Cultural Creative Agency

History of Russian Design 1910–2020: a Lecture by Alexandra Sankova

A series of talks on Russian culture

Lacking a free market, the Soviet Union did not have design in the Western meaning of the term. Instead, it produced a unique phenomenon either called “artistic engineering” or “technical aesthetics” that was based on the planned economy. The opening of the VkHUTEMAS (Higher Art and Technical Studios) school, an equivalent of German Bauhaus, in the early 1920s marked the beginning of a new avant-gardist epoch with many experimental projects that were not possible to realize at the time. VNIITE (All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Industrial Design), which operated after WWII, was inspired by the spirit of VkHUTEMAS and organized the mass production of socialist objects. Looking for their new identity, a new generation of designers dug into their own history, including both Soviet industrial products and pre-revolutionary wooden crafts. In her lecture, Alexandra Sankova gives a comprehensive view of 20th century design, including rarely discussed fields such as space shops and health care.


1. Building the Collective: Soviet Graphic Design 1917-1937. Edited by Leah Dickerman. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996

2. The Moscow Design Museum. Designed in the USSR: 1950-1989. London and New York: Phaidon Press, 2018.

3. Druzhinina, Olga and Sankova, Alexandra. VNIITE: Discovering Utopia – Lost Archives of Soviet Design. London: Unit Editions, 2016.

4. Khan-Magomedov, S. O., and Vieri Quilici. Rodchenko: the Complete Work. 1st MIT Press ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987–1986.

5. Krasnyanskaya, Kristina and Semenov, Alexander. Soviet Design: From Constructivism To Modernism 1920–1980. Zürich: Scheidegger and Spiess, 2020.

6. Lodder, Christina. Russian Constructivism. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1983.


A series of seven lectures conducted by prominent Russian scholars in cinema, literature, visual art, theater, music, architecture, and design. Each of the speakers presents a broad authorial perspective on their respective fields and puts it in the wider cultural and social landscape. What distinguishes this crash course from others is that it highlights not only Western, but also Eastern influences, relations, and parallels. This series is held in English with Arabic subtitles and will be accompanied by the Russian Culture Manual. Participants: Kirill Adibekov, Alexei Vdovin, Kirill Svetlyakov, Valery Zolotukhin, Roman Nasonov, Anna Bronovitskaya, and Alexandra Sankova. 

Alexandra Sankova
General director and founder of the Moscow Design Museum. She established the non-profit organization New Graphics, which organized exhibitions and educational events with international experts in Russia (2001–2007). In 2007–2012 she was Senior Advisor for Cultural Affairs at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Moscow.