Train Stories

Trains, how much I miss them. Especially long routed ones, with a brass boiler and berths, crossing vast Russian ghostly spaces. It is often said the world became smaller due to air travelling; airlines connected distant corners of the world and placed them all within reach. Undeniably, planes have facilitated travelling with speed and comfort yet hardly have brought distant places together. A collective term “world” still remains an abstraction, used to describe a great number of realities, sharing common space and coexisting in time though still remote from one another. Every time, arriving to a destination only a few hours away from a starting point, it is so awkward for the mind to accustom to the suddenly changed reality. Air travelling feels like moving through a set of diverse rooms, with no corridors and staircases and where doors connect and isolate at the same time. Trains provide the missing corridor and erase borders, binding together travellers and spaces.

Twenty-nine hours – this is how long it takes to arrive from Astrakhan to Moscow by train; by plane – it’s two and a half. How unfortunate it is to sacrifice those twenty-nine hours for two and a half in order to “save time”! Time does not exist in trains. There is nowhere to rush. It’s time for books, long conversations, staring at the slowly changing landscape and consuming an impressive amount of food supplies. Yes, trains must be a nightmare for introverts and diet freaks. Although, there is an escape – upper berth, where one can just stare at the sky through a dusty window right above the head.


After sunset, the view is swallowed by darkness, rarely interrupted by other trains heading from the opposite direction. More jokes, more food sharing, more stories. Someone would be completely drunk by then – Russian distances also encourage the national sport. The upper light in the wagon goes off, but conversations still continue in whispers. Someone is preparing to leave – to dive into that tick darkness outside the window at a tiny station in the middle of nowhere.

Night at trains is surreal and annoying at once. Falling asleep to a lullaby of monotonous “choog-choog, choog-choog”, you are very likely to be soon woken up by newly arrived passengers, loud snoring of a neighbour, drunk as skunk, or by thunder of an oncoming train. Slumber, tinkle of a teaspoon in a glass, crush of luggage, whispers, choog-choog, the dusty smell of the pillow, rhythmic swaying of the wagon… Moving forward at full speed while being asleep to wake up in another town – that’s train for you.


Morning greets with another station, gleaming by the window, new faces and queues to lavatory. The atmosphere is no longer careless and fun – it’s the arrival day. All plans and urgent matters jump back to mind, discussions turn to practical issues. “Why are you going to Moscow? For how long? Transit?! – Luckyyy!”. Remains of food are finished in a rush, bags – all packed, mattresses – rolled and placed on upper berths. Dust particles shine in the sunlight.

Half an hour is left until arrival and facial expressions become concentrated, impatient, longing. Soon all of them, who once were so close, will disappear from your life as randomly as they walked in. The giant megalopolis will absorb them together with their secrets, leaving no trace – it feeds on people. Final goodbyes, gnashing of breaks and, a few moments after, then-friends and now-strangers roll away as quickly, as peas scattered on the floor – each one to a different direction.



Alone in the snow

It was a gloomy winter day, the train was crawling through the endless fields powdered with snow – the same view for hours. “Next stop is for two minutes only. Stay inside please!”, warns the conductor. We stop in the middle of nowhere (literally), the station consists of a one-story building with one window and a kiosk nearby. “I will only buy cigarettes! I’ll be quick, will be back in no time!”, one of the passengers, a man in his 30s, quickly ventures out of the wagon, wearing bed slippers and light jacket. Two minutes pass as a finger click, the doors are closed and the train is gaining speed. There he is, our careless fellow, trying to catch up with the train, running on the snow with snow-white bed slippers, shaking his hands, screaming something. “Let’s stop the train! Please pull the break, pull the break!!!”. “Are you insane? She wants to stop the train! We’ll end up in such a trouble! What time we arrive then?!”. You fuss about strangers left in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Russian winter only when you’re 24. Others, older and more experienced in life, do not have time to waste and Moscow does not wait.

