Russian Origami: 40 Original Models Designed by the Top Folders in the Former Soviet Union

Russian Origami: 40 Original Models Designed by the Top Folders in the Former Soviet Union

by Sergei Afonkin, Tom Hull

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The last secret of the Cold War can finally be revealed: behind the Iron Curtain, people were folding! Communities of folders who were isolated from the origami establishment have always developed exciting new origami models. Russian Origami is full of such exciting projects.

From a matrioshka doll to a space rocket, these models will delight and inspire both beginning and advanced folders. Each project has step-by-step diagrams, clear instructions, and a photo of the completed model. Included are such traditional favorites as a flapping dove and an inflatable rabbit, as well as some original delights, such as a Tyrolean Hat and a Russian star.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250230096
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/23/2018
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 128
File size: 91 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

Sergei Afonkin is cofounder with his wife, Elena, of the St. Petersburg Origami Center, and is the best-known Russian folder in the world. He lives in St. Petersburg.

Tom Hull has his Ph.D. in mathematics. Coauthor with Robert Neale of Origami, Plain and Simple, he teaches at Merrimack College and lives in Boston.

Sergei Afonkin is cofounder with his wife, Elena, of the St. Petersburg Origami Center, and is the best-known Russian folder in the world. He lives in St. Petersburg.

Read an Excerpt


The Mystery of Origami in Russia

Dear friends!

I hope I can begin this introduction in this way. In the last five years origami has helped me find many good friends in foreign countries (as well as my own) whose hands I can now shake and whose company I can share. During this time I've come to feel that all paperfolders are members of one big family and I am grateful for this chance to share the secret of Russian origami. In my opinion, up till now my country is the biggest secret in origami, as well as a mysterious phenomenon.

I have a double tale to tell. The first part is why origami did not fully exist in Russia before 1991, when the St. Petersburg Origami Center came into being. The second part is why paperfolding has become so popular now in Russia and is spreading so fast! Surely I can't provide exact answers, since I am neither a sociologist nor a historian. I can only tell my own story, with suggestions, and subjective assumptions which should be treated as the testimony of a witness.

To begin, it should be pointed out that origami was not in complete absence in Russia before 1991. Students of all Russian teaching colleges were given lessons on folding simple figures from paper to use in their classrooms. Also, in the late 1980s several articles with origami instructions were published by Victor Beskrovnyh (a biologist who now lives in Germany) in a very popular Russian magazine called Family and School. Some foreign origami books were also available at that time for Russian children, in particular Origami by Kawai and Origami for the Connoisseur by Kasahara and Takahama. However, in many ways these books did not really exist in Russia. To understand this paradox I need to explain something about the Soviet Union.

You have to know that in the USSR the usual practice of printing second editions of books did not exist. A book was only published once. For a very short time it would be available in bookshops and then disappear for years like a small stone in a big swamp. Of course, this practice could only exist in a state without real market relationships in the economy. Nobody wanted to know the fate of a book when it was published. Wonderful success or failure, it did not matter.

Another thing needs to be taken into consideration. The origami books mentioned above were not published in the Soviet Union. They were among a small number of foreign books that the state bought every year. This was the single narrow stream of literature that trickled into my country from abroad. Of course the number of such books bought by the state was very limited. At that time when I was a student I bought every good book I saw in the bookstores because they were so fleeting.

Thus it was impossible to buy or receive other foreign origami books. Do not forget about the so-called Iron Curtain and the fact that in those days correspondence with strangers was very suspicious and foreign parcels were the evidence of a spy's intentions. Unfortunately it is only half a joke. Remember the novel 1984 by George Orwell.

You might be wondering why some Russian author didn't write his or her own origami book at that time. The lack of appropriate information is a serious hindrance to the art, but what about natural Russian skill and talent? The problem was that there were not very many publishing companies and houses in the Soviet Union. They could be easily counted. Among them only a few would publish craft books intended for families — books that children and their parents could enjoy together. I knew of four, maybe five. The circulation of these books was enormous. A single print run might consist of up to a million copies. This was normal. The state published books for its citizens. Do you know how many people live in Russia?

Thus the number of authors was very limited. Writers were very special people, either those whose talent was already acknowledged by communist bureaucrats or the bureaucrats themselves. It was a question of ideology, as well as of money. Big money. Enormous money.

A friend of mine, a very good painter who professionally illustrates books, told me that in 1984 he did one book and made enough money to live on for two years. He was no idler and soon worked on another book. Now, in the new market economy he illustrates three or four books a year just not to die of hunger. Ah, capitalism!

So when I told my friend, during the time of the Soviet Union, that I wanted to write and publish a biological book for children, he said that I was crazy. I was told that it was easier to have a cup of tea with the British Queen than to become an author in the Soviet Union. At that time, he was right. But times change. Unfortunately I have yet to receive an invitation to take tea with Her Majesty the Queen, but some Russian origami books have been published.

As far as I know, in most countries paperfolding is a private activity. For example, OrigamiUSA is a large and very good organization, something like a club where you can share information and make friends. It is independent of the state or the President of the United States or Congress. The situation was quite different in my country several years ago. Only those ideas and movements that were supported by the state had a chance to develop. Otherwise they went underground.

