15 Incredible Soviet Era Magazine Covers

15 Incredible Soviet Era Magazine Covers

The Soviet-era (1918-1991) was a time of huge upheaval, but was also a period that produced some of the most radical and memorable printed imagery of the 20th Century. The initial years after the Russian Revolution of 1917 offered artists and designers freedom to experiment; the development of Constructivist avant-garde aesthetics in the 1920s had a profound effect on magazine graphics and political propaganda.

When Stalin came to power, creative freedom was reigned in, with an enforced emphasis on Social Realism, while the later stages of the Soviet Union saw a relative relaxation of censorship, allowing a more nuanced and sophisticated approach to image-making. All of these trends would be mirrored in the incredible magazine covers of the Soviet era. Here at Cartridge Save we’ve found some of the most incredible pieces to share with you…

1. Krasni Niva [1920s, No.9]

Krasni Niva

Image: DavideLevine

While many artists began to experiment with new techniques and styles, the artist who created this cover in the 1920s adopted a traditional painterly approach and creates a quintessential Soviet scene: the powerful Red Army soldier marches through snow, set against a heavily industrialised, and possibly war-torn skyline.

2. Fizcul’tura I Sport (Physical Education and Sports) [1928, No. 29.]

Fitzcultura

Image: Russian Art and Books

Art and design of the Soviet era rejected old, bourgeois values, and the embraced a new, dynamic spirit. This sports and fitness magazine from 1928 uses a striking combination of photography and graphics in the avant-garde Constructivist manner.

3. Krasni Niva [1929, No.52]

Krasni Niva

Image: DavideLevine

This cover of Krasni Niva in the modernist style employs bold colours with the workmen’s muscular forms representing Soviet industrial might.

4. Bezbozhnik (The Atheist) [1929, No.15]

Bezbozhnik

Image: WikiMedia

Bezhnoznik (The Atheist) was a Soviet magazine published during the 1920s whose mission was to promote atheist ideas and attack organised religion. The message of this cover, printed in 1929, was that the Christian Transfiguration Day should be cancelled and replaced with an Industrialization Day, celebrating Soviet toil.

This shocking image shows a Bolshevik worker cheerfully tipping Jesus out of a wheelbarrow, while his colleague is busy smashing a church bell with a hammer. Clearly there was no place for the Church in the USSR.

5. Krokodil (Crocodile) Magazine Poster [1930]

Krokodil

Image: WikiMedia

In the early 1920s a large number of satirical magazines were printed in the Russia. Krokodil (Crocodile), founded in 1922, was probably the most popular and long lasting of these publications, continuing until the collapse of the Soviet Union. This 1930 poster advertises the magazine with a grinning worker and the slogan ‘I read Krokodil’.

The targets for Krokodil’s satire were Western Imperialists, bourgeois ideologies and anti-Soviet elements, so the authorities gave the paper relative freedom to operate.

Cancelled at the end of the USSR, the magazine was reinstated in 2005, and in its present form is printed on old-style paper for an authentic Soviet feel.

6. Rabis (Worker of Arts) [1931, No. 23-24]

Rabis

Image: Russian Art and Books

Gustav Klutsis (1895–1938), who designed the cover of this 1931 arts magazine, was a major figure in the Russian Constructivist avant-garde movement. Working with his wife and collaborator, Valentina Kulagina, Klutis produced revolutionary propaganda posters and helped maintain Stalin’s ‘cult of personality’.

Despite this dedication to the Soviet cause, the artist was arrested as he prepared to depart for New York’s World Fair in early 1938 and, by order of Stalin, was executed three weeks later.

7. Komsomol I Elektrifikatsiya (Komsomol and Electrification) [1932 No. 15-16]

Komsomol

Image: Russian Art and Books

This Soviet magazine cover was designed in the Russian avant-garde photomontage style pioneered by artists such as Gustav Klutsis, Valentina Kulagina, Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky.

8. Tehnika Molodezhi (Technology for the Youth) [1958, No. 5]

Tehnika

Image: Fishki

Tehnika Molodezhi is a magazine first published in 1933, which continues to be printed to the present day. The journal covers popular science and technology topics and also features science fiction stories. The covers of the magazine during the Soviet era are sublime fusions of art and science.

9. Tehnika Molodezhi (Technology for the Youth) [1959, No. 5]

Tehnika

Image: Fishki

The Soviet Union launched the Sputnik 1 spacecraft in 1957, effectively starting the Space Race in competition with USA. Tehnika Molodezhi kept readers informed of the latest developments in space travel, cosmic discoveries, and predictions for future technologies. The magazine’s dazzling covers reflected these themes, such as this example from 1959.

10. Sovetskiy Soyuz (Soviet Union) [1965, No.4]

Sovetskly

Image: Scraps of Moscow

Sovetskiy Soyuz magazine, launched in 1956, was distributed within Russia and translated for readers in other Warsaw Pact countries with the aim of promoting Soviet culture.

This issue from 1965 celebrates the 20th anniversary of Soviet Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany at the end of World War Two, proudly showing the hammer and sickle flag flown on the Reichstag above the devastated streets of Berlin.

11. Tehnika Molodezhi (Technology for the Youth) [1968, No.2.]

Tehnika

Image: Fishki

After World War Two the Soviet Union and USA became embroiled in the Cold War Arms Race. This Tekhnika Molodezhi cover from 1968 aims to demonstrate the sophistication of Soviet weaponry by juxtaposing images of warships, tanks, missiles and bomber planes against a background with sketches of older armaments, such as horse-drawn gun carriages and biplanes.

12. Soviet Life [February 1969, No. 149]

Soviet Life

Image Source: Marxists

In 1956 the USA launched Amerkia magazine, while Russia published The USSR, under an agreement to exchange and circulate the titles in each other’s country.

The USSR was renamed Soviet Life after a few years, and while never overtly political, the Russian government controlled the information the magazine provided to the American public, and vice versa.

As the cover states, and we struggle to believe, Soviet kids enjoyed the “Lazy, Dazy, Crazy Days of Students’ Winter” just as much their Spring Break counterparts in the USA.

13. Tehnika Molodezhi (Technology for the Youth) [1970, No.1]

Tehnika

Image: Fishki

The Soviet era covers of Tekhnika Molodezhi combined technological advancement with spectacular visuals; during the 1970s the graphics often had an almost psychedelic flavour.

This cover shows a cosmonaut fixing an orbiting Soviet space station and what appears to be some sort of strange electrical experiment reminiscent of Tesla’s magnifier transmitter.

14. Sovetskiy Soyuz (Soviet Union) [March 1985]

Sovetskly

Image: Scraps of Moscow

This issue of the Soviet Union magazine was printed in 1985, 30 years after the end of World War Two, and the tone is much less triumphant than in previous decades.

Here we can see that flag waving and missile displays have been replaced by images of urban reconstruction and a crossed-out nuclear mushroom cloud suggesting an anti-war message.

15. Soviet Life [May 1990]

Soviet Life

Image: Unknown

In the late 1980s the Soviet Union was crumbling, with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 signifying the end of the Iron Curtain. This cover of Soviet Life from 1990, while hardly a design classic, reflects these changing times, with American media mogul and entrepreneur Ted Turner on the front page.

The last ever issue of Soviet Life was published in December 1991. By the end of that month the USSR was dissolved and the Soviet era was over.

 

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