Bearded late night visitor

Late night train, 30th December 2008. Right after checking in and saying hello, me and three other passengers (a middle-aged woman and a young couple) prepare our berths in a cosy modern compartment. Lights go off and someone mumbles something about locking the door before falling asleep – something that everyone knows. Sleep refuses to come and I decide to spend some time in the corridor. Memories of Malta and of waves, crushing on the shore in Sliema Surfside, are still so vivid. I wholeheartedly hate to return to the frozen desert and want to weep. After a walk from one wagon to another, I return to the compartment and try to fall asleep. Ten minutes later, the door opens and one of my fellow travellers walks in, locking the door behind. I realize someone is sitting on my berth and is going to lay down. “Oh, please, I am not in mood for jokes!”, I whisper, not seeing a thing in pitch darkness. Not saying a word, the interrupter of my dreams starts climbing on the upper berth. In a few moments that same someone gets down again and climbs on the upper berth on the other side. “Man, who are you?!”, I hear next. Someone switches on the lights and we see a bearded man on the upper berth with our male fellow traveler. All becomes clear: the stranger simply entered a wrong compartment and, since drunk (New Year celebrations had started), he could not remember what berth was his. He apologizes and leaves quickly. The accident amuses us all.

– When he sat on my bed I though it was Raisa!

– When he sat on mine I thought it was Sergey!

thought it was my dear boy, so I did not notice anything wrong!

I thought it was my dear girl, I hugged her and was about to kiss her … then I felt the beard!

Have to admit, It was my fault – I should have locked the door behind me.

The couple leaves the train in the morning. “I bet, she’s his mistress, not wife”, my only remaining fellow traveller is in mood to gossip. “He is cheating on his wife, I smell these things”. I shrug shoulders. Well, trains must be paradise for swingers.

Malta: lovely yet overly politicized

When politics is not about ideology.  ~5 minutes read~

Maltese politicians game-1
Politicks, the card game created by Log Hob Games was a smashing success on crowd-funding site Indiegogo. The game finally gave Malta a chance to play with politicians.

What would you call Malta’s signature trait, a specialty that can be experienced only here? Besides its relaxed and life-appreciating lifestyle, it is the extremely polarised and passionate political involvement that makes Malta so exiting to witness. With its two-party system, Malta is divided into Laburisti (red) and Nazzjonalisti (blue) with a [growing] pinch of liberal-minded citizens. It was utterly surprising to me as foreigner to discover that almost every Maltese above 30 has a strong political opinion and is assigned to either one of the political parties. Politics literally infiltrates every aspect of life in the country. Everything here – from universal concerns such as environmental conservation and development to personal preferences like the colour of car and dressing style – might be seen as political.

To even bigger surprise, I learnt that political views are often inherited from family members. Open support for one of the parties eventually becomes a label, strongly associated with the rest of personality and is often used as description. A phrase like “He is Labour” or “She is Nationalist” is a piece of information, sufficient for indictment. Members of the two clusters support their party’s decisions with near religious fanaticism, at times bordering with complete intolerance towards the other party’s members. To liberal-minded Maltese and outsiders, numerous examples of such passionate devotion look similar to fights between football fans during big championships. Not only such association comes to mind from direct observations of supporters’ delirious performance but also they result from a failure to logically comprehend the reasons behind such fanaticism with a touch of serfdom.

Steve Bonello
Sometimes it is hard to tell whether politics inspire carnival satire or the opposite is true. Cartoon by Steve Bonello.

What is the difference between the two confronting ideologies? Are they ideologies at all? It would be unjustified to say that one represents the interest of underprivileged while the other stands for more established citizens. So, if not ideology, what makes one Labour or Nationalist? After a few years of wondering, I have come to a conclusion it is [hopes for] personal benefits for oneself and his/her family or paying off for the benefits/lack of them in the past. In a nutshell, it is gratitude or rancor. To be fair, not everyone in Malta is enthusiastic about the two-party system. There are a number of independent thinkers siding with Alternattiva Democratika, and those utterly skeptical about politicians as a class, labeling them all immature.

