What shopping was like in the Soviet Union circa 1986, Your supermarket is a miracle. (Video)

Yeah, food poisoning was probably a pretty regular occurrence under the Soviet system.

Yeah, food poisoning was probably a pretty regular occurrence under the Soviet system.

 

It’s valuable to remember what economies look like without real prices and the free flow of information, services, and goods.

I know a retired military officer who once told me that as relations between the Soviet Union and the United States thawed in the late 80s the base at which this officer was stationed hosted a group of senior Soviet military commanders.

The Americans gave the Soviets a tour of the base and they examined the jets, hangers, and the rest. But the thing which absolutely amazed the generals was the commissary, where they saw not only officers shopping, but enlisted people too. They were astounded at the quality and variety of goods and accused the American staff of staging the store for their visit. The generals could not imagine that such bounty was readily available to so many. Our enlisted people right out of high school ate better than they did.

106 comments
Nilsonian
Nilsonian

A brief story from Germany in 1972--I was in charge of a US POL/fuel supply point near Bad Herzfeld, and we sometimes cross-trained with the Brits.  We were eating incredibly bad British cooking at lunch in a British mess hall when a SMLM (Soviet Military Liason Mission) came in to be fed by their British hosts.


I had a Russian speaking kid in my squad, and he overheard them wondering aloud if the food was a calculated insult/'provocatzion'. He assured them they ate this crap all the time: Overcooked and cold at the same time! Grey vegetables, overcooked cold mystery meat,  and so on. 


At any rate, we advanced detente by explaining about good plain English cooking.

edward bellamy
edward bellamy

Socialism sux. And they hold the worlds worst record for mass slaughter (including starvation) including the socialists Stalin (Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics), Mao (Comrade of socialist Stalin), and Hitler (National SOCIALIST Workers Party and also an ally of the socialist Stalin in a pact to divide up Europe, invading Poland together in 1939, and spreading WWII). 

FranklinBacon
FranklinBacon

What the USSR had was never true communism, but a form of crony capitalism. The highest of the high got the goods, while the commoners got the rest.

Mark Sheppard
Mark Sheppard

@Charles J. Bates..."crony capitalism" is nothing more than a logical extension of capitalism

John Franceschi
John Franceschi

yet "capitalism" is evil...... Tell me again how great your socialist utopia works again. I seem to have this idea that socialists are full of shit......

Mark LaMar
Mark LaMar

Leslie Ann Bowles knows squat about economics, and you can't eat a Liberal Arts degree

Angel Fox Orlowski
Angel Fox Orlowski

I'm old enough to remember seeing photos and black & white television coverage of the desperate people in the CCCP standing in line for hours, literally, for just one piece of meat or bread. I believe these same conditions will come to this country soon enough.

suefriveram
suefriveram

This is what is exactly happening in Venezuela. And we are fighting (protesting) for this reason And many more

Leslie Ann Bowles
Leslie Ann Bowles

We're 10th in social mobility...Boom did your bubble burst?!

Leslie Ann Bowles
Leslie Ann Bowles

There's Capitalism/Socialism in Europe, and no "scarcity". Their infrastructure looked like the Jetsons, while ours looks like the fucking Flintstones! And there was a plethora of up scale stores, and restaurants!

Brian Vaughn
Brian Vaughn

I hope your prof understood that if you have to many choices then the people start to not care who is in charge. There is a happy medium somewhere.

Linda Harkins Templeton
Linda Harkins Templeton

Plenty and variety of goods and services are produced by free markets and capitalism. Rigid central control and socialism produces scarcity. Just look at history.

Todd Humphreys
Todd Humphreys

We Americans are spoiled when it comes to food, groceries etc. Im not complaining just stating facts.

Mike Rech
Mike Rech

One`s entry level and the other is the LEADER of the company!!! Its pretty easy to see the difference!! Maybe if you OPENED YOUR EYES!!!!

Lisa Hendrickson
Lisa Hendrickson

Does anyone remember the scene in the movie, "Moscow on the Hudson" with Robin Williams as a soviet defector. He goes to the supermarket for the first time and goes to get "coffee . . . coffeee, coffeeeee, COFFEEEEEEE!" and then passes out.

