Soviet leaders as you've never seen them before (PHOTOS)

Nikita Khrushchev during his visit to India

Nikita Khrushchev during his visit to India

Dmitry Baltermanz/MAMM/MDF/
Only official photographs appeared in Soviet newspapers and magazines, authorized by the special services. However a few random shots also survived that reveal the vulnerabilities and flaws of the Soviet heads of state, as well as their human qualities.

Vladimir Lenin

What is probably engrained in everyone’s mind is the image of the leader of the proletariat as a passionate orator, delivering speech after speech from a platform. However, there are also rare photos of him as a man about town in Europe during his youth, or as a kindly-looking man in his later years.

Lenin (second from left) at the terrace of Maxim Gorky's villa on Capri, Italy
Lenin taking notes at the Third Congress of the Comintern in the Kremlin
Lenin and his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya riding around in their Gorki estate near Moscow
Lenin in Gorki estate, 1922

Joseph Stalin

Photographs of Stalin fell into a special category and were used for propaganda purposes. Many of them were never shown to the people and it was forbidden to take photos of him when he was off his guard. Still, some shots showing the ruthless figure of Stalin as an ordinary person have survived to this day.

Joseph Stalin in Uzbek national clothes, 1930s
Stalin (center) and Anastas Mikoyan (right) taking rest
Stalin playing Russian folk game 'Gorodki', early 1920s
Joseph Stalin, Sergei Kirov and Stalin's daughter Svetlana, 1930s
Stalin and Churchill during the Yalta Conference
Stalin laughing (!) on top of Lenin's Mausoleum

Nikita Khrushchev

Khrushchev can be described as the most relaxed leader as far as his own appearance was concerned. Most of the jokes, funny stories and anecdotes about Soviet leaders involve him - the story of how he used the expression “I’ll show you Kuzma’s mother” [the rough equivalent of “I’ll show you what's what!”] during a UN address speaks volumes. The general secretary of the USSR Communist Party was a very spontaneous person, and even during official visits didn’t shy away from unfamiliar cameras.

Nikita Khrushchev as the First Secretary of Moscow City Committee of the Communist Party, 1935
Prime-Minister of Indian state Jammu and Kashmir, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, and Nikita Khrushchev during his visit to India in 1955. Mutual feeding, a Kashmiri hospitality custom.
Nikita Khrushchev taking a sunbath on a boat
Nikita Khrushchev, Roman Karmen and an unknown woman with a child

Leonid Brezhnev

Brezhnev’s most iconic photos - showing him kissing the leaders of friendly states on the lips - is immortalized in graffiti on the Berlin Wall [kissing DDR leader Erich Honecker]. He was one of the most “senior” leaders, hence his informal photos often show him on vacation and in the company of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. 

Leonid Brezhnev in a sport suit drinking tea on his dacha
Leonid Brezhnev and his great granddaughter Galya
Leonid Brezhnev in a banya

Mikhail Gorbachev

In the era of glasnost and perestroika ushered in by this leader, it was already difficult to hide any photographs from the people. In any case, Gorbachev behaved pretty immaculately. Almost always.

Mikhail Gorbachev (L) and French film star Gerard Depardieu at their meetin gduring a film festival in Moscow, 1993
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev puts a cowboy hat on backwards during a visit to the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, 1998

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