All these observations are quite unbelievable for a Russian person. At the beginning, Malta’s political realities were incomprehensible for a citizen of the country with a very low, almost non-existent, trust in the political elite whichever side it represents. Yes, despite the ever-alarming political and economic situation in the country, Russians do not believe their vote would make any difference or that it has any power at all – that is why the political climate in Malta was a whole new experience.

Red vs Blue. Cartoon published on MaltaToday in 6th January 2016. The original is available here.

Even though at times Maltese political scene looks like a verbal gang fight, there are still some undeniably positive facts about it – facts regular for the Maltese and incredible for foreigners. Politicians here are very close to their electorate – they literally are part of the crowd. You are very likely to meet them on streets, at restaurants or on the ferry. A minister might be living just a few doors away and a Member of Parliament might hang at your bar. The powerful guys are just one handshake away and they do remember to whom they owe their power. The very fact that reaching for the Prime Minister’s hand in Malta is quite realistic is already surreal to me. Living in a nearly totalitarian country, I got used to the fact that politicians exist in some parallel universe, completely isolated from mortals with high fences and protected by armed guards. While  Russia’s leaders might well be virtual remote characters or realistic game-generated images, in Malta they are mere humans made of flesh and bones. And that alone gives the public a very powerful mechanism of controlling them.

Politics in Malta is a very delicate personal issue. Personal, because by declaring their vote to one party or another, the Maltese very often follow practical, not ideological, interests: contracts, job promotions, boathouses, customised business offers, little treats for the party clubs and so on. At the end of the day, an outsider understands there is a lot more sense in overwhelming political involvement of the Maltese than it seemed at the beginning. Behind the curtain of fanaticism, there is a very logical desire to be well-connected. Whereas in many other countries voting for ideas will get you nowhere, in Malta a vote can transform into a very feasible matter and the gang can eventually throw a bone or two.

Votes are Malta’s priciest currency. Cartoon published in MaltaToday on 6th January 2016. The original is here.

Liked the article? Send it to your expat friends living in Malta. Follow this blog on Malta Sketches Facebook page. Grazzi ħafna!


2013 in Pictures

The photos selected for this post capture moments of daily life, important events on the island of Malta and just curious accidents. I thank all my followers for supporting the blog, for their interest, and hope not to disappoint them in the future. Wishing you all Happy New Year!

Hidden Danger

On Janury 22nd the field outside of Chemistry Building (University of Malta) was no longer the same – a bulldozer arrived on the field full of green grass and poppies. It mercilessly passed over the flowers, dipping its bucket into the soil. In a matter of hours the blossom was gone from the field. Almost a year later there are offices for the university staff instead of flowers and weeds. Functional necessity won over beauty.


Faces of the Street

Via Cavana in Trieste is a paradise for street photographers. Mysterios portraits on the old building’s wall watch over passers-by as if they were guards of the street.


Red for the Labour

On the 10th March Malta’s Opposition Labour Party won a general election for the first time in 15 years. Party’s supporters organized an improvised march, celebrating the victory. The scale of these celebrating activities was vast, exotic and unprecedented for a foreigner. A girl waving the Labour Party flag from the top of her parent’s car is just an example of the total mass euphoria on that day.


Three Men for St. Publius

On April 14th St. Publius feast was celebrated in the town of Floriana. The feast opens the long-going season of feasts which brings galore of fireworks and street celebrations to Malta in summer. The photo tells nothing about the feast itself but shows three man, separated from one another yet still connected in some invisible manner – a symbolic picture in my opinion.


March against Monsanto

March against Monsanto held on May 25 in Valletta gathered a crowd of protesters against food monopolization in general and MONSANTO corporation in particular. The youngest protesters were among the most active ones.


Silence of the Doves

L-Imnarja Feast in Buskett garden on the June 29 celebrated two very important Saints in Maltese religious lore. It is one of the oldest feasts on the islands. Buskett garden was turned into a tradition fair with fruits and vegetables from local farmers, yummy food and folk music. The caged animals, however, did not seem to enjoy the celebration.


