzky-Kuppers, Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova contributed graphic elements to the magazine and subtly gave the issues a more sophisticated rousing aesthetic, while not disturbing the illusion of their unretouched documentary immediacy. Images produced using various pictorial and other techniques nonetheless strove for a photographic or documentary realism, something that comes to the thematic surface of the magazine in the first issue from 1938, which is devoted to Soviet cinema and presents the new medium as one of a mechanical – and therefore unerringly objective – reproduction of reality.

This set of the Russian Language edition housed in the division of Rare Books and Special Collections includes all but 7 issues from the magazine’s 11-year run (1930-1939; 1949) and complements Princeton’s holdings of the English-language edition USSR in Construction in the Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology, which are missing only the issues for 1939. Combined these 2 form a complete set of the 131 issues published, the only complete set held at any institution in North America.

A purchase generously funded by the New & Expanded Fields fund, with a contribution from the Slavic fund.

Sources consulted:
Wolf, E.M. (2010). “USSR in Construction”: From avant-garde to Socialist Realist practice. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and theses. (Document ID 305184556).
Wolf, E.M. (1999). When photographs speak, to whom do they talk? The origins and audience of ‘SSSR na stroike (USSR in construction).’ Left History, 6(2), 53-82.

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Four Stalinist Propaganda Booklets from the Partizdat, 1932

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Four 1932 propaganda booklets published by the Party Press (Партийное издательство) in Moscow to disseminate the spirit and directives of Stalin’s Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Заветы Ленина (Lenin’s Wishes) reproduces the text of Stalin’s speech given at the Second Congress of Soviets in January 1924 immediately following Lenin’s death, a speech which appeared in the January 30 1924 issue of Pravda along with those of Kalinin, Krupskaia, Zinov’ev, and Bukharin. The refrain around which the speech is organized: “уходя от нас, товарищ Ленин завещал нам…” (as he was leaving us, it was Comrade Lenin’s will that we …) has interesting resonances in hindsight, inviting as it does comparison with Lenin’s “Political Will” or “Political Testament” (Политическое завещание) read at the XIII Party Congress in May 1924 but never divulged to any wider public. In this document Lenin expressed grave misgivings about Stalin’s character and the immense personal power he wielded, and ultimately suggested that he was unfit to hold the office of General Secretary.

Stalin’s speech is reprinted in this 1932 booklet accompanied by photomontage and other graphic elements which reinforce an image of Stalin as the legitimate heir to and failthful executor of Lenin’s mission – the successorship from which Stalin was meant to derive an unimpeachable political and moral authority.

Two versions of the title Новая обстановка – новые задачи хозяйственного строительства (New reality – new imperatives for building industry) reproduce a speech given by Stalin at an executive meeting (“на совещании хозяйственников”) June 23 1931, in which he discusses the economic principles and mores of the new industrialized and collectivized Soviet society being summoned into existence by the first five year plan. The speech, divided into six sections, presents something akin to a set of guiding principles for those in charge of various agricultural and industrial enterprises, to help them, one must imagine, confront the challenges of managing a worker population traumatized by the atrocities of forced collectivization and break-neck industrialization, and terrified by the executions and deportations of the excessively productive and prosperous “kulaks” and the underproducing “saboteurs”.

The fourth booklet, Дело чести дело славы дело доблести и героиства (Honor, glory, valor and heroism), identifies itself as “a letter from the workers and engineering and technical staff of the Comrade Stalin Automotive Plant in Moscow to all the workers and collective farmers of the USSR” (письмо рабочих, работниц, инженерно-технического персонала московского автомобильного завода имени т. Сталина ко всем рабочим, работницам, колхозникам и колхозницам СССР). Here the authors appear to be expounding elements of Stalin’s orthodox interpretation of the laws of Marxism-Leninism for practical implementation by the new Soviet state. The main focus is the distinction between capitalist and socialist competition (конкуренция and соревнование respectively), the former being a malignant imbalance where one party’s gain is the other’s loss and viceversa, and the latter – a clean economic engine whose benefits accrue to society as a whole.

All four booklets are illustrated and feature liberal use of the photomontage technique popularized by artists such as Alexander Rodchenko, Boris Ignatovich, and Dmitrii Debabov. The artists are not identified in the booklets themselves. Two of the booklets give the following publication information:

Оформлена 1-й бригадой по массовой книге. З. Амусьев, Г. Гладшева, Э. Гунтов, И. Кричевский, Л. Элькин – Новая обстановка – новые задачи хозяйственного строительства – first version (32 pp.)
(Formatting by the 1st Brigade for Books for the Masses. Z. Amus’ev, G. Gladsheva, E. Guntov, I. Krichevksii, L. El’kin – New reality – new imperatives for building industry – first version (32 pp.)

