As the USSR was busy rebuilding after World War II, an American Martin Manhoff landed in Moscow with a suitcase full of the latest photography equipment - and the skills to use it. Martin travelled throughout Russia by rail and was often accompanied by his wife Jan who recorded their memories in writing. 

In 1954, two years after arriving, Martin Manhoff was expelled from the USSR for “spying”. After his expulsion to the US, the images Manhoff made lay hidden in a cupboard for more than 60 years. This year, after Manhoff's death, these crisp, colourful slides of Soviet life were re-discovered by a historian Douglas Smith. 

#1 A Night Shot Of Moscow

A Night Shot Of Moscow

That's the newly-constructed Moscow State University glowing on the horizon.

Douglas Smith Report

Numerius Negidius 11 months ago

after watching all of your beautiful photos do you still thinking of the USSR like great Satan? Russia is wonderfull place but no westerner could understand ordinarz russian and russian soul - unless he lived with russians for at least 5--6 years..

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#2 Schoolgirls At Kolomenskoye, A Former Royal Estate In The South Of Moscow

Schoolgirls At Kolomenskoye, A Former Royal Estate In The South Of Moscow

Any of these girls alive today would now be in their 70s.

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Sanchit Jain 1 year ago

I wish they are!

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#3 A Market In Crimea, A Few Years Before The Peninsula Was “Gifted” To Ukraine By Stalin’s Successor

A Market In Crimea, A Few Years Before The Peninsula Was “Gifted” To Ukraine By Stalin’s Successor

Jan wrote that the peninsula "had always been a resort area, and now when the happy workers get their holidays, the top ones get to come here."

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Lore B 1 year ago

This is how the farmer's market still looks in Romania

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#4 A Street In Central Kiev, Ukraine

A Street In Central Kiev, Ukraine

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Agnes Jekyll 1 year ago

Without the flags, it could look like Paris in the 40s

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#5 Flooded Streets In Kiev

Flooded Streets In Kiev

Jan described Ukraine as "a cleaner, more individual part of the Soviet Union... this area has certainly seen and known more than just Soviet rule."

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Kimberly Puchniarz 1 year ago

I love the automobiles!! If that's considered a "flood", can you imagine if any of them were alive today in any of the "flooded" states!!

#6 Babushka Dealings, Snapped Out Of The Window Of A Train

Babushka Dealings, Snapped Out Of The Window Of A Train

Jan said the train trips gave the Manhoffs their only chance to communicate with ordinary Russians "but here natural precaution prohibits anything but superficial talk."

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Izolda Bronstein 1 year ago

You still can buy a lot of things on the platform straight from your train. Usual are apples, smoked fish, vareniks and small pies with filling

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#7 A Rural Town Snapped From A Passing Train

A Rural Town Snapped From A Passing Train

As well as shooting images of city life, Martin, often accompanied by his wife Jan, travelled throughout Russia by rail. This image is one of several showing small town life far from Moscow.

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Silverlight Silverlight 1 year ago

Masha and the bear live here

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#8 A Parade Under The Walls Of The Kremlin

A Parade Under The Walls Of The Kremlin

When historian Douglas Smith discovered the images, he immediately realised he'd stumbled onto a rare treasure.

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Mixedupste 1 year ago

That architecture is impressive! Don't build them like that anymore

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#9 Kids Goofing For Martin's Camera In Novospassky Monastery

Kids Goofing For Martin's Camera In Novospassky Monastery

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Giannis Owlquoth 1 year ago

have shoes and socks !!!!!

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#10 Ostankino Palace, In The North Of Moscow

Ostankino Palace, In The North Of Moscow

In Soviet days, many estates and palaces of the aristocracy were opened up as public parks.

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Kimberly Puchniarz 1 year ago

I love these photos!! A genuine look in the past. History!!

#11 Street Scene On Pushkin Square, Looking Down Tverskaya Street Towards The Towers Of The Kremlin

Street Scene On Pushkin Square, Looking Down Tverskaya Street Towards The Towers Of The Kremlin

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#12 A Queue Outside A Food Store In Moscow

A Queue Outside A Food Store In Moscow

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Agnes Jekyll 1 year ago

This definitely, is not what Stalin wanted the world to see.

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#13 A Murky-Looking Pool In An Unknown Location

A Murky-Looking Pool In An Unknown Location

Manhoff shot with 35mm Kodak and Agfa colour slide film. The technology was cutting edge in the US at the time, and would have been virtually unheard of inside the USSR.

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Gloria Wesson 1 year ago

They always put tons of chlorine in those pools... Was the same in East Germany...

