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Book as the best comrade.

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