Alexandr Petrovich Apsit grew up amidst dire poverty and yet he received free instruction under the tutelage of the Saint-Petersburg painter, Lev Dmitriev-Kavkazskii. By 1902, Apsit was noticed by the popular journals, including Rodina [Motherland], Zvezda [Star], and Niva, for which he produced sketches. He also illustrated the publications of writings by A.M. Gorkii, N.S. Leskov, and A.P. Chekhov, as well as those by D. Bedny, I.S. Nikritin, and M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin. Through these commissions he gained a stellar reputation, becoming one of the best-paid illustrators in the city.
Gosizdat was established in Moscow in May 1919 via the merger of the publishing houses of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, the Moscow Soviet, the Petrograd (St. Petersburg) Soviet, the Moscow Communist, the People's Commissariat of the RSFSR, and others. It was the first large-scale, state-controlled publisher formed for the purpose of joining the nation's printing and publishing entities under a single institution. While Gosizdat existed somewhat independent of the government, by 1930 it served as the base of the state publishing conglomerate OGIZ (Association of State Publishing Houses), an entity that united Soviet publishing houses under total state control.