It’s 29 years ago and the latest monthly magazine to hit the news-stands is an English-language version of Pravda – the newspaper of the Communist party of the Soviet Union. The 44-page, A4 magazine proudly boasts it was founded by Lenin in 1911, on the 5th of May to be precise, and announces its battle cry ‘Workers of the world unite’.
This was still the Cold War. Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s prime minister and Mikhail Gorbachev was the Russian president facing up to Ronald Reagan in the US. A headline inside, ‘How Star Wars flouts the law’, attacks the US strategic defence initiative with its bluster about energy weapons mounted on satellite systems. BBC Radio 4 is presently serialising Thatcher’s official biography by arch Tory Charles Moore, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and Spectator magazine, where he writes the weekly Notes column.
Besides Star Wars weapons and the Chernobyl fallout (also the subject of a recent Radio 4 series), it was the era of my favourite piece of grafitti, seen on the wall of the otherwise spotless men’s loo of the French House pub, underneath the pavement in Soho’s Dean Street. In 1984, in the run-up to the election battle against Walter Mondale, someone had scrawled: ‘Lee Harvey Oswald, where are you, when your country needs you most?’ Not a Reagan fan then, but the former actor won by a landslide. I peed on my shoes laughing.
The Pravda masthead shows two Lenin badges and the hammer and sickle in front of what I take to be the battleship Potemkin – scene of the failed mutiny of 1905 made famous by Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 film.
Nowadays, you can read Pravda on the web.
To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design