Home >  Dartmouth College Library Bulletin > April 1992 >

Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

A Soviet Vase, Link to Past and Future


In 1964 Phillips Academy, Andover, received from an alumnus George Parker Jr. 1939, an unusual Russian vase, covered with a spiral inscription from top to bottom. The helpful staff of Dartmouth's Baker and Sherman Art: Libraries have assisted in verification of its Source as the Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory in Leningrad (now again St. Petersburg), and its text as the 'Declaration Concerning Formation of the Union on of Soviet Socialist Republics,' adopted 30 December 1922 to Introduce the 'Osnovoi Zakon' [basic law or constitution] of the same date by its members, the Russian, Belarussian, Ukranian, and Transcaucasian Republics (the last Comprising the present areas of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan).* Baker Library has the texts of both documents in two Russian Publications: in English, USSR: Sixty Years of the Union, 1922-1982: A Collection of Legislative Acts and Other Documents (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982), 162-168; and in Russian, Obrazovanie SSSR, Sbornik Dokumentov 1917-1924 [Formation of the USSR, Collection of Documents] (Moscow and Leningrad Academy of Sciences, 332-337. The latter volume cites not only the printing in issue number 298 of Pravada, 31 December 1922, but also the volume and page where these texts appear in the collected works of Stalin, 1 whose name during his rule validated all knowledge.

Now we are fascinated to find thoughts parallel to those on the vase expressed in the Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan) Declaration, Published 23 December 1991 on page one of both Pravada and Izvestiya, by the eleven participants of the Sodruzhestvo Nezavisimykh Gosudarstv, commonly translated by Russian speakers as Commonwealth of Independent States. Commonwealth appears to imitate the British political term, but: the elements of 'sodruzhestvo' suggest 'co-friendship' or 'alliance of friendship.' The states are Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, MoldoVa, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan (all called republics), the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. A representative sample from the document in Pravada in my own translation, reads:

... to build democratic legal states ...on the basis of respect ... for state self-determination, for Principles of equal justice and non-intervention in internal affairs, for renunciation of force and threat of force, and of economic and any other methods of coercion for Peaceful control of disputes, for respect for rights and freedoms of the person, including rights of national minorities ...

Compare this excerpt with the lines from the 1922 document:

Ravaged fields, abandoned factories ruined Productive forces and exhausted economic resources left as an inheritance from the war, make the separate efforts of separate republics at economic construction inadequate.

But the document continues:

... this Union is a voluntary unification of peoples of equal rights, that: to each republic guaranteed the right of free withdrawal from the Union, that entry into the Union is open all socialist, soviet republics, both existing and destined to arise in the future ...

The clause concerning 'right of free withdrawal' was included as Article 26 Of the 1922 Constitution and remained as Article 72 of the last revision . 2

The Andover vase, now exhibited as part of the resources for the study of Russian language and literature in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library at Andover, was purchased by Mr. Parker at a shop in Mexico City. He was told that it had once been in the Soviet embassy there, which had opened in 1924 and closed in 1930 because of growing tensions between the government: of Mexico, the Communist Party there, and the USSR. The New York Times reported that diplomatic relations were severed in late January of 1930; A. Makar, the soviet minister to Mexico, was recalled soon thereafter. 3

The case is of white eggshell or oyster white porcelain, thirty-eight inches high, with a diameter of twenty inches at the widest point. The date 1927 is inscribed inside the mouth the letters of the spiral inscription, one-half inch high, are brick red, with brush-stroke shadowing. The large initials of the four founding Republics are presented on the neck by elaborately intertwined and colored script letters, Mr. Parker had a metal plate mounted on ball bearings fitted to a walnut stand thirty-one inches high, on which the vase rotates for convenient reading of the inscription. Under the concave base of the vase, in raised but uncolored letters, is the name Ya. [most likely for Yakov, or Jacob] Pipushin, who has not yet been identified.

Baker Library's Reference Room houses the Great Soviet Encyclopedia , which contains articles on the history of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory (also known as the State Ceramics Factory) and on several of the artists who worked there at the time the vase was made. Sergei Vasilevich Chekhonin was artistic director of the factory from 1918 to 1923; he designed 'agitational,' i.e. political, decorative articles. During this time the factory specialized in individual articles, rather than copies.' 4

Two books in the Sherman Art Library illustrate examples of

Chekhonin's work. Russian Decorative Arts, 1917-1937 contains an extensive biography and an illustration of a 1920 propaganda plate with the slogan 'To the Rule of the Workers and Peasants there will be no End, and the initial letters, elaborately and colorfully intertwined as on the Andover vase, of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republics. 5 S. Chekhonin, by A. Efros and N. Punin, pictures his lettering in similar style On plates with political themes and an elegant vase decorated with a large blossom and leaves, but without indication of size. 6

The other artist most closely associated with the factory was Aleksandra Vasilevna Shchekatikina-Pototskaia Illustrations of her work in Russian Decorative Arts and a work by Viktor Noskovich show no specific resemblances to the work of Chekhonin. 7 She lived from 1892 to 1967 Chekhonin, from 1878 to 1936.

None of these books names Yakov Pipushin, who presumably executed all or at least part of the Andover vase, following a design by Chekhonin. If at some time it becomes possible to explore any archives at: the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory that survived the siege of Leningrad, we may learn whether the Andover vase is in fact unique, and more about Pipushin.

Meanwhile, as we anxiously fellow the present sharp struggle for economic, social, and ethnic stability in Eastern Europe and Asia, We see in this vase eloquent witness to past tribulations, including earlier opportunities for international cooperation lost because of mutual suspicions, and especially because of the xenophobic and dictatorial paranoia of Stalin, which locked the peoples of that area in a bureaucratic prison.


*The spelling of certain place names is changing as the political situation evolves. The editors are using current spellings as reported in Time, 27 January 1992, q. 36.

1. Iosif Stalin, . Ed. by Robert: H. McNeal (Stanford, Calif.: The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, 1967)

2. Robert Sharlet, The New Soviet Constitution of 1977, Analysis and Text (Brunswick, Ohio: King's Court Communications, 1978), 97.

3. The New York Times, 24 January 1930: 1; 1 February 1930, 5.

4. Great Soviet Encyclopedia (New York: Macmillan, 1973-1983), 27:366, and 23:88. The Library also owns several editions of the original Russian encyclopedia.

5. Vladimir Pavlovich Tolstoi, Russian Decorative Arts, 1917-1937 (New York: Rizzoli, 1990), 162; translation of the slogan provided by Mr. Lane.

6. Abram Efros, S. Chekhonin (Moskva and Petrograd: Gosud. Izdat., 1932[?]).

7.Viktor Noskovich, Aleksandra Vasilevna Shchekatikhina-Pototskaia (Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1959).