Dobro pozhalovat’ v SSSR! (Welcome to the USSR!) : the April 2019 Slavonic item of the month

A recent Russian arrival to the University Library takes as its subject tourism in the Soviet Union.  Skvoz “zheleznyi zanaves” : See USSR! : inostrannye turisty i prizrak potemkinskikh derevenʹ (Through the Iron Curtain : See USSR!  : foreign tourists and the spectre of Potemkin villages; C215.c.1563) is by Igor’ Orlov and Aleksei Popov.  Visitors to the Soviet Union normally saw the country in carefully choreographed tours arranged by the state agency Intourist.  Such control made sure that the tourists saw strictly what they were meant to see, hence the mention in the book’s titles of Potemkin villages – shorthand for ensuring that appearances support the desired narrative (the term comes from Catherine the Great’s favourite, Potemkin, pulling the wool over her eyes by assembling fake village fronts during a tour).

The Orlov/Popov book joins a growing body of recent books about Soviet tourism.  The main subject headings for such books are below, linked to results for the terms in iDiscover.

Looking further back in the UL’s holdings and looking more for material from the time rather than about it, we have the archive of Kent trade union official Herbert Clinch’s 1935 trip to the Soviet Union, which was detailed in an earlier blog post.  From the following year, and from the Catherine Cooke collection, we have an Intourist brochure for UK tourists (CCC.54.413).  The brochure’s front and back covers and its central pages are shown below.

From 1966, we have another Intourist brochure, this time inviting the British to visit the Soviet Union in the year of the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution (2015.9.104).  A specific package tour for the anniversary year (the second and third images below, following the front cover) would take in the main sights of Moscow and Leningrad.  The remaining images show part of the brochure’s section dedicated to the arts, a general costs list (including services for businessmen and the hire of cars with a driver), and a map of the motor routes available by this stage to tourists driving themselves (advice from the car camping tour page (not shown): “NO NIGHT TRAVEL BY ROAD”).

Orlov and Popov’s Soviet tourism book is their second on the subject.  Their first, Skvoz “zheleznyĭ zanaves” : Russo turisto : sovetskiĭ vyezdnoĭ turizm, 1955-1991, looks at Soviet tourists travelling abroad, and will shortly be on order.

Mel Bach

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