Malta Jazz Festival

Malta Jazz Festival is an annual event and a treat for all true music admirers. Still under the impression of Chano Dominquez’ performance last year, I was not equally delighted by Michel Camilo’s Trio. The photo features Lincoln Giones (bass) from Michel Camilo Trio.


Meeting with Big Friday and His Friends

August was an unforgettable month because I met Big Friday, a wonderful horse from Gozo. This glorious and tender animal wins races and cherishes friendship of those who care for him.


New Face of Aeroflot

Another discovery in the month of August was Aeroflot (its new image, to be precise), the Russian company at the stage of re-inventing itself and improving its service.


Old Astrakhan

In September I paid a visit to my home town, Astrakhan. The city, a unique oriental character of which was sacrificed for modernization, is sinking into alcoholism and drug addiction. This photo signifies hope for the place to resurrect in its former glory.


Sails for Two

On October 30th both, locals and visitors, witnessed a spectacular show of the 34th Rolex Middle Sea Race. One by one boats were leaving the Grand Harbour, opening their sails of all colours to the wind, in order to return in a few days.


Bethlehem in Gozo 

Christmas is taken very seriously on the island of Gozo. Bethlehem Village takes visitors two millennia back to the town where Christ was born. The festive atmosphere was infused with warmth of mulled wine, children’s laugh and enthusiasm.


Happy New Year!

Astrakhan, where East meets West and both get confused

Astrakhan is a province city in the south-western outskirts of Russia, located a few miles away from the Russian-Kazakstanian frontier. Oriental presence was always strong here: the capitals of Khazaria and the Golden Horde established in the area, made it particularly important for merchandise. Burnt by Tamerlan to the ground in 1395, the capital of Astrakhan Khanate was rebuilt 12km upstream from the modern-day city. Fertile soils of the Volga delta, rich in sturgeon and exotic plants, were of interest to Ottomans. In 1556 Ivan the Terrible joined Astrakhan Khanate to Russia, but the spirit of Astrakhan was shaping under the influence of many merchants from Armenia, Persia and India, settled in the town. To a certain extent, Astrakhan had some impact on the history of the 20th century: father of Vladimir Lenin, the Russian revolutionary, was born and grew up here.

It is truly a land of contrasts: fertile soils neighbor steppes and sand dunes, Caspian seals Astrakhan camels; Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic and Buddhist religions are all present here, giving the place a multinational and variegated character. Slavs mixed well with Mongolian tribes and the integration resulted in a variety of face types, high cheek bones, eyes of all colours and shapes.

What is written above is true, but do not be mistaken imagining an exotic paradise, perfect for tourists. The reality is not as bright-coloured as the info in a tourist flyer. The city, slowly but surely, is sinking into alcoholism and drug addiction. Doom and frustration on people’s faces, their clenched fists would convince even deliberate positive thinkers that existence effects conscience and not the contrary.

The historical city centre is packed with old architecture: 18th and 19th century houses of merchants are falling apart without a touch of restoration.

Old merchant house (late 18th - early 19th century)
Old merchant house (late 18th – early 19th century)
Post arrived (inside the old merchant's house)
Post arrived (inside the old merchant’s house)
Backyards in the old city
Backyards in the old city
Backyards in the old city
Backyards in the old city
Often melancholy is the only hobby
Often melancholy is the only hobby

Astrakhan Kremlin built in mid-16th century is under UNESCO protection, and one of a few well-maintained historical objects.

St. Nocolai Church within Astrakhan Kremlin
St. Nocolai Church within Astrakhan Kremlin
Children playing next to the Cathedral and the Bell Tower
Children playing next to the Cathedral and the Bell Tower

Oriental feel is especially strong at open markets …

Bolshye Isady open market - traditional residence of Muslim merchants
Bolshye Isady open market – traditional residence of Muslim traders
Southern sun made Astrakhan rich in fruits and vegetables
Southern sun made Astrakhan rich in fruits and vegetables

… and in the traditions of different ethnicities.

