Selling to the Masses
Retailing in Urban Russia, 1880—1930
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press
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Although I have spent many solitary hours completing this book, numerous people and organizations have contributed to it in various ways. I am delighted to thank them for their support ...
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When I first visited Moscow, in 1995, I made the obligatory trek to Red Square. Standing in the center of the square, I was captivated by the Kremlin’s spires and St. Basil’s multihued curves and peaks, but the enormous, ornate retail arcade directly opposite ...
1. Russia’s Retail Landscape, 1860s–1890s
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Upon his return to Moscow in 1864, Nikolai V. Davydov, a lawyer and legal scholar, recalled the remarkable changes that had taken place in the city’s commercial landscape during his five-year absence: “Moscow was unrecognizable; so much had its appearance changed. It had taken on an almost European appearance. A drastic change had happened. Everything felt new. New streets ...
2. Palaces of Retailing and Consumption
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No single event captured more succinctly the conflicts inherent in Russia’s retail sphere than the reconstruction of the Upper Trading Rows on Red Square from 1886 to 1893. More than a plan to transform Moscow’s largest re-tail venue into an enormous arcade, the renovation signified a self-conscious attempt to aesthetically capture the meaning of contemporary urban life, to ...
3. For God, Tsar, and Consumerism
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The day that Grigorii Eliseev opened his fine foods and wine emporium in a renovated palace on Tverskaia Street in Moscow in 1901, a crowd formed in front of the store in anticipation of the noontime opening. As the occasion was by invitation only, the crowd gathered not so much to enter the store and make purchases as to simply witness the event: to admire the building’s newly ...
4. Visions of Modernity
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The merchant elite’s orchestration of promotional events publicizing associations with tsarist power and the Orthodox faith clashed with self-perceptions some merchants had developed in the decade prior to World War I. As the Russian retail sector continued to grow, diversify, and serve a rapidly increasing population, the political situation in Russia became volatile. The Revolution ...
5. Consuming the City
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As much as the merchant elite’s promotional strategies and campaign to recreate the retail trade orchestrated urban mass culture, consumers’ daily actions and interactions in stores, shops, and markets contributed to the definition of an urban lifestyle, constructing what it meant to be a consumer, to belong to a certain social class and gender, and to live in a modern city. Buying and ...
6. War and Revolution in the Marketplace, 1914–1921
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Russia’s entry into World War I, the two revolutions in 1917, and the civil war that followed interrupted the campaign of activist-journalists and debates about the nature and value of modern retailing, as well as consumers’ daily shopping routines. The hardships of war and implementation of revolutionary imperatives led to state interventions into the retail economy and the ...
7. Retailing the Revolution
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A 1926 newspaper article headlined “Under GUM’s Glass Heaven” presented a vision of socialist retailing that depicted Soviet citizens indulging in the pleasures of shopping in the fabulous Red Square premises of the State Department Store (Gosudarstvennyi universal’nyi magazin, or GUM).1 The article opened with a description of GUM’s giant display windows, exhibit-...
8. The Customer Is Aways Wrong
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Creating advertising and promotional campaigns that reflected revolutionary ideals and endorsed visions of a modern working-class consumer society were relatively easy tasks. Commercial officials faced more intractable problems, however, in implementing egalitarian operational policies and procedures and creating a working and shopping environment that inculcated ...
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Model retailers such as GUM failed to deliver what the Soviet government promised with its version of modern retailing: abundance, comfort, efficiency, and respect for workers and consumers. Shopping was no longer a pleasure, a sport, or even a routine task but a humiliating, exacting chore. The significance of the state’s failure in the retail sector was that the failure to make available ...
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Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 25 b&w Illustrations
Publication Year: 2012