At the Sea, Abkhazia ASSR. (Postcard, 1970.)

According to famous quote, “there is no sex in the Soviet Union”. But Soviet postcards seem to indicate otherwise, or at least some of them got pretty daring during the last few decades. Soviet leisure tourism was gradually liberalized and westernized from the 1960s onwards, and even the state produced postcard series got few relaxed postcards among all the Lenin statues and pompous buildings. Here is a postcard from 1970s depicting almost erotic beach life at Pitsunda in the Abkhazian coast of the Black Sea. This kind of imagery, so familiar to western tourists from holiday postcards, was quite exceptional in the Soviet Union.

The hut of V. I. Lenina at Razliv. (Postcard, 1960s.)

Some attractions in the Soviet Union were excessively political, to the point of being comical. The so-called “Lenin’s haystack” is one of them. Just before revolution Bolshevik leader V. I. Lenin went hiding. One of his refuges was a peasant hut and nearby haystack at Razliv, some twenty kilometres west from St. Peterburg. After the revolution and especially Lenin’s death in 1924, the symbolic importance of the hut – and the haystack – was realized. The hut was museumized already in 1920s, and later a granite memorial was erected there, and even the haystack was reconstructed. In the end of the 1960s the place had become a proper tourist attraction with a brand new museum building, the replica of the haystack, nice forest paths and even a pier for passenger boats. Of course the “Hut of V. I. Lenina at Razliv”, as it was officially called, was featured in postcards, too. Here is a postcard from the end of the 1960s where one can see the haystack and the granite memorial – with Lenin’s name written on the top in gilded letters. And the best part? Yes, it’s still there.

Monument to the Builders of Communism at the Volga hydropower plant named in honour of the 22nd Congress of the CPSU. (Postcard, 1960s.)

Yes, it is a long title for a postcard, but it’s Soviet tourism, after all. Travel postcards depicting monuments to socialism and industrial achievements were common in the Soviet Union, and this card combines the two by presenting a memorial situated at the Volga power plant. Soviet tourists at the popular Volga cruises would stop here to admire the huge statue, the dam, and the power lines before continuing their journey.