How did the romance of the unfulfilled melt nostalgia for the USSR into a new genre? Part 2

How did the romance of the unfulfilled melt nostalgia for the USSR into a new genre? Part 2

At the turn of the 1990s and 1990s, images of “nostalgia for the unrealized Soviet Union” began to appear more and more often in Runet. According to alternative timelines, where the USSR did not collapse in the early 90s, but continued to exist and was successful – or had a more beautiful and positive past than in reality. The further, the more retrofuturism and techno-optimism were in these images, while militancy receded into the background. It became part of the broad concept of “radpunk” – its “light side”, although there was also a dark one. IN

we told the previous part

about the birth of neo-Soviet aesthetics, now let’s talk about its formation and rapid development in the 2010s – but not only.

Landing module of the Soviet Martian program by Polish artist Maciej Rebiez

To begin with, we will fill the unfortunate gap of the previous article: we forgot about art, which is the most important, according to Lenin, or the cinema and its twin brother, television – and about such an important phenomenon on the way to Soviet retrofuturism, as the fascination with the “spreading cranberry” Red Alert 3″ in the magazine of the second half of the zero years.

A screenshot from the game “Bunker” using the radpunk aesthetic

Only the lazy did not criticize Russian TV and cinema of the zeros and tenths, and for good reason – but it is in their productions that we will see the earliest features of the rethinking and reinvention of Soviet aesthetics. The reference point can be called December 31, 1995: when the first New Year’s telemusical “Old songs about the main thing” was released on GRT. Fashionable pop singers sang the most popular Soviet songs of the turn of the fifties, portraying the inhabitants of a collective farm ideal for pastoralism. In the following years, there were two more parts: in the style of “Blue Light”, which originated in the 60s on Soviet TV, and in the footsteps of Gaidaev’s “Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession”.

Some of the song performances quite accurately played with the aesthetics of the respective era

The approach to the depiction of Soviet history in “Old Songs” was new and unusual for those years. Two mutually exclusive approaches to the USSR prevailed in the then infofield. Some “talking heads” considered the Soviet Union to be an incompletely overcome totalitarian nightmare, consisting of an endless Gulag with empty shelves and bans on everything and anything. Others demanded to “turn everything back”, including the tanks on the Elbe and the 2-20 sausage, and preferably in all Stalinist severity, and the former to be hanged and dispossessed. The former, accordingly, did everything legal and not so much, so that the political revenge of the latter did not take place in any form, and this was the tragic theorem of Escobar.

Images of Yeltsin, Zyuganov and General Lebed from the satirical program “Dolls” in the 90s

“Old songs about the main thing”, which were released three years in a row, offered new optics. In three parts, they demonstrated three eras: the post-Stalin 50s in the first, the “thaw” at the turn of the 50s and 60s in the second, and the period of “stagnation” from the end of the 60s to the beginning of the 80s in the third. In each of them, Soviet realities were manipulated and exaggerated, but overall the picture was almost idyllic. These nostalgic New Year’s cabbage rolls quite accurately got into the Zeitgeist of the late 90s, when the Soviet past began to be perceived as irretrievably gone, not ideal, but interesting and very bright Epoch.

In this regard, the film “Stylyagi” from 2008 is indicative. In his images, stylish people in clothes of thermonuclear colors, which faded in bright restaurants, were directly opposed to the exaggerated gray Komsomol members and the same gray communal life of the mid-50s, as well as to the restrained colors of the interiors and clothes of the Soviet elite. However, even “grayness” and “restraint” were shot surprisingly vividly and even “deliciously”.

At the same time, many contemporaries reproached the real USSR for its “dullness”, the lack of bright colors, except maybe red. As they would say now, it is a sensory deficit, all the way to Soviet cinema, in which saturated colors were difficult to achieve due to the peculiarities of domestic film. The Soviet Union in film images increasingly appeared to be emphatically bright, saturated and aesthetic. This is how he often came out, even when he was allegedly criticized. Yes, the movie “Spy” based on the novel by Boris Akunin had a plot that BadComedian would call outrageously anti-Soviet. However, Moscow, which was completed with the help of computer graphics, many architectural projects that did not come true, including the colossal Palace of Soviets, looked like a direct advertisement of the stylistics of the “Stalin empire”.

The further the real USSR went into history, the more exaggerated and even vivid and juicy its images turned out to be. And it was popular. Since 2008, the ru_klukva_ru community flourished in LJ, aka “Crane bins of the Motherland”, in which the most ardent examples of the Western point of view, mainly the Soviet period of Russian history, were taught. This view was full of images of the most gloomy and brutal appearance: strict KGB agents, even stricter Soviet generals, and even simple Russian men mostly drank vodka with bears from a samovar, snacked with faceted glasses, and then went to repair the nuclear reactor. Of course, in the company of a bear in an earring.

