Soviet Dairy Products

Dairy food propaganda in Soviet Russia 1

Such books were probably unique only to Soviet Russia. This is not some kind of a book of commercials for dairy products – there are no any prices as you can see, it’s just a book that explained the dairy products variety to the Soviet citizens and how many stuff is being done from the milk and how delicious it is and is a must to try.

Dairy food propaganda in Soviet Russia 2

Dairy food propaganda in Soviet Russia 3

Dairy food propaganda in Soviet Russia 4

Dairy food propaganda in Soviet Russia 5

Dairy food propaganda in Soviet Russia 6

Dairy food propaganda in Soviet Russia 7

Dairy food propaganda in Soviet Russia 8

Dairy food propaganda in Soviet Russia 9

And these are Moscow shops “The Cheese” and “The Milk” which quotation: “The Cheese shop *not plural* is very popular among Moscow dwellers”.

Dairy food propaganda in Soviet Russia 10

Dairy food propaganda in Soviet Russia 11

59 thoughts on “Soviet Dairy Products”

    • The subject was covered before – virtually all dairy products in Russia are made from milkpowder, because the lack of infrastructure doesn’t permit fresh products to be delivered in time in the cities. Too bad.

      • I don’t know where in Russia you might (have) live(d), but in Siberia the dairy products are (and were) made fresh as the dairy farms are a max of 1 hour drive from the dairy factories. Also, and I don’t think this has been a practice in major cities since the 1970s, we used to buy our milk from a cistern fresh every morning into milk jugs, but the Westernization did away with that in the late 1980s in favour of bottled or pre-packaged milk shipped from whereever was cheapest…

        • I was surprised myself when I read about this on a Russian opinion website, but it is true.

          The milk sold in cartons BTW has been treated with radiation [nuked] as a way of making it last longer.

          I’m sure in smaller communities this is/was different.

          It all derives from poor infrastructure – no way of getting the fresh products in time to their destination, i.e. a supermarket. The Duma doesn’t think it’s necessary to do something about it apparently : people are already used to it so why bother ?? Another major mentality problem.

          • You shall admit that Moscow and Leningrad were “showcase cities”, with intensively supported relatively high living standard.

            This, for example, is why people from other regions were going to Moscow to shop for food.

            Thing possibly unique to USSR – “domestic food tourism”. People going to other cities and even other provinces to buy regular food, like sausages, because they can not buy it at home.

            P.S. (Remember, that foreigners needed KGB permission to move around the country, so it was easy to control what they see and what they don’t.)

          • I’m not western and as you can see, the link is a Russian website. Why do my com-patriots have such a problem with admitting that something is NOT perfect in their motherland ?
            Escapes any logic.

            BTW, milk direct from the cow is very very different in taste from milk which has been processed in a factory – more fat i.e.. I’m not even talking about milkpowder milk.

          • My grandparents had a dairy cow when I was a kid, and I remember the same thing you’re talking about. Milk is a lot different when it comes straight from the cow than from the store. Same with vegetables. Not as convenient, but cheaper and usually healthier.

            I almost laugh now when I hear people who have lived in a big city all their lives talk about “organic” food. Where I grew up, we considered it “normal.” Everything else was “processed.”

            Ahh, nostalgia. πŸ™‚

        • As much as I remember, at least in 70-80-ies in the Western part of USSR the milk always was packed in either glass bottles sealed with aluminium foil or in triangular packs of plastic covered cardboard (which were constantly leaking).

          Never saw any milk cisterns serving draft milk. πŸ™‚

          P.S. It was “normalized”, i.e. dissolved with water, in order to make more of it by volume.

      • Virtually all? You’re only half right. You can find both fresh products and mass produced products that use powdered milk ect readily available anywhere. It’s also true that the quality of the food produced in Russia is way beyond the quality of what is available in America for the most part. Take my word for it I just got off the plane from a visit to Belarus and Russia.

    • Well, it was reasonably well with milk products. If you consider it normal, that the milk was mixed with water; the cheese was just of one to three terribly tasting sorts; the fresh home cheese (tvorog) was only about single sort, and so was the butter. That’s about it. Oh, yes, and the “kefir” (fermented milk) and sour cream, both single sort, of course.

      If you did mean food produce in general, then, unless you lived in Moscow, it is not true.

      There were only few kinds of food and still it was not enough for everyone. Hence the famous fact of sausage (“kolbasa”) being a symbol of a well-being in Soviet mentality.

