Proletarian candy

In Soviet Russia, candy had to serve the cause of Communist revolution

The early 1920s. Wrapping of Soviet candy brand “Red Moscow”, produced by the State Candy Plant Red October. An armed worker is guarding a mountain of proletarian sugar. The Communist pentagram is substituted by a red Star of David with abbreviation “R.S.F.S.R” (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) on it.

Communist candy Red Moscow
Candy wrapping “Red Moscow” from the 1920s.

Classroom in a Soviet primary school

Soviet primary schools had a particular focus on orderliness and following the rules

Below is a photo from what seems like 3rd year of a primary school in the USSR in the early 1980s. Years 1-4 were classes where most subjects apart from specialized ones (like sport and foreign language in the elite schools) were taught by the same teacher, called “class master”.

Kids in a class of a Soviet primary school are dressed up for the photo-op
Kids in a class of a Soviet primary school are dressed up for the photo-op. Early 1980s.

The girls wear white aprons and white ribbons in the hair. This was customary for special occasions like nationwide celebrations of heroes, visits from supervising authorities, foreign guests. Normally, they were wearing black aprons over brown dresses. Boys had waist-long jackets with metallic buttons and pants in dark blue.

On the left side of the chest, all kids have a red badge: a small pentagram with a portrait of baby Lenin. This marked their membership as Little Octobrists in a Communist organization for youngest schoolchildren. Everyone was enrolled wholesale, no parental consent asked. A refusal to join would raise a red flag in the school administration concerning the ideological loyalty of the parents.

The way most kids keep their hands folded was a requirement inherited from Czarist schools.

The furniture is a 1930s Soviet design, a double-seat table set consisting of one piece. This is a variation of the Farmer desk set developed in Germany in the 1870s. This particular furniture is at least 15 years old: the holes in the front of the desk were made for ink holders. Schools in Moscow switched to ballpoint pens at the end of the 1960s.

The windows have double panes for insulation during winter. School routines required airing the classrooms by opening the windows during breaks (10 or 15 min) at all seasons. The curtains were necessary for darkening the classroom during slide shows using filmstrips.

The boards on the back wall are titled “Reading” and “Math”. They show a synopsis of the current curriculum. The “Reading” board has portraits of Russian authors who produced the required school reading: Krylov, Lermontov, Turgenev, Nekrasov, Tolstoy and Pushkin.

Pictures that describe the difference between Communist and Capitalist ideology

Posters and propaganda art give a clear idea of the core values behind their ideologies. Communism versus Capitalism illustrate this clearly.

Art celebrating state power is interesting to compare and contrast between Socialist and Capitalist societies.

Soviet Union

The poster below was printed for the 22nd Party Congress. This was in 1961, when NikitaKhrushchev promised the nation to build Communism by 1980. It shows a procession of Soviet people marching toward a bright future of social justice, spiritual perfection and material cornucopia.

The decisions of the 22nd party congress will be fulfilled
Poster “The decisions of the 22nd party congress will be fulfilled!”

What makes it uniquely pertaining to Real Socialism?

  • The dominating presence of a sanctified person who is not a religious saint or an immortal being (Lenin)
  • The importance of industrial scenery in the bottom right corner. Under Socialism, it’s a reassuring symbol of progressivist development, self-reliance, security and future wealth.
  • In the center, a peasant is tasked with carrying around a sheaf of wheat, in plain sight for everyone. The Soviet Union experienced at least four famines during the first 30 years of its existence. I belong to the first generation of Soviet citizens who were not a “hungry generation”. It’s important that food here is presented in its basic form, as grain. Socialism acknowledges people’s need not to go hungry but frowns on foodies and drink connoisseurs.
  • People walk in a very determined way in one direction, but have no map. Instead of a map, they use a Program of the Communist Party printed on an oversized sheet of paper. The only person who seems to have an item useful for orientation and measurements is the land surveyor with a theodolite to the right. But even he is looking for directions at the metal worker and harvester operator who are holding the Party Program.
  • The journey to Communism is expected to be short. The welder didn’t even take off his headgear. Some wear their Sunday clothes. Women especially don’t want to be caught out with bad hair and in ugly dresses at the destination.
  • One of the kids is bringing cut flowers for the big occasion. The other is carrying a huge model of a nuclear-propelled ice breaker he likely made himself. The little girl in her mother’s arms is preparing to cheer and wave her hands in excitement. Real Socialism is not a place for useless people. “He who doesn’t work, shall not eat.”
  • Apart from the Scientist, no 2 from the right, no one seems to be older than 30. This is no land for old people.

United States

Below, the painting “You are not forgotten”, by Jon McNaughton, from “The Empowered Man” series.

You are not forgotten by Jon McNaughton

“You are not forgotten”, by Jon McNaughton
  • The congregation is static. Under Capitalism, everyone is free to walk, run and crawl in any direction they want. The only way to achieve synchronicity is for everyone to stop.
  • The nation’s leader does not need to physically show a direction. Holding speeches and showing up at ceremonies is most often enough to show leadership.
  • President Trump is trampling a serpent of liberal treason. This is unusual for socialist-themed motifs in the USSR. In our place, the secret police were required to take care of traitors and enemies of the people well before the patriotic crowds entered the scene.
  • There are many seniors in the picture. Under Socialism, if you are old, you are not allowed to enter such an artistic motif, even if you are the highest-ranking government official. (To depict Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev, painters needed special permission.) Even more surprising is the wheel-chaired veteran in front of the public. There was not a single piece of patriotic art in the USSR where you could see someone with a disability.
  • The gathering stands on bone-dry earth. This is strange. Under Real Socialism, even in devastated surroundings, the soil always remained full of energy, ready to rebound in a sudden burst of vegetation. It symbolized the bottomless creative force of workers and peasants—none of whom seem to be present here outside the White House.
  • The family of three, front and center, are too melancholic—as is the President. It’s as if they are not sure if the tiny green plant they are watering is going to survive. Only the two police officers are applauding, the rest look like there is a burial going on. This lack of faith and enthusiasm is what always puzzled Soviet people about Capitalist ideologies.
  • Apart from a few government persons, there doesn’t seem to be anyone with a college education. There are no signs of American industrial and technological might in the picture. An alien who doesn’t know anything about the country might deduce from this piece of art that America is a pastoral, not too educated country that mainly consists of the military, firefighters, police officers, elderly politicians, and silver-haired bikers.

Incendiary propaganda for the city hall in Moscow

Starting the fire of world revolution at any cost was the top priority of Soviet rulers during the first years of the Communist rule.

Incendiary message from Soviet Russia in 1920. The motif below was a suggestion for decorating the city hall in Moscow, called “Red Knight”. It mimics the style of pre-revolutionary lacquer decorations popular with peasants. This is a man in ethnic Russian clothes who carries a torch of revolution around the world riding on a winged horse. In the background, a Parthenon-like edifice of Capitalism is being consumed by flames. Text: “We’ll set ablaze the entire world with the fire of the III International“.

winged knight of revolutionary flame

“We’ll set ablaze the entire world with the fire of the III International”. 1920.

High skin factor

Mini skirts were all the rage in the USSR in the late 1960s and early 1970s

The early 1970s in the USSR was the unique era in the history of universe when women’s clothes were shrinking from top and bottom at the same time. During these happy years, no fashion police would call the girls in the photo cheap, tasteless, or trashy. I caught the tail end of it, and looking back it all feels like a party.