Published: 26.04.2021
Follow me to the USSR: 8 more shocking facts

Last week Elena Killiakova and Enjoy Russian School have told you about some Soviet patterns that remain surprising for the young generation in Russia and all over the world. If Russians had the idiomatic expression “Writing is on the wall” they would probably change in for “CARPET is on the wall”. After reading this post you will understand why! If for some reason you missed the previous post check it out and let’s get to 8 facts more!

1. A few-hours-long lines

Yes, it is not a joke! To buy pretty much anything you had to stand in a line and sometimes you would not even have an idea of what was on offer! A chronic deficit of any product you can think of was a feature of that era. People did not have much but they valued what they had.

2. People in the Soviet Union took recycling to a whole new level

Clothes were never ever thrown away! When I was a child my mum could not get a coat for me so she sewed one herself. She could get brand-new fabric neither so she used hers and my auntie’s old jackets to sew a new one for me. Girls were taught at school how to sew – so pretty much every girl could create something. This was a crucial skill to have! My mum sewed clothes for herself, her sister, brother, father, mother, and girlfriends, and later for me, my brother, and our dad.

3. Was pneumonia a real threat in the USSR?

People who were born in the USSR do not ask for ice in their water/soft drinks. Why? According to our mothers, when we were growing up we were under constant threat of getting pneumonia and dying of it. We were not allowed to drink or eat anything cold. When I ate ice cream, my mother ordered me to take it slowly – take it in small bites and warm it up in my mouth before swallowing. According to our parents, sitting on concrete steps or rocks could easily result in not only getting pneumonia but also becoming infertile.

4. A thing for a carpet

We definitely had a thing for carpets. Firstly, we hung them on the walls to demonstrate our prosperity. But there was also another reason -expensive wallpaper. To minimize the area to be wallpapered people used this simple trick. Every summer people took carpets out to the river/lake/sea to wash them. The dry-cleaning services didn’t exist back then (or were not affordable).

5. The last thing soviet pediatricians prescribed was medication

I was never given medications for regular flu or cold. The best medication was drinking lots of hot milk with honey and standing over a steaming pot of water with a towel over your head. For fever, we used the following: a sick person was rubbed with a mixture of vodka and white vinegar. Compresses of the same mixture could be applied to a forehead. While you’re judging soviet parenting skills, let me tell you that these natural ways always worked for kids!

6. An old maid dilemma

This is my absolute favorite! If you weren’t married by 25, you were considered an old maid. Your family could even think that there is some black magic going on and try to fix it by going to a psychic. Or maybe, you sat at the corner (yes, we are superstitious) of a dinner table, which meant you were destined to never get married. And if you happen not to have children by 30, it is because you were infertile. Yes, your mother told you not to sit on concrete stairs and cold rocks but you never listened!

7. Bush’s legs

When America (back then under the presidency of George Bush) started to export chicken thighs into the Soviet Union, it was a delicacy. They tasted nothing like the thighs of our happy, homegrown, hormone and cage-free chickens. They were so deliciously addicting and fat! ‘Bush’s legs’ was our meal for a special occasion. On a daily basis, we ate organic vegetables, grains, and soups, impatiently waiting for something to celebrate and have ‘Bush’s legs.’

8. GTO

This is literally translated as ‘Ready for the labor and defense of the USSR’. GTO provided a unique opportunity to get people involved in sports and physical education activities. Initially, the GTO had one level and three age groups. To earn a GTO pin, an individual needed to pass 21 tests, 13 of which had set standards (such as time, quantity, etc). On March 24, 2014, Vladimir Putin signed a decree to restore GTO in modern Russia under the original name.
Follow the news, other Matryoshka’s posts are coming soon! And if you want to be able to read Soviet books sign up for a language course at Enjoy Russian! Join a course here

Elena Killiakova

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