Let us begin with sturgeon, a gracious fish that brings caviar to the people of means.
This poster was printed in 1932, promoting Russian delicacies worldwide. In the Land of Soviets there was no need for commercial ads. Since 1920s (reviewed last week) the situation has changed in the most dramatic way. In 1928, the Party officially abandoned its New Economic Policy (NEP) and prepared for the "Big Turn", i.e. transformation of Russia from agrarian-industrial society into industrial one. Next year the "collectivization" program has been launched, an unprecedented agrarian reform aimed at abolishing private farming. The program resulted not only in countless collective farms but also in the Soviet Famine of 1932-33, just eleven years after the 1921 Great Famine. At least 5 million people died from hunger (most common estimate is 7 million). Food rationing has been introduced in 1931, most basic commodities were also rationed. So this sturgeon emerged out of a very grim picture.
Nevertheless, the lotteries were still advertised:
By mid-1930s the situation started to improve, agricultural production grew steadily and rationing was partially abandoned. In 1935 the Party, quite happy with the industrialization, decided to industrialize food production. As a matter of fact, huge industrial bakeries were already built at the start of the decade. And before that there were quite successful attempts to implement the "kitchen-factory" concept, freeing workers from the need to cook at home. But now it was the time for different approach. No kitchen-factories anymore, no leftist slogans like "Free women from their kitchen slavery!" Industrial-made food was the name of the game, and American food industry was the model. Anastas Mikoyan, a member of the government in charge of food production, went to the States and studied everything from giant refrigerators to hamburgers. By the way, Soviet version of hamburger was nicknamed "Mikoyan's cutlet":
Here it is, 50 kopeks only (about one dime), ketchup, pickles and onions extra:
And what about vodka? Was it advertised?
Oh yes. But it was more important to promote another drink. Anastas Mikoyan confessed in 1936: "Comrade Stalin said the best workers and engineers earn quite lot of money now. He asked: if they want champagne, is there any problem to buy it? Champagne is a sign of material well-being, a sign of prosperity". Of course, they did not mean the French champagne. A well-to-do worker (or engineer) should drink the Soviet one - sparkling wine made by new technology, relatively simple and very different from the classic Méthode Champenoise.
And probably the most famous poster of the period, advertising crabmeat:
The vast majority of the population wasn't used to crabmeat, coming from Far East, so the People Commissariate for Food Industry promoted it at full volume. To build a proper image for Pacific crabs, all cans sported export labels. I hope this explains the phenomenon of Soviet advertising: "we'll persuade you to buy what is convenient for us, not something you want". Not so different from any other advertising, in my humble opinion.
Another novelty: frozen food.
Green peas in a box, as you see. It's not a big deal to sell canned corn or salmon, but to sell a box like this you need refrigerator vans and refrigerated shelves in your grocery store. A number of model "Gastronom" stores were established in big cities, with luxurious interiors, glass shelves and spacious freezers.
I think you're fed up by all this gastronomy, so let's see something less edible. Like "Three for the road" poster:
Printed in 1938. The same year, abortions were banned. Strange coincidence, isn't it?
Maybe these posters are less striking than their 1920s predecessors. But they are much more artful and colorful than the postwar advertisements. Just compare two "Soviet Champagne" ads:
And even after WWII some posters still had a world-class air about them, the spirit of Art Deco. Like this pipe tobacco ad:
These ads are still influential today, selling the image of Utopian state populated with ultra-elegant men and women from fashion magazines socializing beneath palm trees in some marble hall to the sound of jazz, a state where the leader was so righteous, the army so mighty and everybody so happy... Nothing can be more wrong than this.
Another sturgeon, a 1952 model - just to say good-bye.
What? More posters? Here they are, in the album (43 hi-res images). Browse it - or enjoy the slideshow: