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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Soviet 1960: A year in the life of the USSR in pictures

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

1960 was arguably the beginning of a "Golden Age" in the history of the USSR as it launched into an era of rapid development socially, technologically and economically only 15 years after the utter devastation of World War II ( the Great Patriotic War as it was known in the Soviet Union ).

It was a time of tremendous optimism and vitality in the building of socialism having expanded on and overcome the sacrifices and difficulties of the early decades of the revolution.

This retrospective published by the English language USSR Magazine in January, 1961 looked at the year in review through 31 pictures with explanatory text of significant events and milestones.

These included things like the opening of the Kiev subway, the demobilization of over 1.2 million soldiers, the 90th anniversary of the birth of Lenin, the launch of the hydrofoil ship 'Meteor", the atomic icebreaker Lenin opening up Artic ports, the turning over of the job of managing the country's holiday resorts and rest homes (which were free and extensive) to the trade unions, the space dogs BeIke and Strelka, the beginning of the construction of the Aswan Damn on the Nile based on Soviet design and many others.

1) For Soviet industry, 1960 was a banner year. Once again the seven-year plan target figures were topped. The plan rolled for a rise in industrial output of 17 per cent for the decade ending 1960. Present estimates show that the rise will be closer to 23 per cent. In 1959 and 1960, the first two plan years, roughly 120 billion rubles' worth more manufactured goods were produced than had been anticipated. More than 1,000 new major industrial projects were put into operation in 1960. During the year the world's largest hydropower project, the Bratsk, shown in the photo, with a capacity of 4.5 million kilowatts, entered on its final stage of construction.

2) A hearty send-off for demobilized men and officers of the Moscow Military District on their way home, back to civilian life and peacetime jobs. 1960 was ushered in by the Supreme Soviet law to cut the country's armed forces by 1,200,000 men, the fourth such unilateral large-scale cut in recent years. Jobs are waiting for these men everywhere—in their home towns or on construction projects in the Far East, Kazakhstan, Central Asia and the North.

3 The Soviet people paid tribute to many of the world's illustrious men during the year—their own and the scientific and cultural pioneers of other countries. Among those honored were the English writer Daniel Defoe on his 300th anniversary, the Viennese composer Johann Strauss on his 135th birthday and the Russian medieval painter and iconographer Andrei Rublev on his 600th anniversary. This Moscow gathering was one of many held in the Soviet Union to commemorate the hundredth birthday of Anton Chekhov.

4 The past year witnessed new efforts of the Soviet Union to strengthen its friendly ties with other countries. Chairman Khrushchev, on missions of peace and friendship, met this year with the leaders of many nations—Burma, India, Indonesia, Afghanistan, France, Austria and Finland. Here he is greeted by President Sukarno on his arrival at Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.

5 To widen democratic participation the government last year gave the 55 million members of the Soviet trade unions the job of managing the country's holiday resorts and rest homes. The 395 sanatoriums and 581 vacation resorts cater to 3,720,000 people every year. This is a bird's eye view of the Riviera Sanatorium on the Caucasian Block Sea coast.

6 The 90th birthday of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state and its Communist Party, was celebrated on April 22. Another noteworthy event was marked on this same day—the thirtieth year since the Order of Lenin was instituted. It is the country's highest award bestowed for outstanding service.

7 Construction of the Aswan Damn on the Nile got under way last year. Based on Soviet design, this giant project—it will be 120 times the size of the model shown here—is being built by the United Arab Republic with the help of Soviet technicians and Soviet long-term credits. It is part of the USSR's economic assistance program to 14 African and Asian nations involving loans of 9 billion rubles to build more than 300 large industrial enterprises.

8 Soviet women in many fields of endeavor—industry, culture, the sciences—were honored with government decorations on International Women's Day, celebrated for the fiftieth time this year. The decorations were presented by Kliment Voroshilov on behalf of the country.

