Behind The Iron Curtain: Outdoor Propaganda In The USSR

I wrote previously the propaganda surrounding the Soviet people at all the usual and unusual places. People nostalgically musing about the “olden days” when there was practically no outdoor advertisement in the USSR, forget about all the hammers and sickles, red banners, communist party slogans and whatever else was supposed to inspire us to keep building, fulfilling, laboring and rejoicing.
A recently posted set of photos taken by a Western tourist in the 1984 USSR has some great examples of the ubiquitous outdoor propaganda in Moscow and Leningrad. I added some translations to the photos that needed explanation and I recommend you take a minute to flip through the rest of the set in the slide-show at the end of this post.


A stand honoring the best workers of a factory.

Amusement park

A monument to the socialist thinkers.

Window with anti-American posters.

Karl Marx

No propaganda here, just a movie theater showing “Tootsie”

Famous “Worker and Collective Farmer” monument in Moscow

  • What was the general attitude toward the propaganda? Was “glory to the workers” a common patriotic idea, or something people just lived with because that was how things were?

    Also, how were Lenin and (especially) Stalin described in your history books?

    • I don’t think anyone paid attention to the visuals, at least when I was growing up in the 70’s -80’s. There was so much of it that I imagine most people tuned it out.
      Lenin was portrayed as wise, all-knowing, kind, grandfather-like, genius from his earliest years, etc. Then in the 90’s as a monster, German spy, ruthless killer, etc. Stalin was portrayed as genius, father-like figure. Then, after his death, as a criminal but not horribly bad, because his “co-workers” continued to rule the country. Then it was toned down and he showed up in the war movies as a commander-in-chief in a positive light. Again in the 90’s in a lot harsher tones, killer of millions, etc. Now there are people who wish Stalin-like leader would emerge and rule with an “iron feast”. Those are mostly the people who were born after that time, or old people who still probably don’t believe in labor camps and purges.

  • rebecca

    I was in russia as a student in the winter of 1994. I was fascinated by the endless propaganda. Not only was it huge and in your face as the photos show. The hammer and sickle as well as wheat were used as decoration and flourish on lamp posts or bridge railings. It was everywhere.

  • I was a student in Bulgaria in 1983-84, where I saw the Bulgarian version of this propaganda. As far as I could figure out, people just ignored it. I remember a Swedish student who was tremendously enamored of the party line telling me how much more advanced the culture was because English didn’t have such a word as “tvorchestvo.” I said, “Craftsmanship?” Other than Greta, I don’t think I knew anybody who bought the party line, not even the students who were clearly spying on the westerners.

  • Banner Printing

    Nice set of photos.