Object Lesson – Soviet sugar lumps

In my research, I deal primarily with documents rather than with objects. But even the most trivial object can tell a story. With that in mind, I plan to regularly post a photograph of one of the numerous Russian/Soviet objects that I have collected over the years. I also invite others to send me photos of any interesting objects that they may have, whether they have historical significance or just come with a story.

For this week, here is a package of sugar lumps purchased in the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s. The label says that they cost 1 ruble 18 kopecks per kilo, and that they were produced in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic by Ukrsakharprom at the Khodorovskii Sakhkombinat.



The sugar lumps got me thinking about the packaging of Soviet consumer goods. Given that they didn’t have to compete to sell their goods, why did Soviet producers bother decorating them? What purpose did the packaging serve? That made me wonder if anybody has studied the subject. My initial survey of the literature on Soviet consumer culture reveals little, although the Moscow Design Museum held an exhibition on the subject last year. A subject for somebody’s PhD, maybe?





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