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Soviet-Era Children’s Books: The Oleg Grushnikov Collection at the Library of Congress

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(The following post is by Taru Spiegel, Reference Specialist, European Division. It is based on an article by Barbara L. Dash, Rare Materials Section, published in “Slavic and East European Information Resources,” 11:2-3 (2010): [110]-119.)

Color illustration by Nikolai Ustinov for Mikhail Prishvin’s “Lisichkin khleb” [The fox’s bread]. Moscow: “Detskaia literatura,” 1987.
The Grushnikov Collection of more than 6,000 Soviet-era children’s books published between the 1920s and the 1990s is a treasure trove of beautifully illustrated works of poetry and folklore. It is also a registry of Soviet artists and illustrators, and a reflection of political and cultural life in the Soviet Union, with some of the works quietly satirizing the life and politics of their time.

Telefon” [Telephone] by Kornei Chukovskii, illustrated by Viktor Andrievich. Moscow, 1986.
Oleg Pavlovich Grushnikov collected children’s books from the early 1970s until the late 1990s. An official at the Russian Academy of Sciences, he spent his free time with writers and artists in Moscow, especially those who illustrated children’s books. Grushnikov’s father, Pavel Alekseevich, had authored books for school children, and perhaps that interest, or family associations, inspired the younger Grushnikov’s passion to collect. Oleg Pavlovich also corresponded with prominent literary figures like the novelist and memoirist Lidiia Chukovskaia (1907-96), daughter of author, critic, and children’s poet Kornei Chukovskii, and Ariadna Efron (1912-75), daughter of the novelist, memoirist, and poet Marina Tsvetaeva.

Pesn’ o stroike” [A song about construction] by Agniia Barto; illustrations by Tat’iana Mavrina. Moscow: OGIZ; Molodaia gvardiia, 1931.
More than 100 Russian illustrators are represented in the Grushnikov Collection. These include famous artists such as Iurii Vasnetsov (1900-73), V.V. Lebedev (1891-1967), Evgenii Charushin (1901-65), and Tat’iana Mavrina (1902-96). The collection also contains a number of publications about these artists, as well as Grushnikov’s own typescript bibliography of works by Soviet illustrators.

Soroka-beloboka: russkaia narodnaia igrovaia pesnia” [The white-winged magpie: A Russian folksong]. Illustrations by Iurii Vasnetsov. Moscow: “Detskaia literatura,” 1964.
Grushnikov wanted his collection to illustrate how the work of individual Russian artists developed and how their work reflected different periods of life in the Soviet Union. As word of Grushnikov’s collection grew, artists and authors both near and far sent him illustrated children’s books, some inscribed by the artists and some with original doodles or vignettes. Eventually his collection overwhelmed his Moscow apartment, and he had to store books in closets, under furniture, and in his son’s bedroom.

Oleg Grushnikov took his collection with him when he and his family emigrated to Israel in the late 1990s. In August 2000, Grushnikov donated it to the Library of Congress. The books in the Grushnikov Collection are listed in the Library’s online catalog.


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