What can I say..?
With all the hassle and Russian powerplay we are confronted with these days, I feel it is time to dig a bit deeper into its history, culture and legacy. I do feel that we owe a country that brought us Dostoyevsky, Rasputin,Tolstoy, Gagarin, Anastasia, Nureyev and yes even Sharapova more than just putting them on the heap of Communist country rags. I will not settle with the prejudice that Made in Russia or Made in China, for that matter, automatically means lesser products. Unfortunately this is the case with about 70% of them, still being ordered and bought by many of us. Now do not get me wrong. If it suits you, it suits you. For me however, it is a challenge to defy that proposition of lesser goods, so I went out on a limb!
But first a short history..
The Russian Federation, or when I grew up the USSR (CCCP) or now simply Russia is without a doubt the only country in the world that succeeds keeping the world at the edge of their seat every single decade. After the October Revolution, the execution of the last Romanov's, dividing up Europe after WWII, fencing up the Eastern-European countries with their Warsaw Pact, the Cold War, Glasnost and Perestrojka and Chechnya, they now have us all entangled into a world of pure powerplay with the Crimea and the Ukraine Crisis.
We all know Russia as a former Communist country, a mother country to all Communist countries to come. From Cuba to China and of course our own Eastern-European countries all looked up to Moscow and its leaders. Names like Vladimir Iljitsj Oeljanov or Iosif Vissarionovich maybe not mean that much to you but Lenin and Stalin do ring a couple of bells, i reckon. Although their way of governing the country was everything but the intention of Engels and Marx when they wrote Das Kapital, it has always left us with a bitter taste. A taste I am not going to get into here, as Eksturlecture is not a speakers corner or political wasteland of words. I simply want to look into how this system influenced creation and designing.
So lets try to look at it from a different angle, as you are suppose to do in these cases. Although we ought to think that all minds were restricted in thinking, there have been some great inventions and pre-period thinkers and writers in this Russia. After reading Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov it makes you wonder how it really was in this vast country. For instance what I always thought as something good for all is that during the Cold War they made sure the whole world was at its best in getting to the moon first, building the best cars or planes, just to look superior to a country with power, resources and culture that can only make us envy them more.
At the end of 1991 the USSR seized to exist. Communism was out of fashion in Eastern-Europe and the mother country needed to follow the example. Gorbi tore down the Iron Curtain and with that the Berlin Wall and reformed the country and continent with his Perestroika and Glasnost..and now it was Yeltsin's turn to look forward. But suddenly asking countrymen, who are being led by the powers to be for almost a century, to function for themselves, simply ain't gonna happen.. Thus endeth the lesson!
But.. there have been and still are many designers and artists to watch. Russian Communist Art is being copied all over the world, auctions of Communist Realistic paintings are packed and high prices are being paid for them. With in our minds the world famous Matryoshka dolls we went on a search. I have always loved the educative side of the dolls and did see its purpose coming back when our oldest started to come to grips with the Russian Mama.
We stumbled upon a lovely couple in Moscow who focus on the same educational side of toys. The main goal with their toys is to help children develop early motor and logic skills while exercising their imagination. All of the toys are made in-house in Russia using natural materials like wood and non-toxic paints. Early learning toys this cool are hard to come by!
Do take a peek into our first Russian products, it's worth it: