The Superpowers
The Superpowers
Socialist East vs. Democratic West

The Soviet Union

Life in a Communist Country

Posted Tuesday February 6th 2024

The Soviet Union was a Totalitarian Nation
The education children received, the jobs workers could hold, the places people could live, the newspapers and books allowed to be published, the movies and television the public saw, were all rigidly controlled, and run by the state. Religion was almost totally abolished. Travel to the West was nearly impossible. Criticism of the government was prohibited. Elections were a farce, with only Communist Party candidates on the ballot.

To maintain control over the people, the Soviet Union established a brutal police state. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Nobel Prize winning Russian novelist who was imprisoned for his writings, vividly described the fear that gripped the Soviet people in their daily lives in his book, Russia in Collapse:

ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN:A paralyzing fear spread over the country, a fear not only of arrest but of any action of the leadership (given the total and utter worthlessness of anyone's rights, and the inability to escape from arbitrary rule by relocating).

A network of informants saturated the population.

Secrecy and distrust permeated the people, so much so that any overt activity was perceived as a provocation. How many denunciations there were against one's own close relatives! or against friends who had fallen under the sword!

If you want to survive, lie. Lie and pretend. In place of all the good that was dying away, ingratitude, cruelty, and a thoroughly rude self-centered ambition now rose and established themselves.

LINCOLN STEFFENS:I have seen the future and it works.

- American journalist Lincoln Steffens, after visiting the Soviet Union, 1919

SOVIET UNIONLife in a "Workers Paraside"
The 1917 Russian Revolution ended 400 years of despotic rule by the czars. Under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, the victors sought to establish the world's first communist state.

Lenin's slogan, "Peace, bread, and land," gave hope to the largely poor, uneducated Russian people. They sought to live in what Karl Marx, in his book Das Kapital, called a "workers' paradise."

For nearly 75 years, the people of the Soviet Union endured a standard of living that was far below that of the United States. Sixty years after the revolution, only two-thirds of Soviet families had a refrigerator and only five million passenger cars were owned in a nation of 250 million people.

  • Only one out of four people could afford a winter hat or coat, which cost an entire month's salary.
  • Housing, much of it substandard, was assigned by the government.
  • Homeownership was prohibited.
  • Food shortages were common; long lines to buy what food was available were typical.
  • Consumer goods were of poor quality and in short supply.
For the people of the Soviet Union, the future did not work.

Great October Socialist Revolution
Lenin and Stalin Portraits
  • On the 29th Anniversary of the "Great October Socialist Revolution," workers carry portraits of Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin through the streets of Moscow.

Kiev Potatoes
Collective Farm
  • Outside of Kiev, a woman harvests potatoes on a collective farm, in October 1959

Soviet Election 1938
  • A Soviet citizen casts a ballot in a local election in the summer of 1938.
The New York times reported that the results of the election were "fore-ordained" and would result in an "inevitable 'victory' for 'the Stalinist block of party and non-party Bolshevists'".

Soviet Perm-36 Political Prisoners
Political Prisoners
  • Established in 1946, the Perm-36 was a Soviet forced labor colony built to house "especially dangerous state criminals," many of them political prisoners.

Russian Nesting Doll
Nesting Doll
  • Set of hand painted wooden Matryoshka dolls made in Russia

Soviet Medals
Soviet Medals
  • Collection of Soviet-era pins and medals

Kremlin Scale Model
Kremlin Scale Model
  • Panorama bronze casting of the Kremlin by A.N. Lysenkov.

Kremlin Scale Model

Lenin Bust
Lenin Bust
  • This plaster bust of Russian Communist Party founder Vladimir Lenin was made in the former Soviet Union.

Lenin Bust

Left Lenin Bust

Right Lenin Bust

Stasi Dzierzzynski Regiment Guard Uniform
Stasi Dzierzzynski Regiment Guard Uniform
  • Elite guardsmen, trained by the National People's Army to protect sensitive government buildings in and around Berlin, wore this uniform and helmet.

Stasi Dzierzzynski Regiment Guard Uniform

SED Membership Booklet
SED Membership Booklet
  • Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (SED)
Being a party member could open doors for many people. The benefits of this membership booklet included career opportunities, college entry, pay raises, and even priority treatment in obtaining housing and vehicles.

Soviet Telephone
Soviet Telephone
  • This post-war 1947 phone, made of metal, aluminum, and Bakelite, was likely used by Soviet forces in East Germany after World War II.

Lenin Box
Lenin Box
  • The polished maple desk top box was a personal item of Leonid Brezhnev. It features an enamel portrait of Vladimir Lenin on the lid with a lock and key.

Soviet Medal Booklet
Commemorative Medal Booklet
  • This booklet with red vinyl cover features blue Russian lettering and was made in 1967.

Brezhnev Stalin's Writings
Stalin's Writings
  • Set of four books by Joseph Stalin from the library of Leonid Brezhnev.

SOVIET UNIONPropaganda, Soviet Style
Propaganda: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.

In the Soviet Union, the state had total control of all mass communications, including propaganda.

Official posters were widely distributed to factories, workplaces, and schools across the country. Rendered in a bold, muscular style called "socialist realism," they sought to convince Soviet citizens that their lives would be better under communism.

Celebrating workers by portraying them as heroes, Soviet propaganda carried the message that a new, better society would be built by the collective effort of the working class that rejected the free market system.

Victor Koretsky 1968
Victor Koretsky 1968
  • If this is freedom, then what is prison?

N.A. Valerianov Voting Booth
N.A. Valerianov
  • Female workers and peasants, make your way to the voting booth! Under the red banner, in the same ranks as the men, we inspire fear in the bourgeoisie!

P.T. Mal'tsev Revolution
P.T. Mal'tsev
  • The way to the Russian Revolution and the World Revolution

V.N. Deni First of May
V.N. Deni
  • Long Live the First of May, Moscow & Liningrad