For accompanying coin, enquire in Map Room : the July 2019 Slavonic item of the month

Last week, I decided to tackle a set about major exhibitions and exhibition spaces in Moscow which had been in the Slavonic cataloguing backlog for some time.  How hard a cataloguing challenge could it be?  4 volumes, 6 accompanying discs, 3 accompanying sheets, and 1 accompanying commemorative coin later, I can confirm that the answer was – very.

The coin, front and back.

Cambridge’s copy of VSKhV–VDNKh–VVT︠S︡ is, according to Library Hub (the very new replacement for COPAC), the only one held in the country, which is unsurprising given that it was published in a small run not for general sale.  The set was produced to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Moscow’s extraordinary exhibition complex, in 2009, although the UL was only able to obtain a copy years later.

After several delays in the 1930s, the enormous VSKhV (Vsesoi︠u︡znai︠a︡ selʹskokhozi︠a︡ĭstvennai︠a︡ vystavka = The All-Union Agricultural Exhibition) was opened in 1939.  The vast complex provided visitors with a mixture of permanent exhibition pavilions devoted to the promotion of Soviet production with a pleasure park.  The complex was significantly expanded, with dozens more pavilions added, after the Second World War, and in 1959 it was renamed VDNKh (Vystavka dostizheniĭ narodnogo khozi︠a︡ĭstva SSSR = The Exhibition of Achievements of the Soviet National Economy).

The next name change came in 1992, when VDNKh (pronounced “Veh-Deh-En-Kha”) was re-styled VVT︠S︡ (Vserossiĭskiĭ vystavochnyĭ t︠s︡entr = The All-Russian Exhibition Centre).  This was its name in 2009, when the set newly added to the catalogue was produced, but 2014 saw the name change once more and the complex was once again officially called VDNKh (unofficially, this had remained its popular name).  Post-Soviet changes included the restoration of the famous Rabochii i kolkhoznitsa (Worker and kolkhoz woman) statue designed by Vera Mukhina.  The enormous status, with the two figures holding their hammer and sickle together, was first displayed in Paris at the 1937 World Fair, where it stood on top of the Soviet pavilion, opposite the pavilion of Nazi Germany, with the Eiffel Tower as backdrop (image here).  It then moved to Moscow, to the exhibition complex, but gradually fell into a state of disrepair.  It now stands on a new structure which copies the World Fair pavilion.

The complex is a remarkable place and one which every Moscow tourist should aim to visit (to my shame, I have inexplicably failed to visit it so far myself).  To give some idea of what it has to offer, here is a link to a map on its English-language site.

While the efforts to build the complex were clearly gargantuan, the efforts to catalogue the 2009 commemorative set have also felt exhausting.  We often deal with “accompanying material”; many books come with loose inserted maps, for example, which go to the Maps Department, and some come with accompanying discs, which go to the general microform collection or to the Music Department (the latter if they are purely audio discs).  This set, however, really outdid itself.  Each volume had a disc embedded in its front cover, of which 3 were CD-ROMs and 1 a CD.  Volumes 1-3 also each came with an accompanying loose sheet of paper (all facsimiles of major documents).  Volume 4, called Media, came with 2 further discs (1 DVD and 1 CD) – and a commemorative coin.  The Maps Department have kindly agreed to house the coin.

As the set’s record on iDiscover probably shows quite adequately, the wide array of contents presented the cataloguer with a wide array of various titles.  Each volume had a title.  Each of the 6 discs had a title and a variant title.  The coin had a title, of sorts.  Add to this the fact that we standardly add Cyrillic variants for the main fields (and I have been very selective here), and the final result is a very, very long record.

The set is, of course, still a fine addition to our collections.  While it is not an academic publication (and I should really add further subject headings to reflect its heavily pictorial content; there is still some final polishing of the record to do), it provides readers with an eye-catching insight, in Russian and English, into the site’s development over time.  Its forewords come from Putin, then in his inter-presidential-terms prime minister period, and Iurii Luzhkov (then the mayor of Moscow; he was fired by President Medvedev the following year).

The 80th anniversary of the opening of the complex falls tomorrow, 1 August 2019, and we will be looking out for further publications which mark this latest milestone.

Mel Bach

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