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#14 A Rare Color Image Of Stalin's Funeral, In 1953, Snapped From The Window Of The Old US Embassy

A Rare Color Image Of Stalin's Funeral, In 1953, Snapped From The Window Of The Old US Embassy

Manhoff's job in Russia was as an assistant army attache at the embassy.

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Kimberly Puchniarz 1 year ago

Beautiful buildings. I love the American flag in the picture!!

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#15 Novospassky Monastery In Moscow

Novospassky Monastery In Moscow

Under Soviet rule religion was heavily suppressed, and many churches were either destroyed or put to use as humble storage houses.

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Kimberly Puchniarz 1 year ago

Beautiful architecture that I'm happy to know has been restored to its original beauty and its original meaning...

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#16 Stalin’s Coffin Rolling Towards Red Square

Stalin’s Coffin Rolling Towards Red Square

The pale spot on the coffin is a kind of clear plastic or glass bubble over his face.

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Cip IESAN 1 year ago

The worst world criminal - serial killer and parallel killer!

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#17 Window Shoppers In Moscow

Window Shoppers In Moscow

Jan's first impressions of the city's shopping scene were scathing: "Nothing quite fits, the people as well as the furnishings. And nothing that is sold seems new, it all looks second-hand."

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TC 1 year ago

And beautiful though...

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#18 Chicks Chilling With Books In Moscow’s Novodevichy Convent

Chicks Chilling With Books In Moscow’s Novodevichy Convent

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Cat Meow 1 year ago

Chicks? I see no chicks. All I see is two beautiful young girls

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#19 The Central Telegraph Building In Moscow

The Central Telegraph Building In Moscow

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Антон Петров 1 year ago

It says "300 years of Russia and Ukrain reunion" on the front

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#20 A Woman Snapped From The Train

A Woman Snapped From The Train

The only time the Manhoffs were permitted to leave the train during their journeys was during long stops at stations en route, though even then they were required to stay on the platform.

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TC 1 year ago

Time to stretch legs and breathe some fresh and chilly air

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#21 “Shop No. 20” In Moscow, Advertising Various Fish & Meat

“Shop No. 20” In Moscow, Advertising Various Fish & Meat

In the same letter Jan commented on the result of the 1917 "workers' revolution" which overthrew Russia's monarchy and capitalist system: "probably no picture of the 'revolution' is clearer, the workers have taken over and they do not yet quite how to handle it all, but there's noone else."

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Kimberly Puchniarz 1 year ago

I really need to read "genuine" history books bc I'm not sure who or what is even factual...

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#22 Cruising In Convoy Towards The Trinity Lavra Of St. Sergius, A Couple Hours Out Of Moscow

Cruising In Convoy Towards The Trinity Lavra Of St. Sergius, A Couple Hours Out Of Moscow

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Kimberly Puchniarz 1 year ago

Cruising in a convoy?

#23 A Card Player Looking Like He’s About To Slap Down A Flush In Kuskovo

A Card Player Looking Like He’s About To Slap Down A Flush In Kuskovo

The country estate in Moscow was owned by the Sheremetev family before the Russian revolution.

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Agnes Jekyll 1 year ago

I wonder if it's been returned to the Sheremetevs?

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#24 Martin And Jan Manhoff

Martin And Jan Manhoff

As Martin photographed, Jan made notes on their experiences.

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#25 Farm Workers Watching The Manhoffs' Train Rolling Past

Farm Workers Watching The Manhoffs' Train Rolling Past

The New York Times reported on one of the Manhoffs’ trips deep into Siberia, claiming “Americans have never traveled to this remote area before.”

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Andy Dixi 1 year ago

And 90% Russians have never traveled to this remote area during their life. Neither do I and my friends ))

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#26 A Truck Rumbles Past The US Embassy In Moscow

A Truck Rumbles Past The US Embassy In Moscow

Two of the men sport freshly-shaved heads.

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Tom Simmons 1 year ago

this is an excellent photograph! The camera moves at the same speed as the truck

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#27 In One Small Town The Americans Caused A Commotion By Walking Into A Restaurant

In One Small Town The Americans Caused A Commotion By Walking Into A Restaurant

After a local man welcomed the unexpected foreigners by firing up an accordian, Jan writes "he played well and to everyone's pleasure. One Russian bought him a bottle of beer, and we donated a bottle. Then, it happened. The manager... walked in and told everyone that the cafe was closed. Everyone with a great deal of chatter wondered why and many "pochomoos" [Russian for 'why'] were voiced. Someone asked the... Read More

After a local man welcomed the unexpected foreigners by firing up an accordian, Jan writes "he played well and to everyone's pleasure. One Russian bought him a bottle of beer, and we donated a bottle. Then, it happened. The manager... walked in and told everyone that the cafe was closed. Everyone with a great deal of chatter wondered why and many "pochomoos" [Russian for 'why'] were voiced. Someone asked the accordian player why and he said 'I don't know, it's the first time in my life.' Then he very amusingly said 'well, I'll play you a march', and to the tune of Russian marches we vacated."

