Russian men of the 20th century (PHOTOS)

Kunstkamera; Alexander Polyakov/Sputnik
Russia experienced tremendous upheavals in the last century — no fewer than three systems and states came and went. This couldn’t fail to affect how people looked and dressed.

Before the revolution, when there was huge class diversity in Russia, men’s appearance varied enormously. Peasants, merchants, nobles, soldiers — here's how they all looked in the last years of the Russian Empire:

Portrait of an elderly man in a white hat, Nizhny Novgorod, 1900s

Portrait of four men from Saratov Province, 1900s

Non-commissioned officer of the Preobrazhensky Life Guards Regiment A.N. Sinyavin

Peasant from Chernigov Province (now Ukraine), 1900s

With the coming of Soviet power, nobles were stripped of their titles and fortunes. Then came the devastating Civil War and the Red Terror, followed by the short-lived New Economic Policy and relative freedom. During this time, there were lots of military men everywhere (in tunics without shoulder straps, since titles had been scrapped), as well as fancily dressed creatives.

Leading Silver Age poet Alexander Blok

Red commander Ivan Kashirin (left) and Komsomol member Alexei Pavlov, 1920s

Film director and maker of Battleship Potemkin Sergei Eisenstein, 1920s

Driver at the Leningrad Fire Department

When Stalin came to power, collectivization and industrialization quickly gathered momentum, as did the Gulag camp system, one of the most tragic episodes in Soviet history. Photographers were sent to large Soviet construction sites to chronicle the “idyllic” lives of workers and collective farmers.

Iconic Soviet photographer Alexander Rodchenko at the White Sea Canal construction site, 1933

Test pilot Vladimir Kokkinaki before his next flight, 1930s

Poet David Samoilov added the epithet rokovyie (“fatal”) to the word sorokoviye (“forties”), since in Russian they differ by just one syllable. It was a time of war, ongoing purges, hunger, evacuations, and inhuman living conditions. As for menswear, it consisted of military uniforms, greatcoats, and quilted jackets.

Radio operators in World War II, 1943
Peasant Daniil Zernov with fellow villagers during WWII, 1943
Submarine commander and Hero of the Soviet Union Valentin Starikov in the conning tower, 1942
Composer Dmitry Shostakovich, 1940s

In the post-war 1950s, life slowly returned to normal; military overcoats were replaced by austere suits. Men returned to civilian professions, including farming the land and exploring far-flung corners of the Soviet Union.

Metalworker at the Economizer plant and Stalin Prize winner Ivan Kartashev, 1953

Young construction worker at the Volga-Don Canal, 1953
Composer Nikolay Ozerov at the wheel of a Pobeda car, 1950s

The 1960s are invariably associated with the “Khrushchev thaw” after the harsh Stalinist regime: students, samizdat (self-publication of banned literature), smiles, and renewed construction of apartment blocks.

Moscow University students play the game “Guess who?”, 1960s
By the campfire on a hike, 1960s
Two students recite poetry, 1960s
Cult 1960s poet Evgeny Yevtushenko

The 1970s saw the arrival of trendy fops, bell-bottomed trousers, outlandish hairstyles, as well as cult Soviet films.

Cult Soviet actor and sex symbol Andrei Mironov, 1976

Today’s 40+ generation is nostalgic about the 1980s, because it was their time! The Moscow Olympics, the first taste of freedom, hippies, oversized glasses, rock, and Freddie Mercury mustaches!

“Ejected in the last minute. Handball”, 1980
Artist Guram Abramishvili, 1987
Cult rock musician Viktor Tsoi, 1986

The 1990s saw perhaps the most radical changes of all: the collapse of the Soviet Union, the birth of a new country, and the opening up to the West. It was a time of snow-washed jeans and bold experiments, including fashion-wise.

First President of Russia Boris Yeltsin on the court, 1992

Pop singer Valery Leontiev, 1992
Men at a Moscow swimming pool, 1990s
First Western stereo system, Moscow, 1990s

Read more: Russian women of the 20th century

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