Original Cheburashka puppet to be auctioned

Cheburashkas are very popular with Russian athletes. Source: ITAR-TASS

Cheburashkas are very popular with Russian athletes. Source: ITAR-TASS

Cheburashka and Gena the crocodile will join paintings, drawings and decorative art works at an auction of Russia and Soviet art of the 20th century.

The original puppets that played the main “parts” in a very popular 1969 Soviet animated cartoon – a downy creature with big ears and a funny name of Cheburashka and a crocodile called Gena – will be sold at an auction with the starting price of 1.5 million roubles (about $48,500). The auction will take place in Moscow on December 11.

The puppets will most likely be bought by someone from Japan, since the Japanese are now showing much interest in the Cheburashka cartoon.

Cheburashka is so popular that you can even find information about him in several very serious encyclopaedias. One encyclopaedia describes him as “a creature with large ears and brown fur, walking on its back paws.”

Cheburashka first appeared in a book by popular Soviet children’s writer Eduard Uspensky, written in 1966. In 1969, the beloved character and his friend Gena the crocodile appeared in a puppet animated cartoon.

Now, the puppets from the famous cartoon may leave Russia forever. In an interview with the Voice of Russia, expert in fine arts Karina Borisyonok, who works for Sovkom, the company that will hold this auction, said the auction would be devoted to Russian and Soviet art of the 20th century.  “In total, 105 items of art will be put out for tender – paintings, drawings, items of decorative art and so on. One of the lots will be the original puppets from the Cheburashka animated cartoons – crocodile Gena, a tricky old woman called Shapoklyak and her pet rat Larisa, and Cheburashka himself,” Borisyonok said.

What interests many Russians is not the final selling price but whether the legendary puppets will stay in Russia or leave it.

“However, even if the puppets are bought by a foreigner, he or she will most likely be a real connoisseur of Soviet art,” the head of the Russian branch of the famous Sotheby’s auction house Mikhail Kamensky says.

“Many private collectors are interested very much in items of the Soviet epoch – and it may be said without exaggeration that Cheburashka has become a really iconic character. Several generations of Russian children grew up on cartoons about him.”

The Japanese are showing much interest in Cheburashka. A Cheburashka “cult” started in Japan in the early 2000s, when the Japanese TV showed a series of animated cartoons called “Who is Cheburashka?”, based on the old Soviet cartoon. After that, the big-eared creature became so popular in Japan that the Japanese TV bought the rights for this character till 2023 and are planning to shoot about 50 more cartoons of the Cheburashka series.

In Russia, opinions about whether the puppets from the legendary cartoon should be sold abroad vary. Some people say the puppets should stay in Russia, because the Cheburashka cartoon has become an inseparable part of Russian culture. Others, however, view it as a good sign that the interest in good old Soviet era cartoons is growing around the world.

First published in the Voice of Russia.

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