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The Basic Social Unit

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


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

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