Throughout his career, Vasilii Nikolaevich Kostianitsyn worked as a portrait artist, poster artist, graphic artist and as a house painter. He was born into a family of icon painters who lived in Tver Oblast, Russia, a town situated on the right bank of the Volga River. Early on, Kostianitsyn (likely born "Kostitis" and of Latvian heritage) was trained by his father and grandfather in the art of icon painting. Prior to the October Revolution of 1917, he dedicated himself to painting icons but after the revolution swept the former empire, he focused on graphic art. This decision led him to a position on the Central Executive Committee of Soviets creating posters and prints to embellish propaganda trains. He created and exhibited works with revolutionary themes, including landscapes and portraits that incorporated markers of political change happening around him.
Russian entrepreneur Ivan Nikolaievich Kushnerev founded the Kushnerev & Company Printing Shop in 1869 in Moscow. Having tried his hand at publishing, Kushnerev turned to printing. He opened a small shop “with a dozen workers, one hand press, and a single printing machine.” In 1903 his shop acquired Moscow’s first linotype press. As business grew he brought-in partners and, when Kushnerev died in 1896, his printing firm was one of the largest in Imperial Russia. Kushnerev & Company was nationalized by the Soviets in 1919 and consigned to the Printing Section of the Moscow Economic Council (MSNKh).
In May 1919, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee created the State Publishing House of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic), Moscow. The State Publishing House had its origins in Imperial Russia as the Royal Print Yard in St. Petersburg. As the Red Army controlled more provinces and cities in former Imperial Russia, the State Publishing House developed offices outside St. Petersburg. The State Publishing House, Moscow is sometimes cited in historical references as the "State Publishing House, RSFSR" signifying its location in the Russian Republic.