      It is hard for modern Westerner to even imagine how poor and low quality food supply was in USSR.

      • Yes, the cheese is like recycled chewing gum.

        And I read recently that they now want to limit the import of Dutch cheese, because it is too expensive [ expensive ? That’s because of the huge import taxes and bribes needed to get it on the shelves, dear Duma !!] and the Russian product was at least as good anyway.

        If you ever saw how kolbasa is made, you’ll never eat it again. But, for many people it was the only type of meat they could afford during the hard times in 80’s…

    • Per capital diary and meat consumption in USSR was much higher than in modern Russia, but Gini coefficient index was much lower.

  1. Seems like food porn to me. Why show people stuff they can’t have. Unless it was for tourists, explaining that ‘In USSR of 1970s we have dozens and dozens of dairy products’.

    • I think it may have worked on some of the locals, too. They may have assumed that even if it wasn’t available in their neighborhood or city, it must be available elsewhere in the country.

      It reminds me of the lady in Moldova who assured me, as we watched several BMW and Mercedes cars roll by on the main drag in Chisinau, that Moldova has more European luxury cars than any other country, even Germany. Or, that housing in Moldova is much better than in the USA, where all the houses are easily blown over in a strong wind. She learned all that, she said, while in university (in Moldova).

      • Being from Tornado Alley, that is somewhat correct. The houses do blow over in the strong wind. The ones that swirl around and axis, in a limited area, very quickly.

        I don’t think her house (apartment? tent?) would survive the 160-500kph winds that the tornados produce.

        • I was told that it was done on purpose, to stop heavy masonry from flying around like crazy. Instead it was just light wood and whatnot that was cheap to reconstruct anyway.

          Also it means that you USers can build huge houses much cheaper than here in the UK, for example.

      • Unprejudiced and accurate education is not as common as one would think, not even on a university.

        I heard about N-Korean institutes, where the students are taught a ‘more or less’ distorted image of the rest of the world, in particular that part which ‘might’ make the home country look poor in comparison. In Soviet Russia this was also the case. Reports on i.e. accidents and failures in the US space program were always reported, the successes got a lot less [if any] coverage.

        As for Moldova, if the quality of live is so good there, why are there so many mail-order brides from that country? Or Ukraine ?r

    • The book is from late 1950s through mid-1960s, judging by the styling of the photos and the typography. Yes, a part of the Soviet system was constant self-aggrandizing. But as someone has already pointed out, food shortages were not commonplace until the mid-late 1980s. The variety of products shown really DID exist SOMEWHERE in the country. I did not see anything in these pictures I found novel, and I grew up in the provinces. I think the book was serving a dual purpose – introducing the variety of dairy products to (possibly) students (the tone of it seems a bit patronizing) as well as bragging about the abundance of product available in the (relatively prosperous) post-war time.

    • Yes these photos certainly are charming. The effects are due to a combination of the old color printing process and photo retouching. All of the color and most of the black and white photos were manually enhanced by a retouch artist using an airbrush and fine sable brushes. In the photo of the children you can see that the area under the tables has been airbrushed to make the kids in the foreground stand out. Each color was printed separately using only a few standardized colors. All of this gave the photos a painterly quality and unified the appearance of photographs appearing in the book. Such techniques were common to large printing runs such as textbooks and catalogs of the period.

  2. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, some US food companies published pamphlets about all the wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) things you could make with their food. Such pamphlets came packaged with the food; they were intended as advertising to get people to buy more of those companies’ food. See here for a site that pokes fun at some of these. πŸ™‚

    • Great link !! Man this looks horrible. How could people keep up an appetite after this ?

      With lines like this if you go to a doctor and tell him you have a pain in your Squirt-Kebab, he’ll know where to look. one can’t go wrong either..

  3. Also a good quote :

    Okay, here we go. It’s β€œMashed Potato Surprise.” The recipe calls for a special kind of mushrooms: canned mushrooms. Which you feed to the dog. The trick is get him to throw up right in the middle of the mashed potatoes.

    The picture is very accurate.

  4. Heh! πŸ™‚

    The truth is, many of those products very not available.
    So this is one of the examples of Soviet propaganda for domestic use.