In 1991 when the idea to create a Russian Origami Center came into our minds we tried to find some state support. Surely it was a crazy idea and in vain. The last thing the agonizing Red Empire wanted was to know how to fold paper. On the other hand, at that time reforms were taking place and it was possible to register some social organizations. Also, in 1993 the state lost its X-ray control over all publishers. Many new ones began to appear like mushrooms after a warm rain, and the old ones began to gasp without the state's financial support. In this situation the chance to publish an origami book increased tenfold. Thus, origami as a social and cultural phenomenon did not exist in Russia before 1991 because the flowers of art grow badly in the stony ground of a totalitarian state. Only global changes made it possible, in my opinion.

It also helped that interest in paperfolding among Russians was certainly big enough. During the past five years our Center has received thousands of letters from all over the country saying, "Please help! I tried to find information about paperfolding without any success, and I heard that you could help!" Teachers in primary schools and kindergarten, parents, children, all sent letters asking us to mail them information about origami. Answering their excited letters, to use a vivid metaphor, was like putting a lighted match into a dry stack of straw!

It may seem like another paradox, but the hard economic times that post-Soviet Russia faced, and still faces actually helped origami to spread so fast. This is because it is one of the cheapest ways to teach handicrafts to children. No colored pencils, no textbooks, no rulers, no thick albums, nothing is needed but a piece of paper and a teacher who looks like a magician. At that time our Center began giving origami courses for grown-up people, and this helped many of them find new jobs as teachers.

For example an old Russian woman told me that during her whole life she worked in a military factory that produced supersecret atomic submarines. Of course, when the Red Empire crashed she lost her job. Now she gives origami lessons in a kindergarten, and she is absolutely happy. The only thing she regrets is that she hadn't started this new career sooner!

To tell the truth, writing replies to this endless stream of mail from Russians thirsty for origami, began to get monotonous. To help, we published a newspaper titled "Peace of Origami," which first appeared in 1993. It was very cheap and everybody could buy it each month at the biggest bookshop in St. Petersburg. In printing the newspaper we could communicate information about origami to several thousand people at once. Inflation and the increasing cost of paper killed our newspaper after one year.

Then came the time of books. It is very strange that our first origami book, Tricks and Games with Paper was published by a company that normally prints chemistry books! They usually print books titled Synthesis of Some Fat Amino Acids on High Pressure in a Liquid Phase or something like that. Very dull. (Sorry, I hope there are no chemists reading this!) But the changing times forced this publishing company to issue other books to make money. Origami became a gold mine for this purpose. During this change the old system of book distribution throughout the country was completely destroyed, and a new system began to grow like the root of a young tree. Now origami books rise to the surface all over the country and new letters arrive from readers.

Our Russian origami books have an international nature. By this I mean that they include both foreign and Russian-created models. The appearance of the latter has stimulated the first attempts of Russian paperfolders to create their own models. To determine whether or not these creations were original, many of them were sent to our Center. When the number of models broke the two hundred mark, we decided to create our own Russian origami database. Today it includes more than 1000 models and information about them — author, his/her address, year, time, level of difficulty, number of steps, and key words so that it is easy to catalogue and locate the model. In fact, all the models in the book you hold in your hands came from our database! The database works very well, and I hope with time it will contain thousands of models.

New situations require new decisions for further growth. We certainly need to welcome paperfolders throughout the whole country into our community. As you know, Russia is very big, and its size causes problems. This is another paradox of our life because it is easier to travel from St. Petersburg to London than to cross my native country from west to east. We can't organize national origami conventions like they have in America, England, and Europe, but we try anyway! Now each March we hold a Russian Origami Conference in St. Petersburg and try to attract as many paperfolders as possible.

The next possible step was to create a Russian origami magazine that could gather the latest news and introduce new names. As soon as this idea came to our minds the heavens helped us again when an editorial company in Moscow asked me to run the magazine. Now this magazine comes out every other month, with a color cover, and everybody in my country can order it at any post office. It is very cheap, and I hope that everyone who wants it can have it.

To mention a further development, my dream has been to make origami a subject in primary school. During the last four years I have been giving origami lessons in a school where I work, and I see how desired these lessons are for children. After some practice I and my wife, Elena, who gives origami lessons for adults, wrote an origami textbook for primary schools. It has been published in Moscow, and I hope its fate will be great!

I hope you enjoy the fruits of origami the Russian tree has borne. We welcome your comments, stories and thoughts, so please feel free to write to us at the following address:

193318 Russia St. Petersburg P.O. Box 377
Origami Center c/o Sergei Afonkin or E-mail us at: Thank you, and good luck!

— Sergei Afonkin Thomas Hull (editor)
St. Petersburg, Russia 1997


Folding Advice

The instructions in this book were drawn with the origami novice in mind. When learning origami from a book a person looks at a two-dimensional picture and somehow translates this into a three-dimensional movement of the hands. In a sense, the origami novice is trying to learn two things at the same time: (1) the rules of how paper can fold and (2) the language of origami diagram instructions! Keep the following advice in mind as you tackle the models in this book.

