Accessibility links

Back In The U.S.S.R.: The Soviet Union In Color In 1963

Pretend you’re rummaging through an old steamer trunk in a dusty antique store somewhere. Inside the trunk, hidden amidst some old Frank Sinatra LPs and a stack of fading “National Geographic” magazines, you find a cardboard box.

You open the box and discover a stack of photographic slides wrapped in a yellowed newspaper dating to 1963. Holding one of the slides up to the light, you can just make out what appears to be Moscow's Red Square. You’re intrigued. You buy the slides for a few dollars, take them home, load them in your slide projector, and voila! That’s how we’d like to think these 24 photographs of the Soviet Union were discovered. But the truth is, we don’t know much about them.

Here’s what we do know: 1) The photographs were taken in 1963. 2) They’re in sumptuous color. 3) They mostly depict street life in the capital, Moscow, with a few from Ukraine. 4) They’re in excellent condition. 5) They were first published on the website Vintage Everyday, which agreed to share them with RFE/RL but didn’t really know anything else about them.

Here’s what we don’t know: 1.) Who took the photos. 2) The identities of the people in the photos. 3) Where we can get more.

If you know anything else about where these photos were taken, or can provide any more context, we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful glimpse into Soviet life in the early ’60s. -- Grant Podelco

(Originally published April 24, 2013)

An entrance to Moscow's Red Square, with St. Basil's Cathedral in the distance, and the State Historical Museum to the left. Thousands of people can be seen standing in a long, snaking line to enter Lenin's mausoleum.
1

An entrance to Moscow's Red Square, with St. Basil's Cathedral in the distance, and the State Historical Museum to the left. Thousands of people can be seen standing in a long, snaking line to enter Lenin's mausoleum.

2
Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, with the old Moscow Hotel just visible at the top. It was torn down in 2004 to make way for a new hotel.
3

Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, with the old Moscow Hotel just visible at the top. It was torn down in 2004 to make way for a new hotel.

Looking into Moscow's Red Square, with St. Basil's Cathedral in the distance. Thousands of people can be seen standing in a long, snaking line to enter Lenin's mausoleum.
4

Looking into Moscow's Red Square, with St. Basil's Cathedral in the distance. Thousands of people can be seen standing in a long, snaking line to enter Lenin's mausoleum.

5
A book stand in Kyiv at the corner of Khreshchatyk and Prorizna streets, then named Sverdlov Street. The address is Khreshchatyk 30. There used to be a book store named Druzhba (Friendship) there where foreign books (but only from socialist countries, of course) could be bought.
6

A book stand in Kyiv at the corner of Khreshchatyk and Prorizna streets, then named Sverdlov Street. The address is Khreshchatyk 30. There used to be a book store named Druzhba (Friendship) there where foreign books (but only from socialist countries, of course) could be bought.

The entrance to Hotel Europe
7

The entrance to Hotel Europe

Kiosk No. 125 in Kyiv used to sell beverages and also alcoholic drinks and cigarettes. The kiosk is still there but looks rather different today.
8

Kiosk No. 125 in Kyiv used to sell beverages and also alcoholic drinks and cigarettes. The kiosk is still there but looks rather different today.

9
A vendor in Kyiv sells "carbonated water."
10

A vendor in Kyiv sells "carbonated water."

11
12
13
In this photograph of Kyiv, one can see where central Khreshchatyk Street runs through Independence Square. The large building on the corner is the Main Post Office, with St. Sophia's Cathedral and its belfry in the background.
14

In this photograph of Kyiv, one can see where central Khreshchatyk Street runs through Independence Square. The large building on the corner is the Main Post Office, with St. Sophia's Cathedral and its belfry in the background.

Kyiv's central square. It used to be known as Kalinin Square in 1963; in 1967 it was renamed October Revolution Square. Now it's Independence Square. The picture is taken from the podium of the then-Moscow Hotel, now known as the Ukraine Hotel. Only three buildings partly seen in the upper left corner remain today.
15

Kyiv's central square. It used to be known as Kalinin Square in 1963; in 1967 it was renamed October Revolution Square. Now it's Independence Square. The picture is taken from the podium of the then-Moscow Hotel, now known as the Ukraine Hotel. Only three buildings partly seen in the upper left corner remain today.

Moscow State University
16

Moscow State University

The Exhibition of the Achievements of the National Economy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Moscow
17

The Exhibition of the Achievements of the National Economy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Moscow

One of the Kremlin's towers
18

One of the Kremlin's towers

Moscow's Manezhnaya Square with its Central Exhibition Hall. It has been restored following a major fire in 2004.
19

Moscow's Manezhnaya Square with its Central Exhibition Hall. It has been restored following a major fire in 2004.

20
"Peace, Labor, and Friendship"
21

"Peace, Labor, and Friendship"

Outside the Kremlin walls in Red Square
22

Outside the Kremlin walls in Red Square

23
24

Show comments

XS
SM
MD
LG