Northern Illinois University Press

I Shop in Moscow

Advertising and the Creation of Consumer Culture in Late Tsarist Russia

Sally  West

First cultural history of advertising in imperial Russia

“West’s discussion of the role that advertising played in the development of consumption-oriented individualism contributes to the very scant knowledge available on change at the level of personal identity in late imperial Russia.” —Louise McReynolds, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The emergence of Russian consumer culture played a formative role in the unsettling of traditional tsarist society by promoting the aspirations of self-fulfillment through consumption. Encouraging a consumerist ethic at odds with an autocratic society, advertising spoke the language of both tradition and modernity, simultaneously perpetuating and undermining the values of the past. The rise of pervasive, mass-circulation advertising in tsarist society reflected many of the paradoxes of late imperial Russia: a peasant society swiftly becoming a world industrial power, a modernizing economy within a patriarchal culture, and a population becoming consumers and citizens while still subjects of the tsar. This groundbreaking book is the first to study the cultural history of advertising in imperial Russia. West describes the development of advertising as an industry in Russia, discussing responses from both the business community and the state. She then presents a cultural study of central themes that form the advertising messages themselves, including consumption as a progressive and civilizing force, the deliberate creation of “consumer” as a new identity, the perpetuation and reformulation of gender roles, and the appropriation and commodification of Russian cultural motifs. In her analysis of advertising content, West incorporates numerous illustrations from the mass-circulation press and the poster collection of the Russian State Library, many of which are difficult to access and unknown to most scholars. I Shop in Moscow offers a non-Western perspective for anyone interested in the comparative study of consumer culture and advertising. West’s original study will appeal to scholars and students of advertising and Russian history, as well as those working in gender studies, folklore, and cultural history.

50 illus., 334 pages ISBN: 978-0-87580-648-8 $45.00 cloth

Sally West is Professor of History at Truman State University.

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-648-8