The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World

By Anne E. Gorsuch; Diane P. Koenker | Go to book overview

1 This Is Tomorrow!
Becoming a Consumer in the Soviet Sixties

Susan E. Reid

SUPPOSE THAT, AT the dawn of the 1960s, Soviet artist Aleksandr Laktionov had produced an updated remake of his well-known painting of 1952, Moving into the New Apartment (fig. 1.1), to reflect the hopes of the new decade: how might it have looked? In the intervening years Stalin had died and been denounced, the Cold War had entered a new phase of “peaceful competition,” and, in 1957, the Khrushchev regime had launched its industrialized construction program to provide separate apartments not only for exemplary citizens like Laktionov’s happy house-warmer but for all. Other measures promised further improvements in ordinary people’s lives: enhanced services, more leisure time, and increased production of consumer goods to go in their new homes.1 One change that Laktionov’s sixties remake would surely have to reflect was that the ideal modern Soviet home was now widely envisaged as saturated with “labor-saving” technology and as already looking forward to the next generation of new improved devices. As Izvestiia proclaimed in 1959, with a dose of socialist realism: “Today many families have a washing machine, vacuum cleaner, and floor polisher. The majority of workers have a meat grinder, juicer, etc. But it would be much more convenient to combine them in a single ‘domestic combine’ [domashnii kombinat].”2

Despite these significant additions to the pile of possessions that marked Laktionov’s family as modern, urbane citizens, his hypothetical 1962 remake probably would not have looked much like the collage that British pop artist Richard Hamilton made to publicize a London avant-garde art exhibition This Is Tomorrow in 1956. Entitled Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?, the collage commented both on contemporary American consumer culture’s self-representations

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