“Chemical War,” 1925
The phrase “war toys” usually evokes images of little plastic guns, gritty action figures with kung-fu grips and more recently the first-person shooter video game. In Soviet Russia however, bloodthirsty board games were incredibly popular. I’d imagine this was partially due to a national penchant for games of strategy (like chess), but also probably owing (at least somewhat, if not to a great extent) to manufacturing considerations. Russia was still attempting a massive industrialization project throughout the 1930s, and board games were pretty quick and easy to produce without much in the way of materials or tools.
Obviously not every Russian board game had the hawkish tenor of most of the games below (“Electrification”), but there’s certainly enough of them to see palpable themes of nationalism and war. You’ll notice the game “Battle” looks pretty wholesome at first glance… until you realize that the players are engaging in a leisurely game on a battlefield, seemingly unaware of the carnage taking place directly behind them. Despite the intriguing cover art, I can’t find much on the rules or premises of these games, except they they were educational tools and often contained a military trivia component. Still, as far as insidiously nationalist, war-mongering propaganda goes, don’t they look kind of… fun?
“Air War,” 1925
More Soviet games after the jump…