• For the most part, the models start out easy, and get progressively more difficult as you go through the book. So begin with the first models in the book and work your way up.

• When starting out, you might have an easier time if you fold on a flat surface, like a large book or a table.

Pay attention to details! Every line in each picture is there for a reason. If your model doesn't look like the illustration, then you might have missed something, and should go back a step.

• If you don't understand what a symbol means, try looking at the List of Symbols in the Appendix. Or look for another model that uses the symbol, and see if you can figure out what it means there.

• When trying to figure out a certain step, look ahead to the next picture to see what the result is supposed to look like. This can be a BIG help!

• If you really get stuck, try asking a friend for help. Two minds are better than one!

Origami Paper

Special origami paper is a big help when trying to learn origami. This paper folds very well and is colored on one side and white on the other. It can be found in most art supply stores, or you can order it through OrigamiUSA, a not-for-profit organization devoted to spreading the word of origami. For a free catalogue as well as information about our organization, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

OrigamiUSA Box RO-1
15 West 77th Street New York, NY 10024


Bull's Head

by Sergei Afonkin

(1) White side up. Fold in half from corner to corner to make a triangle.

(2) Fold this triangle in half and unfold.

(3) Then fold one layer of the bottom point up to the middle of the top edge and unfold.

(4) See where the two previous creases intersect? Fold the bottom corner up to that point.

(5) Then refold the crease from step 3.

(6) Mountain-fold the bottom point behind.

(7) Now mountain-fold the left and right sides behind to make horns!

(8) Slim down the horns ...

(9) ... and you're done! Drawing a face will add character to your Bull's Head.


Two Swans

by Galina Skorohvatova

This simple, elegant swan of Galina's has the amazing quality of being closely related to other swans in the origami canon while at the same time bearing an unmistakable stamp of originality!

(1) White side up. Fold and unfold a diagonal.

(2) Then fold the bottom sides to the center line, to make a cone.

(3) Fold the top point down and unfold.

(4) Open everything up again.

(5) Refold the crease from step 3.

(6) Then refold the creases from step 2!

(7) OK! Fold the top edge down.

(8) Now see the corner of paper hiding inside the model? Fold the bottom point up so that the crease lies on this corner.

(9) Mountain-fold in half away from you.

(10) Is it starting to look like a swan? Push the bottom corner inside.

(11) Fold the top corner down at an angle ...

(12) ... like this. (Enlarged view!) Make this crease firm and unfold.

(13) Now use the creases that you just made to reverse the point. The result will be the swan's head.

(14) See? The swan now has a head! Return to normal view.

(15) Hold the model at the indicated spots and pull the neck forward a little. Then flatten the model.

To Make a Sleeping Swan

(16) The completed Swan!

(1) Fold the neck to the right and tuck the beak in betwen the wings.

(2) A sleeping swan!

About the Creator

What is the most important feature of successful origami? The level of complexity? Not at all! Many paperfolders would argue that fresh perception of living objects is more important. The artist needs to be able to take an object from the world, distill it into its simplest elements and then capture these in a folded sheet of paper. This process of abstraction requires quite a bit of artistic intuition, and young Galina, after attending origami lessons in her school for two years, seems quite adept at it. Galina's swans are very simple models, yet in spite of that simplicity you can almost see two live birds swimming on still water!



by Igor Kassihin

This amazingly simple hat is closely related to other origami hats that one finds in the Western and Japanese traditions, but has a unique character that is Russian all the same.

(1) White side up. Fold and unfold a diagonal.

(2) Then fold the top corner to the bottom. (The other diagonal.)

(3) Fold the right corner to the left, so that its lower edge is horizontal.

(4) Do the same thing with the left corner.

(5) Then fold up one layer to the indicated point.

(6) Mountain-fold the other layer behind by the same amount.

(7) Fold a flap up ...

(8) ... and do the same thing behind.

(9) Finally, open up the hat. Push in on the sides and top to make the hat stay open.

(10) The completed Hat! If you start with a 20-inch square you'll get a hat that will fit a big head.


Excerpted from "Russian Origami"
by .
Copyright © 1998 Sergei Afonkin and Thomas Hull.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
The Mystery of Origami in Russia,
Folding Advice,
Bull's Head,
Two Swans,
Ornament 1,
Ornament 2,
Four-Point Star,
Tyrolean Hat,
Russian Star,
Mouse Puppet,
Clapping Monk,
Flapping Dove,
Royal Crown,
Christmas Star,
Two-Bases Star,
Goose Balloon,
Inflatable Rabbit,
Inflatable Mouse,
Dove Greeting Card,
Turkmenian Hat,
Two Cubes,
Cat with White Stockings,
Snail Runny,
Baby Dragon,
Clapping Clown,
Monster of Inflation,
Goose Box,
Box for Sweets,
Chinese Table,
Four-Heart Box,
Four-Heart Dish,
Two-Crane Box,
Matrioshka Doll,
Author Index,
About the Authors,

Customer Reviews