A Window to Our Past: New Year greeting cards of Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia

 

Look for it only in books, for it no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind”
Prologue from “Gone with the Wind”

Greeting cards provide a window into our collective past; in this exhibition a set of greeting cards will take visitor on a historic tour of Russia which has faced many radical changes over the past decades: the Soviet red flag was replaced by the three-coloured Russian flag, International Labour day street meetings became a thing of the past, Revolution day is no longer marked red on Russian calendars, it is National Unity day that is celebrated instead. The country itself changed, and with it the need for celebrations changed – and so did greeting cards. Nowadays, greeting cards celebrating state holidays are no longer found in shops, in fact they are no longer in print. Just like anywhere else, in modern Russia holidays have lost their ideological significance and are seen instead as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends.

 The exhibited Soviet cards are symbols of the past, recent yet so distant, messages of friendship from a country that disappeared from maps twenty-one years ago, soon after the fall of the Berlin wall. Addressed to many relatives, these cards became a real family treasure.

 

 

NEW YEAR

Traditions of New Year celebrations in Soviet Union changed with time. In the period between 1918-1935, 1st January was not considered important enough to be a state holiday; in fact it was an ordinary working day. Starting from 1936, New Year has become the most long-awaited and celebrated holiday of the year. New Year greeting cards started to appear in the 1950s, brining the joyful atmosphere associated with the holiday to every family. These cards were available in great variety, were truly on demand and found their way to each and everyone. Old New Year cards radiate the feel of sincere fervour, approaching adventures and winter magic. Often these cards would include elements which reflect major achievements of the Soviet state such as space missions and hosting Olympics games in Moscow.

 In modern Russia, New Year traditionally remains the main winter holiday, unlike Western European countries where Christmas is the most popular holiday. New Year greeting cards did not lose their distinction, on the contrary, modern greeting cards can be found in an astounding diversity of designs and artworks. However, one must note that something has changed from the times of USSR: New Year greeting cards no longer depict national achievements or characters recognized by everybody.

This section presents cards printed between 1962 and 1987.

Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by I. Iskrinskaya. Printed at “Soviet Artist” (Kalinin, 1962).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by I. Iskrinskaya. Printed at “Soviet Artist” (Kalinin, 1962).
The set of characters – snowman, little girl in traditional Russian festive clothes, little bear, little cosmonaut and Granddad Frost (Russian analogue of Christmas Father) create atmosphere of winter fun and joy.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by A. Boykov. Printed at “Graphic art” (Moscow, 1973).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by A. Boykov. Printed at “Graphic art” (Moscow, 1973).
The card depicts traditional symbols of New Year – three horses and Granddad Frost on the Red Square.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by A. Isakov. Printed at ” Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1977).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by A. Isakov. Printed at ” Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1977).
The card portrays a girl of Nordic indigenous tribes feeding a deer.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by P. Kotlov. Printed at ” Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1978).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by P. Kotlov. Printed at ” Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1978).
The card depicts Granddad Frost wearing sportive coat with the Olympic emblem with a ball in his sportive bag, holding hand of the Olympic bear – symbol of summer Olympic Games of 1980. This artwork shows how excited and keen Soviet society was to host Olympic Games in Moscow.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by A. Panchenko. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1978).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by A. Panchenko. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1978).
The card portrays hospitality of the Olympic bear, symbol of summer Olympic Games in 1980. Sets of matrioshka dolls create national welcoming atmosphere.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by A. Isakov. Printed at ” Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1978).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by A. Isakov. Printed at ” Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1978).
The smart fox, a popular character of Russian fairytales.

Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by L. Manilova. Printed at ” Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1978).

Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by V. Soloviov. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1978).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by V. Soloviov. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1978).
A girl wearing traditional festive headgear kokoshnik looks through a frozen window.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by E. Argutinsky. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1979).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by E. Argutinsky. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1979).
Granddad Frost is giving New Year greetings via telephone.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Design by N. Belovintseva. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1979).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Design by N. Belovintseva. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1979).
Famous cartoon characters crocodile Gena and Cheburashka together with their dog, prepared to celebrate New Year.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by O. Zhukova. Printed at ”Graphic Art”. (Moscow, 1980).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by O. Zhukova. Printed at ”Graphic Art”. (Moscow, 1980).
Granddad Frost delivering presents. (Improvisation of traditional Russian drawing style)
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by A. Isakov. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1980).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by A. Isakov. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1980).
Squirrel in a winter coat, carrying a mushroom.

Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by V. Chetverikov. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1980).

Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by E. Nurshanova. Printed at ”Pravda”. (Moscow, 1980).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by E. Nurshanova. Printed at ”Pravda”. (Moscow, 1980).
Granddad Frost is flying on his sledge powered by three horses. Improvisation of traditional style of Dymkovo toys. Dymkovo toys is one of the old Russian folk art handicrafts, which still exists in a village of Dymkovo near Kirov (former Vyatka). Traditionally, the Dymkovo toys are made by women.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by V. Zarubin. Printed at ”Pravda”. (Moscow, 1981).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by V. Zarubin. Printed at ”Pravda”. (Moscow, 1981).
The card radiates winter sports fun and joy.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by S. Borolin. Printed at ”Pravda”. (Moscow, 1982).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by S. Borolin. Printed at ”Pravda”. (Moscow, 1982).
Bright colours, elements of traditional Russian drawing style and sophisticated artwork of this card instantly captivates with its wonderful festive atmosphere and grandeur.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by L. Novakovskaya. Printed at ”Graphic Art”. (Moscow, 1984).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by L. Novakovskaya. Printed at ”Graphic Art”. (Moscow, 1984).
Granddad Frost and his granddaughter Snegurochka on a sledge carried by the three horses. (Improvisation of traditional Russian drawing style).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by L. Semenov. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1987).
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Artwork by L. Semenov. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1987).
Granddad Frost in his sledge sliding on sparkling snow by villages. The sophisticated artwork represents traditional Russian drawing style.
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Design by “ARTdesign”. (Moscow, 2001)
Greeting card “New Year Greetings!”. Design by “ARTdesign”. (Moscow, 2001)
Chinese astrology signs gained publicity in late 1980s when it became fashionable to celebrate a year of a particular animal of Chinese Zodiak. Chinese astrology calendar is based on a twelve year cycle, each year of that cycle is related to an animal sign. These animal signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The sign of 2002 was a horse.
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9 thoughts on “A Window to Our Past: New Year greeting cards of Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia

  1. There are some very lovely cards here. The Spouse especially loves that fox … thank you for these, they’re gorgeous!

  2. My daughter loved them all…and so did I! (My daughter is sitting here next to me). They are so beautiful. It’s amazing you have them still. I treasure the cards we’ve received (and mourn a little the many cards we’ve lost).

    Thank you so much for sharing them.

    Warm regards,
    Mary and my Dearest Daughter (DD)

    1. Thank you so much for your attention, lovely ladies! I have a vast collection of cards, vintage and modern, very particular and simple. I am thinking of designing cards myself. Style of vintage Soviet cards is very distinctive and has become a thing of the past, that is why I cherish them so much.

      1. Hi Raisa,

        I don’t know if I was able to reply it’s still coming out as not. But if it didn’t please know that I am looking forward to the cards you design. I love cards and still give and make them with my kids (but not as beautiful as these!). I hope you’ll share some more, including any from other seasons…

        Warm regards,
        Mary

      2. Thanks so much, dear Mary. A lot more cards will be displayed soon. I´m still in the beginning with my own cards, lack of free time is the main limiting factor. Will certainly share them when ready.

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