It's Christmas Day in Russia!

Take a look at what the people of the USSR used to give and receive before the fall of the Soviet Union
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Christmas Tree plastic gift box for sweets, 1970s. From Designed in the USSR
Christmas Tree plastic gift box for sweets, 1970s. From Designed in the USSR

When, in 1939, Winston Churchill described Russia as "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma," he wasn’t talking about Christmas presents. Nevertheless, the people of the Soviet Union did do Xmas differently.

The Eastern Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar, which marks Christmas Day today, on 7 January, according to our Gregorian calendar. Yet, Christmas is also a religious holiday, and the Soviet Union was an avowedly secular state. The celebration of Christmas wasn’t widely encouraged back in the USSR; instead, the state tried to encourage gift giving around more easily endorsed New Year celebrations, which falls on 14 January.

Nevertheless, a little Christmas cheer got though. Our book, Designed in the USSR, features plenty of consumer goods created by a Communist state which were nevertheless, well suited to this most capitalist of holidays. Take this modest, plastic sweet box (top) dating from the 1970s.

 

Atmosfera portable transistor radio, 1959–61
Atmosfera portable transistor radio, 1959–61

There were also bigger, more prestigious items, such as  the Atmosfera radio, the first mass-produced transistor set made in the Soviet Union. “Its design shows the evolution from the decorative style of the Stalinist era to the elegant, functional design of Soviet Modernism,” explains our book. “Also available in blue and pink, it made a popular gift – this particular radio has a personalized metal plaque with a calligraphic engraving that was not a part of the original design.”

 

Prazdnichni Nabor festive gift set for alcohol, 1956. Manufactured by the Moscow Wine Factory.
Prazdnichni Nabor festive gift set for alcohol, 1956. Manufactured by the Moscow Wine Factory.

And, when it came to drinks and the holidays, both East and the West found something they could agree on. This Prazdnichni Nabor or Festive gift set of alcoholic beverages was produced in 1956 by the Moscow Wine Factory. We’re not sure if that was a vintage year for Russian bottlings, but the box’s design has certainly aged very well indeed.

 

Designed in the USSR

For more Soviet-designed products order a copy of Designed in the USSR here.


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