Tatar man playing harmonica
Tatar man playing harmonica
Muslim girls playing basketball
Muslim girl playing basketball
Russian and Dagestanian boys posing together
Russian and Dagestanian boys posing together

Life is life, with all its attributes: children do not look forward to the new school year, …

First year school boy is hiding behind a balloon
First year school boy is hiding behind a balloon

… or rather play outside instead of listening to teacher’s explanations.

Children playing in the school yard
Children playing in the school yard
Children playing in the school yard
Children playing in the school yard

Not easy to get back to lessons and homework after summer fun by the river.

Summer fun by the river in one of suburbs
Summer fun by the river in one of suburbs

Here, as everywhere else, people fall in love and get married.

Newly married couple waving to passers-by from a wedding limousine
Newly married couple waving to passers-by from a wedding limousine
Wedding photo session on Lover's bridge
Wedding photo session on Lover’s bridge
Awkward wedding photo session: the bride surrounded with friends holding a gun and a champagne bottle
Awkward wedding photo session: the bride surrounded with friends holding a toy gun and a champagne bottle

As in any other Russian city, there is a memorial to Anonymous Soldiers.

Memorial to Anonymous Soldiers
Memorial to Anonymous Soldiers

… and fun mixes with fatalism.

Celebrating Day of Pensioner despite low pensions and lack of healthcare
Celebrating Day of Pensioner despite low pensions and a lack of quality healthcare
Roof maintenance Russian way
Roof maintenance Russian way

I think, I know where the famous Russian fatalism comes from. When life is so unstable or stably hopeless, hardly it is worth to cling to.

Even a week spent here might be quite depressive. In such moments I take my Maltese residence permit out of a file and look at it as at a bridge to a fairly better world. Or, perhaps, same world, just with little more hope in it.

Read more:

The easiest way to change the world … by not wearing glasses

philip barlow
A painting by Philip Barlow, an artist who finds the world seen by short-sighted people inspirational

My eyesight started decreasing when I was 10. Before, I could see every petal, every butterfly on grass, every pebble as clear as it is only possible for me now if wearing glasses. I also remember the moment when I realised the objects on the far background became of a smoother shape, blending with each other, as if somebody just covered them with semi-transparent glass. My short-sight was earned by reading almost non-stop, often in the dark with a small torch, in other words, it was inevitable. By the age of 14 it went down to -4.5 and by 20 – to as low as -5. My mother desperately tried to improve my eyesight, paying doctors for various physiotherapy treatments. How could I disappoint her? Instead, I cheated – learnt all the letters and signs on the opticians’ test board (fortunately for me, it was a standard board, used by all opticians in the country) to amaze them with the results of the “improvement”. Bet, they did not expect such miraculous results.

philip barlow
A painting by Philip Barlow, an artist who finds the world seen by short-sighted people inspirational

Without glasses, objects farther than 30 metres away turn into colourful spots, their edges dissolve in the air, making shapes softer. Feels a lot like an impressionist painting which easily can be turned into a clear image simply by putting glasses on. Technology of the modern age gives a helping hand to those uncomfortable with glasses. Laser surgery and contact lenses provide perfect eyesight but, at the same time, deprive of the chance to see the world of glints and merging lights at a distance, the world in which passers-by look younger and more mysterious.

I got used to walking without glasses so much that I do not feel an urge to see better, I see enough. Sometimes, it leads to funny incidents and adventures, like taking a wrong bus and ending up in the other side of the city, or not recognising a friend or, on the contrary, waving at a stranger, confusing him with a friend, or saying hello to a mannequin. Once I tried to pass through a door without realizing there was glass, but it only made a day funnier. Otherwise, I love the idea of having a choice between the world of abstract shapes and the world of well-defined lines. The easiest way to change the world around is to take your glasses off. Try it!

N.B. I certainly see far clearer pictures then those the paintings depict. No suicide intended.

