Naughty Paintings from a Soviet Erotic Alphabet Book

Famed Soviet sculptor Sergey Merkurov, best known for his towering monuments honoring leaders like Stalin and the death masks he created (the faces of Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky included), dabbled in the erotic arts. The former director of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts made an A to Z picture book of people having sex in impossible positions. It contains multiple references to Greek and Roman mythology, hence the horny satyr that appears throughout. We’re still unsure about the inspiration behind the severed male appendages, some of which have wings. See more of Merkurov’s erotic alphabet, which we spotted on Animal, in our gallery. … Read More

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Gorgeous Vintage Magazines Published by Soviet Exiles

Convenient though they may be, the more e-readers and tablets we collect, the more we appreciate the fine design work and craftsmanship that went into the printed products of old — especially those from other countries, which seem ever strange and fresh to our eyes. This week, Christopher King at MobyLives pointed us towards Russians Without Russia, an archive created by designer Fiodor Sumkin, who has collected and scanned a series of newspapers and magazines published by Soviet exiles in Paris, Berlin, Harbin, and Constantinople in the ’20s and ’30s. A little weird and a lot beautiful, if these don’t have you hunting around for an indie journal instead of that iPad, we don’t know what will. Check out a few of our favorites after the jump, and then head straight over to the Russians Without Russia archive for more. … Read More

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10 Essential Russian Films

A box set containing three early works from Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov arrives on Blu-ray (with two films on DVD) today from Cinema Guild. The masterworks include the poetic Whispering Pages (using Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment as its main inspiration), the aural Stone, and a surreal retelling of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, 1990’s Save and Protect. Sokurov has had a prolific career, admired by everyone from Susan Sontag to Darren Aronofsky. Even Vladimir Putin helped to fund Sokurov’s 2011 Cannes Golden Lion winner, Faust, which was surprising considering the director’s history depicting Russian leaders in a less than flattering light. In celebration of this rare Sokurov release, we wanted to explore other essential Russian films. Here are ten from us. Share what movies you would add to the list, below. … Read More

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Two Pussy Riot Members Flee Russia

After Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in prison for their punk prayer performance at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Church, two other members of the Russian feminist punk-rock group have fled the country. “In connection with the search, our two participants have successfully left the country!… Read More

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Fascinating Found Photos of the Soviet Union During WWII

There’s a strange and disconcerting back story to this found album of vintage photographs from the Soviet Union in the 1940s. We see the strife of war, from the ruins of a city on fire to military vehicles rattling down rural roads, all captured from the enemy’s point of view by an anonymous German solider serving under General Heinz Guderian in World War II. We witness villagers curiously, studiously photographed in their rags, mesmerizing pastoral scenes of snow-gusted fields, and a motorcycle speeding down a winding path lined with birch trees — images that are at once stunning and uncomfortable, given their context. Found by English Russia on LiveJournal, check out a small sampling, and see what you think. … Read More

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Russia’s Bizarre “Save the Hipsters” Campaign

It figures: Just as the word “hipster” is falling out of favor (or, at the very least, becoming utterly meaningless) in US cities, it’s all over Russia. Design Taxi brings to our attention “Save the Hipsters,” a campaign launched by the website It’s My City to protect “representatives of the dominant subculture” from thuggish Chavs in Ekaterinburg. As far as we can tell from the English-language video below, the project mostly involved displaying confusing pro-hipster banners during a military parade but somehow led to a 75% drop in the city’s street fights — not to mention attracting a lot of media attention that drove traffic to It’s My City. Unfortunately, we don’t know quite enough about Russian pop culture to determine whether “Save the Hipsters” is a run-of-the-mill publicity stunt, an ironic publicity stunt, a legitimate attempt to solve what is apparently a big problem over there, or some combination of those things. Give us your best guess in the comments. … Read More

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Photos of Old Russian Ladies Guarding Their Favorite Artworks

In Russian art museums, women can frequently be found sitting vigil among the sculptures and paintings — but often, they’re not employed by the museum. They just want to be around their favorite works of art, guarding them from any possible harm in the process. As photographer Andy Freeberg writes, “When you look at the paintings and sculptures, the presence of the women becomes an inherent part of viewing the artwork itself. I found the guards as intriguing to observe as the pieces they watch over… A woman in Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery Museum said she often returns there on her day off to sit in front of a painting that reminds her of her childhood home. Another guard travels three hours each day to work, since at home she would just sit on her porch and complain about her illnesses, ‘as old women do.'” Freeberg took it upon himself to photograph these fascinating ladies in a series entitled Guardians, which we recently spotted over at My Modern Met. Click through to see some of our favorites from the series, and then head to Freeberg’s website to check out even more of his work. … Read More

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Surprisingly Fabulous Russian Army Fashions of the 1890s

You can fight, soldier man, but can you fight in a foot tall fur hat and a snappy outfit strung with tassels? Or a winged golden helmet and some casually draped suspenders? This 1892 photo album from Bibliothèque Nationale rustled up by the Rio Wang blog is fascinating. Who knew that future Czar Nicolas II was such a fox? With the Revolution still deep in the future, the Russian Empire army was undergoing a large-scale modernization, giving plenty excuses to pose in neat rows with their horses and fancy cannons. And, of course, those uniforms! See a few of our favorites in our gallery. … Read More

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What’s On at Flavorpill: The Links That Made the Rounds in Our Office

Today at Flavorpill, we listened to a surprising good acoustic cover of Sisqó’s “Thong Song” by Ghost of Patrick Swayze. We teased our hair sky high before reading up on the history of Dallas. We took some sound advice. We pondered heading west for this exhibition about San Francisco and cinema.… Read More

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