19-20-21 Soviet Pop Culture Memories From 1991 Posted by yelena on Aug 18, 2011 in Culture, History, Russian life, Soviet Union
This Friday, August 19th, marks the 20th anniversary of the Soviet coup d’etat attempt. I’m not going to do a history post because there are lots of sites online that do a much better job of it, complete with detailed timeline and analysis. Besides, I was just 13 at the time and politics was the last thing on my mind. So what follows is not a historical account or overview, but rather some snippets of was most memorable that year for me personally. There’s also a GIVEAWAY announcement at the end of the post, so if you get bored, just scroll all the way down ’til you see it.
Also, there are 10 little snippets in this post. I haven’t decided if I should do 19, 20 or 21 total. What do you think?
- «Дольчики» [patterned pantyhose] and «лосины» [tights] – It seemed like every girl in Russia had at least one pair of each back then. Women in Russia learned that pantyhose could be «чертовски хороши» [damn fine looking]. «Лосины» [tights] moved from historical paintings to the streets and changed their owners from dashing early 19th century military officers to «молодые модницы» [young fashionistas]. A source of pride for their wearers, «дольчики» and «лосины» were not meant to be hidden under «длинные юбки» [long skirts] and hemlines started going up, up and, in case of tights, away.
- «Шейпинг» [“body shaping” workouts] and «бодибилдинг» [bodybuilding] – there was a popular slogan in the Soviet days – «в здоровом теле здоровый дух» [a sound mind in a sound body] slogan. No slogan addressed the shapeliness of the said sound body. Before shaping and bodybuilding came along, Soviet citizens had «утренняя гимнастика» [morning exercises] radio and TV broadcasts (slow waving of arms and bending of torsos accompanied by classical music), «производственная гимнастика» [industrial gymnastics] (slightly higher paced version of the morning gymnastics) and «ритмическая гимнастика» [aerobics] on weekend mornings.
- «Вероника Кастро» [Veronica Castro] – in 1991 Russians were «прикованы к экранам телевизоров» [glued to TV screens] watching «Богатые тоже плачут» [The Rich Also Cry]. The title of this
BrazilianMexican (thank you, Aurea) soap opera has since become a «крылатое выражение» [catchphrase]. The show itself became a sensation. Things would come to a standstill not only during Tuesday-Thursday primetime when the new episodes were shown, but also the following mornings when reruns were aired.
- «Комки» [commercial stores] – early 90s were a weird time. We still had «талоны» [rationing coupons] on even most basic goods, including sugar, butter, hotdogs, and vodka. The government-owned stores were practically empty (I remember a large self-service seafood store that had just rows upon rows of canned seaweed). Yet new «комки», short for «коммерческие магазины» [commercial stores], and «уличные ларьки» [kiosks] sprouted «как грибы после дождя» [like mushrooms after a rain]. They sold an amazing variety of mostly western goods, from Snickers bars and the aforementioned «дольчики» to Marlboro Lights to electronics to bananas.
- «Пакеты» [shopping bags] – these were some of the more affordable things one could buy at a «ларёк» [kiosk]. I’m talking about fancy laminated shopping bags with rope handles. We, kids, ditched our old ugly «портфели» [schoolbags] for these bags which also served as «мерило» [a measure] of one’s coolness (the more colorful or risqué the print on the bag, the better).
- «Сигареты» [cigarettes] – even more affordable than shopping bags were imported cigarettes. They were sold in packs or piecemeal, so that middle and high school kids could afford buying just one or two. Buying just a couple of Marlboros at a time had an added bonus – eliminating the possibility of parents finding a half-finished «пачка» [pack] in your coat pockets.
- «Толкучка» [flea market] – it became just about the most exciting (and exasperating) place to be on weekends. There were still «старушки» [old women] selling hand-knitted grey «пуховые платки» [down shawls] and «старички» [old men] peddling rusted tools and various junk. But there were also rows upon rows of «челноки» [suitcase traders] selling every item of underwear, outerwear or shoes imaginable along with pirated video and cassette tapes, low-quality electronics, and lots of newly printed books.
- «Ножки Буша» [chicken legs] – back in the days of the empty stores, chicken was sometimes jokingly referred to as «синяя птица» [bluebird]. One reason for the moniker – it was such a rare sight in the government-run grocery stores. Another reason – chickens, when available, were sold frozen and had bluish tint to their plucked skins. American chicken legs, nicknamed after then-president of the USA, were abundant, relatively cheap, plump and quick to cook.
- «Либерализация» [liberalization] – this was the year of new big words that the whole country had to learn very quickly and suddenly. Liberalization meant that government was no longer going to control prices on «товары» [goods].
- «Борис Николаевич Ельцин» [Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin] – on June 12th, 1991 Russians voted him to be the first President of «РСФСР» [RSFSR, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic]. I was too young to vote or even pay attention to this event. Most adults I knew voted for Yeltsin even though they were extremely skeptical about «выборы» [elections]. They believed there was too much truth in the old joke “In America, the elections decide the President; In Russia, the President decides the elections”.
To be continued…
And now a little bit about the giveaway.
Who can participate – anyone who reads this blog, regardless of how often or how thorough you read it.
To enter, all you have to do is to leave a comment on this post. You can leave more than one comment. Each comment will earn you an additional entry. If you link to this post from another site, let us know in the comments and you’ll get an additional entry as well.
The giveaway will run through 11:59pm EST on August 26th at which point we will choose a random winner who will receive the prize.
As for the prize… I’m not going to reveal it just yet except to say that it is a book (in English) about Soviet Union’s more unexpected, nostalgic and visually appealing accomplishments. Want to take a guess?
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