Whether you grew up and lived in the Soviet Union, have only fuzzy memories of a childhood in a country that no longer exists, or are interested in learning more about what life was like behind the Iron Curtain, the Museum of Socialist Life certainly has something that will interest you.
Nestled on the second floor of 39/6 Ostrovskaya street, the museum opened its doors with great fanfare on 25 August, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Kazan Mayor Ilsur Metshin. Its premier exhibition, entitled “Old School,” displays a variety of artifacts from the Soviet era.
According to its founder and manager Rustem Valiakhmetov, the museum fills an important niche that has been neglected, not only in Kazan but also in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “The idea of opening this museum wasn’t only mine,” he said in an interview. “I had a lot of friends who helped, among them singer Andrei Makarevich and journalist Kseniya Strizh.”
The collection, which features possessions Mr. Valiakhmetov had stored in his garage combined with others donated from friends, highlights some of the differences between past and present. “The USSR had a unique, Soviet approach to schooling called ‘trudovaya shkola’ that was very different from our modern schools. The collection shows this difference,” said Mr. Valiakhmetov.
A pen for straight-A students, a pencil sharpener named ‘fish,’ and an exercise book labeled ‘Tetradka—Promokashka’ are some of the prized items in this collection.
The museum also has a small rock-n-roll section, which includes jeans and autographed jeans donated by participants in the Creation of Peace musical festival held every year in Kazan at the end of August.
The museum is very much a family endeavor. Two children helped guide me through the museum’s collection, eagerly explaining what all the various pieces were.
“We have a lot of pupils, child tourists, if you will, who visit us,” explained Mr. Valiakhmetov. “We are trying to help teach them about what school was like in the Soviet Union.”
The museum is open daily, from 10 am to 6 pm. Tickets range from 50 to 150 rubles.