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Europe/Russia : The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

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Guthrum
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16 Sep 2015
02:00:31pm
This long set is the first of several over the ensuing decades in which the USSR sought to proclaim the diversity of its population - and, more importantly, the fact of the Union. The Republics were indeed diverse ethnically, linguistically and socio-politically, and so this set of stamps raises as many questions as it answers.

At first sight these stamps satisfy the sort of simple questions a schoolchild in Moscow might want to know: who are these people, what do they wear, how do they live? Mostly, as the stamps show, by agriculture, but even the far-flung peoples, the reindeer-riding Yakuts or the tepee-dwelling Tungusians, feel the benefits of literacy as they clutch their newspapers (Stamp 5 in each of the top two rows: 1-5, 2-5). The Chechens relax, listening to music on a phonograph (2-1), while their neighbours the Georgians, Armenians and Turks take time off to look pensive as a distant line of what might be oil-rigs or pylons approaches their lands (3-3). (Perhaps a little work to be done with these particular peoples, comrade?) Only the Arctic Nenet seems to be having fun, racing his reindeer-hitched sleigh away from the Soviet flag, the pylon and the Northern Lights (2-4). He, too, will require re-education.

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But this picturesque, schoolbook - one might almost say bourgeois - view of Soviet Russia does not tell the whole story. Particularly thought-provoking is the 15k. purple (2-6 and below), in which two women pause from their work in the fields as a motor-driven vehicle speeds past, its (male) driver looking back at them, his body-language far from friendly. One woman shields her eyes from the sun.

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They are Ukrainians, and by the time these stamps were issued their country would not have recovered from the dreadful forced starvation they had endured at the hands of Stalin a year earlier. There would have been few enough women in the fields - most were dead, having spared what little food there was for their children.

Did the designer know of these things? It was the newly-promoted Ivan Dubasov, who did five of these 21 stamps. What is the driver shouting back at the women? Why is one ignoring him completely, and what is it she can see in the distance behind him?

Dubasov - although he was Head Artist - did no more stamp designs for five years after this. Perhaps someone had had a word.

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AntoniusRa
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The truth is within and only you can reveal it
16 Sep 2015
04:49:35pm
re: The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

I don't think he would be speeding past them on that tractor. He is clearly preparing the soil for planting. Note the discs on the piece of equipment he is towing behind him.
I'd guess he's telling them to go home and fix dinner.

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ernieinjax
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16 Sep 2015
05:24:45pm
re: The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

But the disks are up...

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Guthrum
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16 Sep 2015
05:34:11pm
re: The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

I had no idea what that vehicle was - originally I wrote 'tractor' - but do not know what the discs are for. All information from agricultural machinery experts (and I bet there are some) welcome! I'm not sure, however, that it changes the point, which is that the artist (or the selector of the original photograph) has incorporated three figures in significant attitudes vis a vis each other, capable of interpretation. In a regime where only one interpretation was permitted of any propagandist image, I suggest that some, at least, of these stamps sail pretty close to the wind.

You might like to compare the imagery of this long set with subsequent Soviet "all-union" sets. They played much safer, with architectural pavilions, townscapes and suchlike.

(I'm sure you know that there was no 'dinner' in the Ukraine during the period of the Holodomor.)

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nl1947
16 Sep 2015
06:06:36pm
re: The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

He is plowing to turn up the soil - 2 tynes are visible.
After the disks (actually disk harrows) will break up large chunks
He's asking "What's for Supper?"

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AntoniusRa
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16 Sep 2015
09:50:54pm
re: The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

I'm glad you brought up this set. It seems I missed scanning it for my online collection.
Russia printed more stamps than any other country and it would be a monster to start a collection from scratch. I bought a fairly complete collection about 25 years ago. It seems someone put a huge world wide collection together by hand and a typewriter. I was only able to get the three volumes of Russia and Mongolia. There were only a few stamps missing up til 1992. I had added several to it but sold some of the betters a few years ago when it was hot. The first stamp I sold out of it, I deeply regret. It was the 1935 Airmail C68. At the time it only cataloged for $150.00 and someone offered me full cat which I thought was good deal and would help pay for the collection which I had just bought. I failed to grasp how rare the stamp was, today it catalogs for $1,250. The 10 or so stamps I sold a few years ago included the Lenin Mausoleum sheet and a few other better stamps. I do not regret selling these as much as I got top dollar when I needed it. Still I need less than 30 stamps to complete the regular issues through 1992. I only have it scanned at present up til 1950 including the scarce hotel set. I hope to get around to scanning the other two volumes in the near future to add to my online collection. For now I'm just going to scan that set you've shown and add it to the existing pages.
My 1st volume of russia can be seen here: http://mitch.seymourfamily.com/mward/collection/europe/russia/russia.html

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ikeyPikey
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17 Sep 2015
12:02:24am
re: The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

You are looking at romance a la Soviet Realism.

