Capitalist brands that drove the Soviets crazyVika
Coca-Cola, Levi's, and Marlboro were some of the smuggled goods from overseas that were highly desirable - and few were.
1. Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
A limited supply of Coca-Cola entered the Soviet Union on the eve of the 1930s. But even decades later, it was not easy to get hold of the famous drink, as it was not sold in stores.
Importing jeans into the USSR remained an unthinkable and criminal enterprise. But jeans were very desirable nonetheless. Since supplies were extremely scarce, Soviet fashionistas were willing to give something for a pair of Levi's, which they usually bought from blacksmiths, dubious Soviet "entrepreneurs" who received foreign-made goods from visiting tourists and businessmen.
German sports brand Adidas took the Soviet Union by storm thanks to the company's masterful PR strategy: Soviet Olympic champions at the 1980 Moscow Games took to the podiums of victory in Adidas branded stripes (although the company logo was removed by order of the Soviet government).
4. Stimorol and Turbo.
As soon as the gum got to the USSR, it instantly became the new currency among the Soviet youth. It could be easily exchanged for other, more practical things and goods, and many people often reused it. Throwing away was a taboo in the minds of most teenagers at the time.
5. Kasio and Seiko.
The digital clock was a revolutionary innovation that flooded the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Casio and Seiko were the leading manufacturers, but there were many other models as well. A watch with a built-in calculator or speaker was one of the most popular models.
6. JVC and Sony.
The VHS video format spread throughout the Soviet Union in the 1980s and it was an instant hit. Soviet citizens longed for films about capitalism featuring stars such as Bruce Lee and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Erotica also followed and was soon criminalized under Soviet law. Brave entrepreneurs quickly set up cinemas in their homes and charged Soviet citizens 50 kopecks, or 1 ruble, for the privilege of watching a movie.
These iconic motorcycles were manufactured in Czechoslovakia and exported to the Soviet Union in large quantities. They were the dream of any Soviet teenager growing up in the 80s, as they were from abroad, but still more accessible thanks to the socialist partnership of Czechoslovakia.
Fashion magazine Burda began hypnotizing Soviet women in 1987. It was then that the first issue of the cult German fashion magazine appeared in the USSR. Since it was the first European magazine approved for a Soviet audience by government censors, it made a huge impact and influenced millions of Soviet women.
Cosmetics were already widely produced abroad, but there were few of them in the Soviet Union. But in the 1970s, mascara, eyeshadow, and lipstick were increasingly used in the USSR thanks to a newly established local production. But, nevertheless, the "foreign" quality surpassed domestic products, and the French L'Oreal was the most attractive brand at that time. The Polish brand Pollena was also a hit.
Providing cigarettes to its citizens was not a problem for the Soviet government. However, there was a tobacco shortage that struck the USSR in the 1980s. This inflated the cost of foreign-made cigarettes. Brands like Marlboro and Kent were in short supply and were often shipped from overseas with foreign tourists or business travelers. Consequently, smokers tended to illegally purchase cigarettes from hotels and railways.