The early Gorbachev era brought the Soviet Union, still alive and flailing, from the era of the dead men, Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko, into Glasnost and Perestroika. Maybe you had to be there.
I was actually, a wee little bit. I visited in 1986. The latter days of Soviet atrophy, like the early days of the Russian rebirth, were barren and painful for the consumer. That trip in 1986 they handed me a menu at a pizzeria right downtown in the capital. As I remember, it had a dozen choices. The wait staff eased me through all the nyets until finally they only had this one pizza.
I came back proclaiming to anybody who would listen, this is what we’ve been afraid of!?
I’ve found these photos from that trip. First, the elevator regulations from the state owned Moscow Hotel opposite Red Square, now renovated as the Four Seasons.
Here is advice to Soviet Man in GUM the department Store. How to tie a tie.
There were no commercial billboards in 1986. This translates, if I’ve got it right, as something like, “USSR, pillar of peace.”
The other day I shared a fascinating color photo essay at RFERL.com, from Moscow in the 1950s. It prompted me to seek out what photos I could find from my 1986 trip there. Here are three.
First, opposite the Kremlin, across Red Square, was the cavernous government-owned GUM department store (Глáвный универсáльный магазѝн), translated as “Main Universal Store:”
I stayed that trip at the massive Moscow Hotel (Гостиница Москва) just outside Red Square on Manezh Square. Here are the amenities on the desk in my room, circa summer 1986:
And here is the view from that room onto Red Square: