Recently I was reviewing old photographs from the times of Soviet life, and most of all I’m interested in photos of people’s lives – houses, apartments, interiors, clothing, food and so on. It is very interesting to watch at shops – at the showcases and at the principles of interaction between the seller and the buyer.
Only 25 years passed after the fall of the Soviet Union, but it seems like an eternity had passed – so all that was then, is different from the one that we have now.
So, in this post we look at the photos of Soviet stores and see how they were different from today.
First, let’s look at the showcases. For example, a showcase of “manufactured goods” in one of the Soviet stores, there are exposed plates, pans sets, mechanical grinders, as well as aluminum ladles and skimmers – which were probably in every Soviet apartment. Meat grinders were in each one, as the cutlet was often the only dish that can be prepared from the bad store meat.
There were no “food processors” in the Soviet Union – only in the late Soviet 70-80th primitive juicers, blenders and electric coffee machines appeared.
And this is a showcase of the product department. For some reason, there were often built huge pyramids of cans with canned food – apparently, it was considered beautiful. Personally, I remember very well these tin pyramids in the windows of the Minsk shop “Ocean” at the intersection of the avenue and Kozlov Street. The most common were canned fish.
Inside the fish department. Generally fish – was probably the only thing that was more or less stable, you could buy it in the stores during the Soviet era, even in periods of scarcity on the shelves there was canned and frozen pollack. Also in fish departments, there was sold seaweed, which I still can’t stand.
The meat department, perhaps a photograph was taken at the same time as the previous one, in a more or less “well-fed” 1950s, although even at that time, such assortment was only in large stores of allied capitals.
An interesting detail of the era – the meat like in the market is cut in front of the visitors on the large wooden deck, there were no sanitary norms in their modern sense.
And this is – knitwear department, photo made in the early 1960s in Moscow’s GUM. It is interesting that the goods were not, as now, hung on separate racks with free access, and were stacked on the counter of the seller, which has been fenced off from visitors with a glass case – apparently, that was done in order to reduce thefts in the store, because there were no means of protection like magnetic stickers or video.
The shoe department, the photo of 1950-60 period. Here, everything is open, as it is impossible to steal a pair of shoes in the box unnoticed. In general, showing of goods is remarkably similar to nowadays- the same series of boxes sorted by size, the same dressing benches. The only difference – there are no models of shoes, that is, no samples.
A very interesting picture, which shows the process of collective listening to the record – the seller turns on any record on a special stationary player and customers listen to it through a special tube with speakers. There are only four tubes – one is hanging on the hook at the front, and the other three are used by customers.
Showcase of provincial food, giving a good idea of the product assortment in the province – a couple of kinds of bacon and fat, five kinds of cheap wine, tobacco and tobacco packs, ten kinds of canned food. That is all. There is also fish, most likely something salty, from the barrel.
Interesting photo – a man comes from the so-called “bread” store – in province existed individual shops, which sold only bread. Often it was the only product that can be more or less free to buy (without disruption and queues).
Vegetable department, the photo of the 1980s. The assortment typical for a Soviet “Vegetable Man” of last Soviet years – cabbage, beets, carrots, onions, potatoes. The shop was visited by journalists and they made the “test of nitrates” – in the late eighties this topic acutely troubled society.
By the way, pay attention to one very important, I would even say the fundamental detail – all products are behind the counter of the seller. How do we buy now? You walk with a cart or basket through the supermarket with freely laid out products and chooses what you want. “Substandard” products that no one chose (wrinkled bananas and tomatoes, for example) then were simply thrown away or sold with a great sale.
In the USSR, it was different – first, to get access to the resource (cabbage or onions, for example), you would have to stay in a great queue, and then the seller gave you that came to hand. In some cases, you could say to give you “bigger and fresher” vegetables, but it depended on luckiness – seller could give it or answer “who will take a small one – Pushkin?”. The queue could, in this case, support the buyer – “these brazen hucksters”, or the seller – “take those things that are given to you, you are not the only one there!”.
In general, in the quest of “buying vegetables,” the whole essence of the Soviet system could be seen very well- the need for the moral humiliation to get any resource. This, incidentally, applies to virtually all spheres of Soviet life and all segments of the population, from the janitor to the Minister – the first fought in the vegetable stores, and the second ones wrote denunciations on each other and poisoned life for miserable three-bedroom apartments.
A photo from the shoe department of the times of restructuring. Very nice picture showing the shoe trade in those years – it is likely that a man from the photo “got” shoes after waiting in a long queue and then stepped aside to look at bought pair of women’s shoes. On the box, there is something written with a ballpoint pen, probably a batch number or something.
By the way, in Soviet times sellers often cranked openly a lot of “gray schemes” such as the mass sale of shoes in a black stroke of the store – deficient shoes sold without checks by 2-3 times overpriced, after which “sold” at the box office at the regular price – and said that all the goods are sold.
The same photo of the shop during perestroika – often in the stores remained some juice in a transparent jar – “Birch juice” – it was like water with citric acid and sugar.
Also a very good photo of “assortment”. In the showcases-refrigerators of the meat department, there are cylinders with juices. This picture was taken in the first months of life without the USSR – in January 1992.
Showcase of the store in times of scarcity.
Empty shelves, photos of May 1990.
The queues in the opening store. If you were lucky to run in first – there can still be anything to buy.
Do you remember the shopping times of the USSR?