Thu, 23 Mar 2023

What Russia was like in 1933

09 Feb 2023, 05:55 GMT+10

Let's take a look at the revealing photos depicting how the Soviet Union looked 90 years ago, on the rise to becoming an industrial power, when even a view of factory pipes was inspiring photographers.

Below, Joseph Stalin and prime minister Vyacheslav Molotov attend the congress of collective farmers.

Arkady Sterenberg/MAMM/MDF/

Foreigners expressed a big interest in knowing how things were going in the Soviet country and many writers visited the USSR to write about this exotic communist land. One of them was Australian Communist Katharine Susannah Prichard, who is pictured below with peasants on a collective farm.

Zoya Shishkina/MAMM/MDF/

In 1933, the ambitious construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal (Belomorkanal) was finished and it was ceremonially opened.

Alexander Rodchenko/MAMM/MDF/

It took less than two years to build the 227 km (!) canal that connected the White Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Mikhail Prishvin/State Literary Museum/

The dark side of Belomorkanal is that its forced construction was provided by Gulag prisoners.

Alexander Rodchenko/MAMM/MDF/

And the construction took the lives of about 12 thousand prisoners.

State Literary Museum/

In general, the year 1933 was marked by the launching of several big industrial projects and steel plants all over the country. And photographers were amazed by this industrial "poetry".

Georgy Petrusov/MAMM/MDF/

In 1933, Soviet authorities popularized the automobile movement and driving and the AVTODOR society initiated a massive car rally, which went all across the USSR.

Roman Karmen/MAMM/MDF/

The sexual revolution that happened in the early Soviet era was already over and the USSR was turning into a prudish country. However, a naked body was still a normal thing. People were easily sunbathing nude.

Leonoro Karel's archive/

And the most famous Soviet actress of that time was half-naked while filming the Soviet first musical, 'Moscow Laughs', which was released the following year.

Grigory Alexandrov/Leonoro Karel's archive/

Soviet propaganda was promoting a healthy athletic body and lifestyle - so that young people would be proper builders of Communism.

Ivan Shagin/MAMM/MDF/

Below are socialist mottos about industry and cotton culture in the Uzbek SSR written in Uzbek language.

Max Penson/MAMM/MDF/

The year 1933 was the very last in which Muscovites could see the Sukharev Tower. The very next year, it was demolished according to Stalin's plan for the reconstruction of Moscow.

Union of Photo Artists of Russia/

In 1933, the Moscow Metro began to be constructed. Many places of the tunnel were built with a "cut-and-cover" method, when a trench is excavated and then roofed over. The metro builder became a prestigious job and many people wanted to join the historical process.

Alexander Ustinov/MAMM/MDF/

In the 1930s, pilots developed a passion for flying into the stratosphere. Pictured below is a crew of the USSR-1, a record-breaking high-altitude balloon.


In the 1930s, the Soviet authorities, famous for their antireligious policies, started anti-Buddhist and anti-Muslim campaigns, alongside with fighting the Orthodox clergy. Thus, by the end of the 1930s, most of the clergy would be repressed, while temples, sacred images and books would be destroyed. Pictured below are Buddhist monks in Buryatia.

Mikhail Prekhner/MAMM/MDF/

Below are actors of the Stanislavsky Opera Theater in Moscow while reading the libretto in the courtyard of the theater. Legendary Konstantin Stanislavsky is pictured in the center, in a hat.

Moscow Academic Music Theatre /

By 1933, the construction of the People's Commissariat for Agriculture building was over. It was designed by Aleksey Shchusev in constructivist style and remains a monument of Soviet architecture. Watching the angle the photographer took to capture it, we can imagine how unusual and innovative its forms and shapes were.

Boris Ignatovich/MAMM/MDF/

Soviet authorities launched many periodic issues for different types of people, including peasants and workers. And they required a lot of correspondents, so many people joined the profession. Pictured below are peasant correspondents listening to their idol, main proletarian writer Maxim Gorky.

Arkady Shishkin/MAMM/MDF/

More and more people gained access to photography. Cameras were not as heavy as they were before, so lots of both professional and amateur photographers made incredible snapshots of the Soviet life.

Roman Karmen/MAMM/MDF/

One of the most iconic photographers of the era was Alexander Rodchenko. He was a pioneer in avant-garde photography. He is pictured below while documenting the work on the Belomorkanal.

Anatoly Skurikhin/MAMM/MDF/

Below, children try to fix their radio.


An Uzbek machine operator posing.

Max Penson/MAMM/MDF/

Peasant boys boating in Karelia.

Alexander Rodchenko/MAMM/MDF/

A peasant of a 'kolkhoz' collective farm with grain he earned per workday.


A spinner working in a village.


Babushka, mother and kids posing - three generations portrayed together in a village.

Alexander Ustino/Ninel Ustinova archive/

Women working for collective production.

Mikhail Smodor/Kostromskaya Starina newspaper/

Labor Day demonstrations.

Yefrem Yefremov/Alexander Yefremov archive/

A peasant market.

Mikhail Smodor/Kostromskaya Starina newspaper/

A pharmacy.

Mikhail Smodor/Kostromskaya Starina newspaper/

The pioneer's greeting.

Ivan Shagin/MAMM/MDF/

A worker in a mechanics workshop.

Mikhail Smodor/Kostromskaya Starina newspaper/

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