May 16, 2021 | Andrew's Blog

Soviet Russian desk lamp circa 1970...

A difficult piece to get into perspective as a decor item due to its political connotations and totally unconventional design, appearing at first glance as something from the set of Dr Strangelove. Constructed entirely from aerospace components at the Russian aerospace laboratory at Altes Lager East Germany in commemoration of someone's service to the Soviet Russian Air Force 1960 - 1970...

Many thanks to Olya Kheifets for her advice on the acquisition of this piece and consultation for this article.

Photography by John Drury

Aesthetically baring no relation to anything I have ever seen it tells the story of the Sputnik era satellite program with the base constructed of a laminated Perspex type material held together by four conical head aerospace bolts and engraved with a brick wall representing the offices and workshops the organisation operated from. Illuminated on the base are four white and four red computer terminal lights representing the computer desktops from where the program was administered at mission control. A map of Earth with USSR depicted in red (CCCP; in Russian hand painted over Russia) is featured under the Perspex dish and sits behind a fish eyed lens taken from aircraft instrumentation which gives the optical illusion of the map appearing to be a globe. Three 35mm long chrome models (probably tie clips) of the Semyorka rockets used to launch the orbiters point due north in parallel with each other. Around the rim of the dish is etched the commemorative plaque in memory (perhaps reproduce Russian text) punctuated by the East German and Soviet Russian coats of arms. The model of Ostankino radio transmission tower, in 2020 still the tallest building in Europe, from where satellite transmissions were intercepted is handmade of aerospace alloy; 540 mm high from the base and correct in scale featuring the illuminated viewing platform and circular multi coloured windows of the lower sections; each with its own light. Suspended on a coil of internally wired alloy aerospace tubing, simulating an orbiting motion; is an illuminated model of a Sputnik era satellite, whilst so close to Ostankino tower, still appearing so lonely and isolated.

Research is currently underway in an effort to find out for whom this piece was made, as the amount of work in handmaking something of this calibre suggests it was for someone of considerable stature. That no name appears is perhaps reflective of the secrecy surrounding the Soviet Russian space program.

The Soviet Union is no more, but the institution that put the first satellite into orbit and the first person in space still exists. Here they express an almost childlike enthusiasm for not only their work, but also for the person for whom they made this. The hallmark of Russian communism was the humiliation of intelligent, innocent people, and a sustenance only wage, hence affection for this employee is demonstrated here in a way perhaps foreign to the western viewer. A piece of space race quirkiness with an almost child's toylike appearance, and typical of the Russian military culture of making gifts for superiors representative of their profession. Had this institution perished along with Russian communism, worldwide interest in this piece would not be what it is today , but the Russian Air Force survives; and today fifty years later, fluency in both Russian and English is a prerequisite for boarding the International Space Station. An intimate artefact of the 1960s space race and part of the history of an Air Force, whose technologies in 2020 are once again second to none.

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Fantastic lamp, I love Russian products and their hit and miss build quality and shady QC. My Vostok Amphibia being a stellar example of such.