The tractor (metal wheels, no rubber tires, for field use only) is a benefit of Soviet collectivization & modernity.

The dashing young man (dressed more like an aeroplane pilot than a farmer) has turned the head of the fertile child-bearing-age young woman, whose mother shades her eyes from the sun as she keeps watch on her daughter & continues walking straight ahead.

Cheers,

/s/ ikeyPikey

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"I collect stamps today precisely the way I collected stamps when I was ten years old."
Guthrum
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17 Sep 2015
02:13:51am
re: The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

That is an interesting interpretation, Michael, and of course you are right about the tractor. As for the dramatic set-up, that suggests it was originally a painting rather than a photograph, which is entirely possible, and which may feature on some internet website of Soviet realist art. It would not, of course, negate the cynical distortion of the reality the Ukrainians had just undergone at that time.

If the image was not selected (whether from a photograph or from a painting) it may have been produced to order from illustrators at Goznak, or even created by Head Artist Ivan Dubasov himself. I admit that my attempts to link Dubasov's five year absence from stamp design with putative deviations from ideological purity are speculative and fanciful, but until any hard evidence turns up, they may serve to entertain!

I'm posting this set as it now looks in my album (the previous image was photographed on my desk) in the hope that the stamps will appear more clearly:

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Hm... not sure if that's an improvement, but I doubt if the web page will take anything larger. Any hints on scanning album pages (A4 size) for these posts would be helpful.


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ikeyPikey
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17 Sep 2015
01:20:52pm
re: The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

Quote:

"... to link Dubasov's five year absence from stamp design with putative deviations from ideological purity are speculative and fanciful, but until any hard evidence turns up, they may serve to entertain!"



Hey, man, its a hobby ... its supposed to be entertaining!

As I can testify from my exhaustive library of artist CVs (not), people come & go from any field or venue for all sorts of reasons.

Maybe Dubasov was doing portraits of members of the Politburo, which could easily take five years, especially if there was a little turnover ... those portraits could have been left unsigned (probably a good idea), or could have gone down the memory hole.

Maybe he was not even gone from stamp design, but decided to let assistants sign his work because, once they were certified as loyal servants of The State, they would be safe(r), get a better apartment, etc.

As to the stamp's design, I prefer to work backwards. If the stamps made it into print, they were ideologically correct. If they were ideologically correct, we need to interpret each element as 'serving the narrative'. That is how I came up with the dashing driver, the distracted maiden, Soviet industrial might bestowing blessings on the Ukraine, etc.

And, okay, I get a kick out of Soviet Realism, so I've paid a bit of uneducated, uninformed, untrained attention to it over the years ... and I'm telling you that stamp is state-sanctioned porn!

Cheers,

/s/ ikeyPikey

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AntoniusRa
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The truth is within and only you can reveal it
17 Sep 2015
02:14:58pm
re: The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

Quote:

"Any hints on scanning album pages (A4 size) for these posts would be helpful."


I've been playing around to see what the maximum size image can be posted on the board. The limit seems to be less than 1000 pix wide. A full size page will not load to the board and a smaller size will not show up well enough to see much detail. The only option I know of is to upload it to a storage space on the web and link to it. You of course could break the set down but that would be rather time consuming.
I scanned and uploaded my page of the set, minus 3 that are on the next page. It is full size and while my set is used you can still see much more detail.
Page here: http://mitch.seymourfamily.com/mward/collection/europe/russia/russia24a.jpg
Remember to left click on the page to show full size.


(Modified by Moderator on 2015-09-17 14:32:58)
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BobbyBarnhart
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They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. -Benjamin Franklin
17 Sep 2015
02:37:32pm
re: The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

The maximum size for upload is (approximately):

900 pixels wide
1200 pixels deep
350kb size

I (and others) have posted full pages within these parameters with decent resolution. HERE is one of mine.

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"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. -Edmund Burke"

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AntoniusRa
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The truth is within and only you can reveal it
17 Sep 2015
06:04:08pm
re: The "Ethnographical" issue of 1933

Another trick for getting more bang for your buck is to crop your page. I crop out the borders on all my pages so that there is a 1/4"-1/2" outside of the stamp frames.
This will allow you to show larger images of the stamps in the same area available for posting. Although the frame makes the page look a little nicer, it's really just wasted space.

Bobby, That first Liberia set is one of my favorites in the world. It was ahead of it's time. There is not much to compare it to.

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