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date: 14 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores illustrated children’s books that were published in Soviet Russia during the first five-year plan (1928–1932). Targeting mostly preschool and elementary school children, these books are creatively illustrated, offering their readers highly detailed accounts of economic and political development in the country. Soviet pedagogues perceived this literature as a tool for training “literate spectators,” able to discern social and political importance of images. The article follows this idea, using the books for tracing visual regimes that represented class and ethnicity in the 1920s–1930s. Picture books for children successfully reflected the dual nature of socialist transformations in the USSR, where building new sites of industrial production were closely linked with the building of new nations. Very early on, this literature also documented the bifurcation of this dual process. The detailed portrayal of ethnic distinctions was paralleled by the visual disappearance of the working class, producing a stream of illustrations in which technology and ethnic groups emerged as self-sufficient visual fields, ostensibly disconnected from class, labor, and history.

Keywords: Russia, Central Asia, industrialization, technology, productivism, class, ethnicity, socialism, iconography, visual regimes

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