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Comic Art in Russia

Publication Year: 2010

José Alaniz explores the problematic publication history of komiks--an art form much-maligned as "bourgeois" mass diversion before, during, and after the collapse of the USSR--with an emphasis on the last twenty years. Using archival research, interviews with major artists and publishers, and close readings of several works, Komiks: Comic Art in Russia provides heretofore unavailable access to the country's rich--but unknown--comics heritage. The study examines the dizzying experimental comics of the late Czarist and early revolutionary era, caricature from the satirical journal Krokodil, and the postwar series Petia Ryzhik (the "Russian Tintin"). Detailed case studies include the Perestroika-era KOM studio, the first devoted to comics in the Soviet Union; post-Soviet comics in contemporary art; autobiography and the work of Nikolai Maslov; and women's comics by such artists as Lena Uzhinova, Namida, and Re-I. Alaniz examines such issues as anti-Americanism, censorship, the rise of consumerism, globalization (e.g., in Russian manga), the impact of the internet, and the hard-won establishment of a comics subculture in Russia. Komiks have often borne the brunt of ideological change--thriving in summers of relative freedom, freezing in hard winters of official disdain. This volume covers the art form's origins in religious icon-making and book illustration, and later the immensely popular lubok or woodblock print. Alaniz reveals comics' vilification and marginalization under the Communists, the art form's economic struggles, and its eventual internet "migration" in the post-Soviet era. This book shows that Russian comics, as with the people who made them, never had a "normal life."

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. ix-x

Portions of this study have appeared in different versions in Ulbandus, Ante, Kinokultura, The International Journal of Comic Art, the Comics Journal, Khroniki Chedrika, and the Anthologies Russian Children’s Literature and ...

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Introduction: Komiks Agonistes

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pp. 3-12

In December 2003, the exhibit Apocalypse Today (Apokalipsis sego dnia) opened at the World of Art Museum (WAM) gallery in Moscow. Billed as a modern revival of the sixteenth-century tradition of illustrated miniatures produced by the Russian Orthodox Church, the show brought together thirteen artists’ visions of the Book of Revelations. The works ranged from the humor-laden reinventions...


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1. Lubok and the Prerevolutionary Era

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pp. 13-30

The language of comics on Russian soil dates back to the country’s earliest religious icon-making tradition, which is to say, to the roots of Christianity and thus of the nation itself.1 According to Bruce Lincoln, “while frescoes and mosaics proclaimed the glory of God in Keiv’s churches, paintings done on panels of well-seasoned alder, cypress, or lime (over which a layer of linen ...

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2. Comics during the Soviet Era

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pp. 31-78

The Bolsheviks, led initially by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, sought a radical break with the traditions of the past as well as with the capitalist West, and launched a bold refashioning of what they saw as backward Russian society into a modern industrialized state grounded...

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3. The Rebirth of Russian Comics

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pp. 79-90

When the fifty-four-year-old Mikhail Gorbachev—the first Communist Party general secretary born after the Revolution—assumed power in March 1985, few predicted the depth of change the Soviet Union would undergo in six short years, leading to its collapse and the restoration of Russia as a quasi-capitalist, quasi-democratic country. Gorbachev’s policies of a new engage-...

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4. Russian Comics’ Second Wave

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pp. 91-144

The years from 1991 to the present proved among the most exhilarating, groundbreaking, and frustrating of all in the medium’s checkered history. Despite the launching of festivals and journals, the rise of an active online community and publications abroad, efforts to establish a working industry repeatedly came to naught. Still, the “Second Wave” komiks subculture in ...


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5. ArtKomiks in the Museum

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pp. 145-161

Writing on the 2003 group exhibit “Viewing Area” at Moscow’s Central House of the Artist, Vladimir Moist betrays the bemusement of some Russian art critics toward the significant trend of comics appropriation in the post-Soviet era. His sardonic phrase “for us the...

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6. New Komiks for the New Russians

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pp. 162-179

As described by Anna Krylova in a 1999 essay on Russian subversion, laughter, and jokes, New Russians (novie russkie) are “a post-Soviet sociocultural category widely used in contemporary Russia to refer, usually unflatteringly, to the group of people who have ‘made it’ under the new market-economy conditions”...

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7. Autobiography in Post-Soviet Russian Comics: The Case of Nikolai Maslov

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pp. 180-195

The genre of autobiography, a staple of Western comics—especially of the underground and alternative persuasion—has been slow to develop in post-Soviet Russia. This chapter will explore some of the reasons for why this is the case, through a ...

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8. “I Want”: Women in Post-Soviet Russian Comics

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pp. 196-215

In her essay “The Visual Turn and Gender History,” Almira Ustinova posits the gender split in Russian culture as largely falling along a verbal versus visual dynamic. In a familiar move, she associates the masculine with language...

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Conclusion: Impolitic Thoughts

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pp. 216-221

As KomMissia 2005 was taking place, across town, Moscow’s imposing House of the Artist played host to the annual Art Moskva art fair, with displays from over forty-five Russian and European galleries. Many of the works on display made use of comics iconography—showing yet again that in Russia, comics were everywhere...


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pp. 222-247


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pp. 248-261


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pp. 262-269

E-ISBN-13: 9781604733679
E-ISBN-10: 1604733675
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604733662
Print-ISBN-10: 1604733667

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2010