London, 1970

London 1970

Maybe that’s a bit less known fact, but in Soviet Union citizens couldn’t go abroad. The iron curtain had been working two way – not letting stuff and information in and not letting anyone out.

In fact the abroad travel had existed still but only for the best of the best comrades. The controlling authorities, like KGB wanted to be hundred percent sure that the lucky visitor of the foreign state would:
a) get back and won’t ask for a shelter abroad;
b) would behave himself really well – won’t drink all that capitalistic whiskey all night long with strange people like hookers;
c) won’t be seduced by foreign secret services and turned into a spy overnight;
d) won’t buy different banned stuff like porn and jeans and then won’t smuggle it back home and sell it to friends;
e) and finally they needed those who won’t spread stories of admiration of capitalistic style of life upon arrival, but on contrary expected people would tell anyone that life abroad, frankly speaking sucks a lot.

Also, the trips abroad were divided into two categories. First category included the socialistic countries with friendly regimes like Eastern Europe or Cuba. It is strange but even those countries were forbidden for a free visit of a “free” Soviet guy, though it was much easier to get there if compared to a trip to any country of a second category – the capitalistic hell like USA or England. In order to get a chance of such visit one could submit a claim expressing his will to pay a visit to Socialistic neighbour. Then such claims were thoroughly studied by many organizations starting from local police, then a place of work had to make a proclamation then it was escalated to KGB which could approve it or reject it.

But there were no such way to get in London except to a few categories of highly trusted people, one of such were pilots of “Aeroflot” the only Soviet Russian air flights company.

Those pilots who were able to reach forbidden places were considered to be just white bone blue blood amongst their fellows. And there were plenty of reasons why. They could BE THERE and could BRING STUFF from there.

And those are the photos of one of such elite pilots having luck to visit the places that 99.9999% of other Soviet people couldn’t reach ever. London back in 1970s looked different, but it looked totally different for Russian people at all – not anything they had a chance to see at their Motherland.

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50 thoughts on “London, 1970”

  1. I wonder why is 1_005.jpg mirrored? (5th image, pigeon feeding, fountain). You can tell by the bus in the background. It says “Pearl”.

  2. Reminds me of when relatives of mine from the USSR came to visit in 1982. They were not allowed to bring their spouses, so it was only a father and daughter. I was 8 at the time, and they brought me toys from the USSR the significance of which I have only recently realized. One of them was a replica of Lunokhod I, the Soviet lunar probe program from around the time of the Apollo missions. The other was a tracked vehicle with a sort of winter camouflage on it. That one was significant as it was a replica of the vehicles the Soviets used during an arctic expedition in the 1970’s. My aunt was a school teacher in Kiev, so it made sense that the toys she brought me were educational in nature. Sadly, time has not been kind to them and the poor quality plastics used in their manufacture have not held up very well. As for bringing Western goods home, they bought several things that they could sell when they got back home. The other interesting thing is their reaction to American grocery stores. They were stunned that my grandmother could go into the A&P, and come out with a cart full of groceries in 30 minutes. At that time, there were severe shortages in the USSR due to the breakdown in the system caused by the bureaucracy, and the lies the apparatchiks told their superiors about production. It really is one of the main things that brought down the Soviet system if you think about it. The people at the top had no idea what was really going on in the supply chain, and the whole system was based on lies. When they went to fix it, it all fell apart.

    • Well first of all, I think the toys made during the era were decent. At least the electronic radio-controlled toys.

      Second, yeah the system was stagnating, and rotting due to the immense bureaucracy. Not because of lies, but simply due to the horrible centralized bureaucracy. Unfortunately, the only one who tried to really reform the Soviet system was not up to the task, and in the end broke down the USSR due to his incompetence (Gorbachev).

      • Well, Gorbachev was not the first to try, if you remember. Khrushchev tried to fix it after Stalin and was booted out of office for his efforts. There was more to the fall of the Soviet system than just the bureaucratic issues of course, but I really don’t have the space in a blog post to go into it. As for the toys, they were remote controlled, but from a wired system. One of the problems I had with them as a kid was that they used batteries that were not common in the US. So, once they died I could no longer play with them.

