1st class sleeper. (Brochure, 1970s.)

Not everything worked in Soviet tourism, but one thing did – the trains, especially night trains. The Soviet Union was a huge country, and journeys could take days, so sleepers were designed to perfection. There were different classes from open sleeper (so called “platzkart”) to 4-person compartment, and the best was 1st class 2-person compartment, depicted here in the illustration of a Soviet travel brochure from the 1970s. Soviet citizens were used to trains and knew how to conduct themselves, but foreign people didn’t know the small tricks of the trade. One peculiarity was that in Soviet trains male and female passengers were put together without any separation, so one had to know how to act decently. For this reason, though, the night train was also a place for secret erotic encounters.

Route map to the Black Sea coast. (Brochure, 1980s.)

Yes, one could travel from foreign countries to the Soviet Union with private car, especially from the 1970s onward. There was a catch, though: only few main highways were allowed to auto tourists, and the Soviet traffic police GAI had checkpoints, where they monitored that cars continued the journey and didn’t deviate from the route. Moreover, the law allowed you to drive only 500 km. per day, and you had to book accommodation beforehand. So basically your road trip began to resemble a train journey with a private compartment. In this brochure one finds the routes availabe to Finnish tourists. Although there were not that many roads, the distances were huge. From the Finnish border to Crimea one had to drive 2500 km., and to Yerevan, Armenia, it’s over 3500 km. The worst thing was that you had to drive back home via the same road.

Camping site Butovo. (Brochure, 1980s.)

Camping was a popular hobby in the Soviet Union. Early on, in 1930s, it meant mostly overnight hiking trips outside the buzzing industrial cities, but later, during the 1980s, trips got longer and reached further away. At that point some citizens already sported private cars, for example Lada or Mosckvich, and in there one could fit the family, a tent, and the necessary gear for a proper camping trip. Unfortunately, even roadtrippers were not free to go anywhere. The roads permitted to vacationers were clearly marked on the map, and the nights had to be spent in official camping sites, like the one here at Butovo, just outside Moscow.

Welcome to the Soviet Union. (Brochure, 1963.)

It seems that the Soviet Union was a combination of Edward Hopper’s paintings and Aki Kaurismäki’s films, at least based on the cover image of the booklet here. This Intourist brochure was published in Finland in the early 1960s, when tourism from Finland to the Soviet Union was increasing. At this time, during the so called thaw era, the Soviet Union was represented to foreigners as an up-to-date but also serious country, which had all the advantages that the western world had, as the setting of the photograph and especially the red high-heeled shoes of the sitting woman propose, but without the frivolous traits of capitalist culture.