10 Interesting Relics left over from the Soviet Union

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Throughout the 20th century, the former Soviet Union (USSR) was one of the world’s greatest superpowers. From its beginnings in the Russian Revolution to its involvement in the Cold War, the USSR is as intriguing now as it was during its most powerful era. 

But what is left from this period in Russian and Eastern European history? From cars to video games, we have covered everything you need to know about the relics from the former Soviet Union. 

1. Lenin’s Mausoleum 

Lenins Mausoleum
Lenin’s Mausoleum in the Red Square in Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Staron // CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the most influential figures in Russian modern history is, of course, Vladimir Lenin. Following his untimely death, Lenin was embalmed and now lies in a spiritual, purpose-built mausoleum in the heart of Moscow. This attraction is guarded by armed police and it is believed that around 200 scientists are employed by the government to monitor the embalmed Lenin and make sure this site can remain open to visitors “for hundreds of years to come”. 

2. The Moscow Metro 

Metro station in Moscow Russia
Elektrozavodskaya Moscow Metro Station in 2008.
Credit: Eugeny1988 // CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’re ever visiting Moscow, it is well worth checking out the metro system and stations, many of which built throughout the Soviet era. 

Many stations, including the most famous Arbatskaya and Elektrozavodskaya, were built throughout this period and ornately adorned with marble floors, chandeliers, and statues. The reason being that by using such extravagant metro stations, the government hoped that the workers of Moscow would be encouraged and inspired on their journey to work in the morning. 

3. USSR Video Games

Soviet games console created by the company Electronica.
Video Credit: Charles K

Extraordinarily, the USSR even commissioned their own state-designed video games. Often, these were poorly produced with many of which being war or ice-hockey themed. 

These are still viewable at the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, where players can have a game on one of the original USSR consoles too. 

4. Soviet Badge and Pin Swapping 

Vladimir Lenin Soviet Badge
Badge depicting the first leader of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin.
Credit: Danny Birchall // CC BY 2.0

Interestingly, badge collecting and trading was a popular trend in the former Soviet Union. A cult movement sprung up around this hobby throughout the latter part of the 20th century, with the most popular badges of the era depicting Lenin or other communist iconography. In markets across Russia, you can still find these Soviet-era badges on sale. 

5. Soviet Names and Labels 

Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin photographed in Switzerland, 1916
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

One of the more subliminal leftovers from the USSR are Soviet names. For instance, the name Vladlena was popularised following the Russian Revolution and was an ode to the Soviet icon, Vladimir Lenin. Another typical Soviet name was, Getruda, which roughly translates to ‘heroine of labor’, a name with a meaning very much in line with Soviet principles and ideals. 

6. The Soviet Bus Stops

Video showing a collection of various Soviet-era bus stops.
Video Credit: PRX

Yes, it is true that the government even went as far as regenerating bus stops to mirror Soviet tastes, ideals, and typical brutalist architecture. 

These are viewable throughout Russia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan too. Many of which still remaining on active bus routes, these bus stops were often adorned with intricate mosaic patterns depicting Russian history and cultural identity. Again, these bus stops share the same sentiment as the Moscow metro stations. The idea behind their design being that, regardless of where you were in Russia, you would be inspired on your journey to and from work. 

7. The Latvian Academy of Science

Latvian Academy of Sciences
The Latvian Academy of Sciences.
Credit: ogre11 // CC BY 3.0

Reportedly the Soviet Union’s first skyscraper, this university building located in Riga is typical of the era it was built in. Decorate throughout with various odes to Soviet ideals, with hammer and sickles on show across all 23 stories. It was also originally topped with a five-pointed red star. This specific academy was the center of extensive Soviet research and experimentation, attracting academics and experts from across the region. 

8. Propaganda and Graphic Design 

Soviet Propoganda poster
Soviet Propaganda poster stating “To have more, we must produce more. To produce more, we must know more”.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The USSR propaganda from throughout the 21st century is synonymous with many Soviet icons, including the space race. Instead of any capitalist advertisement, international visitors (when they were able to visit) often commented on how cities were instead plastered with Soviet propaganda posters and pamphlets. The typography and iconography used in these original posters have had a resurgence throughout the past years, with a great number of graphic designers adopting the same original typefaces for their work. 

9. Soviet Cars

Lada Soviet Car
The Soviet manufactured car, the Lada VAZ-2101.
Credit: Forrexp // CC BY-SA 4.0

Still seen throughout the more rural communities in Russia and across Europe, Soviet cars and trucks also became synonymous with the period. During this time, there were shortages of almost everything throughout the region, but the population still needed access to a car in order to travel to and from work. 

Therefore, the former USSR went about manufacturing and mass-producing domestic cars for their population, that the people of the Soviet Union would find affordable and accessible. Various domestic companies were created, the most popular being Lada, that is interestingly still in production to this day. 

10. Palaces of Culture: The Soviet Leisure Centre

Soviet Palace of Culture and Science in Poland
The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Poland, built as a “gift” from the Soviet Union to the people of Poland. Photograph from 1960.
Credit: FORTEPAN / Romák Éva // CC BY-SA 3.0

This government was passionate about providing their citizens with sports, spa, leisure, and cultural facilities that were easily accessible to communities across the region. These centers sprung up across Russia throughout Stalin’s time in power as a way to support fitness, health, and community spirit amongst the working population. They were known as Palaces of Culture, as these centers were really built to curb the high alcohol consumption found in more rural communities whilst continuing to forward Soviet ideals to their citizens. 

These centers were a way of promoting Russian life internationally as well, with thousands of postcards created depicting and celebrating these ‘palaces’. Many of these centers still stand to this day, with their monolithic and brutalist design often imposing on coastal and rural settings. These centers also almost always boasted a mural, statue, or other monuments to Russia’s leaders or industrial history. 

During this period, the government also built other specialist centers, namely the Pioneers Palaces and the Sports Palaces of Russia. These centers were built to support youth groups and sports activities respectively, both springing up across the country to keep citizens engaged and obliging to the regime. 

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