King's College London
Online Exhibitions
Revolution!

Russian and Soviet yearbooks

Red colour cover of Russian year book, 1916Cover of Russian year book, 1916The two volumes of the Russian – later Soviet – yearbooks featured here give an indication of British perspectives on the country before and after the revolutions of 1917.

The yearbook published in 1916, which includes advertisements for machinery and commercial goods, acknowledges that the war that both nations are engaged in has ‘put an end, for the moment, to the ordinary commercial intercourse between the two countries’ but hopes that this pause will allow ‘the mercantile classes of both countries an opportunity to learn more of their prospective customers than they have in the past’.

These sentiments, viewed against the backdrop of the First World War, and the resulting slaughter of millions of men, seems misplaced, but this yearbook was a ‘trade’ publication, catering to a ‘mercantile class’ readership who would be familiar with the content: the work was in its sixth year of issue.

Colour map showing the extent of the territory of the USSR in 1929Map showing the extent of the territory of the USSR in 1929The map shown is from the opening to the 1929 edition of the yearbook and illustrates the European territory of the USSR as it then stood. States such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Georgia would form part of this Union until its break-up in 1991.

The text of the introduction of the second volume, from 1927, acknowledges that ‘at present comparatively little is known by the general public of the new economic and political order of the Soviet Union’.

Though the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement had been signed in 1921 and marked a significant step towards the normalisation of relations between the two countries, the radical economic policies of Soviet governments, and a growing suspicion of the regime on the world stage meant that an outsider’s view of the Soviet Union was often opaque, something that would last throughout the 20th century.

In this exhibition


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