Stalin's USSR for fellow travellers
A tiny riddle solved. I’d been wondering why I only seemed to see (apparently) defective copies of the 1932 Pocket Guide to the Soviet Union, published by Vneshtorgisdat for the official Soviet travel agency Intourist. Four maps are called for, but only two ever seemed to be present, with no signs that anything had been removed. Then I found my answer: only the general regional maps were folded into the main publication. The city plans of Moscow and Leningrad were issued separately, in printed wrappers without price or publication details (other than the basic title of the guide). Unusually thoughtful in some ways, as it made them easy to use, but irritating for the bookseller as nine times out of ten book and maps have become separated over the years. Here they are together:
Intourist was created in 1929 to promote the USSR’s image overseas. Stalin’s Russia wasn’t a closed country by any means, although many western tourists arrived as part of delegations sent by trade unions and other sympathetic groups. A majority, presumably, were predisposed to be impressed, but just to be on the safe side they were closely monitored and they were also encouraged to mix primarily with their Soviet counterparts. Parts of the English-language guide are very worthy, covering economic geography, the Five Year Plan and labour legislation. Some of the sites marked on the map reflect similar preoccupations:
In this corner of Moscow the principal (marked) attractions are Rubber Factory Number 3 and creche, the Rubber Factory Club and the Institute of Red Professors (which was abolished in 1938; it seems that the 1932 edition was the first and only, though I’ll keep an eye on internal dating evidence in other examples I see in case they were ever revised.)
Among the vignettes in the margins modern factories get equal billing with more conventional attractions such as the planetarium, and Soviet sites such as Lenin’s Mausoleum. The same can be said of the map of Leningrad, although historic pre-revolutionary sites such as the Admiralty and the rostral columns seem to have the upper hand. Such is the nature of the city.
By contrast, here is a French-language plan of Moscow from roughly the same period (c. 1932), again published in Moscow by Editions Vnechtorgisdat and also (of course) issued with the approval of Intourist:
This is a much more straightforward art deco tourist map, listing public buildings and monuments, theatres, stations and hotels - there isn’t a factory to be seen. The emphasis here is on the cultural importance of the Soviet capital.