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Early Soviet Russia was globally renowned for its pioneering art and design. A new exhibition of items representing Soviet design has opened at Cambridge University Library to show off that early genius, using books, propaganda posters, ration coupons, cigarette packets and postcards. They all came from a collection amassed by a British academic, Catherine Cooke. But those years of early promise aren’t the full story of design in the Soviet Union as Hywel Davies discovered when he spoke to the exhibition curator, Mel Bach.

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