We all know Stalin’s Soveit Union was unrelievedly grim and sexually repressed, right? So what would you expect when Sergey Merkurov, People’s Artist of the USSR and creator of the three biggest statues ever of Uncle Joe, was asked in 1931 to do an alphabet picture book to counter Russia’s immense illiteracy problem? Well not this, that’s for sure, though it’s sound pedagogy, ahead of its time. The huge surge in creative problem solving that genuine revolution always throws up had not yet been crushed.
Note the nods to Aubrey Beardsley and, in the digs here and there at Church and Monarchy, to George Cruikshank too. Merkurov is less heavy-handed than Cruikshank but that’s not hard!