Ekran – Экран
This ‘Worker’s Magazine’ is modest at first sight. Due to the acute shortages of printing materials this edition is in green ink.
However, it contains work by several important Soviet artists. There is a strong implication that those working on this edition (and probably others) were a group of friends who were promoting each other.
The cover photo, entitled ‘In the Evenings’ is by Mikhail Abramovich Kaufman, who by 1929 had already worked as cameraman on 8 films and had directed 4. Kaufman had been working with the legendary film maker Dziga Vertov, whose 1929 film ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ is still revered today as a landmark classic of early cinema. Vertov’s real name was David Abelevich Kaufman. They were brothers. A further brother, Boris Abramovich, had a long career as a film director in France and the USA.
Why should someone who is a film director bother with taking photographs for a lowly ‘Worker’s Magazine’? The answer is to be found in the sometimes miserable salary levels of culture workers in the USSR. If there was a chance to earn some extra money in addition to the main income, it was taken. Mikhail Abramovich Kaufman went on to direct over 30 films in the USSR. He died in 1980.
There is an extraordinary avant-garde photomontage by M. P. Magidson, a graduate of VKhUTEMAS’ sculpture faculty, who was in this year (1929) making the transition from being purely a photographer to film cameraman/operator. He worked on Vertov’s film ‘Three Songs about Lenin’ and then had a film career until he died in an accident in 1954.
This photomontage is, in accordance with Magidson’s new profession, almost cinematic.
Its theme is anti-alcohol.
In the top right there is a man, laughing, presumably after enjoying the contents of the empty bottles which seem to protrude from the head of the haunted, unshaven individual whose gaze is that of a madman.
Below him, what appears to be two men are engaged in some form of drunken embrace.
The homo-erotic connotations should not be disregarded.
There is a translation of the caption below….
If we just take the vodka drunk in 1912, and poured it into a specially-dug canal, then the canal would be 10m wide, 1 metre deep and 400km long. If we took all the spirits drunk in Russia in the five years leading up to the war, then we get a canal stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
These figures only include vodka, but pre-revolutionary Russia also drank an amazing amount of beer and wine. Alcohol consumption in the Soviet Union is less than in Tsarist Russia.
However, in the Soviet Union in 1927 alone, the value of moonshine, beer, vodka and wine amounted to 1.2 billion Roubles – i.e. enough to build housing for 1.2 million people and 720,000 tractors.
Predatory moonshiners are annihilating the bread stocks. The rural population of the USSR, not counting the Far East and Caucuses, consumed around 300 million litres of moonshine in 1923. This used up 808,000 tonnes of grain.
In 1922 workers spent 0.3% of their budget on spirits, but by 1926 it was already 2.5%. The Soviet State makes no attempt to hide the harm caused to the cultural and economic development of the country by the widespread use of vodka. Equally, it considers that the income from the sale of vodka cannot play a dominating role in the budget and is now taking measures to limit the amount of vodka produced. (Theses of the Central Committee (…) on the fight against alcoholism)
We will fight decisively against alcohol!
Picture by B. A. Shatilov
This charming picture (right) is by Boris Alekseevich Shatilov. He was 24 at the time and became a ‘regular’ socialist-realist artist. Shatilov was a regular contributor to various publications such as Smena, Ogonek, Krestyanka and others. He is best known for his lovely, soft, human, works such as ‘The Lady Skaters’ and ‘Krapotkinskoe Metro’. He died in 2000 in Moscow.