Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Russian illustrations

When I was young, my dad was away at work a lot. Amma worked as a teacher so most of my time was hanging out with Seeya. He had and has a voracious appetite for reading so I’d say 80% of our time was spent in libraries. I vividly remember getting lost in British Council, bawling my eyes out and finally being reunited with him. He looked down at me briefly and then went back to his book with not so much a shrug.

We also frequented the municipal library, the little libraries built in almost every major town. Our library wasn’t major though, it had a jam tree in front of it, a tuk-tuk park and a Buddha statue next to it. But it had ALL the daily papers to which Seeya honed in like a bee to well…honey. He and I sat in our little dingy corners, him with his nose on the papers, and me sitting in little colourful chairs going through children’s books.

One day I found a stash of old Russian children stories, which bring me to the point of this post. Most were translated to English and a few to Sinhala. I assume now that they were gifted by our great comrades in friendship and delivered to all the public libraries and government schools to remain untouched until someone like me came along.

They were pretty addictive and now that I look back, quite distinctive in its art. Most had stories with wolves and foxes in them. (quite mystical) or stories based on environments with snow storms and ice (quite alien to a Sri Lankan kid). But I poured over them because most of the Russian folk stories had a weird sense of magic in them. I suppose it’s the combination of dark woods, the unknown and then a happy ending at the end.

I found some similar ones on a flickr link too.

Maybe I’ll look for a few publications to keep for myself. For nostalgia and for the love of the distinctive art.


  1. hey nice post... took me back to the days i used to just look at the illustrations on storybooks rather than read them :-)

    i also had a few russian children's books.. but for some reason i never liked the pictures back then.. i used to think they were sorta creepy :-p

  2. Haha quite true Dee..brings back memories..agree with the wolves and the snow storms!
    Does any one remember "Radhuga Publishers"? :D

  3. I had a few Russian books too, beautiful illustrations, stories about cosmonauts and making TVs out of cardboard boxes... I think those books spawned my lifelong love for space and electronics! Ah, Good times! :D

  4. @Chavie ohh yeah...

    there was this Children's magazine called MISHA..i used to have a huge collection of it...

  5. Well Dee, I grew up with “Soviet Deshaya” magazine coming to our home every month. The Russians were publishing lots of books in Sinhala during the 70’s, and if I am not mistaken, they even had the first ever Sinhala Typesetting font – even before the Government Press..!

    What particularly amazed me were the sketches – the old bearded people and young kids – they are still etched in my memory.

    Also “Pragathi Prakashakayo” was their Sinhala arm - if my memory serves me right.

  6. pragathi prakashakayo (progress publishing house) is operation again and they are publishing books again. they had a stall in last concluded international book fair if I'm not mistaken.

  7. Yeah the Russians have a really unique looking art style. I think were also cartoons that aired on local TV that also had foxes and wolves and stuff...

  8. seriously man. a walk down memory lane i loved those books with witches n wolves, baba yaga the old hag...i agree they had their own magic=]

  9. Very true. this is interesting . we had a long discussion not long ago which gave me 109 comments over this topic.. we all love to go back in our sweet memory paths that never end.

    If you like to read in sinhala...this is the link to that post.