Illustrating the Dark Satire of 20th Century Russia
Posted on 13th February 2020 by Austin Gould

Project Overview

Originally from Ukraine and currently based in Israel, Sveta Dorosheva is an illustrator that creates narrative art inspired by myth and fairytales.

One of her most inconic projects was for Krokodil Magazine, creating a series of illustrartions as part of a 12-book series called "History Through the Eyes of Krokodil Magazine, the 20th century". Sveta worked on this project as the illustrator and art director, and came up with the concepts for all of the illustrations. The project was an attempt at a conversation about the 20th century, based on a huge archive of the Soviet satirical magazines titled 'Krokodil' (1922-1992).

Founded in 1922, Krokodil was a satirical magazine published in the Soviet Union and while political satire was considered dangerous during much of the Soviet period, Krokodil was given considerable freedom to lampoon political events and figures.

The Krokodil archive used for the project had an abundance of pictures depicting everything from Soviet life. These ranged from lively street scenes to eye-popping propaganda, all of which inspired the project illustrations. Each chapter of the book series contained a gallery of caricatures and genre scenes from Krokodil. Every chapter was dedicated to a certain topic like children of the revolution, new women, or proletarian glamour. Sveta's illustrations were used to promote galleries of the authentic drawings from the Krokodil archive.

The Creative Process

Sveta knew the magazine's pictorial archive virtually by heart. She closely followed the style of each decade, but made a point of differentiating the illustrations from the original Soviet art. In order to make her drawings different from the authetic original art, she added hints of surrealism, something that could hardly exist in a Soviet propaganda magazine.

Sveta's approach to these illustrations was to write down all the ideas from Krokodil that mesmerized her, then come up with a composition that embraces them all. The style is close to the Soviet graphic artists of the twenties presented in Krokodil magazine. Sveta also has a deep sense of humor that permeates her work.

Sveta used 4 colors for these illustrations: black, sepia, red, and washes. To get a general composition, Sveta begins by doing sketches that look like blots and scribbles. After that, she does a tone drawing followed by line art, then colors it all in.

Favorite Part of the Project

Sveta's favorite part of this project was looking through the vast archive of Krokodil Magazine.

Here's what Sveta had to say:

"Apart from being very educational, the magazine gathered all the talented artists and illustrators of the epoch. I've never been through a more awesome and terrifying visual experience. I have gone through the revolution, World War II, the terror in-between, and the cold war."

"Now, of course the Soviet magazine would never really say so, but there were lots of things to observe from illustrations that 'ridicule social stigma'. Thus, we learn that homeless kids after the revolution were numerous, lived in the streets and slept in the snow. Also, kids of the era smoked, drank, played cards in the yard (while smoking and drinking, naturally), got beaten up by their parents, and were otherwise abused and kicked around."

"Another example was after the revolution the Soviet propaganda was trying to push 'the new woman' out of home and into the factories. The resulting situation was that she had to bear the brunt of both housework and factory work. In addition, she got constantly beaten by an alcoholic revolutionary husband for being too 'narrow-minded', 'petty bourgeoise' or just getting in his way."

"I mean, never intending to do so, this propaganda magazine does spill a lot of truth about the era, just by collecting so many talented artists. "

Advice to Artists

Sveta's advice to artists is to take breaks in your work so it doesn't overwhelm you. She understands that this may be harder for up and coming artists, to which she says, "do what you like, take projects you are passionate about, do your best, be  successful, and take more projects. After that, take a break."


You can find all 12 of the books Sveta worked on here .

And here 's another interesting series of illustrations Sveta did for the same edition, with captions in english and notes under each illustration. It's a tongue-in-cheek 'caricature of caricature', poking fun at propaganda by imitating propaganda.

We hope you enjoyed reading the story behind this project by Sveta Dorosheva !

Stay tuned for Dripbook’s future blog posts, and if you’re an artist looking to promote your work or create a website, head here , and if you’re looking to hire for a gig, head here !