For some reason, playgrounds in the Soviet Union often featured distorted, inscrutable statues of fairy tale creatures, some legitimate characters from folklore, others just wild fever dream hallucinations. It is difficult to say if the grotesquerie of the figures was an accidental or intended. I like to imagine disillusioned artists from the provinces with no other method of publicizing their work being commissioned to do these jobs. They are uncooperative from the very beginning. They quarrel with the bureaucrats dispatched to oversee the projects. I see local officials despising the works once their finished, but since immediately tearing them down after their completion would be proof of their mismanagement of the project and make them vulnerable to criticism within the party, they leave them up. The disabused artists accomplish their aim: to frighten and terrorize a society which they loathe profoundly, to use the people’s own small mindedness to disturb and cause unease.
Then again, since this was communist Russia, there was probably a single guy who worked for the Ministry of Recreation or some such department whose only job was to design playground equipment for the whole empire. Maybe this gentleman was attempting whimsy but was incapable of imaginative play and humor. Maybe he confused fanciful illusion with basic abnormality. And so we have these images that are actually kind of subversive emerging out of blind ineptitude. I still admire what they were trying to do. The modern playground is built to be nothing more than a mechanism for expending effort through vigorous physicality. They are really just workout facilities for children. The people who designed soviet parks were trying to make these spaces more interesting for kids. The statues are supposed to imbue the playground with enchantment and inspire children to respond involuntarily with wonder. They do succeed in conjuring up a special magic; unfortunately it’s the accursed kind.
All of these images come from the excellent englishrussia.com http://englishrussia.com/2007/08/15/the-most-weird-russian-kids-playgrounds/, a website devoted to Soviet-era kitsch and oddity.