I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

114 Responses to “Soviet TV advertisements from the 1970s and 1980s”

  1. Frank Diekman says:

    What’s Russian for “There’s GOT to be a better way!”

  2. oasisob1 says:

    Estonian sounds more like Finnish than Russian.

    • twianto says:

       That’s because it is. Very similar to Finnish anyway and certainly not related to Russian.

    • Preston Sturges says:

      Not an accident.  Estonia bills itself as a Scandanavian country these days, no doubt to make sure nobody thinks it’s in the Balkans. 

    • Preston Sturges says:

      It’s also a genetically distinct population, closer to Scandanavia. 

    • dnebdal says:

       According to the Finns and Estonians I’ve asked, Estonians generally understand Finnish (though they think it looks old-fashioned and full of umlauts), while the Finns struggle with Estonian (which they think is full of words that sounds like Finnish – but have a completely tangential or unrelated meaning).

      Supposedly, this reflects the way the Estonians have imported more Finnish culture than the opposite the last decades. We’ll see if it slowly changes as Estonia catches up. :)

      • folkclarinet says:

        My sister lived in Finland for a year (we’re from the USA) and her impression of Estonian was that it sounded like Finnish spoken when drunk.

        • Wreckrob8 says:

          Exactly what I was going to say. Estonian looks like Finnish written by a drunk non-Finn who’s forgotten their grammar. Finnish grammar seems nice and regular compared to unpredictable Estonian.

        • jackie31337 says:

          A family friend from Latvia once commented that she had never met a sober Finn, so that may be influencing some people’s impressions of the languages.

          Having learned Finnish as a second language, my impression of the Estonian language is that it’s closer in structure to spoken Finnish than “book writing” Finnish. The vocabulary is often similar to Finnish, but has a lot of German influence thrown in. In the old days, Tallinn was an important trading city in the Hanseatic League, so Estonia had more contact with Germanic cultures. If you are familiar with both Finnish and German, I think you can manage Estonian fairly well.

    • Taavet Ropp says:

      Why would it sound like Russian? They’re not even related.

  3. lavardera says:

    I bailed at the first sight of Russian big hair.

  4. alexminev says:

    They put a semi naked lady next to just about anything, very creative indeed

    • Preston Sturges says:

      Apparently these countries are still training thousands of young ballet dancers who then become too curvy and go into modelling without ever straining for the American “emaciated junkie” body type. 

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      If Pussy Riot’s experiences are an indicator, policies have changed.

  5. Dan Hibiki says:

    Estonia?
    This is like the no name brand of Sovietism.

  6. theophrastvs says:

    after this try listening to a dated but very pleasant rendition of Катюша (very militaristic, because it’s also the name of the weapons, but still a very sweet song): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggHrz00jjEY

  7. FourFeetOfCurl says:

    From watching these ads, it’s quite clear that Estonia never should have been part of the Soviet Union in the first place.

  8. timquinn says:

    These are very cleverly designed and executed to give western watchers the impression that The Soviet paradise was merely a bad copy of New Jersey and decisions were made by a small group of thugs. This was, of course, only a ruse and the reality was that the USSR was run by military industrial complex of great sophistication and lethality. Also, western pop music belongs to everyone.

  9. Mutation_Engine says:

    Interesting, but i have to admit that the sentence “For objective reasons, most subjectively and commercials, produced by the company, did not survive.” in the quoted summary is one example where punctuation actually makes a somewhat confusing sentence even harder to parse. Is it a literal translation and Estonian sentence structure is right at that borderline where it’s both similar and different enough from English to be really confusing to read when the words are automatically translated?

    • Taavet Ropp says:

      Sentence structure and other common errors point towards it being a machine translation from Russian, not Estonian.

  10. renerebane says:

    Was this text google translated from youtube? For example Harry Egipta is actually Harry Egipt and Eedu Ojamaa is Peedu Ojamaa.

  11. cjporkchop says:

    May need a NSFW tag. Bare breasts at 8:00!

  12. paulcarcosa says:

    The video on this page is blocked by YouTube because it contains copyrighted material from UMG and WMG?

    Seriously?

  13. BarBarSeven says:

    Did any of you naysayers actually watch this? There is a commercial for an Estonian machinery company done to the Rolling Stone’s “Honky Tonk Woman” with some dancers in it around 3:50. Didn’t watch it? Sux 2 B U.

  14. blueelm says:

    I could not stop laughing at the ice cream video. That needs to be a music video. It really does.

    • timquinn says:

      I am left craving blond ice cream. I mean vanilla ice cream, vanilla . . .

