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  • Soviet Visuals

The shopping experience of the planned economy

Spending roubles in the USSR was in most cases a challenge rather than pleasure. Shortages of many staples, hour long lines, and the sale of scarce items from under the counter became the gloomy signs of the time. The exception were well-stocked hard currency shops, but the overwhelming majority of Soviet people had no access to them. On the other hand traditional bazaars offered good quality costing an arm and a leg.

Kitchen accessories department at a Soviet store, 1980s


Queue for "Greenpeace Breakthrough" record outside "Melodiya" record store, Moscow, USSR, 1989

"Sale of mushrooms on the Danilovsky collective farm market" Photo by B. Anthony Stewart, Moscow, 1959


"Queue" painting by Vasily Kolotev,1985


"It is impossible to walk around the city. Everyone asks where I got my glasses. - And where did you actually get them?" cartoon from "Krokodil" satirical magazine, 1953


Customers of "Beriozka" hard currency store. Photo by Boris Losin, Leningrad, USSR, 1965


Kamchatka crab stall in Magadan,1990


Happy visitor of a liquor store redeeming his ration coupons for vodka during the anti-alcohol campaign, 1980s


"Beriozka" hard currency store, Moscow, 1970s


Seller at Kuznechny food market. Photo by David Turnley, Leningrad, 1991