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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Poverty, prostitutes and the long, slow death of the Soviet Union: Haunting pictures show struggle to survive in last days of USSR


These shocking pictures may look like something out of the Great Depression - but in fact they show life in the last years of the Soviet Union, less than three decades ago.
Shop shelves were often bare, it was normal to have to join a long queue if you wanted to buy groceries and many of the people looked ground down after a century of desperate poverty.

Hard times: Eighteen-year-old prostitute Katya scours the street for work as a police car drives past in Moscow in 1991 shortly before the collapse of the USSR

The dismal state of the USSR's economy, during a time of rapidly improving living standards in the West, was a result of its dogmatic Communist political system, which stifled free enterprise and stopped the country moving on from its feudal past.
As these images show, by the 1980s that system was close to collapse, as Mikhail Gorbachev's liberalising reforms did little more than open the door to ever louder clamours for change - and on Boxing Day 1991, just a few years after these photos were taken, the Soviet Union was finally dissolved.

Bleak: Siberians line up outside a shop in Novokuznetsk, Russia, in a sign of the economic decline that had beset the country in the final years of communist rule

Hindered by centralised market forces: A long queue forms in Novokuznetsk for bacon and other meat from the butcher at a state-run market

Glum: Two dirty children look out the window in a coal-mining and steel-manufacturing community in Siberia enduring widespread economic hardships

Struggling: Siberian women sit outside houses in the coal-mining and steel-manufacturing community of Novokuznetsk

Bleak: Russians must wait in food lines to get whatever goods are available in November 1991, just a month before the collapse of the USSR

A real age of austerity: Shoppers line up at the check out stand of a store in Moscow in 1991 as the USSR neared collapse

Looks more like the 1970s: Women patients sit at a table with food and fold their laundry in a rundown hospital ward in Moscow in July 1991

Taking a breather: Hospital nurse Ludmilla Subocheva smokes on her break in the dining room

Unrest: Soldiers and tanks moved to Red Square to surround the Kremlin at the beginning of the coup. But by the end, much of the military decided to back Gorbachev

Grim: A line forms for bread in Moscow (left), while woman mourns the three victims of the attempted coup at various impromptu memorials around the city in 1991

Sombre: Three female Moscow department store workers watch a mass funeral from the store window following the failed coup attempt

Small comfort: Women stand next to several vodka bottles which they are exchanging for small change at a recycling point

No smiles: Female miners take a break from their work in the town of Novokuznetsk, Russia, in June 1991

Getting the bare essentials: Shoppers and vendors in a food market in Kaluga in November 1991

Signs of desperation: People stand in line with cans for food supplies in Tula, Russia, in November 1991

Hoping for anything: Russians must wait in food lines to get whatever goods are available in Moscow

Putting on a brave face: A woman stands near the back of a queue for a market in the Russian capital

Dark times: A coal miner who lives in an industrial community in Siberia enduring widespread economic hardships in June 1991

Getting by: A woman plays her accordion along Arbat Street in Moscow, a popular pedestrian thoroughfare, as several men stand nearby watching her

A young girl plays her violin for a crowd with her dog lounging in the violin case (left) and an accordionist (right) performs on Arbat Street in Moscow

source: dailymail

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