Russians are remembering their communist past with fondnessby Anna Blundy / February 20, 2014 / Leave a comment
The coolest car for a Baku teenager to drive is a pimped-up Lada Semyorka, with blacked-out windows and huge rear tyres. This iconic Soviet vehicle, once symbolic of a clapped out centralised economy, has become an endearing piece of nostalgia to bring a tear to babushka’s eye.
The car is now “vintage,” as are the recycled, Soviet-era jokes: A man finally gets on the waiting list for a Lada Semyorka and is told to come and pick it up in 10 years’ time. “Morning or afternoon?” asks the man. “What do you care? It’s in 10 years!” says the salesman. “Well, it’s just that the plumber’s coming in the morning,” replies the man.
Soviet nostalgia is visible everywhere in the former USSR but it is not to be confused with wanting the Soviet Union back (though around 50 per cent of the population do—presumably the older half). At Puff, a Soviet-themed café in St Petersburg, they’ll serve you a glass of milk in a thick Soviet glass and a slice of black bread. You can buy mugs with Soviet cartoon characters on them (Cheburashka!) and retro packaging, which now looks impossibly chic, is all the rage.
There is a glut of websites feeding the hunger for the simpler Soviet past. One of these, savok.name, fondly uses the old insult “Savok!”, meaning both dustpan and Soviet citizen, and is subtitled “USSR—Our Motherland!” It is decorated with familiar images of brave and chiselled soldiers and peasants from another world and includes collections of photographs sent in by users. There are pegs, matchboxes, Melodia vinyls, hairdryers, whisks, red pioneer scarves and crockery. Almost everything has become a design classic and Russians and Russophiles alike use social media to share pictures of 1930s Soviet travel brochures, Buzzfeed lists of Soviet habits that die hard, the lullaby that ended children’s TV every night for decades and recipes that involve only ingredients available during shortages (basically, dried mushrooms).
The nostalgia phenomenon can to some extent be put down to shared experience. Because of the nature of Soviet manufacturing, absolutely every person in the vastness of the USSR (in 1990 there were more than 286m of them) possessed the same household items. Olga Fedina, author of What Every Russian Knows (But You Don’t), a romp through the best of Soviet culture, says: “The USSR is so totally gone. There was no smooth transition; the old Soviet world…