9 International trade fairs make for better international understanding. The Soviet Union displayed its manufactured goods and its scientific, technical and cultural accomplishments in Norway, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Cuba and Iraq in 1960. It also took part in 17 international fairs in Turkey, Syria, Austria, Italy, Sweden and elsewhere. This is a Soviet industrial fair in Baghdad.

10 These four young Soviet army men—Askhat liganshin, Philip Poplaysky, Anatoli Kruchkovsky and Ivan Fedotov—drifted for 49 days last spring in the Pacific, with little food and practically no fresh water. They set on example of courage and devoted companionship that won the hearts of people all over the world. They were rescued by American seamen. Back home they spoke with grateful emotion of the kindness of people during their stay in the United States. They are now students of the Naval College.

11 The "Soviet Russia" art show was a report of Soviet artists to the people and ran from April to July, drawing large crowds like this every day. Its 2,500 paintings, drawings and pieces of sculpture contributed by 1,250 artists of the Russian Federation filled the Manege, one of Moscow's largest exhibition galleries. There were works on such retrospective subjects as the October Socialist Revolution and the Civil War, but the salient theme was contemporary Soviet man, his present accomplishments and his hopes for the future.

12 The 1960 exchange program, the second such agreement concluded between the United States and the Soviet Union, covered a wide range of fields in science, education, technology, the arts and sports. The reciprocal visits gave people in both countries the welcome opportunity to become familiar with each other's achievements and, more important, with attitudes and ways of life. American composers Aaron Copland and Lucas Foss, who toured the USSR last summer, are shown here with members of the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra.

13 The past year was a year of growing governmental and parliamentary contacts far the Soviet Union. Many government heads and parliamentary groups visited the Soviet Union during the year—President Gronchi of Italy, President Prasad of India and President Sekou Toure of Guinea, among them. Here Chairman Khrushchev receives a delegation of Ghanaian members of parliament, headed by Speaker Kojo Botsio, who is also Economic Minister.

14 In November this new blast furnace—the world's largest—at the Krivoi Rog Iron and Steel works in the Ukraine, was ready for work. Mills are being built at on increasingly faster pace, and the country's pig iron output keeps rising.

15 Applauding audiences in the Soviet capital saw these whirl-wind dancers at the Ukrainian Literature and Art Festival in November. The Ukraine's leading dramatic companies, orchestras and ballet groups, professional and amateur, displayed their artistry at the festival, the largest the republic has ever held. Some 5,000 paintings, sculpture and samples of art and craft work were exhibited.

16 The hydrofoil ship 'Meteor," with a passenger capacity of 150, took to the water in 1960. The photo was taken on the Moscow Canal. The smaller aketa," a 70-passenger hydrofoil, had been cruising the rivers the year before. A "Sputnik" hydrofoil boat is now being designed to carry 300 passengers at speeds of 43 to 46 miles an hour.

(To learn more about Soviet hydrofoils see: Sputniks of the Soviet riverways (

17 Delegates to the National Conference of Communist Work Teams held in Moscow last May. Valentina Gaganova (second from the left) is one of the initiators of this new movement which has swept the country and now has some five million adherents, leading workers in farms and factories who live by these ideals: to work better today than yesterday and still better tomorrow than today; to learn more today than yesterday; and, in their relations with others, think in terms of one for all and all for one."

18 Last June, to point up the significance of technological development for the economy as a whole, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union called a special plenary meeting on mechanization, automation and allied problems to which leading industrial workers, factory directors and scientists were invited. Many of the decisions reached have already been put into practice. This automatic line at the Gorky Motor Plant is one of many started of late.

19 Soviet light industry has been expanding at a fast and furious pace to meet consumer requirements. This is a view of the weaving shop in one of the country's biggest synthetic fiber mills hunted in Barnaul, a town in the Altai. It began producing last July. By 1965, with mills being built in large numbers in the interim, the synthetic fiber industry will be producing at the annual rate of 56 yards of fabric per capita.

