Soviet Urban Legends


Here are the legends that used to exist in the USSR…1. Metro. Doors are about to close. A civilized person – in a tie, indispensable detail – wants to get in, the doors are closing and his head is already in the subway car and stuck in the doors and the rest of the body is still on the platform. He looks sadly at those who are in and says in the fallen silence – “That’s great! F*** underground!”

2. Kvass trailer tank. A kvass trailer tank turned over (usually in an accident) – and on its bottom were giant gentles (cestodes, another alternative – a corpse).


3. Foreigners – wreckers. They gave Soviet children sweets (or chewing gum) infected by tuberculosis or syphilis (alternative: farced with needles or pieces of razor blades, more exotic alternative: farced with baleen). Probably this legend was told by grannies for educational reasons in order children wouldn’t take anything from strangers.


Instead of foreigners might be prisoners, they left bandages with tuberculosis phlegm in the playgrounds.

4.  Foreigners sold black marketeers jeans infected by syphilis. The last ones sold them to unwitting fellow citizens. Usually on the back seam there was a package with flea (lice) scaring poor people at first jeans wash.


5. The story about some pioneers parade in Red Square. They said the pioneers were parading doing their best and vile foreigners were throwing provocative gum under their feet, allegedly to break their formation. No effect! Such consciousness!


6. Everybody died. A boy was playing with scissors and put out his own eyes. While terrified mom was running about the flat a girl sank in a bath. When mom saw it she jumped out of the window from the 10th floor. Dad was in no minute at home, saw a dead mom’s body on the asphalt, a blind boy and a dead girl, shot the boy from a gun and shot himself too. Everybody died.

7. Food production know-how. Toilet paper in sausage, vodka made of petroleum (or sawdust). Bromine in soldiers’ tea – to restrain them from chicks, diphenylhydramine in vodka (beer) – to make people drink less and crash out faster. Detergent in beer – for better froth.

8. Unusual findings in sausage or pasties – human fingers, teeth, rat’s legs or tails.

9. Convicts built a helicopter from a gasoline-powered saw and escaped from a prison camp.

10. Radar vehicles driving about the streets and checking videocassette recorders concerning prohibited cassettes.


11. That’s how they struggled with watching ideologically dissolute movies (like “Rembo”, “9 1/2 weeks” etc.) – electricity was cut off  and without electricity cassettes couldn’t be taken out from the recorders. They went to a definite flat and evidenced that.

12. Underwater – underground USSR. Allegedly there existed huge underground plants where some cool and highly secret equipment was produced. There related the legends about tanks moving along the ocean bottom and underwater warehouses of atomic bombs in  the Atlantic.

13.  Rockets and large bore cannons covered with “fangs” on the bumper of KGB “Chaika” cars.

14. “Red film” that was loaded in a camera to photograph people. They were with clothes on, but looked nude in the film.

15. In a drugstore some scarce staff was given for a kilogram of dried mosquitoes. And some money – about 100 rubles.

16. Uranium mines – sentenced to death people were sent to U-mines and someone saw them later – toothless and sick.

17. Chinese carpets were glowing in the darkness with a  silhouette of Mao Tse-tung lying in a coffin weaved with a special phosphoric thread, … invisible in a daylight.

18. Loss of criminals playing cards. They lost seats in the movie theatre. A defeated one sat down behind the loser seat, and while viewing a movie, killed an unlucky spectator with an awl in his heart.

19. Muscovites affirmed that there was some phone number, let us assume 777-13-13, dialing which you could find yourself in a party mode, where everyone could speak with everyone…

20. Sailors who sailed to the west, and other lucky ones, could buy there ordinary cigarettes in ordinary packs (Marlboro, Camel…) but in the same packs it was possible to buy marijuana (marked with three black stars with a name “cigarettes with marijuana”)! Someone brought them through customs and someone were treated here, at home.


21. Some bestial Aphrodisiac making women hot. One of the classic legends among the soviet pubertal teens.

22. Eliseevskaya chandelier. A descendant of merchant Eliseev, who lived in the USA, informed the Soviet authorities that before leaving Russia Eliseev hid a treasure in his Petrograd store. The descendant was refused to have this treasure back, but soon after that Eleseevsky store was closed for some time allegedly for restoration. Everything was turned upside down, even the floor was lifted, but nothing found.
Then Eliseev Jr offered to show where the treasure was hidden for a definite reward. He came to the smashed up store, smiled and pointed to the chandelier: “Take it off”. The huge chandelier was taken off and it turned out that under a thin bronze layer it was pure gold.

Soon the store was open again, nobody saw the chandelier there anymore.


