Brief history of Russian Christmas ornaments
Dealing with Christmas ornaments we try not only to sell them, but to gather all pieces of histories regarding them.
We are glad to share our knowledge with our friends and customers. We will try to keep this document up to date, placing new details and new facts here.
All ornaments that are shown at the photos we obtained at St. Petersurg, Russia.
In the beginning of XX century about 90% of Christmas tree ornaments was importing to Russia from other countries, mainly from Germany. Only 10% of assortment was produced by local masters.
In this time it was a great variety of different kind of Christmas decoration. For example the price of Christmas decorations by "Tikhomirov & Co Trading house" issued in 1913 consisted of 13 pages by small print.
The decorations were approximately the same as in the Western Europe: there were hand made ornaments made of glass and cotton, of pressed cardboard and paper mashe, candy containers of different kinds, gilded nuts and cones, etc.
The photo below shows ornaments that was being kept in St. Petersburg since beginning of XX century.
After the revolution of 1917 communists began to fight against religion and church rites. During the civil war communist leaders had more important tasks, and some manufactures still produced some ornaments. Since 1920s all church celebrations was practically prohibited and production of Christmas ornaments was completely stopped.
Officials seriously discussed the possibility to start new chronology from the date of October revolution: from 17 of October. "Politically conscious" pioneers began to write appeals to prohibit the delivery of Christmas trees to the cities, and promised to celebrate Christmas holidays by diligent visiting studies, somewhere even the funerals of Christmas tree was organized. The official position was "to achieve discontinuance of trading by Christmas trees and various production of Christmas rites as ornaments, decorations etc".
But still some people celebrates Christmas with their families, they decorated Christmas tree by ornaments they did by themselves - it was colored fruits, nuts, cones and cutout ornaments from paper.
In year 1929 Christmas celebration was prohibited officially, but already at 1936 the head of Ukrainian branch of communistic party of USSR published an article "Let us organize the good New Year tree for our children". Thus, Christmas celebration was substituted by the celebration of the New Year.
Here there are samples from the "Soviet toy" magazine issued at 1938, with samples of new New Year ornaments
In this time between 1936 and 1941 ornaments was mainly produced either by small cooperatives that specializes in toys or by divisions of large enterprises. Thus electrical enterprises produced ornaments from the wire remains, printing offices manufactured cardboard ornaments, etc. Mainly ornaments from cotton, cardboard, glass, paper mashe, chenille and wire were produced.
At 1936-1937 a lot of ornaments were produced using stamps and technologies of pre-revolutionary period. In the same time manufactures was strongly criticized for absence of soviet spirit in their ornaments.
Here you can see the ornament of rabbit with ball that was produced with minor changes for decades.
Since 1936 manufactures tried to produce more ornaments based on soviet reality and ideology. Ornament of pioneers, kolkhozniks (collective farmer), and guards of soviet frontier was creating before WWII.
New Year ornaments immediately became very popular, it's enough to say that turnover of New Year decorations was equals to the turnover of all toy industry at all.
The demand on ornaments was greatly exceed an offer. Besides the quality of the early soviet ornaments wasn't good enough, some of them were able to be used only during one season.
But still, the end of 1930s is the golden era of soviet cotton ornaments, you can see cotton ornaments of this period at the photo below.
The WWII was the ordeal for USSR. All the soviet people worked very hard to achieve the victory. Manufacturing of Christmas ornaments was discontinued, and again people did it by themselves from paper, wire, pieces of tin, and things like this. Even during the blockade on Leningrad (St. Petersburg), in the time of starvation and terrible frost, people continued to celebrate the New Year and sure they were made ornaments.
In the first years after the WWII the production of New Year ornaments was minor, the country was ruined and industry had more important tasks.
Here are the beautiful examples of ornaments that were made at WWII or just after WWII:
From the year 1947 the New Year became official holiday.
After the Stalin's death at 1953 ornaments became less ideologized and attention was shifted to fairy tales and tale heroes.
At the same time the production of cotton ornaments and beaded glass ornaments was practically discontinued. The main reason was economical, cotton ornaments were most expensive ones because they were most complex in production. An important reason was the potential flammability of cotton ornaments, in despite of technology mean the impregnate of cotton by special inflammable liquid.
At 50s cardboard ornaments also got new subjects from Russian fairy tales; they became thinner and less detailed. They partly remained it popularity but at 60s-70s cardboard ornaments were practically discontinued.
The space thematic became popular at 50s-60s: ornaments of spacemans and rockets were appeared.
You can see at the photo even the Laika ornament - the first dog that had visited space.
We don't know well the history of soviet ornaments from 70s to our days, but we've seen a lot of them and seem that ornaments became more primitive. The peoples and animals were substituted by fancy molded shapes, small cooperatives were substituted by big factories. The glass became thicker and aluminum became used in the process of glass ornaments silvering instead of real silver.
Ilmira and Grigorij