Modern Russian Sets
After the October revolution in 1917, art and chess were initially encouraged by the communist government, and used to propagate their new ideals and political system to the soviet people and to other nations. The Lomonosov Porcelain Factory made a number of striking chess sets designed by the sculptress Natalia and her sister, the artist Yelena. They produced a “proletarian style” for chess sets which complemented the prevailing fashion for Art Deco in the United States and Europe.
One of their sets, entitled “Town and Country” has factories and industry on one side, opposed by fruit and corn. The pieces have been created in an attractive, colorful, surreal, form. The sisters’ most successful design was named by the Dandos as the “Reds and Whites”. This set is of interest for its propagandist subject matter: capitalists versus workers. It is also admired as a set of notable artistic merit. The styles of the chessmen harmonise as a complete entity, unified by the strong colours obtained from the quality porcelain created in the manufacturing process. The well made chessmen depict on one side the reds – workers liberated from industrial slavery. They are presented as being happy and strong. Facing them are the whites, greedy capitalists, their workers kept in chains, controlled by a king who is the embodiment of corruption and death. The set was originally made in 1922; it was out of production from 1939 onwards due to the outbreak of World War II.
“Reds and Whites” Propaganda Porcelain Chessmen
By Lomonosov factory since 1922. On the capitalst side, the king is Death, the Queen is Greed, the officer arrogant the pawns are people in chains. On the red – the Communist – side, the king is an honest blacksmith, the queen a wholesome wife, the bishop a soldier from the ranks, and the pawns reliable peasants harvesting hay. Source: Macket-Beeson (1967) Chessmen; Williams (2000) Master Pieces.
Venerable version of typical Russian style set, dating prior to World War II. King’s height 9.5cm. Source: chess-museum.com
Early 1960s, well finished. Kings stand at 9.4cm. Bases are felted, not weighted. Excellent stability through wide-spreading bases. Light wooden pieces, inserted into a hole in the top of kings and queens. Source: chess-museum.com
Attractive plastic set in traditional old Russian mould. Designed with great care and detail. Pieces are weighted, no mould rice or line visible. Source: chess-museum.com
Soviet plastic set, from 1980s. In traditional Russian form, in marbled and coloured plastic, with artistic whorls and grains. Kings stand at 9.9cm. Source: chess-museum.com
Very popular chess pieces throughout the postwar years. Still being made. Source: chess-museum.com