    Often you could not buy the stuff in the shops, but were told about how good and healthy it is, how everyone is happy using it and how you should do that too. Thus it created a feeling, that everything is fine (in Soviet sense), and even if you personally in particular can not buy these things, it is just an isolated incident, and SOMEWHERE in the great and spacious Soviet Union there are bold and beautiful people consuming all those tasty and good looking things.

    Reminded me of the lines in food sores in beginning of eighties and regular shortages of food. Remember a truckload of cabbages delivered to local grocery store and dumped on the ground in a dirt, with people jumping on the pile and stomping and digging around it like animals.

    As well as reminded of the Soviet joke:

    – Is this true, Comrade, that in Communism there will be option to order food via telephone?
    – Yes, it is absolutely true, Comrade. Just that it will be delivered via TV-set.

    And another one:

    The basic principle of Communism is – to anyone in accordance to his needs.
    So, in this bright Soviet Communist future there is an empty food store with locked door and a sign on it saying – “TODAY THERE IS NO NEED FOR FOOD”


      • Well… Calling it “advertising” would imply that someone would be trying to sell this to you, which was not the fact. The purpose instead was to create fake feeling of well-being.

        Like in the “Land of Oz”. Green glasses.

        • Then by what you are saying, this could be subversive propaganda that would be dangerous to the state. Instead of creating a sense of well being, the opposite might be created. Whole milk, cheeses, richly frosted cakes? ICE CREAM!? If I can’t have these things I feel deprived, and maybe a little resentful. Empty.
          As several people have commented, these items were available. It seems more likely that this book was intended to promote these products as healthy, enjoyable and, (at least somewhat) available. Perhaps there was a slight intonation to spend your money on these items rather than something else.

          • John, I lived there, so I do not have to make assumptions about the topic as what I say is eyewitness account, subjective though as it unavoidably is.

            This kind of propaganda was not meant to motivate you to spend your money on this rather as something else, as anything which was more or less usable was bought immediately anyway. There was opposite situation – people had money, but they did not have goods to buy. The shops were empty or filled with so low quality produce that it was unusable even by Soviet standards. And, believe me, Soviet people were so ingenious, that they could put to use almost anything.

            Yes, of course there was ice cream. Categories of these products, as categories or generic goods, were indeed available. We can say that generic milk, cheese etc. was available. Some of it was OK. Ice cream was basically OK for that matter. Cheese, on opposite, was tasteless mass, came in large lumps, was cut in pieces in place and packed in large sheets of thick brown recycled paper. (Though it sounds like they do it today in supermarkets, it was different). Nothing even close to what you see in pictures.

            What was different between reality and these picturesque catalogues, is that reality was much more dull. Remember “Victory Gin” from Orwell’s 1984? Compare it to modern glossy ads of Camus or Martini. That kind of difference.

            It is hard to explain, because when you put it in words it sounds very much like it is today, while essentially it was very much different. That is the fact what Soviet propaganda used then and Russian propaganda exploits now. The same words can mean quite different things.

            Actually, 1984 describes Soviet reality rather closely. With only difference that physical repressions drastically reduced after the death of Stalin.

            Mind control remained. That also explains why there was no active resistance. Situation was “under control”. While everyone was “a little resentful”. That is why finally it all fell down. Because enough is enough.

            You are considering Soviet reality from the point of view of a person who has been brought up in a democracy. Which implies a great deal of naivite and positive thinking which is not appropriate.

            When you face brute reality of totalitarian regimes it is another reality.

              • Oh, yes.

                After all – political propaganda is just a special purpose advertising.

                Which is illustrated also by the fact that British Prime Minister Mrs. Thatcher (please correct me if I am wrong) to improve her public image employed advertising agency famous for advertising milk products.


  5. Hah! πŸ™‚

    I just remembered one of the stories of Kurt Vonnegut, I guess “Breakfast of Chempions”, where he describes a fictional planet, where food is scarce, so people go to cinemas to watch pornographic movies, which actually just show people eating.

    So, this is something like Kurt Vonnegut described. Only it is real. This is in a way a Soviet pornographic magazine for hungry masses. When you can not get decent food, you can at least look at it in the pictures.

    Reality sometimes is stranger than fiction. πŸ˜‰

  6. Hah! πŸ™‚

    I just remembered one of the stories of Kurt Vonnegut, I guess “Breakfast of Champions”, where he describes a fictional planet, where food is scarce, so people go to cinemas to watch pornographic movies, which actually just show people eating.

    So, this is something like Kurt Vonnegut described. Only it is real. This is in a way a Soviet pornographic magazine for hungry masses. When you can not get decent food, you can at least look at it in the pictures.

