Spring 2008

TASS’s take on a tumultuous century [extract]

The Soviet Image: A Hundred Years of Photographs From Inside the TASS Archives

By Peter Radetsky
Foreword by Philip Longworth
Chronicle Books, £30

The jacket for The Soviet Image does not show the range of this collection. But what jacket could? And three cropped photographic fragments – showing a Bolshoi ballerina, the late President Leonid Brezhnev and Proletarian troops in Red Square – cannot effectively sum up 100 years of Soviet photographic history. From tsar to revolution, civil to world wars, Kremlin to Gulag, the panoply of Soviet experience – the triumph and horror – has been vividly captured in photos both real and manipulated.

Yet the images assembled for this book are only part of a larger story that might never be told . . .

. . . One of the more haunting photos is of Alexander Solzhenitzyn, sentenced to eight years in a labour camp for criticising Stalin; wearing torn prison garb, he stares defiantly at his tormentors. Knowing that The Gulag Archipelago, his account of his time there, would win him the Nobel prize makes this image even more poignant . . .

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