Old Photos: Window Shopping In The USSR

This set of photos is interesting in a sense that when I was growing up® nothing like this was left in existence in the majority of the country. The stores were stocked with a scarce selection of products and no need for visual advertising remained:anything that was slightly above the horrible level of the Soviet consumer products was swept off the shelves without hesitation; many times the lines were so long that people in the end didn’t know what was being sold, they figured anything worth buying will find some use at home or would be appreciated by other family members. Sometimes after hours in line, the supplies ran out and disappointed people were off to try their luck elsewhere.
With empty shelves, long lines and sad-looking products around me, it was hard to believe my parents’ stories about many things being plentiful in the  late 50’s and 60’s. Grocery stores filled with caviar and various delicacies seemed impossible to me. Not that I was deprived of  good food and dressed in garb; we had more or less of everything from good food to decent clothing but most of it wasn’t purchased in the regular retail establishments. From black market to bribery, there were other ways to acquire things.

Note: the prices you see on some storefronts are in pre-1961 rubles, in 1961 they were exchanged 10 to 1.

TV Store. Map of the TV coverage in the USSR is visible at the top.©Time, Carl Mydans

More TV's. The sign says "Samples"©Time, Carl Mydans

Another TV store display. Soviet TV's suffered many quality problems. When in 1976 my father went to buy our first color TV someone he knew at the store turned on several sets. Many didn't stay on for long and some had display issues. The only one that worked became our TV and served us without too much trouble until 1992.©Time, Carl Mydans

More from TV and Electronics store. I used to have a very similar reel-to-reel just slightly smaller and weighing less than a small vehicle. Talk about heavy metal.©Time, Carl Mydans

Photo Store. Sign advertises store credit for items over 400 rubles. 400 rubles was a significant amount considering that average monthly income was around 913 rubles in 1960. On the left side there is a drawing of a pioneer with a camera. Photography was promoted in schools and after-school clubs.©Time, Carl Mydans

Shoe Store. Pinocchio is holding a sign "Taking care of your footwear prolongs its usefulness". Sign below "Using shoehorn prevents footwear damage"©Time, Carl Mydans

Liquor Store. Store clerk is visible through the glass wearing a pretty uniform.©Time, Carl Mydans

Cheese display with names and descriptions of various cheeses. In 1983 a display like this would've looked like an insulting joke.©Time, Carl Mydans

Cod Liver. So that ©Time, Carl Mydans

Fabrics ©Time, Carl Mydans

Fabrics ©Time, Carl Mydans

Rugs ©Time, Carl Mydans

Bookstore. Notice some propaganda display in the middle. No one in the right state of mind would buy this literature but it was always printed in huge numbers and sometimes forced on people who wanted to buy a hard-to-find book. ©Time, Carl Mydans

Books ©Time, Carl Mydans

This bookstore display showcases art, sculpture and graphics.©Time, Carl Mydans

Bookstore display by the Academy of Sciences Publication dedicated to the July Meeting of the Central Committee of Communist Party. One of the books "Lenin and Physics" is an example of a propaganda mixed with science. Another book "First photos of the other side of the Moon"©Time, Carl Mydans

Hats ©Time, Carl Mydans

Clocks and Watches. Sign advertises available credit.©Time, Carl Mydans

In the bottom "Large Selection of Time Pieces". Above "Everyone needs a clock"©Time, Carl Mydans

I guess I got carried away a little. To be continued.