Papalucas Robbin
Papalucas Robbin

well people unless you get out of the induced trance this is where we are headed.

Sev Onyshkevych
Sev Onyshkevych

Even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, my family began to host various people from behind the Iron Curtain -- ranging from academics to poets. They were only marginally impressed with our museums. They thought that since we each had one or more cars we must be millionaires and not average citizens, since only one family in 100 has cars, of course. But then to take them to a Shop-Rite or a Wal-Mart -- they thought these were obvious propaganda Potemkin Villages. An "Univermah" -- basically a Macy's -- would have barren shelves except for one or two products which happened to come in that month -- and whatever they were, there would be a line going out of the store and around the corner to buy it -- even if it was cat food and you didn't have cats -- because you could barter it. For them to see the diversity and quality of product available to every American, to see that there is more than one brand of a product (d'oh, capitalist competition, not central planning), to see that the products were much higher quality, was just earth-shattering to the propaganda and Kool-Aid which they've been fed since they were born. One only hopes that more people wake up from the current Kool-Aid purveyors but it will take a real strong bop on the head to do this.

Susan Brown Kitchin
Susan Brown Kitchin

I had an Economics professor, in a Comparative Economics class, who once stated that the Soviet Union would fall when women started demanding lipstick. Now the may seem sexist on the face of it, but we realized exactly what he meant. When it got to the point that people started demanding more choices in what they could purchase, especially NON essential items, it meant they would pay closer attention to those leading their government.

Ted Parker
Ted Parker

if there was a line, you got in it and got whatever they were giving out. even if you didnt need it. you could trade for something you needed later if necesessary, so im told. thats why russians bardge to the front of lines.

Valorie Hosch
Valorie Hosch

I'm glad to hear it is better for them now. Seems like such a miserable place to live back then.

Ginny Haas
Ginny Haas

People!!! Wake up the more you vote in the communist democrats and their lackey rinos the closer you bring America to this!!! I don't want it so I'm telling you to wake up!!!! Learn your Constitution- They are your rights!! and reign in those commie thugs in DC.

Mark Sheppard
Mark Sheppard

Capitalism does not reward hard work, it rewards good luck

JonathanLedbetter
JonathanLedbetter

@edward bellamy  You clearly need a history lesson.

The type of socialism advocated by the Nazis is what's called "Prussian Socialism," which is characterized as being a far-right movement that is anti-communist (remember that Hitler went back on his deal and started fighting Stalin and the Soviets before we even entered WWII), and advocated a national socialism that was free from Marxist influence and instead connected the individual to the state through corporate organization. Oswald Spengler championed this movement, stating:

"Prussiandom and socialism stand together against the inner England, against the world-view that infuses our entire life as a people, crippling it and stealing its soul…The working class must liberate itself from the illusions of Marxism. Marx is dead. As a form of existence, socialism is just beginning, but the socialism of the German proletariat is at an end. For the worker, there is only Prussian socialism or nothing... For conservatives, there is only conscious socialism or destruction. But we need liberation from the forms of Anglo-French democracy. We have our own." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preussentum_und_Sozialismus)

This proves that socialism is not communism. But you won't care. You and the rest of your kind will gloss over this and keep spreading your lies because the word "socialism" is in the long name for Nazi without any understanding of why. You can lead a horse to water...

EndCorruptCorporatocracy
EndCorruptCorporatocracy

@FranklinBacon  

Absolutely!  And so thus will be the result of any forced attempts at socialism; alas, human nature (corruption) is too strong a power to defeat.  The "social democracy" being pushed nowadays is merely a sales gimmick for the masses, and it is being pushed by the same corporatocracy that both disenfranchises all of the non-elite classes of people through various means of state-enacted extortion, etc. and/or creates the dependence on government handouts which so debases human achievement and dignity.  Behind the mask is the ugly face of fascism.  Communism is always a vehicle for wannabe totalitarian rulers and psychopaths, and in the end it always becomes a prison for the common people it originally promised to empower. 

