That’s how Moscow, a Soviet capital, looked like before the USSR collapsed.
In 1986, Roger George Clark, a casual photographer from the UK, arrived in Moscow. He wandered the streets for a long time and took plenty of excellent pictures of the Soviet lifestyle.
He returned to the Soviet Moscow a year later, in the summer of 1987. The city impressed him with the lunch breaks in restaurants, the poor selection of goods in the stores, and signature Soviet queues. Clarke claims he even saw a queue of people who were waiting to take their place in the queue at the mausoleum of the Soviet leader Lenin at Red Square.
You can compare these photos to some of the vintage pictures of New York.
Compare this 1980s pictures of Moscow with the famous 1950s series.
Oldpics publishes pictures of Soviet Moscow with the original captions and remarks by Roger George Clark.
Here you can check what Moscow looked like in the 1950s.
The relationships between East and West improved dramatically in the 1980s. There was no longer the feeling that foreigners are banned from Russia as it was for decades before.
You have to be ready to walk a lot if you want to see the Soviet Moscow. When you dive into the subway or ride a tram or bus, go to shops, cafes, and parks, you will learn a lot about Russian people.
Clarkes had mixed impressions of Moscow residents. On the one hand, he found the Soviet people open and friendly.
“Early in the evening, when I was walking down the street on October 25, I met two young cadets. They carried red carnations. Can I take a photo of them? No problem. To my surprise, they spoke English, and we chatted for a couple of minutes. I took some pictures and released one of the best portraits from Moscow trips. They were friendly and relaxed. And this was true during most of my time in Moscow. I found that I could wander with the camera and take pictures of what I liked and how I liked it. Just like in the UK. “
On the other hand, the conditions in which Soviet people lived disappointed a photographer.
And the queues … Did you queue up for the train, did you queue for the museum, did you queue up at the store? The line was a national tradition. There were two lines to the Lenin’s tomb – a line for a line.
The lack of merchandise in stores was terrible. The Central Store at the Red Square sold only products that you could find in a shabby street market. If everything was so bad at the most important store in Russia, then how was it elsewhere. The shelve samples were useless, and the packaging was dull.
The poor goods selection and poor quality reminded me of post-war London. That was a short period of austerity when everything was in short supply. The consumer boom never happened in the Soviet Union. “
VDNH is the Soviet version of the 1951 UK festival, or, more precisely, the world trade fair of the 1930s. Masses of models and diagrams in huge pavilions. Nuclear power, electricity, space travel, agriculture, etc. And fountains abound. Thousands of people crowded the exhibit. Families enjoyed the day off, young men in jeans and soldiers in military uniforms. The exhibition showed how communism was supposed to look, but it was a utopia. It was a monument to the communist future, which will not exist. The exhibition felt strongly provincial and outdated. The exhibits looked impressive, but there was no style and sophistication – everything is unfinished.
This provincialism – this lack of elegance – manifested itself throughout Moscow. It was hard to believe that this was the capital of the second most powerful country on earth. The masonry collapsed, and the paint on buildings peeled off. Between the vast modern quarters were hundreds of 18th and 19th-century mansions and houses in Moscow, with mysterious courtyards, shaded trees, and even the occasional wooden building from ancient times. Gorky Park looked abandoned. No pop and folk art, as you see in the UK. The cafe looked boring. The public vending machines with a couple of glasses to share with other customers made me shudder. Tell them about hygiene! People came up, took such a glass, rinsed with cold water, and drank from it!
Donskoy Monastery. The historical heritage fell into desolation and collapsed. It was evident that during all the years of Soviet power, nothing was repaired.
Apart from space rockets, there was nothing futuristic here. Something was terribly wrong. The melancholic air hung over the city even in summer, and my camera captured it. However, people spoke more freely with foreigners and didn’t mind to pose for a photo.