Exhibition of Greeting Cards “A Window to Our Past”. Part 3. The Great May

Part 3 of the virtual exhibition “A Window to Our Past” is now available for everyone to see! If you are interested in history, vintage design and greeting cards, you are welcome to visit the previous thematic exhibitions:

Part 1, dedicated to New Year:

Part 2, dedicated to Red Army day and International Woman’s day

from  International Solidarity of Workers’ Day
to  Day of Spring and Labour

May Day was celebrated illegally in Russia until the February Revolution enabled the first legal celebration in 1918. It became an important official holiday of the Soviet Union, celebrated with elaborate popular parade in the centre of the major cities where thousands of people would gather, holding red flags, balloons and slogans. The biggest celebration was traditionally organized on the Red Square in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum, with country leaders standing atop of it and waving to the crowds. Since 1992, May Day is officially called “Day of Spring and Labour”, and remains a holiday in present-day Russia. May Day parades did not fade with the fall off the USSR, however, they are not supported as broadly as they used to be in the past. Slogans have changed as well; nowadays one would not encounter “Glory to the Communist party – our vanguard” or “Soviet nation – founder of Communism!” Current slogans vary from “Spring! Modernization!” to “Power to people, not to billionaires!

It is also important to note that in the past, May Day was a holiday that truly united the nation and greeting cards on that day were delegates of friendship. Despite of the remaining traditions for celebration, May Day greeting cards are no longer available for purchase. This section presents cards printed between 1973 and 1979.

labour 1
Greeting card “Peace! Labour! May!”. Artwork by B. Parmeeva. Printed at “Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication” (Moscow, 1973).
Greeting card “the 1st of May”. Printed at “Pravda” (Moscow, 1979). The drawing depicts Vladimir Lenin on the Red Square, surrounded with red flagsGreeting card “the 1st of May”. Printed at “Pravda” (Moscow, 1979).
The drawing depicts Vladimir Lenin on the Red Square, surrounded with red flags
Greeting card “the 1st of May!”. Artwork by B. Ponomarev. Printed at “Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication” (Moscow, 1979).
labour 4
Greeting card “Peace! Labour! May!”. Artwork by E. Kvavadze. Printed at “Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication” (Moscow, 1979).
Colourful balloons rising up from the planet Earth create atmosphere of peace and hope.


Victory Day

Victory Day pays tribute to the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union which determined the Great Patriotic War – the war between the two states as part of the Second World War. Germany signed the surrender document late in the evening of the 8 of May 1945 in Berlin, or after midnight at local Moscow time. First officially celebrated in 1946, Victory Day became a public holiday in 1965. During the times of  Soviet Union, 9 May was celebrated all over the USSR and Warsaw Pact countries (or Eastern Block: Albania, Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, USSR). In present-day Russia, 9 May remains a broadly celebrated and truly uniting holiday. It is worth noting that Victory Day is the only public holiday with historical background that did not lose its importance and meaning. Unlike the day of Consent and Reconciliation, the reasons for celebrations on the 9th of May are clear to every Russian person. The focus of these celebrations is not related to military parades on the Red Square, but the hearts of veterans and their descendants, for it is a family festive occasion as much as a state holiday.

Despite the ultimate recognition of Victory Day, greeting cards devoted to this memorable date are no longer available. One of the reasons for it could possibly be the decreasing number of veterans alive. From mid-1990s these greeting cards became custom-made, designed by order of the country or province authorities. This section presents cards printed between 1974 and 2000.

