Brickbats: Soviet Edition
Soviet culture officials in the late 1940s attempted to downplay the accomplishments of Europe and America by renaming imported foods to make them seem Russian and by claiming credit for various innovations. Camembert was renamed zakusochnyi (“snack cheese”) to disguise its French origins. A newspaper declared that the Palace of Versailles was a knockoff of palaces built by Peter the Great. Soviet encyclopedias incorrectly attributed the first successful airplane flight not to the Wright brothers but to Russian inventor Alexander Mozhaysky.
Following World War II, Josef Stalin approved the expansion of car production for individual purchase. But with only 6,000 produced in 1946 and 10,000 produced in 1947, there weren’t enough to go around. Trade unions organized waiting lists that stretched as long as 6 years.
In 1970, a Soviet criminologist determined that—due to widespread scarcity of housing, consumer goods, and materials needed for manufacturing—corrupt economic practices like bribery and embezzlement accounted for one-quarter of all crimes in the Soviet Union.
To deal with agricultural shortcomings, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev promoted the expansion of corn as a crop well-suited to feeding both people and livestock. From 1954 to 1955, the amount of corn the country grew boomed from 4.3 million to 18 million hectares. It reached 37 million hectares by 1962. But while the country focused on increasing the amount of corn it grew, it did not emphasize efficient or sustainable farming or give much consideration to appropriate growing conditions. In 1962, a cool, rainy spring and summer killed off 70–80 percent of the plantings.
In 1966, the Soviet Union mandated that all companies begin spending 1 percent of their revenue on advertising, despite the absence of market competition or even goods to promote. From 1967 to 1991, the country’s only advertising agency produced ads for minced chicken, hot air showers, cars, and more than 6,000 other products, many of which did not actually
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