BrentKingi
BrentKingi

@FranklinBacon  You err when you try to make a distinction between communism (or that variant realized throughout the 20th century) and cronyism. The reason is because there is no essential difference between the two. First off, communism is not a realizable system, only socialism has taken form to the extent that it can. The socialists tells us though that one day the State will wither away and then we'll have true communism, but North Korea never seems to hit this stage, nor have any other so-called communist countries. Communism, as defined by the Marxians, is truly unattainable without the force of a State, be it a Workers' State or not. Therefore, all talk of communism should be discarded as useless, since one can simply call the "no true scotsman" fallacy on something that is for all practical purposes impossible. Thus, we should focus on socialism. 

Cronyism is simply a degree of socialism, but in essence, the two systems are no different. While socialism actually means State nationalization and control of the means of production, and cronyism means an incestuous relationship between State and big business industries and a regulated economy, all that is different is the nominal property ownership. 

BrentKingi
BrentKingi

Nonsense. Crony capitalism is not a logical extension of capitalism. It's the negation of capitalism. It's the replacement of a free market economy for a regulated one. Your argument would be of the form, if A, then B. But capitalism does not imply cronyism. The fact that some of those who did earn their wealth in the free market and grew tired and looked to the State to secure their position by regulating away their competitors does not imply a necessary fact that capitalism leads to cronyism, and does not indict the free market. Rather it just proves that there a bad people who want to do bad things, nothing new.

JonathanLedbetter
JonathanLedbetter

I've never met a socialist describe the USSR as a "socialist utopia," so maybe it's not the socialists who are full of shit, no?

BrentKingi
BrentKingi

And that is attributable to capitalism, that is, the lack of scarcity. Socialism cannot create wealth, it can only destroy it by redistribution (destroying capital by removing the incentive to maintain capital). To the extent that Europe has no "scarcity", although this is a debatable point, is only because the forces of capitalism have no be completely overrun by those of socialism. All that can be said is that Europe would be far more wealthy had they embraced more capitalism and far less socialism. 

DonPayson
DonPayson

never confuse capitalism with socialism... 2 very different things

Captain Jeff
Captain Jeff

Then please move to Europe and enjoy their lifestyle; we'd rather not have you here.

FranklinBacon
FranklinBacon

Actually, socialism produces planned economies and planned scarcity. It is not subject to the whims of corporations and profiteers, but to the needs of real human beings.

Brian Vaughn
Brian Vaughn

The communist stole from the rich, and the rich stopped working. This video shows what happens when you steal from the rich. You end up with nothing. If I owned a business, and had idiots saying they were going to steal from me, I would move that business to another country, one that doesn't have greedy people that want to steal my things. Things they didn't earn.

RobertBruntz
RobertBruntz

Mark - I'm reminded of the saying "I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have." or more succinctly, "The harder I work, the luckier I get."  If you wait for luck to come and drag you to success, you'll have a pretty rough life.  Even if your canoe is being washed down some of the patches of whitewater in the river of life, you can still steer yourself around at least some of the rocks!

edward bellamy
edward bellamy

@JonathanLedbetter @edward bellamy   Stalin never gave up on his part of his deal with Hitler, in that he kept the people he had enslaved and continued onward, as he had planned when he was an ally with Hitler. But you won't care. You and the rest of your kind will gloss over this and keep spreading your lies because the National Socialist German Workers Party members did not call themselves "Nazis," they called themselves "socialists," and they did not call their symbol a swastika, and they used their symbol to represent crossed S-letters for "socialism." And you want to gloss over how Stalin and Mao both killed more people than did Hitler (so using your deranged reasoning, Hitler's dogma was better than that of Stalin and Mao). You can lead a horse to water. That is why socialists hold the worlds worst record for mass slaughter (including starvation) including the socialists Stalin (Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics), Mao (Comrade of socialist Stalin), and Hitler (National SOCIALIST Workers Party and also an ally of the socialist Stalin in a pact to divide up Europe, invading Poland together in 1939, and spreading WWII). 

sagitarriatjefferspin
sagitarriatjefferspin

@JonathanLedbetter Hah, just google "socialism" and Malcolm Muggeridge, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Lincoln Steffens, and/or a whole host of their 1930s peers in the 1930s media, all fawning over Stalin and the USSR saying "we have seen the future and it works!".  They all described the "socialist utopia" that they saw.  Sadly, every new idiot generation we have, has to learn these lessons all over again, because they - like their predecessors - are in the never-ending business of self-delusion.