    • BarBarSeven says:

      I don’t think I have ever seen a commercial with so much subtext in my life.

      • euansmith says:

        “Only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate, tastes like chocolate never tasted before.”

        If you were a young lad growing up in Britain during the later part of the 20th Century, your earliest, and confused, sexual fantasies would have revolve around the Cadbury’s Flake girls… or the Cadbury’s Caramel Rabbit…

  15. TimRowledge says:

    But – but- but! We was told that the damn GodlessCommieReds had nothing because commie-nism couldn’t produce nothin.

    • OtherMichael says:

       They were pretty good at producing commercials!

      But… that packaging and label design? Poor large-size pomegranate juice. Poor green onions.

      wait, green onions and lemon wedges? Who has to advertise green onions and lemon wedges? Were those for real?

  16. grumble-bum says:

    So: Apparently, life in the USSR conglomerate was an idyl of shoe manufacturing, constant snacking, frequent (highly skilled) dance parties, and reverse-engineered Western pop music.

    Unfortunately, the amazing 8-2 female/male ratio was marred by instances of processed chicken-induced demonic insanity. But, on balance, it was a good life.

  17. ocschwar says:

    So, were standards of living in the Baltic states materially better in the Soviet era, comapred to the rest of the USSR? 

  18. Psychedelic chicken paste commercial at 13:34. I’m lovin’ it.

    • James Churchill says:

      That chicken ad did the rounds a few years back – I was half expecting this whole showcase to be similarly creepy. Not sure if I’m relieved or disappointed.

    • jackie31337 says:

      I just skimmed through the commercials, but I think that one was my favorite. In addition to the psychedelic style of the commercial, there were many WTF moments when I saw the serving suggestions for chicken. I think one of the recipes involved coating the chicken in cheese cubes and deep frying the whole thing!

  19. Lolotehe says:

    52 watts per channel, babycakes. 

  20. moehh says:

    I remember most of those commercials when they were actually on TV. ETV (http://www.etv.ee) had then even special program called Reklaamiklubi where new commercials were presented. There were probably moments when people watched TV only for those clips – like some people watch now-days Superbowl in US. 

  21. Paul Renault says:

    What, no one is saying anything about the birch juice?

    That, and blya, did they ever use a lot of Western popular music in the ads.

    • BarBarSeven says:

      They hate us for our freedom. We hate them for their Birch juice. It all evens out in the end.

    • Jake0748 says:

       I was thinking the same thing.  I bet birch juice tastes like root beer.

      • blueelm says:

        I’ve had birch juice (well in a soft drink, not straight out of the tree) and it had some herbal notes to it like root beer does, but it was a totally different taste and had mint in the mix. Also it’s not fermented. It’s really good, but it doesn’t taste like sarsparilla itself. In fact, it doesn’t taste anything like root beer, unless you put the things you put in root beer into whatever you’re making with birch juice (which people do when they make birch beer).

        You can get it in the US pretty easily, it’s made here as well I think.

  22. happybubbles says:

    Beacuse there are in Estonian (not Russian) these is so much funnier to all who speak Finnish! Estonian sound like a hilarious parody of Finnish. Wish there was a way to conway how funny the “KANA KANA KANA Hakk-liha!” comes across! Chicken Chicken Chicken Chop-meat!

  23. tomatometrics says:

    chicken dance at 10:31!

  24. Hey Cory, may want to toss a NSFW next to the link. At the 8min mark there are BOOBIES!!!!!!!! Nice ones at that.

  25. Preston Sturges says:

    Sort of like “Weird Science” meets a Union Carbide commercial, with accordion music. 

  26. Tim Holt says:

    Funny, I’d just come to BB to suggest a link.  I found a photo site with a bunch of old (grim) CCCP safety poster images at http://fotki.yandex.ru/users/sensyor/album/164892/?  The idea of bad things happening if you’re not safe didn’t start with those 1950′s safety films.

  27. BunnyShank says:

    Maybe it was just the 80′s fashion, but a lot of it, with the hair styles and the shoulder pads, the cut of the dresses and the factory worker clips, remind me of a 1940′s time capsule. Like the marketing you would see within a commune that was established in the 1940′s. Which I guess is exactly what it is.

