IT was a delight to receive this colourful volume from our friends at http://ateney.ru and, unlike 99% of Russian-language publications, the language itself did not present an insurmountable obstacle because the book contains hundreds of incredible paintings and sketches from the genre broadly defined as Russian folk art. The hardback style reminds me of one of those comic annuals from the 1970s, such as Action or Victor, but the contents are quite different. And the artistic roll-call is tremendous: Ilya Cherkasov (Veleslav), Andrey Guselnikov, Vladimir Pingachov, Alexandra Dvynianinova, Andrey Klimenko, Victor Prus, Vitaly Mitchenko, Victor Kryzhanovsky, Peter Kachalaba, Tatyana Yagodkina, Maximilian Presnyakov, Vladimir Pechenkov, Boris Olshansky, Andrei Dorozhkin (Orey) and various contemporary artists from both Russia and the Ukraine. One thing I did notice among the designs is the vast proliferation of swastikas, seen here in their cultural and spiritual context where they rightly belong. Various other runes and Vikingesque imagery betray the proud origins of the Rus themselves. Elsewhere, the fantastical features of ledendary personages like Svarozhich, Ivan Kupala, Bereginya, Chandra, Fire, Lada, Perun, Jasher, Veles, Svarog and Mor stare out from beautiful fairytale renderings that would put many contemporary illustrators to shame. What is even more intriguing about these designs, is that they are inspired not only by ancient legend, but also by sources that emerged during the twentieth century. Some of them resemble Stalinesque propaganda posters, replete with Aryan families, proud warriors and Riefenstahlian athletes, although the hammer and sickle has been replaced by hooked crosses, Odal runes and images of the Black Sun. Interestingly, the photographic artist profiles at the back of the book reveal that many of them enjoy dressing in traditional costume and obviously try to incorporate their aesthetic values into their lives. The final section of the book also contains a concise glossary and a commentary (in Russian, of course) by Pavel Tulaev and Galyna Lozko. Please don't be put off by the Russian text, this book is a wonderful introduction to the great talent that exists on the Eastern fringes of Europe and I'm sure you'll enjoy looking at the mouth-watering artwork as much as I have.
Available from P.O. 11, 109462 Moscow, Russia