BASEES Annual Conference 2022

A red crocodile in the sky: how “Krokodil” supported Lev Trotsky ‘s campaign for the Soviet airforce.

Fri8  Apr02:20pm(20 mins)
Umney Lounge


Virginia Pili


In the January 1923, Lev Trotsky sends a note to the members of the Revolutionary Military Council , stressing the need of well developed, all-round propaganda campaign to support the air force, involving all the influential poets, writers and illustrators. Throughout 1923, the aeronautical theme became a constant of the Soviet public discourse. Newspapers and journals dedicated to the history and technique of aviation columns and even thematic issues, while planes and pilots populated the verses of poets like Mayakovsky and Zharov. and Komsomol cells, with their usual energy, made every effort to divulge the passion for aeroplanes among the younger generations. My paper will, in the first step, reconstruct the general outlines of the “airplane mania” of the 1923, to focus then specifically on the fundraising campaign started by the satirical magazine “Krokodil” to buy the materials needed to build a “Krokodil” airplane. This fundraising campaign was actively promoted with articles, vignettes, chastushki and caricatures: the major hero of all these materials is the magazine’s mascot, an enormous red crocodile rushing through the skies aboard an airplane while terrorizing the enemies of the USSR. The paper will analyze the main narrative traits of the adventures of the “red crocodile”, inserting them in the conceptual world of “Krokodil” and using them as a starting point to better understand the imagery of early Soviet society.