  28. Sigmund_Jung says:

    Let me distill my ignorance here: I never thought about “consumer goods” in a Soviet state. To my defense, I don’t think this was ever a topic discussed before the Wall came down, and no Internet back then. So how did it work? You had companies selling stuff and competing against each other? Did they have profits? Were they all state-owned? (All right, I’ll google it, but maybe someone’s got a more interesting abbridged version…)

  29. zombiebob says:

    I’m just now coming out of a seizure caused by involuntary laughter clashing with the douche chills brought on by Miss Glorious People’s Eyebrows 1985′s performance at 00:30

  30. JoshP says:

    at__Sigmund
      from what I read(a bit) at Uni, the system worked more vertically than ours did.  That is to say, there were one or two models of a product, say a radio, that were produced.  The inferiority/superiority of said product depending on what components were produced at what factory, where it was manufactured, how much the line had had to drink that day, etc.  You didn’t have lots of competition in a scale of quality, you had the state product, which could be good, depending, which sold at a fixed price and then you had stuff that you could get from outside the Soviet system for whatever legality. 
      The old Soviet makers were legendary, during the Krushchev(i think??) era they pumped out these building that were so fundamentally unsound you could almost predict when they would fall in on themselves… the solution??  The Soviets post engineered big steel bands around the buildings to hold them in place internally,  like big metal zip ties or really like enormous duct tape for fifteen story tenements.
      What’s not in the video?  The shadow of the MIRVs.  That’s my explanation for the 80′s.

  31. cstatman says:

    thank you Cory, for once again proving, no matter where in the world you are?    80′s hair and big cans still do it for me!   YAY!

  32. I don’t know about you guys but I cant get enough of the two gals doing some weird moonwalk at 1:18-1:27 mark. Anyone know whats the name of the dance :D   

  33. Preston Sturges says:

     I liked the “Bistro” commercial – apparently they specialized in airplane  food.

  34. Got as far as the ice cream before I was laughing.  Man, that was some ham-fisted sexuality thrown in there.

  35. rtresco says:

    Pure tumblr gold. Whelp – looks like I have a night of GIF making ahead of me.

  36. Preston Sturges says:

    My dad had a slide projector like the one at 45:00 except it dated to about 1960.  I think it was an Argus. 

  37. I’d love to see that but unfortunately i live in germany and all i get is this msg from youtube:
    “This video contains content from WMG and UMG, one or more of whom have blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.”

    Why exactly does Warner Music and Universal Music own the rights to soviet commercials?

  38. Adam Hrubý says:

    If you want to see more crazy advertising, check the Czech from the socialist era. (No subtitles, unfortunately, but still hilarious.)

    Best of generic goods advertising (honey, cabbage, crazy milk, state lottery and desserts made from apples) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yc_eF6PIWBo

    Generic Watermelon
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xg6onLMvJI

    Sugar syrup (creepy SFX), 7 delicious flavours and “expresso tea”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2lDCJb1018

    Instant Pizza (claim: “A bold accord in the colorful melody of Italian cuisine. Instant Pizza from Vitana”)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnvzU90-SwE

    Another mix (generic cooking fat, various jams from LIKO, carpet cleaner TEP, state lottery, BAJO chewing gums, generic sardines in oil, generic washing soap, BARBUS aftershave, TESLA radio, state lottery again)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxfnDjH_3uc

  39. mrlapage says:

    Is that Molly Ringwald at 16:30? Sure looks like her…

  40. jackie31337 says:

    That last commercial for the frost insulation was cheating: it had a web page URL, so it’s much more recent. It’s a nice reminder that the WTF continues though.

  41. billstreeter says:

    None of those look much worse or more cheesy than American commercials of the same era. 

  42. It’s no good! Not one commercial about amazing 1983 beet crop and the heroic masses that made it possible. All here is commercial with women without tops which is western decadence designed to make the proletariat forget about oppression under capitalists and glorious revolution. 

    I report it to central committee. They thanked me for my patriotism and tell me they are investigating it themselves. They would like phone numbers of women for further questioning.

  43. Kenmrph says:

    The Spirt of Estonia is the Spirit of the Soviet!

  44. bo1n6bo1n6 says:

    In Soviet Russia TV watches you.

  45. Michael Trei says:

    @7.08 you see an independent Estonian flag, which was banned during the Soviet era. This commercial must be from 1991 or later.

  46. STELLALUNA says:

    Wow, I only watched 10 min. of this but I learned 5 important, life-changing things:

    1) The USSR was not protected from 80s hair.
    2) It’s totally ok to use electric hair-styling tools while standing in a river.
    3) Green onions on toast is delicious.
    4) Aerobics are best done in a shoe factory.
    5) The Penguin is a pedo. Do not get in his ice cream van.

  47. Sigmund_Jung says:

    That was great. Thanks for the time!

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