TANGERINES AND CHAMPAGNE: HOW MUCH THEY COST IN THE USSR

[21.01.2021 16:57:17]

In Soviet times, people prepared for the main feast of the year in advance: they stood in huge lines, "got" scarce tangerines, and bought expensive champagne. In 1938, for example, Soviet champagne semi-dry, dry and sweet cost 18, 17 and 20 rubles accordingly (the salary of a Soviet worker in those years was about 200 rubles).
Until the mid-1930s, the Soviet government fought the bourgeois tradition of celebrating Christmas and decorating the Christmas tree.
However, after the December 1935 publication in the Pravda newspaper of an article by a member of the Central Committee of the VKP (b), P. P. Postyshev, "Let's give our children back a Christmas tree," it was decided to revive the tradition of decorating fir trees, though not at Christmas, but on New Year's Day. Postyshev wrote: "In pre-revolutionary times the workers' children looked enviously out the window at a Christmas tree sparkling with multicolored lights and the children of the rich making merry around it. Why do our schools, orphanages, nurseries, children's clubs, and pioneer palaces deprive the children of the working class of the Soviet country of this wonderful pleasure? Komsomol members and pioneer workers should arrange collective Christmas trees for children on New Year's Eve."
The New Year's issue of "Crocodile" for 1936 came out with an elegant Christmas tree on the cover and a quote from Stalin's speech about life being better and merrier (after the abolition of the card system in the country).
Soviet champagne was to be an attribute of "universal joy. A. Mikoyan, then head of the Soviet food industry, said: "Comrade Stalin said that Stakhanovites earn a lot of money now, engineers and workers earn a lot. And if they want champagne, can they get it? Champagne is a sign of material well-being, a sign of prosperity. Caviar, cognac, chocolate, pastries and cakes were also listed among the "wealthy.
On July 28, 1936 at a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) with the personal participation of Stalin was adopted a decree "On the production of "Soviet champagne", dessert and table wines," which provided for the construction of plants to produce sparkling wines in the largest cities of the USSR.
The country was already ready for the production of champagne. Already in 1924 domestic winemakers were faced with a task: to make such sparkling wine, which would have been affordable for the widest layers of working people. The drink had to be mass, comparatively cheap and quick to produce. The head of Abrau-Durso champagne production and the famous champagne chemist A. M. Frolov-Bagreev created an apparatus which significantly reduced the time of making sparkling wine.
In 1937 the first bottle of the "Soviet sparkling wine" was produced by  the Donskoy Champagne Factory in Rostov-on-Don.
The Moscow City Guide to Prices for Wines and Spirits, Beer, Soft Drinks and Ice Cream as of June 1, 1938, says that Soviet champagne, semi-dry, dry and sweet, cost 18, 17 and 20 rubles, respectively. Beef of "average fatness" was then bought for 7 rubles 60 kopeks per kilo, sugar was 3 rubles 80 kopeks per kilo. The average wage of a Soviet worker in 1937 was 200 rubles, Stakhanovites could get up to 600 rubles.
The production of champagne was growing rapidly. If in 1935 the factories of the USSR made only 210 thousand bottles of champagne, in 1940 the winemakers gave the country 8 million bottles and after the war the count went up to tens of millions per year: more than 27 million in 1956, almost 80 million in 1969 and 177 million in 1980. In 1984 the production of champagne reached its peak. Thirty-two factories across the USSR were launched. That year they produced 249 million bottles.
The active promotion of champagne as a drink for the New Year table was made on TV and in movies. Not a single New Year's movie or TV show was without a legendary green bottle with a silver foil. Sparkling cost quite a lot compared with other alcoholic beverages. Champagne labels from the 1960s and 70s carry the following prices: 4.5 rubles, 5.5 rubles and 6.5 rubles. In the 1980s, champagne was priced at 7 to 11 rubles.
Along with champagne, the traditional Soviet New Year table was also decorated with tangerines. In the 1930s, these citrus fruits were supplied from Georgia and Abkhazia. There was not enough fruit for everyone and in general it ended up on the tables of the Communist Party nomenclature. Tangerines of the pre-war years cost 10 to 60 kopeks per one, depending on size.
Until the 1960s, mandarins were a rare and expensive delicacy. In 1958 the USSR established diplomatic relations with Morocco, and in 1963 the first cargo of Moroccan mandarins arrived in the country. After that, African citruses began to be delivered regularly for the New Year holidays. The logo of the state agricultural company of the Kingdom of Morocco - a black diamond with a white stylized Arabic script inscription "Maroc" - after a few years the whole Soviet Union knew it. The mandarins cost 1 ruble 30 kopeks per kilo, but just like champagne one had to stand in long lines for them. Only a limited number of goods were handed out.