Advert for the Gaz company’s M-21 ‘Volga’ sedan, early 1960s


Good Life

Living standards in the Soviet Union made a genuine leap upwards through the 1950s, and on the strength of these real gains, the promise of the abundance to come seemed briefly plausible.  Images of abundance were primarily political, in the Soviet Union, or imaginative.  Advertising for consumer products was relatively undeveloped, in line with the consumer’s position (in the here and now as opposed to the radiant communist future) as the lowest priority for the economy.  But there were some revealing images for products that offered symbolic versions of the good times up ahead; and you can also glimpse the promise of the future in the film-making of the early 60s, thanks to Soviet cinema’s tendency to show characters already enjoying a carefree comfort which was far from ordinary for the watching audience.  Here’s a selection of promises, hopes and illusions. 

Drink Soviet Champagne! (1930s)

Brush your teeth with Sanit! (1930s)

Smoke Cigarettes!


Two versions of the future from the cover of Tekhnika Molodezhi (‘Technology for Youth’) magazine.  Left, from 1953, when it was still gargantuan rather than personal; right, in 1961,

a cartoon of the space-age high life.

Youthful, romantic, well-dressed, liable to break into song:

the present as shown in Ya Shagayu Po Moskve (‘I Walk Around Moscow’), 1963

The mighty Zil-111: six metres, six litres, eight cylinders and 2.45 tonnes of Sovietized Cadillac Eldorado.  Total production:  112 cars.

The same magazine, 1961: Yuri Gagarin (front cover)

considers (back cover) a selection of modernist kitchen wares

Witty, hectic, jet-setting, high-minded, heartbroken:

the present as shown in Devyat' Dnei Odnogo Goda (‘Nine Days of One Year’), 1961

The 22nd Party Congress adds alarmingly specific dates and numbers to the promise

of plenty, and Khrushchev draws the moral: ‘Comrades, to Work!’