soviet sister


y'all can tell where I gave up


Вавила грозный и тётка Арина (Terrible Vavila and Aunt Arina)

the works of: Olga KhodatayevaNikolai KhodataevBrumberg sisters
animated short film history
Release: 1928
Country: Soviet Union
Director: Olga Khodatayeva, Nikolai Khodataev

Rural women gather together on March 8th, International Women’s Day. The banner over the meeting hall reads, “Cooperation is a sure way to liberate women from the chains of cooking.” Arina’s husband attempts to stop her, but she and her friend outrun him. The women make it to their meeting as inanimate objects come to life and drive away the interfering men.

Valentina and Zinaida Brumberg served as animators on this film.


Terrible Vavila and Aunt Arina is available on YouTube.


Челове́чка нарисова́л я (It Was I Who Drew the Little Man)

83 in x of animated feature film history
Release: 1960
Country: Soviet Union
Director: Valentina Brumberg, Zinaida Brumberg, Valentin Lalayants

“It Was I Who Drew the Little Man is an expanded remake of Fedya Zaytsev, a 1948 21-minute film by the same directors.

On the first of September, Fedya Zaytsev is the very first student to arrive at school. In his joy at realizing this, he draws a little man with an umbrella on the wall of his classroom with a piece of charcoal, realizing too late that this is against the rules. He lets his best friend take the blame. The little man Fedya drew comes to life and follows him home. He urges Fedya to confess. Instead, he is tempted away to the Kingdom of Lies, becoming the queen’s page. The queen releases soap bubbles into the air, telling her citizens that, if they catch one, their dreams will come true––a complete lie. Fedya disproves this lie, returns home, and confesses to his crime.”


It Was I Who Drew the Little Man is available on YouTube. 


Самоедский мальчик (Samoyed Boy)

the works of: Brumberg sisters, Olga Khodatayeva, Nikolai Khodataev
animated short film history
Release: 1928
Country: Soviet Union
Director: Valentina Brumberg, Zinaida Brumberg, Olga Khodatayeva, Nikolai Khodataev

A boy in the Arctic named Chu singlehandedly defeats a polar bear. However, the village’s greedy shaman steals the bear when Chu brings it home. For revenge, Chu ruins the shaman’s show, revealing his fakery. The shaman casts Chu out to sea, where he is picked up by a Soviet ship. He then lives and studies in Leningrad, but always thinks about the North.


Samoyed Boy is available on YouTube. 

Image: A typical Russian kitchen inside an apartment built during the early 1960s. (Courtesy of The Kitchen Sisters)

In 1953, the death of Joseph Stalin brought on a new era of Soviet life – one in which Russian families were able to move out of cramped, communal flats into their own private apartments, with their own private kitchens.

These Soviet kitchens became hotbeds of dissent and culture – especially when it came to forbidden literature. They were a place where people could read and exchange samizdat, or self-published books and documents.

Samizdat was the most important part of our literature life,” says Alexander Genis, a Russian writer and radio journalist. “And literature was the most important part of our life, period. Literature for us was like movies for Americans or music for young people.”

Genis and his family read The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn together in their kitchen:

“It’s a huge book, three volumes, and all our family sat at the kitchen. And we were afraid of our neighbor, but she was sleeping. And my father, my mother, my brother, me and my grandma — who was very old and had very little education — all sit at the table and read page, give page, the whole night. Maybe it was the best night of my life.”

That’s just some of what we learned from the Kitchen Sisters’ history of Soviet kitchens – you can find out more here.


Sisters, 1975