  3. Bloody hell this is London,where are the punk rockers?

    I am glad George Washington left that island to start the America project!!

      • You know your history scot,I guess this is before punk and the CBGB!I am curious is Scotland part of the UK or is it its own country?

        • Scotland is its own country, as is England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Collectively they are called the UK (United Kingdom), or GB (Great Britain). They also have problems.

          • Great Britain is the name of the largest of the British Isles. As such, Northern Ireland is part of the UK but definitely not part of Great Britain – it’s part of the island of Ireland, not the island of Great Britain.

            Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales all have some degree of home rule. England does not.

      • Glam Rockers? Mods? Skins? I counted 1 ted in the park. Harry Palmer must have been back at the office filling in L-101 field reports

      • Be nice Musa….It is in every history book about Washington leaving England to cross the ocean to what is now North America.

        The 1700s was a dark period in England!

        • And the british followed him and burned the first white house down.Today when someone from the british government visits the white house a certain song is never played by the band because in the past the song was writtin to be against the british.

          It is interesting how yesterdays enemies are todays friends!!!! 🙂

  4. And now that former Soviet countries gave freedom to their people to travel whatever they want, western countries (especially E.U.) locked their doors tightly for them (do you know how difficult is for average people to get Schengen visa?). So again they feel imprisoned in their lands. What a nice made world…

    • You’re right they have now all been cleaned up. What’s also good is pollution levels are now many times lower than they were in the 70s so hopefully they will stay clean!

  5. Some great images in that collection of how London used to look.
    Nowadays you will be hard pushed to see a white face in London.

    I used to meet the Aeroflot pilots at Terminal 2 Heathrow Airport and they were always really miserable and had bags full of dutyfree..

  6. What I don’t get, is if the Pilots were allowed to fly out, who exactly were they flying? Plane loads full of spies? Seriously. 99.9999 people were not allowed to leave? Numbers do not add up.

    • Wetern touristss, apparatchiks, business people, sea men… Don’t forget Aeroflot had a virtual monopoly on fluying in and out the USSR.

  7. i have to agree with Dan…who where they flying? if the Soviet goverment would not let citizens fly out of the country (so that capitalisem would not “infect” its citizens) doesnt it stand to reason that they would not allow capitalists to fly to russia?

  8. There is a lot more trashy neon lighting now around central London and no-one is European. Plus it is over crowded. Those 70’s photos look like they were taken on a Sunday morning or something. I saw a bunch of Kazakhs and Russians last time I went so no barriers for ex-USSR these days. Mind you London is all about money…great place if you have it. Bad place if you don’t.

    • About the trashy neon: most of what those pictures show in Leicester Square (for example) has been taken down.

      There weren’t many souvenir stands open on Sunday morning in 1970s London, Woolworth’s should be closed if it’s a Sunday, and there’s too much traffic in a lot of those pics for Sunday.

  9. In planned economics, a plane needs a pilot to fly, not passengers. Therefore, planes could be flying with 1-2 passengers with out any problems, presumably by chartered flights (i.e. not regular). So numbers do add up…

    Capitalists WERE allowed to come to Russia but under strict control, therefore just selected few could come. And even if they came, “theaters” were made. They were allowed to stay in certain places only and to travel with guides only to certain places as well. And those special places were specially prepared. For example, shops were full of groceries, all the prices were lower than normally and etc. I know a story of a woman who got into a serious problem after accidently mentioning the actual price of a bun in a shop…. All this just to make SSRS look like the best country in the world. Cool, isn’t it?

    • I completely agree!, I love London!

      I enjoy seeing these old pictures.

      It makes me think of Elton John when he was younger and all of his older music!
      He was the first Western Rock Star/Musician to have a concert in the Soviet Union!

      He was probably one of the passengers on the Soviet Airlines.
      I believe people did travel back and forth from the Soviet Union under strict conditions, like Jim Bob said.

  10. Well, great pics, I was in London and Believe me nothing much has changed between 70’s and 2000 if I go by pics except the crowd, Now we can see lots of Pakis on the street of London and beggars.


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