One of the most popular “cranberry” pictures

Some were indignant at the distortion and denigration, some were outraged by the degree of arrogance and misunderstanding of Soviet realities by American cinematographers, but in general, the “cranberry-ness” of the old LJ was perfectly acceptable to many. In the same way, many people in the modern USA like the images of “evil American imperialists” from North Korean and Chinese cartoons: bad guys, of course, but cool and badass. “Ours don’t know how to talk about themselves like that!”

Americans especially liked the treacherous Lieutenant Fox Vixen from the North Korean animated series “Hedgehog and the Chipmunk”

At the end of the 2000s, “Zhuravlyna” in LZh actively influenced the image of the Soviet Union in the mass consciousness of more and more numerous residents of Runet. At the end of the same 2008, a sample of nuclear cranberries called “Red Alert 3” was released – and it fell on the most fertile ground. Fortunately, all factions were strongly exaggerated in the game, and unambiguously “good guys”, unlike the first two parts, were generally no one, including the Western Alliance.

“Nazdroffe, comrade!”

However, the vivid television and cranberry network images of the USSR at the end of the zero years had a pronounced militant character. However, there was a lot of self-irony and self-parody in this. The airship “Kirov” from “Red Alerts” can be called a symbol of the neo-Soviet aesthetics of the LJ of those years: which “reports” and bombards opponents with chavunium bombs with the support of combat bears. This obvious exaggeration of images also contributed to the transformation of Soviet aesthetics into what can already be called “Radpunk”.

One of the authors of reviews of “Spy” expressed it quite aptly: “First of all, I have repeatedly envied Hollywood, which is unbridled, capable of fantasies about the history of America and captivates the masses of the public all over the world with them. Now our film freely fantasizes about the history of the USSR — and this fantasy is exciting and exciting.” Gambling and exciting fantasies about the Soviet Union are the essence of radpunk. And if at the end of the zeros it was dominated by strict, militant and somewhat gloomy images, then already in the early 2010s everything began to change.

Art from the cover of the album “Above the stars” by the Sovietwave group “Mayak”

Actually, from this and with the first swallow of a “peaceful” form of artistic nostalgia about the USSR in the form of the “USSR-2061” competition in 2011, we started the discussion in the previous article. Let’s continue to study the path that radpunk took from “Kirov” airships to dreams of stars and scientific and technological progress to the rhythms of radwave. The first competition was quite successful and loud by LJ standards. It was followed by a second one in the summer of 2011: “Stone Belt”, dedicated to the hypothetical exploration of the asteroid belt by Soviet cosmonauts.

Tits on other works

Well, at the end of 2013, a computer game about a pioneer camp called “Horseless Summer” made quite a splash among network regulars. Since 2008, it has been sawn by a team of enthusiastic twins from Ychan, who were initially going to make a half-steven-half-rotic toy with the participation of girls-


, imageboard mascot and surroundings. The result was a good visual anime novel with a lot of endings, a powerful SPGS, drama, magical realism and a large fandom. In this case, we are interested in the fact that the setting of the game was a pioneer camp. A very aesthetic and nice pioneer camp that evoked nostalgia for the USSR even among those who had never set foot in a pioneer camp.

More Endless Summer!

Together with the bright characters, which affected not only avid gamers and connoisseurs of meme culture, “Horseless Summer” became a hit, even a cult game somewhere – and opened an era of admiration for positive Soviet aesthetics in the world of computer games and anime fans. The fact is that it never occurred to most of them that Soviet and post-Soviet life can be aestheticized in the same way that anime masters like Makoto Shinkai do with Japanese metropolises and mountain towns. Especially since the creators of the backgrounds for the game were clearly inspired by Shinkai’s characteristic style.

A little more Son!

“Endless Summer” brought to the rethinking of Soviet aesthetics not only the idea that it can be animated and for cute people of both sexes – good thing, as we saw in the last part, elements of pin-up and eroticism came to it already in 2012-13. years The realization that nostalgic Soviet images can be bright and beautiful overlapped with the popularity of the so-called aesthetics network.


the outskirts of the city – in which, after many years of contempt and disgust, many began to see their beauty and romance. Some Russian artists drawing in the anime style began to turn to subjects and images of Russian and Soviet life. It turned out and often turns out very nice.

The artist deserves special mention here


, aka Yulia Zhuravlyova. True, this is a bit off-topic, she refers mainly to Russian, not Soviet realities – but she does it so picturesquely, juicy and well that one can only hope for an animated screen adaptation based on her works in the genre of domestic urban fantasy.

More works by Eleth!

At this point, we will pause again – and in the next and last part we will talk about the most interesting thing: how the aesthetics of Soviet nostalgia, which was born in the mid-2010s, reached its mature and finished stage, what influence was exerted on it by the legacy of Soviet science fiction and the magazine ” “Technique Molodi”, why the musical element was also very important for her – but without any “Old songs about the main thing”, and how the thunderous mixture of all this led to the appearance of the first cult game in the style of radpunk.

Stay with us!

PS And as a postscript – a wonderful nostalgic video in the style of Hayao Miyazaki:

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