Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Leotards for the Proletariat

May 13th, 2010 · 8 Comments


One of the first “heavy” books we ever read was Hedrick Smith’s The Russians, which came out at the height of the whole “Evil Empire” period. Before cracking open Smith’s honest investigation of daily life in the U.S.S.R., we imagined that Moscow resembled a vast outdoor version of the Death Star, absolutely devoid of color or joy. The Russians drove home a point that now seems obvious, but was tough for a 12-year-old to grasp amidst the mid-1980s hysteria: a nation’s politics, no matter how odious, can never define its people.

Ever since, we’ve been fascinated with the pop culture of the late-period Soviet Union. So we couldn’t resist posting the clip above, of a popular exercise show that taught the comrades how to shape their buns and thighs. If you’ve got a spare minute or two, stick around for what follows—a propaganda film that tries to depict the United States as a vast wasteland of decadence and murder. We have no idea what the narrator is saying, but we’re pretty sure he doesn’t approve of Las Vegas.

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    I don’t know about you, but spandex and leg warmers seem pretty decadently western to me. Clearly a sign of their impending doom.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Jordan: I know. This, combined with the Eastern Bloc’s tolerance for that Scorpions tour in ’87, really spelled the end for Lenin’s vision.

  • Brian Moore

    Haha, I’m not sure that 2nd half propaganda was really convincing the average Russian of what they wanted to convince them of.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Brian Moore: Yeah, I get the feeling that Ivan Sixpack tended to look past the violence and think to himself instead, “Wow, those American cars look much better than the Zaporozhets I can’t afford here.”

  • Friday Links | Vicki Boykis

    [...] Leotards for the proletariat [...]

  • Gramsci

    As a child of the 80′s I realize some of the best Cold War indoctrination didn’t some from Ronnie, but from wonderful cultural quangos like Wendy’s. How can there be leotards when we all know this is what Russia is really like:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CaMUfxVJVQ

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Gramsci: Wow, I totally remember this ad. Hilarious now that Russian women are so universally renowned for their beauty.

    I consider the square hamburger every bit as great of an abomination as Leninism.

  • jackal

    Russian speaking friend didn’t quite understand everything, but thought it seemed balanced.. go figure.

    wonder where they got the classic music for that workout video. not that this compares at all, but does anyone know if kraftwerk was popular in the eastern bloc??

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