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Bears, blue jeans and Lenin!

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During the last winter journey through Russia, I was haunted by this cute little bear while driving through the Kostroma and Vologda regions. He suddenly appeared at the most unexpected spots - on an abandoned and decaying bus stop in the middle of a deserted village, on old billboards, and in some small shops along the way. I didn't recognize the symbolism of the Olympic rings on the bear's belt, but later learned "Мишка" was the mascot of the 1980's Olympic Games in Moscow.

too am an 80's child. Being born in 1973, I experienced the 80's in full force, at the height of my teenage years. However, it's difficult to find a common thread when comparing American cultural symbols from the 80's and prior decades with the treasured symbols from the same Soviet periods. This is not surprising given that our nations were seen as political and strategic enemies at that point in history, and sadly even now to a certain extent. The bear played an integral role in the last place I visited during the journey, the "Museum of the Socialist Way of Life", located in Kazan. Let's take a look inside...

1. I can remember the end of the Cold War, but the Cuban missile crisis came before my time, and is something more closely aligned with my parent's generation. Now we can see with recent developments that the dynamics between Russia, Cuba and America have all shifted quite dramatically, and very soon Americans will be able to roam Cuba freely. Hooray! :)


2. I don't know the gender of the bear, but I think there were both male and female versions so all children could experience delight in the cute creation. Btw, it's interesting to me that Russians constantly complain how foreigners stereotype the nation under three words - "bears, balalaika, vodka", yet when they have the chance to shine and display their culture on the world stage it is exactly the first symbol they chose - a bear! :)) It was the same during the Sochi Olympics, when a bear was one of the official mascots. I think it's time to push for more symbolic creativity the next time Russia is on the world stage, which I think will be during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. If you didn't read my reports and impressions from the Sochi Olympics, you can find them all here. What do you suggest as an adequate mascot or symbol for Russia during these global sporting events?

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3. Blue jeans - this is the most common clothing in America, and we wear them almost everywhere. In the past, many people have commented that I always look like a slob in my travel photos, and readers question why in my holiday posts from Thanksgiving and Christmas no one is dressed up!! The answer is quite simple - in my family, and in American culture in general, we don't feel the need to impress each other, and wish to be comfortable instead. :) So, me and most Americans wear jeans to almost any event, even work sometimes. I don't recognize Daniel Kramer, or the other Russian names associated with the jeans, but I assume they wore them and the hand-written messages were composed by each of them.


4. The bear again - sewn on a pair of jeans. In my Montana posts, a reader told me "Montana" was a popular brand of jeans during the Soviet era, and I see here a brand called "Super Perry's." As a trademark lawyer, I pay close attention to brand names and marketing strategies, but I know very little about brands from the Soviet period.


5. Jeans soap! Doesn't sound very soothing or refreshing. :)) I think this soap was actually produced in Finland, if I recall.

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6. Perhaps this brings you back to childhood? Standard display of children's books from the Soviet era, and I assume the woman portrayed in the mannequin is supposed to symbolize some type of Soviet teacher or instructor? Not sure. Unfortunately, there was no English language information available in the museum. All of the historical information and fact sheets were written only in Russian, and my companion in Kazan didn't speak English very well. So, there are many things I couldn't understand.


7. The best museums are those where you can touch and play with things! They are the only type of museums I like, where there's an interactive component and you can immerse yourself into something tangible. See, feel, touch...it's important. :) Here we have a future Russian Romeo - ready to play guitar and sing tunes, even for me. He was very cute, and could speak a few words of English.


8. I don't know the significance of these books and posters, but I'm certain some of you will.


9. "Everyone Must Know This". Is it a popular book or pamphlet from Soviet times?


10. I don't know what to say about the ongoing obsession with Lenin in so many towns, but he is still EVERYWHERE in Russia, especially in provincial areas, pointing the way to the future, while the town remains buried in the past. I didn't feel the need to take tons of photos of his portraits, but there are a lot of them in this museum.


