Recap: Tintin Tintin In The Land Of The Soviets

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is the first Tintin story, published in the magazine Le Petit Vingtième in the years 1929 and 1930. The young reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy are sent by the newspaper to the Soviet Union to gather material to write articles about the conditions under the Bolshevik government. What follows is a long tirade of anti-communist propaganda: Tintin wanders around Russia uncovering the oppression and the dirty secrets of the government while being attacked by evil government officials every step of the way.

As you can imagine, research for this story was minimal; Hergé had only one written source for information when writing it. Hergé himself would later think of the story as his Old Shame.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is the only book in the series that has never been colourised or redrawn. As a result, it sticks out like a sore thumb if you're otherwise only familiar with the later, redrawn versions of Tintin's early adventures. Storywise, it could be considered the Parvum Opus of all Tintin stories.


Tropes

  • Aborted Arc: Tintin is sent off to Moscow and eventually gets there, but all kinds of events eventually lead him to other parts of Russia. Near the end of the story he tries to return to Moscow again, but after a failed attempt he just decides to go home. We also see him write his reports only once and he has to flee in the dead of night without taking all of his copies with him. So... in what way was his journalistic mission accomplished?
  • Amusing Injuries: Happens a lot.
  • Artistic License – Biology and Artistic License – Engineering: Tintin manages to fashion a propeller for a plane by cutting it with a pen knife from a tree. After spending a whole day and night doing this he simply puts it on the plane and flies away. Errr... didn't he need to sleep at one point, especially considering he has to concentrate on keeping a plane in the air?
  • Artistic License – Economics: Herge depicts the communist economy as literally phony, with people just banging on iron to produce factory sounds and burning hay to provide factory smoke. Also he refers to bananas, Shell petrol and Huntley & Palmers biscuits, all of which didn't exist in the USSR at that time.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Soviet Russia seems to be nothing more than some dreary buildings and tundra. Hergé based all his knowledge about the country on one book, Moscou Unveiled by a Belgian Soviet diplomat named Joseph Douillet, which was a heavy anti-Soviet propaganda piece. Several scenes in the Tintin story are lifted directly from this book.
    • Another example are the Chinese torturers who just happen to be working for Soviet policemen in Russia. Hilarious in Hindsight though is the fact that only 20 years later China would indeed become a Communist country!
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: Many Russian names end with -ski, despite the fact that this more typical of Polish names.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Tintin freezes stuck in the ice, while Snowy doesn't, which is already strange in itself, but then Snowy manages to unfreeze Tintin again, who is totally unaffected by the effects of being frozen for so long, even able to find the energy to fight with the Russian cossack who carried him along.
  • Author Tract: Sort of. The tract was more Hergé's boss's, him having commissioned Hergé to write it as anti-Bolshevik propaganda for children.
  • Banana Peel: A rare case of a banana peel being used to attempt assassination. Of course, bananas weren't really available in the Soviet Union at the time...
  • Big Ball of Violence: The fight sequences are this.
  • Cossacks: Tintin is captured by one when frozen in ice.
  • Crapsack World: Soviet Russia is depicted as a horrible, poor dictatorship where all of Communism is apparently a fraud.
  • Creator Provincialism: Tintin departs and arrives back at the Brussels train station.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The story is in black-and-white and never colorized, because Hergé felt ashamed about it.
  • Dirty Communists: All communists are evil, according to this comic strip.
  • Do Not Explain The Joke: A lot of gags are exposed before they actually happen, for instance the banana peel gag.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Tintin has no quiff for the first few pages, until a car chase puts his hair into motion. He is also seen writing journalistic paperwork for the first and last time in the series, though he never seems to send it to his newspaper, because that same night he is attacked in his hotel room and has to flee, without taking all those pages along with him. Snowy has a strange beard and he and Tintin clearly seem able to understand what they are saying to each other.
    • In terms of story the album is more a Random Events Plot and a propaganda piece full of Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped lectures about the evilness and phoniness of Soviet communism. Many gags are set up and told in a very slow exposition that doesn't surprise the reader when they finally happen.
  • Handcar Pursuit
  • Imperial China: The Chinese torturers still have this look, down to the long pigtails.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Tintin discovers an underground Bolshevik hideaway in a haunted house. A Bolshevik then captures him and informs him, "You're in the hideout where Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin have collected together wealth stolen from the people!"
  • Inscrutable Oriental: Tintin is brought to a torture cellar where he will be tortured by two emotionless Chinese tortureres.
  • National Stereotypes: The Russians are all miserably poor or spies for the government. Two Chinese torturers with pigtails appear too, as do English tourists smoking a Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe and tweed jackets.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: A Russian spy disguises himself as a beggar, causing Tintin to take the man to a restaurant on pity. Snowy quickly figures out it's the same man who tried to attack Tintin earlier in the story.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Actually averted, which would later become very rare for the series. Tintin is explicitly being sent to Russia as a reporter, and we even see him talking to his boss about sending in articles.
  • Poke the Poodle: One Russian's idea of making sure Tintin is shut up forever is... putting a banana peel on the door step so that Tintin will fall after he leaves the building again. Yeah, that 'll show 'em!
  • Random Events Plot: The "plot" is basically just Tintin wandering around and being attacked by Dirty Communists. A lot of stuff just happens and several plot lines remain unresolved. Hergé later admitted that most of the early Tintin stories until The Blue Lotus were just a "joke" to him. He drew them for fun and was often close to deadline when he still hadn't found a way to get his character out of the sticky situation he put him in the previous episode.
  • Red Scare: The story was drawn under demand of Hergé's boss, who wanted an anti-Communist story to warn their young readers about the evils of the ideology. The boss was a Catholic Priest with Fascist sympathies by the way, even having a portrait of Benito Mussolini on his desk.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: The Russian people are depicted as people who are all hungry and poor, suffering under Communism.
  • Russians with Rifles: Tintin is under continuous attack of Russians with guns.
  • The Soviet Twenties: The story was drawn in 1929.
  • Scooby-Doo Hoax: The Bolsheviks use one of these to scare people away from their hidden stash of stolen goods. Tintin himself also dresses up as a Bedsheet Ghost to scare away his attackers at one point.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Tintin sings Au Clair De La Lune while fashioning a propeller from a tree using a pen knife all day and night.
    • The Simpsons: The album Tintin in Paris that Lisa grabs in the episode Husbands And Knives has Tintin and Snowy striking the same pose as they did on this album cover.
  • Time Marches On: This entire story is obviously dated. Soviet Russia doesn't exist anymore, for starters.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Tintin is arrested at one point for blowing up a traincar and killing 218 people (actually an attempt to assassinate him). After he escapes, it is never mentioned or referenced again.
  • Yellow Peril: Two extremely stereotypical-looking Chinese men show up to torture Tintin.