Greeting card “Victory Day Greetings!”. Artwork by A. Boykov. Printed at “Graphic art” (Moscow, 1974).
The card depicts the order of Victory, one of the rarest and precious orders in the world, established in 1943 and rewarded 20 only. The battle of Kursk (05/07/1943-18/08/1943) drastically and irreversibly changed the course of the Great Patriotic War in favour of the USSR. This order was received by USSR commanders of the highest rank, among whom were USSR Generalissimo Joseph Stalin and USSR Marshal Georgy Zhukov. The order was manufactured from precious metals and stones: the ruby star with diamond rays, platinum image of Spasskaya tower and Mausoleum, encrusted with diamonds.
Greeting card “Victory Day Greetings! 1945-1975”. This card was specially designed for the USSR Ministry of Armed Forces.
This card commemorates 30th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War. It features the order “Great Patriotic War” and orange-and-black St. George’s ribbon. This card was addressed to my grandmother, Nina Dmitrachkova, with greetings from USSR Minister of Armed Forces, Andrey Grechko
Greeting card “Greetings on the 9th of May!”.  Artwork by A. Lubeznov. Printed at “Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication” (Moscow, 1987)
victory 4
Greeting card “Victory Day”. This card was specially ordered by Russian president Boris Eltsyn (approximately 1998).
This card depicts Soviet soldiers celebrating their victory on the stairs of Reichstag in Berlin. The famous patriotic poster “Motherland is calling!”. The story behind this poster is that the wife of the artist, Irakli Toidze, ran into his studio screaming “War!” upon hearing the news on the radio. Irakli asked her to freeze her movement, and her posture is what is seen in the poster. This poster was produced soon after the war started and became iconic in Soviet imagery and is possibly the best example of the power of Soviet poster art.
This card was addressed to my grandparents with greetings from a former Russian president, Boris Eltsyn.
Greeting card “55th Anniversary of the Great Victory”. This card was specially ordered by Russian president Vladimir Putin (2000).
Design of this card is simple and clear. The image combines traditional symbols of this memorable day: red pink, St. George’s ribbon and the famous photo “Victory Flag” of Eugeny Khaldey.
This card was addressed to my grandmother with greetings from Vladimir Putin.

Thank you for visiting the exhibition! The next thematic exhibition will be dedicated to the Great October Revolution Day.

Exhibition of Greeting Cards “A Window to Our Past”. Part 2. Masculine and Feminine

F R O M   R E D   A R M Y   DAY

   T O     

                    D E F E N D E R   O F   T H E   F A R T H E R L A N D   D A Y


This special day was established in 1922 as “Day of Red Army” to commemorate the anniversary of establishing of Worker’s and Peasant’s Red Army in 1918. From 1917 until 1923 Russia was soaked in blood and devastated by the civil war that followed the socialist revolution of 1917. Bloody confrontation between the Red and the White armies came to an end in 1923 when Bolsheviks got most of former Russian Empire’s territories under their control. In 1946 the date was renamed Soviet Army and Navy day and kept this name until 1991, when it was given another name – “Defender of the Fatherland Day”. February 23 became a public holiday in 2002. Despite its patriotic meaning, first and foremost, February 23 is men’s day, almost an analogue of Woman’s day which is celebrated 2 weeks later. Men of all age and professions receive presents and greetings.

Soviet Army and Navy greetings cards were available in great abundance until the end of 1980s. These cards depicted Soviet military symbolic achievements and sent a strong patriotic message. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Defender of the Fatherland greeting cards became scarce and printed in a small number of copies.

Greeting card “Glory to the Soviet Army!”. Artwork by M. Chizhov. Printed at “Graphic Art” (Moscow, 1972).
Worker’s and Peasant’s Red army passing through a village. The major attraction of the artwork is the flapping red banner – symbol of the Red army. Paying attention to the details of the artwork, you may notice the difference in the uniform, or to be more precise, absence of the uniform of the soldiers. The only man in the front line wearing a uniform is Cossack (the first man from the left, riding a brown horse). Unlike workers and peasants, Cossacks as a class did not recognize the Great October Revolution, only a part of them joined the Red army. Cossack man on foreground of the greeting signifies the importance of their support for the “reds”.
Greeting card “Glory to the Soviet Arm Forces!”. Artwork by A. Schedrin. Printed at “Plakat” (Moscow, 1981).
The card artwork combines all components of Soviet Arm Forces – Soviet Navy Flag (on the left), Navy Jack (in the middle) and Air Force Flag (on the right). The card also depicts main advantages of Soviet arms – tanks, missiles, battleships and getfighters MiG-29. Order for Service to the Homeland in the Armed Forces of the USSR is placed in the middle of the composition.
Greeting card “Defender of the Fatherland Day’s Greetings!”. Printed at “Cupreous Rider” (Saint-Petersburg, 2011).
The card presents a photo of “Swifts”, Russian aerobatic performance demonstrator team connected with the Russian Air Force, established in 1991. Swifts fly MiG-29.