JonathanLedbetter
JonathanLedbetter

@Captain Jeff  I'd rather bring better infrastructure, upscale stores, restaurants, and standards of living here, thank you very much. We tried the "get out if you disagree" method of doing things in the 1950s with traitor Joe McCarthy and the HUAC. Needless to say, it didn't work.

Brian Vaughn
Brian Vaughn

Hey Jeff, try and remember that bowles are where shit comes from. Leslie is obviously brainwashed, spewing shit, and can't think for her self.

FranklinBacon
FranklinBacon

@Brian Vaughn If the actual producers of wealth had been allowed to share in the profit, there would be no quarrel as to who owns it. As it is, workers are in poverty, while the rich make off with the profits of the workers' labour. If the workers themselves owned the means of production, they would have kept the profits within the system, rather than sequestering them until their death or if trickle down were ever to occur.

Opperdienaar
Opperdienaar

@Brian Vaughn  The communist elites were the rich. Just like the communo fascist in the USA claim to steal from the rich and give to the poor, but in reality the gap between rich and poor has never been bigger.

It's not from the rich to the poor, but stealing from the producers to give to the parasites. From the deserving to the undeserving. Production will come to a stand still. But you can't win from these parasites. Communists always win, I think they even won the cold war in hind sight. Just not militarily, but that was not needed. They control the ideas in people's heads.

Brian Vaughn
Brian Vaughn

You do realize that this article and my comments are about the former Soviet Union right? That said, the USSR was Communist. The people had no possessions. Everything belonged to the government, therefore the producers did not own what they produced, and reaped no reward for their labor. This is exactly why communism and progressive socialism don't work. What you seem to be describing is in my opinion a piss poor example of capitalism, and you seem to be arguing for socialism/communism. In capitalism skilled labor makes more money than unskilled labor. I make 50 dollars an hour because I am skilled labor. High school kids that sack groceries are unskilled labor, and they make minimum wage. If, as you say, I were to own the means of production with my fellow laborers, we would not be keeping the profits in the system. Everyone would want the proceeds split evenly, and the stock holders would be wondering what happened to the profit margin and devest themselves from the company. It's a downward spiral from there. By the way that's also why unions are bad. They kept demanding more and more in Detroit and look what they accomplished, the death of the American auto industry.

DonPayson
DonPayson

@TeriAmborn capitalism,communism,socialism... all the ism's have become so intertwined they are essentially meaningless. Just like the difference between GMO and organic.

TeriAmborn
TeriAmborn

Beautifully articulated. Perhaps most of these "pro-socialist" bloggers haven't been taught about the true meaning of capitalism vs. socialism...then again, how could they? We've been living under a mixed economy for so long now that even attempting to define the differences to the young is nearly impossible.

Opperdienaar
Opperdienaar

@Brian Vaughn  Compared to communism everything is more free. But the communists had no problem stealing from the Tsars, so they just steal from whoever has the money. This is usually the productive, but can also be from previous rulers, who had stolen their wealth from the productive.

But the gap between rich and poor does not decline, like you can see now under emperor Obama in the usa. No doubt the same is happening in europe. The well connected close to those in power, tend to thrive.

http://rt.com/usa/obama-diplomatic-posts-appointees-274/

Brian Vaughn
Brian Vaughn

And Russia was a relatively free society before the communist. Relatively, because the Tsar's weren't much better.

Opperdienaar
Opperdienaar

@Brian Vaughn  In a free society the rich are the producers. In a kleptrocacy the parasites are the rich and they are not going to steal from themselves. 

That is why communists like revolutions and taking from the capitalists, until they are in control and rich themselves, in which case they hate revolutions, condemn those that want to get rid of them as counterrevolutionary, and they end up stealing from the poor just as easily. 

paupers funded by the Rothschilds, love it.

Brian Vaughn
Brian Vaughn

I hate to be the barer of bad news, but Karl Marx was funded by the Rothschilds, as were Trotsky and Lenin. They were all paupers, they were the poor. They stole from the rich, or the producers, like they said they were going to do. The rich are the producers, because the producers are the only ones capable of making large sums of capital to expand business and hire more workers.

But you are spot on for the most part.