Why did I love this book?
Soviet satire is often overlooked or dismissed as purely propaganda. John Etty offers a refreshingly updated look at a key Soviet publication and provides the casual reader with an introduction to the colorful and humorous content in the USSR’s premier satirical journal. He explores how content was created, revealing a collaborative process that could involve everyone from the head of the party to everyday readers. While there was oversight and interference from state censors and political authorities, and self-censorship in the 1930s due to repression, Etty reveals that editors and creators had a great deal of creative freedom.
Etty also explores the Krokodil “Extended Universe”. In the 1920s, when there was a severe shortage of paper and many citizens were illiterate, Live Krokodil, a repertory company was organized in theatres, workers’ and Red Army clubs. Additionally, Krokodil published the Krokodil Library (Biblioteka Krokodila) which included cartoon compendiums and a crowdsourced satirical encyclopedia that listed serious and humorous definitions of everyday terms and words encountered in the magazine. Most interesting was Krokodil’s sponsorship of two bright red, crocodile-shaped planes that flew around the country in the 1930s meeting with readers in various locations. His rejection of antiquated Cold War interpretations and his focus on previously unexplored aspects of Krokodil’s existence make this a worthwhile read.