I N T E R N A T I O N A L    W O M A N’S    D A Y


International Woman’s Day had a particular significance during the first two decades of the last century when the feminist movement was on the rise; however, as in many other countries its importance started to diminish with time. In the Russian Empire, the first celebration of Woman’s Day in 1913 was rather a tribute to the new Western trend. In 1921 International Woman’s day became a special day in a socialist Russia divided by the civil war; it was established to commemorate participation of female workers in the demonstrations which led to the fall of the monarchy in 1917. Final state recognition came to this date in 1966 when it eventually became a public holiday. Gradually, International Woman’s Day in USSR was losing the political and feminist meaning behind it, until it became a day of all women. Another name for March 8 is “Day of Spring and Beauty”. In present-day Russia, Woman’s day remains one of the most popular and broadly celebrated holidays of the year.

 Nowadays, International Woman’s Day greeting cards are available in a great variety of shapes and designs, thought the distinguishing style of a Soviet greeting card became a thing of the past. One of the distinguishing features of Soviet cards was appealing to a woman as a part of society; they all carried some uniting message in them. Often, the main theme of a card was dedicated to moments of spring with melting snow, tulips and mimosas. Abstract artworks of Soviet International Woman’s Day greeting cards made them a universal gift to women of all age and occupation. Modern Russian cards appeal to a woman privately, almost intimately, depicting her personal belongings such as bags, mirrors or clothes, to reflect her lifestyle. Modern greeting cards depict woman as a glamorous femme fatale, proud of her femininity.

 This section presents cards printed between 1952 and 2011, which reflect more than 60 years of celebration.

Greeting card “The 8th of March”. Printed at “Pinsk Printing Office”. Approximately 1950-1952.
Printed in a small town 60 years ago, this card lost brightness of its colours.
Greeting card “Greetings on the 8 of March”. Printed at “Kuntsevo Printing Office”. 1958
Pressed silk roses add elegance to the humble design of this greeting card
Greeting card “Greetings on the 8th of March”. Artwok by B. Parmeev. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1968).
The card radiates the joy of Spring, youth and beauty. Elements of traditional Russian drawing add particular charm to the artwork.
Greeting card “Greetings on the 8th of March” (original text is written in Ukrainian). Design and photography by M. Kovalenko and K. Shamshin. Printed at “Soviet Ukraine” (Kiev, 1969).
Mimosa, tulip and narcissus – symbols of International Woman’s Day.
Greeting card “Greetings on the 8th of March”. Artwok by B. isaeva. Printed at ”Graphic Art”. (Moscow, 1972).
The whole planet Earth is embraced by th red ribbon on the International Woman’s day.
Greeting card “The 8 of March”. Artwok by B. Parmeev. Printed at ”Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1973).
A figure of eight is formed by women representing the nations that made up the USSR wearing traditional clothes. The Russian woman is placed in the centre of of the bottom circle. She holds hands of a Belorussian (left) and Ukrainian (right) women.
Greeting card “The 8 of March”. Artwok by E. Dergileva. Printed at ”Plakat”. (Moscow, 1978).
Formed by a figure of eight made up of flowers – a popular theme for the International Woman’s Day greeting cards.
Greeting card “The 8 of March – International Woman’s Day”. Artwok by A. Lubeznov. Printed at ” Printing office of USSR Ministry for Communication”. (Moscow, 1982)
The white ribbon and yellow narcissus send a message of peace.
Greeting card “Greetings on the 8th of March”. Design by “Cuperous Rider”. (Saint-Petersburg, 2011).
Two glamorous ladies having tea with cupcakes.
Greeting card “Greetings on the 8th of March”. Design by “Cuperous Rider”. (Saint-Petersburg, 2011).
Lady’s bag greeting card with a mirror inside. Terms “originality of design” and “sophistication” are best descriptions for this card.
Greeting card “Greetings on the 8th of March”. Design by “Cuperous Rider”. (Saint-Petersburg, 2011).
Femme fatale surrounded by a crowd of men.