As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote, “a specter haunts the internet – the specter of communism. Alright the internet wasn’t there when they started The communist manifesto in 1848, but communism is all over social media right now – in particular, the Soviet Union.
Instagram accounts that post photos and ephemera from the USSR are extremely popular. On Instagram, @sovietvisuals has 273,000 followers, while Twitter accounts @sovietpostcards and @sovietartbot have 27k and 12k respectively. Gigantic busts of Lenin hidden in the corridors of Tajikistan in the penguin porcelain coffee pots made by Soviet companies, these stories highlight both the personal and the political. Propaganda is very present, but the photos of people’s clotheslines and children skiing in the shadow of the Kremlin. Then there are the Soviet-themed accounts that focus on one area of its culture, like Instagram @modeliavtoussr, which only posts photos of cars to its 30,000 followers. All of this begs the question: why are people suddenly so interested in Soviet content?
What these accounts offer is a look behind the Iron Curtain. Moscow-born Katya, who runs @SovietPostcards on Twitter, Instagram and Etsy, uses her accounts to show that the Soviets had “a normal life with families, friends and dreams”. In addition to publishing real postcards from the 20th century, it highlights design, architecture, film clips and candid photos of ordinary Soviet citizens. She started in the internet trenches of Tumblr in 2010, initially only wanting to show off her collection of postcards, but, as she puts it, “things accelerated surprisingly quickly.”
Katya’s followers and buyers come from all over the world – some have Soviet roots, but most are only interested in “this weird country that was so different from theirs”. Until now, the USSR has often been presented negatively and with fear in the world. Stories like his show him in a new, individualized light, previously unknown to those outside of it.