Monday, March 21, 2016

The Soviet pocket calendar

Someone in my husband's family collected these little calendars once upon a time.

They've been waiting in an envelope for 2 years now- eek! But I'm finally ready to organize them: got the binder, got the plastic sleeves, got the time. Check out how many there are!!

I counted exactly 60 cards. Some are marked up with pen or dog-eared from being carried in a wallet. Others are brand new. The majority are from 1970s and 80s. Most of the calendars were printed in Russian but there's a handful in Ukrainian, English, and even Latvian.

Have you ever seen little cards like these? Do you carry one around yourself? I see them in some stores and restaurants here in the US but never take one. A pocket calendar from an Oregon dry cleaner? Thanks, but no.

But a pocket calender from главное управление госстраха усср, The Central Insurance Agency of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic? Now that's rather unusual! Here's one of the oldest calendars in the collection, from that very agency-

1978: "Did you insure your life?"
And these two-
L: "Get insured against accidents!"  R: "Mixed life insurance"

It's not all just insurance companies, though.

There are cards featuring endangered species-

The Olympics-

Famous scenes from Crimea-

Wintery scenes-

Commemorative stamps-


Even politics-
This is my one addition to the collection- it's from 2013.

We're not sure who collected all these little calendars that we found in his family's apartment a few years ago. They were stashed in a drawer along with postcards that D's father had written as a sailor and worn photographs of unsmiling relatives. It made me sad to see family history just left to an uncertain fate although ugh, packing space is sure tight when you're moving overseas (and early days of computer storage at that). I carried away as many photos and letters and calendars as I could.

As for their fate-
D's attitude about these calendars is one of hmmm... interesting enough. But do they run on Linux? ;) I want to keep them around as "family history", guilt trip our kids into keeping them when we're old and gray. You hear so many stories about life in the USSR: lines for meat! no toilet paper! Ukrainian was forbidden! But here are these tiny little cards with реклама, advertisement and безплатно, free printed on the back, tiny little pieces of normality. Or perhaps the normality was just a реклама tactic? Anyways, it's an interesting look at the world his parents spent most of their lives in.

For further reading: A History of Pocket Calendars of the USSR, The Ukrainian Pocket Calendar, The Modern Pocket Calendars of Russia.


  1. I just found your blog by chance.

    I'm from Denmark, but I can live as a student anywhere in the world. I'm in Kharkov now, and been here for 10 days.
    My plan was original to move here, but Kharkov seems a little dangerous.

    What is your thoughts about this?

    1. Hi Jacob! Are you at Karazin University? What is it about Kharkiv that seems dangerous? Is it the overall situation in Ukraine or something particular about the city?

      We left in 2014 so I'm a bit out of date on things there. I loved living in Kharkiv, though :) It always felt safe to me as long as we didn't go into certain parts of town at night, kept valuables close, etc.

    2. Nothing has changed since you left. It is still safe to live here.

    3. Hello!

      No, my study can be done longdistance, so I travel around all the time, and I'm only attached to my university in Denmark.

      Kharkiv has a reputation in Ukraine for being a dangerous city. And I was just wondering how much truth there is in this.

      I'm generally skeptical of what people say, otherwise I wouldn't have come here in the first place. But those 10 days Ive been here I already seen a fight in the evening and many strange homeless people who bother you on the street.

      Of course this is no problem, but you never had any issues while being here? :-) Why did you come to Kharkiv also? :-)

      Otherwise, thanks for the blog, its a great blog, with many useful informations of Kharkiv! :-)

    4. Hi Jacob! Glad you've found some useful info here :)

      I'm really surprised at what you've encountered so far, wow. Are the "strange homeless people" asking you for money? Or just trying to cause trouble? What part of town are you staying in? We lived in Holodna Gora, downtown (Pushkin Street), and near the stadium. There was plenty of drunken carousing going on in Holodna Gora at night but it never turned into a safety issue. The only times I ever felt unsafe was a)once when some gopniki were hanging out near the metro at night and b) when a drunk guy came after my friend and me in broad daylight downtown. But otherwise, Kharkiv never seemed unsafe.

      I went to Kharkiv to teach English. Very fun job, lots of cool students :) Good luck with all of your studies, btw! Let me know if you decide to stick around Kharkiv or if you move on to another city in Ukraine.

    5. Hi again!
      Just came back to Denmark from Ukraine!

      I had no really bad experience in Kharkov, just had some strange moments, for example on a restaurant where some homeless person came in and tried to sit next to me, and he wouldn't leave no matter how much the waiters tried :)

      But 99% of all people there were very nice and polite.

      I will just consider, if I will stay in Kharkiv, or if I will find some other city.

      For me Kharkov is quite good, the only thing difficult is the language, since I don't speak Russian or Ukrainian, and not so many people in Kharkov speak English, atleast in my experience. Or they do speak, but they are a little shy. :)

    6. Hi Jacob! Thanks for the update :) It's good to hear that you're doing well.

      If you end up going back to Kharkiv, you should get in touch with Timur (from earlier in this comment thread). He speaks fluent English and he's super-nice/super-knowledgeable about the city. You might also try out some of the polyglot groups:
      And there's a small but consistent expat group (mainly Europeans and Americans?):

      Really happy to hear from you! :D

    7. Okay, I'll check them out.

      Thank you so much for your help! :)

  2. I love these Soviet pocket calendars and I too have the Yulia Tymoshenko one. Brilliant post.

    1. That's awesome, Dean! :) Did you pick it up on one of your Kyiv trips? It looks like she's moving on to a new hairstyle this year...

  3. Yes I picked it up in Kiev a couple of years ago I think. That 'peasant braid' was a real classic. She should keep that hairstyle.

  4. I thought I was following you on Bloglovin' but just realized I wasn't, so sorry for coming off creepy and responding to this so late! These remind me of Vintage Russian postcards I bought for a craft project I was doing/Soviet Lifestyle museum I went to. I love Soviet era history. I'm fascinated with the architecture. I came across this book (because I'm obsessed with abandoned places) and I thought you might be interested in it:

    1. Thanks for the link, Jasilyn! That bus stop in Gagra blows my mind... all the detail and art and it's just sitting there, a lonesome landmark.
      Very cool article :)