11. Sorry for the blurry image, but I'm not sure what this is? The booklet resembles a passport, but I don't see the word "passport" written anywhere on it.


12. Rugs, banners, and other Soviet symbols which I frequently saw hanging from the walls of pensioner's homes.

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13. My favorite! :)) I love this little furry creature, and once wrote a post about Чебура́шка.


14. My experience with Soviet life is mostly tied to the military prison I visited in Latvia. A Russian and American walking together in gas masks, a brutal Soviet guard, military uniform and hats, and severe words like "bitch" written all over the dark, gloomy walls...only for the hardcore. :))


15. For me personally, the most touching part of the museum is this bunny. When I returned to the USA, my Russian friend translated the note as follows: "This rabbit is 10 years old. He was brought from abroad but the child felt sorry for him and didn't eat him. And then the child grew up and brought him to the museum. Live eternally, brother!"

Once I understood the text of the note, I began to ask questions, as a lawyer always does. :) Why was the rabbit brought to the "Museum of the Socialist Way of Life" and from what country did he originate? My friend laughed and told me the country of origin didn't matter. To the child, it represented much more than a sweet treat. Something entirely new and different, another world! In his words "as Soviet children, we didn't see such cute looking candies and the choice of toys was very scarce. The kid was so impressed by the rabbit that destroying him by the way of eating was too cruel for him."


16. I couldn't relate to the sentiment about the candy, yet this doesn't mean I can't understand how something simple can touch or alter someone's life, because I too have my own version of this lollipop, and it's pictured here:


A simple leaf, handed to me by the most innocent, smiling and beautiful little Mexican girl I've ever encountered. She gave it to me in a small village in Ixtapa, where my family traveled over ten years ago. While they sat relaxing in fancy resort, I was itching to get away and see how the locals live. So, I found a driver who knew a family, living in a poor village close by.  At the sound of car wheels spinning down the dirt road, the young children and father ran out of the house, excited to see a visitor. They didn't speak English, but the dark-skinned girl's smile glowed in the reflection of the bright sun when she handed me something from the ground. This leaf, as a welcome gift to her modest home. About a year later, I placed the leaf on a postcard I found, which is emblazoned with John Lennon's meaningful lyrics "Imagine all the people...sharing all the world." Yes, I am a sentimental fool. :))

Despite the frailty and tendency of brittle leaves to break apart, this one has remained solid through plane rides, and several office moves. The postcard and leaf have sat on the cork board by my desk at three different law firms. A reminder of humility, of what's most important to me in life, and that the simplest actions or words can dramatically alter someone's life. For either good or bad, but hopefully the former...

I hope you find something in this post that brings back bright memories from Soviet or childhood times. It's always fun to walk down memory lane, but a country can't remain stuck in past, and should always being moving toward some type of progress for the future...


( 65 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 30th, 2016 02:44 pm (UTC)
the mannequin is wearing a schoolgirl's uniform and a Young Pioneer's neckerchief;

"Everyone Must Know This" is a Civil Defence booklet (recommendations on how to act in cases of a nuclear attack, poisonous gases (of different origin, not only military), etc.

Edited at 2016-03-30 02:44 pm (UTC)
Mar. 30th, 2016 02:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Now I remember about that book! My companion explained it to me. Glad you refreshed my memory! :)
Mar. 30th, 2016 02:53 pm (UTC)
"booklet resembles a passport" - it's "partbilet", партбилет - communist party book. It's a sign that it's owner is a member of communist party.
In USSR it was almost as important as passport. Sometimes more important...
Mar. 30th, 2016 03:00 pm (UTC)
Understood, thanks for the clarification.
(no subject) - phd_paul_lector - Mar. 30th, 2016 03:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 30th, 2016 03:01 pm (UTC)

It's getting quieter in the stands,

The rapid time for miracles is melting away,

Goodbye our tender Mike,

Go back to your fairy forest.

Don't be sad, smile at parting,

Remember those days, remember,

Wish us to fulfill our desires,

Wish us all to meet again.

Friends are parting,

But tenderness will stay in our heart,

We're going to take care of this song,

Goodbye, see you again.

