To Bashkiria. (Postcard, 1978.)

The different ASSRs (Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics) were featured prominently in the postcard series of the Soviet Union. Producer of the postcards was ultimately the state, and the patronizing orientalist attitude was prevalent in the imagery, especially when representing different ethnic groups. Here is a postcard of Bashkiria, small area between Ural mountains and Kazakhstan border. Old traditions, partly folklore, partly fakelore, are highlighted to the point of kitsch. Stance towards national traditions and cultural heterogeneity changed from time to time. In the field of tourism it was more accepted and even desirable to bring forth the national heritage, especially in the last decades of the Soviet Union.

City's new suburb, Vyborg. (Postcard, 1970s.)

During the late Soviet era city postcards still clung to the idea of representing the most modern buildings, like in the beginning of the Soviet Union. Vyborg, a former Swedish town at the western border of Russia, has a pictueresque old town, age-old walls, and it even boasts a castle, but here we are with a Soviet postcard titled “New microraion of the city.” Microraion was a word that was used in the Soviet Union about new, huge suburbs, many of them towns in their own right. They were considered as pride of any city in the 1970s, when many microraions were built to ease up the cramped living in kommunalkas, and of course they found their way to the postcards – with sea view and wasteland beach.

Forest Combine. (Postcard, 1963.)

Not all postcards show picturesque landscapes or sunny beaches. Sometimes they present one with good old forest combine in Ukraine – at least when it comes to Soviet postcards. Industrial sights were deemed as an important propaganda tool in the state-led tourism of the Soviet Union already in the 1920s, and later the were integrated as a normal part of practically all the package tours. Factories, dams, sawmills etc. were supposed to prove the rapid industrial development of the Soviet Union for its citizens. So of course they also appeared in postcards. Here is one card from the series presenting Ukraine. Other themes include, for example, big cities, hiking in the forest, and the Black Sea coast. Forest combine with frozen logs, smoking crane and dirty snow is natural continuation of these.

Schema of flight routes to the Black Sea towns of the Soviet Union. (Brochure, 1980s.)

It is probable that the graphic artist of Intourist was heavily drunk when he designed this instructive illustration. Approaching the end of the 20th century, Soviet tourism became more and more liberated. Especially foreign travellers could go for relaxing vacation and not get force-fed with socialism and factory tours. Alongside holidays, the aesthetics of tourist brochures was also liberated – sometimes too much. Here is a page from Intourist booklet presenting Black Sea towns to Finnish audience. As the title declares, the image shows the flight routes from important Soviet cities to Yalta, Sukhumi etc. But the graph is so extravagant, that it doesn’t really give any information about the routes. This reveals the true intention behind the illustration: it wanted to tell the reader how modern and advanced the Soviet Union is with dozens of flight routes and millions of holiday-makers.

Terrace Cafe in Leningrad. (Brochure, 1970s.)

Tourism in the Soviet Union wast gradually westernized from 1970s onward, and even Russian language guide books would now add few photos of unproductive leisure and innocent fun alongside all the factories, kolkhozes, Lenin statues etc. one definetely had to see to be a good tourist. Here is an illustration from a brochure presenting Leningrad to Soviet travelers. The image highlights, that there were European style terrace cafes in the Soviet Union, especially in the “most western city” of the country, as Leningrad was called.

Gostinitsa, Rzhev. (Postcard, 1970s.)

What is often remembered from Soviet tourism are the gigantic Intourist hotels in the bigger cities – especially as many of them are still standing and in use. But in smaller towns, where tourism was not exactly blooming, the hotels were more compact and adapted into existing buildings. Here is the city hotel of Rzhev, town situated in the western part of Russia between Moscow and Latvian capital Riga. There was no special attractions in Rzhev at Soviet era – it was a medieval city, but the old buildings were wiped out in the World War II. So small hotel was quite enough to serve the travellers passing by. Nevertheless, it was immortalized in one of the postcards from the postcard series of Rzhev.

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.