Walking around L.A. just yesterday, I noticed new banners emblazoned with illustrations touting subway stations now under construction. In bold, bright colors, they deliver clear, ambitious imagery of a bright future ahead: dedicated builders, focused students, noble working commuters, surging trains. Why, I thought, those look a bit like Soviet propaganda! I had no political comparisons in mind, only aesthetic ones, and this Retronaut post shows off many perfect examples of the Cold War-era Russian posters the Los Angeles Metro’s brought to my mind. They capture the imagination by exuding even more intense scientific, technological, educational, and social optimism — and doing so in even more visual detail — than I’d remembered.
And boy, speaking of ambition: “From student’s models to spaceships!” “To the Sun! To the stars!” “Glory to the conquerors of the universe!” Children inclined to accept these glorious slogans and the rapturous imagery they accompany could not possibly fail to believe that, thoroughly educated by their country, their generation would go on to usher in a new galaxy-spanning order of peace, prosperity, and socialism. Yet we in the rest of the world now know of the boredom, cynicism, and oppression that attended many Soviet citizens’ everyday lives. A Cold War-specialist college history professor of mine liked to tell a story about a trip to Moscow he took in the sixties, on which he kept seeing adolescents with nothing more productive to do than openly chugging vodka on street corners. Yet, seeing posters like these, you simply want to believe, just like I want to believe in the extension of Los Angeles’ subway — which, at times, seems about as plausible as the conquering of outer space.
“From student’s models to spaceships!”
“Glory to the workers of Soviet science and technology!”
“I am happy — this is my work joining the work of my republic”
“In the 20th century the rockets race to the stars”
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.