Russian Advertising Through the Ages

PHOTO by Bumazhnye Sokrovishcha
A collection of labels, posters and other publications for different food and drinks sold in Russia from the late 19th century to the mid 1970s

Before the 1917 Revolution

Posters for home-made kefir and "romantic" sweets


From Stalin's Empire style chocolate to the forerunner of modern instant noodles

Label from NEP (New Economic Policy) era in the mid-1920s: the wines were produced and bottled in Astrakhan at the Geyvandov factory, which was founded in 1884.

Dmitry Vishnevsky

Antiques dealer, collector

"The Stalin's Empire style is not just skyscrapers and overblown furniture, but luxuriously decorated candy boxes and wine labels as well, while Khrushchev minimalism is not only five-story buildings and a tribute to "the Thaw" through wobbly floor lamps and pictures of Hemingway, but also elegant, brilliant industrial graphic works.

Original (in gouache, ink and whitewash) works of graphic artists were confirmed at the highest level and then replicated for labels. Here are some examples depicting food and packaging from the late 1930s to beginning of the 1960s."

Dmitry Vishnevsky: "In the USSR promotional materials, as well as food and beverage packaging, were often created by well-known artists. A good example is the work of Vkhutemas members (Higher Art and Technical Studios) for the food industry. These are famous posters by the Vkhutemas professor, famous painter and photographer Alexander Rodchenko, or his wall painting on Mosselprom House in Kalashny pereulok that he made together with his wife Varvara Stepanova. It advertised the company's products: 'Mishka Kosolapy' sweets, milk and the beer 'Drug Zheludka' (The stomach's friend). The text of the advertisement was written by the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, who also made dozens of other slogans for the food industry.

Dmitry Vishnevsky: "In the early 1960s, serious shortages of food began in the USSR. At the same time there was a poor cereal harvest and a lot of products were almost completely absent from the stores. It affected the food industry advertising as well. It became almost unnecessary except for export products (vodka and caviar) or posters promoting a healthy diet."

A poster from the mid-1970s, its psychedelic colours prove that it was made in the hippie era.

The editors thank antique shop Bumazhnye Sokrovishcha (Paper Treasures) for their help in preparing this article.