Фотомонтажи и макет Храповицкого и Столь
Техред Д.П. Юха
Снимки издания Союзфото, часть из выставки Дубинского ‘Шесть условий побед’ – Новая обстановка – новые задачи хозяйственного строительства – second version (40 pp.)
(Photomontage and layout – Khrapovitskii and Stol’. Technical editing – D.P. Iukha. Photographs from Soiuzfoto, some of them from Dubinskii’s exhibition “Six conditions for victory” – New reality – new imperatives for building industry – second version (40 pp.)

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Print Ephemera from the 2013 Moscow Mayoral Election

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Last year Princeton University Library acquired 182 pieces of print ephemera associated with the mayoral election in Moscow. This collection of ephemera has been digitally imaged and is now available to researchers as a digital collection in the Princeton University Digital Library.

The 2013 Moscow mayoral election was in many ways a barometer for a particular moment in the volatile balance between a longstanding authoritarian federal regime and opposition forces in Russia’s capital, a barometer for the attitudes and reactions of a new urban middle class bristling under authoritarian rule. It stood as an index of the extent to which that class held and was willing to mobilize political capital, and the extent to which the larger population in Moscow was prepared to mount and support opposition to the regime.

In 2013 Alexei Navalny, a Moscow mayoral candidate openly hostile to the Kremlin, managed to run and to become the most serious challenger of the Kremlin-backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin. There had long been a general perception that high-ranking elected municipal officials, and particularly those in the more populous urban centers, were de facto Kremlin installations who ran in the absence of any serious contest. Alexei Navalny had been a participant of some notoriety in the groundswell of protest and opposition which was set in motion following the State Duma Elections in 2011 and surged after the Presidential Election of 2012, and in 2013 he decided to run as a mayoral candidate in Moscow. He was ultimately not able to unseat the Kremlin-backed incumbent and thwart the Kremlin’s larger political objective for the 2013 Moscow mayoral election. He did, however, receive financial backing from representatives of Moscow’s new monied professional and entrepreneurial classes and succeeded in waging a vigorous and visible campaign and posing a significant challenge to the incumbent. That a rogue candidate was able to achieve this in Russia’s federal administrative capital and most populous city was seen by many as evidence that the Kremlin was no longer able to maintain its monopoly on political power. After declaring his candidacy Navalny was arrested and briefly imprisoned on what many saw as dubious charges, but his release less than 24 hours later was widely registered as a sea-change in Russian politics – a sign that the rogue candidate Navalny had managed to garner enough visibility and popular support to make his imprisonment politically inexpedient for the Kremlin, had succeeded in embarrassing the administration, forcing its hand and posing a formidable challenge to its chosen candidate for the Moscow mayoral seat.

This collection contains 182 pieces of print ephemera documenting the verbal and graphic languages deployed in the propaganda struggle that accompanied the 2013 Moscow mayoral contest.

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Soviet Era Books for Children and Youth (1918-1938) in the Princeton University Digital Library


This digital collection represents 171 imprints from the Russian holdings of the Cotsen Children’s Library. All of the selections in this group were produced between 1918 and 1938 and present examples of the visual and verbal idioms artists and authors used to address the country’s children and youth in the first two decades after the October Revolution. They display a range of visual and verbal efforts to represent the tumultuous first 2 decades of the Twentieth Century in Russia and their culmination in the cataclysmic events of 1917, as well as to communicate ideological orientation and inculcate the values of a new society that was itself still at an early developmental stage. In terms of technique, the selections feature verse and prose aimed at readers ranging from early childhood to mid adolescence, as well as paint, drawing, photomontage, and, in a few cases, the kind of creative typography characteristic of early Twentieth-Century Russian avant-garde writers and artists such as Ilya Zdanevich and Velimir Khlebnikov. Examples of fanciful or experimental formats in this collection include the elaborate fold-out book Пятилетка (“Five-year plan”) and a “Книжка-киносеанс” (“book-movie”) – a book that includes instructions for its own deconstruction and reassembly as a film and building a makeshift projector for its display. These 46 books – which include work by the artist Vladimir Lebedev, Soviet children’s poet Agniya Barto, and poets Aleksandr Bezymenskii, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Daniil Kharms – were chosen as particularly interesting and/or representative specimens from the Cotsen collection’s holdings of almost 1,000 Russian children’s books published between the 1917 Revolution and the beginning of WWII. The Cotsen’s Russian holdings total over 1,800 titles with imprint dates from the mid-Seventeenth Century to the present.

