Leningrad: Priboy, [1925-1929]. 43x56,5 and 24,5x36 cm.
The extremely rare example of this game that provides the additional insights into the ‘byt’ of Soviet children.
The principle of puzzle: the sheet number two was serving as a base (the description advises to glue on the sheet with the Red Square on the carton), and then the child should have cut out all the elements of the mausoleum, folded them as shown on the picture. The cards with the months should be placed in the special pocket and erected accordingly. The days of the week form a tape, that should be placed on the section ‘Б’ of the mausoleum - by moving the tape, the day changes, the same works for the date of the month - they are cut into another tape.
The mausoleum: The building itself is known in literature as ‘the second wooden mausoleum’, built a year after Lenin’s death in 1924. Original first temporary wooden mausoleum looked more like a big shoebox with three more boxes on the top, and it was substituted for this present one, which existed for 4 years before being substituted with the one seen today. The second wooden mausoleum, designed as well as the current one by Alexei Shchusev (1873-1949), was one of the most curious architectural creations of the 1920s - in a way, declaring the new way of thinking in the Soviet architecture, setting the new standard of working with the space. Shchusev wrote on the second wooden mausoleum that he wanted to showcase the main idea which was ‘Lenin diseased but his work lives on’, so the building which was in a form of a tomb, should have been self-denying in its nature. This idea strangely resonates with the whole concept of this puzzle, also very controversial: putting the model of a tomb of the deceased leader on a child’s desk, the symbol of death but also eternity, telling the young Soviet citizen what date it is - this image almost questions the concept of time itself.
The puzzle itself is an important architectural document because all the external details of the short-lived mausoleum shown in detail.
The artist: Iosif Vaks (1899-1986), designer and architect, student of architects Shchuko and Belogrud. He is most famous for his work during the war, when he was the designer of camouflages of the strategic objects in Moscow and Leningrad such as airdromes and buildings. His masking of ‘the road of life’ on Ladozhskoe lake has helped Leningrad during the seige. After the war he became the head of department of applied design in Leningrad’s Art and Industrial Design courses, and his students had gone on to design some of the most iconic products of the later Soviet times like candies ‘Mishka v Lesu’ or the ‘RAF’ buses.
Why did it survive: Despite the claimed print run of 75000 copies we couldn’t trace any information about other copies in existence, described in literature or in collections. It’s likely that the mass production of the puzzle calendar never took off. Our copy originates from the family of the artist Iosif Vaks.