These Candid Shots Of 1960s Soviet Youth Might Surprise You

Published April 20, 2017
Updated July 18, 2018
Soviet Youth Gathering
Young people kissing at the Festival of Neptune on the Black Sea in 1967.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Bowling Soviet Walking
Young women take a bowling break at Budenny State Farm.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Vacation
Soviet men relax on vacation in the summer of 1967.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Youth Cafe
Dancers do the frug at White Nights Youth Cafe in Leningrad.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Fedora Plasters Outdoors
Engineering students worked at the Buddeny State Farm over the summer, raising geese and breeding horses.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Chest Paint Soviet
Creative chest paint at the Festival of Neptune on the Black Sea.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Moscow Picnic Outdoors
Beards, which were formerly unaccepted as a sign of non-conformity, became popular again in the 1960s.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Pink Shoulder Blonde
Soviet girl relaxes at the beach.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Fake Shoulder Standing
Soviet young man jokes with LIFE photographer while on summer vacation at the beach.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Sauna Soviet 1967
Young summer workers rinse off after enjoying the sauna.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Racecars Outdoors
Race cars parked near the beach.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Waterskiing Line
A young woman waterskis while others look on.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Student Showers Soviet
Students shower before work at 6:30 a.m.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Chess Players
A young man plays chess in a vibrant swimsuit.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Holiday People
Young people mingle on vacation at the beach.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Fake Beard Big
The Festival of Neptune on the Black Sea.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Youth Picnic Outdoors
Enjoying a picnic.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Flag
The commissar in charge presents the achievement flag to the previous day's most productive team.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Beach Crowd
Beachgoers line the shores.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Tree Youth Green
Horsing around at a picnic getaway on the outskirts of Moscow.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Boys Cool Off
Young farm boys splashing in a trough at Budenny State Farm.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Rocks
Soviet college student bricklaying as part of summer program organized by Komsomol, at Budenny State Farm.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Watermelon Soviet Eating
Fresh watermelon was a summer staple in the Soviet Union.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Soviet Shoveling Man
A young man pauses while shoveling for his summer job.Bill Eppridge - The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

In the 1960s, many Americans imagined life behind the Iron Curtain as drab and depressing.

But when LIFE magazine photographer Bill Eppridge photographed young people for an issue on the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, he found that simmering with the Soviets was actually a pretty great time.

It was 1967 and — thanks to the post-World War II baby boom — nearly half of the country's population was under the age of 27.

This "Sputnik generation" was basking in the youth-fueled energy of a nation still excited about sending the first satellite into space.

Furthermore, the government's transition from Stalin to Khrushchev had resulted in a growing sense of personal independence and self-expression. Cramped communal apartments were being replaced with family complexes and young people were given more freedom to socialize in newly constructed public parks.

Youth in the Soviet Union spent their time listening to banned Beatles albums, dancing at clubs, picnicking by the beach, reading voraciously, and attending college at a higher rate than ever before.

Unlike many of their American counterparts, they were happily disinterested in what their government was up to.

That party wouldn't last long, however. The photos that Eppridge snapped comprised but one moment of the Soviet Union's brief but heavily troubled history. By the 1980s, a new wave of educated dissidents would rally together — marching, flipping police cars, and protesting violently against Soviet rule.

Beaches, nightclubs, and picnics were no longer enough. They wanted a new start.


Next, check out these Soviet propaganda posters from the height of the Cold War. Then, take a look at some vintage East Germany photos that reveal what life was like behind the Berlin Wall.

All That's Interesting
All That's Interesting is a Brooklyn-based digital publisher that seeks out the stories to illuminate the past, present, and future.