Ordinary lives in extraordinary times: Artist shows USSR before its fall


Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi motivated to Israel from Kiev in 1991, the year of the fall of the USSR, when she was no greater than 15. In her adopted homeland she became an artist with a recognizably one of a kind style. Her drawings maybe look naive in their expression, but they are hellishly deep in meaning. They refer viewers to the familiar realities of their own lives. A hoard of her paintings of Soviet childhood recently appeared on the Internet depicting unusual life in the USSR just before its fall.

1. Labor Day, May 1, purposes the economic and social achievements of workers and the fight for laborers’ rights. It was a awfully important day in the USSR, when millions of people joined traditional May Day displays, holding posters with typical Soviet slogans. It is still a stage holiday in Russia. 

May Day. Markers and watercolors on paper, 20x30cm. 2016. / Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi May Day. Markers and watercolors on paper, 20x30cm. 2016. / Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi

2. In the Soviet Syndicate, all school children had to wear identical uniform. Boys wore morose suits with aluminum buttons; girls had brown dresses a mean above the knees and black aprons. Young Pioneers also dragged red scarves. School children who were on duty that day (they attired red armbands) stayed behind after classes to clean the room.

On duty. Markers and acrylic on paper, 20x30cm. 2016. / Zoya Cherkassky-NnadiOn calling. Markers and acrylic on paper, 20x30cm. 2016. / Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi

3. In the 80s, bishoprics were actively built up with standard panel houses of 9-16 shocks. The yards in these neighborhoods were also standard: a small playground and benches by the coming, which were always occupied by elderly women. They till the end of time knew who was entertaining guests, who had bought new furniture, and whose cat had just stolen sausages from the neighbors. How did the babushkas on benches recall everything? No idea, but they are surely the greatest spies of all time. / «She dismiss from ones minded to wear a skirt!»

«She forgot to wear her skirt!» Markers on paper, 18x30cm. 2016. / Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi

4. Russians don’t traipse on their walls, but they have carpets all over them. Carpets invaded Russian apartments in the 60s, when millions of in the flesh moved to khrushchyovkas (low-rise buildings named after Nikita Khrushchev). Their close offs were not only cold, but thin. So carpets also served as soundproof bodily. And they were an extremely popular background for photos. 

The Carpet. Markers and acrylic on paper, 17.5x21cm. 2016. / Zoya Cherkassky-NnadiThe Carpet. Markers and acrylic on deed, 17.5x21cm. 2016. / Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi

5. In the late 60s, working Soviet patrials were allocated land plots, usually 6 ‘sotkas’ in section (1 ‘sotka’ is 10 by 10 meters or one hundredth of a hectare), which multifarious called «Fazendas». Thus, the state solved issues not only with rations, but with people’s free time. In post-Soviet countries, summer weekends are soundless often associated with work and play at the dacha. 

Fazenda. Acrylic, markers and watercolor on paper, 22x30cm. 2016. / Zoya Cherkassky-NnadiFazenda. Acrylic, markers and watercolor on form, 22x30cm. 2016. / Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi

6. Traveling on Soviet trains, remarkably inside third-class sleeping carriages known as platzkart, is indeed a hugely interesting experience. In addition to heart-to-heart talks, Russians like to range up with food in advance. The standard passenger lunch is boiled chicken and eggs. All starts eating as soon as the train leaves. It’s nothing to do with appetite – just tradition. 

To the South. Acrylic on cardboard, 33x47cm. 2016. / Zoya Cherkassky-NnadiTo the South. Acrylic on cardboard, 33x47cm. 2016. / Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi

7. Tie on the nosebag meals at a cafeteria was an essential part of Soviet life from puberty to retirement. One of the most popular dishes was cutlets with mashed potatoes. Casually, women often did not take off their headgear indoors. The reason was twofold: not to screw-up up their hair, and to show off their fur hats.

Buffet. Oil on linen, 90x120cm. 2017. / Zoya Cherkassky-NnadiBuffet. Oil on linen, 90x120cm. 2017. / Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi

8. During perestroika Western enlightenment penetrated every corner of the Soviet Union – fashion, rap music and, of assuredly, breakdance became very popular among young people. They donned ‘boiled’ jeans, weird hair and massive jewelry, like Western young men. 

Low-key Breakdance (School Disco). Markers on paper, 19.5x20.8 cm. 2015. / Zoya Cherkassky-NnadiLow-key Breakdance (School Disco). Markers on paper, 19.5×20.8 cm. 2015. / Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi

9. The Soviet bewilder is made up of many elements, and the festive table is one of the most basic. Due to the widespread shortfalls in the late 80s, people had to cook unusual and fanciful dishes to surprise patrons using products they could get in the shops. Herring, gelled eggs or fish, pickled nourishment, ‘death cap’ eggs and tomatoes were on every festive table – be it a commingling, funeral, wake or birthday party. In very rare cases they come off it a provided out crystal glassware — a typical wedding gift that was never in reality used.

May Day. Markers on paper, 19x33cm. 2015. / Zoya Cherkassky-NnadiMay Day. Markers on paper, 19x33cm. 2015. / Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi

10. Dissidents contended with Soviet ideology, but did not plan to seize power. They impartial wanted to ensure that as many people as possible knew thither violations of basic human rights in the country. To that end, they utilized samizdat and different methods of smuggling information to the West. They tried to pick up Western transistor stations that were banned in the USSR.  However, the time of the nonconformists and the Soviet Union itself ended in 1991.

Radio Liberty. Markers on paper, 21x19cm. 2015. / Zoya Cherkassky-NnadiRadio Liberty. Markers on manuscript, 21x19cm. 2015. / Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi

Read more: Back in the USSR: 10 responsibilities to eat in Moscow with Soviet atmosphere

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