Douglas Smith Report

Agnes Jekyll 1 year ago

Looks like the Alberta Badlands. No wonder so many Russians emigrated there before the war.

#28 A Woman Poses For Martin On Petrovka Street In Moscow

A Woman Poses For Martin On Petrovka Street In Moscow

Despite brief encounters like this, the Manhoffs were unable to scratch beneath the surface of Soviet life at a time when mingling with foreigners could land Russians in real trouble. Jan wrote “we’ve never been inside a Russian home, nor can ever expect to be.”

Douglas Smith Report

Ronja Rövardotter 1 year ago

Lovely smile. She looks like a nice person. I think she would invite them for a cup of tea if she could. But she probably couldn't... it is wrong and sad. I am really glad that nowadays in my country I can offer tea to anybody... fearless... but people forget easily. And some things shouldn't be forgotten. We can learn from them.

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#29 A Public Bus And Several Cars Trapped In A Flood Caused By Summer Rains In Kiev, Ukraine

A Public Bus And Several Cars Trapped In A Flood Caused By Summer Rains In Kiev, Ukraine

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#30 A Parade In Central Moscow A Few Steps From The Old US Embassy

A Parade In Central Moscow A Few Steps From The Old US Embassy

The sign on left welcomes “Brothers from the Chinese Republic”.

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#31 A Policeman, Probably Snapped From The Top Of The US Embassy In Moscow

A Policeman, Probably Snapped From The Top Of The US Embassy In Moscow

Jan wrote that the police in Moscow were "so stationed as to never be out of sight of the next one." Under Stalin's rule the USSR was a police state in which millions of people accused of opposition to the totalitarian regime were either killed, or sent to labour camps in Siberia.

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Martti Laurson 1 year ago

At that time they were not police officers, they were called militsiya

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#32 A Child Walks Through A Run-Down Street In Moscow Near The Moskva River

A Child Walks Through A Run-Down Street In Moscow Near The Moskva River

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Sally Brite 1 year ago

How is it "run-down"? It's a historical, paved street.

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#33 Rural Homesteads Snapped From The Train

Rural Homesteads Snapped From The Train

The final train adventure Martin Manhoff took ended the couple's time in the USSR. On a summer trip through Siberia in 1953 he and three colleagues were accused of illegally photographing airfields and oil dumps. The four were branded as spies and hastily evicted from the country.

Douglas Smith Report

#34 A Cinema In Central Moscow Advertising The 1953 Film “Lights On The River”

A Cinema In Central Moscow Advertising The 1953 Film “Lights On The River”

The whole film is on youtube - look up: "Огни на реке."

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Kimberly Puchniarz 1 year ago

Thank you for sharing where we may find it to watch for ourselves...

#35 Russian Officials Are Photographed From A Window Above The Street In Murmansk

Russian Officials Are Photographed From A Window Above The Street In Murmansk

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Kimberly Puchniarz 1 year ago

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Now these buildings look like crap and unwelcoming so I imagine the citizens lived in them!!

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#36 A View From The Roof Of The 'New' US Embassy

A View From The Roof Of The 'New' US Embassy

The Hotel Ukraine skyscraper is under construction across the river.

Douglas Smith Report

#37 Flowers, Dancing, And North Korean Flags At A Parade In Moscow

Flowers, Dancing, And North Korean Flags At A Parade In Moscow

Smith told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty "Manhoff captured this everyday quality... It gives a human quality that is missing from any other depiction [of life in the USSR in the 1950s.]"

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Sa Silva 4 months ago

Also a flag of Socialist Mongolia, and probably Nasserist Egypt.

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#38 A Horse Clops Past The Kremlin, As Seen From The Entrance To The Old US Embassy

A Horse Clops Past The Kremlin, As Seen From The Entrance To The Old US Embassy

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#39 A Woman Collecting Water In A Bucket In The Russian Countryside And Heading Back To A Humble Log Cabin

A Woman Collecting Water In A Bucket In The Russian Countryside And Heading Back To A Humble Log Cabin

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TC 1 year ago

I've seen this somewhere ...

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