    Reality sometimes is stranger than fiction. πŸ˜‰

  7. comments about milk being powder are 100% false.

    i spent the 80’s in a major city in ukraine and i can definitely say that the milk was the real deal, not powder. you can either buy it in the store in glass bottle or plastic triangle. i also tried the milk that came straight from a cow when i went to our summer home which was outside of the city and right next to a village.

    • I would want to agree. From my experience I would say that milk powder was real rarity in USSR. At least in Soviet Baltic “Republics”. The milk, though mixed with water, was coming from local dairies which in turn were getting milk mostly from collective or Soviet farms ( kolhoz, sovhos ), though some country people used to sell to the State milk from their normally single cow.

      But I would consider use of milk powder a possibility for more remote areas of USSR without developed agriculture (remember – Russia is mostly forest, and barbaric Communist rule had destroyed even the little farming that used to be there). Otherwise it would be a real problem to provide it (transport, storage etc.).

      USSR was huge and very diverse country. A patchwork Empire.

      P.S. Did you, people, know that Bolsheviks used poisonous gases to kill farmers rebellious against their rule? Kind of a Saddam Husein thing…

  8. I love those kind of photos. Anyone knows where I can find more of old food advertisment? I saw one web with 50’s and 60’s great photos and now I can’t find it!!
    thank you.

  9. Pingback: recuerdos « Early Orange and Late Nocturn Shifts
  10. Well, this discussion seems some sort offtopic. (1) If Soviet people couldn’t get milk products, what did they eat then at least? The fact is, that milk products and some sorts of bread were the main dieta of the Soviet population, so they had to be available. (2) If any Soviet consumer had got such a variety of milk products for everydays use, the USSR might be the most progressive country in the world, not in the dreams of propaganda promoters only then. But it wasn’t like this. The book depicts, what one could find in his local store or he couldn’t, depending on success. But I can witness, that all the products, depicted in the book, were really sold in Soviet Union. It wasn’t just a legend. (3) But what use of such a book, when the goods themselves were in deficit? Yes, it wasn’t an advertising stuff as similar western exemplars often are. But lower officials had to fulfill the so called pyatiletka plan (The plan of the five-years term) in Soviet Union. It was imposed as the law requirement, and they often issued such pamphlets, that indirectly showed the results of the plan implementation. It was very difficult to make such books, btw, because, as we know, all pyatiletka plans remained unrealized in fact, but the books were intended to show situation better than it was. So good sides of then situation were stressed (like in the example above: Many products are in deficit, you still can buy different milk produkts, but haw they are usefull!”) what was a typical feature of any, capitalist, or socialis, advertising πŸ™‚

  11. I visited Moscow once in 1989 and tried this big block of vanilla ice cream that was sold from some sort of concesssion stand…and you know what?
    It pretty much tasted like vanilla ice cream.
    The Intourist lady on our bus saw it and told me how my ice cream had tons of calories, etc.
    Oh, well – I wonder what she would’ve said about the meat-on-a-skick I had eaten earlier?
    Could it have been puppy-on-a-stick?
    ……..Still tasted good…mmmm, fire-grilled πŸ™‚

  12. I lived in the Soviet Union 20 years in the Urals. All these products are sold cheaply and readily accessible. After the great famine in the 20th years (when the Soviet government was forced to import extra food worth 13 million dollars (under the old rate of a huge sum)), the Government ordered all towns to build around a network of meat and dairy, poultry farms and fields of wheat, potatoes, etc. . products for the creation of an autonomous regime itself for cities – regardless of import or blockade system sustainment as a separate planet. Dairy farms actually sold fresh milk from the barrels without a puck for little cost because the dairy factory sometimes did not have time to process all the milk. Powdered milk is almost not used – factory made milk powder, only for not to lost of milk surplus.
    All the food completely disappeared from shops after Gorbachev became General Secretary – then my friend who worked at the beef and dairy farm near my town, telling all the meat is burned in huge bonfires, and all the milk was poured into a river. The opposition of Gorbachev in the Ministry of Trade and Transportation organized this diversion to inspire people’s discontent with Gorbachev and socialism, and thus prepare the capitalist revolution.

  13. So I curtailed my Walpoling activites, sallied forth, and infiltrated your place of purveyance to negotiate the vending of some cheesy comestibles. …


Leave a Comment