40 Pics That Perfectly Sum Up The Soviet And Post Soviet Times, As Shared On This Page Interview
There’s nothing like a bit of contrast and historical perspective to make you reevaluate what's going on in the world now. Many people, especially those living in the West, still have very little understanding of what everyday life was like behind the Iron Curtain. That’s where the ‘Soviet Visuals’ social media project comes in. It collects and shares historical photos, propaganda posters, illustrations, and architectural images from the USSR in order to give people a better understanding of the Soviet and post-Soviet eras.
If you’re fans of history and old-timey photography, dear Pandas, then this is the article for you. Remember to upvote your fave pics as you scroll down. And if you grew up in the former USSR, let us know in the comments what life was really like back then. The good, the bad, the ugly—don’t skip out on the details.
Bored Panda spoke to the founder of the aesthetic time capsule that is the 'Soviet Visuals' project, Varia Bortsova. She was kind enough to answer our questions. "I always really enjoyed rummaging through old family VHS tapes and magazine cutouts, and starting a Twitter account became a way to share these findings with the world," she told us. "Over time, more and more people started to contribute their own visuals and it evolved into a real community. I started the project on my own but now have two awesome researchers on board who help source new archive content daily and process user submissions."
We were interested to hear Varia's thoughts about why 'Soviet Visuals' became so successful. "A couple of reasons, I think. Soviet Visuals content feeds an appetite for vintage aesthetics: from design, to fashion, to architecture, to music. A lot of what was produced behind the Iron Curtain was actually exceptionally creative (despite, or sometimes due to the various ideological constraints)," she said. Scroll down for the full interview.
"The stereotype tends to be that 'Soviet = gray,' but it is truly anything but, and going down the Soviet content rabbit hole can be a rewarding and addictive experience," Varia told Bored Panda.
"There is an infinite amount of humor and beauty to discover. And on a separate level, the historical propaganda visuals are highly topical in today's world—people make connections to what is happening today in politics, in international relations, in society... It's fascinating to look back and see certain parallels. For example, Soviet vaccine campaign posters have been a particular hit in recent months," she noted that history tends to repeat itself.
“We Are Not Raising Our Sons For War!" Soviet Poster, 1957
"Soviet Visuals is a time capsule of the past. It is most definitely not about promoting the Soviet regime or even justifying its existence. I think the overwhelming majority of our followers understand that. That said, someone on the internet will always feel insulted: in our case, the ratio of complaints is roughly 50/50 between 'you are not pro-Soviet enough' and 'you are not 'anti-Soviet enough'. For me, this means that we are in the right place," the founder of 'Soviet Visuals' explained a bit about the online community.
Belka The Space Dog Upon Returning From Her Cosmic Voyage. USSR, August 1960
The ‘Soviet Visuals’ project is very popular on Facebook, with over 824.7k followers waiting for the newest updates. The page has over a third of a million followers on Twitter, as well as a further quarter of a million on Instagram.
The brutalist architecture, avant-garde art, and quirky photos all draw in quite a crowd. The project has fans all over the world, including from inside the former USSR, as well as elsewhere. ‘Soviet Visuals’ calls itself the “internet's largest social archive of visuals from across the former USSR.”
Pictures Of A Russian Meteorologist Who Spent 30 Years At An Arctic Meteorology Base. By Evgenia Arbugaeva
Children In Sleeping Bags Are Being Taken To Have Their Mid-Day Nap, 1930s, Ussr
"Down With CPSU". Soviet Punks During The August 1991 Coup In Moscow
The Soviet Union has its roots in the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War. The USSR was formed in 1922 and was controlled, on all levels, by the Communist Party until eventually collapsing in 1991.
At the height of its power, the USSR encompassed 15 republics: Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Anyone who’s opened up a history book likely knows the extent of repressions that many living in these republics faced on their way to independence. The USSR has a legacy of violence that cannot be erased.
Soviet Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev Was In Space When The Soviet Union Fell Apart In 1991. Unable To Return Home, He Had To Stay In Space Until Further Notice. The Cosmonaut Eventually Returned Back To Earth After 10 Months In Orbit - To A Very Different Nation. Photo By Volkov/Tass
Post-Soviet Visual. "The Return" Painting By Georgy Kurasov, Russia, 2005
TikTok star Alyssa, who lives in the US, but is half Russian and half Ukrainian explained to Bored Panda that many outsiders are awestruck by how direct Russians are in how they communicate.
“In my experience, Americans who visit Russia are surprised at how directly Russians communicate. Russians say what they mean and don’t go out of their way to cushion your feelings the way that Americans are trained to do. Russians tend to value ‘honesty’ over ‘niceness,'” she said, adding that one way to bridge any culture gap is through food. “Lots and lots of food. Burgers and borsch.”
May Day Celebration. Photo By Ilya Pavlyuk, Lviv, Ukrainian SSR, 1968
Soviet Linguist, Epigrapher And Ethnographer Yuri Knorozov, Who Is Particularly Renowned For The Pivotal Role His Research Played In The Decipherment Of The Maya Script, The Writing System Used By The Pre-Columbian Maya Civilization Of Mesoamerica, 1971
Meanwhile, the moderators running the ‘A Normal Day in Russia’ subreddit shared with us that there is a constant challenge when it comes to stereotypes. Russian culture is often seen as one-dimensional in some parts of the world.
"We are trying to steer away from negative content and try to highlight the actual normal day in Russia, the beauty of the country, and the people who live there," they said.
"Russian people are direct, they will not hide their feelings and they will tell you what's on their mind, without sugarcoating. Yet, they will welcome you with open arms and treat you as part of the family.”
Babies Sleep Well In The Air In A Light Frost. Nursery №155. Dzerzhinsky District Of Moscow. Photographer Dmitry Baltermantz. 1958
"8 March-International Women's Day" Soviet Postcard, 1961
Belka And Strelka, Soviet Space Dogs. Photo By Yuri Krivonosov, 1960
Some internet users have an overly romantic, naive, and unrealistic view of what living in the Soviet era was like. "If we go back in time where socialism or communism were at their prime, we can see that the top of the head of the system was corrupted and that resulted with the fall of the system," Angel, the founder of 'Humans of Capitalism,' told Bored Panda previously.
In their view, developing technologies might bring about "automated communism where machines will produce, deliver, and take care of food supply, clothing, health."
Soviet Swimmer Maria Havrish Congratulates Her Rival Elena Kovalenko, Who Defeated Her In The Breaststroke Competition At The Spartakiad Of The Peoples Of The USSR In Moscow, 1956
Kievskaya Metro Station. Photo By Dean Conger, Moscow, USSR, 1964
They said that this kind of mass automation could be an extension of what is happening right now and could lead to even more major layoffs.
“The idea of getting free food, water, health, clothing, is nice and, in reality, if we take a closer look at the current system we can see that more people are let off and replaced by machines. For example, we can see that McDonald's workers are fired and they have been replaced with machines that work on touch or by sound and they take orders, forward orders to the employees, etc." According to them, the main question to answer would be who would manage and maintain these automated processes.