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Princeton University Library has acquired a full set of all 14 issues of Даешь (daesh’ or dayosh’ – “you give”), an illustrated magazine published in Moscow in 1929 and 1930. The masthead in the second issue gives an address on Tverskoi passazh (№ 11) for the editorial office, and names Mariia Mikhailovna Kostelovskaia as the editor-in-chief.

Bearing the generic subtitle “общественно-политический и литературно-художественный журнал” (sociopolitical and literary-artistic magazine), Даешь is a forum for the discussion of all things related to the still yet-to-gel sociopolitical, cultural and aesthetic expressions of the Soviet polity five years after Lenin’s death; two years before the end of the first five year plan, the dissolution of RAPP, and the establishment of Socialist Realism as the mandated narrative and representational mode of Soviet art and literature; and six years before the beginning of the Great Purges. The texts represent the preoccupations traditionally associated with the period following the end of the New Economic Policy and the introduction of the five-year plans: progress towards the objectives of the first 5-year plan, industrialization, the industrialization and productivity race with America, political correctness of the new Soviet art and literature and their relationship to pre-Revolutionary Russian art and literature, the economic motors which were to replace the private enterprise monetary economy of NEP and drive Soviet productivity and innovation, and the need to streamline the Party bureaucracy.

The magazine has a section where it publishes prose and verse by fledgling proletarian Soviet authors (the “литературная страничка”) and the first issue advertises a club for the workshopping of new talent and discussion of the education of the modern worker-writer. In one issue a lengthy piece contemplates the appropriate assimilation by exponents of the new literature of the oeuvre of Lev Tolstoy, often admired in Soviet literary circles as a proto-Socialist owing to his populism and criticism of the idle wealthy. There are equivalents to these pieces on pre- and post-Revolutionary literature (“The writer then and now”) for other art forms, including an item on music (“Music – for or against”), in which the author asks “Shall we make the violin a weapon of the class struggle? Whom will music serve – the bourgeoisie or the proletariat?” and adds “Our comrades who do not understand that music is one of the means by which we can influence the masses, organize them, incite them to struggle, and orient them within that struggle – they will answer that this is an unimportant question”.

Similar concerns are engaged vis-à-vis the theatre. One issue features an item entitled “On the new actor”, and Pavel Novitsky has a running theatre-review column in Даешь. The first issue contains his highly favorable review of Mayakovsky’s “Bedbug” (as staged by Meyerhold), in which he calls it “the first true Soviet comedy” and praises it for “exposing the enemy and delivering a precisely-aimed blow”.

Aside from the content concerned with literary and artistic culture, the magazine focuses on politics and the Soviet economy, with many items on productivity and innovation in agriculture and other industries. There’s a piece in the fifth issue by Stalin in which he disabuses “some of our “comrades” among the bureaucrats” (who had, presumably, expressed the sentiment that competitive economy was incompatible with the Socialist order) and explains that competition is the motor that drives productivity and innovation and an essential element in the construction of Socialism. The issues feature sardonic attacks on Trotsky and other traitors of the Bolshevik cause, and some, in retrospect, ominous calls to mount a purge (“чистка”) to rid the State apparatus of politically maladjusted elements.

The issues are richly illustrated, and include photographs and photomontage by Alexander Rodchenko, Boris Ignatovich, Dmitrii Debabov, and graphic images by D. Moor (Dmitrii Orlov), Aleksander Deineka, Vladimir Liushin, and Mechislav Dobrokovskii. Most if not all of the contributors of the photographic, photomontage and graphic components of Даешь were members of the avant-garde Constructivist group “October”, which also included among its membership Sergei Eisenstein. “October” was one of the avant-garde collectives against which proponents of realism in art and photography, such as ROPF (the Russian Association of Proletarian Photographers – Российское Общество Пролетарских Фотографов) were pitting themselves between the last years of NEP and the imposition of Socialist Realism in 1932.

This was a collaborative purchase paid for on the Graphic Arts and Slavic funds, with additional assistance from the Art History fund.