Published: 18.04.2021
7 Facts about Everyday Life in the USSR

Welcome. Today our author Elena tells us some amazing and even shocking facts about everyday life in the Soviet Union. If you want to know more about pioneers, Artek and unbelievably huge lines in front of the shops in the USSR just keep reading!

1. People in the Soviet Union took recycling seriously.

Back then we had no options other than to be environmentally friendly. Dairy products (such as milk, sour cream, and other traditional Russian dairy products were packed in glass bottles of different shapes and forms). We never threw them away, but reused them! Another mainstream thing was a net tote bag – even though I was born one year before the USSR collapsed I still remember my grandparents using them. These days it is a must-have for those caring for the environment.

2. Did I mention that we took recycling seriously?

Back then we had special competitions – people who collected a set amount of paper (magazines, newspapers and old books) got a very special prize for reaching the goal. What was the award? Those who won the competition were granted an opportunity to purchase a book or a towel or something that was next to impossible to buy in the shops. My mum told me a story how she got a set of towels.

3.Food stamp

It is probably different to imagine it now, but back then we did get food stamps or vouchers which could be exchanged for a set amount of food/goods. Back then you could not just go to the supermarket and buy anything you like from any country you can think of. We had stamps for groceries which were allocated at work (everyone back then had a job). Everyone was given a set amount of goods (groceries)– so the stamps were used to buy some necessities. Some real numbers to get a feeling of what was it was like to live in the USSR: one got food stamps that were sufficient to buy one kilo of sausages a month (among other groceries).

4. A legendary Artek camp

In the Soviet era, Artek was a landmark of the USSR. Located in Crimea, the camp was the first resort for young pioneers — the Soviet equivalent of Boy or Girl Scouts. Unlike other recreational facilities for children and youth, Artek was (and still is) open not only in summer but all year round. The camp attracted children from the USSR (and all over the world really) and was visited by internationally recognized people, like Indira Gandhi.

5.The 15 sisters

During the Soviet era, the 15 member states had strong ties and economic relationships. The states of the USSR were called 15 sisters. You can experience the special connection which existed back then if you visit the VDNKh or the Exhibition of achievement of the national economy in Moscow. There is a pavilion for each of the member states showcasing the best of what the member state (or I should say an ex-member) had to offer. Some of the main features include the Friendship of Nations fountain and the Cosmonauts’ alley.

6.Take me to…

We had a strong social welfare system that was funded by the government. A special feature of it resorted. Back then a concept of unemployment did not really exist – everyone wanted to work (and was given an opportunity to work) and contribute to the economy. This meant that if you were a member of a union, you could get a heavily subsidized or a free holiday package for yourself and your family members. What a luxury!

7. The Pioneer movement

The Pioneer movement was an equivalent of the Scout movement in western countries. Children and youth were accepted to the organization based on academic merit and other achievements. There were three stages depending on the age:
– Octyabryata– from year 1 to4(Primary School) – were given a pin-shaped star with a portrait of Lenin.
– Pioneers – from 5 to year 8(Secondary School) had distinguishable red neckties.
– Komsomoltsy– from year 8 to 10 (High School).
During the existence of the Soviet Union, thousands of camps and palaces (an alternative to a community youth center) for members were built. These were exclusive only for Young Pioneers/Octyabryata/Komsomoltsy, which were free of charge, sponsored by the government and trade unions
If you want to learn Russian and ask for more info about the Soviet era, best teachers are here to teach you individually!

Elena Killiakova

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