Krokodil magazine was an illustrated Soviet satirical journal, published in the USSR between 1922 and 1991. This blog is related to my PhD project. I am interested in political cartoons and caricature, and satirical journals in general, but specifically the operation of the medium in the Soviet context. I investigate Krokodil in relation to theories of carnival, transmediality and performativity.
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The name 'Krokodil'
I have not been able to find out definitively why the magazine was named 'Krokodil' in the first place. The theory most commonly propounded is that it derives from the crocodile in the story by Kornei Chukovsky (1916). I have no reason to disbelieve this, but another story named after, and about, a crocodile was written by Dostoevsky in 1865. The logical place to look for an authoritative explanation would be the first issues of the magazine, but they are extremely rare and I haven't seen an original - only excerpts quoted elsewhere. In one of these quotes, in a poem by Demian Bednyi, the magazine is named as 'the red crocodile' which identifies the magazine with the animalistic logo/character, but I wonder if any of the readers of this blog can answer this question?
Krokodil cartoons very often employed folkloric characters and themes. Soviet graphic satire owed much to pre-revolutionary popular prints, and in some cases, Krokodil images were composed in the graphic style of Russian folk arts. In other cartoons, Soviet satirical commentary was enacted by Russian folk tale characters.
Russian folk characters were thus reimagined in a modern satirical context, and the combination of discourses created unique visions of both old and new. Stalinist folklore/'fakelore' (Dorson 1950) co-opted folk heroes in the service of the Soviet state, but Krokodil's use of these characters was satirical and thus markedly different.
Ded Moroz and Snegoruchka also commonly appeared in Soviet satire, celebrating the turn of the New Year, or warning about the change in seasons.
Countless cartoons visualised anthropomorphised animals, but a number of images also referred to less famous Russian folk tales.
Perhaps the most frequent appearances were made by …