Mikhail Karasik.
The Paradnaya Kniga of the Country of Soviets:
Great Stalinist Photographic Books

Moscow: Kontakt-Kultura, 2007
Compiled by M. Karasik, A. Morosov, A. Snopkov
256 pp. with colour illustrations. 245 × 340 mm
In an edition of 1500 copies
ISBN 978-5-903406-02-9

The Stalin Book draws our attention by its artistic value, and studying this material not only helps expand our knowledge but also change the accents in the history of Russian and Soviet book art. There is a certain lacuna in established beliefs about the stages of book development in the first half of the 20th century. The era of the Russian book which started with the Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) movement, was then transformed by futurists and later by constructivists, went on into the 1930s. In bibliophile practice and art criticism the Soviet book of the 1930s is reduced to children’s books, illustrated editions, GIHL (State Publishing House of Literature) and Academia. A whole stratum is still not researched. It is the Stalin Grand Book, which includes The Soviet Union builds socialism, Worker-Peasant Red Army, Food Industry by El Lisitsky, Moscow under Reconstruction, The First Cavalry, Red Army, 10 years of Uzbekistan by Varvara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko, Railway Transport by Nikolay Troshin and others. Without them, the history of book art seems not only incomplete but also inauthentic. And talking of peaks, the Grand Book is a peak as absolute as the Avant-Gard book which precedes it. It is thanks to books of that decade that the profession of book artist developed, along with its specialization: layout artist, illustrator, cover-maker, sign-writer and above all designer. The Book became a universal discipline, began to solve problems of space and composition, appeared in large format, regained the character of bibliophile editions. The books which are nowadays considered masterpieces of book design, which are among the most famous photobooks of the century, were published literally within a few years of each other. Great Stalinist Photographic Books is the first publication specifically devoted to Soviet photobook and propaganda album design. The edition includes an historical essay and the description of more than 70 books of 1920s—1930s, most of which are practically unknown to bibliophiles and art critics, and to the general public as well.