Soviet Propaganda Porcelain: Inside the Imperial Porcelain Factory

July 18, 2013
Soviet Propaganda Porcelain - Lenin plate

While we were in St. Petersburg, we went on a private tour of the Imperial Porcelain Factory, and got to see some Soviet propaganda porcelain for the first time. I didn’t know such a thing even existed – I always thought propaganda was largely “limited” to media. That is, posters, movies, radio and TV. But…

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Vestiges of Empire – Tracking Lenin statues through Russia and Ukraine

July 12, 2013
Lenin statues in Russia and Ukraine - outside Finland station in St. Petersburg

I grew up in a country that is pathologically allergic to patriotism. I don’t think I need to tell you about the country I was born in and patriotism. Which, among other things, translated into a lot of statues and monuments. Broken Lenins and Stalins are part of our stock downfall-of-an-empire imagery, so I didn’t expect…

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The weight of an English chesterfield (Immigrant Decor Part 4)

July 27, 2011

This next post is from Navneet Alang, a tech-culture writer and PhD student. You can catch his always thoughtful commentary in This Magazine and the Toronto Standard, among others. Nav’s memorable item is slightly bigger than your average tchotchke, but what I really appreciate is how neatly it upends expectations of what, or where, home…

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Hindu gods, the Alberta way (Immigrant Decor Part 3)

July 26, 2011

Our next submission on the things we take with us growing up in immigrant homes is from writer Scaachi Koul, who writes about her distance from her Indian background. Scaachi is currently interning over at Huffington Post Canada. She also keeps a personal blog, Big Fists, where she’s recently started an advice column featuring her…

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A suitcase full of matryoshkas and salami (Immigrant Decor Part 2)

July 15, 2011
Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls at the Ottawa Children's Museum

Today’s peek into the immigrant home comes from Anna Tarkov, a journalist and blogger from Chicago. She’s been published in the Chicago Tribune, Time Out Chicago, and others, and her blog, THE OUTSIDER… and the rueful dilettante, is full of insights on the state of journalism today. Though she left the USSR much later than…

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The faux Persian rug, crowning glory of every Russian home (Immigrant Decor Part 1)

July 13, 2011

A couple weeks ago I asked for people to send in their stories about immigrant household decor, an extension of my own musings on the question of whether what’s on your walls impacts your immigrant identity. I got some great responses, and I’m excited to be sharing them over the coming days! Today’s contribution is…

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Immigrant household decor: Your stories wanted!

June 28, 2011

Did you grow up in an immigrant family (Russian/Soviet or otherwise)? Was every available inch taken up with mementos of the “Old Country”? Or did your family shun any and all reminders? Or maybe it was you who made the journey to a new language, new food, new home and had to decide what to…

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On Russian tchotchkes and Soviet design

June 6, 2011
Unsung Icons of Soviet Design book cover

A very long time ago (in internet years), I had a Twitter conversation with blogger and general funny girl Vicki Boykis (@vboykis) about our attitudes towards Russian tchotchkes. The original link is dead, but it was probably something along these lines. Her response was an unequivocal “yea,” while I was firmly on the “ugh, why?”…

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Go Soviet at the CNE

September 9, 2010
Soviet military souvenirs at the CNE in Toronto

There is a buyer for everything. Like these Soviet military souvenirs (ok, let’s call a tchotchke a tchotchke), which we spotted at a Russia booth in the international pavilion at the CNE. Best of all, they’re not even originals. There are enough customers to warrant reproductions. Some of the items looked genuine, but most were…

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