In one of my favorite movies of all time, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, there’s a scene where the titular character has been abandoned by her lover. In order to be with him, she had gone through a brutal, crude sex-change operation, and risked her life by leaving her home in communist East Germany. To add insult to injury, the Berlin Wall has just fallen; had she waited a while longer, she could have very well avoided the hasty decision of removing her penis and leaving her home for a two-timing man.
In a brilliant moment of dark comedy, she is then shown looking at a postcard from her mother that reads something to the effect of, “Greetings, from sunny Yugoslavia”—the joke being that Hedwig’s markedly stern mom had found happiness after the collapse of an oppressive communist state by vacationing in an country notable for its political instability, ethnic and nationalist strife, and eventual relentless war.
There are some places that we just don’t think of as fun vacation spots.
But having been around enough older socialists and communists, I do know that the USSR was actually a hot destination for a while, especially for leftists. I even know a couple people whose parents took their honeymoon there! And this was certainly encouraged by Stalin, himself, who established the government-run tourism board with the express purpose of raising the profile of the USSR.
Below, you see Soviet travel brochures from the 1930s. They advertise advanced industrial development, a commitment to the arts, gorgeous cities, and a diverse array of natural beauty. Some of them touch on Socialist Realism, but what strikes me is the diversity of the art, and the visibly ambitious optimism therein.
Via The Charnel-House