Thursday, 23 June 2011

Made in the USSR

Here is a fascinating article from the Guardian examining the state of design in the Communist USSR. This brings up a stereotype of drab, slightly comical consumer goods like the Zaporozhets car shown above compared to their glamorous Western (particularly American) counterparts. Richard Nixon emphasized this in 1959 when he asked Nikita Khruschev, "Would it not be better to compete in the relative merit of washing machines than in the strength of rockets?" This prickly exchange became known as the "Kitchen Debate". However, although there were many Soviet designs which were clearly knock-offs of their western counterparts, others were genuine classics, such as the Lomo camera and avos shopping bag, with their most impressive features being their simplicity and durability in comparison to the throwaway culture of the west.

You can read more about Soviet design in Michael Idov's book "Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design" - this is perhaps a subject A2 students can explore further within their extended essay.

PS: If you liked the Zaporozhets, there is much more of this sort of thing at

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