Moscow in 1960
Here’s an awesome collection of photos from Soviet Moscow in 1960. (Warning: the page has lots of pictures and might take a while to load).
What strikes me is just how normal everything looks (for lack of a better word). Without the monuments giving away the location, these could pretty easily be mistaken for almost any city in the US during the same year – even the automobile and fashion styles look similar enough to me.
It stands as a stark contrast to the often Orwellian depictions of the Soviet Union that usually focuses on the poverty or totalitarian aspects of the old USSR, and are usually taken on gray winter’s days. At least, those are the photos of the USSR I’m most familiar with from history books. Ah, propaganda…
(It’s worth noting that one could take similarly depressing pictures of the US back in the 60’s, or even today – and I imagine that’s the perception of the US that most of those Soviet citizens held).
The people in these photos at least clearly didn’t live in any sort of poverty – in fact, there’s all the evidence of a booming economy and a population happy to go about their own lives. Which underscores another point which is often missed from the American perspective: the communist regime lasted for the better part of the 20th century because for most people, most of the time, it worked. The Soviet Union would not have been able to challenge us economically, militarily, and technologically in the post WWII era had it not proved workable for most of that time.
Which isn’t to say that I’d have wanted to live there, or that communism and especially the totalitarian Soviet flavor isn’t an inherently deeply flawed system. I’m hesitant to generalize anything from a photograph (I know too well how photographs can lie) – but from the perspective of these people in the 1960’s, the flaws in the Soviet model don’t appear to have been self evident.
What I really like is that it’s yet another illustration of how similar we all are as human beings. It’s always good to be reminded of that.