25 Lines in Soviet Union

Lines in Soviet Union

Posted on April 14, 2017 by tim

Lines in Soviet Union was something that called a sort of attraction that all Soviet people were taking part, often involunarily. People got used to the lines and took them for granted. Here are some photos of Soviet people standing in line for a good cause:

Standing to buy milk.

Standing in lines to buy food

Basically many people got used to spend their life in lines.

Standing for liquor.

And to buy bread.

And of course long lines to buy meat.

Some shops had special departments that you could order yourself food for some ocassion, like a birthday party, treat yourself with something tasty, but in order to place an order you had to stand in line too, like on this pic.

So it was a sort of competition for some. They even maybe could feel themselves bad if they got something for free, without lining up for a long time.

Then, in late 1980s and early 1990s when first capitalist shops and joints were open in USSR, Soviet people habitually started lining up their too. To buy jeans or..


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25 Responses to “Lines in Soviet Union”

  1. Lewis Tuggle says:

    I remember being in Moscow in the late 1960’s – I was shocked at the lines to get into virtually empty stores. People would see my US/Western clothes and insist that I go to the front of the line. I never knew if it was from courtesy or embarrassment over the shortages created by the Communist system (Oh, this isn’t really a line -we’re just friends standing around talking) Everyone was always so nice – I had no hat (it was winter) and the little old “babushka ladies” would come up to me and point at my head and cluck at me like my grandmother “Gde schapka?’ “Nyet schapka?”

  2. Dody says:

    Russian women walking down street and woman standing in a line.

    Q: What are you waiting for comrade?

    A: I don’t know. I just saw the line and thought it might be for something worthwhile, so joined it.

  3. KLD says:

    Ok, so I have a pretty simple question. What exactly caused the lines. Was it shortages of products such as bread, milk, and meat? Or, was there enough food but not enough storefronts because they were all state run? Anyone on this site living during those days and remember them?

    • Darius says:

      Well, I think partially it was what we called – deficit times. Partially because the system was corrupt (not exactly in the same way as we understand today). As there was some shortage of some goods, and as “everything belong to people (everyone)” there was quite as incentive to “bring home some products” from the factory you were working in. Officially of cause it was forbidden and you could get in trouble due to this. How bad would be the punishment – it would depend if you would try to do that just after WW II or in 80’s (more forgiving). But in practice everyone was doing that – from leadership down to the lowest ranks. Of cause the situation is different if you work at nuclear fuel production facility or if you work at a bread factory. My personal experience is from a bread bakery (it worked as factory – 24/7, 3 shifts per day). But I know friends that assembled TVs at home from the parts that they or their colleagues took from the TV factory. Somebody has access to electronics, someone to the screens, someone else to the TV cases etc. Everyone shared or exchange stuff if they wanted to get something else.
      A good example with lines for TVs. Let’s say our local small town shop maby had a single TV on display which was of the older model or had visual defects – nobody wanted it. Then a rumor spreads that a batch of five TV’s is arriving to the shop. People storm the shop in hope that they could have a new TV. One the shelf a single TV shows up – this one you can buy. The rest 4 were sold already in the shop’s storage room (to relatives, friends, or someone from whom someone needed a favor). These TV’s are on the shipment list so they can’t be stolen, but you can imagine how much of this “priority” shopping could happen during the whole journey of the TV-s from the factory to the shops.
      So, the bottom line – if you wanted to make sure that you will get something or something that you like, not something that is available – then you had to stand in lines and maybe you also had to travel to bigger cities to find things that you are looking for. Our family lived in a small town, so from time to time we travelled about 100 km to a big city where it was much more choice and more products available on the spot.
      We did not had shortage of food as we lived in the countryside, so we had our own cows, pigs etc. My mom from time to time would make a delicious cheese for the bookstore manager, because the manager was always very kind to “reserve” some books that my mom was interested in. You can see the picture now…

      • Douglas says:

        @ Darius:…..thanks for your reply… most interesting. What you write about is deeply embedded cronyism and inside bartering. In simple words, it was too many people chasing too few items. This resulted in built-in shortages.
        These facts would describe the Soviet system as ….a total mess! No wonder the masses of people revolted.

