Meeting of textile co-op representatives, USSR (1933)

The Soviet Union (USSR) formally came into existence on December 30, 1922, after three years of world war and five years of civil war.  When this photo was taken, sometime in 1933, the country had existed a little more than ten years.

On the back is the following note in Russian:

Собрание уполномоченных артели “Кр. трикотажница”
1933 года

A translation:

Meeting of the authorized delegates of the artel “Krasnaya Trikotazhnitsa”

An artel was a kind of cooperative organization.  Krasnaya means Red (as in Red Army), and trikotazhnitsa means knitter.  I’m sure the latter word had a broader meaning in this context, like worker in the knitwear industry.

Artel 'Krasnaya Trikotazhnitsa' 6

Artel 'Krasnaya Trikotazhnitsa' 7

If the members of this group were at least 16 years old in 1933, then we know that they were born in Imperial Russia and grew up in wartime.  Many were children or teenagers when the Civil War ended in 1922 and the Soviet Union came into existence.  Were they ideologically oriented?  Did they believe in communism?  Or were they just like young people everywhere, working hard and hoping for a better future?

Artel 'Krasnaya Trikotazhnitsa' 2b

Artel 'Krasnaya Trikotazhnitsa' 3b

Artel 'Krasnaya Trikotazhnitsa' 4b

Artel 'Krasnaya Trikotazhnitsa' 5b




27 thoughts on “Meeting of textile co-op representatives, USSR (1933)

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    1. Speaking generally, the twenties were a time when people began to see improvements in their lives, but the thirties were a very dark time, with collectivization of agriculture, famine, and political repression (Stalin’s Gulag). This group looks like they haven’t been affected by any of those events–yet.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Great observation, Liz! The big old stove and the high ceilings and doors all make me think of the Tsarist era. The building looks cold, despite the stove. Everyone is bundled up. The headscarves, made of wool, would have been both elegant and warm.

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  1. This feels a silly thing to say as all of your photos are historical by their very existence- but I feel the history of this one strongly. Thank you for the background of this short period of time. The next years will bring more struggle, more war,more loss. At these ages these young people will live surrounded by the war events of a world stage and a young nation trying to make its way. They must have each seen so much that I can hardly imagine. I wonder what little things brought them joy. On the far left second row, those two young women have a hint of a smile and seem to me to be friends. It’s interesting in group photos how one or two leap out at you while others sit back and wait their turn. Why that one? And, there’s a way that two or three people will kind of lean into one another (front row right) while others feel very distinct and set apart. Are they as independent as a single photo would have you believe (the chap in the front row to the left of the ladies). I see many gentle faces here. And, those doors are enormous! I bet they were beautiful! Makes me want to dig out a bit of Russian history or literature. Thanks for the grand share.😊

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    1. Thank you so much, Suzanne. You’ve touched on what I love about this picture, which is the youthful innocence of this group, despite the difficult things they must have lived through. Most of them just look like normal young people who could be from anywhere. I actually toyed with the idea of asking readers to guess where the photo was from! Few would have guessed correctly, I suspect.

      Each member of this group would have had a remarkable story to tell. They were swept by the currents of fate to this place in this moment, and then swept away in many different directions again. We’ll never know their stories, but we can know their faces, just for a moment.

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      1. I would Never have guessed where it was from, outside of someplace Cold. 😂. And perhaps a place inhabited by tall people based on the height of the door. 🙃

        Oh yes, great stories to tell that I can only imagine. May I ask, do you know if they were hand knitters or would they have operated knitting machines? I’m happy to share in this small moment of theirs. Thank you 😊

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      2. I wish I could shed more light on their work. This was a period of industrialization, so my guess would be that they worked on machines. And yes, that doorway was built for giants! 🙃 Thank you again for your kind and thoughtful comments, Suzanne. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I know little about Russian history and did not realize that. It’s heartbreaking to see all those young faces, people just starting out in life and know their chances of good lives were poor. We take so much for granted.

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  2. I would think, looking at this photo, that there is a group of students (such as sewing school). May be this picture is a picture of the senior class. There is a man in the middle of this group who looks older than the others.
    It’s a bit strange, but 1933 is the time of total hunger due to crop failure. This picture doesn’t actually reflect this time…
    I like this photo. Thank you, Brad! I see people of different classes (judging by different clothes) in the same group. They probably worked during the day and had to study at nights. As I know, the main goal of these people was not to improve their own lives, but to feel themselfs as a part of an important, necessary thing…mysterious Russian soul)

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    1. Great points! It hadn’t occurred to me that this might be a school, but that makes perfect sense, because everyone looks close in age. (The information on the back could be incorrect, including the date.) Industrialization was happening at this time, so it may be that this group of workers had access to resources (food) which was in short supply elsewhere.

      When a group of people get together, with a common purpose, they can find meaning in their shared experience, even in difficult times. Younger people, especially, find joy in companionship and in the feeling of working together toward an “important, necessary thing,” as you say. I think we can see a little bit of that feeling of camaraderie here.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. For whatever reason, I don’t see the sunny side of this photo. I see people whose expressions are veiled and cautious: suspicious, even. Yes, there are some faint smiles, but these are the eyes of young people who already have seen and heard too much. In 1933, Stalin was in power, the second Five-Year Plan was beginning, and the Holodomor famine would take place in Ukraine. If this group comprised an artel, each individual would have been at risk of expulsion for slacking or lack of seriousness about the achievement of the group. They had reason to be cautious.

    Other interpretations may be more on target than mine, but I’ve visited and lived in dictatorships, and I know the expressions in those eyes.

    On the other hand? It’s a great photo, and a fascinating historical document!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m sure I’m guilty of looking for the good in a bad situation here. I want to believe that their lives weren’t filled with fear. Of course, I would never try to romanticize life under a totalitarian regime. That would be like romanticizing war. Still, I think there is value in looking for glimpses of light in darkness. These young people were some of the luckier ones at that time. But you’re absolutely right that their everyday lives would have been perilous. Thank you for providing an important, balancing perspective!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. You ask “Were they ideologically oriented? Did they believe in communism? Or were they just like young people everywhere, working hard and hoping for a better future?” I would guess a mixture of all of it! There were probably some ardent communists among them, but also young people who just wanted to make the best of their lives and took the best work available to them. There might have been some who didn’t want to be there but felt they didn’t have much choice. I’m no good at reading things in people’s faces or their eyes, but I would think that in such a large group you are bound to get a variety of attitudes.
    My thought was as well that it looks like it’s cold – probably a large, unheated room. Brrr!

    Liked by 2 people

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