Painting the Red Plague

1956 was a heady year of protest against the repressive Communist governments that controlled much of Central and Eastern Europe. The most famous uprising of that year is the Hungarian Revolution, a nationwide rebellion that was brutally suppressed by invading Soviet forces. Espionart has previously explored this landmark Cold War episode by looking at József Jakovits’s poignant biomorphic sketches, which chronicled the revolutionaries’ fight against … Continue reading Painting the Red Plague

Ridiculing the Regime

As communist governments across Eastern Europe floundered in the 1980s, strange creatures began to be seen behind the Iron Curtain. Mischievous little gnomes with cheeky smiles and pointy hats first appeared in the southern Polish city of Wrocław, and then began to pop up on the walls of cities across the country. But despite their comical appearance, these gnomes had a serious purpose – using surrealism as … Continue reading Ridiculing the Regime

Cheerful Collages of Mushroom Clouds

Terrified by the news that the Soviet Union had tested its first nuclear bomb in August 1949, the United States decided to up the ante – by going thermonuclear. On 1 November 1952, the world’s first H-bomb, codenamed Ivy Mike, was detonated on the Pacific island of Elugelab. The island was instantly transformed into a cloud of ash that reached 27 miles into the sky, and all vegetation within the path of … Continue reading Cheerful Collages of Mushroom Clouds

Polish Cold War Neon

In 2007 British-Polish photographer Ilona Karwińska launched a pioneering project to record the disappearing world of Poland’s Cold War neon signs. Over the last 6 years the initiative has grown ever larger as Karwińska’s work has tapped into the zeitgeist for Cold War culture. Her photographs recount post-war Polish city streets bathed in the light of dazzling socialist messages and whimsical illustrations. Under Poland’s Communist regime, … Continue reading Polish Cold War Neon