23. The Japanese. They bought all glasses because they packed glass in the wooden boxes! Glasses were remelted and boxes were used for furniture. Thrifty Japanese against prodigal Russians.


24. In 1969 Russian wiped Damansky island off the map with laser weapons. Together with the Chinese. Go to nobody!


25. More about noxious Japanese: in 1986-87 the Japanese inserted small pyrocartridges in their cassette recorders that were activated if somebody tried to take a back cover off. Such kind of protection from reverse engineering.


26 thoughts on “Soviet Urban Legends”

  1. The bromide in soldiers food to inhibit sexual urges while at service seems to be a pretty international urban myth. Other on this site, just wow -so much reflection of aspects that can’t be described by words of soviet culture.

    In Finland there’s a version of the bromide myth that a dessert sometimes served at barrack lunchs is bromide laced, it commonly known as brake kissel for that. Myth states that this is always served before weekend-offs, so rookies wouldn’t rave too furiously and so decry a Finnish soldier.

  2. Great stuff. In the 1970’s we had a myth like #3. When we were kids we all knew about the drug addicts that put razor blades into apples and handed them out to kids on Halloween. (Sometimes they put overdoses of LSD into the apples). So when we got apples instead of candy we would throw them at the houses of the people that gave them to us because we knew they were trying to kill us – SICKOS! There was never any truth to this and these people were probably just trying to offer us something healthy.

  3. Party lines were no myth, perhaps just for Moscow. Everyone used them in the 80-90’s, and they gave birth to the phreaking culture.

  4. if you like this kind of stuff you should see “Tales From The Golden Age”, the romanian movie. Here is the trailer:

  5. In every rumor, just a bit of plausibility makes it an accepted fact, as in #23, the Japanese used shipping boxes that contained glasses for furniture; Henry Ford purchased transmissions for his early cars and ordered they be packed in wooden crates of specific dimensions. The crates were then disassembled and used as floorboards in certain models, it was almost like getting a floor for free.

  6. Oi. That one about sausage rolls and pasties? That’s not a Soviet thing, that’s a sausage rolls and pasties (pies, really, but whatever) thing. 🙂

  7. uranium mines are no urban legend, they were very real. Also they were not for people sentenced to death, but for political prisoners.

    • Yes, I am not even from Russia and I have known this from my childhood fascination with history books.

  8. ’20. Sailors who sailed to the west, and other lucky ones, could buy there ordinary cigarettes in ordinary packs (Marlboro, Camel…) but in the same packs it was possible to buy marijuana (marked with three black stars with a name “cigarettes with marijuana”)! Someone brought them through customs and someone were treated here, at home.’

    i know a man who claims he mistakenly smoked them once

  9. Hi all!

    24. In 1969 Russian wiped Damansky island off the map with laser weapons. Together with the Chinese. Go to nobody!

    I live in Hungary (former east block), and i heard that one from my father some years ago. He didnt mentioned an island, he just told that “In 1969 the soviets wiped out 600 thousand chinese soldiers in 2 days with lasers”. Curious…

    • Well, it certainly was no lasers, but it was a first massed combat use of the BM-21 Grad MRLS. And it was so shoking to the Chinese that while they weren’t destroyed, they certainly retreated in haste and ended all attempts to forcibly take the island in question.

  10. Back in the day it took 6,000 people at a concert to say it Rocked. It’s silly how nowadays a band just releases a record and say they’re ready to Rock.

  11. Some of those myths were really circulating back in the day. The Damansky peninsula one in particular. Nobody knew exactly how Russians defeated those Chinese invaders but it was widely “known” that they used some kind of secret weapon, possibly lasers (in reality, I think, the napalm was used). Here’s another one. Listening to Voice of America on a shortwave radio was dangerous because KGB had the ability to detect those doing so regardless of their location and arrest them. One more. A Soviet guy wrote to Ford about how he liked their cars. Ford sent him a brand new car in return.

  12. yep, I remember a few of those… like giant white worms living at the bottom of the Kvas tanks lol. Still remember the punishments for kids who chewed foreign gum… And I did get stuck in the doors of a subway train. Uranium mines… that was no legend, this was true actually–it could be also chemical factories, and yep nobody saw these people again cause they didn’t live long. As to Bromine in soldiers’ tea, I wouldn’t dismiss it that easily, it could have been true.
    And what certainly was true about foreigners being wreckers–come on, how about those logs filled with pests (to harm Soviet crops) thrown in the ocean near Soviet coasts, that’s how some of these were introduced to start with, that’s a regular bio-warfare.

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  15. As for the black marketeers jeans, this was a perfect exsample of a rumour that Soviet leaders spread to prevent citizens to buy stuff from foreigners.


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