Selling the Samovar

Monday 8 July 2013

Conference Centre, The British Library

Organised by the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre and the British Library, this Knowledge Exchange Symposium, generously funded by the Centre for East European Language-Based Area Studies (CEELBAS), takes as its focus the subject of consumerism, industry and commerce in Russian and Soviet art and culture.

The association between cultural production and commercial enterprise in Russia and the Soviet Union has a long history, from the sixteenth-century trading links which Tsar Ivan IV established with the West, to the entrepreneurial spirit of the nineteenth-century Peredvizhniki, to Soviet poster advertising and film. The artistic traditions, inspirations and influences of such consumerist and commercial practices are manifold – not only inspired by western models but also deeply engaged with an inward-looking Russian and/or Soviet culture. This CEELBAS Knowledge Exchange Symposium aims to engage with the history of consumerism, industry and commerce in Russian and Soviet art and culture. Thematically, the symposium will probe the relationships between artistic practice and professional industry, avant-garde art and commercialism, Soviet Marxism and consumerism.

The symposium will be an interdisciplinary event that brings together papers on visual and folk art, textile and exhibition design, film, literature and culture. In doing so, it aims to highlight the significant role of industry and commerce in the development of both Russian and Soviet culture. The cross-period, cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional makeup of the speakers will create fertile ground for dialogue, and for the exchange of different research methods and approaches to the study of Russian art and culture.

The symposium will also highlight the valuable collection of Russian language sources pertaining to art and culture held at the British Library. With this aim in mind, two speakers from the British Library will give an overview of its Slavonic Collections, while each of seven speakers from academia will focus on a book, leaflet or catalogue from these collections in order to contextualise their work.

Download Selling the Samovar Programme

Russian visual arts resources at the British Library

For more information on the symposium, please see the British Library’s website.


The symposium will accompany the British Library exhibition, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, which is on from 17 May to 17 September 2013. The official website may be found here.