USSR in Construction – The Seminal USSR Propaganda work.
Although a product of the socialist realist period of the 1930s onward, ‘USSR in Construction’ was a noticably avant-garde influenced magazine. This came from the participation of the major photographer/designers of the previous decade and ‘slipped through the net’ because there were not yet ‘rules’ for magazines such as this.
‘USSR in Construction’ was an artistic and creative highlight of employment for productive ‘left wing’ artists: Alpert, Lissiztky, Tretyakov, Stepanova, Karmen, Rodchenko. It was edited by Maxim Gorki, the cultural figurehead of the developing dictatorship.
When faced with the task of promoting the USSR abroad via a propaganda publication, the editorial board had to decide on the main theme to be promoted: It could not show the USSR as being technically superior to Western countries. This would have been impossible. Neither could they show the country was richer than its competitors – because it was demonstrably poorer.
The driving concept behind the magazine was to show that the ‘Soviet Man’ was superior to his international rivals. He alone could conquer nature, backwardness, illiteracy, laziness. He could achieve in two years that which others could do in a decade. He was nurtured, educated, fed, motivated and empowered by the state. Soviet Man was promoted as an extension of the political system – the most scientific philosophy (Marxism-Leninism) must produce the most capable people. QED.
VICTOR KALMYKOV and MAGNITOGORSK
This issue of ‘USSR in Construction’ is devoted to the building of the iron and steel works at Magnitogorsk, in the Ural Region of Russia.
The photographic and written narratives track the work of Victor Kalmykov.
By taking the extraordinary opportunities afforded by the Soviet state, in a year-and-a-half Kalmykov progresses from being a recently-arrived illiterate manual labourer housed in a tent, on a salary of 76 Roubles per month, to brigade leader and then on to constructor with his own private room in a barracks and a salary of 298 Roubles.
He is taught to read and write as part of his technical training. He also gets married. (There is a romantic photograph of the marriage registration below).
Kalmykov is awarded a bonus for his outstanding work – a new suit. We are told that he wears the suit in his free time for visiting the theatre, club or circus.
Ultimately, Victor is awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour.
The story concludes:
The life story of Victor Kalmykov is one of tens of thousands just like that. A new man is entering the story. These people are engaged in the building of socialism…..
EVERY DAY BRINGS MORE AND MORE VICTORIES!
NEW HEROES ARE BEING BORN!