Let's wish each other success

And goodness and endless love,

The clear echo of the Olympics

Will stay in poetry and in hearts.

Goodbye Moscow, goodbye,

Olympic tale, goodbye,

Wish us to fulfill our desires,

Wish your friends to meet again.

Friends are parting,

But tenderness will stay in our heart,

We're going to take care of this song,

Goodbye, see you again.

Mar. 30th, 2016 03:07 pm (UTC)
Nice! :) Thanks for posting the lyrics, because at first I couldn't understand why the bear shed a tear. You can see it around minute 1:55 in the video. I understand now that the video is from the closing ceremonies.
(no subject) - pro100_petrov - Mar. 30th, 2016 05:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 30th, 2016 03:13 pm (UTC)
> I hope you find something in this post that brings back bright memories from Soviet or childhood times.
About a month ago I wrote a post with with my reminiscences of the soviet time. It was not a happy time for me (I think it was in fact the worst one) so I don't especially like to recall that time. But I think it should be remembered, how cruel and severe that time was, for people not to forget and not to praise it.
So this "Museum of the Socialist Way of Life" IMHO lacks photos of lines and empty shelves in shops, models of "blue" thin chickens which only were sold as poultry in the USSR etc. Instead of Lenin's photos there should be ones of prisoners of prison camps. Otherwise it is not a museum of the "Socialist Way of Life", it's a dream how people wanted this life to be...
Mar. 30th, 2016 03:42 pm (UTC)
I get your point. This museum covers only the warm, fuzzy side of Soviet life, nothing about famines, the Gulag or other dark periods in Soviet history...I know very well about your opinion of this time period. :)
(no subject) - piterburg - Mar. 30th, 2016 07:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 30th, 2016 07:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - anna_sollanna - Apr. 6th, 2016 02:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Mar. 30th, 2016 10:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 30th, 2016 03:15 pm (UTC)
Извините, отвечу на русском по п. 14. Смешно, до слез.

Я очень хорошо знаю место описанное в этом пункте. Это здание очень старое, 19 века - http://mikeseryakov.livejournal.com/141785.html

В советское время оно использовалось как гауптвахта - помещение для содержания военных под арестом.

Так как я служил в Лиепае, мы туда ходили иногда в караул, охранять арестованных. Один раз за службу я сам туда попал - на трое суток.

Макисмальное время наказания на гауптвахте - 15 суток.

То есть тюрьмой, в прямом понимании этого слова назвать это сложно.

Уже потом, в 90-х годах из этого места сделали аттракцион, шоу. К действительноти никакого отношения оно не имеет, но пользуется популярностью у туристов.
Mar. 30th, 2016 03:37 pm (UTC)
Yes, it is the same place and of course now it serves as a tourist attraction.
Mar. 30th, 2016 03:32 pm (UTC)
Lenin was the Soviet Washington. No wonder they put him everywhere. Think of Washington St. in each town and village you visited in the US.
Mar. 30th, 2016 03:40 pm (UTC)
Streets are one thing, but all of these Lenin statues everywhere are very creepy and cult like in my view. I don't support the idea of dictatorships, and strongly believe in transitions of power and limited terms for all leaders. If the same mind is continually ruling over a nation, there is little hope for variance in ideologies, progress or minimizing corruption levels. You can compare to the U.S., where cities will have statues of many different Presidents and iconic figures. Not just the same one or two in all cities throughout the nation.
(no subject) - seadevil001 - Mar. 31st, 2016 02:42 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 30th, 2016 03:48 pm (UTC)
I was born in 1979 and I remember soviet era very well. O man, those were the days! My life was simple and easy, just because I was a kid. Look, it's me and this horrible creature that you like - https://yadi.sk/i/OXPiJOy0qbjRi
Mar. 30th, 2016 05:24 pm (UTC)
You were an adorable child, but why do these characters look so scary in the photo? :)) It's not the same cute and furry creature I like, but a warped or twisted version of it. :)) As a child, I would be frightened if they approached me. It's like all the creepy images you see from old Soviet playgrounds. My childhood was wonderful, lots of good memories, however adult life has been pretty good too, so I can't complain. :)
Mar. 30th, 2016 04:58 pm (UTC)
Mishka was a dude, I do not recall thinking or talking about him as a female:)) Always used masculine grammatical structures for him
Mar. 30th, 2016 05:07 pm (UTC)
The bear's image is androgynous, with no identifying features as either male or female. Open to interpretation. :) But the bear's name is masculine, so I guess you're right.
(no subject) - xena_kost - Mar. 30th, 2016 05:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 30th, 2016 05:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xena_kost - Mar. 30th, 2016 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Mar. 30th, 2016 10:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 31st, 2016 11:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - seadevil001 - Mar. 31st, 2016 02:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 31st, 2016 11:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mjol1nir - Mar. 31st, 2016 05:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 31st, 2016 05:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mjol1nir - Mar. 31st, 2016 05:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 31st, 2016 05:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 30th, 2016 07:03 pm (UTC)
These patches in (4) were sold separately. I remember as a child having a patch like this sewed on my jacket by my grandma. Also, those olympic emblems were drawn on everything in 1980, and often this meant a higher price, with the surcharge for the emblem.

The uniform in (6) is the girl student's uniform. The boys' uniform that is hanging next to it is not quite correct: it's the uniform from the vocational school, not from the common school.
Mar. 30th, 2016 07:47 pm (UTC)
I remember how everything was so expensive in Sochi, but I still purchased the colorful gloves as a momento. :)
Mar. 30th, 2016 07:26 pm (UTC)
The Little bear was most certainly male, "Mike"-Mishka.
Warm police hat looks so good on you.
Little girl in black and white picture with Lenin - is that you? Similarity is striking :)
Mar. 30th, 2016 07:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :) No, I never hugged Lenin, and don't see the resemblance. :))
Mar. 30th, 2016 08:00 pm (UTC)
Right. There was a song about those Montana jeans, the lyrics written in Russian to the song "Midnight Dancer" by Arabesque. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=midnight+dancer

Штаны Монтана – ага, ага.
За 220 - ого, ого!

They cost 220 rubles. The average monthly salary was 100 rubles at that time.
Mar. 30th, 2016 08:04 pm (UTC)
Why were the jeans so expensive?
(no subject) - voleala - Mar. 30th, 2016 08:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 30th, 2016 08:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - voleala - Mar. 30th, 2016 08:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 31st, 2016 11:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 30th, 2016 10:54 pm (UTC)
I can open such a museum by myself :)
In my parents' apartment I have tons of old stuff.
My pioneer's tie and my komsomol membership book are still there along with collections of badges, cards, post stamps, toys and old devices.

Mar. 31st, 2016 05:43 am (UTC)
Then it will be a museum of consumerism:)
Ограничься заварным чайником с отколотой ручкой, в котором заваривали один и тот же чай по нескольку раз и кипятильником из двух бритвенных лезвий. Именно так жили те, кто строил эту страну.
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 31st, 2016 11:41 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 31st, 2016 06:01 am (UTC)
in USSR was very rampant jeans Montana.....
Mar. 31st, 2016 11:41 am (UTC)
You wore them? :)
(no subject) - korneev14 - Mar. 31st, 2016 12:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Mar. 31st, 2016 09:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - korneev14 - Apr. 1st, 2016 08:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 1st, 2016 01:41 am (UTC)
> "sadly even now to a certain extent"

a bit of understatement
Apr. 1st, 2016 12:30 pm (UTC)
Well, Russia has not been in the news much recently. Our media is totally focused on the next U.S. presidential election, and I really don't care or follow politics enough to closely monitor all the geopolitical tensions between Russia and the USA.
Apr. 16th, 2016 10:11 am (UTC)
" It's always fun to walk down memory lane, but a country can't remain stuck in past, and should always being moving toward some type of progress for the future..."

This is a very good idea and covers all countries including US.
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