A Soviet Spring Vacation
Sadly spring break in Siberia is now off-limits to Senator John McCain and other US Representatives thanks to Vladimir Putin’s retaliatory sanctions.
Oh, for the good old days of the Soviet Union when American capitalists were once welcomed with open arms.
It’s hard to imagine but back in 1930’s, the USSR was a destination vacation
Tourism to Soviet in the interwar years is usually thought of as a smattering of intellectuals, and fellow travelers. But it wasn’t just the idealist leftists who wanted to take a vacation in the USSR.
It was red-blooded American businessmen.
Before the cold war froze out tourism, Soviet Russia actively wooed American tourists.
Picturing the Soviet Dream Vacation
To help sell the Soviet Union as a travel destination to Americans during the interwar years, Joseph Stalin created Intourist in 1929 as the official state travel agency of Soviet Union. Not only was it a full service travel agency offering tours, it peddled an idealized vision of the Soviet State to foreigners.
Through a barrage of advertisements, posters and brochures, the USSR was sold as a utopian state, a country of the future “a Land of Color and Progress.”
Intourist ads enticed tourists painting a picture of a land in transition. ‘See the immense activity, new building, social work of the worlds most discussed country and at reduced rates.”
This was “a country of the future, consisting of millions of peoples from various backgrounds working together to build a future brighter than the backwards past.”
What could be more appealing to red white and blue Americans.
What better place to raise the profile of the USSR than in the pages of that most Capitalist of magazines Fortune. At a hefty 10 dollars yearly subscription ( nearly a hundred dollars today), this magazine was not geared to your average “fellow traveler.”
It may seem incongruous to find an ad for the Soviet Union in the glossy pages of Henry Luce’s homage to American business. But nestled between ads for luxury cars, boats and brokerage houses, Intourist placed advertisements in nearly every issue of the mammoth monthly magazine.
“Visit the new and the old in highly individual cities of Soviet Russia where gigantic new planning is altering social forms and yet preserving the notable art treasures of older times,” entices the copy in this ad from April 1932.
” Leningrad with its palaces and “Hermitage art gallery…Moscow with its famous Kremlin and intense activity…Rostov with its enormous collective farming and communal life with theaters clubs and sports fields…Kiev with its byzantine art and Ukrainian music and theater.”
“Intourist provides everything hotels meals all transportation Soviet visa and an English-speaking guide. The price of $192 is for second class 2 together $240 for one alone. Greatly reduced fares for 3 or 4 together.”
The seductive copy from an Intourist brochure from 1939 beckons:
“Today you need no magic carpet, no store of riches to travel. If you but choose your journey carefully thoughtfully, new horizons open up before you…And where are horizons wider and more promising than in the Soviet Union? Here in a land of vastness and infinite variety, is the fulfillment of your brightest travel dreams.”
Travel dreams would open up other horizons as well.
Besides the art treasures and diverse beauty of the Soviet Union, some red-blooded American were also interested in lining their pockets.
Though diplomatic relations between the 2 nations would not be established before 1933 when FDR chose to formally recognize Stalin’s Communist government (ending almost 16 years of American non-recognition of the Soviet Union), American business were already busy tapping into this large market.
Red Light Green Light
The US had refused to recognize the government in Moscow after the Bolsheviks took control in 1917.
Despite the Red Scare here at home throughout the 1920s, Washington gradually lifted overseas trade and investment opportunities for American business in Russia.
Soviet Russia soon became a major America market.
By 1930 American exports to Russia exceeded in value those of every other country and naturally Americana business relied on this export market. Not surprisingly most experts agree that this commercial and economic relationship strongly influenced formal recognition.
We may have been scared of Red but we loved green.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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The lovely collage at the top of this webpage is amazing and works very well, must have taken ages to put together. It’s ironic to think that now that Russia seems to be heading back to the paranoia of the 1960’s as Nato and the European union are about to be sitting on Russias own borders as the Ukraine attempts to get in bed with the west. Inconcievable even 30 years ago. Time is an amazing game changer. Thanks for a great read. Cheers Stuart
Thanks Stuart! Glad you enjoyed the post …it does feel like deja vu all over again at times. Thanks for commenting on the collage- I am a collage artist and my work focuses on examining social fictions of mid century American culture and if you enjoyed that you might find some of my other collages of interest at my website http://www.sallyedelsteincollage
I always spent my half an hour to read this blog’s articles or reviews
all the time along with a cup of coffee.
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