Price discovery, Soviet Russia, and artistry

The elevator pitch to a book editor and movie producer that never happened: “the early 1960s Soviet experiment of loosening price controls would make for a great work of historical fiction and a high-end movie drama.”  No one in their right mind, right?

And yet, it did. Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty came out in 2010. It is simply the best Western work of historical fiction about the post-war Soviet period. Spufford is not a trained Soviet specialist, but every professional historian of the Soviet Union secretly (and not so secretly) wants to have written that book. I know of what I speak. Buy it here; read it.

And now we have a movie version of the same historical incident, or at least a small portion of it, the riots that broke out in Novocherkassk in 1962 when food prices were allowed to reflect, at least a little, supply, demand, and real production costs. Andrei Konchalovsky’s Dear Comrade  (released in November 2020) may be hard to catch in theatres , but you can read Anthony Lane’s New Yorker review here.