An American photographer James Abbe started his career as a fashionable artist who made pictures of Hollywood celebrities but later turned to photojournalism. He also lived in the USSR in 1927 and 1932. Below are his pictures from the book I Photograph Russia made in 1932 with Abbe’s comments.
‘Long Live The World Revolution!’, state the posters carried by the Soviet people who are marching across the Red Square. The revolution could definitely take place if industry worldwide was as developed as it was in Russia.
A Moscow night is a scene of unbelievable beauty. Our gaze is shifted from the new Moscow Hotel and moonlight river to the mighty Kremlin with its towers and spires which is getting dark against the background of the night sky.
The artist was observing the scene from the window of his hotel trying to discover the purpose of his Russian journey and this book that was hidden inside the Kremlin.
The Kremlin encloses an area of 100 acres and is surrounded by a wall which is 2430 yards long. Stalin’s private office is somewhere inside the mighty palace.
The craftsmen are hiding famous names on ancient pieces of art behind modern titles. The sign ‘Romanovy’ is substituted by ‘The new Moscow Hotel’. Tourists who steal silver spoons don’t have any objections.
The Moscow river is covered with ice at dawn. People get up early to see the ice drift.
The last Russian tsar (king) was coronated sitting on the throne. This is one of the Kremlin churches that was used exceptionally for the purpose of coronation.
You see a mere sensation. This is Stalin, a wild, mysterious, cold and ominous ruler, who has never given his consent to be photographed. The reproduction made from 1 or 2 pictures ever signed by Stalin.
20th anniversary of the Pravda newspaper. The parade and the giant poster are designed to stress that ‘press has to be the means of socialistic upbringing’.
Though newspapers are too limited in number there is a large variety of books which attract many amateurs especially university students.
PROHIBITED. The author of the picture was arrested because he dared to photograph the railway road. The hungry peasants are waiting for a train for weeks to leave for the place where they can have enough food.
Foreign engineers agree that women work more effectively than men. They are also more reliable. Unlike the beauties from Hollywood these females can boast of being strong but not beautiful.
PROHIBITED. Taking a picture of any queue is not allowed especially if people are trying to buy food. The queue is formed long before the shop is opened.
The hospital is modern and well-equipped. Its X-ray room and delivery department are perfect and the personnel is experienced and enthusiastic.
The Dneprostroi workers stay in these houses together with their children.
On the 1st of May over million of soldiers and workers have to participate in the parade that takes place in Red Square. The front rows are occupied by privileged viewers such as journalists, diplomats and capitalists.
Balloons are released in spite of the fact the temperature is below 30 degrees Celsius. The little Bolsheviks are taken out to breathe in the fresh air though the thin blankets make us doubt whether the word ‘to breathe’ is the right one.
‘We have nothing to lose except our chains’. It is a motto of workers who participate in the organized demonstration. While passing by the Red Square they need to show that their chains are broken.
The pioneers have to sell the governmental bonds. It’s up to you to decide whether to buy or not to buy one but mind that your decision will have consequences.
PROHIBITED. Discussing accidents is not allowed. There was one on the Red Square when horse artillery galloped at a huge speed. The motto in Chinese translated into 5 languages states: ‘Long Live The Soviet Republics!’
Parades are held twice a year, on May, 1 and November, 7. Participation in the parades is obligatory. The group on the Lenin’s Tomb includes Kalinin, Ordjonikidze, Voroshilov, Stalin, Molotov and Gorky (from right to left).
This is Litvinov, a magnificent robber of the old regimen and later superdistributor of Bolshevism, is an important Soviet nobleman who never gives interviews. The background is decorated with a huge world map.
James Abbe’s wife and children.
A typical Russian church in one of the villages. You won’t hear their bells in towns though in province 60% of churches are still open.
Newspapers. It’s impossible to find New York Times, Fortune or Harper’s Bazaar here. The picture below show how strawberries are sold.
The Muscovites spend their weekend at sports grounds. Strength, speed and endurance are welcomed in the country that strives for maximum physical development.
Burying people according to church traditions is not allowed but can be done at cemeteries which are never attended by true Bolshevists. Peasants staying in remote regions bury the deceased in coffins covered with paper.
PROHIBITED. Taking pictures of electric trains is never allowed.
The hotel’s wall is decorated with a picture depicting how the church protects things taken from poor members of society and shows a Russian priest who is compared with a pig.
Chief of Anti-religious Museum in Moscow. He occupies the place of a senior priest but his tasks differ a lot.
Comrade Smidovitch, director general of anti-religious activity. He is trying to put out the light of faith that has been alive for 20 centuries.
Th prayers are visiting the church located not far from the Kremlin.
This church was closed but its valuable icons and treasures allowed its turning into an arts gallery. It has to coexist with the atheistic poster on the right.
The hand of the Saint is raising upward asking for salvation from the Soviet anti-religious propaganda.
The poster placed at the Anti-religious museum informs German tourists that fight against religion is fight for socialism.
Women and men are bathing close to one another.
Wooden statues of Christ taken from 3 liquidated churches. Do you see the dark spot on the raised hand of the central statue? Peasants have kissed the spot for centuries. The Soviet power announces this action to be anti-sanitary and absurd.
Jewish temples were desecrated together with Christian churches. Collection of Jewish sacred relics can be observed at the Museum.
Discussing illusions and supernatural things is prohibited. Realism and materialism are main constituents of Bolshevistic power. The scene from the play Blue Bird by Maeterlinck is intended for a photographer but not for theater-goers.
Old soldiers who were prisoners before are sent to live in such a beautiful place. They were all dreaming to get rid of royal power.
The cabaret is intended for rest of peasant loyal to the Soviet power.
This young Soviet fan of racing will be able to eat as much as he wants in case his horse will be the first to come.
PROHIBITED. Military men are photographed! The palace of Catherine the Great is located against the background. It now lodges the academy of military aviation.
A unit of Red pilots.
The Catherine the Great’s dancing room is now used as the club of air forces academy.
Major Sumarokova, the only female pilot in the Red Army.
The author of the picture was arrested again just because he took pictures of the railway road.
PROHIBITED. Taking pictures of the best car road in Russia is not allowed as power stations can get into shot.
PROHIBITED. The people are trying to buy clothes.
The peasants were trying to sell a small amount of potatoes. As price was set too high they had to carry the vegetables back to their village.
When people are hungry they can abandon kids who will be raised by the state.
Unlike poor peasants, privileged people are not deprived of food.
Destruction of China-town wall on Lubyanka Square in Moscow. Many more objects would be destructed if tourists weren’t willing to see ancient sights.
PROHIBITED. Soldiers next to the Kremlin wall. The monument to an American communist John Rid is located against the background.
The largest bell and cannon in the world.
PROHIBITED. Funerals of Stalin’s wife. There was an order to shoot at windows that could be opened during that time.
Development of socialism is accompanied by destruction of many ancient objects.
The governmental building in Kharkov is a perfect example of architecture.
Students are the same everywhere.
Learning how to become a waitress. Teaching dramatic arts to children. Peasants are getting ready to celebrate May, 1.
The Anthropological Museum of Moscow University contains the largest collection of human skulls in the world.
The people prevent Bolshevists from fulfilling the five-year plan: bureaucrat, foreign journalist, capitalist, as well as drunker, priest, military engineer and supporters of Menshevism.