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In the Soviet war economy, paper was a scarce, but indispensable prerequisite for the mobilization of all other materials and human resources. This discreet, coordinating function of paper was crucial, but invisible in salvage propaganda compared to the spectacular reuse of paper for direct military purposes. By the early 1930s, wastepaper collecting was centralized in the advanced, but undescribed Soiuzutil’ reutilization system, which aimed at cultivating Communist citizens as scrap-collecting collectivists, all in the name of an (ir)rational resource optimization. The talk sheds light on this overlooked, ‘reverse’ side of Stalinist industrialization, and discusses why the Stalinist war economy abandoned its highly developed wastepaper collecting system by the 1940s? The talk discusses the changing attitudes towards wastepaper in the Stalinist war economy, the attempts the representatives of the printing, paper, and waste recovery industries made to mobilize, reduce, reuse and replace paper resources, and the efforts the population put into saving this useful and ultimately life-saving material.
Birgitte Beck Pristed is Associate Professor of Russian Studies at the Department of Global Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark. She holds a Ph.D. from the Johannes-Gutenberg-University of Mainz, Germany, awarded with distinction 2014. She is author of an illustrated monograph on contemporary Russian book design and print culture The New Russian Book. A Graphic Cultural History (Palgrave, 2017). Her main research areas are print and media history, visual and material cultures of the Soviet and post-Soviet eras with a second strand in Russian children’s books. Her current research project focuses on the history of Soviet paper and explores how the materiality of print texts relates to economic and environmental history.