Search
  • dresstosail

The Soviet family was considered to be the basic unit of socialist society. Apart from the romantic component, marriage in the USSR had several material aspects: married people were given priority in acquiring state apartments and could expect quicker promotion in their jobs; unmarried citizens were usually not allowed to work abroad for fears that they would be easy prey for foreign intelligence. An unmarried heterosexual couple could not rent a hotel room or share an apartment at a sanatorium. In general, a Soviet adult was considered complete if he or she had a marriage stamp in their domestic passport. Military personnel carried service IDs instead of their passports, so their marital status could not be directly read from their papers. Some dishonest family men used this privilege to seduce Soviet women, pretending they were single and looking for a serious relationship. Living together without a marriage certificate was allowed, however, under Soviet law it was treated as nonmarital cohabitation and significantly limited partners' legal rights compared to "normal" families. Singles and divorsees were considered less reliable members of society. The childless had to pay a special tax.

GAZ-13 "Chaika" wedding car, Moscow, 1975


Leningrad,1974


Family photo. Ussuriysk, 1987



Marriage registration in Tashkent. Photo by Georgy Zelma, 1925


"Mutual respect in the family, caring for the upbringing of children" postcard quoting the Moral Code of the Builders of Communism, 1966


Waiting room at the marriage registration office. Tallinn, Estonian SSR, 1973


"Do not get married blindly! First check your health with a doctor, then go to register the marriage" poster, 1920s


Photo by Peter Turnley, Moscow, 1987


Wedding party, Moscow, 1960s


"USSR Marriage certificate. The best protection against AIDS is marital fidelity!" poster, 1991


Newlyweds on the Volga. Photo by Mark Redkin, Astrakhan, 1979


Wedding photo, 1989


"At the State registry office. Guys, isn't it too early for you to marry? Well, we are getting a divorce." Cover of "Krokodil"(Crocodile) satirical magazine, 1968


  • dresstosail

After a successful campaign to eradicate illiteracy in the 1920s and 1930s, USSR considered itself the most reading country in the world. Reading was a favorite pastime of many Soviet citizens but popular titles where permanently in short supply, allegedly due to the lack of printing paper, and became a liquid black market commodity, second only to vodka. State run bookstores were full of propaganda publications in dozens of languages. For popular fiction books though people had to stand in long queues or redeem their coupons for handed in waste paper at the rate of 20 kg for a new book. Many literary pieces were banned in the USSR and subject to punishment for possession. Unauthorized production of printed matter was also considered a serious crime. Major public libraries kept some prohibited volumes for trusted comrades at special limited access sections.


"Literacy is the path to communism" Soviet poster, 1920


Moscow metro, 1972


“Everyone, go to the library. Every farm worker, poor man, collective farmer should become a library reader!" poster by State Publishing House, 1929


Omsk State Library. Project started in 1978, completed in 1995. Photos by M.Loskutov


"Soviets are us. All power to the Soviets". ABC for adults, 1920


Visitors to the "Druzhba" bookstore on Gorky Street. Department of Books by Publishing Houses of the Polish People's Republic. Photo by Boris Prikhodko, Moscow, 1979


Book kiosk in Kiev, 1961


"Are you helping to eradicate illiteracy?" Soviet poster, 1920


"There is no communism without knowledge" Lenin. Photo by Harrisson Forman, 1959


"Andromeda nebula" sci-fi book by Ivan Yefremov, 1958


Ballerina Galina Ulanova. Photo by Nikolai Rakhmanov, 1960


"Read systematically. The library will help you plan your reading" poster, 1929


Second-hand books department. Novokuznetsk, Kemerovo region. Photo by Vladimir Sokolaev, 1983


Bookstore on Kuznetsky Most Street. Photo by Viktor Chernov, Moscow, 1981

  • Soviet Visuals

Chess in Soviet Russia was much more than a recreational board game. The Kremlin grandmasters considered it useful to develop strategic thinking in their loyal pawns and knights. Up to a certain limit, of course.


Circus animal tamer Stepan Isaakyan playing chess with chimpanzee Rikki. Photo by Miroslav Murazov, Yerevan, Armenian SSR, 1965


"Chess and checkers - to the masses!" Soviet Uzbek poster, 1934


"Vladimir Lenin, Maxim Gorky and Nadezhda Krupskaya" painting by Pyotr Vasilyev, 1943


Abkhazian centenarians playing chess. Photo by Yuri Somov, 1967


Pensioners playing chess on a park bench. Photo by Boris Kavashkin, Moscow, 1969



"Chess in the USSR" magazine cover, 1933


At a Tallinn cafe. Photo by Alexander Makarov, 1964


Moscow boulevard, 1960s


"Chess Fever" film poster, 1925


Underwater laboratory of the USSR Academy of Sciences Institute of Oceanology. Photo by Oleg Galushko, 1970


"Let's become masters of cultural recreation!" poster, 1933


World champion grandmaster Mikhail Tal during a game. Photo by A.Ekekyan, 1962


Match for the title of world chess champion between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. Photo by Boris Kaufman, 1985


Seamen of the Baltic Fleet during a simultaneous chess game. Photo by Mikhail Kukhtarev, 1977


Anatoly Karpov, chess grandmaster, 1970s


Chess lesson at a school, Pskov, 1975


Still from "People on the Bridge" film directed by Alexander Zarkhi, 1960

Gorky park, Moscow. Photo by Bruni Barbey, 1967


Tundra chess. Photo by Lev Garkavy, Kamchatka region, 1972


Border guards playing chess while off duty. Photo by Lev Polikashin, Tajik SSR, 1966