20 The atomic icebreaker Lenin, "flagship of the Soviet Arctic Fleet—shown here plowing its way through northern ice—opened a sea road for its first convoy in 1960. Dozens of ships following in its wake brought machinery, scientific instruments, consumer goods and foodstuffs to towns in the Arctic. With the Lenin in operation, the navigation season on the Northern Sea Route will open a month earlier than it used to.

21 In August 1960 Soviet scientists and engineers orbited a four and a half ton spaceship and safely brought back to earth the dogs BeIke and Strelka, 40 mice, 2 rats, insects, plants, seeds, living tissue and bacteria for study. In December another spaceship, this one weighing five and a half tons, again carrying canine astronauts, was launched.

22 The Kremlin was the setting for the convention of teachers of the Russian Federation. They met to consider the role the teacher must play in molding the new communist generation and ways of relating the school more closely to life and productive labor.

23 The three Baltic Republics this summer celebrated the twentieth anniversary of their renascence as Soviet states. During the period they have moved ahead with seven league strides in their economic and cultural development. They have today 30 drama theaters and opera houses, and amateur art groups that number in the tens of thou-sands. The books they publish yearly run to 20.5 million copies. A cherished tradition of the Baltic peoples is their annual song and dance festivals, in which young and old take part. The photo was taken at the festival in Latvia.

24 A new type of school for higher learning—the factory college—was opened last September in several large Soviet plants. They combine work and study, class days alternating with work days. The six-year course of study takes the worker-student through all production levels, from foreman to engineer and designer. Since the students get their practical experience on the job, they devote more time to theoretical study than the usual college student. A class at the factory college of the Moscow Auto Plant.

25 By November all 50 million factory and office workers had changed over from on eight- to a seven- and six-hour workday. These are Minsk auto workers streaming out of the plant. By the close of 1962 their work week will be cut to 40 hours, and in 1964 the transfer to a 6- and 5-hour day will begin. When that is completed the USSR will have the shortest workday in the world. In October, Soviet workers had another occasion to cheer. The law for the gradual abolition of taxes went into effect. Lower paid workers were no longer required to pay a tax on income and were able to pocket an additional 3,600,000 rubles. By 1965 all income will be tax free, and workers' earnings will thereby increase by about 14 billion rubles yearly. [Editor's note: The plan to make all income tax free was never fully achieved}

26 In September 1960 Chairman Khrushchev led the Soviet delegation to the United Nations and from the rostrum of the XV Session of the General Assembly presented his country's proposals for total disarmament, independence for all colonial peoples and modification of the organizational structure of the UN.

27 Friendship University—the inauguration is pictured here—opened in Moscow this fall for its first academic year. The students are young men and women from Asian, African and Latin American countries. Tuition is free, as in every Soviet college, and students receive maintenance scholar-ships and dormitory rooms. The university can accommodate 4,000 students.

28 At the 17th Olympic Games in Rome this summer the Soviet team competed for world honors with athletes from 83 other countries and captured first place with 43 gold, 29 silver and 31 bronze medals. Here are the champions back home getting the plaudits of a great crowd at the Moscow Lenin Stadium.

29 Celebrated this year was the 40th anniversary of the Civil War's end and the beginning of peaceful reconstruction. The memory of those who fought for socialism is revered by all Soviet people. Despite overwhelming odds, they preserved the independence of the world's first workers' and farmers' republic and began the building of today's Soviet Union. The Museum of the Revolution displays mementoes of the time.

30 The third municipal subway in the country was opened in Kiev last November. Thanks to the experience gathered in constructing the famous Moscow Metro and the one in Leningrad, the first section with five spacious stations was completed far ahead of schedule. Pictured here is University Station.

31 The 43rd anniversary of the October Socialist Revolution, birthday of the first socialist state, was commemorated on November 7. Progress in every field of effort gave added reason for celebration on this national holiday. This is a view of the giant gathering in Moscow at which Frol Kozlov, secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, reviewed the milestones the country had passed this year on the road to communism.

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