        • Darius says:

          Thank you.
          BTW, my writing here is somehow concentrate on negatives, but there were a lot of people that honestly tried to be honest, good citizens and to follow the good/right ideals in the life. Although the described problems did took place, but it was more a kind of necessity rather than just plain wish to get rich buy cutting corners and “walking on top other people heads” – if you understand why I mean (it is hard to translate this phrase from my language).

      • KLD says:

        Hi, Darius. Thanks for that explanation. You and your family living on a farm must’ve been pretty nice back in the day.

      • kwhunter says:

        Spot on; I did not live in CCCP at the time, but in a neighboring country part of the COMECON (СЭВ), and the system worked absolutely the same; worse though, there were severe food shortages in my country of birth, beside the shortages in commercial goods, that made things even worse; there were also some more liberal COMECON countries like Hungary and Czechoslovakia that did not experience the above.

      • Chris Sobieniak says:

        yeah I guess living in the city was FAR different from living out in the countryside, in terms of what you had and what was available to you. I suppose being content to live where you are probably helps out pretty well than to have aspirations of moving to Moscow or elsewhere.

    • Dody says:

      There were shortages of many desired foods and in particular desired merchandise. So when a desired product came in people would line up to try to get it.

  4. Douglas says:

    Oddly many people have fond memories of those Soviet era lines.
    On another note today in 2017 all I see are cities despoiled by unregulated and garish advertising signs. Really guys, your Russian city fathers need to control those signs. Otherwise your once beautiful cities will become Kafkaesque visual nightmares of overpowering sign jungles.

    • Mr. Brady says:

      Because all those reforms hailed in the west almost starved the country. Thst’s harder to forget than the lines posted here.

  5. ivan19th says:

    Lines were from 1989 till 1994 during “Perestroika”.

    • Darius says:

      I do not fully agree with this. The lines did exist also before, but the huge peak of the lines was during that period. BTW some of the lines were not physical. For example there were lines (a waiting list) to buy an apartment (instead of renting a small room from the state). Or a “line” to buy a new car (locally). Some who did not want to wait to buy the car – they would travel to the factory because there they could buy it on the spot.

      • Douglas says:

        Thanks to Darius for comments…he actually lived it.
        The lines began in 1918 and did not end until the RF allowed massive amounts of
        durable goods and food to be imported into Russia. The lines lasted for about 74 years.

      • kwhunter says:

        Really?! In my country of birth you will wait years in line to buy a car; for import cars from ČSSR, DDR or CCCP you would need approval that was granted to disabled people and people with good connections; same for buying one at the assembly plant. The price was about 4-5 years salary…

      • kwhunter says:

        Really?! In my country of birth you will wait years in line to buy a car; for import cars from ČSSR, DDR or CCCP you would need approval that was granted to disabled people and people with good connections; same for buying one at the assembly plant. The price was about 4-5 years salary…

  6. Douglas says:

    During the 1950’s a Soviet family could wait 5 or 10 years for a new car or fridge…..a list again

    In the USA at that time you could buy new car or fridge in 10 minutes..

    • Chris Sobieniak says:

      Can’t argue with that, of course I’m sure there were plenty of Cold War-era films made over here that often painted the Soviet Union and its satellites with the broadest of brushes when it came to its limited consumer base.

      • Mr. Brady says:

        Please tell us more how life was so comfortable un the US, after the Soviets took the real job of wiping out more than 80% of the Nazi War Machine on their own, a few years back. Don’t be shy.

    • Ball Breaker says:

      During the 1950’s, Soviets were still recopnstructing and recovering from the Nazi Invasion, the bloodiest battle ground in recorded history.

      Perhaps it was all that destruction and those millions of Soviets dead that allowed a comfortable postwar period in the US.

      • KLD says:

        As an American and major WW2 enthusiast… thanks to all of Russia for their huge sacrifices and their indescribable losses in beating the Axis powers during the war!!! What a f*cked up time that was.

  7. Chris Sobieniak says:

    The Canadian flags was due to the McDonald’s itself being operated by the Canadian branch of the company, rather than directly from the US.

    Needless to say, it was a smart move.

  8. Slaven says:

    Most of these lines were caused by mobster gorbachev and belazheva trio gang causing mayhem in the USSR. Some stupid people still believe gorbachev was just “naive person”. No wonder US managed to ruin USSR with so little effort in the 80s.

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