World Sign
Vol. 52: Russia and Europe Share the Same Roots

It was in 1991 that communism came to the end of the line and the Soviet Union finally broke up. Seven years later and one’s first impression is that Moscow and St. Petersburg look no different from great cities in other parts of Europe. The main streets are decorated with enormous billboards, and stylish advertising columns, either circular or rhombic in form, can be seen here and there along the sidewalks. The glass-plated walls of the bus stops feature advertising posters lit up from inside. What’s more, the use of neon tubes in show windows and the sheer quantity of advertising are in excess even of Paris and Berlin. Everywhere one sees advertisements for American products such as Marlboro, Camel, McDonalds, and Pepsi-Cola. It looks as if liberalization and globalization must inevitably go hand in hand.

The close similarity in appearance between Russian cities, including outdoor advertising, and other cities in Europe suggests the same ethnic and cultural roots. Modern European societies are thought to have come into being as a consequence of vast movements of people. The ethnic roots are the same. Differences in ethnic values would appear to underlie the differences between European cities and the cities of East Asia.

During the Meiji period toward the end of the 19th century, Japan attempted to emulate the organically unified cities of Europe, but what we are left with today is disorder and chaos in the East Asian manner. This difference is immediately clear if one compares the drastically different cities of Russia and China, two neighboring nations which have both been through communism.

1998 Copyright (c) All Japan Neon-Sign Association