Back to top

The doors of the gondola are open wide

From the threshold someone waves with a white cap

“Look!” “A cook!” “A live one!”

A real one!

Hey, old man, give us some tea!

The German dirigible just landed in front of onlookers.

In the decades following World War I, dirigibles were popular for long-distance flying and exploration. The dirigible portrayed here is perhaps a reference the German LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin, which traveled to the North Pole in 1931. Aboard the airship were German scientists, Soviet polar explorers (including Professor Rudolf Lazarevich Samoilovich, the chief scientist of the expedition), at least one American scientist, and at least one Swedish scientist. On its way to the North Pole, Graf Zeppelin touched down at Leningrad where it captured the public imagination, attracting a crowd of over 100,000 people. For more information about the Polar Flight see here.

The color scheme of this page and the next are very similar, pairing complementary blue and orange-red swatches. This is notable as this page describes an actual scene, the landing of the dirigible, whereas the next describes a Soviet vision of creating a Soviet dirigible, which suggests that the illustrator is attempting to create visual coherence between the present and the imagined future. The attentive reader will note that the ground is red on this page while on the following page the sky is red. This may be a subtle suggestion that while the Soviets control the ground in the present, they will also rule the future skies. This complementary color scheme was used by the illustrator, V. P. Akhmet'ev, in Zagadki Marshaka---a book also published in 1931featuring images of technology.

The larger-than-life chef could well be based on Heinrich Kubis, the world’s first flight attendant, working aboard the Graf Zeppelin. The chief steward is responsible for welcoming people to the airship upon landing as reflected by the fact that he has taken his hat off and has his arms in an outstretched gesture of welcome. Due to his monumental proportions in the illustration and with the “doors of the gondola [...] wide open” he appears ready to heroically welcome the Soviet onlookers to experience the magnificence of German technology and hospitality. Additionally, as this character is more representative of the proletariat when compared to an authoritative figure like the dirigible captain, the cook is more relatable to the Soviet onlookers as evidenced by the fact that they address him familiarly: “Hey, old man, give us some tea!"

The Soviet crowd observing the dirigible are simply dressed, especially when compared to the cook who is dressed in a sumptuous uniform. This uniformity is also characteristic of the illustrator’s style, as V. P. Akhmet’ev seems to refrain from depicting people as individuals and instead shows them as part of a type (ex: one of many spectators without individual identifying characteristics). This draws attention to when an individual like our cook is highlighted.