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Long live Tintin and Milou
on 7 August 2015
“Tintin in the Land of the Soviets” is the very first Tintin adventure, written and illustrated by Georges Remi alias Hergé. It was originally serialized in Le Petit Vingtième, a Belgian Catholic childrens' magazine, in 1929. Tintin is depicted as a brave reporter for Le Petit Vingtième sent to the Soviet Union to expose the depredations of the Bolshevik regime. His only companion is the dog Milou (Snowy in later English translations). None of the other colorful characters of the Tintin universe had been invented. Tintin is depicted as a heroic boy scout with Christian morality, but he is also pretty good at roughing up the bad guys with his fists.
The plot is wafer thin, and essentially revolves around Tintin running around the Soviet Union with Bolshevik agents at his tail. The slapstick element, the constant jail breaks and Milou intervening to save the hero's life would all become staples of later Tintin adventures, but overall this is a quite bad story, interesting only because of Hergé's later fame. Indeed, after Hergé had become a household name, he actually prohibited republication of “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets”. When the story finally reappeared, it was in the original black-and-white version, since Hergé hadn't bothered rebranding it in color.
The politics of “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets” are equally crude, but nothing else could be expected from an anti-Communist propaganda story published in a Belgian childrens' magazine in 1929! Even certified anti-Communists will find the story's factual mistakes and anachronisms somewhat embarrasing, as when the secret police is still called by its Civil War name “Cheka” or when one Bolshevik exclaims “By Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin”. Trotsky and Stalin were, of course, factional opponents. Hergé's main source of inspiration was the book “Moscou sans Voiles” by one Joseph Douillet, remembered today only because of his book's chance influence on Tintin.
Despite its rookie character, “Tintin au pays des Soviets” became a commercial success, and the rest is history…